The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most bizarre and pathological episodes of the 1992-96 siege


Six-Point Charter: The Foundation Stone of Bangladesh


An event that marks a unique or significant historical change of course or one on which important developments depend, the six-point demand is a milestone in the history of Bangladesh.

The movement, led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, took place in the-then East Pakistan and called for greater autonomy for the region. The movement aimed to address the six demands put forward by a coalition of Bengali nationalist political parties in 1966, with the goal of ending the exploitation of East Pakistan by the rulers of West Pakistan. It is considered a turning point on the road to Bangladesh’s independence.

After the partition of India, the new state of Pakistan was formed. The majority of its population resided in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh), and exports from East Pakistan, such as jute, constituted a significant portion of Pakistan’s export income. However, East Pakistanis did not feel they had a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan.

Facing continuous regional discrimination, East Pakistan found itself in a critical situation. Consequently, economists, intellectuals, and politicians from East Pakistan started raising questions about this discrimination, giving rise to the historic six-point movement.

The six historical points are as follows:

The Constitution should provide for a true federation of Pakistan based on the Lahore Resolution, with a parliamentary form of government where the legislature is directly elected through universal adult franchise.

The federal government should only handle two subjects: defense and foreign affairs. All other residual subjects should be vested in the federating states.

Two separate, freely convertible currencies for the two wings of Pakistan should be introduced. If this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the entire country, but effective constitutional provisions must be introduced to prevent capital flight from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. Additionally, a separate banking reserve should be established, and separate fiscal and monetary policies should be adopted for East Pakistan.

The power of taxation and revenue collection should be vested in the federating units, with no such power for the federal center. The federation should receive a share of the state taxes to cover its expenditures.

Two separate accounts should be maintained for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings. The foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met equally by the two wings or according to a fixed ratio. Indigenous products should move freely between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.

East Pakistan should have a separate military or paramilitary force, and the Navy headquarters should be located in East Pakistan.

The proposal was rejected by politicians from West Pakistan and non-Awami League politicians from East Pakistan. It was also rejected by the President of All Pakistan Awami League, Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan, as well as the National Awami Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, and Nizam-i-Islam. However, the movement garnered strong support from the population of the-then East Pakistan.

The Beginning of the Six-Point Demands

Mujib, who would later become Bangabandhu, was placed in detention under the Defense of Pakistan Rules on May 8, 1966. The reason for his detention was not hard to understand: Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan, made it clear that those advocating for the Six Points would be dealt with using force.

Ayub Khan was not the only one who saw the Six Points as a threat to Pakistan’s unity. His soon-to-be foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, challenged Mujib to a public debate on the Six Points in Dhaka’s Paltan Maidan. Tajuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister, accepted the challenge on Mujib’s behalf. However, Bhutto did not show up for the debate.

The leaders of opposition parties from West Pakistan held a national convention in Lahore on February 6, 1966, to assess the post-Tashkent political trend. Bangabandhu and the top leaders of Awami League arrived in Lahore on February 4, and the following day, he presented the Six-point charter of demands to the subject committee as the demands of the people of East Pakistan. He exerted pressure to include his proposal in the conference’s agenda. However, the subject committee rejected Bangabandhu’s proposal.

The newspapers in West Pakistan published reports on the Six-point Program, projecting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a separatist. Consequently, Sheikh Mujib withdrew from the conference. On February 21, 1966, the Six-point Program, along with a proposal for a movement to realize the demands, was presented at a meeting of the Awami League’s working committee and was unanimously carried out.

Why the Six-Point Program is called the “Charter of Freedom for the Bengali Nation”?
From 1947 to 1971, a historic period for East Pakistan, numerous painful events took place in this region—some to forget and some to remember and learn from. The six-point movement was one such event to remember.

The points were clear, easy to understand, and, most importantly, they truly reflected the sentiments of the Bengalis. It was the first time a Bengali demanded economic and political rights and national security. However, the response from West Pakistan was painful and humiliating, confirming the belief that East Pakistan was treated as a colony by West Pakistan.

June 7, 1966, is a red-letter day in the history of the freedom movement of the people of Bangladesh. On this historic day, the resilient people of the country made a firm and solemn vow to achieve self-determination under the able and dynamic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Hence, this day holds great political significance. It was on this day that blood was shed by our people as they demanded self-rule through the famous Charter of Six-point Demands, which ultimately became the Magna Carta of all movements originating from Bangladesh. Therefore, the importance and significance of this historic day cannot be overstated.

If we trace the history of our freedom struggle, which began a long time ago, we will observe that Bangabandhu, as part of his long-term plan to lead his people gradually and systematically to the path of emancipation, presented his historic Six-point Program to the nation at a national conference of leaders from all political parties in Lahore on February 16, 1966. This program disrupted the schemes of exploitation planned by the ruling clique in Islamabad and caused a violent storm in the political arena of the-then Pakistan.

The former Pakistani government made every effort to suppress the demand for self-determination raised by the 75 million people at that time, as laid down in the Magna Carta of Bangabandhu. As a result of the Six-point Program, Bangabandhu and his followers were imprisoned on May 8, 1966. The arrest of Bangabandhu and his followers was vehemently condemned by the people, and protests in the form of meetings, rallies, and processions resonated throughout Bangladesh, shaking the distant capital in Rawalpindi.

On May 20, the Awami League Working Committee decided to organize a protest meeting on June 7, 1966, condemning the repression and demanding the release of Bangabandhu and other leaders. Thus, the strike on June 7 was observed. The day began with factories closed, transportation halted, and business houses shut down. People expressed their indignation against the oppressors and their resolute support for the leadership of Bangabandhu by coming out on the streets, closing their establishments, offices, and shops. Dhaka became a city of processions and slogans, with workers and students peacefully taking to the streets. However, the ruling clique could not tolerate the chanting of slogans by people who had made a sacred vow to realize their right to self-determination. They responded with violence, killing scores of people, including Monu Mia in Dhaka and Narayanganj. The people of Bangladesh continued to raise their slogans for independence, shedding their blood in the process.

But the story did not end there; the melody lingered on. Every glory has a price to pay, and the Bengalis paid a high price for their freedom. However, the great Liberation War brought the nation together. It was a moment of truth for the Bengalis as they united to fight the Pakistani aggressors. In the eyes of the Pakistani forces, they were no longer just “little brown people”; instead, they fought back and achieved victory.

“Father of the Nation” is an honorific bestowed upon individuals who are considered instrumental in the establishment of a country or nation. They play a significant role in liberating their nation from colonial or other occupations. Some notable examples include George Washington for the United States, Peter I for Russia, Sun Yat-sen for China, Sir Henry Parkes for Australia, Miguel Hidalgo for Mexico, Sam Nujoma for Namibia, William the Silent for the Netherlands, Einar Gerhardsen for Norway, Julius Nyerere for Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta for Kenya, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes for Cuba, Mustafa Kemal for Turkey, Sukarno for Indonesia, Tunku Abdul Rahman for Malaysia, Mahatma Gandhi for India, Don Stephen Senanayake for Sri Lanka, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah for Pakistan. Similarly, Bangabandhu Mujib is recognized as the Father of the Bangladesh nation.

Finally, on December 16, 1971, Bangladesh was born after a bloody war with Pakistan’s oppressive military regime.

Bangabandhu was a remarkable statesman and the undisputed Father of independent Bangladesh.

“American leadership” in Asia-Pacific is American hegemony in disguise


 America has found it more difficult than ever to cover up its hidden agenda when peddling the so-called “Indo-Pacific strategy” to Asia-Pacific countries at the just-concluded 20th Shangri-La Dialogue.

While making high-sounding claims about “promoting peace, prosperity and progress in the Asia-Pacific through the power of partnership,” the United States is virtually stoking division, instigating confrontation and undermining peace in the region.

“American leadership” is in fact American hegemony in disguise.

Essentially, “American leadership” is dominated by a Cold War mentality and an “America First” doctrine regardless of the interests of its allies, mainly in the form of “coercive diplomacy.”

In terms of politics and the military, it has never stopped forming blocs by coercing others into taking sides, pushing for a military arms race among Asia-Pacific countries to benefit only itself.

Economically, it has repeatedly used the U.S. dollar’s global supremacy to export its own crises to emerging markets and developing countries in the region, letting the latter bear the brunt.

Moreover, to blunt China’s influence in the region, the United States and its allies have been stepping up efforts to exploit the concept of “national security”, aiming to weaken China’s connections with non-aligned emerging economies.

Indeed, we could not agree more with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s saying in his speech during the event that “this region’s security and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.” Ironically, the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific are put under threat by the United States itself.

Washington’s actions in the region do not match its words. On the one hand, the United States has anchored its “Indo-Pacific strategy” in openness and respect for sovereignty. On the other hand, it rushed to muster Cold-War style groupings such as the AUKUS deal and Quad alliance.

Take the Taiwan question, which is at the very heart of China’s core interests and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations. On various occasions, U.S. President Joe Biden and many other senior officials of his administration have publicly pledged to stay committed to the one-China policy and not to support “Taiwan independence.”

But Washington is bent on stirring up tensions across the Taiwan Straits, not least by sending warships and fighter jets, boosting arms sales, ganging up with other countries to intervene in the Taiwan issue, strengthening the so-called “official exchanges” and, most recently, sailing through the Straits.

These deliberate provocations are turning the region into a dangerous flashpoint.

The U.S. and “Taiwan independence” separatists relying on external forces are indeed the real factors that exacerbate tensions and cause changes in the status quo.

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, the United States has been sending warships and military aircraft, as well as intensifying its military presence, stoking tensions in the region.

Beijing, as always, values the development of China-U.S. military relations, and military exchanges between the two sides have not been interrupted. But if the United States appeals for communication while undermining China’s interests, and calls for crisis management while continuing its provocations, any talk for the sake of talk is of little use for bilateral relations.

Peace and development have become the most valuable global public goods. The Asia-Pacific has broken through havoc caused by war and financial chaos, and achieved development in recent decades. As such, when the world is facing multiple crises rarely seen in history, people in the region understand well that a path of peaceful development, featuring solidarity and win-win cooperation, fits the interests of all.

Anna Malindog-Uy, vice president of the Manila-based think tank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Institute, pointed out that Asia-Pacific countries can promote peace and security in their own way, especially “in resolving conflicts of interest and differences.”

Unlike the “Indo-Pacific strategy” full of geopolitical calculations, the China-proposed Global Security Initiative calls for a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, where no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others.

Clearly, the Asia-Pacific cannot afford to lose peace and development to geopolitical competition or bloc confrontation. Stuck in a hegemonic mentality, the “Indo-Pacific strategy” featuring confrontation over dialogue, alliances over partnerships, and zero-sum over win-win is doomed to fail. 

From Idealism to Ineffectiveness: Assessing the Performance of Human Rights NGOs


Most of the human rights organizations may appear to be upstanding global citizens on paper, their practical impact can be questioned, labeling them as toothless tigers. Let’s examine their behavior:

During the upcoming national elections in Bangladesh, the people want a festive atmosphere that allows voters to freely choose their preferred candidate. However, it is highly offensive to see foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka interfering in Bangladesh’s election process while their own countries have significant faults in various affairs, including their own election processes. When these diplomats attempt to prescribe solutions for our national matters, they come across as unjust rogues.

Although the next parliamentary elections are still more than a year away, foreign diplomats are already involving themselves in Bangladesh’s election process, which is unacceptable. The government does not appreciate their interference, criticism, or opinions on the election process and internal affairs of the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already instructed foreign diplomats working in Bangladesh to refrain from such actions. Additionally, media representatives should avoid asking foreign diplomats about our election process.

Regrettably, these international human rights organizations and their local counterparts have chosen to remain silent regarding the blatant and aggressive meddling of powerful nations like the United States in the domestic affairs of Bangladesh, an independent and sovereign country. This silence is deeply regrettable.

Moreover, the international non-governmental human rights organizations have failed to condemn the disgraceful decision of the White House administration to stop funding the World Health Organization (WHO) on flimsy grounds, violating international norms. Even the WHO itself has not addressed this issue yet.

In most cases, these organizations deliberately choose to remain silent on blatant violations of international rules by the American government and its allied authorities in weaker nations. It appears that they prioritize the interests of powerful states, displaying a double standard in their actions towards less powerful countries. They must strive to be more independent, resourceful, and courageous in fulfilling their responsibilities without succumbing to the influence of major powers or relying solely on their financial resources. Their work should not be compromised, and they should speak up against egregious and systemic human rights violations, especially those committed by the United States and its allies.

Millions of people have suffered crimes against humanity perpetrated by these rogue states, particularly the United States. It seems as though there is an unwritten agreement between these international non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs) and powerful states such as the United States, where they refrain from speaking critically about them and their accomplice states.

Numerous human rights abuses occur in countries around the world, imposed in the form of abrasive sanctions to stifle nations and their people from asserting their rights. These NGOs remain silent when drone fighter planes strike weaker nations, resulting in the destruction of human lives and vital infrastructure for the sake of self-interest. In such situations, these NGOs hide their faces and fail to take bold steps to stop the oppressors. This raises the question of their effectiveness.

Furthermore, some global organizations have faced criticism for their inability to address the problems they were designed to tackle. The United Nations, for instance, has failed to compel Israel to adhere to its numerous resolutions, some of which were submitted by the UN Security Council. Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also been deemed ineffective. The critical situation in Myanmar is an opportunity for the OIC to demonstrate its capabilities. As a body consisting of 57 nations, it is essential for its bureaucrats to take serious action rather than issuing insignificant press releases.

While human rights and democracy are not synonymous, the global human rights regime should be based on the understanding that democratic governance provides the best foundation for durable human rights protection. Multilateral institutions should align their policies with the promotion of democracy as the fundamental principle. Institutions like the United Nations Development Programme should prioritize good governance and democracy in their initiatives. Human rights not only benefit from good governance but also thrive in democratic environments, both horizontally among states and vertically through the establishment of institutionalized frameworks within countries and societies.

Global economic institutions also have the potential to promote and protect human rights if there is sufficient political will. These institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and regional development banks, should extend their work on anti-corruption and good governance to ensure equal access to legal rights for all groups. By strengthening judicial institutions and fostering civil society participation, these efforts can enhance productivity and prosperity in developing nations. Similarly, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its member states should encourage the elimination of barriers to freedom of information to facilitate market growth.

There is no doubt that the number of human rights non-governmental organizations has increased significantly in the sixty years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated by the United Nations. These NGOs proudly claim to play a critical role in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. However, in reality, their impact is questionable.

The international human rights law arena still lacks a consensus on the definition and categorization of human rights NGOs. Nevertheless, all stakeholders agree that these organizations should protect internationally recognized human rights at various levels. Unfortunately, their failures are evident.

Successful and effective human rights NGOs should possess certain attributes and should self-regulate, possibly by adhering to NGO Codes of Conduct, to overcome internal and external challenges. It requires the concerted efforts of all relevant stakeholders to ensure that human rights NGOs fulfill their mandate of protecting human rights in all countries, without being influenced by powerful states that may engage in harmful actions.

The achievements and effectiveness of successful human rights NGOs should serve as models for all advocates and defenders of human rights, who often face significant sacrifices in their endeavors to improve the human experience.

In retrospect, the human rights treaties established after World War II were not just acts of idealism but also carried elements of hubris. They can be likened to the civilizing efforts of Western governments and missionary groups in the 19th century, which did little good for native populations while entangling European powers in the affairs of countries they did not understand. It is high time for a more proactive and pragmatic approach.

Addressing the potential for nuclear warfare is an issue that remains relevant in today’s globalized world. Initiatives such as The Nuclear World Project, led by Robert Frye, aim to create awareness of the dangers posed by nuclear proliferation and facilitate dialogue on resolution options. International NGOs should play an active role in these efforts, but their response has been insufficient.

Human rights provide an aspirational roadmap for decision-making and balancing trade-offs. This framework is crucial when dealing with disruptive and potentially dangerous forces that present complex challenges. However, it seems that organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch fail to effectively address issues involving superpowers like the United States and its influential allied states.

The contemporary international human rights framework should be enduring and evolving. It can continue to emphasize our shared humanity, provide a moral compass, and instill determination and purpose in the face of daunting odds faced by weaker nations against mighty powers.

Unfortunately, international human rights organizations or NGOs often remain toothless tigers. They require significant improvements and reforms to fulfill their obligations effectively.

Afghan orphans grieve families killed in U.S.-led war


Asked “what do you want to do in the future?” most kids from an orphanage in Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul would answer “I want to be a doctor” without hesitation, as their loved ones were killed in wars and many relatives were injured with lifelong handicaps.

“I lost my father 11 years ago. My earnest desire is for my father to be alive today. My father was a kind and nice man,” 12-year-old Sibghatullah whispered.

Originally from the northern Takhar province and currently living in Kabul, the teenage boy spoke with sorrow that the death of his father had taken everything from his family.

The U.S.-led forces, during their 20-year presence in Afghanistan which ended in August 2021, reportedly killed numerous Afghan civilians and Sibghatullah’s father was one of the victims.

“When I see other boys with fathers, I wish I had my father here as well,” he said regrettably.

Sibghatullah is just feeling deep grief over his late father, while International Children’s Day is celebrated throughout the world to promote children’s rights.

Nevertheless, countless children, mostly orphaned ones in war-torn and poverty-stricken Afghanistan, have been deprived of their rights to education and are working on the streets to earn a livelihood for their impoverished families.

“I go to sell shopping bags every day on the streets, if earn some money, I bring naan, Afghan traditional flat bread, home,” an orphaned Afghan boy Nawid, who also lost his father during the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, told Xinhua.

Expressing similar grief, another Afghan teenager Shahab, 14, from the eastern Laghman province, muttered that his life was destroyed after his father was killed a few years ago.

“One day my father and I were walking outside home but suddenly we heard Kalashnikov gunshots and we were both hit. He died and I lost myself and didn’t remember much more about the incident,” Shahab recalled with grief.

Children are the most vulnerable victims of wars. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), between 2009 and 2018, armed conflicts killed nearly 6,500 children and injured close to 15,000 others.

Shahab, living and attending school in Kabul, dreams of becoming a medical doctor in the future. “My father’s dream for me was to become a doctor in the future. I am trying to realize his dream, which is also mine now,” he told Xinhua.

Children like the kids at this orphanage might be the luckier ones compared to those curling up on the streets, unattended by any family member.

More than 900,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since 2021, the vast majority of whom are women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

“My father took care of me, but unfortunately because of the war, I failed to take care of him and now he is dead. My father was a hero,” Shahab said.

Cubans striving to boost economic recovery amid U.S. embargo


 Damarys Ruiz, a state employee from Cuba’s capital Havana, expects that the government’s strategy to boost the economy can bring prosperity to her country.

The 50-year-old, who works in the field of commerce, told Xinhua that state companies can very much contribute to improving Cuba’s economic situation after the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus.

“We are opening the country to foreign investment and a monetary overhaul is underway,” she said. “I feel we are moving on the right track.”

According to official statistics, the state sector in Cuba provides more than 80 percent of the country’s GDP.

In addition, roughly 8,000 small and medium-sized enterprises have been approved on the island since September 2021, the Cuban Ministry of Economy and Planning said in its latest update.

Adriel Perez, who works for a private mobile repair shop in the district of Playa in Havana, said local entrepreneurs can make the Cuban economy more dynamic.

“The private sector is now permitted to import, which is highly beneficial for the quality of service we offer the population,” he said.

The Cuban government has initiated various measures to recover the economy, amid the intensification of the six-decade-long U.S. embargo, which has cost the Caribbean nation more than 150 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister of Economy Alejandro Gil said that at present 285 companies are reporting losses. As inflation becomes increasingly severe and complex, he called for increasing production in the food sector, where inflation has the greatest impact.

A significant part of hard currencies has been invested in reactivating agricultural and electronic industries as well as in the imports of rice, pork meat and care products, he told the parliament recently, adding the government continues to implement a package of 63 measures approved in April 2021 to spur national food production.

Meanwhile, Cuba has welcomed over 1.2 million tourists so far in 2023, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Taxi driver Raul Diaz said he believes his country can overcome the obstacles posed by the U.S. embargo.

“We need to continue to work hard, but a better economy is possible,” he said. “We are making a huge effort to improve our quality of life. The solution depends on us.”

The Cuban government has projected a 3-percent GDP growth in 2023.

China takes leadership role in Central Asia


One of the pleasures of the post-Cold War strategic discourses is that geopolitics is back with a bang. Earlier, the former Soviet Union and Communist China used to be in denial mode, as geopolitics didn’t fit into their Marxist-Leninist lens — although, arguably, Marx might have adapted himself a long time ago already. 

The China-Central Asia Summit, which took place recently in Xi’an on May 18-19 was every bit a geopolitical event as much as the G7 summit in Hiroshima that it overlapped. The symbolism was profound. China and Russia were the elephants in the room for both summits but the Xi’an summit distinguished itself as an inclusive affair, whereas, the G7 event was, regrettably, an exclusive gathering of wealthy countries of the western world dripping with cold war-era animosities, and it didn’t hide its intentions even in its choice of “special invitees” — one ASEAN country; two BRICS countries; one tiny African state; a Pacific island etc. — borne out of the old colonial mindset of “divide and rule.” 

The biggest difference was that the Xi’an summit was substantive and focused on a positive agenda that is quantifiable, while the Hiroshima summit was largely prescriptive and partly declarative and only marginally tangible. This was because the China-Central Asia summit took place on native soil while the G7 has no habitation and name in Asia except that one of the seven member countries is of Asian origin and the summit itself was a thinly-veiled attempt to insert the alien Western agenda into the Asian setting. In fact, the criterion for selecting the special invitees was itself based on the credentials of those chosen few to perform potentially as a fifth column for western interests in an Asian Century.    

The China-Central Asia Summit was motivated by the growing realisation that the countries of the Eurasian region must play a proactive role in the common task of pushing back the United States, the driving force of the G7, which they perceive to be attempting to destabilise the common neighbourhood of Russia and China in Central Asia. Simply put, the Xi’an summit tacitly signalled that Russia and China are unitedly circling the wagons for a common purpose — to borrow an idiom which was employed by the Americans in the 19th century to describe a defensive manoeuvre. 

From a historical perspective, it is for the first time ever that Russia and China are explicitly joining hands to stabilise the Central Asian region — a momentous happening by itself — with Beijing assuming a leadership role, given Russia’s preoccupations in Ukraine. This paradigm shift belies the western propaganda that Russian and Chinese interests collide in the Central Asian region. There is a strategic convergence between Moscow and Beijing that stability in Central Asian region, which is vital for both capitals in their own interests, is best achieved through ensuring security, boosting economic development or international political backing. 

A well-known Russian think tanker at the Kremlin-funded Valdai Club in Moscow, Timofei Bordachev wrote in Global Times in the run-up to the Xi’an summit: “China and Russia are equally interested in the stability of Central Asia simply because they are directly neighbouring most of the states located in this part of Eurasia. It is as simple as the fact that you would not put on fire your neighbor’s house in order to hurt another neighbor. But if a certain power is located thousands of miles away from the common neighbourhood of Russia and China in Central Asia, it may well be betting on destabilising that region.

“The common task of China and Russia is to prevent this and make their friends and neighbours in Central Asia stable and relatively prosperous in today’s turbulent times… Whoever says that China’s and Russia’s interests in Central Asia may conflict with each other is not a friend of China, Russia or the countries of the region themselves.”

Equally, there is a consensus among the five Central Asian states to work together in a “5+1” format, which means that all crucial decisions and initiatives will be coordinated with all Central Asian states at the same time. On their part, the Central Asian partners recognise that the overall economic development of their region could get better if they strengthen their cooperation with China. Russia has played a key role here to encourage the Central Asian states to move in such a direction and play a proactive role. This itself is a marked departure as the five “Stans” have not always been able to work together, opting instead to engage with the biggest global players individually. 

The participants of the Xi’an summit, which Chinese President Xi Jinping who hosted the event called a “new era” in his country’s relations with the region, agreed to create a mechanism for communication between the heads of post-Soviet states of Central Asia and China. The meetings will be held alternately every two years in the format of Central Asia – China. The next meeting of the six leaders is scheduled for 2025 in Kazakhstan. The Xi’an Declaration released after the summit includes 15 points, divided into several blocks of issues: security, logistics, trade and economic cooperation, humanitarian cooperation and ecology. 

What emerges is that Beijing’s interest lies primarily in security considerations against the backdrop of the activities of extremist groups such as the Islamic State (which continues to get covert support from the US) that are operating out of Afghanistan. China’s thesis is that security is best strengthened through economic development and for that reason, therefore, the region is important from the point of view of economic cooperation and regional development — although in aggregate terms, Central Asian economic resources are nowhere near sufficient for meeting China’s needs. 

Suffice to say, terrorist threats emanating from the region, posing threat to Xinjiang, are China’s main concern and Beijing is willing to openly invest its resources in the security of the region and take part in the training of the anti–terrorist forces of the Central Asian states. Geographically, three out of the five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, share borders with China. As for Russia, it has long regarded the region as its traditional sphere of influence and a strategic buffer zone, and thus prioritised the security of its southern border. Therefore, a safe and secure Central Asia aligns with China and Russia’s respective national interests. 

In the context of the Ukraine crisis, Central Asia has emerged as a frontline for the US strategy to contain and weaken Russia. However, although Central Asian countries have adopted a neutral stance on the Ukraine situation, Russia’s influence in the region remains strong and is unlikely to be largely disrupted. Three key factors are at work here. First, Russia is seen as the provider of security and Russia’s defence capabilities continue to play a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region. Second, Central Asian states heavily depend on Russia in regard of labor migration, market access, transportation, and energy resources, and no other outside power foots the bill. Third, do not underestimate that the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union continues to systematically build up regional economic integration. 

The Xi’an Declaration talks about resisting religious extremism and attempts by external forces to impose their own rules on the region. President Xi said at the summit that Beijing is ready to help strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies and armed forces of the regional states, and promised to “support their independent efforts to ensure regional security and fight terrorism, as well as work with them to strengthen cybersecurity.” In addition, he said Beijing is working on the creation of a regional anti-terrorist centre in China to train the security forces of the Central Asian republics. 

To be continued

Nicolás Maduro Makes Historic Trip to Brazil for South American Presidents’ Summit


Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro participated in a joint press conference on May 29 from the Planalto Palace in Brasília, highlighting the importance of resuming ties. The press conference was held following a bilateral meeting between the heads of state ahead of the South American Presidents’ Summit.

As Lula told media, “This is a historic moment. After eight years, President Nicolás Maduro is back to visiting Brazil and we have recovered our right to have a foreign policy with the seriousness we have always had, especially with the countries that border Brazil.”

Their meeting took place days after Lula and Maduro appointed ambassadors to each other’s countries on May 24, and formalized the reestablishment of relations.

According to statements from their governments, the meeting focused on reactivating trade between the two countries, cooperation on issues regarding the Amazon, advancing regional integration, and issues related to their 1,366-mile border. At the press conference, Lula highlighted that at its height, the flow of trade between the two nations had reached $6 billion and it had now dropped to $2 billion, which he argued “is bad for Venezuela and Brazil.” Lula also said that he is in favor of Venezuela joining BRICS.

Maduro commented on the challenges the country underwent when “Brazil closed all of the doors and windows, despite being neighboring countries, countries that love each other as people.” He recalled an attempt to invade the Venezuelan embassy in Brasília, which was defended by Brazilian social movements and solidarity groups. “Today, a new chapter of relations between our countries begins,” he said.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Sudanese Army and Rapid Support Forces Extend Fragile Ceasefire by Five Days


The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to extend a fragile truce by five days on May 29. The truce, which came into effect on May 22, was marked by violations although the intensity of fighting decreased. Over 850 civilians have died and over 3,600 have been injured since fighting broke out on April 15. Nearly 1.4 million have been displaced.

On May 28, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which had jointly mediated the ceasefire, released a statement highlighting violations by both parties. The statement said that while the SAF violated the prohibition against aerial attacks, the RSF had “continued encroachment in civilian areas.” Among the buildings occupied by the RSF was the office of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP).

SCP spokesperson Fathi Elfadl told Peoples Dispatch that no humanitarian corridor had been set up and areas worst affected by the fighting had not received aid. In fact, the U.S.-Saudi statement said that both SAF and RSF forces had stolen consignments of humanitarian aid.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict. Prices of bottled water, food, and fuel have gone up between 40 and 60 percent in conflict-affected areas. The World Food Program (WFP) projects that 18 million people will be left unable to afford basic food by as early as August if the fighting continues.

The fighting in Sudan was the culmination of months of tension between top generals who had staged a coup in October 2021 and severely repressed civilian protesters who were demanding democracy.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Erdogan’s Strategy to Solidify Türkiye’s Regional Influence

by Burak Akinci 

(Xinhua) — Incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured his third term on the post after winning a runoff presidential election held Sunday. Experts believe that the veteran politician is likely to maintain a balance between the West and the East to keep positioning Türkiye as a regional heavyweight.

In Sunday’s contest, Erdogan won 52.14 percent of the votes. His opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu garnered 47.86 percent, Turkish Supreme Election Council Chairman Ahmet Yener said. The victory allows Erdogan to remain in power for another five years.

For long, to enhance Türkiye’s strategic importance, the Turkish leader has attached importance to the country’s NATO membership on the international stage on the one hand, and engaged in a delicate balancing act between the West and the East on the other.

When he announced his election manifesto in Ankara in April, Erdogan hinted that his country will continue to play an active role in regional affairs.

“We will build the axis of Türkiye with a foreign policy where both our country, our region, and humanity will find peace and stability, multilateralism, more cooperation, peace, stability, and humanitarian diplomacy,” he said.

Batu Coskun, an Ankara-based independent political risk analyst, said Erdogan is unlikely to change course, adding that a major task for the country would be to reconcile with former foes.

“Foreign policy-wise, I don’t expect a vast shift from the previous foreign policy before the electoral cycle began,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview. A priority for Turkish diplomacy is to push for a reconciliation with Syria, he said.

Signs of thawing the frozen Türkiye-Syria relations have been seen last year at meetings between Turkish, Syrian, and Russian ministers and officials in Moscow.

In the past few years, Türkiye has mended ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates following difficult regional isolation. Egypt is next in line in Türkiye’s drive, Coskun said.

“In a multipolar world, Türkiye strives for autonomy from the Western bloc, pursuing an independent foreign policy,” a source close to the Turkish government told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity.

“Türkiye will continue to have proactive diplomacy,” the source said.

On Russia, analysts believe Ankara would continue to maintain close political and financial relations with Moscow, despite criticism from its Western allies.

“Türkiye’s position on Russia is unlikely to change. Türkiye will continue to engage with Moscow and (President Vladimir) Putin both financially, politically and strategically,” Coskun said.

The balance has earned Türkiye a reputation during the Ukraine crisis. Ankara has not joined the Western sanctions campaign against Russia, but has served as a mediator between the parties, facilitating prisoner exchanges, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and peace talks at the onset of the conflict.

Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst on Russian and Eurasian affairs, similarly said “Türkiye under Erdogan’s administration will deepen and expand its relations with Russia in the commercial, economic, financial, and energy fields.”

On relations with the United States, Erdogan in a media interview expressed his desire to cooperate with U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration.

Ankara’s ties with Washington have become strained due to their policy differences on Syria, Libya, or the Eastern Mediterranean. Türkiye has also been sanctioned by the United States for purchasing Russian defense systems and dismissed from the F-35 stealth jet program.

In Coskun’s view, there is little room for improvement in Turkish-U.S. relations. “I do not necessarily expect new frictions (with the United States) but I don’t expect engagement or a detente either. The Biden administration appears to be quite distant from Türkiye.”

Redefining Modernization: China’s Vision

China has achieved success on multiple fronts of national development, providing the world with a new path to modernization, a prominent Turkish scholar on international relations has said.

China is making progress “not only in the field of technology or of social development but in almost all fields,” Huseyin Bagci, an academic with the Ankara-based Middle East Technical University and president of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Significant progress has been achieved in human rights, poverty alleviation, education, social security, health, and national unity, Bagci said, highlighting China’s outstanding achievements in promoting human rights by eradicating absolute poverty, protecting people’s rights, and expanding education and health services.

Bagci believes China is providing the world with an alternative path to modernization that differs from that of the Western world, which is unprecedented in world history.

The scholar also saluted China’s outstanding contributions to developing countries’ modernization by providing ample funding and credits.

“Many countries, of course, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they look to China as a dynamic, external factor for modernization, because China provides a lot of credits, infrastructural help,” Bagci said, citing various fields ranging from education to health and agriculture as core areas of cooperation between China and other developing countries.

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