Dutch know-how may have gone into arms of mass destruction

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
Updated 26 October 2017

Dutch know-how may have gone into arms of mass destruction

THE HAGUE: The Dutch government has admitted that technology from the Netherlands may have been used to develop weapons of mass destruction in Iran, Pakistan or Syria.
Dutch intelligence services have received “indications in a number of cases” that “Dutch technology was used in programs of weapons of mass destruction or for the means of transmission in Iran, Pakistan or Syria,” the outgoing ministers of defense, foreign affairs and foreign trade said in a letter published this week.
In such cases, customs officials can launch investigations which may lead to prosecutions, they added in their reply to a question posed in parliament.
Dutch intelligence services “every year uncover a substantial number of attempts by foreign entities to obtain know-how and materials for weapons of mass destruction,” they wrote.
An MP from Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party had raised the issue in Parliament after revelations made by the head of military intelligence Onno Eichelsheim in an interview with the Dutch news agency ANP last month.
Eichelsheim said the Netherlands was “almost a supermarket for countries that want to develop these types of weapons” and warned that Dutch businesses and scientific establishments were perhaps not fully aware of the extent of the problem.
Even small businesses selling such things as ball bearings or heat-resistant materials should be alert to the dangers, Eichelsheim said, according to the public broadcaster NOS.
“Dutch companies must be aware that third countries may have an interest in products and high-quality technology services which could be used to manufacture” such arms, the ministers said.
They added they are actively working to try to halt such exports in suspect cases.
While the Dutch government does not draw up its own blacklist of people or entities known to act as go-betweens in the sale of such technology, it highlights the existence of international blacklists and sanctions.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”