China’s president in India for summit amid Kashmir tensions

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is received upon arrival in Chennai, India. (AP)
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Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to the gathering as he arrives in Chennai, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP)
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Indians hold a banner welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping outside the airport in Chennai, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP)
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China's President Xi Jinping looks on upon his arrival at the airport in Chennai, India, October 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2019

China’s president in India for summit amid Kashmir tensions

  • Xi was greeted at the Chennai airport by Tamil Nadu state Gov. as a cultural group beat drums and blew horns
  • India’s foreign ministry said Xi and Modi will meet in the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram later Friday and Saturday

MAMALLAPURAM: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India on Friday for meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a time of tensions over Beijing’s support for Pakistan in opposing India’s downgrading of Kashmir’s semi-autonomy and continuing restrictions on the disputed region.
Xi was greeted at the Chennai airport by Tamil Nadu state Gov. Patwarilal Purohit as a cultural group beat drums and blew horns.
India’s foreign ministry said Xi and Modi will meet in the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram later Friday and Saturday.
Their one-to-one meeting in Wuhan in China in April last year also was preceded by tensions caused by a 10-week standoff between their armed forces on the Bhutan border.
Mamallapuram is decorated with arches studded with fruits and green vegetables. Hundreds of young children in traditional dress carrying posters with photographs of Xi and Modi waited for hours to greet the Chinese leader.
The town was under tight surveillance, with thousands of security personnel. Mamallapuram is 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.
China claims some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas. Officials have met at least 20 times to discuss the competing border claims without making significant progress.
The two countries fought a border war in 1962. 
India also is concerned about China’s moves to build strategic and economic ties with its neighbors, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both, have escalated since August, when India downgraded the semi-autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir and imposed a security and communications lockdown.
China supported Pakistan in raising India’s actions at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. China said India should not act unilaterally in Kashmir, a portion of which China also controls.
Xi arrived two days after hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing.
India says Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. “China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India,” India’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, said he expected an overview of relations by the two leaders and “instructions on how the relationship should proceed.”
He said the diplomatic damage the Chinese inflicted over India’s action in Kashmir has been done. “This is not going to be undone. India has stuck to its position and received international support,” he said.
China for its part resents India’s hosting of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and took refuge in India.
The Tibetan Youth Congress in a statement on Friday urged Prime Minister Modi to take up the Tibetan issue with Xi during the summit. “TYC condemns the Communist government of China and its president as long as the Communist Party continues to suppress the struggle of the Tibetan people,” it said.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially independent for most of that time. Communist troops took control of the region in 1950 after a brief military struggle.
Referring to India’s support for China’s position on Tibet, Mansingh said that India backs China’s territorial integrity. “China will not keep on challenging our territorial integrity. Otherwise we will have to have to take a different view on the issue,” he said.


A nonprofit group strives for zero hunger in Bangladesh

Updated 22 min 25 sec ago

A nonprofit group strives for zero hunger in Bangladesh

  • Bidyanondo provides food to needy under-12 children and men and women 60 years or older
  • In the last three years, Bidyanondo has distributed more than 2.5 million meal boxes to the needy

DHAKA: The time was 2:30 p.m. Small knots of children were loitering around the main street in the Mirpur area of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Suddenly their faces lit up as a brightly painted rickshaw van appeared. The vehicle, bearing the words “Bidyanondo,” was stacked with food packets.

About 60 children from a nearby slum quickly formed a queue, each holding a one-taka coin that would enable them to buy their day’s lunch. For most, this was the only proper meal they could afford in the entire day.

“I come here every day so that my two granddaughters, Raina and Ranisa, don’t go hungry,” said Rajia Begum, 51, as she collected two food packets for the twins.

Volunteers distribute ‘one taka meal’ boxes to children in Dhaka’s Mirpur district. (Supplied photo)

“My son, who is a driver by profession, does not make enough to feed all six members of our family. So the children wait for their Bidyanondo meal every afternoon.”

A pioneer of the cheap-meal concept, Bidyanondo charges children under 12 as well as men and women older than 60 a token one taka ($1 is equivalent to 84 Bangladeshi taka) for each meal.

The volunteer organization, whose mission is “to foster philanthropy domestically and internationally by designing innovative programs,” spends 28 Bangladeshi taka to prepare the meal it gives away for one taka.

INNUMBERS

370,000 - Bidyanondo’s Facebook follower count

2,000 - Daily recipients of a Bidyanondo meal

84 - Bangladeshi taka equivalent to $1

300 - Total number of Bidyanondo volunteers

The “one taka meal” is the brainchild of 38-year-old Kishore Kumar Das, a Peru-based Bangladeshi who said it was his life’s dream to feed the poor in a way that, unlike begging, did not diminish their sense of self-worth.

“As a child, I had to face extreme poverty because my father could not manage to feed seven members of his family. I used to walk several miles to find free meals distributed at temples,” said Das, who is also the chief of volunteers at Bidyanondo.

“People from different corners of society take the same meal in a temple irrespective of class or caste. This unique idea inspired me to do something in the same way for underprivileged members of Bangladeshi society.”

Besides Dhaka, Bidyanondo — Bengali for “Learn for Fun” — operates the “one taka meal” program in four Bangladeshi cities: Chattogram, Narayanganj, Rajshahi and Rangpur. It also provides food, accommodation, education and medical care to about 300 residents of five orphanages.

“Charging one taka for a single meal is a symbolic approach through which we want to create a sense of ownership in the recipient’s mind,” said Salaman Khan, coordinator of Bidyanonodo’s Dhaka branch. “We want to convey a feeling that people are buying the food from us, not begging for it.”

Bidyanondo’s journey began in June 2016 when it began feeding 30 children in need in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh.

Meals and food packets are prepared at the Bidyanondo Foundation office for distribution among Dhaka’s needy. 
(AN photo by Shehab Sumon,  Arab News)

Within a year, the group was providing food to 800 needy people every day. By 2018, the number of recipients had risen to 1,200. This year, almost 2,000 people every day across Bangladesh are receiving at least one square meal a day, thanks to Bidyanondo’s determination to “relieve the pain of hunger.”

“From cooking to distribution of food, we do everything by ourselves,” Khan told Arab News. “We have a special team of five or six members who cook. All of them are doing the job as volunteers.

“We operate our food program 365 days a year. Our volunteers work even on Eid days to feed needy people.”

Bidyanondo relies on crowdfunding for funds to support its programs.

“We have a Facebook group through which we organize the funding,” Khan said. “Bidyanondo has more than 370,000 followers on its Facebook page. All our benefactors are Bangladeshi and most prefer to remain unidentified.”

In the past three years, Bidyanondo has distributed more than 2.5 million meal boxes to children and older people in need. It has a workforce of 300 registered and non-registered volunteers across the country comprised mainly of students.

The 40 full-time staff members are stationed in the nonprofit’s offices across Bangladesh. A small number of housewives also volunteer at local branches of Bidyanondo.

The idea of selling cheap meals has spread to other countries through Bidyanondo’s network of overseas Bangladeshi volunteers. Das said that pilot programs are being tried out in Peru, Italy, Turkey, Nepal and India.

“Soon we are going to introduce a vending-machine system for food distribution so that recipients will not have to interact with any donor or volunteer. They will simply insert one taka into the machine, which will dispense a food packet in return,” Das told Arab News.

He said Bidyanondo welcomes assistance and contributions from aspiring philanthropists at home and abroad. The aim is not to make benefactors feel proud of donating or volunteering for social causes, but rather to make them realize that such activities are “part of the social responsibility” of the well-to-do.

Volunteers count one-taka coins generated from the distribution of meal packets. 
(Photo by Shehab Sumon,  Arab News)

“We want Bidyanondo to inspire others to commit some of their time and energy to social causes,” Das said. “If everyone does their bit, there will be no huge disparity in society.”

Among those doing their bit is Asma Akter, a 31-year-old physician employed in a government-run general hospital in Manikgonj, 40 km from Dhaka. On her days off, she turns up at Bidyanondo’s local branch to offer free medical consultations to the needy.

“I have my full-time government job for earning money. But I can’t have mental peace with the money,” she said. “Bidyanondo is a platform where I can look after the people who need my support the most.”

Akter added: “Words cannot express the kind of joy I get from performing this social service. It is a very good example of teamwork. Every day I learn from my colleagues here how to spend my time in the service of others.”

Back in Dhaka’s Mirpur district, among the children waiting to collect a meal box that afternoon was eight-year-old Mohammad Solaiman. “My father is a day laborer and mother works as domestic help,” he said.

“At noon they both are busy at work. With my two brothers, I collect food from the Bidyanondo rickshaw van every day. It is very convenient for us.”