Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recent Editorials

Here are some editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records) 

Desperate migrants
deserve helping hand

Day after day, the international media highlights stories about the plight of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe in highly desperate conditions, but efforts to tackle the crisis do not seem to match the urgency it calls for.

It is increasingly obvious that wider Europe needs to bolster humanitarian coordination.

Greece, especially, has seen an unprecedented wave of migrants this year, the vast majority fleeing war and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan.

More than 160,000 have arrived so far, mostly crossing in inflatable dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast — an influx that has overwhelmed Greek authorities and the country's small Aegean islands.

Yet, few of the arriving migrants want to remain in Greece, which itself is in the grip of a financial crisis.

The vast majority head straight to the northern border with Macedonia, where they cram onto trains and head north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to the more prosperous European Union countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia.

Sadly, on Friday, Macedonian special police forces fired stun grenades to disperse thousands of migrants stuck on a no-man's land with Greece, a day after declaring a state of emergency on its border to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to the European Union (EU).

The scene was visibly heartbreaking. Migrants, many with babies and young children, spent the chilly and windy night in a dust field without food and with little water. Some ate corn they picked from nearby fields.

To add to their agony, police spread coils of razor wire over rail tracks used by migrants to cross on foot from Greece to Macedonia.

Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has already stated that it is  "unacceptable that European institutions continue to work at their current slow pace" in finding a joint solution to the crisis. The European Commission, on its part, has denied it is failing to act quickly.

Migrants are also human beings whose dignity must be respected. As top UN officials point out, the registration process of new arrivals needs to be expedited. Reception conditions are appalling and call for improvement. Ruthless smugglers who are responsible for packing large numbers of people on dangerous vessels should be punished. Greater funding is also needed to address the crisis.

Too much time has already been wasted. Every hour of delay could lead to further loss of lives and more desperation. 
Hostage rescue proves

UAE’s anti-terror resolve

The courageous rescue by the UAE Armed Forces of British citizen Douglas Robert Semple, who had been kidnapped by the terrorist Al Qaeda organisation in Yemen, again underscores the highly-commendable role played by the UAE against terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations.

The 64-year-old Semple was working as a petroleum engineer in the Hadramaut area when he was kidnapped in February, 2014.
The daring rescue is a clear indication that nothing can stop the UAE in its relentless fight against the merciless enemies of humanity.
The operation also offers a shining example of the effect of strong coordination and cooperation among nations while tackling the bane of terrorism.
At a time when critical circumstances have engulfed Yemen, the UAE's leadership and people have been lending unwavering support to that country, proving that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
The unambiguous aim has been to promote regional peace, security, stability and development.
Despite provocations like the storming and seizure of its embassy in Sana’a by the Houthis, the UAE has shown tremendous restraint.
The provocative action even prompted members of the UN Security Council to demand an immediate withdrawal of all Houthi elements from the premises, while condemning all the acts of violence against diplomatic premises.
Highlighting the UAE’s generosity is the fact that it has provided humanitarian aid totaling Dhs744 million and has become the world's largest aid donor to Yemen in 2015, offering almost half of the aid pledged by other countries of the world.
The aid provided by the UAE to Yemen includes food material to 181,000 Yemeni families or approximately 1.1 million people.
The total food relief is estimated at 29,000 tonnes, including 1.4 million food baskets and Dhs181 million worth of emergency relief, consisting of grains, edible oils, canned food and other foodstuff.
The UAE assistance also covers power supply, healthcare, water, and sewage services, in addition to fuel and other relief materials.
The Emirates Red Crescent is also carrying out urgent relief efforts in Aden and has announced plans to expand its reach to help more people in other provinces around the country.
The action by the UAE forces in Aden is indeed renewed evidence of the country’s unchanging firm policy against terrorists. The message is loud and clear: There is no place for terrorists to hide.
At a time when Yemen looks forward to a new phase of security, peace and reconstruction, it is increasingly clear that the people of Yemen will treasure the support extended by the UAE.

Time to take stock
of share tsunami

In a globalised world, a strong financial whack anywhere can hurt across the board.
That’s precisely what happened when fears of a damaging slowdown in the world's second-largest economy, China, turned the day into a “Black Monday,” plunging the global stock markets in distress, leaving commodity prices bleeding and prompting a sharp drop in the dollar.
A near-9 per cent dive in China shares was enough to send investors rushing to the exit doors through the day.
Chinese stocks have tumbled since peaking in mid-June.
It is true that the authorities have launched broad interventions to try to restrain the drops, but Beijing's latest market intervention by allowing its main state pension fund to invest in the stock market, has unfortunately failed to restore traders’ confidence, both in China and abroad.
It may be recalled that China's central bank devalued the currency, yuan, recently, triggering worry that a slowdown in the country's economy was worse than originally anticipated.
The bruises were visible all around.
After dropping more than 1,000 points, or almost 7 per cent, at Wall Street's open, the Dow Jones industrial average eased losses but was still off more than 1 per cent at midday.
European stocks plunged wiping billions of euros off their value and sending one benchmark index to a seven-month low.
The worst hit among major European bourses was Greece, which closed down around 10.5 per cent.
Russia's ruble also hit a new 2015 low and stocks sank with the visible impact of sanctions over Ukraine.
The Australian dollar fell to more than six-year lows and many emerging market currencies also plunged.
The world’s largest democracy could not duck either. The Indian rupee hit its weakest since early September 2013, prompting Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan to say he stood ready to deploy foreign exchange reserves to curb volatility in the currency.
Global equities have already lost more than $5 trillion since China's shock currency devaluation on Aug.11.
What is worrying is that the global market meltdown is leaving a trail with its serious collateral impact on varied sectors.
The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s has not yet been wiped out from memory of most investors. While the market volatility is expected to continue in the short term, a fool-proof international intervention to restore confidence is what is called for.
A failed earlier attempt should not be a deterrent for Beijing to try out more economic stimulus.

UAE, India chart new
course in partnership

Over 2.5 million Indians consider the UAE their second home. India is UAE's second largest trading partner and the UAE is India's third. The glittering bond between the two multicultural societies serves as an amazing model for the rest of the world on how two countries can sustain an enduring relationship based on mutual trust and respect.
With this background, the grand reception accorded to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two-day visit to the UAE by the UAE leadership and the discernible enthusiasm of the Indian diaspora are not surprising.
It is also significant that such a high-profile visit of an Indian Prime Minister to the UAE has happened after 34 years.
So much so that “Marhaba Namo,” a grand public event held for Modi in Dubai, is seen as unprecedented as it is rare for a visiting head of state to be allowed a reception on such a scale.
While Modi’s attempts to woo investors indicating that India has an investment opportunity of $1 trillion sounds tempting, there is a definite need on his part to address concerns like cumbersome and complex processes for doing business. Indeed, initiatives like a single window clearance will go a long way.
Also, as Modi came to power on a platform of reforming endemic corruption, there is a need for him to act firmly on this front.
The UAE and India share centuries-old ties of commerce, culture and kinship and the India-UAE Joint Statement has remarkably highlighted that Modi’s visit will mark the beginning of a new and comprehensive strategic partnership in a world of multiple transitions and changing opportunities and challenges.
An extensive framework of agreements, including economic, defence, security, law enforcement, culture, consular and people-to-people contacts constitute solid bedrock for elevating bilateral cooperation across the full spectrum of the relationship.
Modi’s description of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi as an architectural treasure and a beacon of tolerance and peaceful co-existence and the UAE leadership’s gesture of allotting land for a temple in Abu Dhabi set a noble example on ways to promote openness and social harmony.
Modi has stated that UAE's power and India's potential can make the dream of an Asian Century a reality.
The leaders of both the countries have resolved to maintain regular summits, high-level ministerial dialogue and meetings of bilateral mechanisms to realise the vision of a strong comprehensive strategic partnership.
And, that’s the indeed the best way to move forward.

Bangkok bombing
a heinous act

The massive explosion close to a shrine in the centre of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, which claimed the lives of several innocent civilians, is highly condemnable and also should be seen as a wake-up call for the world to unite and act more firmly against terrorism in all its forms.
While Bangkok has endured a decade of deadly political violence amid a power struggle between the military, backed by the middle class and elite, and the poor led by populist politician Thaksin Shinawatra, a blast of this magnitude implies more than domestic politics.
Tensions have risen in recent months, with the junta making clear that it may not hold elections until 2017 and wants a constitution that will allow some type of emergency rule to take the place of an elected government.
Over 90 people were killed in 2010 during clashes between security forces and Thaksin supporters. But the anti-junta groups have never conducted such a large attack, nor one that was apparently aimed at a tourist zone.
The Erawan shrine is a popular tourism hub, surrounded by five-star hotels and upscale shopping malls, where tourists from various countries mingle. Many of the victims were foreigners, including those from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The idea of the terrorists behind the heinous act was clearly to cause maximum impact.
However, as the initial indications of which group is behind the attack are murky, it is better not to jump into conclusions or engage in a blame game.
The attack had its own economic impact with baht currency slumping to a more than six-year low on Tuesday and shares falling on the Bangkok bourse.
Adding to the tensions, a minor explosion struck near a busy Bangkok train station on Tuesday afternoon, but fortunately nobody was injured.
Tourism is one of the few bright spots in an economy that is still struggling, more than a year after the military seized power.
It accounts for about 10 per cent of the economy and the government had been banking on record arrivals this year following a sharp fall in 2014 because of protests and the coup.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has called the attack "the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand” and has promised to track down those responsible.
The Thai security officials should act fast and see to it that whoever or whichever group is behind the reprehensible act is brought to justice at the earliest.