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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2703

Letter From America: My Thoughts on the G20 Summit in Osaka

By Habib Siddiqui

The 2019 G20 (Group of 20 nations) Osaka summit has ended in Osaka, Japan. It is the fourteenth meeting of G20. It was held on 28–29 June 2019 at the International Exhibition Center in Osaka. It was the first G20 summit hosted by Japan.

The G20 is an international leaders' forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. The G20 nations include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA, which were all represented by their respective leaders except the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was represented by its Crown Prince MBS.

Collectively, the grouping represents more than 80 percent of the world's economic output and two-thirds of its people. Its primary aim is to promote international financial stability. However, since economics cannot be separated from politics the summit offers a good venue for such discussions amongst the powerful nations.

This year’s G20 summit came at a time of much world disorder with tug of war between powerful nations on trade and commerce, growing tensions between the USA/Israel/Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, on-going civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, political and racial/ethnic/religious unrest in some parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, horrific abuses of human rights of minority Muslims in China, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, increasing forced displacement of people and widening gap between the rich and the poor. It also came at a time of rising fascism with much voter support for right-wing and populist parties in some parts of the world (esp. in Europe and India) when scorching heatwaves and floods are becoming the new global climatic norms, breaking the old records.

It’s really a troubling time for all conscientious human beings! They feel neither safe nor secure.

In the recently held EU parliament election, hatemongering nationalist forces from Marine Le Pen in France to Matteo Salvini in Italy and Nigel Farage in Britain boasted significant gains even in centres seen as migrant "hot spots", held up once by the left as models of tolerance and integration. Similar was the stunning victory of Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP (a Hindutvadi fascist party) in the recently concluded parliament election in India, which many see as a mandate for hatred, bigotry and intolerance against minorities, esp. Muslims.

In her maiden speech as a parliamentarian, Mahua Moitra of the opposition Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) said that she had seen a list of the early warning signs of fascism in India. She talked about the deadly suicide attack in Kashmir and India's subsequent air raid in Pakistan. She accused the ruling BJP of trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.

On June 22, a viral video displayed a young Muslim man (24-year-old Tabrez Ansari) being tied up, bleeding profusely all over his body, hands folded, who was being lynched for hours by a Hindu mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India that forced him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’ (Glory to Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman) until he died. He was married less than two months ago and is seen crying and begging for mercy in the video. His family says they were threatened by the police with a similar fate when they begged to get him treated while he was in police custody, according to a report in The Wire. He is survived by a young wife who wants to know who in the country she can now turn to for justice. “My husband was my only support. Who will I live for now? I want justice,” she told the TV channel NDTV.

Just two days after the attack on Ansari, a 26-year-old Muslim teacher who taught in a religious seminary was thrown out of a train in the eastern state of West Bengal in India. Hafeez Mohammed Haldar was traveling when a mob chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and pushed him out of the train. In the same week, on June 27, a Muslim cab driver, 25-year-old Faizal Usman Khan was beaten up by a group of men at night, barely minutes away from Mumbai, India’s celebrated cosmopolitan city. When Faizal begged for mercy, the men asked him to chant Jai Shri Ram, now a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists/fascists in the country.

The U.S. Commission for International Human Rights has condemned the lynching of Ansari, observing the recognizable pattern of hate crimes against minorities that marks India’s dangerous slide into a majoritarianism, long dreaded by those who have observed Narendra Modi’s past on human rights.

In the five years of Modi’s first term in power, hate crime against Muslims soared. Data shows that some 90% of religious hate crimes in the last decade have occurred since Modi came to power. One cannot but be alarmed by such statistics!

As aptly noted in the Time magazine by the investigative journalist Rana Ayyub, “If the first term of Narendra Modi’s rule in India was criticized for dog whistle politics, his second term sets the ground for fear and insecurity.

The hate crimes might be committed by seemingly-ordinary men on the streets of India, but the impunity of their actions is being given a new lease of life from within the aisles of the Indian Parliament.”

In the next-door China, at least 31 mosques and two major Islamic shrines in Xinjiang (formerly East Turkestan) have been partly or completely demolished since 2016, according to a new report, as Beijing steps up a clampdown targeting Muslims in the northwestern region.

An investigation by the Guardian and Bellingcat, published recently and based on analysis of satellite imagery, said 15 of the mosques and both shrines appear "to have been completely or almost completely razed".

"The demolition of mosques is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to China's brutal crackdown on the 12 million Uighur Muslims who live in Xinjiang," said CJ Werleman, a journalist and author who has collected testimonies from dozens of Uighur refugees. "Credible and corroborated reports and testimony point to evidence authorities are deploying the whole gamut of repressive measures to carry out what can only be described as cultural genocide including the establishment of a network of concentration camps; accounts of torture, forced marriage, and adoption and sterilization programs," he told Al Jazeera.

Among the sites completely destroyed was the Imam Asim shrine, which used to attract thousands of Uighur pilgrims each year.

The United Nations human rights panel said last year it had received credible reports that China is holding more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in "mass internment camps". Meanwhile, in January, Beijing passed a new law that seeks to "Sinicize" Islam.

Sadly, money talks! Outside a handful of western countries plus Turkey, most governments have chosen to overlook the heinous crimes of Beijing in Xinjiang!

It is equally inexcusable to notice the official silence with the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey, which reportedly was ordered by Crown Prince MBS (a.k.a. “Mr. Bone Saw”). [I am not aware of any Muslim government outside Turkey that had criticized the Saudi brutality.]

During the G20 Summit President Trump ignored questions from reporters on Khashoggi killing. It is not difficult to read his mindset about making ‘America great again’ with Saudi money from the arms sales to the desert kingdom that he is dismissive of MBS’s culpability!

The Trump administration has no problem selling its fictitious ‘economic pills’ for prosperity to the Palestinians before giving them their due political rights while doing just the reverse with Iran vis-à-vis its nuclear program. Such double-standards only unmask Trump’s moral bankruptcy and show that he is not serious about peace.

Former Egyptian President Dr. Mohamed Morsi died on Monday, June 17. He was left without first aid for 20 minutes after collapsing during his trial in an Egyptian kangaroo court. The 67-year-old Morsi was suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and liver disease, and was held in solitary confinement in prison for 23 hours a day while being denied medical treatment. Last March, a panel of British MPs warned that Morsi could die prematurely if treatment continued to be denied.

The Independent of UK quoted Abdullah al-Haddad, whose father and brother were also on trial alongside Morsi, as saying that “no one bothered” to aid Morsi after he collapsed. “He was left slumped for a while until the guards took him out. An ambulance arrived after 30 minutes. Other detainees were first to notice his collapse, they started shouting. Some of them, who are doctors, asked the guards to let them treat him or give him first aid,” Mr. Haddad told The Independent. “Neglecting him at the beginning was deliberate. The first thing the prison guards did after detainees started shouting was to get family members out of the courtroom.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, said Morsi “did not die, he was murdered.”

But where is the outrage with Morsi’s murder inside Sisi’s cage?

It’s instructive to note how differently Morsi was treated being banged up in solitary, unable to talk to his own family, and deprived of medical help. Just compare that to the comfort in which his predecessor Hosni Mubarak lived after his own dethronement – the constant hospital treatment, family visits, public expressions of sympathy and even a press interview. Lest we forget, Morsi was the only President of Egypt to be popularly elected in a free election before he was illegally removed in a violent coup that had the blessings of some Gulf states and tacit support from some western democracies. Apparently, democracy is not suitable for the most populous Arab state!

Outside the UN, Turkey, Malaysia, Qatar, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood-in-exile – Morsi’s memory and his final moments were as if they had never been. Such a silence is simply shocking!

To many of us, Morsi will remain a martyr for democracy who wished to see “an Egypt of values and civilization; an Egypt of growth and stability and love.”

The Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi took part in the inauguration of the 14th G20 summit in Japan's Osaka, as did other G20 leaders, including India’s Modi, UK’s Theresa May, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Putin.

In a divisive world can the world leaders find a common ground?

The G20 summit discussed eight themes to Ensure Global Sustainable Development. The eight themes are "Global Economy", "Trade and Investment", "Innovation", "Environment and Energy", "Employment", "Women's Empowerment", "Development" and "Health". However, ongoing trade war between China and the United States topped the agenda. Leaders focused on cooperation among themselves to solve problems rather than the summit's usual themes.

The opening day of the summit was overshadowed by the China-US trade war and Theresa May’s confrontation with Vladimir Putin over the Salisbury novichok poisonings.

After a meeting with Xi Jinping, Donald Trump said relations between the two countries “are back on track" after a breakdown in trade talks last month. "We had a very, very good meeting with China. I would say probably even better than expected. The negotiations are continuing," Trump told reporters.

Trump said the US would hold off raising tariffs on more than $300bn worth of Chinese goods while negotiations to end the trade war between the two countries continue. When asked by a reporter about his ban on US companies selling high-tech components to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Trump said: "I did agree to allow our companies" to sell equipment to the firm.

At the conclusion of the G20 Summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the summit was a success and that the leaders have agreed to principles governing the global economy.

"Trade tensions are continuing, and that's a risk. We have to keep those risks and tensions in mind. Still, we have united in agreeing that we have to lead the world economy," Abe said at a news conference.

"There is some dissatisfaction between countries. So, although there are concerns, what we have to do is establish principles to lead the world economy to the future. Free, fair and inclusive economy and open competition. Those principles have been affirmed between the leaders at this G20 meeting."

On the climate issue, the G20 communique enabled 19 of the 20 leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement, but left enough room for Washington to attempt to justify its increasing isolation from the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a reference to the harm it would inflict on “American workers and taxpayers”. There was also a commitment to stop adding to plastic waste pollution of the world’s oceans by 2050.

As noted in the Guardian newspaper, in their declaration, the G20 leaders avoided criticism of Trump-style protectionism but committed themselves to realizing “free, fair and non-discriminatory” trade and to “keep our markets open”.

Who knows we may be spared of a roller-coaster ride for the world economy until, of course, Trump’s tweets do the undoing!

However, if history is any guide to the future, the gentlemen’s agreement struck between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies over the weekend in Osaka offers no clear path to rolling back tariffs and ending a trade war that threatens to tip the global economy into recession.

- Asian Tribune -

 Letter From America: My Thoughts on the G20 Summit in Osaka
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