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India To Reject Talks With Nepal As Kathmandu Set To Pass Second Constitution Amendment Bill

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Nepal has reportedly sought foreign secretary-level talks with India. The request could be rejected by New Delhi as Nepal is all set to pass the Second Constitution Amendment Bill next week, which will give it a legal backing to the updated map that claims parts of the Indian territory.

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Nepal watchers here in New Delhi believe India has always offered talks but this depends on reasonableness- if Nepal unilaterally prejudges the situation then it is willfully complicating the prospects of any settlements through talks.

Nepal has fast-tracked the process of bringing the constitution amendment. It is learned that KP Sharma Oli’s government has secured the support of opposition Nepali Congress and is likely to pass the amendment with the desired two-third majority on June 9. Even if Madhesi parties oppose the move, numbers are stacked in favour of the amendment.

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Tension has been mounting between India and Nepal after New Delhi inaugurated a road linking Kailash Mansarovar via Lipulekh on May 8 after which Nepal handed over a diplomatic note to India objecting to the move.

Diplomatic ties between the two nations frayed further after the issuance of a new updated map by Nepal on May 20. The controversial updated map includes Indian areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura in its territory. New Delhi has said that the updated map is “not based on historical facts and evidence”

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New Delhi urged Kathmandu to refrain from such an “unjustified cartographic assertion” and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India had earlier said it attaches great importance to deep-rooted historical, cultural and friendly relations with Nepal.

New Delhi also said that it is open to engaging with all its neighbours on the basis of mutual sensitivity and mutual respect in an environment of trust and confidence. This is a continuous process and it requires constructive and positive efforts. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also expressed hope that Nepali leadership creates a positive environment for talks on a matter related to the border.

India and Nepal share a 1,800km (1,118-mile) open border.

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Chinese Ambassador ‘Honey-Trapped’ Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli – Indian Reports

On Thursday, displeased with Indian reports, Nepal government spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada announced that some Indian media outlets made baseless and shameful allegations against PM Oli and  Kathmandu will take legal and political action against the Indian media.

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Nepal recently banned all India media channel except Doordarshan over what experts called ‘fictitious claims and concerted stories’ aimed to derail Nepal-China ties and see the ouster of PM KP Sharma Oli.

Instigated by China, Sri Lanka could end port deal with India?

The Indian media is taking a keen interest in the ongoing uprising within Nepal Communist Party against PM KP Sharma Oli. The way in which the entire matter has been covered in the Indian media, there is a massive outrage within the ruling communist part of Nepal.

A story was run on a Hindi news channel in India about China’s Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi and PM KP Sharma Oli hinting at ‘honey-trapping’ attempts by Beijing. Nepal’s government says that sensational claims that were made about a foreign diplomat and PM Oli has no connection with the reality.

On Thursday, displeased with Indian reports, Nepal government spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada announced that some Indian media outlets made baseless and shameful allegations against PM Oli and  Kathmandu will take legal and political action against the Indian media.

He said, “The government has every right to take action against the Indian media who are trying to hurt Nepal’s image, national sovereignty and the dignity of Nepalis.” We have asked to stop such broadcasting. ”

The ruling party, PM Oli’s advisor and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists have also expressed concern about this. The Nepalese government said that its embassy in New Delhi has raised strong objections to unruly coverage in India’s print and electronic media.

Nepal’s Ambassador to New Delhi Nilambar Acharya told the Kathmandu Post that some media houses of India are determined to derail the Nepal-India ties. Acharya said that such report is sad and objectionable.

Surya Thapa, the press advisor to Prime Minister Oli, said that the PM himself has taken notice on this matter. Thapa also said that the cable operators will stop broadcasting the Indian news channel as their responsibility towards the country. Nepal TV Association has confirmed that some Indian news channels have been banned.

According to Article 9 of Nepal’s National Broadcasting Rules 1995, the government can ban such broadcasts which hurts the security, peace, dignity and morality of Nepal.

In this interview, the anchor asked Upendra Yadav – the former deputy prime minister of Nepal that PM Oli is being accused of being ‘Honey Trapped’. Do you agree with this? On this, Yadav said that this cannot be denied and it needs to be analyzed. However, later Upendra Yadav told Nepali media that his interview could have tampered.

However, questions were also raised in Nepal about why the Chinese ambassador is taking so much interest in Nepal’s domestic politics? According to Nepali media, this interview of Upendra Yadav was aired when the Chinese Ambassador was meeting several leaders of the ruling party and PM Oli.

The Kathmandu Post commented on this matter and wrote  –  Ever since Nepal updated its political map, new stories are being created in the Indian media about ties between PM Oli and China. Every day new propaganda appears in the Indian media. Journalists sitting in Delhi and Mumbai tell the date and time of Oli’s resignation. Some people have even started demanding his resignation. Oli has become a means of collecting TRPs for the Indian media. ”

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal – Kamal Thapa tweeted a cartoon of Times of India and wrote – We have serious differences with PM Oil on many issues, including his conduct of international relations. But deliberate/sustained campaign of mudslinging against PM Oli by some Indian media cannot be acceptable. That doesn’t do Nepal-India relations any good.

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South Asia

Instigated by China, Sri Lanka could end port deal with India?

Sri Lanka recently announced that Colombo will review the port agreement signed between India and Sri Lanka at an estimated cost of $700 million.

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Amid India’s growing tensions with China, Pakistan and Nepal, there are signs that ties with Sri Lanka could also turn sour as Beijing could instigate the island country to terminate a port deal with New Delhi. 

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently announced that Colombo will review the port agreement signed between India and Sri Lanka at an estimated cost between $500 to $700 million.

Experts see this move as an effort to distance itself with ‘QUAD’ nations, especially India, which is trying to counter China’s growing geopolitical influence. The “QUAD” nations include the U.S., India, Japan and Australia who currently have turbulent ties with China.

“We heard that there is a lot of pressure from India over this project. But we are not a province of India, we are a sovereign nation and we do not need to dance to their tunes,” said Shyamal Sumanarathna, secretary of the Ports, Commerce Industries and Progressive Workers Union. “Following our strike, the prime minister assured [us] that he will sort this issue out,” he added.

The previous government of Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India and Japan to develop the new East Container Terminal (ECT). According to the terms, Sri Lanka holds 51% stake while India and Japan share the remaining stake.

However, the Trade Unions fear that it will cede the ownership of the ECT to India. They are demanding a guarantee that the project will be fully owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, a government entity. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured them that there is “no final agreement” yet.

“About two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s international cargo traffic is with India. There are opportunities for win-win cooperation among India, Sri Lanka and Japan in developing the ECT to promote prosperity in our maritime region,” stated a representative of the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

Rajapaksa has formed a five-member committee to review and report on the concerns over the project in 45 days and also to recommend steps ensuring the terminal delivers the maximum benefit for Sri Lanka.

However, it is important to note that Sri Lanka has turned to China several times for bailouts when the country went down on lockdown for two months amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, Sri Lanka had relied heavily on China to construct $1.5 billion port in Hambantota in the country’s south. After the port was operating at a loss and couldn’t generate enough revenue to repay the loan to Beijing, the port was leased to China for 99 years in return for $1.1 billion which eased its position.

Beijing further granted $500 million to Colombo to fight the pandemic to help the looming financial crisis.

Sri Lanka has also requested various foreign governments including India for a postponement of repayment of the debt as the island nation is reeling under major economic crisis. “The matter has progressed and technical level discussions are presently underway,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said.

Rohan Masakorala, a maritime shipping expert and CEO of the Shippers Academy Colombo disputed the trade union’s claim calling them “nationalistic” and politically motivated with views, not in line with the global business strategies.

“South Asia Gateway Terminal has been running for over 20 years with a number of international partners, and similarly the Colombo International Container Terminal has been operating for seven years with a Chinese company,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s government has also recently halted the Japan-funded Colombo Light Railway project and a $480 million Millennium Challenge Corporation grant from the U.S. Harin Fernando, a Member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, accused the current administration of turning Sri Lanka into a “banana republic” under Chinese rule.

“In 2014, before we toppled the government, this is what we highlighted. But now we see [the Chinese] doing this much more strategically,” he said. He is also of the view that China now has a complete monopoly on Sri Lanka’s development projects and that Sri Lanka is “under debt” of China.

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Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia into mosque

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

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The iconic Istanbul museum of Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque. Hours after a landmark court ruling Friday (July 10), the Turkish government confirmed that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia will be reopened for worship after an 85-year hiatus.

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The nearly 1,500-year-old architectural gem will be transferred to the state Religious Affairs Directorate under a presidential decree, according to a Friday announcement in the Official Gazette.

Earlier Friday, ruling on a petition filed by an Istanbul NGO, Turkey’s Council of State overturned a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.

The court ruled that Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, and was presented to the community as a mosque. According to the ruling, Hagia Sophia was defined as a “mosque,” a status that cannot be legally changed.

After centuries of use as a church under the Byzantine Empire, in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Mehmet II following his conquest of Istanbul. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum. Posting his decree on social media today, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed best wishes for the change, which he has long advocated.

While details of the change are not yet known, Turkish officials have pointed out that many famed houses of worship, such as Paris’ Notre Dame and Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, are also open to visitors.

“Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship won’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site,” Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, told Anadolu Agency in an interview this week. Turkey is home to people of many faiths who can freely exercise their religions, he added.

World Reacts To Decision On Hagia Sophia

The Russian Orthodox Church expressed shock at Turkey’s decision to withdraw the museum status of Hagia Sophia, blaming it of disregarding voices of millions of Christians. “The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida stated.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialogue nor notification beforehand”.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialogue without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the UN’ cultural body said in a statement.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides tweeted –  Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its international obligations”.

Christodoulides said Turkey’s “escalating, flagrant violation of its international obligations is manifested in its decision to alter the designation of Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site that is a universal symbol of the Orthodox faith”.

Later, Greece called Turkey’s move an “open provocation to the civilised world”. “The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

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