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Biden focused G-7 Summit disappoints

By Asad Mirza

The 3Cs: Covid, China and Climate Change dominated the 47th annual G-7 Summit in Cornwall, UK. But overall the leaders were not able to present a united stand on any major issue.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted the summit to showcase his brand of ‘Global Britain’, after Brexit. But there were terse exchanges between the French, EU and British leaders and officials on the issue. In effect, the summit turned out to be more Biden focused and expectations were raised high on some real agreement taking place on the 3C’s before the summit, though that was not the result ultimately.

Broadly, Biden sought to set a new tone after the unrestrained Trump years. Most G-7 leaders seemed relieved to have a return to a more predictable and traditional US administration. France’s Emmanuel Macron welcomed Biden back to the “club.” But the final Communique showed that even Biden’s expectations to ensure a consensus on many of his promises fell short.

On the issue of Covid-19, the leaders of the seven most affluent western nations seemed united, but there was a difference of opinion on the way forward. Earlier, they had shown commitment to donate 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses over the next year to poorer countries. But in reality the bloc fell short of its own goal — 613 million new doses pledged, instead of a billion.

Even so, the vaccine effort gave Biden some help with his China push. Biden has criticised China for a transactional brand of vaccine diplomacy, where the shots are being doled out for geopolitical advantage. Biden called on democracies to counter China and Russia by donating vaccines equally and based on need, without seeking favours in return.

On the second day of the summit, US unveiled plans to counter China through infrastructure funding for poorer nations. Promising to “collectively catalyse” hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries, the G7 leaders said they would offer a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership.

G-7s “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project was aimed directly at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Infrastructure (BRI) initiative.

However, several leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pushed back over worries about turning the G-7 into an anti-China group, suggesting any infrastructure programme should be framed as a more positive, pro-environment effort.

French President Emmanuel Macron also pushed back publicly, saying that the “G-7 is not a group that is hostile to China.” Macron was one leader who sought the middle ground.

China hit back at these statements dismissively saying that the days when “global decisions” were dictated by a “small group of countries are long gone”.

The final version of the communique skirted B3W, instead creating a task force to study how to spur infrastructure development abroad. It made no mention of BRI, though Biden renewed his call at a press conference, and said that, “I proposed that we have a democratic alternative to the Belt and Road initiative, to build back better.”

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced last month that due to surging Covid cases in India, he’d not travel to the UK, he addressed the summit virtually. He conveyed India’s commitment to “collective” solution to global health challenges, and called for “one earth, one health” approach, which aims for unity and solidarity among the states of the world to deal with the pandemic. He also emphasised the need to keep raw materials for vaccines easily accessible.

The summit’s Communique, which was issued several hours after the end of the summit, promises many things but falls short of what was expected to be achieved before the summit.

(The Op-Ed appeared in IANS)

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Italy first to enter knockouts in Euro 2020

Rome: Italy became the first side to enter the knockout stages of Euro 2020 thanks to a 3-0 win over Switzerland here.

The result means they will now fight for the top spot in Group A in their final league game against Wales, who beat Turkey earlier in the day.

Manuel Locatelli was Italy’s hero with two goals as Roberto Mancini’s side displayed assured and attacking football, Xinhua reports.

In Group A’s other match at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts scored a goal each for Wales as they won 2-0 against Turkey.

Both sides traded attacks in the first half, but Wales looked more dangerous in front of the goal and scored the opener in the 42nd minute when Ramsey chested Gareth Bale’s chip into the box before tapping the ball past Turkey goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir.

Turkey’s Burak Yilmaz should have restored parity early in the second half, but the captain wasted a golden chance from close range following a corner. At the hour mark, Wales were awarded a penalty but Bale put the spot-kick over the bar.

Bale had a hand in Wales’s second goal though, as the striker danced through Turkey’s penalty box before squaring to Connor Roberts, who sealed the deal in the dying seconds of injury time.

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Euro 2020: Germany defeats defending champions Portugal 4-2

Munich: Germany got their Euro 2020 campaign back on track — and blew Group F wide open — with a 4-2 romp against Portugal in Munich. 

After Cristiano Ronaldo claimed his 107th international goal, leaving him two short of Ali Daei’s all-time record, to give Portugal an early lead, the Germans roared back with four unanswered goals. German pressure forced own goals by Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro to put the hosts 2-1 up at half-time.

A Kai Havertz goal underlined Germany’s dominance before left-back Robin Gosens capped his man-of-the-match display by heading in Germany’s fourth goal to add to his two assists.

Portugal hit back when Diogo Jota tapped in Ronaldo’s hooked volley to make it 4-2 with 23 minutes left.

Germany continued their domination of Portugal, who they have now beaten five consecutive times at World Cup or European Championship finals since Euro 2000.

Germany created a huge amount of chances compared to 1-0 defeat by France, while Portugal lacked the composure of their 3-0 win over Hungary the same day.

This is the first time Portugal have conceded four goals since losing 4-0 to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

With the result, France (4 points) remained atop the standings in Group F followed by Germany (3 points), Portugal (3 points) and Hungary (1 point).

With a win over Hungary on June 23, Germany can secure their progression, while holders Portugal face a tough task with France.

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President Biden counters China, Russia at summits in Europe

Geneva: President Biden went to Europe for a week to convince the allies that America was back, and for good; gather them in common cause against the rising threat of China; and establish some red lines for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he called his “worthy adversary.”

At G7 he made inroads on China on which in Europe here has been reluctance to think of China as a threat — economically, technologically and militarily.

In Geneva, Biden expressed cautious optimism about finding ways to reach a polite accommodation with  Putin. But it is far from clear that any of the modest initiatives the two men described on Wednesday, after a stiff, three-hour summit meeting on the edge of Lake Geneva, will fundamentally change a bad dynamic, rcometns New York Times

Biden, one of his senior aides said after the meeting was over, “is perpetually optimistic” that Mr. Putin may, despite a long history of efforts to undermine the Western alliance, see advantage in changing course.

This was Biden’s first foreign tour as President. He began over the weekend in England, on the rocky shores of Cornwall, the venue for G7, talking about friendship, alliances, consultation, comity and multilateralism. At every stop he opened with the same three words: “America is back.”

In Brussels, at NATO’s 31st summit on Monday, he  said it was up to Democratic nations to prove to the world that autocracies cannot deliver for their people. He said NATO members must root out corruption, guard against hatred and “phony populism,” and invest in strengthening institutions “that underpin and safeguard our cherished democratic values.”

Photo courtesy Yahoo News
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CEO Satya Nadella steps in as Microsoft Chairman too

San Francisco: Microsoft board has elected CEO Satya Nadella as Chairman of the tech giant, a first in two decades when Microsoft’s chairman will also be its CEO.

Bill Gates was the only other Chairman and CEO of Microsoft who stepped down as CEO in 2000. He stepped down as chairman in 2014 and the board then elected John Thompson as independent chairman. Thomson now takes over as lead independent director,

In his role as Chairman, Nadella will lead the work to set the agenda for the board, leveraging his deep understanding of the business to elevate the right strategic opportunities and identify key risks and mitigation approaches for the board’s review, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition to these role changes, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $0.56 per share.

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US to keep pressure on IS, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: CENTCOM

Washington: Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), has said that Washington will seek to “keep pressure” on the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda terror groups in Afghanistan, a media report said.

“We will still do everything we can to keep pressure on the IS and Al Qaeda, from our over-the-horizon locations,” TOLO News quoted McKenzie as saying in an interview with Military Times.

Regarding a recent UN report warning that the Taliban appeared poised to take back control of Afghanistan, McKenzie said: “We still intend to support the Afghan military from just over the horizon. We’re still going to support them with funding.

“We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on.

“I don’t want to minimize this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”

Asked if the US would provide any combat support to Afghan forces if major cities such as Kabul were at risk of being overrun, McKenzie said: “Those are actually policy decisions, not military decisions. Right now what we’re planning to do after we withdraw is keep pressure on Al Qaeda and IS, and that would be what we’d be doing, going back into Afghanistan.”

The withdrawal of international troops is due to be completed by September 11 at the latest.

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Suu Kyi confronted with sedition charge on 2nd day of trial

Bangkok: The trial of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi entered its second day on June 15, with the prosecution presenting arguments that she incited public disorder and flouted coronavirus restrictions, part of a package of charges the ruling junta is seen as using to discredit her and consolidate its control.

Suu Kyi and other members of her government and party were arrested by the military after the February 1 coup, with criminal charges brought against some of the top figures on litany of charges that both their supporters and independent observers say are bogus.

The coup reversed years democratic reforms in Myanmar after decades of military rule and sparked widespread protests and international condemnation.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party had been due to start a second five-year term of office after winning a landslide victory in a general election last November.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since her arrest and her lawyers say they don’t know exactly where she is currently being held.

The sedition charge, which is sometimes described as incitement, calls for up to two years’ imprisonment for anyone found guilty of causing fear or alarm that could cause an offense against the state or public tranquility.

The trial covered charges she had illegally imported walkie-talkies that were for her bodyguards’ use; unlicensed use of those radios; and violating the Natural Disaster Management Law by allegedly breaking pandemic restrictions during last year’s election campaign, her lawyers said.

Suu Kyi also faces more charges that have yet to go to trial, among them accepting bribes. (New Indian Express)

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Chaos in Pakistan Parliament; lawmakers hurl abuses

Islamabad: The Pakistan National Assembly witnessed some unruly scenes on June 15 over Imran Khan government’s budget proposals.

During the sitting of the House, members of the treasury benches created chaos on the floor and even abused other parliamentarians, according to a video of the incident. The proceedings of the lower house were adjourned by the Speaker after the incident.

The chaos broke out when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif addressed the House.

According to the video, which is now going viral, Sharif was greeted by jeers, slogans, and whistles from the treasury members as soon as he started speaking.

“Imran Khan Niazi promised 10 million jobs. Where are those jobs?” asked Sharif. “Where are the USD 300bn that was supposed to be brought back to the country from abroad?”

Continuing to lash out at the government, he said that PM Imran Khan’s claims of eliminating corruption from Pakistan were hollow.

“Pakistan is suffering from the worst form of corruption today,” he said. “No act of posting or transferring someone these days is done without an element of corruption these days,” added Shahbaz.

He criticized the government’s budget, saying that it had failed to provide relief to the masses from unemployment and inflation, Geo News reported citing the video.

The lawmakers were then seen fighting on the floor of the House and throwing copies of the budget.

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China, Pakistan leading race for nuclear weapons: Swedish think-tank

New Delhi: China, Pakistan and India have 350, 165 and 156 nuclear warheads respectively as of January this year and the three countries appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, a study by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has said.

It also said as per its assessment, Russia and the US together possess over 90 percent of the estimated 13,080 global nuclear weapons.

China, Pakistan and India had 320, 160 and 150 nuclear warheads respectively as of January last year, the SIPRI’s study said.

There are nine countries in the world that have nuclear weapons: the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.

“China is in the middle of a significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals,” the study said.

It has been more than a year since the military standoff between the armies of India and China erupted in eastern Ladakh on May 5, 2020, during which there were fatalities on both sides for the first time in 45 years.

India and Pakistan had on February 25 this year released a joint statement announcing a ceasefire along the Line of Control, following talks between their Directors General of Military Operations.

“The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide no information about the status or size of their (nuclear) arsenals,” it noted.

Approximately 2,000 of the total 13,080 global nuclear warheads in the world are “kept in a state of high operational alert”, said the study mentioned in the SIPRI Yearbook 2021.

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