World Bicycle Day –  A Multi Faceted Solution to Our Problems?

Nothing compares to the simple pleasures of a bike ride.  John F. Kennedy

The 3rd of June has been designated by the United Nations as World Bicycle Day.  On 12 April 2018 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/272 which recalled that the UN Millennium Development Goals in its  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognize that sport is  an important enabler of sustainable development, and that the potential of the bicycle to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, as well as The UN’s new urban agenda is significant. The Resolution further recognized that  the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, coupled with its simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation was invaluable, not to mention its role in  fostering environmental stewardship and health.

The Resolution also refers to the synergy between the bicycle and the user which fosters creativity and social engagement and gives the user an immediate awareness of the local environment.  The bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, health care and sport.  Above all, the bicycle is a symbol of sustainable transportation and conveys a positive message to foster sustainable consumption and production and has a positive impact on climate.

It was also recognized that the bicycle  promotes social development through sport and physical education, including cycling, and mentioned its extremely important role of productive public-private partnerships in financing programmes for organizing bicycle rallies to promote peace and development, preservation of the environment, institutional development and physical and social infrastructure.  Therefore, the conclusion reached was that major international and local cycling competitions should be organized in the spirit of peace, mutual understanding, friendship, tolerance and inadmissibility of discrimination of any kind, and that the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected,

The United Nations therefore invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other relevant international organizations, international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders to cooperate in observing World Bicycle Day, to celebrate the Day and to promote awareness of it.  Resolution 72/272 encourages Member States to devote particular attention to the bicycle in cross-cutting development strategies and to include the bicycle in international, regional, national and subnational development policies and programmes, as appropriate and to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design. In particular , mention is made to the adoption and implementation of  policies and measures to actively protect and promote pedestrian safety and cycling mobility, with a view to achieving broader health outcomes, particularly the prevention of injuries and non-communicable diseases.

All stakeholders are encouraged by the Resolution to  emphasize and advance the use of the bicycle as a means of fostering sustainable development, strengthening education, including physical education, for children and young people, promoting health, preventing disease, promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitating social inclusion and a culture of peace.  In this context Member States are encouraged to adopt best practices and means to promote the bicycle among all members of society, and in this regard welcomes initiatives to organize bicycle rides at the national and local levels as a means of strengthening physical and mental health and well-being and developing a culture of cycling in Society. The Secretary General is requested to bring the Resolution to the attention of Member States and the Organizations of the United Nations system.

My Take

According to this Resolution, the humble bicycle can be a tool for promoting clean air, physical fitness, peace and friendship, social harmony, education, health care, creativity, and sustainable development within a community. In this context it is difficult to envision any other mode of transport, from SpaceX to rail to road transport, or shipping for that matter, or even air transport contributing to all these outcomes. One wonders what the extended use of the bicycle would do in the most polluted cities in the world: Lahore; Hotan; New Delhi; Bhiwadi and Peshawar. Also, what would the effect of cycling to work instead of travelling by taxi do to an executive in terms of obviating diabetes or cardiovascular disease? 

 Apart from disease avoidance cycling plays an important role in promoting physical fitness as an excellent form of exercise that activates  various muscle groups, including the legs, buttocks, and core. It is also medically recognized that regular cycling can improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength, enhance stamina, and help with weight management. Cycling has a distinct advantage over jogging or running as it is a low-impact activity that puts less stress on joints while serving  as an excellent option for those with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. The physical activity generated by cycling boosts mental health and well being, through the release of  endorphins, which can enhance mood and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Cycling can also improve sleep quality and increase overall energy levels.

Another advantage in cycling lies in weight management, as regular  cycling can help burn calories and contribute to weight loss or maintenance. It increases one’s metabolic rate, helping to shed excess body fat and build lean muscle mass. The balance required by cycling increases flexibility and coordination and the agility associated with cycling helps  improve one’s overall motor skills and enhances flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body.

Cycling is eco-friendly and cost effective.  It reduces carbon emissions and helps preserve the environment. Bicycles have a minimal ecological footprint and contribute to sustainable transportation. There is also the benefit of commuting convenience where a cycle can navigate through traffic congestion, especially in urban areas, bypassing heavy  traffic by using  bike lanes or paths, and easily find parking.

The bicycle personifies determination, perseverance, and the pursuit of freedom. It highlights the theme of overcoming obstacles and embracing independence. Unlike other modes of transport (which are all driven by motor) cycling encourages cyclists to believe in themselves, The marvels of cycling are brought to bear by those who value it. Mark Cavendish, British pro racer  once said: “[T]o me it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike, I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”  For the women, Susan B. Anthony, US women’s rights activist said: “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”

Expanding SCO’s Reach: The Rise of the ‘Axis of Seven’


The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta carried a report on the eve of the China-Central Asia summit at Xi’an titled “China is changing the format of cooperation with Central Asia.” It anticipated that the six heads of state gathering in Xi’an on May 18-19 would be discussing the “creation of a new mechanism for cooperation in various fields and sign important political documents.” 

The report recalled that the Xi’an summit ought to be viewed in the context of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and the five heads of Central Asian States in Moscow on May 9 (Russia’s Victory Day.) The daily flagged the expert opinion that “a new ‘5+2’ axis is being formed (Central Asia plus China and Russia).” Evidently, although Putin was not present at the event in Xi’an, Russia’s interests have been taken into account. 

The new “5 Plus 2 axis” being formed will have its own mechanisms and projections, which differ from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) or the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union community. The Xi’an summit considered the possibility of institutionalising the Central Asia-China format through a Secretariat “in order to comprehensively promote cooperation… and the functioning of the relevant mechanisms.” Of course, given the top-down decision making characteristic of the Central Asian states, the mechanism of the Consultative Meetings of the Heads of State of the China-Central Asia format (to be held in alternate years) will be a key factor in ensuring security, stability and sustainable development of the region.

It is entirely conceivable that at a time when the SCO has tended to become more and more “abstract” after the induction of India into the grouping, and began meandering aimlessly, it stands to reason that China and the Central Asian states and Russia felt the need to create more effective mechanisms and plans in their common space so as to impart a new quality of cooperation, and supplement the SCO if need arises. 

An element of rivalry has crept into the SCO’s functioning. India, in particular, needs to do some soul-searching here. Certainly, this was not what China and Russia had in mind in 2005 when they put together the Shanghai Five in 2005 (which later morphed into the SCO.) Consensus in decision-making was adopted as a core principle in the SCO’s functioning but lately, a competitive spirit to settle scores stemming out of bilateral differences and disputes crept in. The SCO foreign ministers meeting in Delhi recently witnessed an acrimonious India-Pakistan standoff that vitiated the “Shanghai Spirit,” even as the Central Asian states and Russia and China mutely watched.  

There is the tragic example of SAARC which suffered a similar trauma during the recent decade that eventually rendered it a comatose ready for burial. But Russia and China cannot afford such a tragic fate visiting the SCO. The US’ double containment strategy toward Russia and China and the NATO’s imminent expansion to Asia make it critically important that a cohesive, motivated and well-coordinated regional cooperation process is available in their common space in Inner Asia.  

So far, Russia was engaged in strengthening political integration, while China systematically and powerfully interacted with the governments of Central Asian countries for the development of energy and infrastructure projects within the framework of a full-fledged economic expansion. That division of labour worked rather well, but then, the regional security environment changed dramatically of late.

For example, it has become vital for Moscow in the context of the rupture of Russia’s energy ties with Europe to divert its oil and gas exports to the Chinese market, and that requires Central Asian infrastructure in transit mode — a novel idea altogether. Suffice to say, a high level of harmonisation and synchronisation of the national plans of the Central Asian countries is needed. Currently, there are no agreed common strategies in the Central Asian region, which has a population of 75 million. The Belt and Road project does not adequately take into account the interests of Russia and the interface with the Eurasian Economic Union projects cannot provide a sufficient level of interaction either, due to systemic weaknesses. 

To be sure, in the run-up to the Xi’an summit, the heads of Central Asian countries carefully prepared for the event and have presented a significant package of proposals. Thus, the construction work on the highly strategic China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, which will connect Xinjiang and Central Asia with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran is now poised to begin after a delay of some 20 years due to a squabble over the measurement of the width of rail tracks!

Unsurprisingly, aside regional security, the issue of connectivity was the one topic that received the greatest attention at the Xi’an summit, which involves improving the transport infrastructure along the China–Central Asia and China–Europe routes through Central Asia, as well as increasing the capacity of border checkpoints, all of which aim to create conditions for increasing cargo and passenger traffic.

A positive factor is that Kazakhstan’s engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is deepening. China and Kazakhstan are effectively implementing a list of 52 BRI investment projects with a total amount of more than $21 billion, covering transportation and logistics, industry and agriculture, energy, tourism and other fields. Two of the six BRI corridors pass through Kazakhstan connecting China respectively to Europe and to Iran and West Asia. These BRI corridors are important for most of the Central Asian economies for whom China offers the closest sea port. That in turn makes Kazakhstan a potential hub for accessing Central Asia. 

The summit at Xi’an also noted the importance of launching the Kazakh-Chinese railway Ayaguz – Tacheng and called for the accelerated construction of the fourth line of the Turkmenistan–China gas pipeline. There are many kinds of mineral resources and large reserves in Tacheng area — coal, granite, gold, copper, iron ore and other mineral resources in the area where the railway under construction crosses.

On the sideline of the Xi’an summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping held meetings with each of the five leaders of the Central Asian region. On the eve of the summit in Xi’an, Chinese media called Central Asia the “gateway” for the Belt and Road project, which Xi had originally unveiled from Kazakhstan in 2013. There has been a great deal of scare mongering over Belt and Road by the US and India in the information sphere but that doesn’t seem to have affected the Central Asian states. It is symbolic that Beijing took the initiative to hold the first China-Central Asia Summit on the 10th anniversary of Belt and Road Initiative.

Equally, China hopes to link Pakistan and Afghanistan with the BRI infrastructure projects in Central Asia. As a first step, China and Pakistan recently agreed to extend the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan. This has been the main achievement of the  Pakistan-Afghanistan-China ministerial held in Islamabad on May 5, a fortnight before the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an. Quite obviously, the momentum of the China-Central Asia format will not be optimal unless China also doubles down on its engagement with the Taliban government in Kabul.

Can India Outshine China In Industrial And Economic Growth?


In recent time, there have been several reports by international agencies including International Monetary Fund, stating that  economic growth in India is showing  impressive trend  and is the highest  amongst  several  countries in the world. While developed countries like USA, UK and China are facing recessionary trends and inflationary pressure, it is said that India’s economic growth profile is intact and is improving steadily.  These observations from credible global agencies have  created a feeling of euphoria in India , as if Indian economy is now at the top of the world.

Of course, India is the fourth largest economy in the world and is well placed to achieve spectacular growth of it’s economy in the coming years ,

Probably, the best way of assessingIndia’s  economic and industrial  growth profile and measuring it’s performance and future prospects would be to compare India with China, since the economic status of India and China around a  few  decades back were almost at the same level and both are highly populated countries with high population density  and reasonable level of  natural and mineral resources.

Of course, India is heavily dependent on import of crude oil and natural gas,which are essential input  to sustain industrial and economic growth, for it’s requirements and so is China.

For further analysing India’s growth profile  and track record  vis a vis China, the following indicative figuresare of interest.

Comparative figures :

  Land area3.287 million  Sq.Km9.597 million Sq.Km
Population in Yr.2021140.76 Crore1`41.24 Crore
Population density431.11per sq.km153 per sq.km
Size of economy$3.469 trillion$ 18.321 trillion
Foreign direct investment in 2021-22 84,835 million USD 180.96 billion USD
Likely GDP growth in 23-246.4%5%
Dependence on import of crude oil per annum Around 212 million tonne Around 508 million tonne
Production of coal per annumAround 892 million tonneAround 4500 million tonne
Wind power capacity41.9 GW328.48 GW (China was responsible for almost 70% of wind generation growth in 2021)
Solar power capacity64 GW392.61 GW
  Production  of wafers for solar panels  NegligibleWafers are ultra-thin silicon squares that are pieced together into solar panels, and China accounts for 97 per cent of global output.
 Lithium ion battery capacity Lithium ion battery cell not produced and entirely importedNearly 750 gigawatt-hours
Graphene production in 2022 (A product withemerging importance)NilAround 630,000 tonne of the graphene every year
Capacity in 2022Silicon metal,NilAround 5.17 million tonne
Annual capacity  for Polycrystalline silicaNilRound2 million per annum
Annual capacity for Titanium sponge500  tonne per annumAround 1,80,000 tonne per annum

The above figures which are a few illustrative  comparative examples ,  obviously indicate that   as on date, the status of India’s economy and industrial profile are  much lower compared to that of China, though the economy of both India and China were at the same level  in 1980s.

Factors influencing  China’s spectacular progress in the last three decades

While pretending  to be a communist country, the fact is that China  has a totalitarian regime with media being heavily censored , personal freedom of people severely curtailed  and rule of law by force rather than by consent.

The ground reality is that China is a communist country only in name and is virtually adopting the policies and methods of capitalist economy.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been an important part of the Chinese economy since  1980s.   To accelerate the process of opening to foreign capital and technology, the Chinese government has been providing forward treatment to foreign direct investment. That include tax incentives and loosening of administration restrictions.

From 1980s , China  liberalised it’s economy to the extent of  any other capitalist economy and threw open it’s market and investment  potential to international and  multinational companies. As multinational companies are all the time looking for market openings, invitation from Chinese government became irresistible attraction for them. Several of them came to China with huge investments and updated technologies, which immensely benefited China. What was another attraction for multinational companies is that China strictly maintained it’s promises  to them and ensured  well structured and  orderly political and economic climate , so that multinational companies can comfortably work and stay in China.

Even as multinational companies came in a big way to China, China also  encouraged and facilitated the growth of domestic companies to such an extent , that many of the domestic companies  could acquire the capability to compete with the multinational companies in China itself in the course of time. At the same time , China continued to invest in public sector organisations and encouraged infrastructure between domestic companies and overseas companies.

Under such  conditions,.today China’s industrial   and economic structure is an elegant mix of private owned domestic companies government owned public sector companies and multinational companies as well as joint venture.  The fact is that all these four entities are complimenting each other and there  appears to be no conflict of interests between them.

Today, the confidence level  of the multinational companies  and overseas organisations  in the stable policy of Chinese government is so high, that these companies from abroad are contributing to further growth of Chinese economy in a significant way.

All said and done, the underlying reason for spectacular economic and industrial growth of China is that China has thoughtfully created a situation which is  winwin situation for both Chin and multinational companies and overseas organisations.

View of global credit rating agencies on India’s economy :

According to World Bank , in general,  the economic situation In India is better than n any of the other countries in South Asia.

The services sector and the infrastructure sector are the fastest  growing sectors in India.There is still a huge structural agenda in India to make growth more inclusive . Private investment  from abroad is needed to be increased. Government has done a lot to improve the social protection but that by itself not enough.

According to Asian Development Bank between 2015 and 2019,India’s contribution to GDP growth in developing Asia was 22%, while China’s contribution was 53%.

The rapid growth  in India reflects healthy domestic consumption which will be further boosted by tax cuts.  India will be less affected by the slow down in the advanced countries, since exports have limited role in the Indian economy.

India – A few pointers

n the last nine years  after Prime Minister Modi has taken over, several reform measures have been introduced and number of infrastructure projects have been launched , apart from social welfare measures to lift the countrymen from poverty level. 

Defence shipments has risen by more than ten times since  2016.  In 2016-17, defence exports stood at Rs.1521 crore and reaching Rs.15920 crore in 2022-23.

India’s cumulative solar module manufacturing nameplate capacity has more than doubled to 38 GW in March,2023 from  18 GW in March,2022

Now, India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally with global markets reducing their dependence on China for drugs. 

On May,8, 2020,  Indian Council of Medical Research launchedMade in India COVID vaccine campaign and Indian pharma companies produced massive quantity  of COVID  vaccine in  very short period , not only for India’s needs but for  several countries in the world.  The world was pleasantly surprised to see  India’s  such achievement

Government of India has sanctioned Rs 40,900 crore to over 80630 accounts for the start up India scheme in the last seven years which are yielding results  now.

While India is a net importer of petrochemicals and intermediates, India now has become a net exporter of diverse range of speciality chemicals.

There are so many other pointers such as in space research and so on.

Can India match China ?

India is endowed with large   land area and coastal belt , different climatic and soil conditions ,  mineral resources , well established  agricultural base and “army” of  scientists, engineers and technologists  and certainly India has the potential to match China in economic and industrial growth.

What is required to achieve big leap forward  in India is that India should exhibit , future   governance capability ,  ensure growth oriented political structure , promote  innovation and R & D capability    as  well as commitment of the countrymen  to attain growth  by hard efforts, similar to what China has exhibited in the last few decades.

An issue in India which China does not have is the democratic structure in the India and the freedom of speech and action enjoyed by the citizens. As a result, every step of the government in India become a matter of debate and counter view and in recent years , several massive projects have been stopped or prevented from operating in India due to agitations and protests. It appears that the country is losing industrial and economic opportunities due to such permissive conditions and many wonder whether India is paying a by price due to it’s democracy.

In such conditions, the multinational companies  and investors from abroad cannot get the needed level  of confidence to operate in India, similar to what they enjoy in China.

With frequent elections and multiple political parties and number of political parties being family controlled development vested interests in India democracy have become a hurdle for India’s progress.

In this context , one cannot but point out that in China , apart from the proactive policies of government of China, people in China responded to the opportunities by exploiting the developing favourable conditions.  The question here is whether Indians can emulate Chinese citizens in such greed for results and achievements.

India has the potentials in multiple ways to achieve the type of progress that China made but it appears that it’s progress would be much lees than the potential level, as the present political structure, attitudinal issues of people and their mind set for exercise freedom at the cost of economic growth are unlikely to see a big change.

Suicides in  IIT Madras — A matter of concern


It is reported that four students of IIT Madras committed suicide in the year 2023, within just four months.  This is a matter of very high concern and needs to be investigated by experts taking a holistic view.  So far, all these suicides have been simply termed as “suicides”  and the matter appears to have been closed. Obviously, there should be a deep underlying cause for such sad events,  particularly since the students are in their teenage or early twenties and that too they study in an elite institution.  At the same time, it has to be noted that such student suicides have also taken place in other IITs in India.

IIT  Madras management does not seem to have come out with any credible explanation so far, for such an increasing number of suicides. The strategy so far adopted by IIT Madras to prevent such suicides appear to be only by way of providing counselling advice,  which may go only halfway.

It is known that studying engineering subjects in depth and understanding the concepts in full require hard work and a certain level of basic intelligence.

It is true that engineering subjects are the same whether taught in IITs or in any other engineering colleges under government or private management. However, when bright students study such subjects,  then their understanding and appreciation of the concepts could be better than the average student. Further, the standards of the faculty members in IITs, most of whom have good exposure in elite institutions in developed countries,  could be better in many cases than the faculty members of other engineering colleges. Therefore, the level and standards of teaching in IITs may be higher than in other engineering colleges.

IITs select students for admission based on competitive entrance examinations at all Indian level and mostly , the students joining IITs have higher level of understanding capability.

The fact is that 64.5% of the seats for admission in IITs come under the reserved category, where the students getting admitted in the reserved category could be scoring fewer grades in the entrance examination compared to the students admitted in the non-reserved category.

Reservation policy

CategoryReserved Percentage of Seats in Each Course
GEN – Economically weaker section (EWS)10%
Person with disability ( PwD )_5% in each category seats

In  studying the difficult engineering subjects  in elite institutions like IITs , the bright students are likely to maintain higher academic standards compared to the students with less level of understanding ability,  as reflected in their lower grades in the entrance examination,  than the students getting admission in non-reserved category. In such circumstances,  it is quite possible that some students could find it difficult to understand the nuances of the subjects and cope with the demand from the faculty members.

While IIT  management and faculty members treat all students in the same manner and provide the facilities to all students without any difference, the understanding ability of the students could certainly be different, particularly when some students get admission under reserved category compared to students who get admission only on merit basis. This scenario may create a feeling of diffidence in some students leading to frustration in their mindset.

Further, all students in IITs have high level of career expectations and many of them get into best of jobs in India or abroad or go abroad for higher studies in prestigious institutions.  While such opportunities happen for bright students with high academic achievements, the other students may not equally get such opportunities. Given the fact that the students are in their teenage or early twenties, students tend to compare each one with others.

All students in IITs know the opportunities ahead of them and would do their level best to reach the best of academic performance. Some students may not be able to reach the level of academic performance they desire to achieve, particularly in comparison with other students due to their lack of understanding capability, which may be lower in some cases. For such students, the fear of not landing the best jobs would be a matter of utmost anxiety.

In such elite institutions like IITs , when some admissions are based on a reservation basis, it is inevitable that the understanding ability of all students will not be at the same level. This is the problem in introducing a reservation policy for admission in elite institutions like IITs, where the faculty members are of a high standard and facilities are modern and adequate and expectations from future employers are high.

The objective of this article is not to discuss the merits or demerits of the reservation policy in educational institutions.

On the other hand, the aim is that there should be a dispassionate analysis as to whether reservation policy has led to such suicides in IITs. If this is so, then some steps would be needed to provide specialized coaching for students getting admitted on the basis of reservation. It is not clear whether this would be practically possible.

Farewell to U.S. dependence policy


by Refaat Badawi

Chinese President Xi Jinping has mentioned on various occasions that the world today is going through profound changes unseen in a century. The world is going through significant changes, which would lead to a rebellion against the current unilateral world order. This would mean leaving the era of dependency on the United States and shifting towards a new world order based on strategic independence, with a focus on the economic and developmental interests of states and peoples.

Many countries met these changes positively and rapidly, as they believe that these changes constitute the opportunity to liberate themselves from the policy of submissiveness to the United States, which places its own interests as a priority and links the wealth of countries to the U.S. dollar to pressure and force them to follow U.S. policies, even if they are destructive. The countries that responded to the changes are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, India, Russia, and China.

“Do you support us or the other axis?” is a question that America and its Western followers have been asking. America was also using a language of threats and intimidation to force other countries to line up behind it and oblige them to trade with the U.S. dollar as a global currency to secure its own interests, without caring about the interests of other countries, and the development of peoples. With that threat and great injustice, America was able to rule the world.

Today, with regional and international changes taking place, economic and developmental interests have become the priority of policies adopted by states.

So the blocs and alliances have now become more economical, technological, and developmental rather than political or military, and we cannot ignore the impact of these changes on other countries’ foreign policies. It is no longer possible to force these countries to take a position in support of America or the West which is against their economic interests.

The circle of non-compliance is expanding. An example is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+. It rebelled against the issue of sanctions by reducing oil production instead of increasing it, which caused American wrath. Another example is Russia’s continuing sale of oil to the world despite America’s sanctions imposed on those who buy oil from Moscow; some European countries even purchase oil directly from Saudi Arabia, which, in turn, buys gas and diesel from Russia at reduced prices, then sells them at high prices, generating huge profits.

The logic for these countries has become very simple: economic and developmental interests are a priority, and they determine the political stance, not the other way around. But, unfortunately, Western countries, especially the United States, seem not to understand this.

What is new about the changes is that despite their non-compliance with Western sanctions and dictates, these countries have not boycotted the United States. Instead, their decisions have become more based on an independent strategy that guarantees the balance of economic interests. The sooner the West, mainly European countries, recognize these changes, they will be able to formulate their strategies based on actual data. However, in practice, the West and America are both far from reality.

It seems that French President Emmanuel Macron decided to adopt a realistic approach after noticing the danger of European dependence on the United States.

On his way back from China, Macron made a statement to French journalists, reported by Politico, saying that Europe must reduce its dependence on the United States, and avoid being drawn into a confrontation with China over the Taiwan question. He also stressed his theory of strategic autonomy for Europe, which is supposed to be adopted by France, to become a third great power, as he puts it.

Macron said that the great danger that Europe faces is that it is stuck in crises that prevent it from building its strategic independence, stressing that the Europeans should not be followers of the United States in crises that Europe has nothing to do with.

Macron pointed out that Europe has increased its dependence on the United States for weapons and energy. Therefore, Europe must now focus on strengthening its economy and defense industries, calling on Europe to reduce its reliance on the dollar outside regional borders.

In an article by French analyst Renaud Girard published by Le Figaro newspaper earlier this month, Girard said that the Americans used their currency as a tool to impose political pressure and blackmail countries to submit them to its interests, which led to a motive for a global movement to overthrow the dollar dominance. Abandoning the dollar is an irreversible process as Washington used its currency as a tool to blackmail other countries, he said.

In an interview with Sky News, the American economist Jeffrey Sachs predicted a dramatic end to the U.S. dollar soon, adding that America will lose the primary weapon of pressure, which it has always used to blackmail countries of the world. He said that the world is heading towards multipolarity and the end of Western hegemony, and the world’s nations need regional integration to achieve economic security and development, as the America-fabricated conflicts are no longer beneficial to anyone.

In conclusion, the U.S. dependence policy is no longer effective, and dealing with the U.S. dollar is no longer mandatory. Instead, it is a policy that is disintegrating. The West must see these changes quickly.

Today’s trend is moving towards organizing a new multilateral world system that depends on economic integration and local currency exchange, similar to what’s happening between Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and India.

Editor’s note: Refaat Badawi is a political analyst and adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Xinhua News Agency.

Trends we cannot ignore?


Continued market volatility has put constant pressure on individuals and businesses, not only in the UK but also worldwide. This strains resources, slows productivity and growth. Fortunately, the growing maturity and prevalence of common sense and balance among other reasons, makes our daily affairs or duties more bearable.

Feeling torn between the desire for more patience and more understanding and the need to figure out details, we see new ways of doing things, coping with reality, According to some, the prevalence of new technology including AI and Machine Learning (ML) have established ways that can help navigate uncertainty while accepting the unique complexities of life today. What do we need to trade in its place?

How do we choose the trends that align best with our needs? How do we develop a short and long term roadmaps, that align our living to evolving trends? How do we prepare the skills and organisational culture, where people and machines seamlessly collaborate? Is this possible or practical?

Technology and Change?

How do we stay ahead of the game by anticipating changes rather than succumbing to them, say ChatGPT, AI, and Automation.

“ChatGPT is a sibling model to instruct GPT which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provides a detailed response”. The first peak of ChatGPT is coming directly to Windows 11- with no browser.

With AI we are told there are deeper ethical and moral concerns – since the AI models have neither?  

Without delving into the “New Tech” suffice to state, we must be weary of where they are leading us?

The Tech sector has seen explosive growth in the past two years. The Pandemic saw a dramatic rise in the hybrid working model as employees left the office to work from home. This saw major firms like Amazon and Facebook hire thousands of workers, doubling their headcounts in a matter of months. Now with a potential recession looming, Tech companies are laying off workers. In the last year more than 70,000 people globally have been laid off by Big Tech Companies?

What has led to this shake up?

Rising inflation and rising interest rates drag on economic growth. Faced with this additional intense pressure on already stretched finances, UK wage growth has remained high in the three months, according to data from the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS).

“Pay and wages strikes” have continued “over the winter of discount,” with the latest Royal College of Nursing members rejecting, the pay offer agreed by their Union. There is talk of a demand of 35% increase, which the Government will hardly consider. Junior Doctors are on strike, but the big question is, “Will there be coordinated strikes” that threaten people’s lives?

Will inflation eat away at pay growth? “Who is the loser?”

When adjusted to inflation “Real Pay” fell by 2.3 %, while “Total Pay” fell 3%. CPI inflation has unexpectedly ticked up to 10.4% in February, after a fall in January 2023.

Economic uncertainty is weighing heavily on the labour market. UK economy has remained largely stagnant since the end of 2022. According to reports, GDP was “flat last month”. Though the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt expects the UK will avoid a recession this year, the IMF’s outlook is far less rosy. Indeed, the IMF expects the UK economy will shrink by 0.3% this year.

A bleak outlook awaits the Conservative Party as expected at the Local Government elections in May, with as many as 1000 Local Council lost.

Sri Lanka: Hadiya Claims to Have Seen Both Sara Alive and Hejaaz in Contact with Zahran

by Our Defence Affairs Correspondent

“Believing in conspiracies is like believing in magic. It’s a way of trying to make sense of the world without having to do the hard work of actually trying to understand it.” – Michael Shermer

Conspiracy theorists who cherry-pick and manipulate facts to fit their narrative are not only spreading misinformation, but they are also jeopardizing the justice system and the fundamentals of the rule of law. They are using half-truths and distorted information to justify their preconceived notions, and in doing so, they are creating a distorted reality that is not based on facts.

This can lead to a dangerous situation where the public’s perception of the truth is undermined, and justice is compromised. If conspiracy theorists are allowed to manipulate information to fit their narrative, the risk is that innocent people can be wrongly accused and punished, while the real perpetrators of a crime can go free. When half-truths and distorted information are allowed to spread unchecked, it can create a climate of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, where people become suspicious of each other, and communities become divided. This can have far-reaching consequences, such as social unrest, violence, and even war.

Therefore, it is crucial that we take a stand against conspiracy theories that seek to undermine the truth, the justice system, and the fundamentals of the rule of law. We must promote a culture of evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking, where the facts are examined carefully, and the truth is sought with objectivity and impartiality. Only by doing so can we ensure that justice is served and that our society is protected from the dangerous consequences of conspiracy theories. A case in point is Hadiya’s statements before law enforcement agencies over Pulastini Mahendran alias Sarah Jasmine and Easter Sunday blasts.

The statements made by Fathima Hadiya, the widow of Zahran Hashim, the ring leader who inspired the IS ideology and detonated himself along with seven other suicide bombers in April 2019, have become more controversial than ever. However, we see the nature of hypocrisy and duplicity of those who are benefiting from her statements.

Hadiya was granted bail by the Kalmunai High Court after being detained for nearly four years. She claims to have seen someone resembling Sara Jasmine, who was recently confirmed dead through proper DNA analysis, alive after the blast in their safe house in Sainthamaruthu Bolivarian village moments before law enforcement agencies raided the place based on information provided by villagers, including the head of the nearby mosque.

However, rationality has been replaced by irrationality; science has been replaced by ignorance, and forthrightness has been overtaken by conspiracy. From political opportunists to those manipulating Christianity, using Sara’s story to deceive the public with their unproved allegations, for them, Sara is part of a grand conspiracy.

True, we can confirm that it was Hadiya who claimed to have seen someone like Sara alive after the massive blast, but Hadiya herself was unconscious for a few hours after the blast. Hadiya and her daughter were rescued because they were in a bathroom adjacent to the kitchen area of the house. The blast occurred in the living area where Sara and others were staying, while two members of the team went outside the house to prevent the army and police who were attempting to raid the house. Anybody with knowledge of explosive materials can come to a reasonable conclusion about the destruction and the possibility of survival.

Our concern is not Sara, but the statements made by Hadiya claiming that Zahran Hashim maintained a close relationship with Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent lawyer who was detained but later released on bail. Hadiya even confirmed in her statement that Zaharan had saved Hejaaz’s name on his mobile. However, strangely, neither religious leaders such as Cyril Gamini Fernando nor NGO activists who often self-proclaim as so-called civil society activists or politicians such as MP Mujibur Rahman one of the top men who mastered in blabbering, say anything about this.

If Hadiya’s statement on Sara is being used grandly, why aren’t they quoting her statement on Hejaaz? We do not have any personal issues with Mr Hejaaz Hizbullah, who managed to internationalize his case against the state apparatus. We understand that this may be opening a can of worms, but what is important is that when the source is the same, why can’t anybody take it whole instead of taking only the pieces that are useful for their version of the story? This shows the duplicity of hypocrites. If Sara is part of a grand conspiracy, then what role did Hejaaz play by maintaining a close relationship with Zahran Hashim and visiting his preaching place in Puttalam, according to Hadiya? Over to you, truth seekers!

Asia’s GDP expected to grow 4.5 pct in 2023: report


The weighted real GDP growth rate of Asia in 2023 is estimated to be 4.5 percent, an increase from 4.2 percent in 2022, according to a report released by the Boao Forum for Asia Tuesday.

As a major engine of the world economy, Asian economies are accelerating the pace in overall economic recovery in 2023, making it a standout performer in view of the global economic slowdown, said the report titled “Asian Economic Outlook and Integration Progress.”

According to the report, China and India would contribute half of the world’s growth this year, citing data from the International Monetary Fund.

Despite a deteriorating global labor market in 2023, the employment situation in Asia, particularly in East Asia, may turn out better than expected, according to the report.

What’s the Best Way Out from the War in Ukraine?


In view of the recent geopolitical upheavals, and particularly the war in Ukraine, it does not make sense (and does not promise much success) to build a new global security architecture based on the logic of a bipolar confrontation for several reasons…

Firstly, a principal prerequisite for success of a confrontational “conflict strategy”—a far-reaching identity of interests with politically aligned conceptions—is not given in the Western, democratic camp.

As long as the USA is deeply divided, it is difficult for the European partners to fully rely on it. And despite the rapid joint reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war of aggression, the cohesion of the EU is by no means assured.

Differing levels of concern and different opinions as to what action to take with regard to economic consequences of the war—as well as the large-scale energy crisis in Europe illustrate the potential for conflict rather than agreement within Europe.

Secondly, a lasting “conflict strategy” is inherently dangerous because of its potential for military escalation. Even the use of nuclear weapons has become a real risk as a result of Putin’s threats and increasing American involvement in the conflict.

And finally, coping with climate change (which will pose an existential threat to many people) and significantly reducing global poverty (which will increase in the coming years as a result of climate change and war) are much more difficult problems to solve in a confrontational bipolar environment.

Cornerstones of a Modern Policy of Détente

Instead of global confrontation (now often said to be underway between the world’s democracies and authoritarian regimes), it is important to develop an alternative international policy that, on the one hand, counters the new military threats, and on the other hand, enables a new quality of global cooperation to combat climate change, global poverty and the expected large-scale famines.

The détente policy of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr is by no means outdated in this context. On the contrary, it offers important lessons learned for the new policy of global cooperation that needs to be developed.

The policy of détente which overcame a system of confrontation was never based on a naïve belief—such as those embedded in Democratic Peace Theory—that mutual benefits of economic cooperation would create interdependencies that would make it pointless for the states involved to wage wars against one another.

The policy of detente was not based on a belief in the peaceful nature of the Soviet Union. Rather, détente required a realistic picture of the interests of the states involved.

At the same time, it was anchored in an age of nuclear weapons, and the assessment, because of that, that a war between the Communist and Democratic systems could have no winner and must be prevented at all costs.

This was linked to efforts to enshrine the maintenance of the territorial integrity of all states in international law. The strength of the law would replace the ancient view that, as Thucydides wrote, “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

International organizations such as the UN or the OSCE were given central importance. Militarily, the policy of détente was based on sufficient deterrence capabilities and the need for mutual arms control and disarmament agreement to be binding.

This was based on the realization that security can only be guaranteed in the long term if we work with rather than against each-other, as Bahr noted in the Palme Report 1982: ‘Doctrine of Common Security.’

Economic cooperation between the two blocs, which intensified over time, served to strengthen the mutual benefits of working together. The policy of détente did not develop its effectiveness overnight, but was able to assert itself in a lengthy diplomatic process.

Incidentally, the starting point was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the result of a previous phase of confrontational politics between the USA and the Soviet Union, and which led the world to the nuclear abyss. These elements were joined in the 1980s by the concept of comprehensive security. This was based on the simple realization that lasting peace can only be achieved if important causes of conflict such as environmental damage and hunger are fought at the same time.

Certainly, in today’s multipolar world, it will be more difficult to conceive a modern policy of detente in detail. In addition, there are no undisputed hegemonic powers in their respective camps today; on the contrary, there is a dispute over global hegemony between the USA and China.

But solving these conflicts requires taking into account the changes of the international community in the last few decades, even if these are not yet underpinned by adequate political implementation strategies.

With the adoption of the Paris climate agreement, the international community recognized that climate change can only be stopped if all states give climate protection a top priority. And the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, which are repeatedly emphasized, also show that development must benefit everyone.

Current Fields of Action

In relation to the current situation, this results in the following fields of action from my point of view:

Certainly, military, political and economic support for Ukraine will have to continue. However, it must be ensured that neither the EU states nor NATO become a war party.

That sets limits on arms deliveries.

It is also important that parallel diplomatic initiatives are repeatedly taken in order to avoid devastating escalations of the war, to make humanitarian aid possible and to achieve a ceasefire as a starting point for peace negotiations. The negotiations on grain exports and the efforts to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia show that diplomacy can be successful.

And at the last UN General Assembly in December, important countries in the world community such as China and India spoke out in favor of diplomatic initiatives to end the war.

The decision to significantly improve the defense capabilities of the European nations is another step in the right direction.

However, this must not be the beginning of a permanent spiral of military rearmament. Abstract stipulations that the defense budget of the NATO countries should permanently be two percent of GDP are nonsense, especially since the European NATO countries already spend three times as much money on armaments as Russia.

Attempts that the European states should also engage militarily in the Indo-Pacific region should also be rejected.

And efforts must be stepped up today to reach international agreements on disarmament and arms control both in Europe and globally.

All steps in this context should be taken in close consultation within the EU.

It is self-evident that Germany, as the largest and economically strongest EU member state, is of particular importance. Above all, however, this means that Germany must take the initiative.

However, this should not be confused with a German leadership role that some people are calling for. In the EU, for the foreseeable future there cannot and will not be leading countries on the one hand and being-led countries on the other.

The EU must not limit its engagement to the European continent. As a major civil and economic power, the EU is destined to play a prominent role in creating a multilateral order of justice that should focus on combating climate change and combating poverty and famine worldwide.

In light of the serious destabilization caused by the Russian war of aggression, such a modern policy of detente cannot in the short term lead to a new, stable peace order, neither in Europe nor globally.

Detente requires a systematic step-by-step, while possible setbacks will have to be coped with by efforts to de-escalate and solve the conflict even if there are no blueprints for steps to be taken. However, these steps should apply the lessons learned from détente rather than pursuing a policy of confrontation that may look simpler but would ultimately be devastating.

This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA).

Sabotage of Nord Stream won’t go unpunished

Next Monday, an uneasy anniversary arrives. It will be 20 years since the invasion of Iraq by the United States. Britain was a pillar of the US-led ‘coalition of the willing.’ The Guardian columnist John Harris wrote on Sunday that it was “the greatest political and humanitarian disaster the UK had been involved in since the second world war… when the supposed political centre ground suddenly lurched somewhere reckless and catastrophic.” 

The Iraq War caused endless violence and huge levels of death. Ironically, it was Seymour Hersh who exposed that horrific chronicle of torture in the Abu Ghraib by the US troops that shocked the world.

Harris made a debatable point that Iraq War had “profound effects” on the UK. He listed, amongst them, “a sense that politics and power had lurched away from the public, and left a huge and very uneasy gap.” Maybe he is right, but for the wrong reasons. As time passed, Iraq War made Britain’s party politics look farcical.

Britain today has a UniParty — the party of government, which seems to consist of the same people as the party of the opposition. Britain has reached where the US has been for quite some time  — a cabal of political elites hijacking the country, operating its own agenda, regardless of which political party is formally in power — and the people at large having lost control of their government. That is why crimes like Abu Ghraib and Nord Stream go unpunished.

On March 3, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had a top secret one-on-one with Biden in the Oval Office in what appears to have been an attempt, among other things, to reach a consensus on how to handle Hersh’s explosive report on the sabotage of Nord Stream. (Read my blog Ukraine: A war to end all wars in Europe.)

Look at the sequence of events: Four days after Scholz met Biden, New York Times carried a sensational media leak regarding Nord Stream, attributing the sabotage to a “pro-Ukrainian group” consisting of five men and one woman who used a yacht rented in Poland. 

The vessel was later found by German investigators — also a media leak in Berlin — and turned out to be the Andromeda, a Bavaria C50 sailing boat. The group reportedly embarked on their mission from Rostock on September 6, 2022. The equipment for the secret operation was allegedly transported to the port in a truck. 

Germany’s Die Zeit backed the Times narrative in real time. But the narrative itself is riddled with discrepancies. Questions are galore: How could a 15-meter chartered yacht have possibly carried an estimated 1,500-2,000 kilograms of explosives required for the sabotage? How could Andromeda, which doesn’t have a crane, hoist  such massive quantities of explosives safely into the water? 

A Russian analysis points out that “the site of the explosion, the Baltic Sea, is about 80 meters deep, which requires special diving equipment, including air tanks with a helium-oxygen mixture and pure oxygen. All in all, one would need 30 litres of a special gas mixture for one dive alone, which means there must have been dozens of bottles on board. In addition, there should have been a decompression chamber for the divers, something that the yacht is not fit for. Furthermore, it would have taken several dives and a few days to lay the explosives on the pipelines. It’s hard to imagine that these activities would have gone completely unnoticed.” 

The Times news desk evidently didn’t do any fact check. But on March 10, the chair of the Bundestag’s intelligence oversight committee, Konstantin von Notz from the Green Party, told Die Zeit that what happened was likely a “state-backed act of terrorism” and was likely conducted by a “state or quasi-state actor.” 

Scholz is skating on thin ice. He heads a coalition of Atlanticists. But Germany is not yet a UniParty country. Besides, unlike in the US or the UK, in the German political system, the public prosecutor who is investigating the Nord Stream sabotage is an autonomous entity who can’t be ordered around by politicians in power.  

The German defence minister Boris Pistorius’ reaction to the Times report shows it — that Germans don’t yet know whether this was a Ukrainian commando that acted with the knowledge of the Ukrainian government, a pro-Ukrainian group that acted without their knowledge, or whether it might have been a false flag operation. Berlin apparently doesn’t exclude official Ukrainian involvement. 

Scapegoating comes handy for Washington in such situations as an exit strategy. A report in Politico on Sunday distanced the Biden Administration from the Ukrainian regime of Zelensky, and Nord Stream sabotage is mentioned there as one of three reasons for the “growing differences behind the scenes” between Washington and Kiev. 

For the present, though, there seems to be a tacit understanding between Biden and Scholz that they will not tear each other up over this matter. As for Zelensky, he probably has no option but to play the role of a scapegoat when necessary.

By mentioning Nord Stream as a matter of discord between Washington and Kiev, the Politico report seems to hint to Zelensky that this is a high stakes game affecting transatlantic unity and scapegoat may become necessary. 

Meanwhile, instead of pointing finger at Washington, the Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev  was non-committal  on Sunday, saying, “I emphasise that any accusations that are not supported by the results of an impartial investigation cannot be trusted. Therefore, Moscow insists on an objective investigation with the participation of Russia and other interested countries. Without this, voicing one-sided subjective versions of the terrorist attack does not explain anything.” 

Patrushev has virtually challenged the Biden-Scholz tandem. To be sure, an impartial investigation will have political consequences. For one thing, German public opinion is relatively fickle on the issue of weapons deliveries. Second, Scholz cannot afford a perception that he is in collusion with Biden.

Of course, if it is established that a Ukrainian commando unit or an American outfit was responsible for the sabotage, the political consequences will be massive. German public may demand stoppage of arms supplies to Ukraine. On the other hand, if the US is responsible, the current renaissance in German-American ties will simply wither away.

Scholz is yet to understand that Transatlanticism is not the defining characteristic of the Democratic Party. His fate may turn out to be the same as Tony Blair’s. Harris wrote that the effects of Blair’s deceptions rippled on all the way to Brexit.

To quote him, “Iraq hideously sullied Blair and [Gordon] Brown’s domestic record and marked the end of the New Labour vision of Britain as a young, confident country. It reduced the fantasies of “liberal interventionism” to ash, and deepened the disaffection and unease that would lead to our exit from Europe.”

Handelsblatt newspaper in a report last Thursday pointed out that the investigation on Nord Stream may play politically into the hands of the far-left and the far-right in German politics. Can Scholz survive the deception over Nord Stream sabotage? If Ukraine is implicated, there is no going back for Germany.

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