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INTERNATIONAL

QUAD Shaping Up: India, Australia Partnership Now A Comprehensive Strategic One

Two joint declarations were announced after the discussion between the two prime ministers.

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NEW DELHI/CANBERRA: The first-ever India-Australia Virtual Summit was held yesterday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. Two joint declarations were announced after the discussion between the two prime ministers.

Exactly Two Years Ago: The India-Australia-Japan-US Quad Holds Consultations Again

Briefing media, Secretary East, Vijay Thakur Singh said, these include the Joint Declaration on elevating the relationship from a strategic partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. She said the document covers a range of areas in which the two countries will collaborate bilaterally and even at the multilateral fora.


The second joint declaration is on a shared vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo Pacific.

Besides that, there were seven agreements which were signed. There was a Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-enabled Technologies. There was an MoU on mining and processing of critical and strategic minerals.

India and Australia today announced a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries after the virtual summit.


They have also jointly announced a declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo- Pacific.

Both the countries also signed seven agreements after talks between Prime minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

Seven MoUs include Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation, cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic minerals, Arrangement concerning Mutual Logistic Support.

Both the countries also signed MoUs implementing Arrangement concerning cooperation in Defence Science and Technology, Co-operation in the field of public Administration and Governance Reforms, cooperation in Vocational Education and Training and on water resources management.

After the talks, Prime minister Modi said both had an outstanding discussion, covering the entire expanse of the relationship between the two countries.


 

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had earlier informed the nation about the dialogue:

The tweet by the MEA handle was met with considerable eagerness by the two leaders:

With this, the Australia, Japan, India and the US ‘QUAD’ is seen to be acquiring a more concrete form:

List of the documents announced/signed during India – Australia Virtual Summit:

  1. Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Republic of India and Australia (Announced)
  2. Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo- Pacific. (Announced)
  3. Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation. (signed)
  4. MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic Minerals. (signed)
  5. An arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA). (signed)
  6. Implementing Arrangement concerning cooperation in Defence Science and Technology to the MoU on Defence Cooperation. (signed)
  7. Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in the field of Public Administration and Governance Reforms. (signed)
  8. Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training. (signed)
  9. Memorandum of Understanding on Water Resources Management. (signed)
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INTERNATIONAL

Occupying Pakistani Forces Would Continue To Face Violent Resistance In Balochistan

The anger and mistrust of the Baloch people towards Pakistani SFs are unlikely to subside.

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On May 19, 2020, six Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed when unidentified militants targeted their vehicle using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Mach District of Balochistan on May 19, 2020. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

TOn May 8, 2020, five FC soldiers and one officer were killed when their vehicle was targeted with an IED at Kallag, near the Pakistan-Iran border, in the Tigran area of Kech District. In a tweet, the ISPR said the security personnel were returning from patrolling in Buleda – 14 kilometres from the Pakistan-Iran border – to “check possible routes used by terrorists in the mountainous terrain of Makran”. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility of the attack saying:

“The Pakistani military has advanced operations in Tigran and other areas of Turbat over the past several days, targeting Baloch civilians, including harassing women and children.”


The BLA statement accused the Army officer killed in the attack to be “directly involved in the formation and leading of so-called death squads of criminal gangs operated by the army” in the Kech region. The statement also accused the army officer of helping drug dealers and arming them to take on the rebels.

On February 20, 2020, five Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and three were injured after militants attacked a check post in the Turbat District of Balochistan. Three militants were also killed in the subsequent exchange of fire between the SF personnel and militants.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the attack took place in an area where Baloch separatists frequently target Pakistani security convoys and checkpoints.


On February 19, 2020, at least 16 Army personnel were killed in an attack by Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) at an Army post in the Singsila area of the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan. BLT militants also seized all weapons and ammunition kept at the post and subsequently set the post on fire. This attack was the worst on SFs by a Baloch group.

The previous worst attack by a Baloch group targeting SFs was recorded on February 1, 2012, when at least 15 FC personnel were killed and 12 were injured in an attack on four FC check posts near the Margat Coalmines in Mach District.

Mirak Baloch, who introduced himself as the BLA spokesperson, claiming the attack declaring, “It is a reaction to the January 31, 2012, killings of granddaughter and great-grand-daughter of Nawab Akbar Bugti in Karachi.”

During the first five months and seven days of the current year, 2020, Balochistan has accounted for 41 SF fatalities. During the corresponding period of 2019 also, Balochistan recorded 41 fatalities in the SF category. Through 2019, there was a total of 54 SF fatalities.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on the conflict in Pakistan, Balochistan has accounted for a total of 1,529 SF fatalities. A maximum of 178 fatalities was registered in 2012.


A North-South breakup of SF fatalities over the last 20 years indicate that SF fatalities in North Balochistan are consistently higher than South Balochistan. Since, March 6, 2000, out of the total of 1,529 SF fatalities in the Province, 1,134 were recorded in the North while 395 in the South.

In 2020, out of the 41 SF personnel killed in the Province so far (data till June 7, 2020), 26 were killed in North Balochistan, while 15 were killed in South Balochistan.

As has been noted on several occasions in the past, the North is afflicted by Islamist extremist groups such as the Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Baloch nationalist insurgent groups operate in the South. The major Baloch insurgent groups include the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), BLA, BLT and United Baloch Army (UBA).

Though SFs are significantly targeted by Islamist terrorist formations such as TTP and LeJ in North Balochistan, the principal focus of their attention is on Baloch insurgent groups and minority or sectarian groupings. Significantly, out of 1,392 terrorists killed in Balochistan since the formation of the TTP in December 2007, the group identity of 310 has been confirmed, so far. More than 63 per cent of these (197 in total) are from five Baloch insurgent groups – BLA (110), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF, 44), BRA (31), UBA (10) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan (2).

Moreover, a systematic campaign of extermination of ethnic Baloch people through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the South remains unabated. According to partial data compiled by SATP, of the 4,476 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since March 6, 2000 (data till June 7, 2020), at least 1,399 have been attributable to one or another terrorist/insurgent outfit.

Of these, 436 civilian killings (263 in the South and 173 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 963 civilian killings, 880 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 83 in the South. The remaining 3,077 civilian fatalities – 1,712 in the South and 1,365 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’.

It is widely believed that Security Agencies engage in “kill and dump” operations, particularly in the Southern region, targeting local Baloch dissidents, a reality that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has clearly recognized.

A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan). TNAB is a militia formation operating in the province of Balochistan, especially in Khuzdar, since 2012. The TNAB leader is Shafique Mengal, also known as Mullah Shafique. The group’s main target is Baloch nationalists.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Balochistan (HRCB), in a report released on May 8, 2020, disclosed that Balochistan witnessed a surge in military raids with 16 killed and 45 abducted in April, amid the COVID-19 lockdown.


As many as 73 people had been picked up by the Pakistani forces, including students, women, children, and infants, though 28 were later released. The whereabouts of the remaining 45 are unknown. Settlements were burned down in weeks-long military actions in the Kech, Panjgur, and Awaran Districts which left people homeless, including those returning from the state’s torture cells.

Pakistan’s establishment expectedly took action against HRCB for defying media censorship. On May 12, the Government imposed an indefinite ban on HRCB’s official website (also known as Hakkpaan). Over the past years, HRCB has been actively working in Balochistan to collect information about ongoing human rights abuses and to report them to the international media and organizations. Its website remains accessible outside Pakistan.

Subsequent to the blocking of its website in Pakistan, HRCB expressed the fear that Pakistani authorities might target their “volunteers and office-bearers who are living in the country.”  Their apprehension is not unfounded, as state agencies have had little compunction in targeting journalists and human rights workers in the past.

Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain, who was living in exile in Sweden and had been missing since March 2, 2020, from Uppsala, was found dead on April 23, 2020, in the Fyris River, outside Uppsala.

According to one of Hussain’s close friends, who is based in Sweden as well, Hussain was last seen boarding a train from Stockholm to Uppsala to collect keys to his new apartment and to leave his personal belongings there. Hussain, hailing from Balochistan, was working as a part-time professor in Uppsala, about 60 kilometres north of Stockholm. He was also the chief editor of Balochistan Times, an online magazine he had set up, in which he wrote about drug trafficking, forced disappearances and a long-running insurgency. Balochistan Times on May 2, wrote:

“His work often got him into trouble as the authorities did not like his reporting of Balochistan’s forbidden stories, the reason he had to leave and live in exile.”

Hussain left Pakistan in 2012 following a Police raid on his house and subsequent threats on his life. He first moved to Oman, then to UAE, then Uganda, before moving to Sweden in 2017.

Further, on May 2, 2020, two Baloch student activists Shahdad Baloch and Ehsan Baloch, both graduates from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, were killed by SFs in Kalat District. Both the graduates were critical of the Pakistani establishment for the exploitation of the natural resources and gross human rights violations in Balochistan.

Some of the other prominent killings/disappearances of Baloch journalist/activists overt the past five years include:

  • February 2, 2019: Muhammad Ibrahim Arman Luni, a Baloch rights activist, died in hospital after reportedly being beaten by the Police in the Loralai District of Balochistan for his peaceful sit-in protest. Luni had repeatedly protested alleged targeted killings by the state and had criticized the state for marginalizing Pashtuns. He had also raised awareness for those affected by militancy and Army operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
  • July 30, 2018: A local journalist Jamil Ahmed, a sub-editor at a daily, Azadi, was shot at and critically injured in the Kirani road area on the outskirts of Quetta. Ahmed was going home after completing his shift late at night when armed men shot him several times in the Kirani road area.
  • January 12, 2017: Unidentified assailants shot dead a journalist, Muhammad Jan (37), in Kalat town in Balochistan. Muhammad Jan, who worked for local Urdu language daily newspaper, Qudrat, was shot dead while he was on his way home on a motorcycle.
  • April 24, 2015: Baloch activist and journalist Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Phase-II area of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. Sabeen, accompanied by her mother, was just returning home after organizing a discussion on ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ at ‘The Second Floor’ (T2F), a café that had been developed as a forum for open debates, of which she was Director. The panellists in the discussion included ‘Mama’ Abdul Qadeer Baloch, the President of VBMP, who had led a ‘long march’ to protest forcible disappearances in Balochistan; Baloch activists Farzana Baloch and Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur; and journalists Malik Siraj Akbar and Wusut Ullah Khan.

On May 25, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the region and rest of the world, a Paris-based NGO, the Baloch Voice Association, organised a virtual conference “Prevent genocide in Balochistan and end eliminations with impunity”.

The speakers included prominent human rights activists from Balochistan and western analysts who accused the Pakistan Army of being responsible for enforced disappearances, torture and killing of intellectuals, students and political activists in the Province.

A similar concern was raised by Allah Nizar Baloch, the leader of BLF, on March 28, 2020. He asserted:

“We believe that the Pakistan Army would use the COVID-19 outbreak to expand its occupation and stranglehold over Balochistan while continuing its atrocities and genocide of the Baloch.”

Amid the swelling attacks on SF personnel in the Province, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Quetta on May 13, 2020, and tried to woo the Baloch people. He stated that Balochistan was the future of Pakistan and it was the Army’s duty to fully assist its government and the people towards a peaceful and prosperous future. Bajwa directed all commanders to reach out to the people in far-flung areas of Balochistan to help mitigate challenges faced by the masses due to COVID-19.

The grim reality, however, is that the anger and mistrust of the Baloch people towards Pakistani SFs, generated by a long history of atrocities, as well as against the administration as a result of persistent neglect, is unlikely to subside.

As long as the people of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the SFs and an exploitative, iniquitous administration, the restive region will continue to see a targeted attack against the SFs.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty joined the Institute in August 2008. Currently, he is involved in research and documentation of Conflicts in Pakistan. He has also written on conflicts in North East India. He is pursuing M. Phil. from the Department of African Studies, Faculty of Social Science, Delhi University, New Delhi, on "Angola's Energy Potential: Prospect For India".

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South Korea Church Hit by COVID-19 Says 4000 Members Gave Plasma For Research

Church founder Lee Man-hee had internally advised recovered members to donate their plasma.

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SEOUL (South Korea): Nearly 4,000 cured COVID-19 patients from a single religious organization have committed to voluntarily donate their plasma for the development of a vaccine. The organization called Shincheonji Church and its members were most affected during the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Korea.

An official of Green Cross Pharma, a South Korean biopharmaceutical company, said, “Plasma donations from healthy patients from Shincheonji Church will solve the problem of lack of blood for research.”

According to Green Cross, only 195 people in Korea had so far expressed their intention to donate blood plasma for research. But 43 of them were considered unsuitable for charity.


At a time when plasma donations have been scarce and extremely valuable, prices of plasma range anywhere from $350 to $40,000 dollars per millilitre. This sets Shincheonji Church’s donation at a value of about $83 billion. This is by far the biggest collective effort made by any organization in the world towards COVID-19 research & development. And the medical fraternity in South Korea and across the world have deeply appreciated this gesture from Shincheonji Church.

According to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), out of a total of 12,484 cases in the country, at least 5,213 cases have been linked to church outbreaks.

Brief Background of the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea


In February and March, South Korea became the scene of a large outbreak outside China when unknowingly a massive outbreak occurred among members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

And even though Shincheonji Church was at the centre of this epidemic, patient-31, who happened to be a congregation member of the church had no travel history outside of Korea.

COVID-19 arrived in Korea as there were no restrictions to block foreign entrants. To hide this, some forces needed an organization to blame. They held the Shincheonji Church responsible for the outbreak of the epidemic and made the Shincheonji Church a victim. Shincheonji Church is one of the minor religious groups which became a major victim of COVID-19 with over 4,000 of its members being infected with the virus. It was not members of Shincheonji Church who went to China and brought the virus into the country. The virus came in South Korea because of foreign entries from China which the government was unable to contain in its initial stages. The church and its members are a victim and the government, instead of protecting them, is treating them like criminals.

Since the church is not part of the mainstream churches in South Korea, even the society is happy to make it as a scapegoat. As a result, thousands of discrimination cases were reported among the congregation members after the mass infection.

Furthermore, the Korean government and the government of Daegu city charged legal liability for damage caused by COVID-19 pandemic on the church just because many people from the church were infected.


It is absurd to blame any organization for the legal, economic, and quarantine responsibilities of the loss from COVID-19. COVID-19 did not even originate in South Korea. But public opinion is being used to criticize the Shincheonji Church. More than 6,000 cases of human rights violations have already been reported in the Republic of Korea this year, but the government and media are silent about this.

This is what politics and media have done to religion. If this is neglected and overlooked now, then politics will use religion continuously as their scapegoat for other crises too.

The Detrimental Effects When Politics Mixes with Religion

The Constitution of the Republic of Korea clearly states in Article 20 Clauses 1 and 2 that “All citizens shall enjoy the freedom of religion,” and that “No state religion shall be recognized, and religion and state shall be separated”. But these human rights are being violated as the mainstream religious denominations in South Korea joined hands with those with political powers including President of South Korea (along with the Mayor of Seoul, the Governor of Gyeonggi Province, and ministers, among others) and revoked the licenses of the church to operate as a religious organization while accusing them of deliberately spreading the virus. The Korean politicians, with their biased motives, are revoking the licenses and persecuting Shincheonji Church to gain more votes in election seasons. They are further victimizing the victims of COVID-19 and using them as their scapegoat in order to cover their own faults.

Several NGOs in association with the United Nations and religious communities in the globe are raising their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violation against a religious group in South Korea named Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, the report to the UN said, “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”

The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.

The report stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.”

The news of Chairman Lee and Shincheonji are being singled out and blamed for COVID-19 spread and sued is deeply concerning to all faith leaders who valued freedom of religion and the protection of human rights. This adverse action shall have chilling repercussions through the religious world,” said Mr Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Chairman of Islamic Cultural Center of North America.


Even Amidst Persecution, Chairman of Shincheonji, Man Hee Lee encourages members to donate plasma

Despite facing numerous public outrages, more than 4000 members of Shincheonji’s congregation recently promised to donate plasma for the development of the drug for COVID-19.

Church founder Lee Man-Hee internally advised recovered members from COVID-19 to donate their plasma, which is desperately needed for Coronovirus research.

Many members of the church wanted to give donations to express thanks to the government and medical staff.

He said that there have been political motives in the persecution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus and HWPL (a peace NGO) by “using us (Shincheonji), the victims of COVID-19, as their scapegoat in order to hide their own faults.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”

Disclaimer: This is an unpaid press release by Shincheonji India. Readers’ discretion is advised while consuming the views expressed in the release.

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ECONOMY-DEVELOPMENT

BANNED: 59 Chinese Mobile Apps That Threaten India’s Sovereignty And Integrity

There have been acute concerns relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of Indians.

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NEW DELHI: The government of India on Monday announced the ban of 59 Chinese apps in the country. A day later one of the most popular short video applications TikTok has been taken down from Apple App Store and also Google Play Store. The government has called the decision “a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace & to safeguard interests of crores of Indian mobile/internet users“.

Also Read:
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(2) Zoom App IS NOT SAFE: Amit Shah-Headed MHA Issues Advisory For Users

Courtesy: PIB, GoI

Electronics and IT Ministry said in a release that these apps were banned in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of the country, defence of the country and security of a state and public order.


Geopolitics and international relations (IR) experts believe that the move is an exercise of coercive diplomacy that has, as the starting point, opted for a low-denomination item — mobile app — that has a limited impact on Indian businesses but one that has a disproportionately large presence in the mass consumer segment.

Two months ago, in April, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, made it mandatory for foreign direct investment from neighbouring countries to take prior government approval.

This was also aimed at curbing opportunistic takeovers/ acquisitions of Indian companies during times of the Covid-19 pandemic, when valuations were at new lows.


Over the last few years, India has emerged as a leading innovator when it comes to technological advancements and a primary market in the digital space.

At the same time, there have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of the country.

The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.

The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps.


This Ministry has also received many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to the operation of certain apps.

The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding the security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues.

Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India.

There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.

On the basis of these and upon receiving recent credible inputs that such Apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the government has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices.

The Scale/Impact:

TikTok had nearly 119 million active users in India and was among the top 10 apps on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Users who still have the TikTok app on their mobile phone can still be able to use it, however, the app can’t be downloaded anymore. Most other Chinese apps banned in India are still available for download.

It must be noted that if you have the app installed on your phone you will still be able to see it on Google Play store. Once you uninstall it the TikTok app will not be visible.

For users who have the TikTok app download can still use the app and post videos but officially the platform is now banned in the country.


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