One month has passed since the devastating April 25th in Nepal. Cities lie in ruin and the number of victims has surpassed 8,600. Anxiety remains fixed on faces, since the country continues to experience aftershocks.
The 2015 Nepal earthquake, which killed more than 7,000 people and injured more than twice as many, occurred on 25th of April, with a magnitude of 7.9. according to diverse sources, its epicenter was the village of Barpack, Gorkha district, and its hypocenter was at a depth of approximately 15 km (9.3 mi).
It was the most powerful disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, and resulted in some casualties also reported in the adjoining areas of India, China, and Bangladesh. The earthquake equally triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that made it the deadliest day on the mountain in history, as well as another huge one in Langtang valley, where 250 were reported missing.
As a result of the disaster, hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened across many districts of the country. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Geophysicists and other experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a deadly earthquake, particularly because of its geology, urbanization, and architecture.
Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal within 15-20 minute intervals, with one shock reaching a magnitude of 6.7 on 26th of April. The country also had a continued risk of landslides.. as of may 1st 2015, 120 aftershocks had occurred with different epicenters and magnitudes above 4 Mw.
PM Modi, soon after the earthquake, dispatched relief and said, “we will wipe tears from every face”, and announced an aid package of $500 m.
India sent 1,000 National Disaster Response Force personnel to help with search-and-rescue efforts. In addition, it deployed 13 aircraft, six Mi-17 helicopters and two Advanced Light Helicopters. Supplies were equally dispatched: 10 tons of blankets, 50 tons of water, 22 tons of food items, and 2 tons of medicine. Moreover, India sent three army field hospitals, an engineering task force, and medical units of civilian doctors
GROWING RAPPORT BETWEEN INDIA AND ASIAN NEIGHBORING NATIONS
During his recently finished tour (May 14th to the 19th), India’s PM Narendra Modi visited China, Mongolia, and South Korea. The visit is aimed at giving a boost “the Act Asia policy”, aligning it with Make in India initiatives and bringing momentum to the country’s foreign policy in the strategically significant region.
The first leg of his trip was the city of Xi’an, in China, on May 14th, just as Chinese President Xi Jinping had been previously hosted in the Indian city of Ahmedabad by PM Modi.
The two cities, both of which have witnessed friendly exchanges between the two ancient civilizations, are also hometowns of the two leaders. Hosting each other in their respective hometowns has not only provided a personal touch to the relationship between the two leaders, but also reflects their shared desire to push forward relations between the two Asian neighbors.
During the previous Chinese President’s visit to India last September, the two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in areas like investment, infrastructure, environmental protection, high-tech, clean energy, and sustainable urbanization. As a result, since then, enterprises on both sides had been discussing a series of practical cooperation programs that could result in over US$10 billion worth of business.
On the occasion of India’s PM visit to China, both countries signed trade and economic cooperation deals worth $22bn in Shanghai that cover a range of industries including renewable energy, the financial sector and ports. PM declared: “Let us work together on mutual interests. Now India is ready for business.” Later, more agreements worth $10bn covering education, railways, and scientific research were signed.
Equally significant were the talks on border issues held between Mr. Modi and China’s Premier Li Keqiang, which resulted in both sides agreeing to seek a “fair resolution” to disputes on their common border.
Mr. Modi also met Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the National People’s Congress standing committee. India and China noted the historic imperative for the two major re-emerging powers to cooperate to make 21st century Asian century.
Second stop (May 17th) was Mongolia, termed by Modi as India’s “spiritual friend”, adding that shared values of democracy and Buddhism bind the two countries. India was the first country outside the Socialist Bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia, and supported the country in having UN and NAM memberships. Besides, 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Ulan Bator.
This was the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia, and has the objective of holding talks with the country’s leadership to bolster economic and trade cooperation, including in transport, highways, and energy sectors. Therefore, during it, Modi held wide-ranging discussions with is Mongolian counterpart Chimed Saikhanbileg, in the mood of taking bilateral economic partnership to a new level.
Resulting from it, India announced a $1 billion credit line to Mongolia for infrastructure development. This upgrading of the ties to “strategic partnership” also led to the agreement to deepen defense cooperation and explore potential for tie ups in areas like the civil nuclear sector. In total, the two sides inked 14 agreements covering defense, cyber security, agriculture, renewable energy, and health. PM Modi addresses the Mongolian parliament and gave his vision on the interconnected Asia, growing together in cooperation.
Final leg of the trip was a two-day visit to Seoul (May 18th and 19th). Prime objective was to bolster economic and diplomatic ties with South Korea. About it, PM said India has had enough of the “Look East” policy and that it is time for his government to “Act East” now.
Being this his first visit to Seoul since taking office a year ago, Modi met President Park Geun-Hye to discuss issues ranging from diplomacy and the economy to the security situation on the Korean peninsula.
As Modi arrived in South Korea, Indian community members, waving tri-color flags, were present in large numbers at the airport to welcome him. After his arrival in Seoul, PM went to lay a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery.
During a community reception at the Kyung Hee University in the South Korean capital, PM Modi pitched his “Make in India” initiative and said that he wants to make India a manufacturing hub using the world’s best technology. Moreover, he invited Indians settled abroad to come and invest in the country, saying the mood and the perception about India has changed in the last one year.
The trip was packed, as well, with innumerable meetings with businesses tycoons from South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Hyundai, Samsung, and LG. “Korean companies have the edge to succeed in India,” Modi said, who stressed the opportunities being created by his “Make in India” initiative aimed at boosting the nation’s relatively weak manufacturing sector.
South Korea’s Finance Ministry and the Export-Import Bank of Korea said they intended to provide $10 billion in loans and funding for Indian infrastructure projects including railways and power generation.
Taking into account that South Korea is one the four nations (including Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia) in East Asia with which India has comprehensive economic partnership (or cooperation) agreements (CEPA/CECA), the recent visit by Prime Minister Modi has set the stage for revisiting it in an appropriate way. Firstly, a decision to commence negotiations to revise India-South Korea CEPA by June 2016 was taken. This amendment is concerning the inclusion f products such as primary agricultural commodities (rice, sesame) and textiles. Besides, to encourage investments into some strategic sectors in India, the leaders also approved the signing of revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), which incorporated source-based and residence-based taxation of different incomes and established provisions for exchange of information and assistance in collection of taxes between tax authorities.
In PM Modi’s words, “we have laid the foundation for a relationship that two major Asian countries with shared values should have”. PM Modi offered “Korea plus” a promotional package to encourage Korean businesses to “Make in India”.
UN DECISION ON TERROR LEADER LAKHVI
The United Nations Security Council has recently decided to look into the recent release of 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi in a victory for India. He was released from Rawalpindi prison in Pakistan on bail last month, much to the consternation of India and others. At the time, Pakistani authorities had pointed out that their hands were tied, since the matter was with the judiciary.
That the Pakistani Taliban, prized assets of the Pakistani deep state like Lakhvi, had only days earlier slaughtered more than a hundred school children in Peshawar (and the terrorist’s release at the inopportune moment would have had severe repercussions at home and abroad) was, of course, entirely coincidental or so we are to believe. Additionally, we were also to believe that Pakistani judiciary was indeed an independent institution and that the Pakistani deep state had no role to play in protecting one of its most valued assets.
This is where the current UN decision can make a difference. If the UNSC agrees with the Indian view that Pakistan has violated international rules by bailing out a designated terrorist, who legally cannot receive or give money, then there is a strong possibility that Lakhvi may be hauled back to prison. One can also hope that the possibility of international condemnation, stemming from a UNSC resolution, may persuade the Pakistani Government to at least put up a show against Lakhvi.
Pakistan is already receiving a lot of flak for its counter-terror policies (or the lack thereof) and, therefore, may well decide that putting Lakhvi behind bars is a small concession. Notably, the Punjab State Government, on Monday, sought an early hearing from the Supreme Court on its April 14th appeal against the Lahore High Court’s decision on Lakhvi.
However, it is important to keep in mind that even if Lakhvi is returned to prison that is hardly a good measure of justice being done. Sure, it is an important symbolic gesture –as the galling visuals of the order 26/11 mastermind, Hafiz Saeed, roaming the streets of Pakistan reminds us ever so often– but it must not be confused with a real victory against terror. Such a victory will only be achieved when Lakhvi and Saeed (and perhaps even their bosses within the establishment) are held accountable for their crimes. But for that, Pakistan will have to prosecute the men in a fair trial.
INDIA EXCELS IN BADMINTON
India excels in badminton through Saina Nehwal,a young lady born in 1990, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the worlds by Badminton World Federation Women’s Singles 2015. She is the first Indian to win a medal in the Olympics (bronze at the London Olympics 2012), as well as the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships and a Super Series tournament (2009). Outstanding in this sport, Saina equally bears a brown belt in Karate.
Nehwal became the under-19 national champion and created history by winning the prestigious Asian Satellite Badminton Tournament (India Chapter) twice. In 2006, she appeared on the global scene when she became the second Indian woman to win a 4-star tournament, the Philippines Open. Though she did not obtain victory that year in the BWF World Junior Championships, in 2008 she became the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships.
In June 2009, she became the first Indian to win a BWF Super Series title, the most prominent badminton series of the world, by winning the Indonesia Open. On winning the tournament, she said, “I had been longing to win a super series tournament since my quarter final appearance at the Olympics”
In the years to follow, she would successfully rise to the top, despite some downfalls she had on the way. For example, she won the gold medal in the Women’s Single Badminton event in the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi. Afterwards, she declared, “when I was a match-point down, it was like a shock. It was a big match and winning it means a lot to me. Even many years from now, those present here will always
remember how Saina won the gold. It is a proud feeling.”By 2012, Saina successfully defended her Swiss Open Title by defeating World No. 2 Wang Shixian of China and received the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold title. She also won the Indonesia Open Super Series. Two years later, in 2014, she became the first Indian woman to win the China Open Super Series Premier by beating Japan´s Akane Yamaguchi in the final.
More recently this year, defending champion Saina Nehwal, won the 2015 India Open Grand Prix Gold by defeating Spain’s Carolina Marin in the final. She became the first Indian woman shuttler to reach the finals of All England Open Badminton Championships, but lost to Carolina Marin in the final. On 29th March 2015, Saina won her maiden women’s singles title at the India Open BWF Super Series beating Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand. This assured her of becoming world No. 1 when the latest BWF rankings were released on April 2nd. Thus, she became the first Indian women’s player to be world No. 1 in badminton.
“I want to be the best”, Nehwal said before her top ranking was confirmed. “It’s not about the ranking, it’s about being consistent”, she continued. The Indian star has won 14 international titles in her career.