Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean soared last week, with Turkey sending an exploration vessel, accompanied by a Navy fleet, to the disputed waters and Francedespatching warshipsto assist Greece.
Some estimates put the size of the reserves at 3.5 trillion cubic metres, which would put the region on a par with Venezuela and Nigeria.
Additionally, there is a further 5.13 trillion cubic metres of gas estimated to be in the Nile Basin.
It is no surprise then that Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian authorities all want as large a piece of the pie that they can secure for themselves.
Egypt has started to exploit its reserves of gas and oil and is now a regional exporter.
Lebanon, with the help of France and Russia, is also about to start commercial drilling.
The EU’splans to transport the gas to its mainland, which would help reduceitsdependency on Russia.
But when EU members and its allies in West Asia and North Africa made plans to build a gas pipeline from the Mediterranean to Europe’s mainland, they kept Turkey out of it, which infuriated Ankara.
Turkey and Greece have overlapping maritime claims.
Earlier this year, the EastMed Gas Forum was formed by Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine, and Turkey was again excluded.
But Turkey challenged the pipeline project and reached an agreement with Libya’sTripoli-basedgovernment, which Ankara is backing, to form an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from its southern shores to Libya’s northern coast across the Mediterranean.
Greece claimed the Turkish zone violated its maritime sovereignty.
Later, Greece announced its EEZwithEgypt, which clashes with Turkey’s zone.
Immediately thereafter, Turkey sent its survey ship over.
The highly complicated issue now has the potential to involve Europe, WestAsia and NorthAfrica.
It is difficult to demarcate the maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, which is dotted with Turkish and Greek islands.
Cyprus is physically divided with the southern part ruled by the internationally-recognised government and the northern part controlled by Turkey.
Turkey’s survey ship plans exploration activities around Greece’s Crete Island, which lies just outside the Turkish-Libyaeconomiczone, and Greece and Cyprus call it a violation of their sovereignty.
France, the EU’s most powerful military force, has thrown its weight behind Greece and Cyprus.
Now, an alliance is emerging among Greece, Cyprus, Italy and France, which is backed by Egypt, Israel and the UAE.
Turkey stands almost isolated, but remains a key power in the Mediterranean, which requires the EU to tread cautiously.
Resurrecting the right to know | TH
A High Level Committee (HLC) chaired by a retiredjudge of the Gauhati High Court and including, among others, the Advocates General of two Northeast States was constituted by the Home Ministry through a gazette notification of July 15, 2019.
Its mandate was, among others, to recommend measures to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and define “AssamesePeople”.
The HLC finalised its report by mid-February2020 and submitted it to the Assam Chief Minister soon after.
He handed over the report to the Union Home Minister on March20.
With the Central government apparently “sittingidle” over the report, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which was represented in the HLC, released the report on August 11.
The proffered reasons for the release were the Central government’s inaction on the report and the people’s right to know.
Sitting idle over a report is notanuncommonphenomenon.
The Vohra Committee report on the alleged nexus between politicians and criminals was kept under wraps for almost two years.
The right to know was recognised nearly 50 years ago and is the foundational basis or the direct emanation for the right to information.
In State of U.P. v. Raj Narain (1975), the Supreme Court carved out a class of documents that demand protection even though their contents may not be damaging to the national interest.
Justice Mathew: “the people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security.”
This view was endorsed in S.P. Gupta v. President of India (1981) and a few other decisions.
InS.P. Gupta, Justice Venkataramiah observed that “the tendency in all democratic countries in recent times is to liberalise the restrictions placed on the right of the citizens to know what is happening in the various public offices. The emphasis now is more on the right of a citizen to know than on his ‘need to know’ the contents of official documents.”
In Yashwant Sinha v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2019), the Supreme Court referred to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in New York Times v. United States (1971) wherein Justice Marshall declined to recognise the right of the government to restrain publication of the Pentagon Papers.
Justice K.M. Joseph referred to Section 8(2) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 which provides that a citizen can get a certified copy of a document even if the matter pertains to security or relationship with a foreign nation, if a case is made out.
Therefore, it is clear that the right to know can be curtailed only in limited circumstances and if there is an overriding public interest.
Keeping in mind the view expressed by the Supreme Court over nearly 50 years, it is clear that the Official Secrets Act is not attracted to the disclosure of the HLC report.
As observed by the Supreme Court in S.P. Gupta: “If secrecy were to be observed in the functioning of government and the processes of government were to be kept hidden from public scrutiny, it would tend to promote and encourage oppression, corruption and misuse or abuse of authority, for it would all be shrouded in the veil of secrecy without any public accountability.”
Facebook faces heat | Tribune
Facebook has over 340 million users and its WhatsApp chat service has 400millionusers in India.
In April, Facebook announced it was investing $5.7 billion in Reliance Jio.
Wall Street Journal report indicated that it had gone easy on hate speech by a BJP lawmaker.
The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology may be split over summoning Facebook executives to explain the alleged bias towards the ruling party, but the issue does require fact-checking and transparency.
A free run is against national interest and democratic values.
The issue of biasedcontentmoderation applies to all social media platforms, not just Facebook.
The impact of hateful, inciteful, inaccuratecontent flowing without check has been devastating in India.
For a hugely successful company, profit cannot be the sole driving force.
Striving towards beingmore responsible isa mark of character.
Seoul and Indo-Pacific | IndExp
The Korean Peninsula is no stranger to China’s overweening ambition.
Chinalost a major land-sea battle to Japan in 1895 trying to dominate the Korean Peninsula, and ended up having to cedeFormosa (Taiwan) to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
In1950, China plunged into the Korean War against a US-led UN force, apprehending a threat from McCarthyism, and created a division that still haunts the region.
Today, Seouleyes with a sense of foreboding China’s aggression, from the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to India’s land borders in Ladakh.
Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) are acquiring form and substance.
In the wake of the pandemic, the QUAD countries — the US, Japan, India and Australia — have held regular consultations with others in the region, including with South Korea, which is now also being roped into the “Five Eyes” Anglophoneintelligence-sharingarrangement, to better contend with North Korea’s military threats.
Seoul’s participation in the QUADPLUSformat, both at the official and ministerial levels, highlights its importance as a key member of the liberal democratic and economic order.
China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner and its top investment destination.
As part of its economiccoercionduring the THAADcrisis in 2017, Beijing had targeted Seoul’s entertainmentindustry, tourism and particularly, the Lottechaebol that had provided land for the proposed missile system, resulting in a painful loss of billions of dollars
To ease tensions, South Korea subsequently agreed to “three noes” — no additional deployment of THAAD batteries, no integration into a US-led regional missile defence system and no trilateral alliance with the US and Japan.
The navies of South Korea, Japan and the US have engaged in joint missile warning exercisessince June 2016 and joint search and rescue exercises (SAREX) everyyear.
TheJoint Chiefs of Staff of the three nations have also met several times since July2014.
The traditional rivalry between South Korea and Japan ensures that a trilateral alliance with the US in Northeast Asia will remain a chimera.
Seoul’s unreasonable demands for wartime reparations have led Tokyo to retaliate by curbing exports of critical materials required by Samsung and SKHynix for the manufacture of dynamicrandom-accesssemiconductors (DRAMS), a large part of which, ironically, is supplied by the Koreanfirmsto China’s Huawei for the manufacture of 5G and ArtificialIntelligence (AI) systems.
Such thrusting and parrying between Japan and South Korea nearly wrecked their bilateral GeneralSecurity of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
Hopefully, Seoul’s participation in the “D10 Club” summit featuring G7members, India, Australia and SouthKorea, will instil greater confidence in Seoul that a collective approach to telecommunications security can succeed in fending off Chinese pressure in 5G systems.
Seoul’s tightropewalkbetweendefenceties with the US and economic dependence onChina continues to shape its outlook on the FOIP.
During the June2019Moon-Trumpsummit, President Moon Jae-In favoured regional cooperation on the “principles of openness, inclusiveness and transparency” for “harmoniouscooperation between Korea’s New Southern Policy (NSP) and the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy”.
Seoul’s membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has facilitated its engagement with China’s many regional initiatives.
US-SouthKorea: faultlines have appeared on cost-sharing
South Korea has vital stakes in the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific.
Its key trade and energylanes traverse the Indian Ocean.
This provides a genuine basis for deeper defence cooperation with QUAD and ASEANcountries.
India has already inducted the K9 VAJRA self-propelled howitzer, which has its roots in SouthKorea’sK9Thunder.
In a welcome development, Seoul has carried out nascent defence projects with Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam as well.
A hesitant “middle power”, South Korea is supportive of a US-ledrules-basedorder that preserves peace on the Korean peninsula.
Its membership of “MIKTA”, the grouping of middle powers, can boost its ties with Australia and Indonesia in the Indo-Pacific.
Seoul cannot continue to sit on the fence for long in the ongoing US-China tug-of-war.
Even if decoupling from China in trade proves a hard nut to crack, there is little doubt that the world is rapidly spiralling into mutually exclusive technology spheres that pits China against the US.
How Chinese imports are destroying our traditional textiles | HT
India must reassess its approach to trade, especially the import of textiles and other artefacts of religious use from China.
This is essential to preserve India’s traditional strengths and ensure it doesn’t fall into the same trap as other countries, which have lost their livelihoods and indigenous traditions.
In India, textiles comprise the second-largest sector after agriculture.
Its potential for creating wealth is enormous.
India has a living tradition ofhandicrafts, practised on an everyday basis.
All India’s crafts are inherited through guilds which have a long history, and this is their inherent intellectual property.
This specialisation offers employment to an estimated 16 million people in the country.
When the pandemic hit Europe, Italy, Spain and France were among the countries affected.
The relentless growth of fashion empires, and their diversification into billion-dollarlicensingarrangementsmade fashion in Europe very powerful, early on in the game.
The Chineselearnedthe craft swiftly and, very soon, they were a force to be recognised, as they used “Made in France” labels on much cheaper copies.
In Italy, the hub of luxury good manufacturers, too, their numbers proliferated and they displacedtraditional Italian family enterprises.
One of the major production areas, incidentally, is in and around the city of Wuhan, a textile hub of low-end garments for the world.
Pursuit for cheap merchandise
Uzbekistan is at the heart of a complex nomadic and oasis culture in Central Asia and is a significant stretch of the famous Silk Road route.
The Fergana valley, the birth place of Babar, was supposed to be the richest in terms of traditional crafts.
Uzbeki women were all wearing kaftans, manufactured and printed in China, using copies of patterns from traditionalikats.
The only place today where genuine textiles still exist is India.
India is as prone to losing its textile crafts to another country as the others.
The British brought down India’s share in textile exports to the world from 25% to 2%, taking over the production of Indian-inspired cloth from the 18th to the 20th century.
By a miracle, Indian textiles have survived through the efforts of revivalists in the post-Independence era, such as Kamala Devi Chattopdhyaya and Pupul Jayakar.
We are already seeing Chinese inroads in the Benarassarimarkets, where there are jacquard copies of the Benaras-borderedtanchoi saris selling in the market for a song.
The original yarns from Bhagalpur which were hand-spun, with no twist, called paat-baana, without which the beautiful masterpieces of Benaras could not have been woven, had been substituted by Chinese yarns.
Benaras can survive and sustain itself adequately if we revert to the original yarns.
We have indigenous mulberry silks from Karnataka, which are softer, finer, lighter and allow for more pliability when woven and have a wonderful texture.
Organic ahimsa silks from the terai regions, India’s tussars and mogas, are an intrinsic part of our heritage.