From Kurdish fighters recapturing the ISIS held town of Kobani, Syria to the deadly attacks on Israeli forces by Hezbollah militants on the Israel-Lebanon border and life returns to normal with Ebola cases down to single digits in Liberia to blizzard Juno hitting the U.S. East Coast, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
Uber has been the subject of controversy all around the globe
An Indian woman who says she was raped by an Uber driver while she was traveling in his cab in December is suing the San Francisco–based online firm in a U.S. federal court in California, claiming it failed to put in place basic safety procedures while running its car service in India.
In her lawsuit, filed on Thursday, the New Delhi woman called the app-based service the “modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking.” The unidentified plaintiff also calls for Uber to overhaul its safety practices, and seeks unspecified damages in the case, according to Reuters.
The news agency quoted Uber as saying that it’s “deepest sympathies remain with the victim of this horrific crime.”
Earlier, the woman was reported to have enlisted the services of Douglas Wigdor, a high-profile U.S. lawyer who represented Nafissatou Diallo, the New York City hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office went on to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, while a civil suit was settled out of court.
The rape allegations against the New Delhi Uber driver had prompted protests in the Indian capital, which became the focus of concerns about the safety of women after the horrific gang rape and murder of a student on a moving bus in late 2012.
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A meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and India may cement a surprising new partnership
For fans of diplomatic theater, late January brought some rich performances to the Asian stage. First, on Jan. 25, U.S. President Barack Obama touched down in New Delhi for a symbolic bear hug between the U.S. and India. (There was also a literal one—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke with protocol to embrace the U.S. leader on the tarmac.)
Obama was there to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations on Jan. …
China’s fear of closer ties between the U.S. and India may indicate growing economic problems at home
In the wake of President Obama’s historic trip to India, China issued an unsolicited and perplexing statement downplaying the relevance of the visit. As the White House pointed out in response, the only thing significant about China’s statement was the fact that the Asian nation felt the need to make it in the first place.
The rivalry between China and India for economic power and strategic control in Asia is longstanding and is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. But China’s taunt is not necessarily a sign of its hostility towards India but an inadvertent admission of its declining supremacy in the region.
China, once an accepted economic and military juggernaut and the darling of investors the world over, is now facing both economic and strategic challenges which could slow down its progress.
First, China’s economy seems to be shrinking. With industrial activity trending down and interest rate cuts yet to produce results, it’s looking likely that China’s meteoric economic rise may have peaked and, according to a report from the Conference Board, could lead to a 4% GDP growth rate in the future, which is considerably lower than in previous decades. Further problems plaguing China include a debt overhang, a real estate bubble, lack of competition, and an old-world industrial economy instead of a more modern information economy such as that of the U.S.
In addition, India’s economic growth is predicted to outpace China’s by 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund, a fact that doesn’t bode well for China’s dominance of Asia. That’s not to say that China will cease to be an economic power but that it may not be able to exert the same clout on the world stage that it once did.
Another major shift could be in China’s ability to use the specter of its military might to secure favorable trade terms with other nations. That specter, even as it grows, could be undermined by higher defense spending by India and Japan (aided by the U.S.), who are eager to contain China. At the same time, China can’t bank on Russia for support since the latter is facing its own crisis from low oil prices and economic sanctions. This could leave China isolated and weaken its position with trading partners.
Finally, there is the democracy factor. The recent protests in Hong Kong were an indication of the tenuousness of China’s draconian control over its people, and possibly of political upheaval to come.
In economic terms, this means that although China has done a fairly good job of balancing free market principles with state run control, the desire of citizens for democracy could force China to relax regulatory control over businesses, embrace labor reform, and truly open its markets in the not-too-distant future. That’s good news for investors but depends heavily on the reaction of the Chinese government, whose response to pro-democracy forces could be unpredictable and severe. Also, a sudden rise in labor costs due to free market forces could in itself disrupt the economic ecosystem in China, and have a negative impact on both domestic and foreign companies that rely on the labor pool.
Given this context, it becomes easier to understand just why China is nervous about closer ties developing between the world’s two largest democracies, the U.S. and India, and why global investors should be wary of the Chinese economic miracle. For sure, China will continue to be an influential player and has demonstrated resilience in the face of difficulties before, but investors looking to make money from the region should still temper their enthusiasm with a realistic assessment of where the nation is now.
Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.
The case brought attention to Australia's controversial immigration policy
Australia’s High Court ruled Wednesday that the nearly month-long detention of 157 ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka aboard a sea vessel last year was legal under the government’s Marine Powers Act.
The narrow 4-3 decision means that the detainees, of whom 50 were children, will not receive damages for their alleged false imprisonment, according to the judgment summaries.
Hugh de Kretser, executive director of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, which formed part of the Sri Lankans’ legal team, expressed his disappointment with the decision.
“Incommunicado detention on the high seas is a clear breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, today’s decision confirms that our domestic law allows the Government to breach those obligations.”
Liberal Party MP Scott Morrison, who held the post of immigration minister when the Sri Lankans were detained, tweeted his approval of the decision.
The Sri Lankans had boarded a boat in India last June but were intercepted 16 days later in the Indian Ocean by an Australian customs ship.
After weeks of being held on the ship, the group was transferred to the Curin detention center in Western Australia because the Indian government said they would consider taking them back, according to Reuters.
When the group refused to meet with Indian officials, they were moved to another immigration center, this time on the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru, where they will remain until their status as refugees is decided.
The ethnic Tamils were heading to Australia to claim refugee status, claiming they had a well-founded fear of persecution in Sinhala-majority Sri Lanka following the end of the island-nation’s bloody civil war in 2009.
The case highlights Australia’s controversial immigration policy in which immigrants are often processed at offshore camps in Papua New Guinea, Christmas Island and Nauru.
Canberra says the restrictions are in place for the safety of immigrants risking their lives to reach its shores by sea.
Half that amount will be set aside for India's renewable energy efforts
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $4 billion in investment and loans to India on Monday, soon after attending the South Asian nation’s 66th annual Republic Day celebrations as the guest of honor earlier in the afternoon.
Obama told a gathering of business leaders from India and the U.S. that both countries have “got to do better” in furthering an economic relationship “defined by so much untapped potential,” Reuters reports.
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency will commit $2 billion towards India’s renewable energy efforts, Obama said, while $1 billion each will be pledged to finance “Made-in-America” exports and Indian rural businesses respectively.
Obama is the first U.S. President to visit India twice while in office
“We may have different histories and speak different languages,” said U.S. President Barack Obama at New Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium on Tuesday morning, “but when we look at each other, we see a reflection of ourselves.”
Addressing a crowd of about 2,000 people in his last public event before flying to Saudi Arabia later that afternoon, Obama spoke at length about the historic and contemporary similarities between the U.S. and India. He linked Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Indian thinker Swami Vivekananda and Obama’s hometown of Chicago, and, of course, in keeping with the close personal equation the two leaders made evident during his three-day visit, himself and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We live in countries where a grandson of a cook can become President and son of a tea seller can become Prime Minister,” he said, referring to their respective backgrounds.
“In India and America, our diversity is our strength,” he said. “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.”
Meanwhile, speaking about the U.S.-India relationship on Tuesday, President Obama called it “one of the defining partnerships of the century,” and advocated a greater role for India in the Asia-Pacific, seemingly a tacit acknowledgement of China’s growing regional influence.
He also touched upon empowering women, an issue that Modi made one of the major themes of Obama’s visit and Monday’s Republic Day celebrations. “Indian women have shown that they can succeed in every field,” he said before advocating equal opportunity and safety for women. “Every woman should be able to go about her day and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves.”
Obama also mentioned several key issues and agreements from his visit — including a civilian nuclear deal between the two countries and climate change — before concluding with a reiteration of the new, elevated U.S.-India relations the two leaders have forged.
“I’m the first American President to come to your country twice,” he said, “but I predict I will not be the last.”
President Barack Obama joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his country's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Obama is the first U.S. President to be a guest of honor at the annual festivity.
One of the South Asian nation's biggest occasions was made even more momentous by the choice of chief guest
Gloomy skies and a steady downpour were not enough to dampen New Delhi’s spirits on Monday, as thousands turned up to watch U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle and a sizable American delegation witness a display of India’s military might, economic achievements and diversity at the country’s 66th Republic Day parade.
Obama became the first U.S. President ever to attend the annual event, an invite for which is considered one of the greatest honors India bestows on foreign dignitaries. The President rolled up to the viewing platform in his armored limousine, known as The Beast, eschewing the tradition of riding in the Indian president’s vehicle over security concerns. He then took his place between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he announced a “breakthrough” on a civil nuclear deal Sunday evening, and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (whose choice of headgear caused a bit of a flutter on social media).
While the U.S. has become India’s biggest military supplier in recent times, the South Asian nation’s armed forces have traditionally been equipped with Soviet hardware, a fact Obama was reminded of as Russian-made T-90 and T-72 tanks rolled down the main stretch, along with a mobile launcher for the BrahMos missile jointly developed by India and Russia.
The parade-ending flyovers by the Indian Air Force did have American P-8 Poseidon naval planes, and although these too were flanked by Russian MIG-29 and SU-30 fighter jets, officials on both sides expressed hope and confidence in the 10-year bilateral defense agreement that Obama and Modi renewed on Sunday.
“None of these things should be considered small in terms of just what it means for working together as two defense industrial bases and what we can share with each other,” Phillip Reiner, Obama’s top South Asia advisor, told the New York Times.
“It’s a huge step forward,” Indian lawmaker Baijayant Panda agreed, even though other analysts remained skeptical but hopeful.
Between the displays of military might came a series of marches — including multiple all-female contingents and even a camel troop — followed by floats and dance performances representing various Indian states, as well as government initiatives like Modi’s “Make in India” and “Swacch Bharat” (Clean India) campaigns.
Finally, there were the motorcycles of the Border Security Force. Known as “Janbaz,” or Dare Devils, they showcased feats of amazing balance, focus and agility — all while tapping on laptops and dressed as peacocks and lotuses.
Judging by Obama’s reaction, one of his most animated during the course of the parade, they got the White House seal of approval.
Leaders cite progress on nuclear cooperation, though details remain unclear
Seizing on their personal bond, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a “breakthrough understanding” in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India.
Obama and Modi expressed hope that a landmark 2008 nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India could begin to bear fruit.
“We are committed to moving towards full implementation and this is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship,” Obama said.
The two countries had been at an impasse over U.S. insistence on tracking fissile material it supplies to India and over Indian liability provisions that have discouraged U.S. firms from capitalizing on a 2008 civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India.
“In our judgment, the Indians have moved sufficiently on these issues to give us assurances that the issues are resolved,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
Rhodes said it would still be up to U.S. companies to assess the market and decide whether they wanted to partake. He said neither country needed to take legislative action to complete the agreements the leaders reached Sunday.
In a joint appearance following their meetings, both men went out of their way to illustrate how their personal chemistry was yielding progress on various fronts, from defense, to trade to energy issues.
“Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship,” Modi said. “We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.”
Obama said: “Your election and your strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts.”
Under hazy skies Sunday, Modi greeted Obama with a hug on the airport tarmac and offered an elaborate welcome at the country’s sprawling presidential palace. Obama also solemnly laid a wreath at a memorial honoring the father of India’s independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi.
On Monday, Obama was to be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day festivities, making him the first U.S. president to attend the anniversary of the enactment of country’s democratic constitution.
Taking some of the luster off the trip, Obama is cutting his trip short to go to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family following the death of King Abdullah. In doing so, the White House had to cancel a tour by the president and first lady of the Taj Mahal, the famed white marble monument to love in the city of Agra.
Other international topics also dogged Obama on his trip.
Obama said the administration is “deeply concerned” about the latest deadly flare-up in eastern Ukraine, where authorities said indiscriminate rocket fire killed at least 30 people in Mariupol, in the southeast, on Saturday. But Obama insisted that he won’t change the way he’s been handling the situation. He said he’ll keep trying to isolate Russia and would review options short of military conflict with Russia over Ukraine.
On Yemen, which has been a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, Obama denied that the political vacuum created there last week has affected U.S. counterterrorism operations inside the Middle Eastern country. Obama said recent news reports to the contrary are inaccurate.
“We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and continue to maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe,” he said.
The normally bustling streets of New Delhi were empty and the sidewalks cleared by Indian police as Obama’s motorcade sped from the palace to Gandhi’s memorial. A massive security presence was in place for Obama’s visit, with numerous roadblocks and armed men lining the streets.
Obama and Modi strolled briefly through the picturesque gardens of Hyderabad House, the guest house where the leaders held their talks, walking past little ponds of lotus flowers. Sitting down before cups of tea, both men looked relaxed and smiled and laughed often as they chatted animatedly.
Earlier, Obama walked in his socks into a walled courtyard to lay a large white wreath at the site where Gandhi, India’s independence icon, was cremated. He then shoveled dirt and poured a pitcher of water around a young tree planted in his honor at the memorial.
As Obama and Modi opened their talks Sunday, the prime minister presented the president with a copy of 1950 telegram from the United States congratulating India on the adoption of its constitution.