Prague, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — India's president says there's a significant potential for cooperation in the defense industry between his country and the Czech Republic.
Speaking in Prague Friday after meeting his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind called on Czech defense firms to come to India to create joint venture companies.
Kovind says he believes the economic ties between the two countries will be bolstered further by a planned trip next year of Czech government ministers to India.
Kovind also expressed his appreciation to Zeman for his backing of the idea that India deserves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Zeman says both are worried by the situation in Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival.
Kovind also visited Cyprus and Bulgaria as part of a 3-nation European tour.
Beijing, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in a sign of strengthening ties between the two Asian giants.
The summit will take place during Xi's working visit to Russia's far-eastern port city of Vladivostok on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Friday. It will be the first time a Chinese head of state has attended the Russian-hosted Eastern Economic Forum, a gathering Moscow hopes will encourage investment in its thinly populated far-east.
Xi's visit is a sign of healthy ties between China and Russia that have been cemented by joint military exercises and coordination on foreign policy issues from Syria to North Korea. China this month is sending 3,200 troops and about 900 weapons units to take part in the biggest Russian military exercises since the Cold War.
The visit also comes as China is reaching out to trade partners amid a tariff war with the United States. Russia has in recent years surpassed Saudi Arabia as China's largest source of crude oil and Beijing also imports Russian gas and military equipment.
Russia and China have responded to the U.S. national security strategy describing them as America's top adversaries by vowing to further expand their economic, political and military cooperation. They have also sought to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping they created and which holds occasional defense exercises.
The relationship is driven in part by the warm ties between Putin and Xi, seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The two have met 25 times — five times last year alone, according to Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov. Putin's visit begins on Friday.
Dhaka, Sept 6 (UNB) - The Malaysian Cabinet thinks the caning of the two women convicted of lesbian sex in Terengganu gives a bad impression of Islam, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the Cabinet had discussed the issue in a meeting on Wednesday (Sept 5) and were of the opinion that the caning of the two women did not reflect the quality of justice and sympathy in Islam, reports The Star Online from Petaling Jaya.
Dr Mahathir said they further took into account the fact that it was the women's first offence, and therefore it would have been more appropriate that they first be given advice.
He added that the women should not have been punished by whipping, which resulted in the whole country learning of the incident.
"That is why we feel that even if there are cases such as this, consideration should be given under certain circumstances, where in Islam we can mete out a lighter sentence while also giving advice and more," he said in a video on his Facebook page on Thursday (Sept 6).
Dr Mahathir said it was important to demonstrate that Islam was not a cruel religion or one that loved to mete out heavy punishments that humiliate others.
He added that this was not the way of Islam.
"This is the Cabinet's opinion, and we hope that we can be more careful not to show that Islam is a religion that does not know how to compromise or to be considerate.
"In fact, when we start something, we start it with 'Bismillahirrahmanirrahim', in the name of Allah, the most Gracious and Merciful, but then we act as if in Islam there is no generosity at all," he said.
The Cabinet's response came in the wake of two women pleading guilty to attempting to have same-sex relations and being caned six times on Monday (Sept 3) at the Syariah High Court.
It resulted in criticism from both sides of the political divide and from civil society groups.
Phnom Penh, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — Cambodia's one-party legislature on Thursday confirmed Prime Minister Hun Sen for another five-year term, cementing his status as one of the world's longest-serving leaders.
The National Assembly approved the appointment with all 125 members voting in favor without any debate. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won a July 29 general election by a landslide, but critics consider the polls unfree and unfair because the only credible opposition grouping, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved by court order last year in an action seen as politically motivated.
The 66-year-old Hun Sen has been in power for 33 years, combining guile and strong-arming to dominate his country's politics. He declared before the election that he intended to serve two more terms at the helm.
A crackdown on critics and opponents was launched after the 2013 general election and local elections last year showed a softening of support for Hun Sen's ruling party. The founding leader of the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party is in self-imposed exile and his successor in prison awaiting trial on what is widely seen as a trumped-up charge of treason.
In a speech at the assembly's opening session on Wednesday, King Norodom Sihamoni conveyed his warmest congratulations to the new lawmakers and urged them to fulfill their duties under the law and to work for the benefit of the entire country. However, in a sign of continuing international rejection of the election process, no representatives from the U.S., British and Australian embassies attended the event. Many other diplomats also appeared to be absent.
The United States in December imposed visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials because of the anti-democratic actions taken in the lead-up to the vote , and said it was disappointed by the "flawed elections."
Hun Sen has aligned his country firmly with China in recent years, both politically and economically, allowing him to largely ignore criticism from the West, upon whom he used to depend for development assistance.
Hun Sen was a member of the radical communist Khmer Rouge during its successful five-year war to topple a pro-American government, then defected to Vietnam during Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's 1975-79 genocidal regime that left nearly 2 million Cambodians dead.
He became prime minister in 1985 in a Vietnamese-backed single-party communist government and led Cambodia through a civil war against the Khmer Rouge, which eased off with the 1991 Paris Peace Accords that also installed a democratic political framework.
New Delhi, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — India's top court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights in the world's largest democracy.
In a unanimous decision, five Supreme Court justices ruled that the law was a weapon used to harass members of India's gay community and resulted in discrimination. After the ruling, opponents of the law danced and waved flags outside the court.
"We feel as equal citizens now," activist Shashi Bhushan said. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us."
The law — known as Section 377 — held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police.
Arvind Datar, the attorney for the petitioners, argued in the court that the penal provision was unconstitutional because it provides for the prosecution and sentencing of consenting adults.
A New Delhi High Court in 2009 declared Section 377 unconstitutional, but that decision was overturned in a ruling by three Supreme Court justices in 2013 on the grounds that amending or repealing the law should be left to Parliament. But lawmakers failed to take action and in July the government told the Supreme Court to give a ruling in the case.
Over the past decade, gays have gained a degree of acceptance in parts of deeply conservative India, especially in big cities. Some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues. Still, being gay is seen as shameful in much of the country.
Karan Johar, a Bollywood producer and director, said Thursday's verdict was history in the making.
"So proud today! Decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing section 377 is a huge thumb up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back!" he wrote on Twitter.