In a major development in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime in Kabul had ordered the closure of secondary and high schools for girls on Wednesday, just hours after the schools reopened for the first time since their takeover last August. Talking to the local media on the issue, Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani said, “Yes, it’s true.”
The decision by the administration is likely to spark fresh concerns over girls’ education in the academic institutions in the war-torn country. The decision will also face condemnation from across the globe as it is contrary to the promises made by the Taliban after capturing power in Kabul when it had promised to protect the rights of women, children, and minorities. The recent developments will also strengthen the belief of the international community that the Taliban will rule Afghanistan like its previous regime that was in power between 1996 and 2001 when they suspended all freedom for women and minorities. After the takeover last August, the new rulers of the country allowed some schools for girls to reopen. Also, women were allowed to visit universities. Further, female students of the high schools were allowed to rejoin schools from March, as the spokesperson of the Taliban had also said last week that the schools have been asked to start from March 23.
Afghanistan, a country strategically located in South Asia has been seeing instability for the last 40 years – a period that started with an invasion by the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s and ended with the withdrawal of the United States-led NATO troops on August 31.
The recent conflict in Afghanistan had forced more than 700,000 Afghans to leave their homes and added them to the 5.5 million people already displaced over past years.
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Afghans dying from lack of medicine
Collapsing healthcare system harmful, mainly for women
“We just buried Mom. Can you believe it? She was too young to die. I can’t take her place for my younger siblings.”
These are the painful words of my 17-year-old cousin, Sima, who had just lost her mother a few hours before we spoke. My Aunt Bibi was only 40 years old. She lived in Ghazni province in southeastern Afghanistan. She died from uterine bleeding caused by an infection. The doctors in Ghazni’s provincial hospital told her they didn’t have the medicine or facilities to treat her, and she should go to Kabul or abroad. She couldn’t do either.
Gul Ahmad, who lives in Ghor province and whose 5-year-old son died from diarrhea last week, had a similar story: “The doctors told me that they were out of medicine, and I must take my son to a larger clinic.” He didn’t have the money to take his son to another clinic, and the child died.
Afghanistan is in the grips of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. More than 24.4 million people will need humanitarian health aid in 2022, roughly two-thirds of the population. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Afghanistan’s health system was on the brink of collapse. Afghanistan’s banking crisis and loss of funding have meant that most healthcare workers have not been paid for months, and clinics and hospitals are running seriously short of essential medicines and supplies.
The country is facing multiple outbreaks of disease, including Covid-19, measles, and diarrhea, as well as acute malnutrition. As many Afghans fall deeper into poverty, the lines outside healthcare facilities are growing. “People come to our clinics, they bring their malnourished children, and we don’t have enough medicine,” a healthcare worker in Bamiyan told me. “Every week I witness three or four kids dying of malnutrition, a preventable death.”
Tragically, my Aunt Bibi won’t be the last to die a needless and preventable death, one avoided through access to essential, basic healthcare services. While pressing the Taliban authorities to end human rights violations, donors also need to address the economic crisis that is killing Afghans every day. They need to take urgent steps to allow the Afghan economy to function and rebuild Afghanistan’s fragile healthcare system.
The author is a researcher, Asia Division of Human Rights Watch
PRESIDENT MACRON CONCURS WITH PM MODI ON NEED FOR TALKS TO END UKRAINE WAR
French President and PM Modi call for an end to suffering of civilians; Paris reiterates commitment to enhance strategic cooperation with New Delhi to deal with Indo-Pacific challenges.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the last leg of his three-nation Europe tour, met French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (local time) in Paris. The meeting between “two friends” saw exchange of views on various issues that ranged from Indo-Pacific to Ukraine, Afghanistan, trade and defence cooperation. While reiterating strong condemnation of “the unlawful and unprovoked” aggression against Ukraine by Russian forces, President Macron concurred with PM Modi on the need for Russia and Ukraine to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people. President Macron and PM Modi expressed serious concerns at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict in Ukraine. PM Modi, who was on a trip to Germany and Denmark, made a brief stopover to meet Macron in Paris on his way back to New Delhi.
Sources told The Daily Guardian that PM Modi pointed out that the focus should be on an immediate ceasefire and on promoting direct talks between the Presidents of the countries in conflict. PM Modi, according to sources, suggested to Macron that “this is the only way to end human suffering and stop civilian deaths in Ukraine.” Sources told The Daily Guardian that the Indo-Pacific strategy was discussed elaborately between the two leaders in the context of the growing Chinese challenges in the region. Macron and the PM stressed the need to check any forces (Beijing) which are involved in activities in violation of the relevant laws, sources added.
“We discussed different ongoing international crises as well as our strategic partnership. We also talked about food security issues and farm initiatives in which India will play a key role,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. The joint statement which was released after the bilateral talks said, “France reiterates its strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian Forces.”
But it also said, “India and
France expressed serious concern at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to bring parties together to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people. Both countries underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The two leaders discussed the regional and global implications of the conflict in Ukraine and agreed to intensify coordination on the issue.”
The Joint Statement further said that India and France express “deep concern about the current aggravation of global food security and nutrition, already impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially in developing countries They are committed to enabling a coordinated, multilateral response to address the risk of aggravated food crisis because of the conflict in Ukraine, including through initiatives such as the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM), which aims at ensuring well-functioning markets, solidarity and long-term resilience”.
On the Indo-Pacific, the joint statement said that India and France have “built one of the premier strategic partnerships for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. They share a vision of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, based on the commitment to international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and a region free from coercion, tensions and conflicts.” It added that the Indo-France Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health, and sustainability. Besides bilateral cooperation, India and France will continue to develop new partnerships in various formats with like-minded countries in the region and within regional organisations, it said. India and France also reaffirmed their commitment to deepen India-EU Strategic Partnership.
PM Modi and President Macron also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, expressing serious concern on the humanitarian situation and violation of human rights there. “India and France reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, emphasizing respect for its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs. They called for an inclusive and representative government, and respect for the rights of women, children and minorities. They also reaffirmed the UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) and emphasised on zero tolerance for the use of Afghan territory for spreading terrorism in other parts of the world, and agreed to work together in this regard, including at the UN Security Council.”
On defence cooperation, the joint statement said, “New Delhi and Paris welcomed the ongoing intense cooperation across all defence domains. Joint exercises (Shakti, Varuna, Pegase, Desert Knight, Garuda) illustrate efforts towards better integration and interoperability wherever possible. Meanwhile, maritime cooperation between India and France has reached new levels of trust and will continue through exercises, exchanges and joint endeavours throughout the Indian Ocean.”
India and France underscored that the “long-standing armament cooperation is testimony to the mutual trust between the two sides. The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL in Mumbai illustrate the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the Make in India initiative.”
“As seen in the timely delivery of the Rafale despite the pandemic, the two sides enjoy synergy in the field of defence. Taking forward this momentum, and based on their mutual trust, both sides agreed to find creative ways for France’s deeper involvement in the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships,”, the joint statement said.
India proposes Naveen Srivastava as new ambassador to Nepal
India has formally proposed Naveen Srivastava as its new ambassador to Nepal ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Himalayan nation in mid-May.
According to diplomatic sources in Kathmandu, the Nepalese government has already received the agreemo (the document formally seeking Nepal’s concurrence for the posting of Srivastava) from India and is expediting the process to clear it soon so that the new ambassador can assume his office in Kathmandu before the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal on May 16, which marks Buddha Jayanti.
Srivastava is going to succeed Vinaya Mohan Kwarta, who has already assumed office as the foreign secretary of India. Srivastava presently heads the division in the ministry of External Affairs dealing with China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia. He has also served in China as the consul general in Shanghai and given Chinese efforts to widen its strategic influence in Nepal to counter India, Srivastava had the much-needed experience to deal with Beijing.
Both Kathmandu and New Delhi are yet to make a formal announcement of the visit but as per Nepalese media reports the visit of India’s Prime Minister to Nepal is expected to be brief. He will participate in ceremonies at Maya Devi Temple, an ancient shrine at the UNESCO world heritage site of Lumbini and is likely to fly back to New Delhi after attending the event.
This will be India’s Prime Minister’s first visit to the Himalayan Nation during his second term, and also the first since travel was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Narendra Modi visited Nepal four times during his first term between 2014-19. Both India and Nepal are working hard to repair the historical old age ties that were disrupted by several controversial decisions taken during the term of former Nepalese prime minister KP Sharma Oli. Oli’s government had published a new political map of Nepal in 2020 that included the Indian territories of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh that triggered a row that lasted a while..
NINE CIVILIANS KILLED BY RUSSIAN FIRING IN UKRAINE’S DONETSK
Nine civilians were killed on Tuesday in the Donetsk area of Eastern Ukraine due to the continuous firing of Russian troops. As per the regional governor of Donetsk Pavlo Kyrylenko, the civilians have been killed in three separate incidents. Talking to the local media via Telegram app, the governor said, “three civilians died due to shelling in Vuhledar city in Donetsk area while three civilians were killed during an aerial strike in Avdiivka residential area, and three more were killed due to shelling in an area called Lyman in the region.”
The governor added that Russians are continuously targeting the civilian areas also during the fighting. The Ukrainian Presidential office has also confirmed that multiple locations in Donetsk are under constant fire from the Russian troops as Ukrainian officials are trying to evacuate citizens who are trapped in large numbers in the area.
Russia which had invaded Ukraine on the morning of February 24 after President Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine had changed its tactics in the last month and has launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine targeting Luhansk and Donetsk areas while abandoning assault on the capital Kyiv at the end of March. The conflict had brought major losses for both sides with roughly five million Ukrainians having to flee the country and as per the World Bank, Ukraine’s economy is set to shrink by 50 per cent due to the war. Russia has also suffered major losses on the battlefield and is also facing international isolation as many western countries have imposed heavy sanctions on it.
MYANMAR JUNTA SENTENCES AUNG SAN SUU KYI TO 5 YEARS IN JAIL FOR CORRUPTION
Aung San Suu Kyi, the former state counsellor and civilian leader of Myanmar, was found guilty of corruption by a court and sentenced to five years in jail, as per local media reports. The nobel prize winner 76-year-old leader was accused by the military leadership of accepting a bribe of US$ 600,000 in cash and gold bars. There are 11 corruption cases against her in the country and it is the first case where she has been sentenced. The hearing of the court was kept confidential by the authorities and the lawyers appearing for Suu Kyi were not allowed to talk with the journalists on this matter.
She has previously been sentenced to six years for breaching Covid rules and incitement against the military establishment. The leader is under house arrest since the military came to power and will remain further till all the cases are decided by courts.
Myanmar is witnessing unrest and a civil-war-like situation since a military takeover of the country in February last year that had sparked nationwide protests which had been crushed by the military. As per multiple reports, the military takeover had resulted in violent protests, widespread anger, and the coming up of People’s Defense Forces (PDF) to fight against the military which had led to the killing of more than 1,700 people and over 13,000 people have been arrested as the security forces have tried to curb the protests in the country.
CHINA’S SUPPORT FOR MYANMAR SHOWS ITS PREFERENCE FOR AUTOCRACIES
China’s support for Myanmar despite human rights abuses by the Junta and the supply of weapons to its military via Pakistan shows Beijing’s continued preference for doing business with abusive and autocratic governments across the world.
According to a write-up by Sophie Richardson, which was published by Human Rights Watch, it is a “tenet of Chinese foreign policy” to have relations with and provide aid to even those governments that “abuse” human rights of their nationals, reported The Singapore Post. Since the coup in Myanmar in February last year, the junta has destroyed 100 villages and razed over 5,500 buildings in the country’s central region. The military regime in the country is suppressing any form of opposition to military rule.
Early in February 2022, 200 houses of Ma Htee village in Central Myanmar were burnt to ashes by the junta. Even after human rights abuses of its citizens, China has continued to show its solidarity with the country.
Beijing has pledged to jointly oppose unilateral sanctions, a new consulate office in China, and support the military (junta) in hosting foreign ministers of China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Forum-all this while avoiding any mention of human rights abuses by the junta in Myanmar.
It is also pushing military hardware to Myanmar through Pakistan. It is supplying 60 and 81 mm mortars, M-79 grenade launchers, and Heavy Machine Guns. As Myanmar is interested in the air to surface missiles and JF-17 fighter aircraft (a China-Pakistan joint venture), China is ensuring that such equipment reaches the junta without much delay. These deals are taking place in a secretive manner and away from the watch of the UN.
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