Category Archives: WORLD

India gives Vietnam $500m for defence spending

HANOI: India said Saturday it is giving Vietnam half a billion dollars in credit to boost defence ties, the latest security deal between the two nations seeking to counter Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement during a visit to Hanoi, which has gone on a spending spree in recent years to expand and modernise its military arsenal amid territorial disputes with Beijing in the strategically vital waterway.

“I am also happy to announce a new defence credit for Vietnam of $500 million for facilitating deeper defence cooperation,” Modi told reporters after signing the deal.

Prime Minister Narendra gestures next to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (R) as he is greeted during a visit to the Quan Su pagoda in Hanoi on Sep 3 ─ AFP
Prime Minister Narendra gestures next to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (R) as he is greeted during a visit to the Quan Su pagoda in Hanoi on Sep 3 ─ AFP

He did not specify details of the arrangement, but traditionally such lines of credit would oblige Vietnam to sign contracts with Indian companies.

About 50 per cent of India’s trade passes through the South China Sea, where Beijing has built up islands and outcrops capable of supporting military activities to the chagrin of Vietnam and other claimants.

Vietnam’s prime minister praised its close friendship with India Saturday during the visit ─ the first by an Indian premier in 15 years and part of New Delhi’s “Act East Policy” to strengthen economic and security ties with east Asian neighbours.

“(We) discussed matters concerning the East Sea,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told reporters.

“All sides must peacefully solve East Sea disputes based on international laws,” he added of the contested waterway, where the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also have claims.

The latest defence deal follows a similar announcement in 2014 when India agreed to give Vietnam a $100 million line of credit to buy naval patrol boats, a move that likely rankled China.

Beijing has previously criticised India’s cooperation with Vietnam in the defence sector, and India has its own frosty history with China following a brief but bloody border war in 1962.

Friends in the region

Vietnam was the eighth largest importer of arms between 2011 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, up from a rank of 43 in the previous five-year period.

The communist country is increasingly looking to new partners to replace or update Soviet-era military equipment, including the United States which lifted a Cold War-era arms embargo in May.

Vietnam expert Carl Thayer said Modi’s trip was Vietnam’s way of showing it has other friends in the region.

“Vietnam is playing that game: ‘Come on, China, get close to us, cooperate, but if you don’t we can move to India or we’ll go talk to you after the prime minister of India has just been through,’ ” he said.

India and Vietnam signed a dozen agreements in all, including a $5 million deal to build a technology park in the coastal resort city of Nha Trang.

Vietnam is pushing to become a key player in Southeast Asia’s tech scene as it looks to diversify exports beyond manufacturing and agriculture.

Modi also visited the tomb of Vietnam’s independence leader and communist crusader Ho Chi Minh, posting a photo on Twitter of the monument where the embalmed national hero is on display, saying:

“Paid tributes to one of Asia’s tallest leaders, the great Ho Chi Minh.”

Modi is scheduled to fly out later Saturday to attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou China along with other world leaders.

He will then head to Laos for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and will attend an ASEAN-India Summit on September 8.

IS claims top leader killed in coalition airstrike

BEIRUT: One of the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s top leaders, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, described by the US as the “principal architect” of the group’s attacks on the West, has been killed in Syria, IS announced.

The United States (US) said coalition forces had carried out an air strike targeting Adnani in Syria’s Aleppo province on Tuesday and that it was still assessing the results of the raid, but that his death would be a major blow to the group.

IS news agency Amaq said Adnani was killed “while surveying operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo” and pledged to avenge his death.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Adnani “has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman,” using another name for the group.

“He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members,” he said.

Adnani, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head, was originally from the western Syrian province of Idlib and joined the militant movement in Iraq, where he served under late Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Aymenn Jawad Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups, said his death was “significant symbolically and in pointing to the wider decline of IS”.

A US defence official described him as one of IS’s most senior leaders and far more significant than simply being the group’s spokesman.

“Most notably, he served as ISIL’s chief of external operations, directing and inspiring major terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria,” he said, linking Adnani to a string of high-profile attacks that have killed hundreds.

“If confirmed, this is a very significant blow for ISIL, and will degrade its ability to direct and inspire terror attacks on the West,” said the official who declined to be named.

Nepal bans Indian police pair for ‘fake’ Everest climb

KATMANDU: Nepal has imposed a 10-year mountaineering ban on two climbers who claimed to be the first Indian couple to have climbed Everest, officials say.

A government investigation concluded on Monday that photographs purporting to show the pair at the top of the world’s highest mountain were faked.

Officials say the ban is intended to deter other climbers from making spurious and dishonest claims.

The pair’s claims to have reached the peak in May were queried by climbers.

They argued that photos showing Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod at the summit were obviously doctored.

Nepal’s tourism department initially certified their ascent but has now rescinded that decision after conducting an investigation.

Bangladesh Jamaat leader loses final appeal against execution for war crimes

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s top court on Tuesday rejected a final appeal by a leader of religious Jamaat-i-Islami party against a death sentence for atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence, lawyers said, meaning he could be hanged at any time.

The verdict comes as the Muslim-majority nation suffers a series of militant attacks, the most serious on July 1, when gunmen stormed a cafe in the capital, Dhaka, and killed 20 hostages, most of them foreigners.

In March, the Supreme Court had upheld the death penalty for Mir Quasem Ali, 63, a media tycoon and key financier of Jamaat, for murder, confinement, torture and incitement to religious hatred during the war to leave Pakistan.

“Now it is only a matter of time to execute the verdict, unless he seeks clemency from the president,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters after a panel of five judges headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha rejected the appeal.

Lawyers for Ali could not be reached immediately for comment on whether the party leader would seek clemency.

The war crimes tribunal set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 has sparked violence and drawn criticism from opposition politicians, who say it is victimising her political opponents. The government denies the accusations.

Human rights groups say the tribunal’s procedures fall short of international standards, but the government rejects that assertion, and the trials are supported by many Bangladeshis.

Authorities have deployed additional security forces in the capital, Dhaka, and elsewhere, as similar previous judgments triggered violence that killed around 200, mainly Jamaat activists and police.

Since December 2013, four Jamaat leaders, including former top leader Motiur Rahman Nizami, and a leader of the main opposition party, led by former premier Khaleda Zia, have been executed for war crimes.

Official figures show about 3 million people were killed and thousands of women raped during the nine-month war, in which some factions, including the Jamaat-i-Islami, opposed the break from what was then called West Pakistan.

But the party denies its leaders committed any atrocities.

US-India defence pact to impact Pakistan, China

WASHINGTON: The United States and India on Monday signed a defence agreement that will have a direct impact on both Pakistan and China.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) allows the two allies to use each other’s military facilities for checking China’s growing influence in Asia and in the fight against terrorists.

Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar — in the US on a four-day visit, his second in eight months — will also carry forward talks on acquiring jet engine technology and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). He met US Defence Secretary Ash Carter on Monday.

The text for the logistics cooperation agreement was finalised during a visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June.

The US and India are also finalising two foundational agreements — the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

The logistics agreement provides for each country to use the other for supplies, spare parts, services and refuelling. Effectively, US armed forces can operate out of Indian bases, and India can use US bases across the globe.

“China and Pakistan beware — this week, India and US sign major war pact,” warned the Forbes magazine in an article.

The US media noted that the agreement was a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to contain China, which has been spreading its influence across Asia.

The media reported that the US Navy planned to deploy 60 per cent of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific in the near future.

The media reports pointed out that unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US had to build everything from scratch, India already had the military facilities the United States could use when needed.

The Indian media, however, warned that such agreements could irk Russia, a long-time Indian ally. But Indian media reports also noted that Prime Minister Modi did not appear much concerned about Russia’s possible reaction to his closeness to the US. The Modi administration had committed itself to building a new alliance with the US and its allies, such as Japan and Australia, the reports added.

The US media noted that India remained on hostile terms with China and this hostility had moved from border disputes to economic and strategic competition for influence.

They noted that the US would like to use the LEMOA to counter China’s growing military might — particularly airbases — in the South China Sea. But the agreement would allow India and the US also to use each other’s facilities against their common enemy, religious terrorism.

The reports noted that a recent bombing by the militant Islamic State group in Bangladesh rang alarm bells in Washington where defence experts were already worried about its efforts to increase its influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Having LEMOA makes it much simpler for American naval and air forces to fight there. The US does not have actual bases in India. But, it has the next best thing — a simple way to use India’s bases,” Forbes noted.

The magazine described the LEMOA as “the key way-station on agreements still to come of military technology sharing of tremendous importance for India”.

The future agreements, like the CISMOA and BECA, would help India “stand up to the emerging superpower of China”, the report added.

But experts warned that India’s ability to build jet engines or acquire UAV technology from the US would further weaken Pakistan’s conventional defense capability as well.

The United States already recognizes India as a Major Defense Partner, helped it join the Missile Technology Control Regime and is willing to provide licences for top US defense technology.

The Forbes article noted that arms India acquired from the US would help it “in many friction points”, such as in the fight against terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed.

It pointed out that the group was considered an enemy both by the US and India and its chief Masood Azhar was on India’s hit list.

Earlier this year, India tried to persuade the United Nations to declare Mr Azhar a global terrorist but China blocked the move.

“So while the South China Sea may seem far off from India, China is breathing down India’s neck, up close and personal,” Forbes commented.