The Russia–China Alliance versus the West



Dr Karin von Hippel and Lt Gen (Ret'd) Sir Robert Fry
The Russia–China Alliance versus the West. Photo collected.

The Russia–China Alliance versus the West. Photo collected.

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The Ukraine war has further entrenched and exacerbated the geopolitical rivalry between the West and the Russia–China camp. This new 'Superpower Plus' clash leaves the so-called ‘Rest’ in a difficult position, with some countries feeling pressure to choose sides, and others trying to remain neutral. Worryingly, many are leaning closer to the Russia–China position than the West.

In the 2 March vote at the UN General Assembly, 141 countries ‘deplored the aggression’ committed by Russia against Ukraine, with five votes against (not surprisingly, these were Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, Syria and, of course, Russia).

But 35 countries abstained, indicating tacit support for Russia, and these votes came from across the globe: from El Salvador to Equatorial Guinea to Namibia to Mongolia. The abstainers also represent places that will be significantly impacted by the negative spill-over from the war, whether in terms of food scarcity, prohibitive energy prices, supply chain blockages or rising inflation, which could lead to a global recession and new refugee flows.

Many in the Global South simply do not share the sense of moral outrage and strategic threat that is felt in the Euro-Atlantic bubble. ‘It’s not our war, it’s a European problem’ and ‘what about the many conflicts on our continent that you ignored?’ sums up the prevailing mood. American and European governments preoccupied by maintaining a coalition at the same time as handling pressing domestic issues have come late to understanding the implications of this.

While they congratulate themselves on the tactical impact of weapons they are supplying to Ukraine, Western powers are only now registering the strategic impact of losing the battle between competing narratives. And this matters, because the political and intellectual isolation of the West will serve only to break apart an already fragile coalition into its parochially minded constituent parts. It will also leave the way open for naked aggression to be rewarded, and repeated. Significantly, it would mark the reversion to an international system dominated by power blocs and the inherent tensions that accompany this.

The evidence for the loss of the narrative battle is there in plain sight, especially among the 'Rest’. Ukraine no longer dominates the news agenda, and the recurring theme globally is a negotiated end to the conflict on Russian terms, rather than the defeat of Russian forces. Perversely, fighting in the south and east of Ukraine does not elicit the outrage that the failed seizure of Kyiv provoked; indeed, it is in danger of becoming normalised. At the same time, Russian accusations that the West and NATO are responsible for the growing food crisis because of Western sanctions are cutting through to audiences outside the Euro-Atlantic bubble – as is Russian leverage of the European colonial legacy, casting the war in Ukraine as a struggle against NATO neo-imperialism.

Returning to more conventional methods of exerting influence, the one country that has fully aligned with Russia – China – is also the one that has a clear opportunity to burnish its credentials as a positive actor on the international stage, by encouraging Russia in the direction of moderation. Not only is President Xi Jinping the only leader Putin might listen to, but he is also a voice guaranteed to resonate among the ‘Rest’. Doing so would also significantly improve the current frosty standoff between the US and China, and contribute to a course correction in relations.

Only the Ukrainians can decide when they will come to the negotiating table and what they might be willing to concede – a situation recognised and accepted by Western governments. Those same Western governments can, however, go some way to shaping the strategic context with more effective engagement of the ‘Rest’, a constituency they neglect at their peril.

Pakistan: Coal miners suffer terrorism, violence and brutality in Balochistan



News Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Coal miners in Balochistan are suffering from the dangers of insurgency, terrorism, sectarianism, dangerous working environment, along with decades of state-sponsored negligence, discrimination, violence and brutality.

Despite being a mineral-rich province of Pakistan, Balochistan is ignored by the government and the coal miners suffered the most. Miners witnessed workplace accidents as they work in the high-risk zone and seek attention, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) reported.

The International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) is a non-profit, independent, and international think tank headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

The coal miners are subjected to the double-edged sword of cruelty and hazardous working condition causing severe fatalities.

Recently, on November 12, six coal miners were kidnapped from the Mach coalfield in Kachhi district (former name: Bolan District) of Balochistan around 80 km away from the provincial capital city of Quetta.

According to IFFRAS citing sources, a large number of armed men entered the Mach coal field area and kidnapped six people working at different coal mines. The miners, working at mine no. 172.

The coal miners belong to Swat Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. This is not the first incident. Earlier, on June 13, four coal miners were abducted at gunpoint from the Habibullah Coal Company including two engineers, in Hanna Urak, Quetta.

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Jonathan, world's oldest living tortoise, celebrates his 190th birthday



Newsdesk, barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Jonathan, the Seychelles giant tortoise, is having the biggest animal party this weekend as he prepares to ring his 190th birthday on Sunday in Saint Helena which has been his home since 1822, where the defeated French emperor Napoleon died a year before.

Since the time he came as a gift to the south Atlantic island's governor, Jonathan has garnered a lot of fame and made his place in the Guinness World Records as the oldest living land animal along with the oldest chelonian, which is an order that comprises of terrapins, tortoises and turtles. Living a celebrity life, he was also featured on the reverse side of the local five-pence coin.

Based on shell measurements, it is believed that Jonathan was hatched around 1832 and was brought from Seychelles to the UK overseas territory 50 years later.

“Jonathan’s age is an estimation based on the fact that he was fully mature, and hence at least 50 years old when he arrived in Saint Helena from Seychelles in 1882. In all likelihood, he is even older than we think,” the Guinness World Records notes.

He has been living a comfortable retirement life in Plantation House, which is the St Helena governor's official residence, where different events are being organised all weekend, which includes the issue of a special stamp, to mark his birthday.

The birthday celebrations will end with a "birthday cake", which will be cooked using favourite food items of Jonathan. As per his caretakers, the oldest living tortoise has a special love for lettuce, carrots, pears, cucumber and apples.

In the initial months of 2022, Jonathan was given the title of world's oldest living land animal by the Guinness World Records and in December, he was also mentioned as the oldest tortoise ever.

"When you think, if he was hatched in 1832 - the Georgian era - my goodness, the changes in the world. The world wars, the rise and fall of the British Empire, and the many governors, kings and queens that have passed, it's quite extraordinary. And he's just been here, enjoying himself,” Jonathan's main care taker and retired veterinarian Joe Hollins said.

Living through such historic world events, the old Jonathan is now covered in wrinkles, has no sense of smell and is blind with cataracts. After his precise birth date remained unknown for so many years, the governor of British overseas territory Nigel Phillips finally took the step of granting him an official birthday on December 4, 1832, in November of this year.

While the residents of Saint Helena continue to pray for Jonathan's long life, the authorities have already planned to preserve the shell of the oldest chelonian for posterity after his demise.

Source: WION

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai Receives Padma Bhushan



International Desk, Barta24.com
Google CEO Sundar Pichai Receives Padma Bhushan

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Receives Padma Bhushan

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Sundar Pichai one of the most renowned CEOs in the world has been awarded Padma Bhushan, one of India's highest civilian awards.

India's ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu awarded the civilian award to Google and Alphabet CEO in San Francisco.

Sandhu on Twitter said, "Delighted to hand over Padma Bhushan to CEO @Google& Alphabet @sundarpichai in San Francisco. Sundar's inspirational journey from #Madurai to Mountain View, strengthening India-US economic and technology ties, reaffirms Indian talent`s contribution to global innovation."

After receiving the honorary award, the Google CEO in a blog post expressed his gratitude and thanked Sandhu. According to the blog post, Pichai said he is fortunate to grow up in a family that cherished knowledge. He said that he is blessed to have parents who sacrificed a lot to make sure that he gets opportunities to explore his interests, ANI reported.

Pichai added, "India is a part of me. I carry it wherever I go. (Unlike this beautiful award which I will keep somewhere safe)."

The Google CEO also appreciated Indian PM Modi's Digital India vision, saying that the has certainly been an accelerator in the process. He said that he felt proud of the investment that he had made in the digital vision project. They recently announced an investment of $10 billion in India to make internet access easy and build products for India's unique needs using AI.

Talking about India, he said that out of 24 languages on Google Translator, 8 of them are native to India.

He added, "We're also investing deeply in digital skilling, and have trained over 1 million women through our WomenWill Entrepreneurship Program and over 55,000 teachers in partnership with the government and local organizations. We`ve also sponsored over 100,000 Google Career Certificate sponsorships in collaboration with the NASSCOM Foundation and Tata Strive."

Pichai said that he is looking forward to continuing a great partnership between Google and India.

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Protests in China over Covid restrictions



News Desk, Barta24.com
Protests in China over Covid restrictions

Protests in China over Covid restrictions

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Police in Shanghai on Sunday (November 27) dragged and detained demonstrators who were protesting strict coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. Protesters were seen singing the national anthem as they gathered in the streets of Shanghai.

China has been marred by rare protests against Covid measures that are part of the nation's strict zero-Covid policy. Police face the unusual task of maintaining law and order as people express anger over recent restrictions.

Amid the protests, demonstrators were seen clashing with the police in Shanghai on Sunday as the protests continued for a third day, further spreading to several cities. This comes after the deadly apartment fire in the country's far west.

On Thursday, a fire at a residential high-rise building in the city of Urumqi, reportedly led to the death of at least 10 people. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang region.

China has implemented stringent policies, including lockdowns, mass testing, etc. in order to curb the spread of the deadly virus, which was first reported in China in late 2019.

Now, nearly three years into the pandemic, the authorities in China are still imposing the zero-Covid policy that has caused frustration among people.

Besides Shanghai, protesters also took to the streets in the cities of Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday. Peaceful vigils were held in Beijing. Meanwhile, the students on several university campuses around China demonstrated over the weekend.

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