News – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com Connecting Regions of Asia. Tue, 13 Apr 2021 13:54:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7 https://theeasternlink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-external-link-symbol-32x32.png News – The Eastern Link https://theeasternlink.com 32 32 Indian Govt Mistakes Behind Covid Spurt https://theeasternlink.com/indian-govt-mistakes-behind-covid-spurt/ https://theeasternlink.com/indian-govt-mistakes-behind-covid-spurt/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2021 13:54:58 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10893

Just a few short weeks ago, Indian government officials were patting themselves on the back. India was the “pharmacy of the world,” they said, and its cheaply produced vaccines would help end the Covid-19 pandemic globally. The federal health minister declared that the country had entered “the endgame” of its own battle against the pandemic. Even the Reserve Bank […]

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Just a few short weeks ago, Indian government officials were patting themselves on the back. India was the “pharmacy of the world,” they said, and its cheaply produced vaccines would help end the Covid-19 pandemic globally. The federal health minister declared that the country had entered “the endgame” of its own battle against the pandemic. Even the Reserve Bank of India announced in unusually enthusiastic tones that India had “bent [the Covid-19 curve] like Beckham” and that “soon the winter of our discontent will be made glorious summer.”

Such boasts sound foolish, at best, today. Covid-19 case numbers and deaths have begun to spike exponentially in India, easily passing the numbers recorded during last autumn’s peak. Hospital beds are running short and so are vaccine doses. Although the government has halted all vaccine exports, many states have only a few days’ supply left in stock.

What went wrong? As is typical in India, official arrogance, hyper-nationalism, populism and an ample dose of bureaucratic incompetence have combined to create a crisis. The state has left India vulnerable to a second Covid-19 wave, multiple new mutations and the threat of repeated, livelihood-destroying lockdowns.

Worse, Indians aren’t the only ones who will pay the price. Developing nations that had been counting on the “pharmacy of the world” will now have to wait longer for their jabs, even as the new variants continue to spread.

Let’s start with the arrogance. The government appears to have unwisely believed its own rhetoric about having bent the curve of infections after imposing the world’s strictest lockdown last year. Even when new and virulent strains of the virus began to emerge, some of them from India’s own hinterland, officials showed no increased urgency about rolling out vaccinations. Regulators approved the first Indian vaccines in December. The first shot wasn’t given until more than two weeks later.

Then there’s the nationalism. Indian bureaucrats and regulators, under whatever administration, are prone to a barely disguised xenophobia. Thus, regulators pushed out an indigenously developed vaccine, Bharat Biotech Ltd.’s Covaxin, even before Phase III trial data was available. Meanwhile, other vaccines that had received regulatory approval elsewhere — including those from Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson — were unnecessarily held up until trials could be conducted in India.

World Health Organization guidelines say that such “bridging trials” may be needed “if there are compelling scientific reasons to expect that the immune response to the vaccine, and therefore its efficacy, could be significantly different to that documented in a prior efficacy trial.” Indian authorities never bothered to share these compelling scientific reasons. Why J&J’s vaccine, demonstrated to be effective even against the virulent South African and Brazilian variants, would need another large-scale trial in India demands some explanation, surely? (The company is still awaiting permission to launch a bridging trial.)

As for populism, the government sought to squeeze the private sector using price controls. Vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India was forbidden to produce for India’s private market, although CEO Adar Poonawalla had repeatedly said he would continue to offer the government doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc. for only Rs. 150 ($2) each. That price “is not profitable enough to re-invest substantially in building capacity,” said Poonawalla, who hoped to sell other doses on the open market for Rs. 1,000 ($13) each. Now the company has lost its export orders as well, further constraining cashflow.

As a result, Serum Institute has received a legal notice from AstraZeneca for failing to fulfill its contracts. More importantly, the company hasn’t got the cash to scale up its manufacturing capabilities. It’s making 50-70 million shots a month; it needs to double that at least. Poonawalla has now asked the government for $400 million to ramp up capacity.

Yet, far from investing in capacity or brokering deals to tap unused vaccine manufacturing facilities, as the Biden administration has done in the U.S., the Indian government been slow even to sign purchasing contracts with manufacturers. In January, Serum Institute had stockpiled around 50 million doses; the government didn’t sign a purchase order for weeks and then only bought 11 million jabs initially.

The government seems to expect Indian manufacturers to produce vaccines on spec, jump through various regulatory hoops and then break all their other remunerative contracts in order to give the final product solely to the Indian state — at grossly insufficient prices. Is it any wonder that Pfizer’s local subsidiary quietly withdrew its application for emergency use of its vaccine in India?

This kind of regulatory uncertainty, bullying, lack of foresight and urgency, and contempt for legitimate profit-making is familiar to every entrepreneur in India. Such attitudes are at the root of the country’s growth and investment crisis. Now the rest of the world will have to suffer the consequences.

Courtesy – bloomberg.com

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Adani Ports Removed From S&P Index Due To Tatmadaw Links https://theeasternlink.com/adani-ports-removed-from-sp-index-due-to-tatmadaw-links/ https://theeasternlink.com/adani-ports-removed-from-sp-index-due-to-tatmadaw-links/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:11:33 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10889

S&P Dow Jones Indices said it has removed India’s Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd from its sustainability index due to the firm’s business ties with Myanmar’s military which is accused of human rights abuses after a coup this year. India’s largest private multi-port operator is building a $290 million port in Yangon on […]

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S&P Dow Jones Indices said it has removed India’s Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd from its sustainability index due to the firm’s business ties with Myanmar’s military which is accused of human rights abuses after a coup this year.

India’s largest private multi-port operator is building a $290 million port in Yangon on land leased from the military-backed Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).

It will be removed from the index prior to the open on Thursday, April 15, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

More than 700 people have been killed since a Feb.1 military coup that ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The port developer did not immediately respond to a Reuters emailed request for comment outside of regular business hours.

India’s Adani Group said on March 31 it would consult authorities and stakeholders on its port project in Myanmar, after human rights groups reported its subsidiary had agreed to pay millions of dollars in rent to the military-controlled firm.

Courtesy – livemint.com

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Assam NRC: Gauhati High Court Turns Down Tribunal Order https://theeasternlink.com/assam-nrc-gauhati-high-court-turns-down-tribunal-order/ https://theeasternlink.com/assam-nrc-gauhati-high-court-turns-down-tribunal-order/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:08:49 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10886

he Gauhati High Court has set aside a two-year-old order by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam that declared a man foreigner for failing to establish linkage with his all relatives in the pre-1971 voters’ lists. According to the Assam Accord which was signed in 1985, those who came into Assam on or after March 25, […]

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he Gauhati High Court has set aside a two-year-old order by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam that declared a man foreigner for failing to establish linkage with his all relatives in the pre-1971 voters’ lists.

According to the Assam Accord which was signed in 1985, those who came into Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and deported, and it is the cut-off date for entry in the updating National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.

The NRC list was published on August 31, 2019 and over 19.06 lakh people’s names were excluded from the list for lack of documents establishing their Indian citizenship.

The Foreigners’ Tribunal-III of Lower Assam’s Barpeta district on January 30, 2019 had declared 35-year-old Haidar Ali a foreigner for failing to establish his linkage with other projected relatives other than his grandfather Nadu Miya and grandmother Aymona whose names appeared in the voters’ list of 1965 and 1970.

Challenging the Foreigners’ Tribunal order, Haidar Ali had filed a writ petition before the Gauhati High Court.

On March 30, the Gauhati HC set aside the order passed by the Foreigners’ Tribunal in 2019 and declared Haidar Ali as Indian.

“The petitioner had appeared before the tribunal in support of his claim and produced a number of documents. As far as the authenticity or reliability of these documents are concerned, the same had not been questioned before the tribunal and as such it was not proper on the part of the tribunal to dismiss these documents as not relevant for the purpose of establishing the claim of the petitioner,” the HC said in its verdict.

The HC noted that the documents produced by Haider Ali prove that his grandparents lived in India before 1971.

“What is important to be proved is that the parents and grandparents of the petitioner were residing during 1965 and 1970, which would rule out any allegation that they entered Assam after 01.01.1966 or after 25.03.1971. That fact was established without any doubt after the voters lists of 1965 and 1970 were proved, which corroborate the oral evidence of the petitioner and others,” the HC verdict said

The HC said that the voter lists of 1971 and 2010 have further established a parental connection between Haider Ali’s grandparents and his father, and his father and himself, respectively.

The high court also observed that it was not necessary for the person to show linkage with all relatives mentioned in the voters list.Live TV

Courtesy – IndiaToday

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Naravane Attends ‘Army Chiefs’ Conclave’ In Bangladesh https://theeasternlink.com/navarane-attends-army-chiefs-conclave-in-bangladesh/ https://theeasternlink.com/navarane-attends-army-chiefs-conclave-in-bangladesh/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:05:15 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10883

Dhaka: Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane on Sunday attended the Army Chiefs’ Conclave held here on the sidelines of a multinational military exercise. Gen Naravane, who is here on a five-day official tour, delivered a keynote address on Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers , the Indian Army’s Additional Directorate General of […]

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Dhaka: Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane on Sunday attended the Army Chiefs’ Conclave held here on the sidelines of a multinational military exercise.

Gen Naravane, who is here on a five-day official tour, delivered a keynote address on Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers , the Indian Army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADG PI) tweeted.

During the event, the Army chief also interacted with the senior officers of the participating nations and military observers from the other nations.

The Shantir Ogroshena (Frontrunners of Peace) 2021 exercise commenced on April 4 at Bangabandhu Senanibas to commemorate the birth centenary of Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation’ Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and mark 50 years of the country’s liberation from Pakistan.

An Indian Army contingent of 30 personnel are participating along with the Royal Bhutan Army, Sri Lankan Army and Bangladesh Army in the exercise that will conclude on Monday.

Military observers from the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Singapore are also attending the exercise.

The aim of the exercise is to strengthen the procedures and enhance interoperability amongst neighbourhood countries to ensure robust peacekeeping operations in the region.

The armies of all the participating nations shared their valuable experiences and refined their drills and procedures in peacekeeping operations.

The visit of Gen Naravane, who is here at the invitation of his Bangladeshi counterpart Gen Aziz Ahmed, comes less than two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to the neighbouring country and met the top leadership here to strengthen the strategic ties.

The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh, the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan and the birth centenary of ‘Bangabandhu’ Mujibur Rahman.

Courtesy – https://theprint.in/

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14 Lawmakers 2,200 Myanmarese Taking Refuge In Mizoram https://theeasternlink.com/14-lawmakers-2200-myanmarese-taking-refuge-in-mizoram/ https://theeasternlink.com/14-lawmakers-2200-myanmarese-taking-refuge-in-mizoram/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:03:10 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10880

At least 14 lawmakers are among over 2,200 people from Myanmar who have taken refuge in Mizoram after fleeing their country to avoid detention following the military takeover in February, a police official said Monday. The police official said that the 14 members of Myanmar Parliament are from Chin state and Sagaing region and they belonged to […]

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At least 14 lawmakers are among over 2,200 people from Myanmar who have taken refuge in Mizoram after fleeing their country to avoid detention following the military takeover in February, a police official said Monday. The police official said that the 14 members of Myanmar Parliament are from Chin state and Sagaing region and they belonged to the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, that had won the November 2020 election. He told that at least 2,223 Myanmarese have sneaked into Mizoram and are currently taking shelter in different parts of the state.

Of the 2,223 people, 80 per cent are police personnel, while the rest 20 per cent are other government servants like teachers, firemen and bureaucrats, he said. He said that majority of the refugees are being provided food by the local NGOs, while some are sheltered by villagers. He said that Champhai district housed the highest number of Myanmar nationals at 558, followed by Siaha district which housed 414 of them. According to the official, the Myanmar nationals are currently taking refuge in 9 districts, including the state capital Aizawl. There are 310 Myanmar natives in the state capital Aizawl, he said.

Six Mizoram districts- Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual- share a 510 km long international border with Myanmar. Meanwhile, North East Students Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of various student organisations in the Northeast has urged the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop bloodshed and loss of lives in the trouble-torn Myanmar, a statement by the student body said. The meeting of the organisation held via video conference on Monday urged the centre to prevail in its capacity to the Myanmar military junta in order to stop bloodshed and loss of lives in the neighbouring country, the statement said. It also urged the Centre to seek immediate restoration of democracy in the coup hit country.

The NESO urged Modi government to properly address the plights of the Myanmar nationals, who have taken refuge in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to escape possible persecutions, with the consent of respective state governments. It said that the ethnic groups from Sagaing region and Chin state of Myanmar share the same culture, ethnicity and history with the indigenous communities of the four Northeastern states, which share international boundaries with the neighbouring country.

The student organisation further urged the centre to provide necessary temporary support to the Myanmar nationals till they are sent back to their country as the situation improved. In a statement issued in Meghalaya, expressing shock at the heavy loss of life after the bloodshed that is continuing, NESO chairman Samuel B Jyrwa said, “The NESO decided to urge the Central Government of India with the consent of state governments of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland & Arunachal Pradesh to properly address the plight of the Myanmarese nationals who are seeking shelter in these four states”.

Mizoram has been kind towards the Myanmar nationals running off this side to escape persecution in the hands of the military junta in that country after their February takeover of the country. Chief Minister Zoramthanga had shot a letter to the Prime Minister in March, stressing that India should not be turning a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

Recently, Union Home minister Amit Shah had stated that the centre would give food and medicines to the Myanmar nationals who have taken refuge in India, but the state government is yet to receive any “clear-cut direction” in the matter. Shah, during an interview with India Today TV, had said that the union government is ready to help the people of Myanmar with ration and medical supplies but won’t encourage illegal infiltration.

Courtesy – https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

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India Bans Remdesivir Exports https://theeasternlink.com/india-bans-remdesivir-exports/ https://theeasternlink.com/india-bans-remdesivir-exports/#respond Mon, 12 Apr 2021 05:21:49 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10871

India on Sunday banned the export of anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients as demand rocketed due to a record surge in COVID-19 infections and led to crippling shortages in many parts. New COVID-19 cases surged to 152,879 on Sunday, the sixth record rise in seven days, overwhelming hospitals in some regions. India, […]

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India on Sunday banned the export of anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients as demand rocketed due to a record surge in COVID-19 infections and led to crippling shortages in many parts.

New COVID-19 cases surged to 152,879 on Sunday, the sixth record rise in seven days, overwhelming hospitals in some regions. India, known as the pharmacy of the world, has already stalled major exports of coronavirus vaccines.

In addition to the Remdesivir ban “till the situation improves”, the health ministry said in a statement that manufacturers had been asked to step up supplies.

Seven Indian companies have licensed the drug from Gilead Sciences, with an installed capacity of about 3.9 million units per month, for local use and exports to more than 100 countries.

The companies are: Cipla Ltd, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd, Hetero Labs Ltd, Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd, Biocon Ltd’s Syngene, Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd and the Indian unit of Mylan .

The World Health Organization in November issued a conditional recommendation against the use of Remdesivir in hospitalised patients, regardless of disease severity, saying there was no evidence that the drug improved survival and other outcomes in these patients.

Many countries, including India, however, have continued to use it.

India leads the world in the daily average number of new infections reported in more than two weeks, accounting for one in every six infections reported globally each day, according to a Reuters tally.

Deaths have also surged, with the health ministry reporting 839 fatalities on Sunday – the highest in over five months – taking the total to 169,275.

India’s tally of more than 13.35 million cases is the third-highest globally, behind only the United States and Brazil.

BLACK MARKETING

India’s drug regulator and some state governments have in recent days raised concerns over hoarding and black marketing of Remdesivir, which in some instances is being sold at over 10 times the maximum retail price.

Social media posts on Sunday showed large queues of people in the western state of Gujarat waiting to buy Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients.

“Every day the central government is providing 50,000 Remdesivir injections but all of them are getting consumed,” Rajesh Tope, health minister of India’s hardest-hit Maharashtra state, told reporters this week. “Pharmacists and stockists might be doing black marketing and that needs to be checked.”

The federal health ministry wrote to Maharashtra, which is home to the financial capital Mumbai, asking local authorities to improve COVID-19 testing and deploy more manpower.

“Rostering of health care workers, hiring of contractual health workers need to be expedited,” the letter from India’s top health bureaucrat said, flagging an acute shortage of healthcare workers in seven districts of Maharashtra.

Authorities have blamed the resurgence of the virus mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks, even as election rallies and religious gatherings have continued in recent weeks.

Thousands of people thronged the banks of the holy Ganges River in Haridwar city on Sunday for prayers during the Kumbh Mela – where up to five million are expected on certain days.

Authorities have made it mandatory for all people entering the area to take COVID-19 tests. But many devotees on Sunday gathered by the river without masks, in densely-packed crowds.

Courtesy – BDNews24

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Regional Tensions Over Alleged Israeli Cyber Strike On Iran’s Natanz Facility https://theeasternlink.com/regional-tensions-over-alleged-israeli-cyber-strike-on-irans-natanz-facility/ https://theeasternlink.com/regional-tensions-over-alleged-israeli-cyber-strike-on-irans-natanz-facility/#respond Mon, 12 Apr 2021 05:18:09 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10868

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran on Sunday described a blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions as world powers and Tehran continue to negotiate over its tattered nuclear deal. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the […]

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran on Sunday described a blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions as world powers and Tehran continue to negotiate over its tattered nuclear deal.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the incident. Details remained few about what happened early Sunday morning at the facility, which initially was described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding the site.

Many Israeli media outlets offered the same assessment that a cyberattack darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuges. While the reports offered no sourcing for the evaluation, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.

If Israel caused the blackout, it further heightens tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East.

“To thwart the goals of this terrorist movement, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to seriously improve nuclear technology on the one hand and to lift oppressive sanctions on the other hand,” Salehi said, according state TV.

He added: “While condemning this desperate move, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes the need for a confrontation by the international bodies and the (International Atomic Energy Agency) against this nuclear terrorism.”

The IAEA, the United Nations’ body that monitors Tehran’s atomic program, earlier said it was aware of media reports about the incident at Natanz and had spoken with Iranian officials about it. The agency did not elaborate.

Sunday’ developments also complicate efforts by the U.S., Israel’s main security partner, to re-enter the atomic accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s program so it can’t pursue a nuclear weapon. As news of the blackout emerged, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed Sunday in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Power at Natanz had been cut across the facility comprised of above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, civilian nuclear program spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told Iranian state television.

“We still do not know the reason for this electricity outage and have to look into it further,” Kamalvandi said. “Fortunately, there was no casualty or damage and there is no particular contamination or problem.”

Asked by the state TV correspondent if it was a “technical defect or sabotage,” Kamalvandi declined to comment.

Natanz was largely built underground to withstand enemy airstrikes. It became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran building its underground centrifuges facility at the site, some 125 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant in July that authorities later described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain.

Israel, Iran’s regional archenemy, has been suspected of carrying out that attack as well as launching other assaults, as world powers now negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over its nuclear deal.

Iran also blamed Israel for the killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges at Natanz.

Israel has not claimed any of the attacks, though Netanyahu repeatedly has described Iran as the major threat faced by his country in recent weeks.

Meeting with Austin on Sunday, Gantz said Israel viewed America as an ally against all threats, including Iran.

“The Tehran of today poses a strategic threat to international security, to the entire Middle East and to the state of Israel,” Gantz said. “And we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world, of the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region, and protect the state of Israel.”

Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that a cyberattack caused the blackout in Natanz. Public broadcaster Kan said Israel was likely behind the attack, citing Israel’s alleged responsibility for the Stuxnet attacks a decade ago. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility. None of the reports included sources or explanations on how the outlets came to that assessment.

On Saturday, Iran announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran’s first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1. The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.

Since then-President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all the limits of its uranium stockpile. It now enriches up to 20 percent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Iran maintains its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but fears about Tehran having the ability to make a bomb saw world powers reach the deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015.

The deal lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its program and allowing IAEA inspectors to keep a close watch on its work.

Courtesy – NBCNews

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India On The Wrong Side Of History With Myanmar ! https://theeasternlink.com/india-on-the-wrong-side-of-history-with-myanmar/ https://theeasternlink.com/india-on-the-wrong-side-of-history-with-myanmar/#respond Mon, 12 Apr 2021 05:15:02 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10865

Why is India so defiantly indifferent to shaming to the point of attempting to deport a Rohingya girl child back to a Myanmar convulsed by violent turbulence? And to compound that, the Supreme Court has legitimated Centre’s contentious directive of deporting the Rohingya refugees, holding inapplicable the legal principle of non-refoulement and turning its back […]

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Why is India so defiantly indifferent to shaming to the point of attempting to deport a Rohingya girl child back to a Myanmar convulsed by violent turbulence?

And to compound that, the Supreme Court has legitimated Centre’s contentious directive of deporting the Rohingya refugees, holding inapplicable the legal principle of non-refoulement and turning its back on the genocide like situation in Myanmar.

What geo-economic and strategic compulsions are aligning democratic India on the wrong side of history with brutally repressive military dictators in Myanmar? 

At the Moreh border crossing, Rozya Akter (14), took halting steps, relentlessly moved forward by implacable Assam state police towards the check-gate on the international border. They were performing their procedural duty of deporting an ‘illegal foreigner’, a minor Rohingya Muslim girl as decreed by Indian state agencies, indifferent to the violent turbulence that had gripped neighbouring Myanmar following the February 1 military coup.

Ministry of External Affairs officials had turned a deaf ear to the desperate pleas of the girl to send her to her parents – reportedly in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. How she got separated from her parents and orphaned in a third country in 2019, is mired in murky narratives of vulnerability and likely trafficking.

Across the border were the dreaded Myanmar security forces, from whom 800,000 of her persecuted ethnic community had fled surviving rape-torture and murder. Now, thousands more Myanmar nationals were fleeing the brutal military crackdown. What fate could Rozya, a minor and alone, expect?

Incredibly, though, in what became a surprising act of humanity, the Myanmar immigration authorities “refused to open the gate of the international border saying that the situation is not appropriate for any deportation, currently”.

Rozya Akter is back in the shelter home in Silchar.

Waiting, like 22 other Rohingya Muslims, most of them registered with the Delhi office of the refugee protection agency, UNHCR and randomly rounded up in detention centres in North East.

Earlier in 2018, unmoved by the international outcry at the flouting of the international humanitarian law’s jus cogens principle of non-refoulement, India had deported 40 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. 

Three years later, Rozya, supposedly protected by multiple international and national human rights and humanitarian laws was to be the exemplary first deportation after the upheaval of the military coup in Myanmar. And to compound that, the Supreme Court on April 8 legitimated the Centre’s contentious directive of deporting Rohingya refugees, holding inapplicable the legal principle of non-refoulement, and turning its back on the genocide-like situation in Myanmar.

Why is India, globally upheld for its contemporary history of democratic values and rule of law, so defiantly indifferent to shaming to the point of deporting a Rohingya child, and now some 12,000 persecuted Muslim refugees back to Myanmar where the situation now has become worse?

Why are government directives flouting settled jurisprudence about all peoples (citizens and foreigners) entitled to protection under constitutional guarantees of right to life (Article 21) and right to equality (Article 14). Why is India’s Central authority tying itself in federal contradictions, insisting on closing the North East border against “illegal influx”, but forced by public outcry to pause in pushing back the 1,500 and more Myanmar nationals, including policemen who are fleeing indiscriminate crackdown?

It overturns India’s acclaimed humanitarian tradition of opening its borders, as it did to the flood of nine million people fleeing military crackdown in East Pakistan/Bangladesh. It flies against India’s federal compact, especially with sensitive states Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, contiguous to Myanmar.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zormanthanga has been explicitly defiant about ethnic kin Mizos opening their hearts and homes to fleeing peoples.

His unusual defiance of the Centre and his refusal to seal the borders for Burmese refugees reflects the communal/tribal and familial relationship that transcends India’s north-eastern borders of postcolonial nation-state and its hand-drawn borders.

Mizos and Chin share a longstanding ethnic affinity within the broader Zo ethnic fold. According to Mizo oral tradition, both Mizo and Chin had migrated southward from China and settled in the Lushai Hills around the 18th century. The British colonial rulers had boxed them in to three different administrative regions — India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. But this hasn’t stopped the community, especially in India and Myanmar, from maintaining a shared existence through the ages, marked by blood relations and routine movements across the international border. Turning back Chin refugees and dismissing the Mizoram government’s concerns, New Delhi stands to jeopardise its much-touted Act East Policy (AEP).

When economic sanctions are being imposed by India’s democratic peer countries, and Myanmar’s Generals are ostracised, why is it business as usual with India and Myanmar? What geo-economic and strategic compulsions are aligning democratic India on the wrong side of history with brutally repressive military dictators? 

Within weeks after the military flattened Myanmar’s quasi-democratic structure and unleashed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for restoration of democracy, on the annual Tatamadaw (military) Day in the capital Naypyidaw on March 27, India was among eight nations that attended the commemorative military parade. Whereas EU, UK, Australia and USA condemned the military for excessive use of force against protesters, representatives of India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand graced the military annual day. 

According to a senior Ministry of External Affairs official quoted by NDTV, “We have a functioning embassy in Myanmar. Our ambassador, defence attaché and other diplomatic officers continue to discharge their regular diplomatic responsibilities.”.  

The Foreign Ministry’s position as articulated on the day of the coup was “deep concern”, support for “democratic transition” and “rule of law”. Sharp criticism at home and abroad has prodded a shift in MEA’s non-committal rhetoric of “concern”, towards condemning the violence, and urging maximum restraint as figures spiralled of more than 550 killed, and 3,500 arrested.

Ambassador T.S, Tirumati, India’s permanent representative to the UN, in a social media post following a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on April 1, iterated support for a peaceful resolution that “meet(s) the hope and aspiration of the people”. But that is still a long way off from denouncing perpetrators of the violence or disengaging diplomatically, economically and militarily with Myanmar.

Increasingly, the geo-strategic politics of the China-Myanmar-India tri-junction have driven India’s transactional relations and not democratic values and human rights considerations.

Moving away from its historic foreign policy of actively supporting the then persecuted democratic forces, towards realpolitik pragmatism, India has steadily expanded diplomatic, economic and military relations with the Myanmar military junta since 1993, a decade and half before Myanmar’s democratic reform interregnum of 2010-2021. This volte face was propelled by the isolationist military junta’s opening up to China in the face of intense international criticism of the Tatmadaw’s authoritarianism, following 1988 military crackdown on student protesters, and 1990 military coup d’etat.

Since then Myanmar’s dependence on China has intensified. Senior Counsel Suu Kyi, the democracy icon, facing a battery of international criticism for her anti-minority and majoritarian Buddhist-Burman nationalist position, turned to China and in 2018 signed an MoU to establish the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).

Accordingly, China flanked by new ally Russia in the UN Security Council has scuttled efforts to issue a sharp condemnatory statement, with new entrant India, as non-permanent seat member, playing a bridging role between the two opposing camps counselling dialogue and reconciliation.

India’s relations with Myanmar have been driven by the strategic rationale of developing a counterweight to China’s dominance in Myanmar. It is competing with China in deepening economic ties, infrastructural development and in transfers of significant lethal military equipment and cooperation in military training. Alongside this, in 2014, the two countries signed an agreement on coordinated patrolling and intelligence sharing sealing insurgent access to sanctuaries across the border.

The Tatmadaw’s support has helped India steadily degrade its North-East insurgencies. Myanmar’s importance has grown as the land-bridge in India’s “Look East policy” initiative towards South East Asia. Riding on Myanmar military junta’s neo-liberal commercial opening up, Indian state-owned and private corporations have developed huge business stakes in Myanmar civilian and military economy. 

According to UN and independent Burma rights and accountability campaigners, India’s state and private enterprises are deeply entangled in commercial relations with the structure and network of the military’s main holding companies: Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). Together, they own at least 120 businesses across almost every sector in Myanmar’s economy. The companies are led by current and former senior-level military officials, including the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Such commercial partnerships have strengthened the financial autonomy of the military and its clout. The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, in the report, “The Economic Interests of the Myanmar Military,” 2019, emphasises that MEHL and MEC are able to generate enormous revenues, insulating themselves from effective civilian oversight.  This has given the Tatmadaw the financial heft required to dominate politics in Myanmar and also sustain its totalitarian regimes without depending on foreign aid. 

The FMM in successive reports in 2018 and 2019 has called for the financial isolation Myanmar military and its business partners, targeted sanctions against the senior generals and military companies, and arms embargoes.

The FFM warned: “[F]oreign companies involved with the Tatmadaw and its conglomerates MEHL and MEC should sever their relationships with these enterprises and ensure that they are fulfilling their corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Those in commercial relationships with MEHL or MEC may find themselves complicit, in law, fact or the eyes of the broader public, in contributing to the resources available to the Tatmadaw to continue its involvement in gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

India figures among the list of foreign companies from seven countries (including those that have provided arms and related equipment to the Myanmar military since 2016, even after the Myanmar military’s brutal human rights record was widely and publicly known. State-owned enterprises Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) have manufactured (or refitted) military-wares for the Tatmadaw, including Shyena lightweight torpedoes, helicopters, and a submarine. Among the private companies, Tata Group and Larsen and Toubro (L&T) have built troop carrier vehicles and torpedoes for the Tatmadaw, respectively.

The FMM report also named Infosys and Adani Group as companies that have contractual and commercial ties with the Tatmadaw. Adani Group is jointly developing the new Ahlone International Port Terminal with Myanmar Economic Corporation, which is owned by the Burmese military. MEC owns the land the port is being built on.

In a May 2019 statement, Adani Australia denied any problem with this commercial deal worth $290million. Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) quotes the Adani Group stating that although there are arms embargoes and travel restrictions on key members of the military “this does not preclude investment in the nation or business dealings with corporations such as MEC”.

Also, “The land where the port is proposed to be built has been leased from Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) following extensive due diligence”. Strategists argue that the Adani built container port on the Yangon river gives India a geo-political counter to Chinese investments in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota and Colombo ports and Pakistan’s Gwadar port as Beijing encircles the region with its Belt and Road initiative (BRI).

Infosys, the software giant has been working with Myawaddy Bank, a subsidiary of Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, which is controlled by the military. EdgeVerve Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infosys established a relationship with the bank in May 2018, just a few months after the military launched an “ethnic cleansing” operation against the Rohingya population in Rakhine state. Its 2018 press statement, Infosys makes no mention of any military connection. According to Deccan Herald, Infosys clarified, “EdgeVerve Systems began its relationship with Myawaddy Bank as a response to international calls to help Myanmar integrate with the global economy after the US lifted sanctions against the bank in 2016″.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence at a press conference in June 2020 claimed that MEC was privatised and was “concerned only with the military”. Activists associated with ACIJ and Justice for Myanmar contend that there was no evidence of privatisation. Corroborating this, Amnesty International’s report on September 2020 claims MEHL has financed “military units that are implicated in crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations.”

Following the coup, both Adani Group and Infosys have said that they are “watching the situation in Myanmar carefully” and “reviewing the international community’s response,” but are yet to take any concrete action. Already, three major foreign companies – Japan’s Kirin Holdings and Suzuki Motors, as well as Thailand’s Amata – have suspended their commercial relationships with Tatmadaw-linked subsidiaries.  USA, UK and Canada have snapped military ties and imposed sanctions. 

India’s recent track record does not inspire confidence that democratic, humanitarian or human rights considerations will outweigh MEA’s perception of geo-strategic rationale and increasingly independent business interests. While the UN condemned the “ethnic cleansing” and horrific violence against the Rohingya Muslims, it left India not only unmoved but the country compounded matters by deporting Rohingya who had sought refuge in India. Many of India’s transfers of military equipment took place in 2019 when the process of investigating the Tatmadaw leadership for serious war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was initiated under the “universal jurisdiction” clause.

Additionally, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), The Gambia filed a case accusing Myanmar of violating the Genocide Convention. Myanmar has already conceded before the ICJ that its security forces did commit “mass killings” against the Rohingya.

India’s harsh response towards a few thousand desperate Rohingya refugees and its contradictory directives to North East border states to prevent influx of people from Myanmar, has further reduced India’s international standing as the “world’s largest democracy”.

Apart from losing its position in the eyes of the international community, New Delhi risks losing the support of its own border people. By closing the borders and throwing asylum-seeking Chin and Rohingya refugees back into the hands of Myanmar army, India stands to jeopardise its Act East Policy.

The simmering anger on the ground against its directive to seal the border for Chin refugees is hardly a good sign. New Delhi needs the support of the people in Mizoram if it wants to keep its border connectivity projects up and running. India needs to keep in mind that while it is the military that is in power in Myanmar today, eventually a civilian government elected by the people will come to power in Myanmar. When that happens, India, to its own detriment, might find itself in a vortex of negative public opinion, particularly in Chin state, which is of particular importance for India. 

One of the key nodal points of New Delhi’s flagship Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) – an inland river terminal – sits along the Kaladan river in the Chin capital of Paletwa. Much like Chin State in Myanmar, Mizoram is especially central to the policy. The 110 km-long road from Zorinpui to Lawntlai – passes through Mizoram. 

Tapan Bose was secretary-general of South Asia Forum for Human Rights based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Rita Manchanda is a researcher, writer and human rights advocate specialising on conflicts and peace building in South Asia with particular attention to vulnerable and marginalised groups. Her latest publication is Women and the Politics of Peace: Narratives of Militarisation, Power and Justice (Sage, 2017).

Courtesy – TheWire

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Burmese Shadow Over RBI Policy Update https://theeasternlink.com/burmese-shadow-over-rbi-policy-update/ https://theeasternlink.com/burmese-shadow-over-rbi-policy-update/#respond Mon, 12 Apr 2021 05:11:27 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10862

Here’s a quiz question: What does India’s refusal to unequivocally criticize Myanmar’s military rule have to do with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy? A bit perhaps. The road to meaningful monetary policy outcomes in India is occasionally paved with geopolitical decisions, with the circle of influence sometimes including improbable candidates like Myanmar. […]

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Here’s a quiz question: What does India’s refusal to unequivocally criticize Myanmar’s military rule have to do with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy? A bit perhaps. The road to meaningful monetary policy outcomes in India is occasionally paved with geopolitical decisions, with the circle of influence sometimes including improbable candidates like Myanmar. RBI’s first monetary policy for 2021-22, presented on 7 April, has an understated flavour: its putative success will depend on how the external affairs ministry plays its hand.

The central bank’s April monetary policy has projected a 10.5% gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate and a 5.1% inflation rate for 2021-22. But given the unusual economic conditions and multiple risks that loom on the horizon, these projections are vulnerable to many external forces. RBI has moderated its standard policy ebullience by stating that while all the ingredients are present for a robust economic recovery, myriad dark clouds could still stop play.

RBI has added various levers and fulcrums to this policy, which are focused on mitigating risks when they present themselves. Apart from committing to inject a predictable quantum of liquidity into the system through buybacks of government bonds in the first quarter of 2021-22 (which helped soften bond market yields on 9 April), the monetary policy committee also gave an assurance that it will continue with the current accommodative policy stance “as long as necessary”, without providing an end date as in the past. A note from Axis Bank chief economist Saugata Bhattacharya says: “…the operating mechanisms have tried to strike a fine balance between a degree of predictability in forward guidance and retaining discretion for RBI to responding to evolving conditions.”

The central bank’s wariness stems from the likelihood of higher supply-side inflation, on the back of an uncertain demand revival following a resurgence in covid infections. It is here that RBI makes a direct appeal to the Centre and states, requesting them to undertake “concerted and coordinated” action in reducing petrol and diesel prices, through lower taxes and retail margins. RBI’s matrix of probable risks comprises rising global crude oil and other commodity prices, including prolonged supply chain disruptions.

Oil plays a critical role in RBI’s inflation control plans—core inflation (retail inflation minus food and fuel inflation) was 6% during February, reflecting the pass-through of higher crude oil and other commodity prices to retail prices. Oil therefore might force RBI governor Shaktikanta Das to look to external affairs minister S Jaishankar for help. This assumes greater significance after India and Saudi Arabia recently engaged in a war of words. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan had requested OPEC-plus (OPEC nations and its allies, such as Russia) to ease supply curbs by pumping more oil from the ground. The Saudi oil minister’s retort, that India should use up its strategic oil reserves first, has reportedly offended the Indian establishment; it has even compelled the government to seriously explore reducing dependence on West Asian oil. This will undoubtedly require Jaishankar’s team in the foreign ministry to work the diplomatic channels.

There is another item—pulses—that could ignite inflationary tendencies and, strangely, Myanmar can lend a helping hand here. The April monetary policy report states: “Persistent structural demand supply imbalances in key food items such as pulses, edible oils and fats, and eggs, meat and fish could also keep inflation elevated.” In two key items—pulses and edible oils—India’s consumption surpasses its production, forcing it to rely on imports every year. Pulses are a vital protein source and rising prices have an adverse effect on consumption and nutritional health.

Inflation in pulses was in double digits throughout the past 12 months, despite the government improving supplies by releasing buffer stocks, easing import restrictions, reducing import duties on certain pulses (masur), among other measures. The monetary policy report says this helped reduce the inflation rate in pulses from 18.3% in October 2020 to 12.5% in February 2021. But it’s still in double digits.

So, where does Myanmar fit in? It happens to be India’s second largest supplier of pulses, after Canada. Myanmar supplies almost 24% of India’s total pulse imports, with Canada providing 34%. India’s acreage under pulses during 2020-21 was below its target, thereby increasing import dependence. India’s diplomatic exertions in refusing to outright censure the military coup may be seen as pragmatic geopolitics, given that we share a 1,600-km border with Myanmar. Plus, there is always a China factor. But is it only geopolitics? Look at it differently. Canada’s statements on the farmer agitation raised hackles in India. Yet, when it asked for vaccines, we promptly exported 0.5 million doses to Canada. And Myanmar? We exported 3.7 million doses to it, ranking it among the top seven vaccine recipients.

Courtesy – LiveMint

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Bangladesh Basks In Middle-Income Country Status https://theeasternlink.com/bangladesh-basks-in-middle-income-country-status/ https://theeasternlink.com/bangladesh-basks-in-middle-income-country-status/#respond Sun, 11 Apr 2021 15:31:13 +0000 https://theeasternlink.com/?p=10859

The UN recently confirmed that Bangladesh has in concrete terms made its long-awaited transition to a middle-income country status, years ahead of the scheduled date in 2026. There has been some welcome reactions from unexpected quarters such as Indian garments exporters and a few Pakistan –based observers, for contrasting reasons. Among Pakistani garments manufacturers, it […]

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The UN recently confirmed that Bangladesh has in concrete terms made its long-awaited transition to a middle-income country status, years ahead of the scheduled date in 2026. There has been some welcome reactions from unexpected quarters such as Indian garments exporters and a few Pakistan –based observers, for contrasting reasons.

Among Pakistani garments manufacturers, it used to be the standard argument that Bangladesh as an aspiring least developed country (LDC) enjoyed special concessions from the EU, China and other major importing countries, which gave a built-in advantage to Dhaka when it came to winning export orders in the garments sector. The so-called ‘economic miracle’ was therefore partially subsidised by world trade authorities, went the argument.

In recent times, Pakistani industrialists have been outsourcing part of their export orders to their Bangladeshi counterparts or setting up new units in its former Eastern province. Higher productivity, lower labour costs and a steadier power supply acted as attractive incentives.

As for Indian garment makers, the substantial tariff duty relief given to Bangladeshi products by Delhi made it tough to compete with Dhaka even in India’s domestic markets, especially for the inexpensive varieties enjoying bulk sales. They made several representations to the Government to address their needs.

The GoI some time ago pressed Bangladesh authorities to reduce their tariff on Indian imports, in a bid to ensure a measure of parity. Currently, there is new hope that with Bangladesh moving up several steps on the economic development ladder, the playing field will be more level.

However, such optimism needs to be tempered with caution. Present indications suggest that having graduated from an LDC status to a higher level, Bangladesh is not about to abandon its hard-won identity as an export powerhouse in South Asia anytime soon. If anything, its attraction among major international investors has increased much to the surprise of its regional neighbours.

Reportedly, 40 Japanese-owned industrial units from mainland China and around 20 South Korean enterprises mostly based in Myanmar, have either /or are in the process of –shifted/ relocating their operations to Bangladesh. And not all are garment producing units either. The reasons: the prospect of reduced overhead costs, a trained workforce, good connectivity, a friendly government and political stability. It needs adding that Bangladesh currently competes with Cambodia and Vietnam as the new favoured destination in Asia for international investment.

Its new status as a middle-income country will make it necessary for Dhaka to ensure major economic adjustments involving cost and structural overhauling. Observers feel this could for a time slowdown the country’s spectacular performance in the production of relatively low cost garments.

Major Western importers of Bangladeshi garments in the EU or US/Canada will now be more insistent on ensuring that child labour and working conditions get better. The Garments Producers’ body BGMEA, economists and Dhaka-based policymakers have already begun addressing problems the garments trade may have to face from around 2030 or so, as the special relief provided earlier for LDCs come to an end.

Working conditions in most of Bangladeshi garment producing factories – estimates range from 4500 to 5000 of them — are far from comfortable, in terms of space per worker, drinking water facilities/ fire prevention methods and so on. The high decibel noise generated is another concern. Several major accidents have claimed hundreds of lives, leading to inquiries and suspension of overseas orders from time to time.

Yet, the importance of garments exports to Bangladesh economy cannot be over emphasized, nor its larger socio-economic impact denied. Of the nearly 30,00,000 people working in the industry (including children in some places, it is alleged), well over 80% are women/young girls. This directly contributes to women empowerment and gender equity.

At present the sector produces around 7% of the total world production and earns over 44% of the aggregate annual export earnings of over $34 billion. The Government has a target of increasing its total exports up to $50 billion in a few years by strengthening the garments sector. There are plans to diversify production by introducing greater variety and produce more high end stuff.

However, the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic and the accompanying shutdowns have slowed down such plans for the time being. How Bangladesh copes with its new status and wards off regional competition will be watched keenly by its neighbours.

Courtesy – https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/

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