Trump wants school teachers armed : India reacts to Chinese Navy ‘exercises’ in Indian Ocean | Sunday Observer

Trump wants school teachers armed : India reacts to Chinese Navy ‘exercises’ in Indian Ocean

Will we soon have flotillas of Indian and Chinese warships sailing around us as they compete for dominance in the Indian Ocean region? Even as the Maldivian political crisis continued, India reacted with alarm to reports that a powerful Chinese naval task force last week carried out ‘exercises’ in the eastern Indian Ocean.

While officially Delhi remained silent, Indian news media speculated whether the Chinese navy foray was a signal by Beijing of its ‘protection’ for the strongly pro-China government in The Maldives that is currently battling Opposition pressures. Not to be outdone, Indian Navy officials reassured the Indian news media that up to eight Indian warships were continuously deployed at critical entry points to the vast Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Chinese news media reported last week that an 11-vessel strong ‘Surface Action Task Force’ had been carrying out ‘logistical exercises’ in the south-eastern Indian Ocean closer to Indonesia for over a fortnight before exiting the Ocean through the Lombok Strait in central Indonesia. The task force, led by a powerful destroyer and including a medium-sized amphibious assault/support ship and several escort frigates, had earlier entered the Indian Ocean through the Sunda Strait at the southern end of the Indonesian archipelago.

Indian defence commentators noted that the Chinese naval foray received little attention in the Chinese news media itself but complained that the quiet Chinese move had caught the much-vaunted Indian navy napping. Indian government officials, however played down the issue noting that the Chinese ‘incursion’ into the IOR was in the far south-eastern area at least 3,500 kilometres from India and a similar distance from the currently politically unstable Maldives.

India has been watching with much concern the Yameen regime’s lavish courtship with Beijing which has placed that little island republic in a situation of crippling indebtedness to China very similar to the predicament in which the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime has placed Sri Lanka. The Yameen regime, however, has recently come under much stronger political opposition campaign pressure than did the Rajapaksa regime.

Former Maldivian president and pro-democracy activist Mohamed Nasheed, who was the first to invite large scale Chinese investment into that tiny republic, is now locked in political and legal battles with his arch enemy Yameen. He accuses the current Islamic conservative regime in Male of being slavishly subservient to the Chinese encouraged by a spate of corruption which, the Opposition says, has inextricably entangled the Male rulers with Beijing.

Nasheed, whose opposition alliance has a strong base in Colombo, recently accused The Maldives regime of ‘selling off’ his country to China, an extra-regional power. The Maldivian opposition alliance, which has been joined by former long-time Maldives strongman Abdul Gayoom and most other opposition parties, has successfully petitioned the Maldives Supreme Court that the lease of up to 16 islands to China amounted to an illegal ‘land grab’ by Beijing.

The Yameen government last month stymied the opposition move by first instructing government officials not to implement the Court’s ruling releasing political detainees and annulling some island leases. Within days this was followed up by the summary detaining of the Chief Justice himself and a second Supreme Court judge on charges of ‘bribery’. After the lock up of their senior-most colleagues, the rest of the Supreme Court quickly moved to rescind the previous unanimous ruling in favour of the political opposition led by Nasheed.

In this, Yameen seems to have gone one better than our own Mahinda Rajapaksa in blocking the judiciary’s interventions in ensuring democracy and fairplay. In both the Sri Lankan and Maldivian cases, the massive indebtedness to, and economic entanglement with, the Chinese are entirely self-induced, no doubt encouraged by lucrative other ‘inducements’ to the key political decision-makers in their respective island capitals. One cannot blame the enterprising Chinese for the corruption and possible treasonous behaviour of the local politicians.

In reaction to all this mayhem in Male, exiled former President Nasheed and fellow Opposition activists have appealed for intervention to both India, as the regional power and also to the United Nations.

Last week the UN Security Council reportedly decided that Secretary General António Guterres should send a special envoy to Male to mediate between Government and Opposition and, especially to free the poor Chief Justice and fellow justice from their humiliating incarceration.

Meanwhile, in Washington, quite insensitive to on-going geo-politics in our part of the world, President Donald Trump has further shocked his citizens by suggesting that schoolteachers should be given guns and even bullet-proof vests while at school in order to fight back if attacked by maniacal gun-wielding killers. The President was attempting to respond to a storm of anti-guns campaigning that is sweeping the States after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used a military style AR-15 automatic assault rifle to kill 17 persons mostly teenage students in Parkland, Florida two weeks ago.

Despite mounting incidents of mass shootings, many targeting secondary schools, the American culture of weaponry thrives and the bulk of the American public seem only willing to consider raising the age limit for the purchase of assault rifles to 21 years from the current 19 years. In most states it is more difficult for youth to buy alcohol than an assault rifle or handgun!

For Trump, admittedly, the Florida school massacre is a welcome distraction from the increasing pressures of the ever-widening FBI probe into Russia’s covert meddling in the 2016 presidential elections in his support. Last week one-time Trump election campaign manager was served with additional new charges of money laundering of Russian gangster funds over several years and also for concealing evidence from the FBI. And a deputy campaign manager is now reportedly ready to testify against others caught in the FBI probe into the Russia conspiracy. 


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