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Mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if Tories win, Sunak vows

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London, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Eighteen-year-olds would be forced to carry out a form of national service if the Tories are voted back in at the July 4 election, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced.

The Prime Minister said Britain has “generations of young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve” as he claimed the radical measure would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world”.

In future, 18-year-olds would be given a choice between a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community, the Tories said.

In an apparent pitch to older voters, the party said this could include helping local fire, police and National Health Service services as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting elderly, isolated people.

Sunak is seeking to draw a dividing line with Labour on global security following his pledge to raise defence spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

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Heightening his attack on Saturday, Sunak said voters would be left “at risk” with Keir Starmer in Number 10 because Britain’s enemies would notice that he “doesn’t have a plan”.

Teenagers who choose to sign up for a placement in the forces would “learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations”, the Tories said.

The Conservatives said they would establish a royal commission bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society to design what they described as the “bold” national service programme.

The party said it would work towards the first pilot being open for applications in September 2025, after which it would seek to introduce a new “National Service Act” to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament.

The Prime Minister said: “This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world.

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“I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new model of national service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.

“This new, mandatory national service will provide life-changing opportunities for our young people, offering them the chance to learn real-world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”

Earlier on Saturday, Sunak suggested a government led by Keir would be marked by uncertainty and a “more dangerous world.”

“The consequences of uncertainty are clear. No plan means a more dangerous world. You, your family and our country are all at risk if Labour win,” he said.

Keir’s party branded the announcement “another desperate unfunded commitment” and pointed out that David Cameron introduced a similar scheme – the National Citizen Service – when he was prime minister.

Cameron’s announcement had no armed forces component to it, instead encouraging youngsters to take part in activities such as outdoor education-style courses as part of his “Big Society” initiative.

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A Labour spokesperson said: “This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the armed forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.

“Britain has had enough of the Conservatives, who are bankrupt of ideas, and have no plans to end 14 years of chaos. It’s time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with Labour.”

–IANS/DPA

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International

IANS Analysis: China under Xi Jinping — worse than ever?

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Xi Jinping assumed the presidency of China in March 2013, succeeding Hu Jintao as the primary leader of both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People’s Republic of China.

Over the subsequent 12 years, Xi has navigated China through a tumultuous period, significantly altering the global perception of the nation.

Although China is an authoritarian state, it had established mechanisms to prevent the concentration of unchecked power in a single individual, a response to the challenges encountered under Mao Zedong’s leadership. These mechanisms included a maximum two-term limit for presidents and a system of checks and balances within the Party’s upper echelons.

Presidents would typically begin grooming their successors as their terms concluded.

However, these practices have been consistently ignored in Xi Jinping’s case. He amended the party’s constitution to extend his tenure beyond two terms, appointed loyalists to key positions and emerged as the most powerful leader in Communist Chinese history (even Mao faced resistance from civil war-era military generals). Reflecting on these developments, it is crucial to consider how Xi Jinping’s decade-long rule has impacted China.

The starting of failures

When Xi Jinping assumed the role of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the country, it was during the period of China’s ‘peaceful rise’; that the nation was thriving economically and emerging as a global manufacturing hub.

Liberal internationalists believed that as market forces penetrated China, democracy would inevitably follow. However, a realist perspective of international relations ultimately prevailed.

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The China that Xi Jinping inherited was flourishing and becoming a constructive global force.

Upon taking office, he began to use this development and the rise of China as instruments for asserting dominance.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) serves as a prime example; it was China’s first major international infrastructural project, launched in 2013 to establish a multimodal network of infrastructure projects across various countries.

A decade later, the BRI has not evolved into a cohesive, concrete initiative. The world’s largest economies have opted out of participating in the BRI.

Low- and middle-income countries that initially joined the initiative began complaining about the debt trap, where high interest rates imposed by Chinese banks forced many countries to cede control of projects to China.

The Hambantota port project in Sri Lanka is the most prominent example of this debt trap.

Additionally, the BRI did not materialise into a multimodal network but rather remained a means for China to establish influence over individual countries.

The failures of the BRI also affected China’s domestic political landscape.

The BRI was closely tied to Xi Jinping’s paramount “Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation” project. This initiative aimed to revitalise the Chinese economy, which had been decelerating since the global financial crisis. Under Xi’s leadership, the Chinese economic miracle that began during Deng Xiaoping’s era began to slow down. X’s domestic and foreign policies are primarily responsible for this downturn.

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Series of policy mishaps

Xi Jinping and his loyalists, who secured positions within the inner circles of the CPC following Xi’s anti-corruption purge of numerous party officials, are held responsible for several policy failures.

Among the most notable are the rising tensions with neighbouring countries such as India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with China being accused of aggressive actions along their borders.

Additionally, China engaged in direct confrontations and diplomatic coercion with various states, including Australia and smaller European nations, where its ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ harmed its carefully cultivated long-term relationships.

It is widely known that China has unresolved disputes with annexed peripheral regions, including Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.

Over the past decade, following Xi Jinping’s unprecedented security crackdowns, these borders have been tightly controlled. As a result, an estimated one million minority Muslim Uyghurs were detained in camps in Xinjiang, and in Hong Kong, Beijing enacted a sweeping national security law in response to significant anti-government protests in 2019.

Xi has also significantly increased the public security budget for Tibet from nearly 160 million Yuan to more than 300 million Yuan over the last 10 years.

Taiwan, an independent democratic island with security ties to the US, has long been a target for China’s ‘reunification’ ambitions.

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Recently, China has become more aggressive along Taiwan’s border.

According to a report by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence, Chinese air incursions have surged, with the number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defence zone daily, increasing from around 15 in 2021 to around 70 in April 2023.

On the economic front, China’s economy has continually slowed since Xi Jinping assumed office. Since his tenure began, there has been an increasing crackdown on the private sector.

Chinese capitalism is predominantly state-run, raising security concerns in many countries.

The purge of prominent industrialists, such as Jack Ma, has created significant challenges for Chinese entrepreneurs and wealth creators.

China remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

The economic slowdown since the Covid-19 lockdown has also led to increased unemployment, alongside a persistent decline in private sector investment and consumer confidence in the Chinese economy during Xi’s reign.

In conclusion, contemporary China under Xi Jinping faces numerous domestic and international challenges. The lack of solutions to these issues has led Xi to adopt a hawkish approach towards neighbouring countries, hoping to stir nationalist sentiments among Chinese citizens.

While this strategy may be effective in the short term, in the long run, more than one billion people will demand answers from Xi Jinping. Ultimately, history is likely to judge him with a degree of scepticism.

–IANS

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US Secret Service shares details of assassination attempt on Trump (2nd Ld)

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Washington, July 14 (IANS) Former US President Donald Trump was shot at an election rally in a possible assassination attempt just a day before the Republican Party is scheduled to begin its convention to formally declare him its nominee for the White House.

Trump touched the right side of his face after what seemed like the first two shots and dropped to the ground.

Secret Service agents threw themselves on him to protect him. When they rose, the agents had him inside protective of their bodies.

The former President appeared to be bleeding on the right side of the face. He raised a fist in the air as he was led away.

He was taken to a local medical facility for treatment.

“I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear,” former President Trump said in a post on Truth Social, the media platform he launched after he was banished from Twitter, which is now called X.

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“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, and shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin. Much bleeding took place, so I realised then what was happening.”

The shooter, who remains unidentified, was shot dead.

Local authorities said he was in a low-rise building outside the rally venue.

A member of the audience is also dead. Another person was grievously wounded.

The Secret Service said in a statement: “During former President Trump’s campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, on the evening of July 13 at around 6:15 p.m., a suspected shooter fired multiple shots toward the stage from an elevated position outside of the rally venue. US Secret Service personnel neutralised the shooter, who is now deceased. The US Secret Service quickly responded with protective measures and the former President is safe and being evaluated. One spectator was killed, and two spectators were critically injured. The incident is currently under investigation and the Secret Service has formally notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

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President Joe Biden said in remarks to the nation that he had tried to speak to Trump — addressing him as “Donald” for probably the first time in public.

“I plan on talking to them shortly, he said, adding, “There’s no place in America for this kind of violence. It’s sick sick… The bottom line is (the) rally should have been conducted peacefully without any problem.”

–IANS

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Trump shot at in assassination attempt (Ld)

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Washington, July 14 (IANS) Former US President Donald Trump was shot at an election rally in a possible assassination attempt just a day before the Republican Party is scheduled to begin its convention to formally declare him its nominee for the White House.

Trump touched the right side of his face after what seemed like the first two shots and dropped to the ground.

Secret Service agents threw themselves on him to protect him. When they rose, the agents had him inside protective of their bodies.

The former President appeared to be bleeding on the right side of the face. He raised a fist in the air as he was led away.

He was taken to a local medical facility for treatment.

The shooter, who remains unidentified, was shot dead.

Local authorities said he was in a low-rise building outside the rally venue.

A member of the audience is also dead. Another person was grievously wounded.

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President Joe Biden said in remarks to the nation that he had tried to speak to Trump — addressing him as “Donald” for probably the first time in public.

“I plan on talking to them shortly, he said, adding, “There’s no place in America for this kind of violence. It’s sick sick… The bottom line is (the) rally should have been conducted peacefully without any problem.”

Biden refused to answer questions from a report if this was an assassination attempt.

He said he had an opinion but he will wait for facts.

The “Secret Service has implemented protective measures and the former President is safe,” said Anthony Guglielmi, the Chief of Communications for the Secret Service, in a statement.

The former President Trump is “fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility,” Trump Communications Director Steven Cheung said in a statement.

–IANS

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Trump removed from election rally after incident

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Washington, July 13 (IANS) Former US President Donald Trump was removed from an election rally in Pennsylvania after an incident that possibly involved shooting.

He appeared to have blood on the right side of his face.

The “Secret Service has implemented protective measures and the former President is safe,” said Anthony Guglielmi, the Chief of Communications for the Secret Service, in a statement.

The former President is “fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility,” Trump Communications Director Steven Cheung said in a statement.

The incident took place about seven minutes into the rally in Butler, in western Pennsylvania, on Saturday.

The former President dropped to the ground holding the right side of his face and was soon covered by Secret Service agents who shortly rose with him and led him off.

Trump could be seen raising a fist while leaving.

US President Joe Biden has been briefed about the incident.

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–IANS

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11 dead due to landslide in Vietnam

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Hanoi, July 14 (IANS) At least 11 people on board a minibus died after being buried by a landslide in Vietnam’s northern province of Ha Giang while four others were critically injured, according to the latest update by the stste media reports.

When the vehicle was trapped by a landslide on a road in Bac Me district, all the people on board got out for help. The minibus was reportedly carrying around 16 people.

Thousands of cubic metres of soil from above poured onto the road, burying all the people, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, rainfall in the area where the accident happened early Saturday morning was recorded at 280-290 mm from 7 p.m. on Friday until 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Natural disasters in Vietnam left 68 people dead or missing and injured 56 others in the first six months of this year, said the General Statistics Office.

The total property losses incurred were more than 1.7 trillion Vietnamese dong ($66.9 million), which was 2.5 times higher than the same period last year.

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–IANS

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