The covid pandemic coupled with severe economic hardships has brought the most controversial nation to the brink of famine. Millions of North Koreans are standing on the verge of falling prey to acute starvation. During the last famine, Arduous March, no one outside the country knew about the horrendous state of people suffering and dying of hunger, until it was out of control.
Is the country retracing the steps of the 1994 famine which cost it millions of lives? Seeing the dire strait, will president Kim Jong Un let the international aid agencies in North Korea? And if not, then who can help the nation out of this hardship?
What Has led North Korea to Arduous March Again?
North Korea’s economy is one of the most tightly controlled, least free, and highly inefficient economies of the world. A large section of the country’s wealth is spent in maintaining the security and military structures leaving very little for civilian welfare. In recent past years, the nuclear-armed country was putting its almost entire effort into strengthening its security with continuous nuclear missile tests; which was concerning for the world leaders, given Kim Jong Un’s perpetual threats of nuclear attacks.
Therefore, in response to the ceaseless missiles and nuclear tests, the US in 2016 and 2017 started putting more United Nations sanctions on North Korea mainly targeting the civilian economy. The country’s fragile economy was hit hard by the increased restrictions on oil and energy products.
The Trump administrations and the UN’s succeeded in reproducing almost the same energy shortage as during the arduous March. The cataclysmal fall in food production of North Korea in 2018 was thus pre-planned by the international leaders. Furthermore, the UN sanctions on the country’s export earning resulted in a huge cumbersome surge in food import which thus resulted in a gross shortage of food in the country.
But, the plans of the international government were turned another way around by the unprecedented pandemic. The lack of a nutritious diet and proper medical facilities amongst the civilians made North Koreans extremely vulnerable to COVID-19; therefore to protect its people from the coronavirus, North Korea decided to close its borders.
This lead to a severe shortage of basic commodities along with the scarcity of food. In a report by Human Rights Watch, Lina Yoon says “there is barely any food going into the country from China.” She writes that North Korea is not just in scarcity of food but basic items like soap, toothpaste, and batteries. The chilling weather, with temperature, ranges between -21C to -16C, irregular electricity, unhygienic toilets, scarcity of running water, warm clothes, and adequate footwear; on top of all this forced participation in recently winded up ’80-day battle’ is pushing millions of North Koreans closer to their limits.
North Korea: At Verge Of Another Famine
New reports were depicting the suffering of people in the reticent nation. In the early months of the pandemic, Kim Jong Un accepted that North Korea is facing its “worst-ever” times. The reason behind the worsened situation as said by the government was:
- COVID-19 pandemic
- The US-led sanctions
- The heavy flood of summer 2020
Though there is no concrete proves of mass starvation in North Korea yet, but, in this eighth party meeting; Kim’s statement while addressing the grass-root party members is depicting the risks of severe famine the country is on verge of. “I made up my mind to ask the WPK [Workers’ Party of Korea] organizations at all levels, including its Central Committee and the cell secretaries of the entire party, to wage another more difficult ‘arduous march’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little,” said Kim in the meeting.
Publically drawing the current situation to a deadly famine is a clear sign of more difficult times ahead for the country. Experts believe this to be the biggest test of Kim’s nine-year regime as president.
What is Arduous March?
Arduous march also knowns as the March of Suffering or North Korean Famine is used to refer to a period of mass starvation between 1994 and 1998. The human tragedy was the result of years of mismanagement and economic crisis that cost the country millions of lives and left it with a wrecked agricultural sector.
Who will help North Korea out of the famine?
China and Russia have been one of the biggest suppliers of food aid, mainly rice and wheat in 2019. But, the food assistance was kept as secretive as possible. China has also facilitated the country with fertilizer to boost crop production, but the flood in 2020 devastated major saplings and the agricultural sector of North Korea is still depressed.
According to a Chinese report since the border closure triggered by the COVID pandemic, trading and food aid supply have shrunk by more than 80% compared to the previous year.
But new observations based on laws passed by North Korea recently are showing that the country is planning to increase imports from China again. Furthermore, experts believe that there is a thin chance of North Korea falling prey to another arduous march because China has got its back because of various diplomatic reasons.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine: Will more states seek to acquire Nuclear weapons?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is prompting many states around the world to reconsider their national defence strategies. Governments have privately and openly voiced their apprehension about the growing fragility of the post-WWII international order, especially the utter inability of the UN and its Security Council to prevent powerful hegemonic nations, such as Russia, from attacking and occupying and annexing large territories of less powerful neighbours, such as Ukraine.
Some leaders and diplomats have warned that, in light of the clear impotence of the UN in tackling the Ukrainian crisis, and in the absence of a nuclear deterrent of their own, some vulnerable non-nuclear states will be forced to either acquire Nuclear weapons to achieve a semblance of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) vis-à-vis potential predators or seek a military alliance with some established nuclear powers for the same purpose.
Zelensky: “Ukraine will be like a Big Israel”
Speaking to reporters a few days ago, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters that post-war Ukraine would be like “a big Israel.”
He didn’t clarify what he exactly meant by drawing the Israeli analogy.
However, it was amply clear that he was alluding to the contemplated acquisition of a sizeable Nuclear weapon, like that of Israel, in order to deter a future possible Russian invasion. Ukraine had given up its Nuclear weapons to Russia following the downfall of the former Soviet Union.
However, experts argue that Ukraine could fairly quickly renew its Nuclear weapon since the country already possesses the technical and scientific infrastructure which it inherited from the Soviet era.
Hence, Ukraine wouldn’t have to begin from scratch in case it decided to renew its nuclear weapon program. Moreover, Ukraine could start producing enriched uranium for military purposes in a few days, depending on the decision of the political leadership. Shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine 11 months ago, Ukraine’s defence officials voiced their deep remorse for having given up their former nuclear arsenal. In light, it is almost certain that the current leadership in Kyiv will decide to revive the nuclear option as soon as an opportune time arises.
Medvedev: Russian defeat in Ukraine would trigger a nuclear war
This weak, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO of nuclear war if Russia was defeated in Ukraine.
Medvedev, an ally of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, warned that a Russian defeat in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war. “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful security council, reportedly said in a post on the Telegraph.
“Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,”.
Warning should be taken seriously
Undoubtedly, Medvedev’s warnings contain an important element of rhetorical sabre-rattling and psychological warfare. However, this writer believes the West ought to take the warnings quite seriously.
There are sufficient reasons that should make us think twice before dismissing the above doomsday warnings as hot air. Indeed, a Russian defeat in Ukraine would have far-reaching global consequences and ramifications.
Indeed, a decisive and humiliating Russian defeat in Ukraine would very likely be the most important strategic international game-changer not only since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1989 but also since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Russia would morph into a boiling cauldron of anger and furious indignation.
Thus, the demand for the use of nuclear weapons to avert a possible Russian defeat in Ukraine would gain massive popularity throughout Russia. The galvanization of Russia’s 145 million population would be the penultimate step leading to the kremlin’s decision to press the nuclear button.
Nuclear is futile if not used when needed
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Advocates for the nuclear option would convincingly argue that nuclear weapons would lose their raison detre if they failed to protect the possessor country, the motherland, when needed most, e.g., when the country faces the prospect of defeat and humiliation in war. The question of who is the aggressor and who is the victim would be almost irrelevant in such an atmosphere. Moreover, the US, which used the first ever and last nuclear weapon against Japan in 1945, would not be in a moral position to lecture Russia on the evils of using nuclear weapons.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine: Gigantic Dilemma
A Russian victory or defeat in Ukraine would cause the current international order, instated after WWII, to collapse. A decisive Russian defeat in Ukraine, which seems unlikely at least now, would likely irreversibly paralyze or effectively terminate the UN and its Security Council. The UN would virtually become completely at the US beck and call.
On the other hand, a decisive Russian victory, which is also unlikely, would turn the international order upside down and transform the world into a real jungle.
A Russian victory would probably encourage certain states to emulate Russia and carry out naked aggressions of their own against militarily weaker foes or neighbouring states. Certain possible scenarios come to the mind in this regard.
China might be emboldened to invade and occupy Taiwan if Russia emerged as winner.
Israel might well decide to seize the opportunity and wage an all-out war on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the purpose of liquidating the Palestinian issue once and for all. In the process, Israel might carry out huge massacres of Palestinians and embark on the demolition of Islamic holy places in Jerusalem especially the Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Moreover, Israel might also decide to carry out massive airstrikes on Iranian cities or even drop nuclear bombs under the rubric of destroying the Iranian nuclear program and preventing the recurrence of the Holocaust!
Other possible scenarios would probably include a possible all-out war by North Korea against South Korea, and a naked aggression by Russian-backed Serbia against Bosnia and Kosovo.
I am not a prophet of doom and gloom, but it is always safer to assume that the worse could happen. There is no doubt that a new world order would appear after the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine regardless of the outcome of the war . There is also little doubt that the post-Ukraine war will witness more military and strategic polarization than ever. However, the gravest problem facing the post-war world order would, almost certainly, take the form of many states seeking actively to acquire nuclear weapons for their own national defence. Therefore, the nuclear proliferation issue would be the number-1 problem facing the world, with the chances of a nuclear accident or miscalculation reaching terrifying levels. (end)
BBC’s Modi Documentary Rattles Modi Government
BCC recently released a documentary on India’s controversial right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi rattling Modi and his ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The documentary’s first episode titled “India: The Modi Question” which was released in the UK on 17th January drew a sharp reaction from the Modi government.
Modi Government Blocks the Documentary in India
The Modi government moved swiftly to block the documentary in India. Proving right the critics of IT Rules, 2021, the Modi government’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 to order YouTube to take down all the videos that had published the first episode of the documentary. Orders were also issued to Twitter to take down all the tweets that had posted the link to the documentary. Both YouTube and Twitter complied with the orders, removing all the posts and videos flagged by the government.
The government alleged that the documentary was found to be “undermining sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign states”, which allowed for the invocation of the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021. The government also alleged that the documentary questions the credibility of the Supreme Court of India and attempts to sow divisions among different communities while also making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the activities of foreign governments in India.
Earlier India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson dismissed the documentary as a “propaganda piece that lacks objectivity and reflects colonial mindset”. The spokesperson also questioned the timings of the release of the documentary.
The documentary’s first episode produced by the BBC tracks Modi’s “first steps into politics”- his association with the right-wing Hindu extremist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his rise through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and further his appointment as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in 2001 till 2014. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi’s involvement in and his response to a series of communal riots in 2002 remains a source of controversy.
The documentary highlights a previously unpublished report, obtained by the BBC from the British Foreign Office, which raises questions about Modi’s actions during the religious riots. The report claims that Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled the violence.
The report cited by the BCC was part of an inquiry ordered by the then foreign secretary Jack Straw. The reports say that “the extent of violence was much greater than reported” and “the aim of the riots was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”.
Jack Straw is heard in the documentary saying, “these were very serious claims that Mr Modi had played a proactive part in pulling back police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists. That was a particularly egregious example of political involvement to prevent police from doing their job to protect the Hindus and the Muslims.”
Modi’s Role in Gujarat Riots of 2002
It is the documentary’s highlight of the Gujarat riots of 2002 that has rattled the Modi government.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people. Most of those killed were Muslims. Modi is alleged to have instigated the riots and further prevented the police and the army from taking any action to stop the riots. Most of the reports published on the Gujarat riots by the Indian media as well as the international media point out Modi’s direct role in facilitating the riots. It has been claimed that Modi gave a free hand to Hindu extremists to kill Muslims and the aim was to purge Hindu localities of Muslims.
Modi has rejected these accusations. Further, in 2013 an investigation approved by the Indian Supreme Court absolved Mr. Modi of complicity in the rioting. Based on that finding, a court in the state of Gujarat found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Action Taken by Foreign Countries against Modi
Like the above-cited British Foreign Office report, there were many countries that were convinced of Modi’s role in the killing of Muslims during the riots. Concerned countries acted against Modi at different levels.
Modi was banned entry into the U.S. for more than a decade for his role in the riots. In 2005, Modi became the only person ever to be denied a U.S. visa under the 1998 law on violations of religious freedom. The U.S. State Department invoked a little-known U.S. law passed in 1998 that makes foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for visas. The ban on Modi’s travel to the U.S. was revoked by the Obama administration in 2014 after he became the prime minister of India.
A Permanent Stain on Modi’s Career
Modi may have achieved great things in his political career, but the stain of the Gujarat riots is permanent on his career.
Modi loves the camera. He loves advertising and branding himself. Modi puts his picture on everything. He loves hearing his voice. However, ever since he became the prime minister of India, he has never given an unscripted interview to the media. He has also never held a press conference in India or abroad. It has been claimed that Modi does not want difficult questions about his attitude towards the Muslim minority of India thrown at him.
When Modi became the prime minister of India, Indian liberals were hopeful that Modi had changed. They were wrong in their assessment that Modi as a prime minister would be inclusive. However, after Modi’s eight years as a prime minister now, he has not changed his attitude towards Muslims. As of now, Muslims are increasingly persecuted by his government.
This author highly recommends that you watch the BBC documentary on Modi. Its first episode has been released here (if you are outside the UK watch it here or use VPN). The next episode will be available on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, at 21:00.
19.4 Million Afghan Women Struggling to Survive Under Taliban
Women banned from schools and colleges. Women flogged in markets with dozens of spectators. Girls, as young as 15, mandated to wear complete body covering: These are the horrifying reality Afghan women are forced to live in every day.
Rules of Sharia on Every Moment
Women’s freedom of movement and access to their bodies continue to be restricted in Taliban-run Afghanistan. The draconian group imposed huge barriers on women’s even basic needs: health, education, migration, and expression, depriving thousands of many of their right to earn a livelihood.
Women in Afghanistan have already suffered the most significant losses due to the war and militarization. However, with the control of the Taliban over the nation, the future and dreams of Afghan women are collapsing drastically.
Afghan Women: The Future Looks Dark
The Taliban treat women and girls brutally, and they are forbidden from attending secondary and higher education. Migration and independent travel for women is prohibited. They are not even permitted to migrate or travel without a male chaperone. Girls as young as 13 are forced into marriage.
The Taliban administration has abolished the Ministry of Women Affairs in Afghanistan due to its extreme depravity. There are now no female cabinet members in the Afghan government, thereby ending political participation of 50% of the population.
Following the takeover of Afghanistan, the schools and colleges were forcibly compelled to enact new regulations. It includes gender-apartheid entrances and classrooms. Only female professors or older men can instruct female students. Additionally, the authorities closed the Madressa that solely taught female students.
The future of Afghan women appears bleak with such harsh restrictions and draconian rules. The local women have various aspirations. Young girls want to finish their education and pursue careers in large corporations. But at the moment, it looks gloomy and almost impossible for Afghan women.
Lost Careers & Starving Families
Women-founded business is facing the worst time under Taliban.
Women investors have left their positions or hired males to do their business Women entrepreneurs claim they have invested thousands of Afghanis in the previous government but are currently compelled to close their firms.
The current environment prevents women from freely engaging in small-scale business or employment. Even when women are the only source of income for their families, Afghan women no longer dare to start their businesses.
If these conditions persist, many Afghan families will go hungry.
In Afghanistan, the handicraft industry thrived before the Taliban’s leadership, giving thousands of women jobs. Clothing, goods, and handicraft products were exported to Australia and New Zealand.
However, after the Taliban seized control, the industry went bankrupt due to a policy that discriminated against women and flying restrictions that reduced trade and affected the business adversely.
Afghan Women’s Lives at risk
The women’s crisis in Afghanistan keeps escalating — the restrictions, limitations, and dictatorship have gone too far ahead.
Due to a shortage of healthcare services, Afghan women face significant difficulties. They are restricted from visiting doctors without a male companion, and in some cities, women are not allowed to visit male doctors while the number of female physicians in the nation is closing to nil.
Additionally, women and girls are denied access to healthcare, and reports even imply that they are subjected to assault with no means of fleeing.
The restriction of female students from secondary and higher education violates their right to education and limits female students from reaching their full potential.
Banning female students from getting an education increases child marriages, early pregnancy, abuse, and violence.
Almost every house headed or led by women has lacked sufficient food due to the rise in fuel, food prices, and no source of income. The situation has worsened due to the drought and the war in Ukraine. It is difficult to see women becoming beggars along with their children.
The current situation of Afghan women is deteriorating in the virtual prisoner environment. Taliban restrictions have made women’s financial hardships worse. The lives of Afghan women are seriously at stake, and many women feel it would be better if they had died in the war.
The Silver Line But a Long Way Ahead
UNICEF and NGOs are defending Afghan women and trying to help them as much as possible. The United Nations has repeatedly emphasized that it is committed to carrying out its mission in Afghanistan and promoting the rights of women and girls in the region.
UNFPA is enhancing its existence and helping women through Afghanistan socialism and is collaborating with national partners. UNICEF assumes responsibility for paying the teachers’ monthly salaries and providing them with the necessities for survival. UNFPA is also contributing its share to expand the provision of sexual and reproductive health services, again, for women in rural areas.
But it’s not enough, especially with Taliban banning female NGO employees from coming to work.
To rescue innocent women and children from this catastrophe, more social organizations must advance in light of their responsibility and the current state of Afghan women.
The Taliban should be put under pressure by international organizations and governments to fully implement gender equality and defend the human rights of all Afghan women and girls.
Organizations must quickly realize that women should be given the reins for recovery, peace, stability, and basic rights. Unless that is, the lives of Afghan women continue to deteriorate, and their dreams continue to collapse EVERY SINGLE DAY!
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