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Now, India seeks to expand its sphere of influence into South China Sea

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, April 17:

India’s neighbourhood stretches beyond the Straits of Malacca in the east and the Gulf of Aden in the west. But the Indo-Pacific concept overcomes artificial fault-lines imposed in the post-World War II era, External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said here on Wednesday.

The minister’s formulation expands India’s intended sphere of influence into the South China Sea as a theatre of Indian foreign policy.

In a trilateral discussion with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne at the Raisina Dialogue, Jaishankar described India’s new view of its role as a “return to history.” This places the country’s neighbourhood across a greater swathe of the globe, he added.

Jaishankar’s remarks signal a desire to break out of India’s own definition of its ‘strategic backyard’ or extended neighbourhood that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had articulated back in 2000: of stretching between the Straits of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden.

The formulation, though presented in terms of historical connections, is likely to raise a few eyebrows in Beijing. China not only sees its immediate neighbourhood, but the entire Asia-Pacific, as its strategic zone.

Jaishankar pointed out that global multilateral regimes are not delivering, security alliances do not always work and bilateral relationships are falling short. In other words, the present system of global governance may have outlived its usefulness.

What he left unsaid is that the rise of China, India and other powers as well as the relative decline of the West has placed strains on the multilateral system, and it is important to rewrite it to reflect current realities.

Jaishankar said the world is moving to plurilaterals or mini laterals: smaller groups coming together with shared interests, shared goals and natural complementarities in their structures like the Quad, the four-nation compact comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia.

“Multilateralism has fallen short. And bilateral delivery is not what it used to be. World moving towards multipolarity, rebalancing and plurilateralism. Shared values and comforts are creating new combinations. Will not fall for mind games,” he tweeted.

The three ministers were to hold an in-person trilateral dialogue on the side-lines of the Raisina Dialogue. But that was postponed because the conclave went virtual in the light of India’s steep Covid-19 surge.

While France is not a member of the Quad, the India-France-Australia trilateral is an extension of the Quad, given that France is a big player in the Indo-Pacific, as a resident power, with territories in its control.

Answering a question on the importance of Indo-Pacific, Jaishankar said it is a historical reality in a more seamless world, as evidenced by the old trading routes that stretched from the western Pacific to the Mediterranean.

“Indo-Pacific is a strong message. India will not be boxed between Malacca Strait and the Gulf of Aden. Our interests and activities go way beyond. Australia and France are part of that canvas. It’s a return to history,” he declared.

“What broke this were empires and the politics of post-World War II. Today, because of rebalancing and multipolarity, they are all coming back together,” he added.

Emphasising the centrality of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Indo-Pacific, Jaishankar pushed back against the Chinese accusation of the Quad as an Asian NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

In the past few meetings, he said, Quad discussions focused on climate, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), vaccines, resilient supply chains, emerging technologies and maritime security.



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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants

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More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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