October 22, 2019

Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’


Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’

Tokyo hopes its China-containment project will eventually include Taiwan as a participant, says the governor of the Japan Bank for International CooperationTadashi Maeda says Japan’s own strategy ‘is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade’

Topic | China-Japan relations

Lee Jeong-ho

Published: 6:25am, 18 Oct, 2019

Updated: 11:04pm, 18 Oct, 2019

China’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, the Belt and Road Initiative, is a “political show” that lacks real substance, the head of Japan’s international development agency said on Thursday, adding that Japan ultimately hopes to include Taiwan as a participant in its China-containment project.


Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Tadashi Maeda, governor of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), criticised the belt and road project, saying it lacked real “programmes” to help the developing world.


“BRI is just a political show, and there is no clear definition of what it is exactly … it’s just everywhere,” Maeda said of the initiative, which spans multiple continents.


“I think China does not fully understand” sustainability issues and other implications involved with the projects, including climate changes, he said, also noting that some belt and road participants suffer from heavy debt loads related to projects in their countries.


Japan is concerned that the belt and road projects are accelerating China’s growing global clout, and both Japanese and US leaders worry that the initiative could ultimately change the economic order enjoyed by the traditional powers.


China’s initiative, which began in 2013, has long faced international scrutiny. Beijing has been accused of using it to further its political agenda and to attain more power and influence amid its rivalry with the US.

As criticism grew, Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted last year that Beijing was adjusting its strategy in promoting the project, saying that his New Silk Road plan was not about creating a “China club” but was meant to improve the quality of lives for people of the partnering countries.


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Japan keen to do business in Africa as China extends reach

“[Japan's initiative] is different. It is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade,” said Maeda, who formerly served as a special adviser to the Japanese cabinet.

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Chasing China, Japan looks to Africa for trade and global influence

“In some sense, this is a counterproposal to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.”


The Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy is Japan’s version of the plan, and Maeda said Tokyo was paying special attention to the “treatment of Taiwan” as it develops further.

“I had private meetings with a national security adviser of Taiwan, and also the foreign minister of Taiwan” about Taipei’s participation in the project, Maeda said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has suggested that Beijing is adjusting its strategy in promoting the belt and road project, which has come under criticism. Photo: Reuters

“Taiwan has already engaged [the Japan-led economic initiatives] on a transaction-by-transaction level [from] a year ago,” he added without elaborating.


Maeda said that Japan “cannot invite Taiwan as an official partner”, but that it was possible for the self-ruled island to take part in the China-containment strategy on a transactional level.


“Transaction-by-transaction would enable Taiwan to take part in the project” in supporting FOIP, he added.

The difference between Indo Pacific and Asia-Pacific? The US and China

The term “Indo-Pacific” first emerged as regional strategic framework in US politics in 2010 when then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton used it to signal renewed American interest in the area.


The approach was reinforced in 2016 when FOIP was introduced. The US government further articulated the concept in 2017, stressing the need to combine military and geoeconomic goals to contain China’s military expansion, as well as to provide alternative development models to the Belt and Road Initiative.


Timothy Heath, a former analyst at US Pacific Command who is now a senior international defence researcher at the RAND Corporation, said the US would likely “welcome a stronger Taiwan role in Japan’s FOIP programme”.


“The message this sends is that the United States and Japan are willing to work with Taiwan and others to bolster the FOIP, even if this antagonises China,” he said. “A closer Taiwan partnership with Japan and the US also weakens Beijing’s hopes of peacefully coercing Taiwan into unification.”

How Japan is countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative

John Sitilides, geopolitical strategist at Trilogy Advisors in Washington, said Taiwan’s participation “will have little direct impact on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative”.


“Ultimately, Tokyo’s message to Beijing is predicated on the necessary economic, political and diplomatic engagement of the world’s second largest economy just several hundred miles across the East China Sea,” Sitilides said.


“At the same time, Japan will retain and further consolidate its independent foreign and defence policies, alliances and trade agreements, including opportunities for greater trade benefits with Taiwan, while granting formal diplomatic recognition only for the People’s Republic of China.”


The shared goal for Tokyo and Washington, he said, “would be to check China’s assertive regional growth and power projection strategies”.


October 20, 2019

How Pakistan’s Generals turned the country into an international jihadi tourist resort

An article by a Pakistani, about Pakistan Army. An impressive and telling Govind
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How Pakistan’s Generals turned the country into an international jihadi tourist resort

BY Mohammad Hanif

(Mohammed Hanif is the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes(2008), his first novel, a satire on the death of General Zia ul Haq)

What is the last thing you say to your best general when ordering him into a do-or-die mission? A prayer maybe, if you are religiously inclined. A short lecture, underlining the importance of the mission, if you want to keep it businesslike. Or maybe you’ll wish him good luck accompanied by a clicking of the heels and a final salute.

On the night of 5 July 1977 as Operation Fair Play, meant to topple Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s elected government, was about to commence, then Army Chief General Zia ul Haq took aside his right-hand man and Corps Commander of 10th Corps Lieutenant General Faiz Ali Chishti and whispered to him: “Murshid, marwa na daina.” (Guru, don’t get us killed.)

General Zia was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes: spreading his paranoia amongst those around him and sucking up to a junior officer he needed to do his dirty work. General Zia had a talent for that; he could make his juniors feel as if they were indispensable to the running of this world. And he could make his seniors feel like proper gods, as Bhutto found out to his cost.

General Faiz Ali Chishti’s troops didn’t face any resistance that night; not a single shot was fired, and like all military coups in Pakistan, this was also dubbed a ‘bloodless coup’. There was a lot of bloodshed, though, in the following years—in military-managed dungeons, as pro-democracy students were butchered at Thori gate in interior Sindh, hundreds of shoppers were blown up in Karachi’s Bohri Bazar, in Rawalpindi people didn’t even have to leave their houses to get killed as the Army’s ammunition depot blew up raining missiles on a whole city, and finally at Basti Laal Kamal near Bahawalpur, where a plane exploded killing General Zia and most of the Pakistan Army’s high command. General Faiz Ali Chishti had nothing to do with this, of course. General Zia had managed to force his murshid into retirement soon after coming to power. Chishti had started to take that term of endearment—murshid—a bit too seriously and dictators can’t stand anyone who thinks of himself as a kingmaker.

Thirty-four years on, Pakistan is a society divided at many levels. There are those who insist on tracing our history to a certain September day in 2001, and there are those who insist that this country came into being the day the first Muslim landed on the Subcontinent. There are laptop jihadis, liberal fascist and fair-weather revolutionaries. There are Balochi freedom fighters up in the mountains and bullet-riddled bodies of young political activists in obscure Baloch towns. And, of course, there are the members of civil society with a permanent glow around their faces from all the candle-light vigils. All these factions may not agree on anything but there is consensus on one point: General Zia’s coup was a bad idea. When was the last time anyone heard Nawaz Sharif or any of Zia’s numerous protégés thump their chest and say, yes, we need another Zia? When did you see a Pakistan military commander who stood on Zia’s grave and vowed to continue his mission?

It might have taken Pakistanis 34 years to reach this consensus but we finally agree that General Zia’s domestic and foreign policies didn’t do us any good. It brought us automatic weapons, heroin and sectarianism; it also made fortunes for those who dealt in these commodities. And it turned Pakistan into an international jihadi tourist resort.

And yet, somehow, without ever publicly owning up to it, the Army has continued Zia’s mission. Successive Army commanders, despite their access to vast libraries and regular strategic reviews, have never actually acknowledged that the multinational, multicultural jihadi project they started during the Zia era was a mistake. Late Dr Eqbal Ahmed, the Pakistani teacher and activist, once said that the Pakistan Army is brilliant at collecting information but its ability to analyse this information is non-existent.

Looking back at the Zia years, the Pakistan Army seems like one of those mythical monsters that chops off its own head but then grows an identical one and continues on the only course it knows.

In 1999, two days after the Pakistan Army embarked on its Kargil misadventure, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed gave a ‘crisp and to the point’ briefing to a group of senior Army and Air Force officers. Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail, who attended the meeting, later wrote that they were told that it was nothing more than a defensive manoeuvre and the Indian Air Force will not get involved at any stage. “Come October, we shall walk into Siachen—to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” General Mahmud told the meeting. “Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Commodore Abid Rao to famously quip, ‘After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!’ as we walked out of the briefing room,” Air Commodore Tufail recalled in an essay.

If Rao Abid even contemplated a court martial, he probably lacked leadership qualities because there was only one way out of this mess—a humiliating military defeat, a world-class diplomatic disaster, followed by yet another martial law. The man who should have faced court martial for Kargil appointed himself Pakistan’s President for the next decade.

General Mahmud went on to command ISI, Rao Abid retired as air vice marshal, both went on to find lucrative work in the Army’s vast welfare empire, and Kargil was forgotten as if it was a game of dare between two juveniles who were now beyond caring about who had actually started the game. Nobody remembers that a lot of blood was shed on this pointless Kargil mission. The battles were fierce and some of the men and officers fought so valiantly that two were awarded Pakistan’s highest military honour, Nishan-e-Haidar. There were hundreds of others whose names never made it to any awards list, whose families consoled themselves by saying that their loved ones had been martyred while defending our nation’s borders against our enemy. Nobody pointed out the basic fact that there was no enemy on those mountains before some delusional generals decided that they would like to mop up hundreds of Indian soldiers after starving them to death.

The architect of this mission, the daring General Pervez Musharraf, who didn’t bother to consult his colleagues before ordering his soldiers to their slaughter, doesn’t even have the wits to face a sessions court judge in Pakistan, let alone a court martial. The only people he feels comfortable with are his Facebook friends and that too from the safety of his London apartment. During the whole episode, the nation was told that it wasn’t the regular army that was fighting in Kargil; it was the mujahideen. But those who received their loved ones’ flag-draped coffins had sent their sons and brothers to serve in a professional army, not a freelance lashkar.

The Pakistan Army’s biggest folly has been that under Zia it started outsourcing its basic job—soldiering—to these freelance militants. By blurring the line between a professional soldier—who, at least in theory, is always required to obey his officer, who in turn is governed by a set of laws—and a mujahid, who can pick and choose his cause and his commander depending on his mood, the Pakistan Army has caused immense confusion in its own ranks. Our soldiers are taught to shout Allah-o-Akbar when mocking an attack. In real life, they are ambushed by enemies who shout Allah-o-Akbar even louder. Can we blame them if they dither in their response? When the Pakistan Navy’s main aviation base in Karachi, PNS Mehran, was attacked, Navy Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir told us that the attackers were ‘very well trained’. We weren’t sure if he was giving us a lazy excuse or admiring the creation of his institution. When naval officials told journalists that the attackers were ‘as good as our own commandoes’ were they giving themselves a backhanded compliment?

In the wake of the attacks on PNS Mehran in Karachi, some TV channels have pulled out an old war anthem sung by late Madam Noor Jehan and have started to play it in the backdrop of images of young, hopeful faces of slain officers and men. Written by the legendary teacher and poet Sufi Tabassum, the anthem carries a clear and stark warning: Aiay puttar hatantay nahin wickday, na labhdi phir bazaar kuray (You can’t buy these brave sons from shops, don’t go looking for them in bazaars).

While Sindhis and Balochis have mostly composed songs of rebellion, Punjabi popular culture has often lionised its karnails and jarnails and even an odd dholsipahi. The Pakistan Army, throughout its history, has refused to take advice from politicians as well as thinking professionals from its own ranks. It has never listened to historians and sometimes ignored even the esteemed religious scholars it frequently uses to whip up public sentiments for its dirty wars. But the biggest strategic mistake it has made is that it has not even taken advice from the late Madam Noor Jehan, one of the Army’s most ardent fans in Pakistan’s history. You can probably ignore Dr Eqbal Ahmed’s advice and survive in this country but you ignore Madam at your own peril.

Since the Pakistan Army’s high command is dominated by Punjabi-speaking generals, it’s difficult to fathom what it is about this advice that they didn’t understand. Any which way you translate it, the message is loud and clear. And lyrical: soldiers are not to be bought and sold like a commodity. “Na  awaian takran maar kuray” (That search is futile, like butting your head against a brick wall), Noor Jehan goes on to rhapsodise.

For decades, the Army has not only shopped for these private puttarsin the bazaars, it also set up factories to manufacture them. It raised whole armies of them. When you raise Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish Mohammed, Sipahe Sahaba, Sipahe Mohammed, Lashker Jhangvi, Al- Badar Mujahideen, others encouraged by the thriving market place will go ahead and start outfits like Anjuman Tahuffuze Khatame Nabuwat and Anjuman Tahuffuze Namoos-e-Aiyasha. It’s not just Kashmir and Afghanistan and Chechnya they will want to liberate, they will also go back in time and seek revenge for a perceived slur that may or may not have been cast by someone more than 1,300 years ago in a country far far away.

As if the Army’s sprawling shopping mall of private puttars in Pakistan wasn’t enough, it actively encouraged import and export of these commodities, even branched out into providing rest and recreation facilities for the ones who wanted a break. The outsourcing of Pakistan’s military strategy has reached a point where mujahids have their own mujahids to do their job, and inevitably at the end of the supply chain are those faceless and poor teenagers with explosives strapped to their torsos regularly marched out to blow up other poor kids.

Two days before the Americans killed Osama bin Laden and took away his bullet-riddled body, General Kiyani addressed Army cadets at Kakul. After declaring a victory of sorts over the militants, he gave our nation a stark choice. And before the nation could even begin to weigh its pros and cons, he went ahead and decided for them: we shall never bargain our honour for prosperity. As things stand, most people in Pakistan have neither honour nor prosperity and will easily settle for their little world not blowing up every day.

The question people really want to ask General Kiyani is that if he and his Army officer colleagues can have both honour and prosperity, why can’t we the people have a tiny bit of both?

The Army and its advocates in the media often worry about Pakistan’s image, as if we are not suffering from a long-term serious illness but a seasonal bout of acne that just needs better skin care. The Pakistan Army, over the years, has cultivated this image of 180 million people with nuclear devices strapped to their collective body threatening to take the world down with it. We may not be able to take the world down with us; the world might defang us or try to calm us down by appealing to our imagined Sufi side. But the fact remains that Pakistan as a nation is paying the price for our generals’ insistence on acting, in Asma Jahangir’s frank but accurate description, like duffers.

And demanding medals and golf resorts for being such duffers consistently for such a long time.

What people really want to do at this point is put an arm around our military commanders’ shoulders, take them aside and whisper in their ears: “Murshid, marwa na daina.”

Rani Abbakka Chowta, brave heart of Mangalore

The year was 1555. Portuguese colonial power was at its peak in the 1500’s. They destroyed Zamorins of Calicut. Defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. Took away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat, Established a colony in Mylapore, Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it, pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church over it.

Their next target, the super profitable port of Mangalore.

Their only bad luck, just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal - ruled then by a feisty 30 year old woman - Rani Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her back to Goa - Those boats never came back.
Shocked and enraged, they sent a huge fleet of ships this time, under the command of much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira - The admiral soon returned, badly injured and empty handed.

Thereafter, another Portuguese fleet was sent - only a few injured from the crew managed to make it back.
Then the Portuguese went on to capture the Mangalore port and the fort anyways, perhaps planning to tackle Rani Abbakka Chowta from the convenient distance of the Mangalore fort.

After the successful capture of Mangalore, a huge army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal.
The brief was simple: Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.
The plan was foolproof- there was no way a 30 year old with a few men could withstand the might of an army of thousands with advanced weapons.
The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it deserted. Abbakka was nowhere in sight.

They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars - Just when they were about to call it a victory - Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen men - there was chaos all around and many portuguese lost their lives even without a fight

- General João Peixoto was assassinated, 70 portuguese were captured and the rest just ran away.

So if you’re Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large army of aggressors, killed a general, captured fighters and defended her city - What will you do?

- Rest and enjoy the moment right?

- Right?

- No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta, rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night, and laid a siege of the Mangalore fort - She not just broke inside the fort successfully - but assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas the Chief of the Portuguese power there and forced the remaining Portuguese to vacate the fort.

She didn’t just stop at this but went on to even capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 kms, north of Mangalore - Just to make a point.

The Portuguese finally managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by convincing her estranged husband, to betray for money. She was arrested and put in the prison where she revolted again and was killed while trying to escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims, a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What did we Indians do to her, as a mark of our respect and gratitude? - We just forgot her.
We didn’t name our girls after her. We didn’t even teach her stories to our kids.

Yes we did release a Postal Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues - yes just 2 statues in the whole of India for someone who should be our national hero.

We might have got to read a chapter about her in our text books, had she been a European or an American.

Many talk about her being the last Indian to have the power of the agni-ban. In all this cacophony, our generation has lost a great hero - a great source of inspiration.

Still wondering why you’ve not heard about her yet?
Wonder on.

*Atleast now, spread such historical facts to all your friends*

Trump Withdraws Troops From Syria: The Fallout

Chatam House

15 October 2019

Lindsay Newman and Leslie Vinjamuri survey the damage the president’s latest move has done to US foreign policy.

Dr Lindsay Newman

Senior Research Fellow, US and the Americas Programme



Dr Leslie Vinjamuri

Head of the US and the Americas Programme, and Dean of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy, Chatham House


Google Scholar


Donald Trump walks from Marine One to Air Force One at Ocala International Airport on 3 October. Photo: Getty Images.



A tactical approach to Turkey has failed

Lindsay Newman

The US approach to Turkey under President Donald Trump has been tactical, consisting of a series of mixed signals.

In August 2018, the US imposed sanctions on several Turkish officials to pressure for the release of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson. With the Turkish lira plummeting, Brunson was released in October of that year.

In a separate incident, after squeezing Turkey economically, the US offered to work with Turkey in the investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But later, the White House considered reopening the case of the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, long sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a bid to convince Turkey to reduce pressure on Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi killing.

In the latest development, Trump agreed to withdraw US troops from Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, opening up the space for a Turkish military incursion. While Trump seeks to deliver on a campaign promise to reduce the US military presence abroad, the clear winner of his latest decision is Turkey, which now gets to pursue its key objective of driving out the Kurdish presence along the Turkish-Syrian border and resettling Syrian refugees there.

The clear losers are the Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the very fighters who have been critical to the US counterterrorism efforts against ISIS in Syria. Together the withdrawal of US troops in conjunction with Turkish attacks on Kurdish fighters (and civilians) opens a wide lane for the resurgence of ISIS in Syria, already underway according to an August report by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General.

Events are moving fast: developments in the first week of the Turkish operation include the apparent escape of ISIS-affiliated detainees and the realignment of Kurdish fighters with the Syrian government.

There are other losers, however. These include counterterrorism initiatives globally where the US has shifted from active leadership to more advisory roles. For instance, following a December 2018 policy statement by then-national security advisor John Bolton, the US has scaled back support for counterterrorism initiatives in Africa, including against Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel.

Additionally, the abandonment of a strategic (non-state) ally at the request of another (NATO) ally when it is expedient to do so will be registered not only by the Kurdish fighters in Syria but also potential partners worldwide, including Juan Guaido in Venezuela and the Cuban-American diaspora. And it is still not entirely clear what the US or President Trump (perhaps increasingly separately) get out of this latest policy signal with Turkey.

Congress and US allies continue to struggle to restrain Trump

Leslie Vinjamuri

After Donald Trump announced he was pulling troops from Kurdish-held areas in Syria, there was outrage from both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate. Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, two of Trump’s strongest supporters, both admonished the president for his decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

Evangelical leaders previously silent on some of Trump’s most controversial policies also dissented. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, condemned Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. This sentiment was expressed by other leading figures in the conservative Christian community who believe the US has a responsibility to protect persecuted Christian communities overseas.

The threat that evangelical voters, who made up 26% of voters in the 2016 presidential election and voted overwhelmingly for Trump (81%), might break with the president over his Syria policy, or that Republican Senators would push back, may explain Trump’s decision to support sanctions against Turkey. It may also signal that Trump is willing to bend if failing to do so threatens the support of his Republican base. 

European governments have also condemned Trump’s phone call with Erdogan and his decision to pull US troops from Syria, and for good reason. Turkey has seized on criticism of its military manoeuvres to renew its threat to use Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip with the EU. Europe is justified in its concern that the release of ISIS detainees and renewed terrorist activities presents a security risk for Europe. And US pressure to repatriate ISIS fighters with European citizenship is likely to grow.

This week, they took action, as the foreign ministers of all 28 EU member states agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey. 

For Europe, a pushback against Trump over Syria is important not just for its immediate effects, but for what it says about European attempts to create a foreign policy independent of the US president. Some in government are now recognizing that America’s international role may be changing for good. As this struggle plays out on policy towards Iran, and also China, Trump’s Syria policy gives European countries one more reason to distance themselves.

Congressional attempts to challenge Trump’s abrupt decision, given the rapidly changing facts on the ground, also look like they will be too little, and too late, at least in Syria.

Even with Trump’s support, measures designed to punish Turkey’s leaders by targeting their assets, inhibiting foreign travel and preventing military sales will have little effect on who controls northeast Syria if Assad succeeds in using the Kurdish deal to re-establish a foothold across northeast Syria. And if this does deliver stability to the region, it will have come at a high price.

It remains to be seen if any of this will translate into a victory for Trump. For a US president who stakes his reputation on doing deals, the announcement that the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have agreed their own deal will come as a big blow.

And if it succeeds, this deal will be a dramatic setback for US strategic and humanitarian priorities in Syria: to secure the territorial defeat of ISIS and prevent its resurgence, contain Iranian and Russian influence, and provide a secure space with humanitarian relief for the diverse community of Christians, Kurds and others in the region who have looked to America for support.

The US president seems happy to absorb these costs if it means he can deliver on his campaign promise to bring US troops home. But much will depend on whether a humanitarian crisis in Syria and the threat of a resurgent ISIS erodes the unqualified support from his Republican base that this president heretofore seems to have enjoyed.