A little over four years ago, the window for reversing the development of nuclear weapons and delivery capability by North Korea was closing. Careful monitoring by DPRK Supreme Commander Kim Jong-Un and (effectively the first deputy) Kim Yo-Jong (his sister) ensured that by mid-2017 Pyongyang had developed sufficient strike capability to ensure intolerable loss of life levels in Japan and among US service personnel stationed in the region. By the close of 2019, projectiles capable of reaching Alaska had been developed, although not tested except at the preliminary stage, and by now, it is calculated by those closely tracking developments in the DPRK that such vehicles for nuclear warheads would be able to reach California, with the aim of subsequent refinement being Texas. The 2003 attack on Saddam Hussein was launched by President George W Bush only after it was secretly confirmed that the dictator of Iraq had no WMD capable of wreaking havoc within military formations sent by the US and their coalition partners. Long and chaotic supply lines snaked about the conflict zone unmolested, evidence that there was no longer any WMD in Iraq. Of course, this did not prevent President Bush from pretending that there was—a theatrical performance for which he merited an Oscar. The 43rd President of the US fought the wrong type of war in the wrong country at the wrong time, weakening the position of the US substantially, although the blame for that was placed on the shoulders of the next two US Presidents, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump. “Teflon Dubya” escaped blame for the dilution of US influence in the manner that Bill Clinton dodged the fact that it was his (Wall Street-crafted) measures that ensured the 2008 financial collapse that saw the billionaires and millionaires remain afloat while the middle and lower classes lost their shirts and many of them their houses. Both Clinton and Bush II were responsible for the ascendancy of the PRC and the rise of Al Qaeda and later ISIS, and both today remain honoured rather than reviled in their own country.
Just as it was impossible for many strategists in Washington to grasp the extent of the hold that Chairman Mao had over the minds of ordinary citizens of the PRC, it is proving difficult for them to fathom the depths of support that is enjoyed by Supreme Commander Kim Jong-Un by the people of the DPRK. Most appear convinced that the tribulations being faced by them are the consequence of the evil designs of countries out to enslave them, and that only Kim Jong-Un can lead them out of this predicament. There certainly are malcontents in North Korea, but these are small in number rather than the tidal waves of the disaffected imagined by the John Boltons and others who dream about pulling the trigger on regime change through street protests. In North America, in particular, there is a significant Korean diaspora that seeks a unified peninsula. A unified Korea would very soon equal, and possibly overtake, an ageing Japan in GDP, but the method that many in this diaspora are looking to is regime change in North Korea. Given the hold that decades of propaganda have had on the minds of the people in the DPRK, this seems highly unlikely. The reality is that the harsh sanctions regime, first put in place by President Clinton and tightened even further by his successors, has affected not the WMD program of that country but its people, rendering them victims to malnutrition, in much the way earlier Clinton sanctions (on Iraq) killed off hundreds of thousands of infants and children in the country during the period before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Bush II even as Saddam Hussein and his cronies retained their luxurious lifestyles. Most of the sanctions imposed by members of NATO on weaker countries further impoverish the underprivileged, which is why they need to be replaced by fewer sanctions that would target only those responsible for designing and carrying out policies regarded by NATO member states as undesirable.
Information available to the few who have insight into what is taking place in the inner councils of the DPRK suggest that the military and security services of that state have accumulated substantial stocks of chemical, biological and nuclear WMD. Concurrently, despite sanctions there has been progression in the range and stability of the vehicles needed to carry such weapons to their destination in enemy countries. The DPRK leadership is aware that Beijing would profit from a rise in tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, just as it would from a significant increase in the number and intensity of Wahabi-Khomeinist extremist attacks, especially in Europe and the US. Either would draw attention away from the centrality of the PRC theatre as the fulcrum of the conflict that is now in full view between the US and the PRC for dominance in the global architecture. Apparently coincidentally, several technical experts from some of the DPRK’s neighbours have assisted in developing that country’s WMD capabilities, much as retired and on-leave personnel of the Pakistan military have spent substantial periods of time training elements that prepare for the establishment of a Caliphate across much of Eurasia in the way planned by Abubakr al Baghdadi.
Given ground realities, the policy sought by President Moon of South Korea appears to be logical. This is to try and ensure that North Korea is given pathways to feed its people and provide them employment in a manner that is not clandestine or criminal. There is an obvious inconsistency between the syrupy protestations of love by President Trump to Supreme Commander Kim and the harsh sanctions imposed by the same Trump administration on the DPRK. This may meet with howls of protest from devotees of Trump, but the best path for President Biden to follow for North Korea is to go along with President Moon Jae-In as the latter seeks to develop a friendly relationship with his North Korea counterpart. Both President Biden as well as Prime Minister Suga of Japan need to show that they trust and respect President Moon, if the latter is to be taken seriously in Pyongyang. War breaking out on the Korean peninsula would be a disaster, and given the situation in the DPRK, only the “Bright Sunshine” policy, first enunciated by a professor of geopolitics from India nearly five years ago, can succeed in bringing down tensions within the Korean peninsula. The Koreans are a people with a great civilisation and culture and need to be given the opportunity for conciliation and cooperation designed to promote economic development. Kim Jong-Un seeks to do a Deng Xiaoping in North Korea, and should he succeed, his warheads will be sheathed in a manner that no other method short of a disastrous war can ensure. The greater the tensions between Pyongyang and Washington (not to mention Tokyo), the broader will be the smiles in Beijing, although public statements would not reflect this satisfaction at another diversion from a focus on the PRC by those countries looking to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
First Deputy Kim Yo-Jong reflects the mind of Supreme Commander Kim Jong-Un, and what she has said is less a warning of war as it is a note of caution. Her caution is intended (in the view of those familiar with the leadership in the DPRK) so that the White House does not create tensions through a miscalculation of Kim’s intent and capabilities. The North Korean leadership has the capability to respond in kind and will use it. This is the message, but this is only if other options fail or not get tried out. Thus far, since Jill and Joe Biden took up residence in the White House, US interlocutors attempting to engage with the leadership in Pyongyang have been of a relatively low level. Issues involving the DPRK cannot be sorted out at the level of junior officials with no plenipotentiary powers. What is needed is higher-level US-DPRK engagement on the condition that disruptive moves such as nuclear tests or long-range missile launches are avoided by the North Korean side. Such talks could take place in locations that have long maintained friendly relations with both Washington as well as Pyongyang, such as India. The first deputy has conveyed a message to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and through him to his bosses, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Those tracking the situation in Pyongyang say that the message is not hostile but the reverse. It is a call to diplomacy, but at a level and in a manner that actually makes a difference rather than probes by relatively junior officials performing the job of newspaper correspondents in securing information rather than seeking mutually acceptable solutions to the issue of peace in the Korean peninsula. The people of Korea or those who have Korean heritage deserve to be given the chance for peace and conciliation.
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SURAT TEACHERS ORDERED TO REGISTER COVID DEAD BODIES
Surat Corporation has gone too far in handing over the responsibility of Covid-19 management to its employees. Teachers have been assigned Covid-19 work. They are given the task of registering the bodies coming for the funeral. Teachers, along with SMC (Surat Municipal Corporation) employees, will also be on duty in three shifts of eight hours each. It’s teachers responsibility to ensure that there is no disruption in the registration of the bodies coming to the crematorium.
During the pandemic, all SMC employees were assigned different tasks, in which the teachers were asked to be outside the homes of the infected Covid patients.
There were orders to go with Dhanvanri Rath to carry out survey work, and distribute food grains, which were performed by the teachers as part of their duty amid such a difficult situation in the city.
At that time, the teachers who were assigned to the operation of the cemetery have been put in a dilemma.
A teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The process of registering a body in a cemetery is not appropriate for us.. We made a presentation for our Teachers’ Union last night on this matter. We were given a message about this operation through social media. The Union has informed our appointees to cancel this order. Union officials have also vowed to inform the Municipal Commissioner and the State government about handing over the work to teachers.”
UTTARAKHAND CM RAWAT CONFIDENT TO CONDUCT HARIDWAR KUMBH MELA SAFELY
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Friday said that the state government is determined to conduct Haridwar Kumbh Mela safely.
He inaugurated the Command and Control Room and Adarsh Barrack of the Police Surveillance System built for the Kumbh Mela, at the CCR Tower in Haridwar.
On this occasion, the Chief Minister said that the state government is fully committed to the modernization of the police.
He said, “Our government is determined to conduct Haridwar Kumbh Mela safely. 310 CCTV cameras have been installed in the area. Command and Control Room of Police Surveillance System has been set up at CCR Tower, Haridwar.”
(With ANI inputs)
CELEBRATIONS IN JAMMU AFTER THE RELEASE OF COBRA COMMANDO BY NAXALS
As soon as the news of Rakeshwar Singh Manhas’ release reached Jammu, there were celebrations not only in his village but in other adjacent villages as well. Earlier his wife Meenu had appealed to the government that her husband should be rescued from the Naxals and the Congress leaders of the Jammu region visited the family and made her talk to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister who assured all help and action.
People in the villages adjacent to his hometown were glued to television sets and expressed their joy when he stepped out of an ambulance as shown by different media channels.
Meenu Manhas exclaimed, “This is the happiest moment in our lives. Hope never died though we were anguished for his safe return. I am thankful to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and also to the Central government as everyone stood by us.”
Earlier, the relatives of Manhas and villagers protested and blocked the traffic for hours, appealing to the government to intervene and save him from the captivity of Naxals. He was posted in Chhattisgarh and was captured alive by the Naxals in a fierce gun battle in which dozens of his colleagues were killed while over 15 Naxals were also killed.
DELHI SCHOOLS TO REMAIN SHUT FOR ALL CLASSES AMID COVID SURGE: KEJRIWAL
NEW DELHI: The Delhi government on Friday announced that all schools will be shut given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the national capital.
“Due to increasing cases of COVID-19, all schools, government and private, in Delhi are being closed for all classes till further orders,” the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted. Schools have been shut ever since the pandemic broke out last year but for those from Classes 9 to 12 had resumed their classes. The board examinations for Class 10 and Class 12 are slated for May-June.
Several other states and Union territories have also closed down schools and colleges to curb the surging infections.
Delhi on Thursday reported 7,437 fresh cases and 24 related deaths over the last 24 hours. As per the daily health bulletin, the total positive cases in the city now stand at 6,98,005, including 23,181 active cases and 6,63,667 recoveries. So far, 11,157 lives have been claimed by the infectious virus.
Covid chaos in Gujarat, waiting list in hospitals, cemeteries & crematoria
The state of Covid-19 spread in Ahmedabad seems frightening. The scenario in various cemeteries and crematoria of the city is bad with people waiting for hours for the burial and cremation of the dead bodies.
A total of eight bodies were brought to a cemetery in Vadaj cemetery in the city for burial around the same time. There is also a two-hour wait for the funeral at Thaltej. Both chimneys are currently in operation at the city’s Vadaj crematorium, where relatives of the deceased have been seen waiting.
There are no vacant beds in hospitals because of the surge in Covid-19 cases. As the number of patients keeps on increasing, the beds are getting filled. In some hospitals there is no stock of injections and while at other hospitals videos of missing oxygen are emerging. Extremely heart-rending videos surfaced on Friday at the Vadaj Cemetery in Ahmedabad, where eight bodies were being prepared for burial while many others were waiting in the cemetery. Similar is the case with Thaltej cemetery in Ahmedabad.
As a result of the worsening situation due to Covid-19 in Gujarat, relatives have to wait in hospitals for as long as 12 hours to get the body of the deceased in cities like Rajkot and Surat. Not only that, even after getting the dead body, they have to wait for 8 to 10 hours for cremation. Worse, the rising death toll at Rajkot Civil Hospital is waiting not only for cremation but also for ambulances to take the dead bodies to the cemetery.
In the Nagarwada area of Vadodara, a 65-year-old man died of Covid-19 and his body had to be taken in a handcart as the ambulance was not available to take him to the crematorium.
ALL-PARTY MEET TO DISCUSS LOCKDOWN IN MAHARASHTRA
State reports 58,993 Covid cases and 301 deaths in 24 hours.
In view of the alarming spike in Covid-19 cases in the state, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called an all-party meeting on 10 April. The government will take stock of the Covid-19 situation in the state.
The meeting will be attended by prominent leaders of the three parties involved in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, leaders of BJP, MNS, API, SP, and others.
On Friday, State Disaster Management Minister Vijay Wadettiwar said that he has proposed a complete lockdown in the state, during a virtual meeting earlier in the day, given the continued spike in Covid-19 cases and upcoming festivals. While speaking to India Today, the Minister said that it was crucial to close all shops and establishments to break the chain of the pandemic.
“Every day we are witnessing 50,000 to 60,000 cases. We have 5.31 lakh active cases today. If the upsurge continues like this, we will have over 10 lakh active cases soon,” the Disaster Management Minister said to India Today. “If we have to break the chain, it’s not possible keeping half the shops and establishments open. In the virtual conference that took place today, I have suggested a strict lockdown of three weeks to break the chain,” the Minister said.
Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Pravin Darekar said the decision to organise the all-party meeting was taken this afternoon.
“This decision was taken during the meeting held today to decide the postponement of MPSC exams scheduled for Sunday,” he said.
When asked about the weekend lockdown that comes into force from Friday night, Darekar said the state government should decide on financially supporting small businesses.
Maharashtra Chief Minister will brief all parties regarding the covid situation. Maharashtra is planning a complete three weeks lockdown.
Maharashtra on Friday reported 58,993 coronavirus cases and 301 deaths in 24 hours amid a second wave of infections. Pune, with 10,084 Covid cases, was the worst-affected district today, followed by Mumbai with 9,200 single-day infections.
After the new additions, the total of active cases has reached 5,34,603. The state had reported 56,286 cases and 376 deaths on Thursday.
With Agency Inputs
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