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What will be the fallout after sharp drop in sterling?

Video Duration 23 minutes 45 seconds From: Inside Story

The British pound crashes to an all-time low against the US dollar.

The British pound is struggling to hold value against the United States dollar after hitting an all-time low.

The fall is raising concerns about the United Kingdom’s economy and its appeal to international investors.

The new British government unveiled major tax cuts based on borrowed money, and many are concerned about the amount that is needed.

That has led to days of volatility in the value of sterling and undermined its status as a reserve currency.

What is the fallout on an already struggling economy, both in the UK and outside?

Presenter: Hazem Sika


Vicky Pryce – Chief economic adviser at the Centre for Economics and Business Research

Jonathan Lis – Political commentator

Brian Lucey – Professor of international finance and commodities at Trinity Business School

Published On 27 Sep 2022

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Canada sees new high in asylum seeker crossings from US

Asylum seekers are forced to cross border at informal points of entry due to contentious deal between US and Canada.

Published On 27 Sep 2022

The number of asylum seekers entering Canada at informal points along the country’s border with the United States has reached the highest level since 2017, federal police data shows, as Ottawa prepares to defend a pact that denies entry to most who arrive at formal crossings.

The Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) intercepted 23,358 asylum seekers crossing into Canada at unofficial entry points during the first eight months of the year.

That is 13 percent more than for all of 2017, the year the Canadian government first started tracking the numbers amid a surge in informal border crossings, particularly at Roxham Road, which links the Canadian province of Quebec and the US state of New York.

University of Ottawa immigration law professor Jamie Chai-Yun Liew told Reuters that the numbers could be linked to an increase in demand after Canada lifted coronavirus-related restrictions at the border. “I think it’s like any travel: People are just on the move again,” she said.

Families walk to Canada along Roxham Road, at the US border
Three families that said they were from Burundi walk down Roxham Road to cross into the Canadian province of Quebec at the US-Canada border in 2017 [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]

The report comes just days before the Canadian government is set to go before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend a bilateral agreement with the US that has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups.

Signed in 2002, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) forces asylum seekers to make claims for protection in the first country they arrive in, either the US or Canada.

The idea underpinning the agreement is that both countries are “safe” and offer people access to fair refugee status determination systems. In practice, it means most people who try to make a claim at a Canadian port of entry are turned back to the US.

But Canadian law allows asylum seekers to apply for protection once in Canada – and this loophole has pushed thousands of people to make sometimes dangerous treks across the 6,416km (3,987-mile) US-Canada land border in recent years.

Canada’s top court will hear a legal challenge to the STCA on October 6, the rights groups involved in the case have said.

They have argued the US is not a safe country for refugees, and said the agreement violates Canada’s constitution, known as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as international law. Rights advocates also said it puts asylum seekers at risk by forcing them to take more dangerous journeys to cross the border.

On Oct. 6, the Supreme Court of Canada will review the constitutionality of the Safe Third Country Agreement! @AmnestyNow, the @CCC_CCE and the Canadian Council for Refugees are welcoming this decision that follows a long history of legal challenges. For more info #EndtheSTCA

— Canadian Council for Refugees (@ccrweb) September 27, 2022

“Because the agreement only applies at official border crossings, many refugees have been forced to cross the border in between ports of entry, sometimes in perilous conditions,” the Canadian Council for Refugees and other groups seeking to end the STCA said in a statement in December.

“Withdrawing from the Agreement would not only ensure that Canada meets its Charter and legal obligations, but would also allow people to present themselves in an orderly way at ports of entry, ending the need for irregular crossings.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has defended the STCA, however, saying it has helped in “ensuring that our shared border [with the US] remains well managed”.

“Canada remains firmly committed to upholding a fair and compassionate refugee protection system and the STCA remains a comprehensive means for the compassionate, fair, and orderly handling of asylum claims at the Canada-US land border,” it said last year.

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China’s Xi makes first public appearance after ‘coup’ rumours

Rumours of ‘house arrest’ put to rest as President Xi Jinping attends exhibition in Beijing, before the governing Communist Party summit.

Published On 27 Sep 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited an exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday, according to state television, in his first public appearance since returning to China from an official trip to Central Asia in mid-September – dispelling unverified rumours that he was under house arrest.

Xi has been absent from the public eye since he returned to China from a summit in Uzbekistan, driving unsubstantiated speculations of military coups in Beijing.

Despite a moribund economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and rare public protests, as well as rising frictions with the West and tensions over Taiwan, Xi is positioned to secure a third term in power to pursue his grand vision for the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” for years to come.

Xi has steadily consolidated power and eliminated space for dissent and opposition since becoming party general secretary a decade ago. China has also become far more assertive on the global stage as an alternative leader to the US-led, post-World War II order.

The 69-year-old leader’s likely ascendancy to a third five-year term, and possibly more, was set in 2018 when he eliminated the limit of two terms for the presidency.

Xi’s decade-long rule in power has seen crackdowns on corruption within the party – although observers have said they served to take down political rivals, a series of moves to crush a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and strict COVID lockdowns on cities to curb the spread.

Xi has also faced harsh human rights criticism from the international community for repressive policies in the northwestern Xinjiang region, which have seen an estimated one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities detained in a sweeping crackdown ostensibly targeting “terrorism”.

In advance of the once-in-five-years Chinese Communist party’s (CCP) meeting, on October 16, during which Xi is widely expected to secure his third term as leader, a purge of senior officials took place. Former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, and former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi were arrested on corruption charges.

The detentions amounted to China’s biggest political purge in years.

On Sunday, state media announced a list of the 2,300 CCP central committee delegates. Xi’s name on the list further debunked social media rumours of a military coup in Beijing, which were fuelled by unsourced videos of military vehicles and flight cancellations.

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Haiti hospitals prepare to close as gangs blockade fuel supplies

As Haitian hospitals beg for fuel supplies, a United Nations official warns ‘life-saving services risk coming to a standstill’.

Published On 27 Sep 2022

Hospitals that rely on fuel-powered generators for electricity in Haiti’s capital have warned they could be forced to close, as a gang blockade on the main fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince worsens insecurity in the Caribbean nation.

Port-au-Prince gangs earlier this month dug trenches and littered shipping containers at entrances to the Varreux terminal to protest a government announcement that it planned to cut fuel subsidies due to their high cost.

Three-quarters of the major hospitals in Haiti are affected by the lack of fuel, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement this week, citing data collected by the World Health Organization.

“Some hospitals are unable to admit new patients and are preparing to close. Providing sterile conditions for medical interventions is becoming more challenging and conserving vaccines due to the disruption to cold-chain facilities has become problematic,” UNICEF said.

Tanker trucks being filled at a fuel terminal in Haiti
Tanker trucks being filled with fuel at the Varreux fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on November 13, 2021 [File: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]

It added that approximately 22,100 children under age five, as well as more than 28,000 newborns, were at risk of not receiving “essential health care services” over the next four months.

Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince said on Tuesday that it was cutting down on staffing and services as a result of the lack of fuel. “In the face of this difficult and sad reality, we cannot say when the hospital will be able to resume normal operations if this shortage continues,” the hospital said in a statement shared on Facebook.

“We hope not to have to close completely,” the hospital said, calling for help in getting additional supplies of diesel.

Haiti has seen rising gang violence after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July last year plunged the country into even deeper political instability.

Violence has soared in Port-au-Prince as armed groups battle for control, with international aid groups warning that food insecurity was set to worsen as a result of the attacks.

A World Food Programme official on Monday said that UN agencies and non-profit organisations lost some $6m worth of relief supplies during the violence.

In mid-September, Haitian authorities also announced that the price of gas will more than double, with slightly smaller increases for diesel and kerosene. The move prompted large protests in several cities, as demonstrators said they were already struggling with soaring costs of living.

The electricity supply from Haiti’s grid is so unsteady that most businesses and offices cannot maintain operations without power provided by diesel generators.

Due to a lack of power, radio station Magik 9 on Tuesday had to halt its morning programming as it was conducting interviews regarding the critical situation created by fuel shortages, one of the station’s directors wrote on Twitter.

Around 30 percent of antennas operated by Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile phone provider, were out of fuel, Digicel Chairman Maarten Boute wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

In a letter dated September 23 and shared on social media, the president of Fondation Saint-Luc, an organisation that offers healthcare services in Haiti, said two hospitals and a physiotherapy centre might be forced to close because their emergency fuel reserve had nearly run out.

“In the absence of an immediate bailout, we will have little choice but to see a shutdown of healthcare services at the two hospitals (Saint-Luc and Saint-Damien) and the Sainte Germaine Physiotherapy Centre,” Father Richard Frechette said.

Ulrika Richardson, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said in Monday’s UNICEF statement that “lives are being lost in Haiti because hospitals are unable to access fuel”.

“If this situation continues, life-saving services risk coming to a standstill, including for pregnant women, newborns and children, as well as for persons suffering trauma and other life-threatening conditions,” Richardson said.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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‘A Labour moment’: UK opposition leader sets out pitch for power

Keir Starmer says his opposition party is once again ‘the party of the centre ground’ and ready for power.

Published On 27 Sep 2022

The leader of the United Kingdom’s main opposition Labour Party has made his pitch for power, promising to champion green policies, spur economic growth and improve public services to take the UK out of an “endless cycle of crisis” if chosen to lead the country at its next general election.

Delivering the keynote speech at his party’s annual conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, Keir Starmer struck out at Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss’s move to cut taxes for the wealthiest amid a major cost-of-living crisis, urging voters not to “forget” or “forgive” the moves ahead of an anticipated national vote in 2024.

He said Labour was once again “the party of the centre ground” and promised to fix the UK’s ailing economy, revitalise the country’s National Health Service (NHS) and confront the climate crisis.

“This is a Labour moment,” Starmer told a packed auditorium in the northern English city of Liverpool.

“Britain will deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Britain will get its future back … That’s my commitment to you. The national mission of the next Labour government. And together with the British people – we will do it,” he said.

He pledged to begin work, if elected, to create one million new jobs in towns and cities, bring down energy bills, raise living standards and start to tackle climate change within the first 100 days of a new Labour government.

Starmer presented a plan to stimulate the British economy by investing in alternative energy. Pledging to make the UK a “green growth superpower,” he said Labour would set up a publicly owned clean energy company to expand sun, wind and wave power and make Britain’s electricity supply carbon-neutral by 2030.

He pledged to control immigration with a points-based system, a policy that echoes the post-Brexit stance adopted by the Conservatives.

He argued that while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the “immediate spark” of the energy and cost of living crises besetting the country, the UK had been left unprepared by successive Conservative administrations to tackle the fallout of the war.

“The war didn’t ban onshore wind, the war didn’t scrap home insulation, the war didn’t stall British nuclear energy. The Tories did that,” Starmer said.

‘A vacuum in the centre ground’

Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from the Labour conference, said the party has a “golden opportunity” to end what has now been 12 years of consecutive Conservative rule.

“It was a confident speech from Starmer,” Brennan said. “The Conservative party has moved most definitely to the right under Truss and [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Kwasi Kwarteng, with very much more free-market economics being extolled … and the Labour Party now sees a vacuum appearing in the centre ground,” he added.

“That is where they believe the next election could be won.”

The Labour leader’s speech came as an opinion poll by YouGov for the UK’s Times newspaper put his party 17 points ahead of the Conservatives, its largest such lead in more than two decades.

Another poll, conducted September 22-25 by Deltapoll, put the lead at 13 points.

Many Labour members say the Conservative government has done them a favour by unveiling a “growth plan” on Friday that scrapped the top rate of income tax and cancelled a planned rise in corporate taxes, on top of a hugely expensive move to subsidise energy bills for struggling households and businesses.

The plan sent markets tumbling with the pound plunging to a record low and British bond prices collapsing.

Starmer has pledged to reverse the abolition of the top rate of income tax and restore it to 45 percent, as well as recommit to an Office for Value for Money to oversee taxpayers’ money and ensure it is spent in the national interest.

“What we’ve seen from the government in the past few days has no precedent,” Starmer said. “They’ve lost control of the British economy – and for what? … For tax cuts for the richest one percent in our society.

“They sent out a new message, a message that echoes around kitchens across the country and says your struggles, your hopes, your ambitions don’t matter to us. We are not here for you, we are here for those at the top.”



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Photos: Typhoon Noru kills at least five in northern Philippines

Typhoon Noru

An aerial view shows flooding after Super Typhoon Noru struck San Miguel in Bulacan province [Adrian Portugal/Reuters]

Published On 26 Sep 2022

Typhoon Noru has blown out of the northern Philippines, leaving five rescuers dead, causing floods and power outages, and forcing officials to suspend classes and government work in the capital and outlying provinces.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year slammed into the coast in Burdeos town in Quezon province before nightfall on Sunday, then weakened as it barreled overnight across the main Luzon region, where thousands of people moved to emergency shelters, some forcibly, officials said.

Governor Daniel Fernando of Bulacan province, north of Manila, said five rescuers, who were using a boat to help residents trapped in floodwaters, were hit by a collapsed wall and then apparently drowned in the rampaging waters.

More than 17,000 people were moved to emergency shelters from high-risk communities prone to tidal surges, flooding and landslides in Quezon alone.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated to safety in Metropolitan Manila, which was lashed by fierce wind and rain overnight. Classes and government work were suspended Monday in the capital and outlying provinces as a precaution although the morning skies were sunny.

The entire northern provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija, which were hit by the typhoon, remained without power and repair crews were at work to bring back electricity, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in a televised meeting he called to assess the damage and coordinate a disaster-response.

About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire” – a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than five million in the central Philippines – well to the south of Noru’s path.

Typhoon Noru

Residents wait on the roofs of their homes for flooding to subside in San Miguel. [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

Typhoon Noru

A woman wades through chest-deep floodwaters in San Ildefonso, Bulacan province. [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

Typhoon Noru

A woman clears mud out of her home following the flood caused by Super Typhoon Noru, in Marikina City, Metro Manila. [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

Typhoon Noru

Children on a bicycle pass by debris from the flood caused by the typhoon in Marikina City. [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

Typhoon Noru

Residents who evacuated from their flooded homes sit on a roadside in San Ildefonso. [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

Typhoon Noru

Noru made landfall as a Category 3 typhoon but weakened as it traversed land on Sunday night. [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Typhoon Noru

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees an average of 20 tropical storms yearly. [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Typhoon Noru

Residents wade through deep floods in San Miguel, Bulacan province. [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Arial view of flooded affected areas

A view of flooded areas in Central Luzon. [Twitter @Bongbongmarcos via Reuters]

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At least nine dead, 20 wounded in Russia school shooting

The attacker turned the gun on himself after killing several people in the central Udmurtia region.

Published On 26 Sep 2022

A gunman has opened fire in a school in central Russia, killing at least 17 people and wounding 24 others before shooting himself dead, authorities said.

The shooting took place on Monday in School No 88 in Izhevsk, a city 960km (600 miles) east of Moscow in the Udmurtia region.

Russia’s Investigative Committee identified the gunman as 34-year-old Artyom Kazantsev, a graduate of the same school, and said he was wearing a black T-shirt bearing “Nazi symbols”. No details about his motives have been released.

The government of Udmurtia said 17 people, including 11 children, were killed in the shooting. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, 24 other people, including 22 children, were wounded in the attack.

The governor of Udmurtia, Alexander Brechalov, said the gunman, who he said was registered as a patient at a psychiatric facility, killed himself after the attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday denounced the Izhevsk attack as “inhuman”.

“President Putin deeply mourns the deaths of people, children, at a school where there was a terrorist attack by a person, who apparently belongs to a neo-fascist group,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“The president wishes for the recovery of those injured as a result of this inhuman terrorist attack,” Peskov added.

Map Izhevsk

Russia’s National Guard said Kazantsev used two non-lethal handguns adapted to fire real bullets. The guns were not registered with the authorities. A criminal investigation into the incident has been launched on charges of multiple murders and illegal possession of firearms.

The school, which teaches children aged six to 17, was evacuated and the area around it was cordoned off.

Izhevsk is a city of about 640,000 people located west of the Ural Mountains in central Russia.

The attack comes at a critical time for Russia, which is waging a deadly war in Ukraine and has recently announced a partial mobilisation order to boost its forces.

Hours before the school shooting, a man opened fire and wounded a military recruitment officer at an enlistment centre in Siberia.

“Any shooting at a school is a cause for deep concern for authorities, families and the nation in general. We have seen that in the United States and many other countries,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Moscow.

“But Russians are saying this is not a frequent occurrence in Russia – and most of the time it is difficult to establish the motives behind it.”

Police and paramedics work at the scene of a shooting at school No. 88 in Izhevsk, Russia
Police and paramedics at the scene of the shooting at the school in Izhevsk [AP Photo]

The last such tragedy took place in April 2022, when a man killed two children and a teacher at a kindergarten in the central Ulyanovsk region before killing himself.

In May 2021, nine people – including seven children – were killed after a lone teenage gunman opened fire in Russia’s southwestern city of Kazan.

In 2018, a student at a college in Russian-annexed Crimea killed 20 people before turning his gun on himself.

Other high-profile shooting cases have taken place in Russia’s army, putting the issue of hazing in the spotlight in the country where military service is compulsory for men aged between 18 and 27.

In November 2020, a 20-year-old soldier killed three fellow servicemen at a military base near the city of Voronezh. In a similar attack in 2019, a young recruit shot dead eight servicemen, saying he faced bullying and harassment in the army.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Cholera death toll rises to 29 in Syria as outbreak spreads

Health Ministry says rapid assessment testing confirmed 338 cases since the outbreak was first recorded last month.

Published On 26 Sep 2022

At least 29 people have been killed due to a cholera outbreak in several regions of Syria, in what the United Nations has called the worst outbreak in the war-torn country for years.

Rapid assessment testing confirmed 338 cases since the outbreak was first recorded last month, with the bulk of deaths and cases in the northern Aleppo province, the Syrian health ministry said in a statement on Monday.

230 cases were reported in Aleppo province, with 25 people confirmed dead.

The UN this month said the outbreak was believed to be linked to the irrigation of crops using contaminated water and people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River, which bisects Syria from north to east.

Suspected cholera cases have risen to 2,092 in the northeast of Syria since the outbreak was first reported [File: Aboud Hamam/Reuters]

The UN has made an urgent appeal for funds to control the outbreak as well as approvals to “ensure timely delivery” of life-saving medicine and supplies.

The highly contagious disease has also spread to the country’s Kurdish-held northeast and opposition areas in north and northwestern Syria, where millions have been displaced by the decade-old war in the country, medical officials said.

Suspected cholera cases have risen to 2,092 in the northeast of Syria since the outbreak was announced this month, said the United States-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), which operates in the region.

It said there were fears that cases had been significantly under-reported.

The UN has warned the outbreak underscored “severe shortages of water” throughout Syria, where much of the population relies on unsafe water sources following the destruction of the national water infrastructure in the war.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been made homeless since protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 escalated into a civil war that drew in foreign powers and left Syria carved into zones controlled by rival parties.

The situation has been made worse by drought-like conditions that have caused water levels along the Euphrates to drop. Farmers have also blamed Turkey’s water policies for the decrease in flow.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Six killed as Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Balochistan

Military says the chopper crashes during a late night mission in the country’s southwest, killing all six on board.

Published On 26 Sep 2022

Islamabad, Pakistan – An army helicopter has crashed during an overnight mission in southwest Pakistan’s Balochistan province, killing all six people on board, including two officers.

In a statement on Monday, the military said the chopper crashed late last night during an operational flight near the town of Khost, roughly 121 kilometres (75 miles) from Balochistan’s capital Quetta.

“A helicopter on a flying mission crashed late last night. Six personnel – including two army majors (both pilots) embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in the crash,” said the statement.

The army’s statement did not elaborate on what caused the incident or the nature of their operation in the area.

In a tweet in Urdu language, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday offered his condolences and prayed for the deceased soldiers and their families.

Opposition leader and former federal information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, demanded an evaluation of the safety of Pakistan army helicopters.

“Heli flying is getting dangerous. This needs engineering evaluation, too many crashes,” he tweeted.

Authorities said they are investigating the incident – the second in less than two months.

On August 1, an army helicopter crashed in Balochistan’s Lasbela district during a flood-related operation, killing six including a senior army official.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, is also the hub of a decades-old separatist movement. Various armed groups based in the province have claimed attacks on Pakistani security forces in the past.

However, no rebel group has so far claimed responsibility for Sunday night’s crash.

Balochistan is also a key component of Pakistan ally China’s multi-billion Belt and Road Initiative.

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Hindu nationalists now pose a global problem

India’s Hindu right wing has long advocated for its vision across the world. Overseas offshoots of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have helped in this, as have allied groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council.

Now, recent events in Leicester in the United Kingdom suggest that their dream of propagating Hindutva, their political philosophy, is coming true in new ways – violently, on the streets of cities far from India.

On September 17, young Hindu men marched through the streets of Leicester, chanting “Jai Sri Ram” – now a Hindu nationalist war cry – and attacking Muslims. This is the muscular brand of Hindu pride and chauvinism that Hindu nationalists have always aspired to.

These tensions have been in the offing. In May, a Muslim teenager in Leicester had to be hospitalised after an unprovoked attack by a Hindu crowd. In August after India’s win against Pakistan in a cricket match, a Hindu group walked through the streets chanting “Death to Pakistan” before attacking a Sikh man. There were similar reports after a second cricket match between the two countries that India lost. In response, groups of Muslim men have also held protests – in one instance, a man pulled down a flag from outside a Hindu religious centre.

There is, of course, a long history of Hindu nationalist and Conservative Party collaboration in the UK. In the lead-up to the 2016 London mayoral elections, Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith sent anti-Muslim campaign literature to Hindus and Sikhs to bring down his Muslim opponent, Sadiq Khan, of the Labour Party. On the eve of the 2019 UK general elections, there were reports that Hindu nationalist groups in the country were actively campaigning for Conservative candidates, since Labour’s then-leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had criticised the Modi government’s 2019 crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir. Many of these groups have direct links to the BJP and their actions represented attempts at influencing an overseas election.

However, this is not just a UK problem. The scourge of Hindu nationalism has gone global.

‘True friend in the White House’

Like in the UK, Hindu nationalists have actively campaigned for right-wing, Islamophobic candidates in the United States. This was apparent during the 2016 presidential elections when Hindu groups went all out in their efforts to mobilise Hindu Americans for Republican candidates.

In 2015 an Indian American lobby, the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), was launched by Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Kumar, who has had close ties to Modi. Its members  donated to former US President Donald Trump’s campaign and the RHC supported him as he ran for the presidency. At an event with the group ahead of the vote, Trump declared: “The Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House.” He also praised Modi, calling him a “great man,” and released a campaign video wooing Hindu Americans.

Ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, Modi acted almost as a campaigner for Trump, holding two joint rallies with the realtor-turned-politician – one in Ahmedabad, India, and the other in Houston, Texas. In the latter event, Modi seemed to give tacit backing to Trump’s re-election campaign, even uttering the phrase “Ab ki baar, Trump sarkar (This time, it’s going to be a Trump government)”.

However, like in the UK, the Hindu right in the US has now moved from electoral influence to demonstrations of street might. In August this year, bulldozers adorned with posters of Modi and the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, appeared at an Indian Independence Day parade in Edison, New Jersey, apparently celebrating the disturbing trend of local governments demolishing the homes of Muslim activists in India. Following criticism, the organiser – the Indian Business Association – apologised for the incident.

Open threats

In Canada too, Hindu nationalists have been making waves. In December last year anti-Sikh slogans and the Hindu swastika appeared outside a Sikh school. Canadian academics have been harassed and faced death and rape threats from diaspora Hindutva supporters for criticising the Modi government in India.

In June, Ron Banerjee, a Canadian Hindu nationalist openly called for the genocide of Muslims and Sikhs. “It is awesome what Modi is doing,” Banerjee said, in an interview to a YouTube channel. “I support the killing of Muslims and Sikhs in the Republic of India because they deserve to die.” 

Australia too is witnessing an uptick in hate crimes committed by Hindus against Muslims and Sikhs. One such attacker, Vishal Sood, was eventually arrested for a series of attacks on Sikhs, and was convicted and deported since his visa had expired. When he got back to India, he received a hero’s welcome.

Attempts have also been made by Indian authorities in Australia to silence critics of Modi and his Hindu nationalist policies. Thirteen academic fellows resigned from the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne citing interference from the Indian High Commission and attempts to censor research and writing that presented an “unflattering” image of India.

Why has Hindutva gone global?

Undoubtedly, the rise of Hindu nationalism globally has much to do with the rise of Modi.

Since becoming prime minister in 2014, he has overseen a highly controversial citizenship reform that discriminates against Muslim asylum seekers, scrapped the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and built a temple at the location of a historic mosque demolished by Hindu hardliners in 1992. All while going after opposition leaders, activists and critics.

Modi’s success in delivering on Hindutva’s promises at home has inspired his supporters in the diaspora to exude a sense of chauvinistic pride abroad.

However, world leaders are guilty too, of legitimising Modi, giving this subsection of Hindu expatriates the conviction that their bigoted vision has some global cache. From Trump to former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and from former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, multiple right-wing politicians have presented themselves as “friends” of Modi.

Even those Western leaders who do not have a particularly pronounced right-wing agenda have been keen to establish and develop their economic and strategic ties with India while turning a blind eye to the Modi government’s dismal human rights record.

What is next?

Islamophobia now appears to be a matter of public and foreign policy for India. The Indian High Commission in the UK responded to the events in Leicester by specifically referring only to the worries of the Hindu community there.

However, Leicester should serve as a wake-up call: Hindu nationalism cannot be ignored any more as a domestic, Indian issue. The movement has gone international – and is taking an increasingly violent form in other countries too. It is now a threat to democratic principles, equality and human rights everywhere. India under Modi will not address it. The world must.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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