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China, India & Turkey Lead Human Right Violations During COVID-19 Pandemic: UN

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As the entire world struggles to contain a common enemy, China, India and Turkey have been accused of gross human right violations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Protecting human rights amid the global pandemic has become the need of the hour. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, human right violations seem to have doubled up.

The pandemic must not be used as a pretense for autocratic countries to crush individual human rights or suppress the free flow of information, the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, warned in an effort to bring the UN’s influence to bear on the crisis.

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Guterres said what had started as a public health emergency was quickly turning into a human rights disaster. Government responses to the crisis have been considered as asymmetrical in nations including China, India, Hungary, Turkey and South Africa.

Guterres warned, “the virus is having a disproportionate impact on certain communities through the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response”.

In its new report on COVID-19 and human rights, the UN used the expressions like “foreigner’s disease” to describe the virus, saying such remarks can lead to discrimination, xenophobia, racism and attacks.

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Freedom of movement needs to be restrained, Guterres admitted, but he said the scale of such constraints can be diminished by adequate testing and systematic quarantine processes. He declared that over 131 countries have closed their borders, with only 30 permitting exemptions for asylum seekers.

The UN stated that under the pretext of fake news, journalists, medics, and activists or political adversaries were being detained. “Sweeping efforts to eliminate misinformation or misinformation can result in purposeful or unintentional censorship that underpins trust,” it said.

Even though the UN approved using new technologies to battle the deadly virus, “the use of artificial intelligence and big data to fortify emergency actions or to hunt affected groups, raise concerns,” Guterres cautioned.

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The UN’s report further highlights the potential for abuse is high: what is justified during an emergency now may become normalised once the crisis has elapsed. “Without adequate defences, these powerful technologies may cause discrimination, be intrusive and infringe on privacy, or maybe used against people or groups for purposes going far beyond the pandemic response.”

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Pakistan Unhappy Over The Arrest, Expulsion Of ‘Spy Diplomats’ By India

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India recently expelled two officials of the Pakistan high commission after they were arrested by the security forces on charges of espionage, the Indian external affairs ministry said.

According to reports, three officials of the Pakistani mission were detained on Sunday while allegedly trying to obtain classified information on the Indian security establishment. The Indian move came as tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are already high.

The three men initially reportedly insisted that they were Indians and even displayed fake Aadhar cards, the officials said. “Later, during interrogation, they admitted they were officials at the Pakistan high commission and worked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),” according to reports in the Indian media.

A case was registered against them under the Official Secrets Act. Consequently, the government ordered the expulsion of Abid and Khan, who both work for the visa section at the Pakistani mission.

“The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within twenty-four hours,” read an official handout issued by the Indian foreign ministry, which also summoned the Pakistani chargé d’affaires on the issue.

But within hours of the Indian move, Pakistan reacted sharply and denounced the expulsion of its diplomats. “The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” said a foreign office statement.

The statement said the two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were detained by the Indian authorities on “false and unsubstantiated charges.” They were, however, released on intervention by the High Commission.

“We condemn the detention and torture as well as threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui. She said Pakistan strongly rejected the baseless Indian allegations and condemned the Indian action calling it a violation of the Vienna Convention.

“The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi has always worked within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms. The Indian action is clearly aimed at shrinking diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission,” she added.

Later, Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for a demarche over declaring two officials of Pakistan High Commission persona non grata.

“The Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for a strong demarche, conveying Pakistan’s condemnation of the Indian decision to declare two officials of the High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi persona non grata and rejection of all baseless Indian allegations against the High Commission officials,” a Foreign Office statement stated.

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China Warns India Of Economical Repercussions If It Supports The US In Cold War Against China

China’s aim of upholding friendly ties with India hasn’t changed, so Beijing will still provide assistance to India by boosting bilateral partnership to help its economic recovery and expanding bilateral trade ties.

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As US-China tensions intensify, Chinese state media – Global Times writes that many experts are predicting that both nations are set to enter a Cold War and advises India to stay away from US-China rivalry.

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GT writes – with sentiment building in India, many experts have urged New Delhi to join the new Cold War and utilise the situation. Such senseless opinions are nothing but ridiculous and should not influence the Indian government’s position.

GT claims that India has little to gain from interfering in US-China dispute and Modi government needs to face the new geopolitical development objectively and reasonably. India needs to be cautious not to include the US factor in its approach with China.

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The same holds true in China-India border conflict and the offer of US arbitration is worthless as both China and India have the ability to resolve their problems bilaterally.

In a possible US-China Cold War, India must not favour the US or becomes a US pawn against China as it would deteriorate economic ties between both the nations and the Indian economy may not be able to take ‘financial hit’ at such time, GT cautions.

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China’s aim of upholding friendly ties with India hasn’t changed, so Beijing will still provide assistance to India by boosting bilateral partnership to help its economic recovery and expanding bilateral trade ties.

GT warns that China doesn’t want to see a situation where politics leads to financial consequences, so Modi government is encouraged to view the India-China ties with the practical mindset instead of being lured by nationalist sentiment.

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Israel-China Relations: How Israel Is Getting Caught Between US-China Rivalry? Analysis

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Israel knew the drill even before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boarded his flight to Tel Aviv earlier this month four days after the death of his father. It was Pompeo’s first and only overseas trip since March.

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Echoing a US warning two decades ago that Israeli dealings with China jeopardized the country’s relationship with the United States, Pompeo’s trip solidified Israel’s position at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide.

Two decades ago the issue was the potential sale to China of Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Israel backed out of the deal after the US threatened withdrawal of American support for the Jewish state.

This month the immediate issue was a Chinese bid for construction of the world’s largest desalination plant and on the horizon a larger US-Chinese battle for a dominating presence in Eastern Mediterranean ports.

Within days of his visit, Pompeo scored a China-related success even if the main focus of his talks with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was believed to be Iran and Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israel signalled that it had heard the secretary’s message by awarding the contract for the Sorek-2 desalination plant to an Israeli rather than a Chinese company.

The tender, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

China’s interest in Israel is strategic given the fact that the Jewish state is one of the world’s foremost commercial, food and security technology powerhouses and one of the few foreign countries to command significant grassroots support in the United States.

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If there is one thing Israel cannot afford, it is a rupture in its bonds to the United States. That is no truer than at a time in which the United States is the only power supportive of Israeli annexation plans on the West Bank.

The question is whether Israel can develop a formula that convinces the United States that US interests will delineate Israeli dealings with China and reassure China that it can still benefit from Israeli assets within those boundaries.

“Right now, without taking the right steps, we are looking at being put in the situation in which the US is telling us we need to cut or limit our relations with China. The problem is that Israel wants freedom of relations with China but is not showing it really understands US concerns. Sorek-2 was a good result. It shows the Americans we get it.” said Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL) that seeks to advance Israeli-Chinese relations.

Analysts, including Witte, believe that there is a silver lining in Israel’s refusal to award the desalination plant to a Chinese company that would allow it to steer a middle course between the United States and China.

“China understands that by giving the Americans this win, China-Israel relations can continue. It gives them breathing room,” Witte said in an interview.

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It will, however, be up to Israel to develop criteria and policies that accommodate the United States and make clear to China what Israel can and cannot do.

“In order for Israel to have what it wants… it’s going to need to show the Americans that it takes Washington’s strategic perceptions into consideration and not only that, that it’s two steps ahead on strategic thinking with respect to China.  The question is how.”  Witte said.

Ports and technology are likely to be focal points.

China is set to next year takeover the management of Haifa port where it has already built its own pier and is constructing a new port in Ashdod.

One way of attempting to address US concerns would be to include technology companies in the purview of a still relatively toothless board created under US pressure in the wake of the Haifa deal to review foreign investment in Israel. It would build in a safeguard against giving China access to dual civilian-military use technology.

That, however, may not be enough to shield Israel against increased US pressure to reduce Chinese involvement in Israeli ports.

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“The parallels between the desalination plant and the port are just too close to ignore. We can’t have another infrastructure divide,” Witte said.

The two Israeli ports will add to what is becoming a Chinese string of pearls in the Eastern Mediterranean.

China already manages the Greek port of Piraeus.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) is looking at upgrading Lebanon’s deep seaport of Tripoli to allow it to accommodate larger vessels.

Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery Co. has sold Tripoli port two 28-storey container cranes capable of lifting and transporting more than 700 containers a day, while a container vessel belonging to Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO docked in Tripoli in December 2018, inaugurating a new maritime route between China and the Mediterranean.

Major Chinese construction companies are also looking at building a railroad that would connect Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon to Homs and Aleppo in Syria.  China has further suggested that Tripoli could become a special economic zone within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and serve as an important trans-shipment point between the People’s Republic and Europe.

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BRI is a massive infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven effort to connect the Eurasian landmass to China. Potential Chinese involvement in the reconstruction of post-war Syria would likely give it access to the ports of Latakia and Tartous.

Taken together, China is looking at dominating the Eastern Mediterranean with six ports in four countries, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, and Syria that would create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All that is missing are Turkish, Cypriot and Egyptian ports.

The Chinese build-up threatens to complicate US and NATO’s ability to manoeuvre in the region.

The Trump administration has already warned Israel that Chinese involvement in Haifa could jeopardize continued use of the port by the US fifth fleet.

“The writing is on the wall. Israel needs to carve out a degree of wiggle room. That, however, will only come at a price. There is little doubt that Haifa will move into the firing line,” said a long-time observer of Israeli-Chinese relations.

James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

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