India To Buy Half Its Military Weapons From Within Country

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Although analysts and military advisers are divided on the wisdom of such sudden, heavy reliance on local production for military needs, India is launching a campaign to produce at least half of the nation’s total weapon and equipment needs within the next 10 to 12 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the new approach to military defense this month as part of a countrywide “Made in India” campaign intended to boost the domestic economy.

The amount of military equipment India intends to produce itself under the new campaign will be worth over $100 billion.

Currently, the Indian defense industry exports $100 million per year, but officials have stated that Indian industry has the potential to produce high-tech weaponry, submarines and warships.

“During the past decades plus, India has been importing weapon systems under Buy [global] or Buy and Make [with transfer of technology to state-owned defense companies], which has not altered the import-vs-domestic ratio of 70 percent imports and 30 percent [domestic],” a Larsen and Toubro executive was quoted as commenting. “That the national security cannot continue to be in the hands of the foreign original equipment manufacturers is long felt and must be realized.”

India’s total annual defense imports are worth almost $6bn. India has been the biggest arms importer in the world since 2010 when it overtook China.

Currently, the main supplier of India’s military needs is Russia. Seventy-five to 85 percent of India’s Air Force, Army and Navy is equipped with Soviet or Russian military hardware. Nearly $5bn of India’s defense budget was spent in Russia last year, amounting to one-third of all russia exports, and a significantly increase from 2012’s $3bn trade.

India is also the biggest foreign buyer of US weapons. India imported $1.9bn of military equipment from America in 2013, edging out the previous biggest buyer of US weapons, Saudi Arabi.

So far, attempts by the Indian Ministry of Defense to domestically source light utility helicopters, infantry combat vehicles, and tactical communication system programs have not taken off, causing some criticism of the program.

Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst, recently commented, “Categorization has to be done based on the capabilities of the domestic defense industry and not arbitrarily. Moreover, the primary aim of the defense procurement procedure is to ensure that the armed forces capacity building remains on stream.”

Rajinder Bhatia, CEO of private-sector defense company Bharat Forge, also questioned the Make India campaign: “Make India programs should be for high-tech projects only. The rest of the procurement should be either Buy Indian Or Buy and Make Indian.”

However, Modi has made it policy to arm India massively. India is currently undertaking a $100 billion defense upgrade, and in August, Modi stated that he wanted to build an Indian Army such that no country “dare cast an evil eye” on the nation.

By Andy Stern
Photo: U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK)

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‘Joujou’ is another name for hope in the Brazilian wetlands

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A male jaguar named Joujou has returned to his home sweet home in the wild.

In Brazil he has become a symbol of the efforts of environmentalists, volunteers and firefighters to protect and restore a much affected strip of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area, which was ravaged by the fires last year.

Little by little, vegetation returning to the Serra do Amolar, a chain of mountains considered an environmental treasure because of the large number of species it houses.

Before the fires, 62 jaguars had been monitored in the region. Today, researchers are unable to say how many have survived and how many have returned to their habitat, which was scorched in the worst sequence of fires in 14 years. Between January and September of 2020, 2.3 million acres have been on fire, an area which is two times as big as the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Joujou the catJoujou has become a symbol of hope because he was shown on national TV with his paws burned. Some Brazilians said they cried in front of the screen when they saw the big cat suffering so much. In November, two jaguars were rescued. They could barely move. One of them didn’t make it. Joujou was taken to a center for housing and treatment of wild animals in the city of Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

After months of intensive care, this example of the Americas’ biggest feline has recovered entirely and was flown back to Pantanal. Joujou now has a tracking collar and will be monitored for a year. He reached the hospital weighing just a hundred pounds. He now weighs almost 180 pounds.

Many other animals – including anteaters, armadillos, snakes, alligators and other jaguars – did not survive the blaze. However, Joujou, beautiful and strong, has been returned home safe and sound.

By Jorge Valente

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The priest who left no sharp stones

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SAO PAOLO, Brazil – One of the most iconic figures in the fight for the homeless in the city of São Paulo has been in the spotlight since the beginning of February.

Father Julio Lancelotti learned that the City Hall’s authorities had decided to cover the ground under a bridge with pointed stones, a move to prevent the homeless from sleeping underneath.

A reputed advocate of human rights, father Lancelotti had no second thoughts about the line of action he was about to take.

With a sledgehammer in hand, he took to the streets and positioned himself right below the bridge. And then attacked and destroyed furiously what he considered another serious breach of human rights in a city already plagued by many other violations.

On social media he later posted a picture showing the result of his action and wrote, “Outrage against oppression”.

São Paulo is believed to have more than 24,000 homeless living below the poverty line, according to a 2019 survey. But Human Rights Watch groups say this number skyrocketed during the pandemic.

City Hall authorities said that the decision to put the stones under the bridge was an “isolated action” and had already fired the employee who was in charge of the task.

Father Lancelotti, however, was skeptical about this take on things, and said another similar action had already been done, commenting, “It’s inhuman, looks like a concentration camp.”

By Jorge Valente

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Tourists damage 1500-year-old Gate of the Sun and rock monoliths in Bolivia’s ancient city of Tiwanaku

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Four women and one man from the eastern city of Santa Cruz were charged with damaging the carved stone relics of the civilization that flourished for five centuries on the site, forerunner of the Inca empire. The pre-Columbian ruins are part of the country’s most important archaeological treasures.

After seeing what they described as “suspicious activity,” caretakers said the group splashed the structures with an oily substance that stained surfaces and that experts say would attract gases into the stone, causing internal changes and deterioration.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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Myanmar university students rally near Chinese embassy, protest SEAFOOD

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YANGON, Myanmar – University students in Yangon rallied near the Chinese embassy Feb. 27 and called for the Chinese government not to cooperate with the Myanmar military.

Protesters in Myanmar suspect that China is transporting hardware devices to build a firewall for controlling the internet in Myanmar. When the protesters asked the question, the embassy told them that China was sending SEAFOOD to Myanmar. “SEAFOOD” is defines as Software Engineering Approaches for Offshore and Outsourced Development.

There are three main telecommunication companies in Myanmar: MPT, Ooredo and Telenor have provided faster internet connections since 2014.

At present, there is an internet blackout between 1am to 9am daily throughout Myanmar, and when it is available, internet connections are slower than before the military grabbed power from the democratically-elected government.

By Htay Win
Featured image credit: Sit Htet Aung

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Japan’s ruling party to allow women to watch its board meetings, but no talking

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Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party will invite up to five of its female members of parliament to board meetings, but they should not speak. This was announced by the party as it took what it said was a step toward equality.

“It’s important to fully understand what kind of discussions are going on,” said Toshihiro Nikai, the LDP general secretary. “Look. That’s what it’s about.” Nakai added that women should not have a say in the proceedings but can submit suggestions in writing after the meetings have concluded.

The party’s action has sparked criticism from the opposition, which charges male chauvinism and discrimination against women is ingrained in the LDP, which depends on the voices of Japan’s strong nationalist circles with their traditional role models. They are tentative in grappling with women-friendly ideas, according to women’s groups, and progress is slow. The party’s make-up is 40% female, but women only hold 10% of its parliamentary seats, a figure far below the 25% global average.

According to the World Economic Forum 2020 report, Japan ranks 121 out of 153 countries in its gender parity global ranking.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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