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Six NATO countries to create 'drone wall' for border protection

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Kyiv, May 25 (IANS) Six countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will set up a “drone wall” to protect their borders, the Ukrainian news outlet European Pravda reported on Saturday.

Baltic states, namely Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as Poland, Finland, and Norway, will join the initiative, said the report, according to Xinhua news agency.

“This is a completely new thing — a ‘drone wall’ stretching from Norway to Poland, and the goal is to use drones and other technologies to protect our borders,” Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite has said.

Under the initiative, the participating countries will use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor their border areas.

They will also deploy anti-drone systems to protect their borders from drones, which could be used by “hostile countries” for smuggling and provocations, according to the initiative.

–IANS

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'Deeply concerned' Rahul Gandhi condemns attack on Donald Trump

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, on Sunday, expressed “deep concern” over the suspected assassination attempt on the US Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

On Saturday, the former US President was shot at an election rally in western Pennsylvania 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.

Rahul Gandhi took to his X and wrote: “I am deeply concerned by the assassination attempt on former US President Donald Trump.”

“Such acts must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Wishing him a swift and complete recovery,” the Congress leader added.

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.

A member of the audience was killed, and another person was grievously wounded.

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

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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Assassination attempt on Trump latest in stream of violence coursing through US body politic

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New York, July 14 (IANS) The assassination attempt on Donald Trump, the Republican contender for President, is the latest incident in the stream of violence that has coursed through US body politic.

Gun control is one of the most divisive elements in the politics of a nation with the highest rate of firearm violence among industrialised countries where 18,854 people perished from gunshots, including accidental firings and suicides last year according to the Gun Violence Archives, and so far this year 9,102.

Trump opposes gun control along with his Republican political base — and is not expected to change now — while for President Biden limiting their availability is an article of faith.

Gun violence, inevitability, spills into politics and its consequences become fodder for electoral rhetoric.

When he was the front-runner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1968, Robert F Kennedy was killed while the campaign was in full swing. The assassin was a Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan.

Two months earlier, Martin Luther King, the Mahatma Gandhi-inspired champion of human rights, had been assassinated.

President John Kennedy — Robert Kennedy’s brother — had been assassinated just five years earlier, the last in a line of presidents killed in office starting with Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

The killing of presidents, James A. Garfield in 1881, and William McKinley in 1901 followed. Like Lincoln, they were also Republicans.

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In 1981, Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt suffering a punctured lung and heavy internal blooding.

Doctors managed to save the Republican who was hospitalised for 12 days.

In a parallel to Trump, former President Theodore Roosevelt survived an attempt on his life while campaigning for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912.

Serving as vice president, he succeeded McKinley after his assassination but after two terms and a respite, he failed to get the Republican Party nomination and switched to the Progressive Party but lost the election.

Some Republican members of Congress had a narrow escape in 2017 after Trump’s election when a leftist attacked a group of them while they were practising for a baseball game.

Republican Whip in the House of Representatives Steve Scalise was injured.

In what is probably the most direct political violence in recent times, supporters of Trump attacked the Capitol as Congress was in the process of ratifying Biden’s election.

Four people died in the riot, though the only one was killed by a firearm was shot by law enforcement.

Gabby Gifford, a Democrat member of the House, survived an assassination attempt in 2011 at a meeting with her constituents outside a supermarket when a gunman opened fire killing six people, including a federal judge, and injuring 19.

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Gifford suffered a brain injury that ended her political career.

The shooter had strong views against Gifford and had expressed the belief that women should not hold public offices.

Gifford had been a staunch proponent of gun control, an issue that sharply divides the nation.

Trump, who was injured in the assassination attempt, holds a position on gun control that has come to haunt him — but the near miss is unlikely to change his position.

The opposition to gun control accords with that of his Republican base that holds sacrosanct a broad literal interpretation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment that says, “Right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.

The staunchest opponents of gun control in his base regulations are even against limitations on automatic and heavy-duty guns.

The gun laws mostly vary from state to state, with the Democratic-run states having the strictest laws.

But even they cannot keep gun violence and the possession of weapons under control as domestic gun runners transport and sell guns from states with lax controls to strict ones.

One of the concessions that Trump had made was to curtail guns with bump stocks, an adapter that can make certain guns act like automatic weapons.

The law prompted by the killing of 60 people at a Las Vegas concert, was recently struck down by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

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Amid the harsh and violent political rhetoric, death threats against politicians, judges, public figures, activists, and media personalities have almost become commonplace.

A man was arrested and charged last month with making death threats against Vivek Ramaswamy, who ran against Trump in the party primaries and dropped out to support the former president.

The Secret Service and other federal and state agencies investigate hundreds of threats.

Republicans sought to blame the rhetoric against Trump for the assassination attempt.

Senator JD Vance, considered one of those on Trump’s shortlist for vice president, posted on X, “Today is not just some isolated incident. The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs. That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination”.

Republicans seized on Biden telling his supporters recently after his debate fiasco, “We’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye”.

Nine Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill to strip Trump of Secret Service protection

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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Three missing people in western Japan landslide confirmed dead

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Tokyo, July 14 (IANS) Three people have been confirmed dead after they were trapped in a landslide in the early hours of Friday in the western Japanese prefecture of Ehime, according to local authorities.

Firefighters and police searched the disaster-hit area in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, and found two men and one woman on Saturday afternoon. They were later confirmed to be members of a family who had been reported missing since the landslide. They got trapped in a landslide early Friday morning, reports Xinhua news agency.

The victims were a man in his 90s, a woman in her 80s, and their son in his 40s, who were living in a wooden house that collapsed due to the landslide.

At around 4 a.m. local time on Friday, a slope measuring 50 metres wide and 100 metres high collapsed from a mountain, with mud flowing into nearby homes and apartments. Local authorities had been searching for the three missing people after the disaster.

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There were no further reports of anybody missing and the search was called off at the landslide site.

The landslide occurred as the country’s weather agency warned of heavy rain mainly in western Japan, urging people to be on high alert for landslides and flooding in low-lying areas.

–IANS

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'Shocked' Big Tech CEOs condemn assassination attempt on Trump

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San Francisco, July 14 (IANS) Big Tech leaders on Sunday condemned an assassination attempt aimed at former US President Donald Trump during an election rally, stressing that political violence is intolerable.

The CEOs of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Meta posted comments on X social media platform, wishing for Trump’s speedy recovery while criticising the use of violence.

“I pray for President Trump’s rapid recovery. My thoughts are with him, the other victims and the Trump family. I strongly condemn this violence,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai wished President Trump a speedy recovery.

“I’m shocked by the shooting and loss of life. Political violence is intolerable, and we must all come together to strongly oppose it,” Pichai posted on X.

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said, “There is simply no place for any type of violence in our society.”

“Sending my best wishes to President Trump for a speedy recovery and to all those impacted by today’s horrific event,” Nadella said.

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Mark Zuckerberg, Meta Founder and CEO, also prayed for a quick recovery for the US Presidential candidate.

“This is such a sad day for our country. Political violence undermines democracy and must always be condemned,” he posted on Threads social media platform.

Trump thanked the United States Secret Service and law enforcement for their prompt response after the assassination attempt on him.

“I want to thank the United States Secret Service and all of law enforcement for their rapid response to the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” the former President wrote on his own social media platform ‘Truth Social’.

“Most importantly, I want to extend my condolences to the family of the person at the Rally who was killed, and also to the family of another person that was badly injured,” he said.

The shooter, who remains unidentified, was shot dead. Local authorities said he was in a low-rise building outside the rally venue.

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A member of the audience was also dead, while another person was grievously wounded.

–IANS

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The Third Eye: Is Israel succeeding in Gaza?

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New Delhi: In these nine months of its air and ground operations in Gaza in response to the terror attack of Hamas on October 7 last year, Israel has forcibly displaced 80 per cent of the population there, killed over 37,000 people including a large number of Palestinian women and children and dropped as many bombs in the region as the total of those thrown on Europe in World War II.

The military action of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against Hamas not only raises the issue of disproportionate collateral losses in an army action but also questions the basic strategy of effectively countering terrorist organisations, itself.

It is true that Hamas practising terrorist methodology is also a military outfit that combined the tactics of first unleashing an open missile attack and then using it as a cover to infiltrate across the Israeli border to resort to indiscriminate firing with automatic rifles killing a large number of civilians — nearly 1200 — who were participating in Israel’s Memorial Day function near by. In the brutal offensive Hamas took away nearly 250 hostages mostly women and children.

Israel as a democratic state was fully justified in taking to a military response to punish Hamas but its action has over time been reduced to blind destruction of the civilian areas and establishments where the Hamas militants were expected to be taking shelter in the underground tunnels.

Even in situations where two rival armies confronted each other a certain amount of civilian casualties might occur as unavoidable collateral damage but in Gaza, the IDF went all out against the invisible enemy hidden behind non-combatant civilians — women and children included — and in the process extensively bombed the residential areas.

It is possible that many of the civilians were actively supporting Hamas — the Oct 7 attack on Israel had sent down a wave of excitement and appreciation across Palestine. They might even be sheltering Hamas militants thus running the risk of inviting punitive action at the hands of the Israeli army but the stand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Hamas would be eliminated even if the IDF had to destroy the entire Gaza that was instrumental in providing a cover to the terrorists, would surely lead to adverse political consequences for him in his own country as well as in the international community.

Counter-terror operations have to be intelligence-based, particularly where the Army is used for them, because the unseen enemy would only be eliminated when his identity and location were known — heavy armament was no guarantee of their success.

As matters stand the devastation of civilian life and property in Israeli military action is only helping to spread the support for Hamas not only in the Muslim world but elsewhere too.

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A terrorist force thrives on presenting itself as a “victim” of retaliatory action even though it might have caused the initial provocation — because it banks ultimately on the battle of perception and draws advantage from the loss of innocent lives in any counter-terror operations.

In the case of Israeli operations, the scale of destruction has attracted the attention of the entire world. It cannot be explained away by the natural differential that exists between the damages caused by a “covert” terror attack and an “open” military offensive. The blame for this large asymmetry of loss of human lives is getting passed on to Israel notwithstanding the fact that the Hamas terror attack of October 7 was a planned one not forgivable at all.

Over decades Israel has lived a life of constant threat to its very survival and the history of Israel-Arab hostilities attributable largely to the refusal of many Arab states to even accept the right of Israel to exist, did justify an extreme national sensitivity on the part of Israeli rulers about putting up with any treacherous offensive from its opponents.

Of course, valid questions have been raised about the competence of Israeli intelligence in regard to the Oct 7 attack of Hamas particularly in the light of the fact that thousands of Palestinians came to Israel for their daily occupation and some “listening posts” for Israel were expected to exist among them.

Before the current Israel-Hamas confrontation broke out, there were some moves towards bringing about an Arab-Israel detente. Some members of the Arab League — UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — had shown an inclination towards normalising relations with Israel and accepted the idea of the Abraham accord at the prompting of the US. Even Saudi Arabia with its extreme Sunni fundamentalism appeared set to honour the proposition.

The new conflict between Israel with Hamas has given a setback to this thinking. Human suffering and loss of innocent lives — of women and children in particular — are creating an aversion towards Israel among people everywhere.

Arab opinion is evidently turning not only against Israel but against the US as well. What is extremely significant is that Arab thinking has started tilting favourably towards China and this can sharpen US-China rivalry in the Middle East — this divide is already showing up elsewhere across the globe.

The negativity of the terror profile in the build-up and working style of Hamas is getting pushed to the background as the religious contradiction between Islam and Zionism is coming to the fore in the aftermath of the current Israel-Hamas conflict and affecting the entire Muslim world.

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Ayatollah’s rule in Iran was politically inimical towards the US and Israel and this hostility had made Iran side with Hamas notwithstanding the fact that Sunni Islamic radical forces considered both the US and the ‘deviationist’ Shiites as their prime enemies.

Iran’s political opposition to Israel as a rival in the Middle East guides its responses. Iran has set upon Israel its proxies — Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Yemen-based Houthis — and reached out to China and Russia, the political adversaries of the US and Israel.

Islamic radicals of ISIS are active in Syria-Iraq and their regional outfit called ISIS-K carried out an attack in March this year on a concert on the outskirts of Moscow — causing the death of 130 persons and injuries to many others. They had a grouse that Russia supported Syrian President Bashar Al Assad — an Alawite — against their staunch opposition to him.

One outcome of the Israel-Hamas confrontation that should cause real concern to the entire democratic world is that it had the potential for pushing the global order towards faith-based conflicts even as there were already signs of the reappearance of a wider Cold War between the US-led West and the China-Russia axis.

Religion-driven alignments seem to be further bolstering this global divide. Iran coming closer to China and Russia, the Taliban-led Kabul Emirate striking a give-and-take adjustment with China and the Arab world siding with Hamas against Israel because of the basic contradiction between Islam and Zionism — are all trends that signified the importance of religion as the fundamental driving force of unity overriding political differentiations.

China under President Xi Jinping is striving to become a Superpower on the strength of economic growth and technological advancement — though its military might is also being built- and is playing its cards in the Ukraine-Russia armed confrontation in a manner that would keep Russia on his side without letting the conflict acquire the dimensions of a world war.

The Middle East is setting an example of how regional conflicts may be determining the cause of global peace and how regional interests could be guiding the approach of world powers to such conflicts.

The world opinion is against nuclear confrontation which further helps the play of the old doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction’ as a deterrent against any move of “first strike”. As a result, international conflicts driven by religion seem to be affecting the global scene of our times more than the possibility of revival of the Cold War.

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India is in the midst of a foreign policy challenge because the new geopolitical shifts have had the effect of causing a reset of the strategy of handling international relations.

India’s emphasis on mutually beneficial bilateral relationships that did not compromise with the case for global peace and human welfare, has proved to be extremely fruitful as it has enabled India to develop a natural friendship with the US as a leader of the democratic world without letting this affect the strategically deep India-Russia bonds.

It has made it possible for India to demand upfront that the Ukraine-Russia military confrontation be paused to allow for mediation for peace on the basis of an understanding of the security concerns of both sides.

A second element of India’s foreign policy has been an unambiguous condemnation of terrorism of any kind or origin. This covers Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism in Kashmir carried out by Pak ISI — sponsored Islamic militant outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkare Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad that were India-specific to which had been added the Islamic ‘radical’ forces like Al Qaeda and ISIS that were increasing their hold in the Muslim world and reaching out to other regions globally.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit to Moscow for the India-Russia bilateral summit with President Vladimir Putin on July 9, condemned the recent ISIS-K attack at Moscow and pointed out how India had for long suffered Pak-instigated cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere.

India had denounced the Oct 7 terror attack of Hamas on Israel but as the IDF perpetrated huge civilian loss of life in Gaza, it did not hesitate to call for the stoppage of Israeli operations and resumption of talks for a solution to the long-standing Palestinian issue on the basis of the ‘two state’ formula.

Finally, the two prime security concerns of India are the radicalised Pak-Afghan region that witnessed the continuing patronisation of the Kabul Emirate by Pakistan and the deepening Sino-Pak alliance that was leading to these two adversaries undertaking covert operations against this country.

India is legitimately disappointed that the US is still not taking adequate notice of Pakistan’s role in fostering Islamic extremism and militancy. On the other hand, Russia seemed to better understand the threat of ‘radicalisation’ that bothers India.

In any case, it is India that has to counter Pakistan and China largely on its own and it is a matter of great satisfaction that the Modi government was totally geared to handling this challenge.

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

–IANS

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