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OCTOBER 2021

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Australia’s international borders to reopen from November. It’s one big step towards living with COVID

Read on page 4

Happy Diwali & Fesival season

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OCTOBER 2021

Australia’s international borders to reopen from November. It’s one big step towards living with COVID By Catherine Bennett*

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ustralia will be ready for takeoff very soon” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison today as he announced the ban on international travel will be lifted some time next month. Returning Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to quarantine at home for seven days if fully vaccinated with a TGAapproved vaccine. The recognised vaccines include those already approved for use in Australia by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson/ Janssen, as well as Sinovac and Covishield (Covishield is AstraZeneca’s vaccine made in India). Unvaccinated returnees will still need to enter managed hotel quarantine for 14 days until Australia moves beyond Phase C of the National Plan. Those who can’t be vaccinated, including young children and those with a medical exemption, will be counted as vaccinated for travel.

Arrival caps will also be abolished for fully vaccinated returnees. Today’s announcement is one big step towards allowing vaccinated Australians to return home soon, as we move to a future that somewhat resembles pre-COVID life. Is seven days enough? Home quarantine trials in South Australia and New South Wales will answer this question. Authorities will be testing returnees and the proportion of those who are COVID-positive, as well as when they test positive, will inform decision-making. This will also be monitored on an ongoing basis once we open up and can be adjusted if it turns out a higher than acceptable number of travellers test positive between day seven and 14. Currently, NSW data tell us less than half of 1% of returnees in hotel quarantine are testing positive. The NSW Surveillance report from August 21 shows only 4% of those positive cases were in fully vaccinated. The low percentage of returnees who are positive will matter less anyway

as Australia progressively moves towards “living with COVID” with a background rate of the virus in the community. We know fully vaccinated people can still get infected, but at much lower rates. There’s also mounting evidence suggesting their infectious period is shorter than unvaccinated people, so they’re less likely to pass the virus on. Importantly, there’s now a better than 70% reduction in risk of having a serious infection requiring hospitalisation in all of the vaccines the TGA has recognised for international arrivals. How will we ensure people stay home? South Australia is currently trialling an app that uses geo-tagged facial recognition software to ensure people stay home during quarantine. If this app proves successful it might be rolled out across Australia. It might also include supports for other aspects of compliance, like prompts to get tested, a checklist of symptoms and other ways to check in with returnees. Random checks by police or ADF personnel have

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proven home quarantine and isolation have high levels of compliance. Something similar could also be brought in at some point if there were compliance concerns. One thing that’s more difficult to monitor is whether other people come into the house of a person meant to be isolating. The risk of transmission to the visitor is much higher than if the returnee ventured out. But this is the same risk we currently have with isolating close contacts locally. Ultimately the system will need to rely, in part, on trust. We know Australians are generally very compliant, and many people will be desperate to travel again and reunite with family and friends. The majority will be likely to comply with the requirements to facilitate keeping travel open. The system will be safe enough — and that’s all we need going forward. What about other household members? One question yet to be answered is whether everyone else in the house has to quarantine if housing a returned traveller. CONTD. ON PG 4


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Australia’s international borders to reopen from November. It’s one big step towards living with COVID CONTD. FROM PG 2

probably be the last to open their borders.

With the risk of a fully vaccinated returnee being positive very low, so too is the risk to the household. If they do return a positive test on one of their test days, their household members may also be required to quarantine. Rapid Antigen Tests might be useful for early detection of infection in these cases.

This is broadly in line with the national plan, but is coming probably a month or two earlier than looked possible in June. Vaccination rates, particularly in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, have been spurred on by significant COVID outbreaks. States are also assessing the distribution of vaccine coverage to ensure there are no parts of the community left behind by the time of opening.

Another question is whether we will still have offshore screening, requiring a negative test prior to departure for Australia? The finer details will emerge and probably change over time as we collect data and manage changing risks. We’ll probably start conservatively and then gradually open things up more and more as we learn which components of risk mitigation are proportionate. Which states will go first? International travel will open to states and territories gradually as they reach 80% of over16s fully vaccinated. So we won’t have to wait until all jurisdictions

have individually hit the threshold.

the community left behind by the time of opening.

This is broadly in line with the national plan, but is coming probably a month or two earlier than looked possible in June. Vaccination rates, particularly in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, have been spurred on by significant COVID outbreaks. States are also assessing the distribution of vaccine coverage to ensure there are no parts of

What about travel bubbles? The Prime Minister flagged potential bubble arrangements with countries like New Zealand where there’d be no quarantine requirements. The list of such countries will likely change over time, depending on circulating variants and country risk profiles.

We’re probably heading in the direction of eventually not requiring quarantine for returnees at all, only testing. For now, it’s clear we’re moving towards a system that manages risks rather than operating with zero risk tolerance. Will contact tracers be able to cope? As fully vaccinated people contribute less to transmission and are at less risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, all states and territories will progressively shift the risk settings that underpin contact tracing. We have used comprehensive contact tracing, casting the epidemiological net wide to ensure not one contact of a case who might have contracted the virus was missed. The chance of someone being positive drops away the more casual the exposure. Once you no longer have to be fearful of missing even just one case, we can make the net smaller and just trace the people at highest risk. Based on vaccination uptake rates, the ACT and NSW will likely be the first to open, followed by Victoria. Tasmania is still tracking well but other states are lagging behind. Queensland and Western Australia will

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What about travel bubbles? The Prime Minister flagged potential bubble arrangements with countries like New Zealand where there’d be no quarantine requirements. The list of such countries will likely change over time, depending on circulating variants and country risk profiles. We’re probably heading in the direction of eventually not requiring quarantine for returnees at all, only testing. For now, it’s clear we’re moving towards a system that manages risks rather than operating with zero risk tolerance. Will contact tracers be able to cope? As fully vaccinated people contribute less to transmission and are at less risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, all states and territories will progressively shift the risk settings that underpin contact tracing. We have used comprehensive contact tracing, casting the epidemiological net wide to ensure not one contact of a case who might have contracted the virus was missed. The chance of someone being positive drops away the more casual the exposure. Once you no longer have to be fearful of missing even just one case, we can make the net smaller and just trace the people at highest risk. *Chair in Epidemiology, Deakin University Source- The Conversation, October 1, 2021


OCTOBER 2021

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AUKUS is deeper than just submarines By Arzan Tarapore*

Other partners like France and India cannot be full members of AUKUS, but they are indispensable in other roles that AUKUS cannot replicate. They each have significant military power, valuable geographic advantages and abiding networks of influence. And they are each vigorously engaged in the region, including through bilateral and trilateral partnerships with Australia.

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uclear-powered submarines for Australia was the most eye-catching part of the announcement of ‘AUKUS’, the new trilateral security initiative joining Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The eight new boats would greatly extend the range, endurance and firepower of Australia’s submarine fleet. They would break the taboo against nuclear power in Australia. And they show that the United States and the United Kingdom are committed to strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. But while AUKUS shows a seriousness about naval power, it shows an even greater seriousness about alliances. The trilateral initiative seeks to expand an existing alliance structure — the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — into the field of leading-edge defence technology and industry. AUKUS goes much deeper than submarines — but it cannot do everything. The Biden administration promised to prioritise strategic competition with China, and to reinvigorate Washington’s alliances. Progress on this has been positive, but incremental. Aside from some high-level visits, Biden’s most notable initiative was elevating the Quad — comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to the summit level. AUKUS is qualitatively different. The submarine deal alone enmeshes the United States and United Kingdom into the region for decades. But more ambitiously, beyond submarines, AUKUS seeks to win the technology competition with China by pooling resources and integrating supply chains for defence-related science, industry, and supply chains. This will be the decades-long and multifaceted purpose of AUKUS — a transnational project racing to seize advantages in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber technology. This kind of technology integration is a radical idea. Countries often share military technology, but some technologies are more highly prized than others. Nuclear technology is in a class of its own. The United States has only shared its nuclear submarine technology with the United Kingdom — at the height of the Cold War. The United States is now so animated by competition with China that it will share the technology with one more country, Australia, for the first time in decades. The technologies at the heart of AUKUS are at the cutting edge of scientific research, and promise to deliver unprecedented advantages in military power. The submarine project will likely serve as a forcing function to drive much of this new collaboration. It is still unclear how much of the submarines’ nuclear propulsion technology will be shared with Australia, but the Australian defence community will almost certainly gain access to the submarines’ other state-of-the-art technologies, including sensors

and data-processing systems for maritime domain awareness and tracking and evading adversary forces. What makes the United Kingdom and Australia Washington’s most valued technology partners? They are members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which over decades has developed joint systems, organisations and processes for sharing collection responsibilities and intelligence data. Less tangibly, but at least as importantly, this has cultivated mutual trust and habits of cooperation, including through the past two decades combating terrorism and fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Compared to the other Five Eyes members, Canada and New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia are also demonstrably more committed to upholding the strategic vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. AUKUS’s radical integration could only be possible among Five Eyes partners because AUKUS will be working on extremely sensitive intelligencerelated technologies that Washington would only entrust to its closest intelligence partners. AUKUS’s stated technology priorities — artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber — are technologies that are at the forefront of emerging intelligence capabilities. Little wonder that several Australian intelligence chiefs have been front and centre explaining AUKUS to Australia’s other strategic partners. This is probably also why France was excluded from the grouping, prompting a sudden and ugly diplomatic spat. Despite its likeminded interests in the region, and despite its military power and activism, France does not share the systems and relationships that define the Five Eyes. In the years to come, AUKUS will gain greater regional acceptance and utility if it figures out how to share some of its prized defence technology and data with other partners, including France and others in the region. AUKUS may represent the closest integration among partners, but it cannot do everything, and it cannot replace other groupings. The region requires a new security

architecture, but unlike Cold War umbrellas like NATO, this architecture will comprise multiple, overlapping groupings, each with different roles and strengths. AUKUS’s technology-sharing mission is invaluable, but it is limited. Different groupings serve different purposes. The Quad will remain critical for coordinating the strategic policies of China’s most powerful regional competitors, for presenting a common vision of regional order, and for acting as the nucleus for broader cooperation when needed. At its first in-person summit last week, the Quad reiterated its broad vision of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific. And as the Indian government recently declared, AUKUS does not compete with or undermine the Quad.

The members of AUKUS should therefore work hard to repair their relationships with France because broad overlapping partnerships are a key asset in strategic competition with China. But not all regional challenges require a broad, inclusive approach. AUKUS’s declared objectives are radical — unseen in the firmament of US alliances, and certainly unseen in the region — and only possible precisely because the initiative is so exclusive. *Arzan Tarapore is a Research Scholar on South Asia in the Walter H Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, Washington. - The views in the article are that of the author. Source- eastasiaforum.org, 29 September 2021.(Under Creative Commons Licence)

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OCTOBER 2021

Celebrate India’s ‘Victorian Festival of Diwali 2021’ will start live streaming from Fed. Sq., 30 October 2021 By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 4 October 2021: This year again you can enjoy programs of the Celebrate India, Fed. Sq., Diwali celebrations virtually. The celebrations will kick off by live streaming starting 30 October 2021 from the Federation Square, city. The live streaming will take place at the Celebrate India’s Website & Facebook page. “The live stream

program from the Federation Square will portray Indian culture via its folk music and dances, “says Mr. Arun Sharma, Chairman Celebrate India. He adds, “We are inviting all Victorians to illuminate their homes or apartments (a new category to include city dwellers and students) to bring some happiness in their lives during these difficult times.” Another highlight of this year’s celebrations will be that the Melbourne Cricket

Ground (MCG) will be illuminated on 30 October and on Diwali Day on 4 November 2021. People can also join the Facebook competition ‘Dance for Diwali’ (19 Sept – 3 October 2021) and

‘Light for Diwali’ (16 Oct – 21st November 2021). Details can be accessed at the Facebook page and website of Celebrate India. Site- www. celebrateindia.org.au Email- contact@

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OCTOBER 2021

COMMUNITY

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1151 jabs at pop-up clinic at Officer Sikh Temple from 1-4 October 2021 By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 4 October 2021: A special Vaccine clinic setup at the Officer Sikh Temple (Gurudwara Sri Guru Nanak Darbar, Officer) made its massive contribution to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, by organising a successful four-day vaccine drive. According to the Gurudwara officials 1151

jabs were administered to people at the temple. The target of 1,000 was beaten. Many devotees volunteered for the clinic and work was done in a professional and dedicated manner. The doses given were – 1st Oct – 242, 2nd Oct – 341, 3rd Oct – 303 and 265 on the 4th of October 2021. Harpreet Kandra, spokesperson for the Gurdwara thanked the department of Health and

volunteers for the pop-up clinic success.

The Gurudwara Sri Guru Nanak Darbar is situated

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at 33 Officer Road, Officer 3809.


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OCTOBER 2021

Mental Health Month Victoria 2021 launched By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 2 October 2021: Mental health issues have risen their head massively during the pandemic. Victoria is no exception. To raise awareness of this issue, the National Mental Health Foundation (NMHF), today virtually launched the National Mental Health Month 2021 (Oct 1 to 30 October 2021. Simultaneous launches also took place in NSW, Queensland, WA, NT, Tasmania and the ACT. A video presentation by NMHF, Chairperson, Mr. Vasan Srinivasan about the organisation and its importance kicked off the launch. The intention, he said, was to reach out to maximum Australians and educate them. In a media release he said, “At the MHFA, we pride ourselves in making sure all of our programs are for the community and powered by the community. We have a vast growing network of Multicultural Ambassadors, Youth Ambassadors and Future Leaders, who further the community voice in promoting mental health and wellbeing. Our multicultural network has inspired our educational and multicultural

webinars, as an initiative to assist individuals cope with success during the pandemic.” The virtual launch heard messages from The Hon. Alan Tudge MP, Federal Minister for Education and Youth, The Hon. Luke Donnellan MP, Victoria’s Minister fro Child Protection, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, among others. (List of all speakers below) A media release after the launch from the MHFA says, “We achieved the mammoth task of launching our National Mental Health Month Awareness Campaign for 2021 in each state and territory of Australia, both virtually and physically. Through these launches, we reached out to over 3000 individuals, who joined us in the quest of advocating for, and raising awareness of mental health. We would like to thank our staff members, board directors, scientific advisory committee members, special guests, multicultural and youth ambassadors, future leaders, volunteers, and attendees for their support, and ultimately for this grand success. We would also like to thank our sponsors, Australian Unity and Chemists Own and, supporting organisations involved.”

Live Bollywood music-dance items and solo songs graced the occasion.

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OCTOBER 2021

AGEISM

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New research finds ageism rife in Australia, but few know what to do in response By Neeraj Nanda

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early half of all Australians over-50 experienced ageism in the past year, but only one in five of them took any action in response, according to new research launched to mark the first Ageism Awareness Day today. Australia's campaign to end ageism, EveryAGE Counts, commissioned a nationwide poll by The RedBridge Group, to help understand the gap between the widespread prevalence of ageism and our collective willingness to combat it. Findings of the research include: 45 per cent of Australians over 50 say they have experienced ageism in the past year, and 52 per cent of all Australians say they have witnessed ageism in the past year 82 per cent of older Australians who experienced ageism say they did not take any action in response. Of these: 27 per cent said it was because it was hard to prove 24 per cent said it was because they didn't know how to respond 22 per cent said was because they were not sure if it was really ageism 9 per cent said they "didn't know what my options were" EveryAGE Counts is today looking to raise awareness that although knowing how to respond to ageism can be tricky, there are a range of constructive actions people can take, including setting up affinity groups at work, escalating complaints strategically, and understanding how to approach conversations that make a difference. "Ageism is pervasive, but often hidden. The only way we can end it is to bring it out of the shadows," said EveryAGE Counts Campaign Director Marlene Krasovitsky. "Often older Australians feel powerless when we encounter ageism. However, if we know what it looks like and name it, we can take constructive actions in response. In this way each of us can help build an Australia without ageism. "People often don't know how to approach difficult conversations about ageism, but we know there are approaches that work better than others. For example, it's tempting to argue that 'one day you'll be in my shoes,' but the latest research shows people find it hard to conceptualise their future selves, and that it may actually be more persuasive to simply explain the impact the ageism had on you personally. "Another example is ageism in the workplace – people may suspect they're missing out on opportunities to learn new tech or skills because of ageism, but it can be difficult to prove. Setting up an affinity group of older colleagues can be an effective way to compare experiences and identify patterns You may also take a look at your organisation’s Diversity

and Inclusion strategy and if age is not included as a ground of diversity, suggest it is." Ageism Awareness Day ambassador Monica Trapaga is well known to Australians through her decades of work on stage and screen, including on the ABC's Play School. She said she was inspired to join the campaign to help raise awareness of this form of discrimination. "I've encountered all kinds of ageist discrimination during my time in television, and I know my experiences are far from unique," Ms Trapaga said. "It's something I believe we really need to start taking more seriously in Australia. Yes, we're ageing as a nation, but that's only a negative if we continue to discriminate against older people and make unfair assumptions about who they are and what they can and can’t do.. "Like all forms of discrimination, the place to start is by spreading awareness. So much ageism happens unconsciously, and it's allowed to keep happening because we don't feel sufficiently informed or empowered to push back. Ageism Awareness Day is about ending that and I couldn't be prouder to play this role." EveryAGE Counts co-chair and former federal Minister Robert Tickner said Ageism Awareness Day was an important initiative and it was very pleasing to see so many individuals and organisations around the country having conversations about ageism and its impacts. "The proportion of the Australian population over 65 has doubled from 8 per cent to 15 per cent over the past 50 years. We can’t keep discriminating against a fifth of our population. We need to update our attitudes, structures, and practices.

"Of course, the responsibility to act lies not just with those who experience ageism, but with everyone else. Discrimination

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and prejudice survive when we turn a blind eye or allow it to go unchallenged." Source- medianet, 1 October, 2021.


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South Asia Times

OCTOBER 2021

Rahul Gandhi's 'operation clean-up' amidst failure of Congress' chamcha politics By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

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ost of the mainstream media had declared Rahul Gandhi as Pappu as if it is a crime if somebody is called Pappu. The narrative spread by the Sangh Parivar went unresponded by senior leaders of the Congress, and today when the same Pappu is trying to organise the party, these leaders have started questioning him and Sonia Gandhi. It is not the fault of Rahul Gandhi but of Congress culture. What we are witnessing in the form of ‘rebellion’ by and absolutely spineless and baseless leaders of the socalled G-23 is a reflection of a situation when you cannot keep ‘chamchas’ (sycophants) out of work for long. Kanshiram in wrote a book called ‘Chamcha Age’. Baba Saheb Ambedkar warned against hero worship in politics. Punjab’s political crisis has given opportunity to Rahul Gandhi-bashers, many of whom were chamchas’, to target him. Meanwhile, the mainstream (it would be proper to call them Manu-stream) media has strangely become terribly ‘concerned’ about the Congress. Indeed, all the channels and their C grade anchors have been told to humiliate the Gandhis day in and day out. In their ‘prime times’, they have BJP netas, Sangh Parivaris and their darbaris. There are some others who come in the name of ‘experts’; they just laugh and joke about the Gandhis. The question is: If the Gandhis have lost everything and are nothing, why are the Sanghis so much concerned about them? Let the Congress go the way it wants to, why those whose perceptions and narratives are well known so much worried about the Gandhis? Narendra Modi and Amit Shah know it well that as long as Gandhis are there, they will face challenge. Hence their only aim is to humiliate them and berate them. The Congress’ opportunisic’ leaders are the best friends of the Sangh Parivar. In fact, a dirty reality of our political system, which makes Modi stronger, is that disdain and hatred in the political circle for the Gandhi family. Perhaps each one of the G-23

and some others think they are ‘better’ than the Gandhis. It is the same people who during the heydays of the Congress would utter: “If madam asks us to clean the floor, we would be happily doing it’. The Congress is paying the price for promoting mediocres and rootless leaders whose only ideology has been to protect their business and family interests. The problem with chamchas is that they cannot remain without work or patronage for long. Chamchas will do everything as long as you are in power. The Congress culture of chamchas was widely prevalent during the time of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. But at that time the party was strong and had brute majority, so the chamchas were ‘created’ as pressure groups within the party. They would be used by the Central leadership against the elected chief ministers if the High Command wanted to remove them. When the UPA came to power, Sonia Gandhi accommodated the chamachas despite their defeats. Who can ignore that Shivraj Patil was made Home Minister despite his defeat in the Lok Sabha election? Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni, Salman Khursheed, Anand Sharma and others were taken in the

Cabinet. They have neither any mass base, nor have they worked to strengthen the party. Most of them emerged from the Rajya Sabha, and due to their ‘legal competence’, they were in great ‘demand’. In fact, the Congress needs to work on an internal document of the party and assess the work of UPA-II and its ministers. I can vouch that most of those talking about ‘transparency’ would be found guilty. A lot of non-issues became national issues because of the highly personalised forms of work by P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee. Chidambaram’s policies were responsible for turning UPA into an oppressive regime, centralisation of power and virtual decimation of civil society organisations, while Pranab Mukherjee wanted the government to fail because of his lifelong desire of to become Prime Minister. The party promoted Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Manish Tiwari, Sanjay Nirupam, Milind Deora and many others. The Delhi media felt that they are the ‘future’ of the Congress. The image of Rahul Gandhi was damaged by those enjoying power, because many of them felt that their own privileges would end if they accepted the working pattern of

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. When in power, Sonia was surrounded by the old coterie and ‘trusted’ old loyalists. There wasn’t much focus on grassroots leaders but on managers. The Congress completely abandoned its ideology. Power brokers became top party leaders. It is a well-known fact that Anna Hazare’s movement was RSS-supported. Industrialists sponsored the movement as they were upset with the Congress’ land acquisition bill. Anna neither had honesty nor ideology, and all those surrounding him actually got fully rewarded. Arvind Kejriwal now rules Delhi and eyeing for all those states where the Congress is in direct fight with BJP. Actually, Anna’s movement created a situation where the Congress became the biggest villain on corruption. Meranwhile, the party’s image was dented by Sangh propaganda. Videos and blogs were released against Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Today, these propagandists crossed all limits of decency. They have reduced debates to gutter level. The Congress leadership between 2011 and 2014 never tried to defend Sonia Gandhi and other leaders. Even today, when Rahul Gandhi is

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lampooned and attacked, there is not a single statement by the likes of Ghulam Nabi, Anand Sharma, Manish Tiwari or Shashi Tharoor defending him. The 2014 defeat of the Congress was made to look like a defeat of Rahul Gandhi, and that way the corrupt leaders saved their skin. By the time Rahul Gandhi tried to improve things, it was too late. These so-called old guards thought that the party might return to power in 2019. But this failed, as the party was in a deep shambles, because those in power since the Indira Gandhi days were not ready to leave their position voluntarily. Rahul Gandhi campaigned, while the G-23 leaders were not speaking on anything except attacking the party leadership. Today, we all know that BJP and its sponsored media have been let loose against the Gandhis. Each day, the media is waiting for an issue to come up with the Congress so that they have a full day to discuss the ‘future’ of the Congress or the Gandhis. The media does not have time to ask questions to the government as to how the Chinese transgressed our territory in Uttarakhand. It has no time to speak for the rights of the woman who lost her husband in Gorakhapur when the police raided the hotel he was staying in. The media does not have time to ask questions to the ruling party because the only work it has been asked to do is to target, attack and smear Gandhis, and Congress netas have not been able to defend their leaders. Recently, Navika Kumar on Times Now abused Rahul Gandhi, yet we have not heard Congress leaders, with a few exceptions, in his defence. It is election season and it is a well-known fact that BJP is poaching Congress leaders. Their aim is to weaken the Congress, and wherever they stand no chance, create other groups are activated to weaken the party. Punjab’s farmers took the lead against the corporatesponsored farm laws. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is a serious leader, but his ways of governance are deeply feudal. He was never available to party MLAs, and that is why dissent CONTD. ON PG 12


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The Taliban’s rule threatens what’s left of Afghanistan’s dazzlingly diverse cultural history The loss of these experts and custodians of Afghanistan’s rich heritage will mean there is nobody to protect its material past from neglect or looting. Nor will future generations of young Afghans be able to learn about their past from fellow citizens who have dedicated their lives to preserving it.

By Julian Droogan** & Malcolm Choat*

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espite cliched talk of a “graveyard of empires”, what we now call Afghanistan has for thousands of years been an important part of many sophisticated cultures. Situated along the Silk Road — a tangle of Eurasian trade routes stretching back to the days of the Roman Empire — Afghanistan and its people have long served as a place of connection between Mediterranean, Persian, Indian and Chinese civilisations. It has been home to Hellenistic cities populated by the successors of Alexander the Great, glittering Buddhist monasteries that served to transmit early Buddhism from India to far away China and Japan, and a series of Medieval Islamic kingdoms at the forefront of the literature and science of their day. This dazzlingly diverse heritage is preserved in over 2,600 archaeological sites scattered across its rugged terrain, numerous regional museums and galleries, and, most famously, the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. Refurbished in 2007, the museum holds a collection of over 80,000 artefacts from throughout the region. All of this is now under renewed threat by Taliban forces, whose fanatical interpretation of Islam forbids representative imagery, and is particularly dismissive of anything it considers to be non-Islamic. While remaining focused on the plight of the Afghan people, countries such as the US, UK, and Australia need to also start planning how they can reduce

the coming assault on Afghanistan’s art, history and material culture. A history of destruction Afghanistan’s archaeological sites were previously systematically looted and destroyed during the period of Soviet occupation and warlordism that followed. In the 1980s, whole ancient sites were illegally excavated with artifacts sold off under cover of war. The Hellenistic Greek city of Ai-Khanoum, dating from the 4th century BCE to the mid-2nd century CE and discovered in the 1830s, was destroyed, including its Greek theatre, gymnasium and temple to Zeus. During Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s, items from the 12th century palace of Mas’ud III were looted and distributed through international black markets. The National Museum in Kabul, established in 1919, was extensively damaged and looted in the period immediately following the end of communist rule in 1992. The “Dead Seas Scrolls of Buddhism” — thousands of scrolls and fragments written on leaves, bark, parchment

and copper containing Buddhist sermons and treatises from as early as the 2nd century AD — were smuggled out of Afghanistan and dispersed among various manuscript collections from 1994 to 2001. Some were looted from the Kabul museum, but most were found in caves in the region of Bamiyan in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban outlawed almost all forms of art while systematically looting and destroying libraries and museums, and persecuting anyone considered to be an expert or academic. The Taliban were ruthless in their destruction, but also strategic. They saw Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic art and culture as a resource to be used and abused where possible to aid their international objectives. Most infamously, during their final year in power they glorified in the demolition of the 6th century Bamiyan Buddhas while also decimating the already weakened collections of the National Museum. Just two years earlier, in 1999, the Taliban Minister of Culture had assured the international community Afghanistan’s Buddhist heritage would be safe

under his custodianship. In 2001, the Bayiman Buddhas were held hostage — and ultimately destroyed — while the Taliban demanded international recognition. What does this mean for Afghanistan today? The Taliban are again claiming Afghanistan’s heritage will be safe under their rule. Statements have been released instructing fighters to protect and preserve historical sites, halt the plundering of archaeological digs, and forbid the selling of antiquities on the black market. Guards have been posted at the National Museum to prevent looting. However, this initial charm offensive could just be the opening move in a longer strategy in which Afghanistan’s history and heritage will be once again held hostage. Priceless cultural treasures may be threatened with destruction. Archaeologists and curators responsible for preserving Afghanistan’s national heritage were caught off-guard by the Taliban’s rapid advance. Many are now seeking to flee the country or are going into hiding.

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Australia’s part to play in stopping illegal trade Looted antiquities make up a lucrative international black market. There is a proven connection between these back markets and international terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. As has been seen in Iraq and Syria, the looting and sale of the archaeological heritage of Afghanistan could be used to fund international terrorism. Markets for illegally looted artefacts only exist while international collectors — including museums and galleries — continue to acquire stolen antiquities. Afghanistan remains, first and foremost, a humanitarian tragedy and we must do what we can to assist the Afghan people. But now is also the time for Australia and other liberal democracies to put in place stronger legal safeguards to prevent the trafficking of antiquities, in particular much stronger border security and customs measures for the detection and ending of this illicit trade. ** The writer is Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University *The writer is Professor of History, Macquarie University Source- The Conversation, Sept. 15, 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)


12

SOUTH ASIA

South Asia Times

OCTOBER 2021

Reality bites for Imran Khan’s ‘New Pakistan’

By Shuja Nawaz*

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mran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 after defeating entrenched dynastic political parties that had been alternating in government for decades. His Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had not been a strong force on the national scene but promised a ‘tsunami’ of change to produce a ‘New Pakistan’. It is struggling to fulfill that promise. As Khan enters the second half of his five-year term, the situation does not augur well — partly because of the intrinsic weaknesses of his own government, and partly because of external factors that are hurting the economy. PTI retains a majority in the National Assembly but does not control the Senate, hindering Khan’s ability to fully enact his legislative agenda. Even though he faces a fractured and somewhat discredited opposition, an uncertain economy and turmoil in Afghanistan will affect his ability to manage Pakistan and prepare for a fresh election. The PTI took office with a coalition of partners of various hues. Some had reportedly been persuaded by the military’s powerful InterServices Intelligence agency to drop their affiliation with the Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz group and either run as independents or join the PTI. Others were opportunists who have jumped from one party to another over the course of their careers. This fractured PTI government found it hard to speak with one voice and

offer a coherent vision for improving governance. Yet it muddled through, aided by an equally divided opposition that failed to mount a unified challenge. A serious economic crisis exacerbated by COVID-19 forced Khan to seek external assistance, including from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — an institution he had criticised throughout his political career as a hegemon — and from both China and Saudi Arabia. In 2019–20, Pakistan’s economic growth rate dropped into negative territory at –0.4 per cent. It is now rising at 2–4 per cent, but this is still well below the 7 per cent or more needed to stay ahead of its population growth. The IMF’s Pakistan program is in abeyance with its 6th and 7th reviews being folded into one. A key element will be Pakistan’s continuing poor fiscal situation and inability to increase revenues to fund its growth-oriented budget. Many see the expansive budget as a break with the austerity of the past and a first shot in the

attempt to win the next election by increasing spending. It is also constructed on some questionable assumptions about increasing revenues on the back of a drop in global energy prices. If increased growth rates can be maintained and visible spending on development projects woos potential voters there is a possibility of an early election. International experts do not have such a positive view of the country’s economic prospects despite some glimmers of hope. Pakistan expects to get some shortterm breathing room from an allocation in August of some US$2.8 billion Special Drawing Rights with the increase in the IMF’s capital base. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves also rose, aided by a surge in remittances. The constraints on air travel are slowing the flow of illegal currency, forcing people to use the new and improved official systems of the State Bank of Pakistan. It is estimated that remittances in 2022 will be around US$31 billion, though a

slowdown is already evident. Foreign exchange reserves are around US$20 billion, although most of them are on call. COVID-19 also did not have the same devastating effect as it did in neighbouring India. But foreign direct investment has dropped. And Pakistan remains on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force that monitors illegal money movements and terrorist financing — despite having addressed 26 of the 27 issues that put it on that list. Pakistan had successfully come off that list in 2015, and no doubt could do it again, but it fears that political reasons may be behind a push to keep it on the grey list. The next few months will indicate the likely outcome. Relations with the United States will be crucial here, especially as Afghanistan has already come under Taliban control after the United States scrambled for the exit. This creates domestic problems for the Biden administration, and it may continue to blame Pakistan for supporting the Taliban. If the United States and other Western powers withhold diplomatic recognition and economic aid from a Talibandominated government, Pakistan will face a tough choice. Should Imran Khan recognise the Taliban government and risk becoming an international pariah again? Russia, China and the Arab states may yet give it political cover for recognition of Taliban rule in Kabul. The first test of tacit US support for Pakistan will come in late September or early October with the completion of the IMF

review. If the IMF approves continuation of its program for Pakistan, we should assume that the United States gave weight to Pakistan’s help with the Taliban negotiations and the US exit from Kabul. Or that the other Western powers supported it, even if the US was lukewarm or against it. In November 2022, Khan will need to select a successor to his patron and partner in running Pakistan, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He appears to have built a close relationship with and dependence on a contender for the post — the current Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed. There is also the possibility of another, perhaps shorter, extension for Bajwa. If that happens then Hameed and other senior contenders will retire before the third Bajwa term expires. But Pakistan’s fickle politics may alter that landscape, especially if the economy heads south. General Bajwa will also be shuffling the deck of the army’s top brass this October as some generals retire. What happens in the next six months may determine the future leadership of the army and the prospects for re-election of Imran Khan. *Shuja Nawaz is Distinguised Fellow in the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. His latest book is The Battle for Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighbourhood (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). Source- eastasiaforum.org, 6 September 2021.

Rahul Gandhi's 'operation clean-up' amidst failure... CONTD. FROMS PG 10 against him grew. The Captain knew what language the ruling BJP and its media love. Hence he began speaking that language. It is not surprising that many of the Congress leaders, including Manish Tiwari, have raised the bogey of ‘border state’ and impact of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What is disturbing is, we don’t hear any of these leaders speaking on the incursion in Ladakh and Uttarakhand and seek a response from the government. Navjot Singh Siddhu’s idiotic act provided the opposition a much bigger breather. As chief of the Punjab Congress, Siddhu was responsible for the ouster of the Captain, yet he remained sulking when Charanjeet Singh Channi was made the chief minister. Siddhu wanted everything so fast that he forgot

that political acumen is not like the dialogues that he speaks in the Kapil Sharma Show. Siddhu should have the curtsy to work harder. Amrinder Singh’s open flirtation with BJP has been exposed. During the last elections, he asked people to vote for him as it was his last tenure (he is already 80). But now he does not want to leave. The Congress appointed Charanjeet Singh Channi as chief minister and made the party's agenda clear to the people. With Kanhaiya Kumar joining and Jignesh Mevani supporting the Congress, Rahul Gandhi seems to be interested in bringing in more people from outside in the Congress to strengthen it ideologically to take on BJP, while least bothering about those who are damaging the party from within. Perhaps the Gandhis know it well that it is time to clean

up the party, as majority of those raising issues are in fact weakening the party from within, as they have rarely spoken to the party workers on issues concerning the party. As for Kanhaiya KumarJignesh Mewani, Rahul Gandhi appears to have made the right choice at the moment. Both of them may not have mass following, but they show political maturity. The Congress needs to get more such young voices into the party and give them an opportunity to lead. If these youngsters, who have dynamism, work cohesively and with discipline, the future will be theirs, but if they continue to be in a hurry to grab the ‘opportunity’, not only the party but their own identity will be in crisis, as it has happened with Siddhu. The Punjab crisis may have been blown out of proportion by the opponents of Gandhis,

but it seems that they are now working to clean up the party. They must continue to cleanse the party before it becomes difficult to handle. Despite all the shortcomings and past sins, the Congress needs to survive for the good for democracy and for the people of India. BJP knows it well that it can handle every other party and regional groups, but only the Congress has the capacity to be its real challenge. No alliance in India will be possible against Hindutva or BJP without the lead position of the Congress. Mamata Banerjee is trying to enter Goa and the North-East, while Arvind Kejriwal is trying his hand in Punjab, Goa, Gujarat and Uttarakhand. This will not help anyone except BJP. BJP has used the narrative against Gandhis and the Congress in such a way that most of the regional kshatrapas including Mamata Banerjee,

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Arvind Kejriwal, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati and now Amarinder Singh feel that Congress is their main ‘opponent’. This is the biggest irony of our democracy. In the meantime, one can hope that the Congress will be able to put its house in order. It needs a cohesive party under the Gandhis, which can take BJP head on. At a time when the Congress is opening up and taking a correct ideological stand, it needs to be strengthened. The Congress’ ‘operation clean up’ must continue so that the party grows stronger and has leaders who are able to fight on the street and work with the masses, and not through TV channels. *Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www. facebook.com/vbrawat. Twitter: @freetohumanity Source- counterview.net, October 01, 2021


pollution

OCTOBER 2021

South Asia Times

13

Air pollution robs people of over five years of life in South Asia In parts of northern India, including Delhi, life expectancy shrivels by over nine years from breathing filthy air, a situation that can be reversed only through drastic policy changes and action. By Soumya Sarkar

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early two billion people living in South Asia may have their lives cut short by more than five years unless radical action is taken to reduce air pollution in the region, a new report has said. Air pollution is a bigger killer than the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to remain so unless there is strong and sustained policy action to tackle the problem, according to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) 2020 annual report published by the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC). Globally, filthy air has been reducing life expectancy by two years on average over the past two decades, as improvements in some countries have been balanced out by worsening conditions in others, the report said. “Though the threat of coronavirus is grave and deserves every bit of the attention it is receiving, embracing the seriousness of air pollution with a similar vigour would allow billions of people around the world

to lead longer and healthier lives,” said economist Michael Greenstone, co-creator of the AQLI at EPIC. Countries in South Asia are the worst affected by this stubborn problem. Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh have had a 44% rise in air pollution in the past two decades. About a quarter of the global population lives in these four countries. They make up 60% of the life years lost to pollution. Bangladesh has emerged as the world’s most polluted country, with 161 million people living in areas where particulate pollution far exceeds standards set by the World Health Organisation. As a result, life expectancy is reduced by 6.2 years, the EPIC report said. In India, the second worst nation in terms of air quality, people lose an average of 5.2 years of their lives relative to how long they would live if WHO standards were met. Even if India’s national standards (more lax than those of the WHO) were met, people would live 2.3 years longer, the report said. The situation is even more

frightening in certain parts of India. Air pollution shortened lives by 9.4 years in national capital Delhi and by 8.6 years in Uttar Pradesh, the most polluted state where nearly 250 million residents are affected, the report said. A quarter of India’s population is exposed to pollution levels not recorded in any other country, with 248 million residents of northern India on track to lose more than eight years of life if current pollution levels persist. Residents of Delhi could gain 9.4 years of life if pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guideline and 6.5 years if air pollution levels met India’s national standards. Potential gain in life expectancy by permanently reducing PM2.5 from 2018 concentration to the WHO guideline in the 10 largest Indian cities (Source: EPIC) Particulate pollution has increased sharply over time, the EPIC report said. Since 1998, average annual particulate pollution in India has increased 42%, cutting 1.8 years off the life of the

average resident over those years. In recent years, India has started to recognise that air pollution is a grave problem. In 2019, the federal government announced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20%30% relative to 2017 levels by 2024. If India does achieve and sustain this reduction, it would lead to remarkable health improvements, the AQLI report said. A nationwide reduction of 25% would increase India’s national life expectancy by 1.6 years, and by 3.1 years for residents of Delhi, EPIC said. The AQLI is a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into its impact on life expectancy. Developed by Greenstone and his team at EPIC, the AQLI is derived from recent research that quantifies the causal relationship between longterm human exposure to air pollution and life expectancy. Air pollution has a deadly effect on the heart, lungs and other organs, impacting life expectancy more than

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communicable diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/ Aids, behavioural killers like smoking and even war, the report said. The report pointed out that three-quarters of the world’s reductions in pollution have come from China since it began a war against pollution in 2013. China has reduced pollution by nearly 40% in five years, which will add about two years to the average life expectancy if the reductions are sustained. It took several decades and recessions for the United States and Europe to achieve the same pollution reductions that China accomplished in five years while continuing to grow its economy. “The reality is that no shot in the arm will alleviate air pollution,” Greenstone said. “The solution lies in robust public policy.” This article was originally published by India Climate Dialogue, The Third Pole’s partner site. Soumya Sarkar is managing editor at India Climate Dialogue Source- thethirdpole.net , July 30, 2020 (under Creative Commons Licence)


14

yoga

South Asia Times

OCTOBER 2021

Most Indians, including most Hindus, do not practice yoga: PEW RESEARCH CENTER By Jeff Diamant*

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oga, which is mentioned in ancient, sacred scriptures of Hinduism, originated thousands of years ago in what is now India. The Indian government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strongly encourages yoga as a cultural practice that promotes physical and spiritual health. Still, a new Pew Research Center survey shows that most Indians do not practice yoga. Just about a third of Indian adults (35%) say they ever practice yoga, including 22% who say they do so monthly or less, and even fewer who do so daily (7%) or weekly (6%). Roughly six-in-ten Indians (62%), including an identical share of Hindus, say they never practice yoga, according to the Center’s survey of 29,999 Indian adults conducted Nov. 17, 2019, to March 23, 2020. Despite yoga’s roots in Hinduism, Hindus are not the religious group most likely to practice yoga in India. That distinction falls to Jains (61% of whom say they ever practice yoga), followed by Sikhs (50%). Indian Buddhists (38%) and Hindus (36%) are about equally likely to practice yoga, while fewer than one-third of Muslims (29%) and Christians (24%) in

India do so; in all four of these religious groups, majorities say they never practice yoga. Among Indians, the practice of yoga is much more widespread among college graduates than among those with less education (56% vs. 33%), and somewhat more common among men and younger adults than among women and older adults, respectively. There is also a modest political divide: 38% of Indians who say

they have a favorable view of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say they practice yoga, compared with 31% of those who view the BJP unfavorably. Yoga’s religious roots notwithstanding, Indians who say religion is very important in their lives are no more likely than other Indians to say they ever do yoga (35% vs. 36%). Indians who pray daily, however, are slightly more inclined than other

Indians to say they do yoga (38% vs. 30%). Roughly six-in-ten Indians (62%), including an identical share of Hindus, say they never practice yoga, according to the Center’s survey of 29,999 Indian adults conducted Nov. 17, 2019, to March 23, 2020. Despite yoga’s roots in Hinduism, Hindus are not the religious group most likely to practice yoga in India. That distinction falls to Jains

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(61% of whom say they ever practice yoga), followed by Sikhs (50%). Indian Buddhists (38%) and Hindus (36%) are about equally likely to practice yoga, while fewer than one-third of Muslims (29%) and Christians (24%) in India do so; in all four of these religious groups, majorities say they never practice yoga. Among Indians, the practice of yoga is much more widespread among college graduates than among those with less education (56% vs. 33%), and somewhat more common among men and younger adults than among women and older adults, respectively. There is also a modest political divide: 38% of Indians who say they have a favorable view of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say they practice yoga, compared with 31% of those who view the BJP unfavorably. Yoga’s religious roots notwithstanding, Indians who say religion is very important in their lives are no more likely than other Indians to say they ever do yoga (35% vs. 36%). Indians who pray daily, however, are slightly more inclined than other Indians to say they do yoga (38% vs. 30%). • The author is Senior Writer/Editor at the Pew Research Centre, Washington, D.C Source- https://www. pewresearch.org


BUSINESS

OCTOBER 2021

South Asia Times

15

Pandora papers: ‘it’s time to pursue lawyers and accountants who enable tax evasion’ – offshore tax expert Q&A By Ronen Palan*

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any of the world’s richest and most powerful people are in the spotlight once more for using secretive tax havens and corporate structures to hide wealth and avoid paying taxes. The Pandora papers is the third in a series of huge leaks of documents to the media following the Panama papers in 2016 and the Paradise papers in 2017 – and little seems to have changed in the interim.

The Pandora papers is the third in a series of huge leaks of documents to the media following the Panama papers in 2016 and the Paradise papers in 2017 – and little seems to have changed in the interim.

Those included so far in the new revelations include the leaders of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Jordan and Ukraine, plus members of the ruling family in Azerbaijan and figures close to Vladimir Putin. In all, more than 100 billionaires are reportedly involved in the revelations, with transactions ranging from properties worth millions of pounds to slush funds and superyachts. We asked Professor Ronen Palan, a specialist in offshore tax havens at City, University of London, about the story so far. What are your initial thoughts? I’m afraid I’m not surprised by these papers. There’s no evidence to suggest that the volume of transactions taking place through these offshore centres is declining, so the same financial structures that we heard about in the Panama and Paradise papers are still clearly being used. It’s fascinating that so many of these people in the public eye must have known that eventually their activities would become common knowledge, and yet they opted for offshore secrecy anyway. I suppose any concerns may be overcome perhaps by greed and the knowledge that they will not be prevented from doing it. In some cases we are talking about (illegal) tax evasion and in some cases it’s (legal) tax avoidance: the difference comes down to whether the people in question had fully notified the authorities in their home countries about the offshore structures they are using. In instances when I read that they are asked by the media to comment and they decline to respond, it creates the

appearance that we are talking about evasion – although this remains unproven. Why does the situation not appear to be improving? Over the past 20 or 30 years, international regulation has focused on creating tools that allow tax authorities to ensure that taxpayers are not evading taxation. Systems were introduced that focus on “know your customer” or KYC – requiring people transacting in particular jurisdictions to fully identify themselves so that this information can be shared with other jurisdictions. This essentially creates transparency so that you know who has money where, so that tax authorities can use this information to make sure that their citizens are not evading taxation. But while that can be effective in countries where the tax authority is operating independently of the government and politics, it’s not going to work in Russia or China or many other developing countries. It’s therefore not surprising to me that many of the revelations are about activities outside of

the developed world. But why hasn’t transparency forced tax havens to change? It has brought about change, but some jurisdictions comply more than others. So you have got some British jurisdictions such as Jersey or the Cayman Islands that are much more transparent than they used to be. On the face of it, they can claim to be more regulated than, say, Denmark or Sweden. But the professionals who have the expertise to create structures that enable tax evasion are still often based in these places, and they create structures with different layers that will be partly registered in these jurisdictions but partly in those with looser transparency rules such as the British Virgin Islands or Panama – following the letter but not the spirit of the law. This makes it very difficult to see what is happening and whose money is involved. How do we improve the current situation? The Pandora papers show we are reaching the limits of what can be done with

data transparency. Unless we find ways to tighten the net, this won’t be the last leak of its kind. This is recognised at least implicitly by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) and other international bodies in their increasing interest in going after the enablers, rather than just focusing on the tax evaders themselves. Maybe it’s time to create something similar to what applies in medicine, so that, if enablers contravene certain standards, they can be prosecuted – even in countries who are not directly affected by their activities. If they went to such a country, they could be arrested on arrival. Should we create a new international institution dedicated to stamping out tax evasion? In practical terms, the three places that matter when it comes to creating international regulations are the US, EU and China. Unfortunately they are not agreeing with one another on much right now, so it will be difficult to reach an

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agreement about such an institution. Even if they did agree, they would be accused of imperialism by smaller countries, or of acting as dictators. Of course, these three players would still need to agree on an initiative to really go after enablers, so you can make the same criticism of this strategy, but it is at least more modest in its scope and therefore potentially more realistic. Are all these revelations actually helpful? There’s certainly a danger of media saturation, in which the public knows about these kinds of activities and may be less interested by now. But we need to emphasise that the consequences are not going away: to run a modern state, it’s very expensive. To pay for a good education system, a good health system, properly functioning infrastructure and so forth, somebody has to pay for it. If the rich are avoiding paying their share, somebody else is picking up the tab, and that’s either the poor or the squeezed middle classes. So, if the public are tired of all this scandal, it doesn’t change the fact that they are suffering because of it. • Professor of International Politics, City, University of London. Source- The Conversation, October 5, 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)


18

TRADE

South Asia Times

OCTOBER 2021

Australia & India agree to an interim agreement by Dec 2021 & an conclusion of the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) by 2022 end By Neeraj Nanda

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EW DELHI/ MELBOURNE, 1 October 2021: Mr. Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food, and Public Distribution and Textiles, and Mr. Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Government of Australia, have formally launched the resumption of negotiations on the IndiaAustralia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). The announcement was today made by Minister Tehan at the AIBE 2021 – Business Leaders Forum in New Delhi today. The Australian Trade Minister in his keynote address detailed his talks with Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal focussing on the main points which he said moved beyond cricket and curry. He also explained Australia’s plans to open up its international borders as announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Melbourne today. A joint media release by the two Ministers and uploaded on Minister Tehan’s website says: Both Ministers discussed a range of issues during the 17th India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission meeting yesterday. Key issues included the expeditious negotiation of a bilateral CECA, resolution of taxrelated issues faced by Indian software firms in Australia, ensuring increased two-way trade and the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO scheduled to be held at the end of this year. Both India and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to conclude a CECA, including

The two Ministers in New Delhi. Photo- @PiyushGoyal

to reach an interim agreement by December 2021 to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade in goods and services, and to conclude the negotiations on a full CECA by the end of 2022. The Joint Ministerial Commission detailed the areas that will be covered by the interim agreement consistent with Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, including goods, services, investment, energy and resources, logistics and transport, standards, rules of origin, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Ministers also agreed

to explore government procurement. It was agreed that there would be an exchange of offers by the end of October 2021. Looking to build on the progress made by both countries on earlier bilateral negotiations, both Ministers agreed the need for a balanced trade agreement that encourages expanded trade and investment flows to the benefit of both of our economies, and that reflects a shared commitment to the rules-based international trading system. Reaffirming their commitment to working

together, both ministers agreed to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open, and inclusive multilateral trading system embodied by the World Trade Organization. They also agreed to work towards an ambitious and balanced outcome at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva, Switzerland. Australia and India are important trading partners. India-Australia bilateral trade exceeded AUD$24 billion last year. Major Indian exports to Australia are petroleum products, medicines, polished diamonds, gold

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Both Ministers discussed a range of issues during the 17th India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission meeting yesterday. Key issues included the expeditious negotiation of a bilateral CECA, resolution of taxrelated issues faced by Indian software firms in Australia, ensuring increased two-way trade and the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO scheduled to be held at the end of this year. jewellery, apparels etc, while key Australian exports to India include coal, LNG, alumina and non-monetary gold. In services, major Indian exports relate to travel, telecom and computer, government and financial services, while Australian services exports were principally in education and personal related travel. In 2020, India was Australia’s seventhlargest trading partner and sixth largest export destination, driven by coal and international education.


OCTOBER 2021

Environment

South Asia Times

19

Smartphones: Can they be truly eco-friendly? Cellphones have a huge environmental footprint. One company trying to change this is Fairphone. As they announce their latest offering, DW asks whether a no-impact smartphone is even possible. By Joey Grostern

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he average smartphone is millions of times more powerful than the computers that guided NASA astronauts to the moon. That's quite something, given that they tend to weigh less than 200 grams, or less than half a pound. But for all their physical lightness, they have a heavy carbon footprint. Besides being responsible for between 40 kilograms (88.2 pounds) and 80 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2), the production process also requires the extraction of heavy metals like gold and cobalt which often causes toxic pollution to leak from mines and refineries. As leading phone manufacturers have taken to launching new models on a regular basis, thereby encouraging older ones to be discarded more quickly, one company has come to stand out from the crowd. Fairphone, which claims to make "no secret" of putting "people and planet" first, embraces a modular design to increase the lifespan of its products by making them easier to repair. Nine years after releasing its first model, the Netherlandsbased company is now poised to launch Fairphone 4, following the announcement on September 30. But how sustainable are they?

A look at Fairphone In the company's own 2017 recycling report, it admitted that only 30% of materials used in Fairphone 2 could be recycled. That had risen to 50% in their 2020 impact report which looked at the recyclability rate of materials in the Fairphone 3. How that compares to other manufacturers is hard to say. According to environmental group Greenpeace, Apple is far more transparent than

most other phonemakers, yet even they don't publish information on the recyclability of their phones. What is clear, however, is that each gram of precious heavy metals recovered from a Fairphone is a gram that doesn't have to be blasted from a mine or the side of a mountain and transported across the world for processing. But one thing Fairphone doesn't have, is a decarbonization plan. Monique Lempers, the company's innovation impact director, told DW they are in the process of drafting such targets, but until now have sought to reduce emissions by extending the longevity of their phones. "We calculated that if we set a lifespan target of 4 1/2 years, this would reduce the carbon footprint of the phone by 30%," Lempers said. Their phones are modular, meaning individual components can be swapped if damaged or outdated. This is unlike most other

phones, which if broken, often have to be replaced entirely. For this reason, Fairphones score 10/10 on iFixit's repairability ranking, compared with only 6/10 for the iPhone 12. iFixit is a US wikibased site that teaches consumers how to repair their own devices, as well as providing repairs advice from their shops. Lempers said early indications suggest that on average, Fairphone 3 is used for up to five years, more than double that of a typical smartphone. "Using this technology for longer can have a huge effect," Matthias Huisken, iFixit's managing director, told DW. "Not replacing these things every two to three years but instead replacing them every five or every 10 would make a huge difference." Too small to call the shots? Yet for all their good intentions, Fairphone's aims are frustrated by a lack of control. Fairphones run Google's Android operating system.

As phone hardware improves, Google updates Android to increase functionality, and these updates render long-life hardware of Fairphones obsolete. Fairphone responds by slowing the frequency of updates on their phones, but certain apps require the latest Android version to run. "If you can't do your mobile banking safely on the phone anymore because there's no more security updates, even though the hardware may be perfectly functioning, you're very likely to replace it because you want a phone that's safe and up-to-date," Huisken said. "To gain more control over these aspects, they need to grow. They need to become more relevant," he added. Fairphone's aim, however, is not to compete with the major smartphone makers. "We want to make the electronics industry more responsible, by showing that there is a market for an ethical and sustainable phone," said Lempers.

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She regards the company's smaller size as a positive. "We see that some of our peers are more afraid to take the risk to invest or source from certain factories or mines that require support," she continued. "I think being smaller comes with advantages as well as with challenges." Is a zero-impact phone even possible? Fairphone isn't the only company attempting to make a low-impact smartphone. German Shiftphone similarly embrace modular design, winning them a 2021 German Sustainability Award. This signals a potential trend in lowimpact smartphone design, but how possible is a no-impact smartphone? "I think getting to zero might be challenging. It's about getting very close," said Lotfi Belkhir, an engineering professor at Canada's McMaster University and coauthor of a 2017 study quantifying the carbon footprint of networking devices. He said a no-impact phone is only possible when every part of the supply chain matches up. In the case of Fairphone that would mean Google, and those who manufacture their hardware would also have to be no-impact. "You can't just be an isolated company, no matter how noble and how dedicated and smart you are and be able to succeed in this kind of system." But he describes himself as a "big believer in entrepreneurs" and said success stories of companies can inspire and prove what is doable. "Tesla has, from a single small company, been able to force the hand of almost all car manufacturers to go into electric cars. And today, their market value is bigger than all the big three in the US." Source- dw.com, Sept 30 2021


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South Asia Times

OCTOBER 2021

Engravings on Clay Tablet Confirm

Babylonians Knew Pythagoras Theorem Before the Man Himself 'Si.427' is the name assigned to a clay tablet that has been estimated to be around 3,700 years old. While it purportedly depicts a land deal, the geometry in play is intriguing.

By Sandipan Talukdar

E

ngravings on an over 3000-yearold clay tablet reinforces the belief that Pythagorean principles of geometry were known to the Babylonians centuries before Pythagoras himself, a recent study has said. 'Si.427' is the name assigned to a clay tablet (small cake-like structure made from clay) that has been estimated to be around 3,700 years old. This antique clay tablet belonged to the Old Babylonian Period between 1,900 and 1,600 BCE. However, this particular clay tablet is not a mere archaeological piece; the applied geometry engraved into it reveals many exciting facets of human knowledge about mathematics and its reallife applications. The tablet was discovered during the late nineteenth century (1894) in what is now Iraq, and was preserved in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum since then. On it, Si.427 has the calculations of the Pythagorean triangle. This reinforces the fact that Pythagorean principles of geometry were known to the Babylonians

Image is for representational use only. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

over a millennium before Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, was even born. The findings pertaining to Si.427 have been published in the Journal Foundations of Science on August 4. The study was authored by Australian mathematician Dr. Daniel Mansfield of the

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Mansfield had also made a important finding previously, about the Babylonian clay tablet containing geometrical calculations. Mansfield and Norman Wildberger, also a researcher at the same university, had reported the oldest and most

accurate trigonometric table previously. The tablet known as the Plimpton 322 described rightangled triangles using the Pythagorean principle – the sum of the squares of two numbers equals the square of the third number. The numbers are called the Pythagorean triples (For example - 32 + 42 = 52). Plimpton 322 was also from Babylonian period, and intrigued Mansfield enough that he began searching for other such clay tablets from the same period with the Pythagorean principle engraved; it eventually led him to the Si.427. Commenting on the practical utility of such mathematical principles from ancient archaeological findings, Mansfield said: “You don’t just accidentally come up with trigonometry, you’re usually doing something practical.” Mansfield also revealed the purpose behind the tablet itself. The mathematical calculations on the tablet were written in the cuneiform script (an ancient script). Mansfield has been quoted saying the tablet actually depicts a field containing marshy areas along with a threshing floor and a nearby tower. “Si.427 is about a piece of

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land that’s being sold,” he commented. The rectangles depicting the field have opposite sides of equal length, suggesting surveyors from back then had devised a way to create perpendicular lines more accurately than before, according to him. “Much like we would today, you’ve got private individuals trying to figure out where their land boundaries are, and the surveyor comes out but instead of using a piece of GPS equipment, they use Pythagorean triples. Once you understand what Pythagorean triples are, your society has reached a particular level of mathematical sophistication,” Mansfield reportedly said. The Si.427 contained three Pythagorean triples — 3,4,5; 8,15,17 and 5,12,13. Interestingly, the Si.427 was from a period when private land ownership had increased. What the clay tablets depict is the way the Babylonians were trying to solve land demarcation problems. They developed a mathematical way of doing it and it is how particular mathematics developed to address some of the needs of the time. Source- newsclick.in, 5 Aug, 2021.

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