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VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: September 29, 2021

Afghanistan
MoJ to Enforce Zahir Shah-Era Constitution: Tolo News

For an interim period, the constitution from the time of the Afghan king will be enforced, except for some articles against Sharia Law and Emirate principles. Click here to read

Afghan Businessmen Face Export Problems in Trade with Pakistan: Tolo News

Officials from Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) said that once again Afghan exports face problems in crossing points with Pakistan as the neighboring country allows only 20 Afghan trucks a day while hundreds of trucks are stuck near crossing points between the two countries. Click here to read

Former Afghan officials announce government in exile: The Khaama Press

A number of former Afghan officials who have fled the country along with President Ashraf Ghani announced the continuation of the Afghan government in exile. Click here to read

Taliban to implement a constitution from nearly 60 years ago: The Khaama Press

Taliban’s acting minister of Justice Abdul Hakim Sharaee said that they will implement the constitution from the era of Muhammad Zahir Shah which was ratified 57 years ago. Click here to read

Will not engage in Afghanistan until establishment of inclusive government: Erdogan: The Khaama Pres

President of Turkey Recep Tayyib Erdogan has said that they will not engage in Afghanistan until and unless the Taliban forge an all-inclusive government in the country. Click here to read

Bangladesh
Turkey-Bangladesh ties get stronger as misconceptions clarified- Daily Sabah

Relations between Turkey and Bangladesh scaled up after disinformation about Bangladesh spoiling Muslim unity was proven wrong, Bangladeshi officials said. Click here to read

Crystal meth creeps up on city- Daily Star

There is a growing market for highly addictive drug crystal meth in the capital, operated mostly through encrypted messaging apps, officials have found out. Click here to read

Over 66 lakh shots given: Special Covid vaccination drive marks Hasina’s 75th birthday- Daily Star

The country more than doubled its previous record of single-day vaccinations as the government inoculated more than 66 lakh people against Covid-19 yesterday. Click here to read

No more brokers- Daily Star

The Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) has taken a plan to introduce licenced “agents” to help people get passports and renew them. Click here to read

AL focusing on polls, BNP on election-time government- Dhaka Tribune

The ruling Awami League has already begun preparations for the next general election, to be held at the end of 2023. Click here to read

Covid-19: Bangladesh records 31 more deaths, 1,310 new cases- Dhaka Tribune

As many as 29,186 samples tested in 24 hours, yielding an infection rate of 4.49%.Click here to read

High Court extends Khaleda Zia’s bail by a year in 5 cases- Dhaka Tribune

File photo of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia Collected the BNP chief is out of prison since March last year as the govt has suspended her sentence. Click here to read

Windows of democracy and Sheikh Hasina’s birthday – Asian Age

Sheikh Hasina regards the people of Bangladesh as her closest and dearest ones. Click here to read

Bangamata Parishad observes PM’s birthday- Asian Age

Bangamata Parishad observed the 75th birthday of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday. The organization also held a discussion program in the capital’s National Museum on the same day. Click here to read

No alternative to Sheikh Hasina to reach desired destination: Hasan- The Observer

Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud on Tuesday said that there is no alternative to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to reach the country in its desired destination. Click here to read

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina likely to visit India next year- Times of India

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to visit New Delhi early next year. The dates for the visit expected to be in January or February 2022, will be finalised only after a formal invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi is extended to her. Click here to read

Consultancy contract signed between India & Bangladesh for a new railway line from Bogura to Sirajganj- All India Radio

A new direct rail line from Bogura to Sirajganj in Bangladesh will be developed under a government of India Line of Credit (LoC). Click here to read

Fifty years ago, remote Dimapur airstrip gave wings to fledgling Bangladesh Air Force- Economic time

By November 5, we could proudly say Bangladeshi and Indian Air forces had freed the skies over Bangladesh. The victory over land forces took 11 more days. Click here to read

Bhutan
No local Covid-19 cases for 45 straight days- Kuensel

Bhutan has not reported any positive Covid-19 cases from the community for 45 straight days. The last positive case from the community was reported on August 14: an individual from Gomtu, Samtse. Click here to read

RUB colleges establish happiness and wellbeing centres- Kuensel

Colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are establishing happiness and wellbeing centres to address mental health problems. Click here to read

Pandemic impacts nettle fabric business- Kuensel

Like many businesses, the pandemic impacted women who make a living weaving fabric from nettle yarn in Trongsa. Click here to read

Bhutan is home to one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world- Daily Bhutan

Email There is even a festival for it, known as the Matsutake Mushroom Festival. There, you’ll get to sample various dishes prepared with this mushroom. Click here to read

PM hosts reception to mark 50th anniversary Bhutan’s membership to the UN- Bhutan Times

A limited edition collectible commemorative stamp developed in partnership with Bhutan Post to mark the 50th anniversary of Bhutan’s membership to the UN was also launched by Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and UN Resident Representative Gerald Daly on 21 September. Click here to read

Construction of new bridge along Damchhu-Haa bypass to begin from November- BBS

A new bridge over Wangchhu along the Damchhu-Haa bypass will be constructed from November. The project DANTAK will construct the bridge. The previous bridge which was almost complete collapsed in February this year killing nine Indian workers. Click here to read

Flagship programmes make slow progress amid the pandemic- BBS

With the 12th Five Year Plan already midway, the government was able to utilise only more than Nu 2bn on the flagship programmes so far. A total budget of Nu 10bn was identified for these programmes. Click here to read

How digital cash can lift gross national happiness in Bhutan- Mint

Cash is a relatively new construct in Bhutan. Click here to read

COVID-19 and rabies: Bhutan highlights the importance of cross-border dog vaccination- WHO

Despite the sad loss of its young citizen recently, Bhutan is on the right track to achieve this goal. Click here to read

India inks pact for joint development of small satellite for Bhutan- New Indian Express

India on Friday signed the implementing arrangement on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan. Click here to read

Maldives
‘Against Freedom of Expression’: Maldives Journalist Bodies Oppose Provisions in New Bill – The Wire

Journalist organisations and NGOs in Maldives have, in a joint statement issued on Tuesday, September 28, called for the country’s authorities to drop certain provisions from the Evidence Bill which is currently being debated in the country’s parliament. Click here to read

Over 100,000 arrivals recorded for the fourth month this ongoing year! – Raajje

The Ministry of Tourism, through its latest daily statistics revealed that Maldives observed a total of 102,745 arrivals between September 1 – 26. Click here to read

Maldives committed to One-China Policy, bilateral cooperation in int’l arena: FM – ECNS

Maldives’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid has reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the One-China Policy and willingness to work with China in areas of mutual interest. Click here to read

India’s 228 million social housing project in Maldives and its significance- Inventiva

Maldives’ state-owned Fahi Dhiriulhun Corporation signed a loan agreement with India’s state-owned National Buildings Construction Company which is also known as NBCC, along with JMC Projects India Ltd. on Thursday. Click here to read

Myanmar
Afghanistan, Myanmar left in UN meet – Manila Times

The United Nations General Assembly drew to a close on Monday without speeches by Afghanistan or Myanmar after world powers intervened in disputes over who would represent the two countries. Click here to read

Junta mouthpiece criticises NLD-led decision to disband Union Democratic Party last year – Myanmar Now

A military-run newspaper has published an op-ed criticising the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government for overseeing the decision to dissolve the Union Democratic Party (UDP) shortly before last year’s general election. Click here to read

Growing numbers of young people seek to flee Myanmar – BNI Online

Young people disheartened by life in Myanmar following the coup are trying in growing numbers to leave the country and find work to help support their families, RFA reported. Click here to read
Myanmar Junta Troops Ambushed in Shan State – The Irrawaddy

At least 20 Myanmar military soldiers were reportedly killed or wounded on Monday, after Karenni resistance fighters ambushed a convoy of junta reinforcements in Pinlaung, Shan State in southeastern Myanmar. Click here to read

Int’l Rights Experts Urge UN to Declare Myanmar Junta ‘Terrorist’ Organization – The Irrawaddy

An independent group of prominent former UN human rights experts has urged the United Nations Security Council to declare the Myanmar military junta a “terrorist organization” for its atrocities against its own civilians including public torture, executions and taking hostages, including children as young as 2. Click here to read

Nepal
Minister Sharma stresses fully proportional election- Himalaya

Finance Minister Janardan Sharma said the fully proportional electoral system is necessary to eliminate unhealthy competition and malpractices in the election. Click here to read

Government to support tourism sector, says PM Deuba- Himalaya

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has said that the government is committed to support country’s tourism sector which has been hit hard by the COVID -19 pandemic. Click here to read

Poorly handled Covid-19 garbage could give rise to hazardous waste crisis- TKP

Amount of coronavirus-related refuse is increasing. There are protocols to manage such items, but implementation has been weak, leaving public health in peril. Click here to read

Panel on Nepal-China border issues calls for bilateral intervention- TKP

Government committee suggests joint inspection team of experts from both sides to deal with the dispute, if any. Click here to read

MCC ball in Nepal’s court- Nepali Times

‘Take it or leave it’ is the message to Kathmandu after visit by US officials. Click here to read

Maoist leader Barshaman Pun leaves for Thailand for treatment- Republica

CPN (Maoist Center) standing committee member Barshaman Pun left for Thailand today. Click here to read

Writ filed seeking annulment of oath taken by Foreign Minister Khadka- Republica

A writ petition has been filed at the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking an order to annul the oath taken by Foreign Minister Dr Narayan Khadka. Click here to read

Diplomats gather in Pokhara to revive Covid-19-hit Nepal tourism- Online Khabar

Just as the clouds were covering the Annapurna range, Park Chong-Suk, South Korean ambassador to Nepal, quickly took a selfie with his wife. This was at Naudanda, a few kilometres away from Pokhara, the tourism capital of Nepal. Click here to read

Border Roads Bring India and Nepal Closer- The Diplomat

The 35-km-long Uttarey-Chiwanbhangjyang road will link western Sikkim in India not just to areas on the Nepali side of the border but to western Nepal. Click here to read

Nepali Youth Protest in Capital Kathmandu Against Chinese Land Encroachment- NDTV

A youth association affiliated with Nepal’s Democratic Socialist Party led by Mahantha Thakur staged a protest against China on Tuesday for allegedly encroaching Nepal’s land. Click here to read

India MEA official reaches Nepal, to hold series of discussions- Wion

India MEA official reaches Nepal, to hold series of discussions Read more At: Click here to read

Pakistan
Qureshi again urges world to engage with ‘new reality’ in Afghanistan: Dawn

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has once again urged the international community to engage with the “new reality” in Afghanistan and unfreeze the country’s assets so that things do not fall apart. Click here to read

Mazari rebukes US for introducing bill targeting Pakistan for Afghan failure: The Express Tribune

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has warned that Pakistan will be made to “pay heavy price” for being an ally of the United States in its ‘war on terror’Click here to read

Shehbaz can be sent to prison for 25 years over corruption: Fawad: The Express Tribune

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif would be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison “if hearing of his corruption case is conducted on merit” Click here to read

US senators want Pak role probed in Taliban win: The News

A bill was Monday introduced in the US Senate requiring assessments and imposition of sanctions on the Taliban and persons assisting them in Afghanistan. Click here to read

NCOC for vaccination of children aged 12-years, above: The News

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided to vaccinate children aged 12 years and above. “In today’s meeting of NCOC, it has been decided to vaccinate all above 12 years and above,” Click here to read

Sri Lanka

932 persons test positive for COVID-19 – Daily FT

Daily COVID-19 detections remained below 1,000 for the second consecutive day with 932 persons testing positive for COVID-19 yesterday. Click here to read

Ensure workers’ rights before extending GSP+: EPZ workers write to EU Ambassador – The Morning

The Stand Up Movement Lanka organisation has written to the European Union (EU), requesting that it intervene to ensure that the rights of workers in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are addressed prior to deciding on whether or not to extend the grant of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade concessions to Sri Lanka. Click here to read

Sri Lanka Govt. suspends order placed to procure Oxygen from India – Daily Mirror

The Government has decided to suspend the order placed to purchase 1,080 tonnes of liquid oxygen from India, required for the next three weeks. Click here to read

National Issues Haunt GoSL at UNGA 2021 – Ceylon Today

Sri Lanka’s long-standing problem of seeking justice for the Tamils, and Catholics after the Easter Sunday attacks, has reached the United Nations Headquarters. Click here to read

West Asia Review -July 2021

Abstract:

Arab Spring 2.0 continued to take its toll. This time it was in Tunisia- the very birth place of it, when President Kais Saied decided to dismiss the Islamist Ennahda Prime Minister and suspended the Parliament and lifted the immunity of parliament members in view of the poor state of economy, unemployment, poor handling of Covid pandemic and the ongoing public protests and demonstrations demanding the dismissal of the government and dissolution of Parliament. President Saied took advantage of the public discontent to settle political scores and tried to project himself as the People’s president as he assumed all executive powers. Opposition called it a coup and so did several others of their supporters in Turkey etc. However, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister dashed to Tunis to take stock of the situation while expressing Kingdom’s support. It will be recalled that most of the Gulf monarchies were supporting counter revolution during the early phase of the Arab Spring fearing its fall out on their own turf, however they unleashed spate of reforms to keep the popular opinion from swaying as it did in North Africa and elsewhere. Secretary Blinken spoke to Saied and asked for respect for democracy and smooth transition. Saied may find it very difficult to overcome the existing difficulties the people are facing and it remains to be seen how far he can go with conserving power in his hands. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi agreed with Algerian Foreign Minister Ramdane Lamamra to give full support to Tunisian President Kais Saied.
Oman’s new Sultan Haitham bin-Tariq al-Said made his first visit to Saudi Arabia and met King Salman at Neom -the futuristic Saudi city. A highly successful visit with several agreements and promised assistance as Oman faces the economic stress. The visit was also seen as an effort by Saudis to balance out their recent issues with the UAE especially at the OPEC+ even though the immediate aftermath of acrimony subsided as the two Crown Princes met. Oman also acts as the trusted arbiter in Gulf issues and is working to diffuse the crisis in Yemen between Houthis, Iranians and Saudis. Oman also played an important role in ending the Qatar blockade at the Al Ula Summit.
In Libya, the international community is trying to keep the ball rolling so that the elections as promised on December 24 are held despite the trust deficit among international actors as well as local political claimants. Government of National Unity is guided by the agreed principles at Berlin -I & II. Efforts are being made to ask all foreign forces to leave the country. Meanwhile reports were floating around that General Haftar as well as Saif ul Islam, son of Muammar Gadhafi, are hoping to contest for the next Presidency.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, after his India visit, went to Kuwait and discussed military security cooperation and the post Afghan exit situation where it might beef up its forces and bases as well as use it as a transit destination for Afghans permitted to go the US. He met Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Sheikh Nawaf “expressed utmost appreciation for the US president and the friendly American people, as both countries are celebrating 60 years of historic ties, as well as 30 years of Kuwait’s liberation.”
Lebanon’s problems do not seem to end after Hariri also expressed his inability to form a government. In order to contain further deterioration, after France agreed to go along, EU adopted the sanctions regime to impose sanctions on officials in Lebanon with hopes to speed up the formation of a government and enact the measures required to steer the country towards a sustainable recovery. This was welcomed by US Secretary Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who agreed with EU’s legal framework, stated “Sanctions are intended, among other things, to compel changes in behaviour, and promote accountability for corrupt actors and leaders”. Najib Mikati, yet another interim PM, was asked to try and form the government.
As some direct talks have started between the Israeli government ministers and the Palestinian Authority within the ambit of Oslo Accords, Ismail Haniyeh was elected to a second term as head of Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip. As some low scale conflict went on between Hamas and Israel the Hamas spokesman reiterated that US’s continued armament of the occupation will only increase tensions in the region and encourage Israel’s defiance of international laws and resolutions. US State Department said it approved the sale of 18 Sikorsky CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters to Israel in a deal worth around $3.4 billion.
Ben & Jerry –the famous Ice cream makers, of Vermont USA decided to suspend the sale of their ice cream in the occupied West Bank creating a major controversy and chagrin to Israel as it stood to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) regime in favour of the Palestinian cause.
Secretary of State Blinken said that the negotiations with Iran on JCPOA cannot remain indefinitely on the table. Iran, post-election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as the President, is possibly awaiting his taking over before the next round of Vienna Talks are launched. Meanwhile, an Israeli managed tanker off the coast of Oman was attacked killing a Briton and a Romanian. Tel Aviv accused Tehran’s complicity. It is being perceived as a revenge for the attack on Iranian tanker some time back. UK Foreign Minister also accused of an Iranian hand in it “We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran”. Separately, Israel raised the issue of human rights violations against the President elect Raisi. As such Iran faced huge demonstrations due to water crisis especially in Khuzestan. Biggest challenge for the new President will be to address the economic and pandemic distress .
After his 4th disputed election in May, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous to form a new government.
In view of the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Dr S Jaishankar, EAM,
visited Tehran to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern. It was followed up by a telecon with Jawad Zarif. Dr Jaishankar also became the first foreign leader to meet President elect Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi appreciated the meeting and extended his full support for enriching bilateral ties including greater economic engagement. India was invited to the inaugural ceremony of the new President on August 5 (EAM Jaishankar attended).

More Details;
Political crisis in Tunisia

Tunisia has been undergoing political crisis and the rift between President Kais Saied and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has widened in the recent months. Eventually in the last week of July, the President ousted the Prime Minister and key cabinet ministers; suspended the parliament and assumed executive authority. The protests in Tunisia against autocrat Zine El-Abidine ignited the 2011 Arab Spring in the West Asian region. The transfer of power and the political transition process in the state was relatively peaceful.

The political crisis is seen as the biggest challenge for newly democratised Tunisia. The 2014 constitution demarcated the powers of the President, Prime Minister and the parliament. President Saied has justified his decision which according to him is aimed at stabilising the state facing economic and health crisis.

The ruling Ennahdha party and other political groups called it a “constitutional coup” and protests were reported in Tunis and other cities. Notably, there were demonstrations supporting the President’s action. There are reports of public frustration over the government’s handling of the economic and COVID-19 related health crisis and failure to curb corruption. The President has capitalised on the popular anger against the Ennahdha led government to centralise power. Prosecutors in Tunisia have also initiated investigations on Ennahdha and two other political parties on charges of foreign campaign funding and anonymous donations. Ennahdha after protesting in the initial period has indicated its willingness to enter into dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Al Jazeera office was Tunis was raided by Tunisian security forces on 26 July due to its critical reporting of President Saied’s political actions and staff was evicted.

Omani Sultan’s visit to Saudi Arabia

In his first official overseas as Oman’s new Sultan, Haitham bin-Tariq al-Said visited Saudi Arabia’s ambitious new city of Neom and met with King Salman. The war in Yemen and economic and investment cooperation were discussed. The Omani Sultan is facing pressure due to rising unemployment and poor state of the economy and demonstrations were observed in the recent months.
Oman’s energy reserves are relatively modest and it is seeking to diversify its revenue from oil sector to trade, investments, technology etc. The pace of economic diversification however has been slow. The oil price crisis and the ramifications of Covid-19 pandemic have strained the economy. Both states signed agreement in the spheres of commerce, culture, investment promotion, post and transport and agreed to set up joint council to oversee several agreements.

On regional issues, Oman has carefully crafted a policy of neutrality. It has carried out engagement with Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It differs with Saudi Arabia’s policy of military intervention in Yemen. It is however seeking to cooperate with Saudi government to resolve the Yemeni crisis.

UAE opens embassy in Tel Aviv

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel on 14 July. Israeli President Issac Herzog called the opening as an important milestone in the shared journey towards peace, prosperity and security in the region. On 29 June, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Abu Dhabi and inaugurated the embassy.

The UAE and Israel has maintained secret relations since 1990s. The relations were formally recognised in mid 2020s. Since developing formal ties, both states have signed agreements in gas sector, technology, health etc. The UAE ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja announced that the embassy will serve as base for building new partnership that would seek dialogue rather than dispute; establish new paradigm of peace and provide model for new collaborative approach to resolving conflicts in the region.

The UAE’s decision to recognise Israel led to subsequent normalisation agreements by Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. On 25 July, two Israeli carriers landed in Marrakesh commencing direct commercial aviation between Israel and Morocco. Israel has hoped that civil aviation will promote tourism, trade and economic cooperation.

Phone call between Turkish President and his Israeli counterpart

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 12 July focussing on Israel-Turkey relations and the critical role of the engagement in maintaining security and stability in the eastern Mediterranean Sea region. Both leaders agreed that cooperation has great potential for both states. The phone call indicates thaw in ties that has scaled down in the recent years due to Erdogan government’s harsh criticisms of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel and Turkey shared cordial relations since the onset of the Cold War and the level of military, economic and political engagement was high. The relations soured after the Israeli attack on Turkish flotilla carrying aid and construction material for Gaza killing 10 Turkish activists in May 2010. Turkey on international forums has constantly raised voice against Israel’s security operations and air raids in Gaza. The communication between Israeli and Turkish president could renew the level of engagement and Erdogan expressed hope that dialogue is carried out for advancing steps towards a two-state solution.

Najib Mikati appointed as new Prime Minister of Lebanon

On 26 July, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Lebanon by the group of former Sunni Prime Ministers. In Lebanon’s consociational political system, the position of Prime Minister is assigned for member of the Sunni community. The appointment was made due to failure by Saad Harari to form government

Lebanon is facing political instability since the 2019 October protests leading to resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The political contestation within the sect based political parties has weakened Lebanon’s political system. After Harari’s resignation, technocrat Hasan Diab was appointed to stabilise the state and restore the economy. Diab resigned after August 2020 Beirut port explosion. The subsequent Prime Minister Mustapha Adib resigned within a month of coming to office. Saad Harari was appointed as the convenient choice to overcome the crisis and ease foreign aid. Hariri after 10 months failed to form cabinet due to conflict with President Michel Aoun over cabinet posts.

Houthi attack in Southern Yemen

Houthi movement fighters on 4 July carried out missile strike in the southern region. The attack on military base in Abyan led to death of at least two soldiers and injured over 20 others. The southern region is contested between the internationally recognised government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Saudi Arabia is trying to reconcile the contesting parties. The government forces and STC, both allies of Saudi Arabia have reportedly agreed to stall political, military and security escalations and adhere with the power sharing deal signed in 2019. Houthis that currently control the northern region including capital Sanaa is attempting to seize Marib region from government forces. In Bayda province, the fighting between government forces and Houthi forces has led to death of 320 people by mid-July.

In related news, the Joe Biden administration in the US has extended the programme to allow Yemenis to live in the US temporarily due to the ongoing civil war. According to the Department of Homeland Security, around 2100 Yemenis and their families will benefit from the extension and re-designation of the temporary protected status permitting them to live and work in the US until March 2023. The policy however, does not automatically grant citizenship to the Yemeni refugees. The policy of granting and extending temporary status was diluted by Donald Trump. The programme has been applied to people from Myanmar, El Salvador, Haiti and Venezuela.

Iran hosts talks between Afghan government and Taliban

Iran on 7 July hosted the first significant talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Taliban political committee was represented by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai and the former Vice President Younus Qanooni and others from the High Council for National Reconciliation represented the government. The outgoing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif held discussions with both sides and urged the representatives to “take difficult decisions today for the future of their country”. Iran according to Zarif is ready to assist dialogue and resolve current conflicts in Afghanistan.

The situation within Afghanistan is highly tense as Taliban is aggressively seizing new grounds and the government is losing control over large tracts of territory. Iran through the peace talks is seeking to maximise its presence and political role in the changing political landscape in Afghanistan. Iran intends to renew scope for dialogue after discussions in Qatar were stalled due to diplomatic stalemate and escalating violence.

Mossad agents reportedly arrested in Iran

Iranian authorities have arrested members of group allegedly linked to Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. The arrests were made after unspecified number of agents smuggled into the Islamic Republic through its western border. Iranian state TV reported that members of spy network have been arrested with large number of weapons and ammunitions. Iranian authorities have claimed that the arrested persons intended to stir riots and execute assassinations. The situation has been tense between Iran and Israel in the recent months.

Syria’s military action in rebel held areas

Syrian government forces in the recent weeks have renewed their efforts at re-claiming rebel strongholds in north western Syria home to nearly 4 million people. On 15 July, at least nine civilians including three children were killed by rockets launched by government forces. In March 2020, Russia and Turkey agreed truce to prohibit Syrian forces to push into the rebel held territory which may trigger another round of conflict and force more Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey. Turkey has maintained military bases and observation points in north-western Syria to check Syrian military action in the rebel held areas.

The US on 28 July extended sanctions on eight Syrian prisons controlled by general and military intelligence agencies. The sanctions are carried out under the ambit of Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. The policy was adopted to maintain pressure on Bashar Al Assad government.

Rocket attack on US base in Iraq

On 7 July, the Al Assad air base was attacked by 14 rockets injuring two personnel. On the same day, the US forces and allied Syrian Democratic Forces managed to thwart drone attack in eastern Syria. The tension between the US forces and Iranian backed militias has heightened after US air strikes on militia base in the Syria-Iraq border killing four Iraqi fighters on 27 June. The 7 July attack on US bases in Iraq and Syria was carried out by a previously unknown group, “The Brigades to avenge Al-Muhandis”, named after Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Commander of the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC). He was killed on 3 January 2020 along with Qassem Soleimani by the US forces.

Morocco arrests Uyghur activist

Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security on 20 July arrested a Uyghur activist, Yidiresi Aishan from Mohammed V International Airport upon arrival from Istanbul. The arrest was made based on Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol. Aishan was subject of a red notice issue by Interpol due to his alleged links with terrorist organisations.
The Uyghur activist has been living in Turkey since 2012 working on Uyghur diaspora online newspaper; supported other activists in media outreach and gathering testimonies of abuse by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang. Aishan is likely to be extradited to China. Morocco has ratified extradition treaty with China in 2017. The arrest is seen as politically driven aimed at hunting down dissidents living outside China.

West Asia – Review- June, 2021

Abstract:

As the US decided to withdraw some of its defence equipment like Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia and some other countries, it conducted Falcon Claws 4 joint exercises with Saudi land forces. It also retaliated against Hezbollah and Iraqi militia groups justifying that the US military targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq in response to drone attacks by the militia against US personnel and facilities in Iraq. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed “We took necessary, appropriate, deliberate action that is designed to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message”. Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran in a statement named four members of the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada faction who were killed in the attack on the Syria-Iraq border. They vowed to retaliate. Iraq’s government, wary of getting dragged into a US-Iran conflict, condemned the strikes on its territory and said it would “study all legal options” to prevent such action being repeated. Syria called the strikes a “flagrant violation of the sanctity of Syrian and Iraqi lands.” However, observers believe that these actions could have been taken within the knowledge of the Iraqi establishment. Iraq’s military issued a condemnation of the US strikes. US forces came under fire after the attacks.

On June 28-29, US and Italy organised an anti-ISIS Coalition conference which was attended by a large number of countries from the region including Saudi and Qatari and Israeli foreign ministers and the Arab League. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stressed “we must not ignore the fact that the organization is still a threat. This demands that all sides continue efforts and coordination to contain and eliminate ISIS completely.” On the sidelines of the meeting, Prince Faisal met with United Nations envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, and his counterparts from the Netherlands, Sigrid Kaag; France, Jean-Yves Le Drian; Libya, Najla al-Mangoush; Iraq, Dr. Fuad Hussein; and Jordan, Ayman al-Safadi and Joseph Borrel of EU.

Palestinian Authority faced continuous demonstrations pursuant to the death of a video blogger and activist Nizar Banat in police custody. Officials in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Fatah party accused the Gaza-ruling Hamas of plotting chaos in the West Bank and a coup against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas has felt emboldened after the recent Gaza-Israel war.
President Sisi, who brokered peace between Israel and Hamas spoke to the new Israeli Pm Naftali bennet urging that reconstruction of Gaza should be the priority along with finding a permanent solution for the Israel-Palestine issue. Bennet thanked Egypt for help find two missing Israeli soldiers since 2014 Gaza and wants them back as a precondition. However, it allowed passage of relief material as well as fuel supplies. Egypt and Qatar have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction in Gaza, where two-thirds of 2 million residents are dependent on aid.

Arch enemies Iran and Israel had new leadership. While Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party could not muster enough seats the “Coalition for Change” with eight political parties across the spectrum led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet formed the government with a margin of only one seat (61 to 59) in the parliament. Netanyahu, who after his recent show of strength in the Israel -Hamas war hoped for the 5th election in two years, vowed to return to power. While Bennet became the new PM for half the term Yair Lapid became the new Foreign Minister as Benny Gantz retained his portfolio of defence ministry. First the Arab “Ra’am” Party supported the government in Israel and cut a deal to look after the interests of the Israeli Arabs and hopefully act as mediator with the Palestinians who are facing their own leadership crisis.

On the other hand the Iranians had a preconceived outcome as the ultra-conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi, head of judiciary and closer to Ayatollah, won the Presidential election by 62% votes. Economy, unemployment and spiralling inflation as well as the pandemic will be the main priority for him when he takes over in mid-August. Meanwhile, he extended his full support to the resumption of the JCPOA nuclear deal and Vienna talks. Obviously Israel is unhappy with his election and the US efforts to re-join the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) without addressing the issues of Iranian missiles and proxy militias across the region.

After his visit to Rome and meeting with Bahraini counterpart as well as Secy Blinken and others, Israeli FM Lapid visited UAE for inaugurating their Embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai while carrying forward the dialogue and to address some of the concerns regarding the Palestinian conflict with his counterpart.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Palestinian Authority have submitted a 30 items list to the Biden Administration for reviving the Peace deal with Israel. But whether those will be acceptable to Tel Aviv is a big question apart from how far US is willing to get involved, although Washington has agreed to restore its consulate in Jerusalem for maintaining relations with Ramallah.

The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq met in Baghdad to discuss the developments in the region from Israel-Palestine conflict to economic cooperation. This was their 4th meeting. First Trilateral Summit was held in Cairo in March 2019. This was also the first visit by an Egyptian President to Iraq since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 when ties broke between Egypt and Iraq. In February, the two countries had signed 12 MoUs including Iraq supplying 12 mn barrels of light crude in 2021. Jordanian FM Safadi said that Iraq must be isolated from regional interventions referring to Iranian influence. US welcomed this Arab Alliance that might help in security and economic cooperation and stability in the region. Meanwhile, Egypt has agreed to supply 700 MW of electricity to Iraq to tide over the immediate crisis.

Sudan was approved for debt relief of $2.5 bn by IMF as US sanctions had been lifted.

75 Libyan delegates met in Geneva under the aegis of UNSMIL to discuss and iron out differences over the December 24 elections. The Berlin II process also began to address security issues and to ensure steady movement forward. Holding elections and removal of foreign forces, militias and mercenaries were fundamental to the success of stability in Libya.

Post rapprochement between Qatar and Saudi led Quartet at Al Ula Summit, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani received the credentials of the new Saudi Ambassador to Doha, Prince Mansour bin Khalid bin Farhan. Likewise, Egypt has appointed a veteran diplomat, Amr el-Sherbini previously, ambassador at large at the Egyptian foreign ministry. Normalisation of Qatar’s relations with UAE and Bahrain are still moving at a slow pace.

PM Modi congratulated both Prime Minister Bennet and President elect Ebrahim Raisi hoping for continued good relations with both the countries.

Dr S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister visited Kuwait and held discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues with their leadership. In Rome he also met his Saudi counterpart among others. He also chaired a meeting with the Heads of Missions in the Gulf region and asked them to explore possibilities of early and smoother return of Indian work force which had to be evacuated under ‘Vande Bharat” missions due to pandemic and economic downturn.

More Details ….
Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi emerges winner in Iranian Presidential Race

The current Chief Justice, Ebrahim Raisi appeared as the clear winner in the Presidential election held on 18 June securing 61.95 percent of total votes. The presidential election held on 18 June 2021 saw the lowest turnout at 48.8 percent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Interestingly, the no vote option received more votes than the first runner up, Mohsen Rezaei followed by the only moderate candidate; Abdolnasswer Hemmati.1 Raisi would join office in August 2021.

Raisi’s victory has consolidated the gains for the conservative faction that already controls the parliament. He enjoys good relationship with the clerical hierarchy, intelligence, security forces and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Critics have expressed concerns over possibility of renewed social oppression including arrests of journalists and activists and further curbs in the already restricted cyber space. Amnesty International has called for investigation for crime against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance against Raisi during his long tenure within the judiciary.

On the nuclear issue, the Iranian delegation made some progress to renew the JCPOA with the US. Raisi has supported the nuclear deal however, sceptics have raised concern that the new president could complicate the possible US return to the nuclear deal. The US during the talks has insisted on extending the dialogue not only on nuclear issue but also on missile programme and IRGC’s activities in the region. The new Iranian President is not likely to concede to the new demands. Meanwhile, Joe Biden administration on 10 June lifted sanctions on three former Iranian oil executives and two companies indicating US’ willingness to carry forward dialogue.

In second week of June, it was widely reported that an Iranian destroyer, Sahand and intelligence gathering vessel, Makran are sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. Iran’s Deputy Army chief, Habibollah Sayyari called the expedition as navy’s longest and most challenging voyage. Iran is hoping that it would improve its navy’s seafaring capacity and provide long term durability in facing unfavourable weather conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. The goal of the mission is inconclusive however, the US officials have concluded that the vessel may be headed to Venezuela.

Anti-Netanyahu coalition takes control over Israel

Israel since 2019 has witnessed four elections to form a stable government. Due to the fracture in the right wing coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu despite receiving highest number of seats failed to present a stable government. Netanyahu after third election in 2020 managed to form a unity government with Benny Gantz led Kahol Lavan. The unity government eventually dissolved in December 2020 leading to fourth election in March 2021. The new government led by Naftali Bennet was formed after weeks of negotiations among right wing, centrist, leftist and an Arab party to replace Netanyahu. Bennet after serving as the Prime Minister for two years would be succeeded by Yair Lapid. The uneasy coalition is highly fragile and Netanyahu is likely to use the fissures to weaken the government.

In early June, Isaac Herzog, the former leader of the Labour party has been elected as the new President by 87 votes in the 120 member Knesset. Herzog is the son of former President Chaim Herzog. He is expected to hold office for a single seven year term starting on 9 July.

Israel-Palestine issue

Israeli air force conducted series of airstrikes at several locations in Gaza on 16 June reportedly targeting Hamas meeting sites. The air raids since the ceasefire with Hamas in May were carried out in response to incendiary balloons being launched by Palestinians in Gaza. Palestinians have condemned the provocative rally carried out by Israeli ultra-nationalists in East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn” on 15 June to celebrate the Israeli takeover of the whole city after 1967 Arab-Israel war.

The parade and its prior approval was a difficult challenge for Prime Minister Naftali Bennet who has promised a pragmatic approach currently presiding over a delicate, diverse coalition government. Despite warnings about renewed escalation, Bennett went ahead with approving the rally in order to consolidate his right-wing support base. The leader of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas who is currently a coalition partner in the Bennet led government called the rally as “an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims,” and undermine the new government.

Notably, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the racist slogans on Twitter calling it “a disgrace to the Israeli people,” adding, “The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable.”

Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with the military chief of staff, the police commissioner and other senior security officials highlighting the need to avoid friction and protect the personal safety of both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, called the march an “aggression against our people.” The Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the march as “unacceptable diluting the efforts to reduce friction between Israel and the Palestinians.

Moreover, according a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, around 53 percent of Palestinians have favoured Hamas as the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people and only 14 percent has expressed preference for Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’ 11 days conflict with Israeli forces in May has contributed to its increase in popularity.

In other news, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has halted “intelligence mapping” or the practice of conducting night time raids in Palestinian homes in the West Bank to derive information about the residents. IDF came under intense pressure by Israeli civil society and human rights groups i.e. Yesh Din; Physicians for Human Rights Israel and Breaking the Silence. The activist groups published a detailed report concluding arbitrary invasions of private Palestinian homes does not serve any strategic purpose and only leads to oppression and intimidation of the Palestinian population causing deep psychological trauma.

US’ UN Ambassador assures Humanitarian Relief to Syrian Refugees

The US Ambassador to Turkey, Linda Thomas-Greenfield during her visit to Turkey between 2 and 4 June, has announced that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing US$ 240 million to support humanitarian efforts for Syrian refugees settled in Turkey. The US has reportedly spent around US$ 13 billion in humanitarian relief for Syrian refugees in the last ten years. She met with UN agencies and NGO partners to provide-life saving assistance to millions.

The Ambassador met with senior Turkish leaders to discuss opportunities to strengthen bilateral ties, collectively address global challenges; upgrade the level of cooperation on Syria including management of refugees. The US recognised the crucial role of Turkey to facilitate cross border assistance and providing refugees.

Peace talks fail between Sudanese Government and Rebel Group

The transitional government in mid-June failed to accomplish the peace deal with the rebel group, Sudan Popular Liberation Movement – North led by Abdel-Aziz al Hilu. The government and PLM – N on 15 June shut down the negotiations and agreed to discuss the disputed points at a later date. Reportedly, only four out of 19 points remain unresolved. The group is demanding secular constitution; disbanding militias erected during Omar Al Bashir’s tenure and reforms in military. The government has been negotiating with the rebel group since the last two years and recently signed a declaration of principles entailing roadmap for talks. The current talks are mediated by South Sudan. PLM-N operates in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces and threatened to call for self-determination in the areas under their control in case the demands remain unfulfilled.

In other news, Sudanese transitional government has indicated that it will review the agreement with Russia to establish a naval base. The naval base would hold up to 300 Russian troops and host up to four navy ships including nuclear powered vessels in Port Sudan. Russia had committed to provide weapons, military equipment and training, Sudan concluded the agreement during the presidency of Oman Al-Bashir. The deal was never ratified by the parliament.

Spain Reopens Embassy in Tripoli

Spain in early June reopened its embassy in Libya’s capital, Tripoli after a gap of seven years. The decision was made after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held discussion with Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. Spain has agreed to start the authorisation process to expedite visas to improve mobility between both states. The Spanish Prime Minister expressed hope that it would pave the way for cooperation and benefit the Libyan political process.

Turkish President’s visit to Azerbaijan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 15 June visited Azerbaijan and met with President, Ilham Aliyev in the historic city of Shusha. Shusha is an important cultural centre for Azerbaijan which came under Armenian control in 1992. Azerbaijan recaptured the strategic city in November 2020 during the six weeks conflict with Armenia. Turkey was crucial military ally for Azerbaijan supplying weapons and UAVs.

Both leaders signed declaration in order to deepen relations in several areas including security. Erdogan became the first foreign leader to visit Shusha. Turkey promised to set up a consulate in the city extending support for Azerbaijan’s control over city and other areas in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Myanmar Round Up: August 2021

It has been six months since the declaration of the military coup, protests and demonstrations have continued. During the month, week, anti-coup demonstrations were reported in Kachin and Shan states, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Yangon regions. The protests on 08 August referred to the “8-8-88” democracy uprising on 08 August1988, which the then-military regime crushed.

On 01 August, Senior Army General Min Aung Hlaing announced himself as the Prime Minister and pledged to hold elections by 2023. However, Ms Schraner Burgener stated that Myanmar’s Permanent Representative in New York, Kyaw Moe Tun, remains its legitimate UN Ambassador, while Ms Suu Kyi and President Myint are its leaders. Recently, international media reported a plot was uncovered to kill Ambassador Tun, who denounced the coup in the General Assembly Hall in New York.1 Ms Burgener also said the situation in Myanmar “is still very worrisome”. The third wave of COVID-19 infections has also hit the country.

Political Situation

Senior General Min Hlaing announced the formation of a caretaker government and took on the role of Prime Minister. He also announced that the elections would be held by 2023. 2 The “Provisional Government” replaces the State Administration Council (SAC) chaired by Min Hlaing that has run Myanmar since the coup. The National League for Democracy (NLD) members shadow government, National Unity Government (NUG) condemned the military ruler’s decision to take on the role of the Prime Minister in a caretaker government and said the move was designed to win legitimacy.3 Later on 03 August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the military’s elections plan.4

Military authorities forced one of the lawyers representing Aung San Suu Kyi to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This was done to stop statements of Suu Kyi from reaching the public. Suu Kyi has a five-member defence team, out of which one was forced to sign the agreement promising not to talk to local or international media. The court hearings were postponed at the start of July as the third wave of COVID-19 infections hit the country.5 Further, columnist Sithu Aung Myint and BBC Burmese presenter Htet Htet Khine were tracked down and arrested on 15 August. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned these latest arbitrary arrests, and called for their immediate release.6

During the month, the military faced protests, strikes and a resurgence of armed conflicts. The military authorities have branded their opponents as terrorists. In the Karen state, fighting between the military and the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), known as the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), occurred on a near-daily basis in Hpa-pun Township. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said the military was responsible for all the shootings between 03 to 08 August. The KIA opposed the regime and attacked junta troops and police stations in Kachin and northern Shan states since 11 March.7

On the other hand, at least 1,130 Myanmar soldiers were killed and 443 wounded in more than 700 clashes between junta forces and local militias across the country from June 1 to July 31, Myanmar’s shadow NUG said in a report. Moreover, more than 350 civilians were killed and nearly 140 wounded during the same period.8 In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Myanmar’s UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun — described the incidents as “clearly amounting to crimes against humanity,” calling on the UN Security Council and the international community to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar’s military.9

During the month, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing signed an amendment to the Counterterrorism Law, introducing harsher penalties for supporting anti-regime activities. Under the amendment, the jail term is increased from three to seven years for “acts of exhortation, persuasion, propaganda and recruitment of any person to participate in any terrorist group or activities of terrorism”.10

The United League of Arakan (ULA) is advancing steadily towards its objective of assuming administrative control in Rakhine State, and has seen a high level of compliance from the state’s residents with the stay-at-home order it issued on 20 July in response to the third wave of COVID-19. The ULA has also announced that it will set up a judiciary in Rakhine State. Since the coup the ULA and its armed wing, the Arakan Army, have accelerated their effort to expand their ability to govern the state and be seen as its legitimate governing body. Further, on 05 August, it announced plans to implement household registrations throughout the state and introduction of day and night patrols as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its state’s security. The ULA has also been punishing people for flouting the stay-at-home order.11

The latest wave of COVID-19 has made the country vulnerable to a health crisis. Myanmar’s army has carried out at least 252 attacks and threats against health workers since the coup. More than 190 health workers have been arrested and 86 raids on hospitals carried out since the coup, said the report by Insecurity Insight, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and Johns Hopkins University Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR). In addition, they identified 15 incidents in which the response to the COVID-19 outbreak had been obstructed – including confiscation of personal protection equipment and oxygen supplies for the exclusive use of the army. 12

International Scenario

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appointed Brunei’s Erywan Yusof, as a special envoy. The appointment of a special envoy is part of a five-point consensus between ASEAN and Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing in April. However, the decision has invited criticism. Aaron Connelly, an analyst with International Institute for Strategic Studies, stated that Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore had “pushed for tougher language”, though it was vetoed by the military representative Wunna Maung Lwin.13 ASEAN also failed to recognise NUG formed CPRH. As a result, the body was excluded from the ASEAN 42nd assembly Inter Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) held in Brunei. The NUG members condemned ASEAN for excluding it and inviting a military representative as an observer. In April, the NUG’s representative was not invited to ASEAN’s special summit on Myanmar. Instead, the military leader attended the meeting.14 ASEAN has to date, not recognised the NUG government and representatives.

Another international investor retreated from Myanmar and sold all its businesses to a local partner finding it challenging to operate under military rule. Australian mining company Myanmar Metals Limited (MYL) has divested its entire stake in a mining project in Myanmar’s northeast. The company stated that the political situation in Myanmar had undermined the confidence of markets. MYL disposed of its 51-percent stake in the Bawdwin project to its local partner Win Myint Mo Industries Co Ltd for a total of USD 30 million.15 However, Indian Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ) have claimed that the company believes that its investment in a port in Myanmar is not in violation of any sanction guidelines issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury and therefore, continued its investments.16

Nevertheless, few countries continued to provide emergency aid. The US announced USD 50 million to support relief groups dealing with the fallout from a surge in Covid-19 cases. The US funding will aid “those forced to flee violence and persecution” as well as help groups provide healthcare services in addition to essentials such as food, shelter and water, the State Department said.17

China has continued to provide its support by entering into agreements and helping the country via vaccines. China will transfer around USD 6 million to Myanmar’s government to fund 21 development projects. A Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement said the funds would be transferred from China for projects within the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework. It said those included animal vaccines, culture, agriculture, science, tourism, and disaster prevention.18 Since the military coup, the mining of rare-earth metals has increased in the Kachin state. Multiple sources told Frontier and Danwatch, a Danish investigative outlet that collaborated on this investigation, that the rare earth mining in Kachin is extracted illegally by Chinese or Chinese-backed companies in areas of Chipwi Township under the de facto control of an armed group and militia led by Kachin warlord Zahkung Ting Ying.19

The two countries, China and Myanmar also faced issues due to increased incidents in the bordering area with China. The Chinese authorities have sent a complaint letter to the Myanmar military demanding an investigation. In the letter, Chinese authorities said they were highly concerned about the recent incidents, describing them as breaches of the China-Myanmar border agreement. China also warned the incident repeats, it would “make the necessary response”. Moreover, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar Ambassador U Myo Thant Pe on 05 August and urged the regime to stop immediately fighting in border areas. In response, the regime claimed the artillery shell and bullets were fired by the MNDAA. The military rather stated that the military would attack armed groups that threatened the lives of people and the stability of the border areas. It urged China to collaborate with the Myanmar military to fight against armed groups and prevent them from occupying bases in border areas.20

India Myanmar Engagements

On 10 August, few members of the Manipur extremist group, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), were killed in a factional fight in Myanmar. The incident occurred near the Nanyang Wakathan camp of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang-Yung Aung) in the Sagaing region of Myanmar. According to intelligence officials, tensions rose because the Myanmar military was forced to either pay for lying low in the country or join the soldiers in fighting the pro-democracy forces. Moreover, the PLA cadre, short of money was also being pressured to fight the People’s Defence Force, the armed wing of Myanmar’s NUG in exile.21

On the other hand, Myanmar has conveyed its apprehension over the deployment of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) for the completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport (KMTT) project, the Union government informed the parliamentary committee on home affairs.22

In a successful operation, Assam Rifles recovered a huge cache of arms, ammunition and other war-like stores in Mizoram’s southernmost Lawngtlai district near the Indo-Myanmar border. The operation was carried out jointly by Assam Rifles troopers posted at Zorinpui, the southern tip of Mizoram on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) road and state police from Bungtlang. However, no person was arrested in connection with the recoveries. In another major achievement, Assam Rifles and Customs department also seized 502 cases of smuggled foreign cigarettes on Ruantlang and Kelkang- Khaungleng road in Champhai district near the Myanmar border during a joint operation.23

The issue of Rohingya was again raised in Lok Sabha. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, informed that Rohingya Muslim migrants indulge in illegal activities for which the respective governments have been asked to take action. Rai also said that instructions had been issued to capture their biographic and biometric particulars and cancel fake Indian documents. Furthermore, steps have been taken to initiate deportation proceedings under provisions of law.24

Rohingya Crises

As the Rohingya crisis enters its fifth year, it is essential to reflect on the dismal situation of the refugees living and their continued repression. For the first time in five years, Rohingya refugees expelled from Myanmar testified in court on 17 August. According to activist group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, five survivors of sexual violence testified to the Federal Criminal Appeal Court in Buenos Aires remotely from refugee camps in Bangladesh, according. However, the details of it were not shared.25

Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya since military crackdowns in 2017. Recently, World Bank initiated talks with Bangladesh to integrate Rohingya into the Bangladesh community. However, Bangladesh was against any long-term programme by the World Bank (WB) to integrate Rohingya into Bangladesh. Bangladesh has raised concerns as it faces problems of drug dealing, illegal human trafficking, prostitution, expansion of illegal markets. Also, serious damage to resources, lands, deforestation is now common in Chittagong. Bangladesh also claimed that such proposals hamper the initiatives taken by Bangladesh for Rohingya repatriation.26

Despite the NUG unveiling plans to amend the country’s constitution, and give citizenship to the Rohingya, the authorities in Myanmar currently have no plan to include minority Rohingya Muslims living in camps as they begin vaccinating priority groups against COVID-19 in western Rakhine State. Local administrator Kyaw Lwin told Reuters from Sittwe township that the rollout had begun with 10,000 vaccinations for priority groups such as the elderly, healthcare workers, government staff and Buddhist monks. However, he said there were no current plans for vaccinating any Muslims living in camps in Sittwe. Following an outcry from the human rights group, the Myanmar military backtracked on its plans to withhold Covid-19 vaccinations from the Rohingya minority in Rakhine. Instead, the military’s spokesman said in a news conference on 27 August that vaccinations will be offered to Rohingya in Rakhine.

The Way Forward

The fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed groups increased in August and is expected to intensify in the coming days as the military has sent reinforcements to rebel-held territories. The military has asked its unit commanders and other senior officers to be combat ready in a recent order. On the other hand, around 1500 soldiers have defected from Myanmar’s military since the coup and have joined the troops created by the political opposition to fight the military. The number of vulnerable refugees has increased. It is time to bring all stakeholders to the table and resolve the current crisis. Furthermore, it is important to cease all attacks from the side of the military and gain the trust of the citizens.

Endnotes
  1. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097452
  2. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/fears-of-another-long-dictatorship-as-myanmar-coup-maker-appoints-himself-pm.html
  3. https://www.euronews.com/2021/08/03/us-myanmar-politics
  4. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/us-dismisses-myanmar-juntas-election-plan.html
  5. https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/suu-kyis-lawyer-forced-to-sign-pledge-not-to-speak-to-the-media
  6. https://rsf.org/en/news/two-more-journalists-arrested-myanmars-military-junta-0
  7. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-shells-kachin-civilians.html
  8. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/killed-08132021181109.html
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/06/asia/myanmar-bodies-found-army-crackdown-intl-hnk/index.html
  10. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-coup-chief-amends-counterterrorism-law.html
  11. https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/arakan-army-extends-administrative-grip-on-rakhine-state/
  12. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-army-attacks-medics-hampering-covid-response-rights-groups-say-2021-08-10/
  13. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3143809/asean-appoints-brunei-diplomat-erywan-yusof-envoy-myanmar
  14. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-ousted-mps-condemn-asean-for-inviting-junta-to-parliamentary-summit.html
  15. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/australian-mining-company-sells-stake-in-myanmar-project.html
  16. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/australian-mining-company-sells-stake-in-myanmar-project.html
  17. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/beijing-to-transfer-82m-to-myanmar-junta-to-fund-development-projects
  18. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/beijing-to-transfer-82m-to-myanmar-junta-to-fund-development-projects
  19. https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/weapons-power-and-money-how-rare-earth-mining-in-kachin-enriches-a-tatmadaw-ally/
  20. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/china-complains-after-shell-gunfire-from-myanmar-hit-border-town.html
  21. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/six-of-manipur-extremist-group-killed-in-myanmar-say-officials/article35872422.ece
  22. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/infrastructure/myanmar-objects-to-bro-presence-in-trilateral-road-project/articleshow/85282213.cms
  23. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/mizoram/mizoram-security-forces-recover-arms-and-ammunition-from-lawngtlai-near-india-myanmar-border.html
  24. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-says-rohingyas-indulging-in-illegal-activities-101628601441879.html
  25. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/rohingya-to-give-first-testimony-in-push-for-myanmar-army-probe
  26. WB has undertaken a long-term program for 16 countries hosting refugees and they will provide money from a Tk2,000 ( Bangladesh Taka) crore fund. https://www.eurasiareview.com/04082021-world-banks-proposal-local-integration-of-rohingyas-in-bangladesh-possible-oped/
  27. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-covid-vaccination-rollout-leaves-rohingya-waiting-2021-08-11/
  28. https://www.ucanews.com/news/rohingya-receive-covid-jabs-as-myanmar-junta-extends-rollout/93922#
  29. https://www.laprensalatina.com/some-1500-soldiers-have-deserted-myanmar-army-since-coup-media/

Myanmar Round Up: July 2021

During the month, Myanmar faced a double crisis – political turmoil and COVID-19. The country’s health care system has collapsed, and the number of cases reported is vastly underestimated because of limited testing. At an informal Security Council discussion, Barbara Woodward, Britain’s UN Ambassador, warned that half of Myanmar could be infected with COVID-19 by the end of July. Myanmar is struggling with a surge in infections and the military ruler is calling for greater cooperation with the international community to contain the COVID-19 wave. The military has assured that six million Chinese vaccines and two million Russian vaccines would be delivered. With COVID-19 deaths rising in Myanmar, allegations are growing from residents and human rights activists that the military government is using the pandemic to consolidate power and crush the opposition.

Economic and Political Crises

World Bank’s Myanmar Economic Monitor stated that the economy is expected to contract around 18 percent in Myanmar’s 2021 Fiscal Year (Oct 2020-Sep 2021). The ongoing political turmoil and a rising third wave of COVID-19 cases have a damaging impact on lives, livelihoods, poverty and future growth. It also predicted that the country’s economy is around 30 percent smaller than it would have been in the absence of COVID-19 and the military takeover of February 2021.

Economic activity has been hit by reduced mobility and incomes, protests and labour shortages, as well as the ongoing disruption of critical business services, including logistics and telecommunications, and public services such as health and education. In addition, the physical currency remains in short supply and access to banking and payment services remains limited. As of mid-July, the Myanmar Kyat had depreciated by around 23 percent against the US dollar since late January, which combined with trade disruptions has led to rapid price increases for some imported products, including fuel. These shocks have weakened consumption, investment, and trade, and disrupted businesses’ operations and the supply of labour and inputs.1

In further development, two statements issued by the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been accepted as evidence against Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and Naypyitaw Mayor Myo Aung, who are charged under Section 505 b of the Penal Code. The statements, released by the party’s central executive committee on February 7 and 13, were submitted as part of the incitement case. The 07 February statement urged the international community not to recognise the coup regime. And the 13 February statement stated that all regulations, rules and laws enacted by the military were illegal. Judge Maung Maung Lwin ruled out the defence team’s objection to the submitted evidence.2 During the month, Myanmar security forces searched Suu Kyi’s house without a search warrant, according to her lawyer.3

Clashes Continue

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked three military bases in the Kachin State towns of Mogaung and Waingmaw on 29 July, and launched an assault on the junta’s Waingmaw-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 58. Later, the KIA also attacked two military bases between Kutkai and Muse townships in northern Shan State. In addition, the KIA intercepted and attacked seven naval vessels belonging to the military on the Irrawaddy River near Shwegu in Kachin State.4 Clashes have been breaking out between the military and the KIA in Kachin State since April.

Despite last month’s peace talks, clashes between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF) are continuing. The KNLA’s Brigade 1 clashed with a BGF battalion led by Major Saw Tin Win near the village of Kontangyi in northern Hpa-an Township in Karen State. Between 15 to 22 July, there were 29 clashes between the military forces and Brigade 5 of the KNU’s armed wing, the KNLA. The military-backed Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) joined junta soldiers in attacks against the KNLA, clashing with the group’s Battalion 1 in Thaton, across the border in Mon State.5

Fighting erupted between Chinland Defence Force (CDF) and Myanmar military in Mindat Township for the first time since a temporary ceasefire. The peace agreement brokered between the military council and CDF (when CDF in Mindat was called Mindat People’s Administration) expired on 12 May, after the former refused to release all of the youths it arrested. On 13 May, the military council imposed martial law. The military sent troops to Mindat and shelled CDF positions, and the civilian resistance group retreated to the jungle. A second temporary ceasefire was brokered from 20 June to 04 July, which was extended until 16 July.6

Organisations like the KIA, Karenni Army and KNLA have shown solidarity in their position against the military. To counter these, pro-military social media users spread disinformation to cause rifts between the groups or discourage other prospective trainees from entering the ethnic-controlled territory. Many Facebook posts have accused ethnic armed organisations of killing or mistreating civilian trainees. However, the posts provide no evidence to support the allegations, and both People’s Defence Forces and the armed organisations have denied the incidents.7

Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have accused that dozens of journalists have fled from Myanmar to Thailand since the military seized power to escape a crackdown on the country’s free press. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, around 98 journalists have escaped the country since the military crackdown.

In addition, the Taa’ng National Liberation Army (TNLA) ordered businesses operating within its territory to stop selling products made by military-owned companies. Merchants were given the order at meetings held in TNLA-controlled townships and villages. Products banned under the new rules include Myanmar Beer, Red Ruby and Premium Gold cigarettes, and tickets for buses run by Shwe Mann Thu, Parami, and other military companies. This will promote the nationwide campaign to boycott military products. The ousted National Unity Government has also endorsed the order.8

International Responses

Damian Lilly, the author of the report, published by the New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI), accused the UN of doing little and being directionless in taking any coherent steps to control Myanmar’s crises. Lilly also accuses China and Russia of their role in obstructing efforts to hold the Generals to account. 9

In another striking move, Myanmar’s military rulers seek to replace the country’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, who condemned the coup and refused to recognise the military regime. Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that he had appointed Aung Thurein as Myanmar’s UN ambassador. Lwin stated that the Kyaw Tun was terminated on 27 February 2021, due to his failure to perform his assigned duty and mandate. This was the second attempt to remove Kyaw Tun; earlier on 12 May also a letter was sent to the UN, but no action was taken.10

On 02 July, the United States announced sanctions on seven military personnel and 15 individuals in the family of previously sanctioned officials and businesses related to the Myanmar military. Additionally, the US Commerce Department restricted trade exports to four companies, which provide services to the Myanmar military. 11

Despite the call for the imposition of the arms embargo by the international and civil society groups, Russia has delivered a consignment of Sukhoi Su-30SME multi-role fighter jets and military training aircraft to Myanmar. In addition, Myanmar has been using Russian Mig-29 and Jak-130 aircraft for a long time; and the two countries have established close cooperation in the defence field. 12

Given the surge of COVID-19 cases, China has closed its border with Myanmar. In addition, it is adding a barbed-wire fence spanning around 600 kilometres between Ruili, Lijiang, and the Gaoligong mountains in its southwestern province of Yunnan. China is also constructing walls to block soldiers, ethnic militias, drug, and gun-smuggling from entering in the country.13

Amid Myanmar’s COVID-19 spike, the developer of the controversial China-backed Shwe Koko new city project near the Thai border in Karen State has been recruiting staff, prompting fears over a rise in cross-border crime. The Irrawaddy has been told Yatai International Holding Group (IHG), which Chinese investors run, has been recruiting a manager for a five-star hotel, human resources manager, an accountant and gardeners this month. The project is also controlled by the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), an armed group backed by Myanmar’s military. The project was suspended after the National League for Democracy government formed a tribunal to investigate irregularities. However, following the February coup, activity at Shwe Koko appeared to revive, including hiring new staff and restarting gambling. 14

The Thai army seized face masks illegally imported into Myanmar from Maw Taung-Singkhon pass on 22 July, according to Thai media. They found 44 packings of KF94 face masks manufactured by South Korea, 17 packings of three-ply masks. According to Article 167 of the 2017 Thai Ordinance, these items are part of a controlled substance that prohibits the availability of adequate medical supplies in the country and their export.15

Myanmar’s military government banned telecommunications company executives from leaving the country without authorisation. Before the coup, Myanmar’s primary telecom and internet service companies, Telenor, Ooredoo, MPT, and Mytel were pressured in 2020 to install a “lawful intercept” without any legal processes in place to protect citizens’ privacy. Telenor, a Norwegian telecoms firm and one of two foreign operators in the telecoms sector of Myanmar, flagged the plans publicly and expressed concern for citizens’rights to privacy and freedom of expression on 03 December 2020.

Telenor sold its Myanmar business to the Lebanese investment firm M1 Group after the military’s travel ban on telecom executives. Activists in Myanmar fear that the exit of Telenor will cause further obstructions to their free expression as they relied on the company as a protector of human rights. The Western company’s decision to sell its Myanmar business likely reflects the increasing difficulty of continuing operations under principles of free communication and expression. 16

The civil society organisations have filed a formal complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) accusing Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor of “irresponsible disengagement” from the country. The Netherlands-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) submitted the complaint on behalf of the 474 Myanmar groups. They alleged that the Telenor Group’s sale of its Myanmar operations to the Lebanese M1 Group is in violation of OECD standards outlining the requirements for a responsible exit from the country. The OECD complaint described M1 Group, a Mikati family enterprise, as an unsuitable partner for Telenor’s handover. The Mikati’s are accused of having a history of businesses in authoritarian countries including Syria, Sudan and Yemen, as well as face allegations of corruption and terrorist financing. 17

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on 12 July 2021 titled the “Human Rights Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar” a powerful message to the regime for its gross violations of human rights, specifically against the stateless Rohingyas. Bangladesh has played a crucial role in the approval of the resolution. The resolution condemned human rights’ violations by Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other minorities, and called for a reconciliation process. The resolution was approved without a vote in the Geneva-based council. China, one of the 47 council members, told it could not join the consensus but did not insist on bringing the text to a vote.18 However, Myanmar’s military rejected the resolution, and stated that the resolution is “based on false information and one-sided allegations”. 19

India’s Engagement in Myanmar

A Singapore-based Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) report titled, “Myanmar Coup, Resistance and India’s Response: Fractured Between Words and Deeds” has stated that a possible full-scale armed revolt in Myanmar will have a spill-over effect on India. The report also said India has an opportunity to build on the “reservoirs of goodwill” with many of the Myanmarese citizens. The Indian Border States that share religious, kinship and historical affinities with people in Myanmar are supporting Myanmar people; for instance, Mizoram is hosting more than 15,000 Myanmar refugees. However, the report underlined India’s fears that condemning the military publicly would result in alienating Myanmar and pushing it closer towards China. 20

However, India has come under the radar of Myanmar anti-coup activists who are opposed to the idea of any relationship between the Indian government and Myanmar military. Justice for Myanmar (JFM) condemned the awarding of a contract by the Indian government-owned Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata to A to Z EXIM Ltd—a unit of the Mumbai-based Bharat Freight Group—to operate, maintain and develop the port and inland water transport terminals at Sittwe, Rakhine State and Paletwa, Chin State. 21

Assam Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi has raised concerns about the illegal smuggling of arms, gold, drugs and liquor through Myanmar via Moreh and requested the Indian Army to play a more dominant role in controlling the inter-state movement.22 In another incident, fifteen Rohingya immigrants, including six minors and three women, have been held by Railway Police Force (RPF) in Assam’s Karimganj district. According to reports, the RPF personnel had intercepted 15 people sitting in Badarpur railway station after observing some suspicious activities. 23

Conclusion

Over recent days, the country has rapidly descended into the most severe public health crisis. The hospitals are struggling with a shortage of oxygen supplies and lack of intensive care capacity while just a small percentage of the population has been vaccinated against the virus. Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are playing a crucial role in addressing COVID in the territory where they have control, such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) carried out extensive COVID-19 tests and restricted entry to Laiza and Maijayang, since the first week of July. The KIA has also vaccinated some 30,000 people with COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. 24

Due to political crises and continued clashes, thousands have been displaced by military attacks in recent months, placing them at even greater risk. Myanmar urgently needs international support to address the unfolding tragedy. Right now, the humanitarian response from UN agencies and international organisations is inadequate.

VIF News Digest: National Security – Defence Studies & Terrorism, 16-31 August 2021

DEFENCE

  • Webinar between India & Malaysia on ‘Indian Defence Industry Global Outreach for Collaborative Partnership’.
  • Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh to launch Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0.
  • Indian Navy undertakes bilateral maritime exercise with Vietnam People’s Navy.
  • ‘Joint guidance for the Australia – India navy to navy relationship’ signed between Indian Navy & Australian Navy.
  • DRDO develops Advanced Chaff Technology for Indian Air Force.
  • Indo-Kazakhstan joint training exercise to commence on 30 August 2021.
  • Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command calls on Chief of Defence Staff.
  • Indian Navy participates in Naval Exercise Malabar.
  • MoD signs Rs 1,350 crore contract for Integrated Anti-Submarine Warfare Defence Suites with an Indian company.
  • Indian Navy’s Maiden Exercise with Algerian Navy.
  • BEL to supply of Naval Anti drone system.

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Africa
Somalia
  • Somali army killed 60 al-Shabaab terrorists in Lower Shabelle.
  • “Al-Shabaab may try to imitate Taliban in Somalia”, warned security experts.
Afghanistan
  • Al-Qa’ida hailed Taliban for ‘liberating’ Afghans.
  • US drone targeted Islamic State terrorists in Kabul.
  • Foreign terrorists of IS-KP and al-Qa’ida entered Afghanistan via Pakistan, cited UN report.
  • Pakistan
    • “Pakistan engineered Taliban’s return to Kabul,” claimed US experts.

    DOMESTIC TERRORISM

    Jammu and Kashmir
    • Security forces eliminated three JeM terrorists in Pulwama.
    • NIA charge-sheeted seven terrorists in narco-terrorism case.
    • Security forces arrested six LeT terrorists from Bandipora.
    • Two HM terrorists were killed in CT operation in Pulwama.
    Left-Wing Extremism
    • Two high-ranking Maoists arrested in joint operations in Jharkhand.
    • Two ITBP personnel attained Veergati in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.
    Islamic Extremism
    • NIA arrested two IS terrorists in ‘IS Kerala module case’ from Kerala.
    • BRICS adopted a new action plan to combat terrorism and terror-financing.
    Khalistan-inspired Extremism
    • Police arrested two ISYF terrorists from Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts.

    CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

    • Ragnarok ransomware threat actors released the ‘master key’ to decrypt infected files.
    • The US and Singapore pledged for deeper cooperation in cyber security.
    • Intelligent Waves won the contract from the USAF’s IW research project.
    • Interpol issued global alerts as cyber criminals target governments with COVID-19 vaccine scams.
    • Hackers stole records of T-Mobile’s 54.6 million customers.

    Defence

    Webinar between India & Malaysia on ‘Indian Defence Industry Global Outreach for Collaborative Partnership’.

    A webinar and expo between India & Malaysia on the theme ‘Indian Defence Industry Global Outreach for Collaborative Partnership’ was held on August 17, 2021. It was organised under the aegis of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence through Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM). Nine Indian companies, including Bharat Electronics Limited, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, L&T Defence and Bharat Forge Limited, gave presentations on major defence platforms and products. From the Malaysian side, Aerospace Technology Systems Corporation, AMP Corporation, DEFTECH Unmanned Systems and Innopeak SDN BHD made company presentations.

    Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh to launch Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0

    Three years after the launch of Defence India Startup Challenge 1.0 (DISC), Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), DISC 5.0 was launched in New Delhi on August 19, 2021.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Indian Navy undertakes bilateral maritime exercise with Vietnam People’s Navy

    Indian Navy ships undertook bilateral maritime exercise with Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) frigate on 18 Aug 21. The bilateral interaction aims to consolidate the strong bond shared by the two navies and would be another step towards strengthening India-Vietnam defence relations. The Indian Naval ships arrived at Cam Ranh, Vietnam on 15 August 21 for harbour phase, the sea phase included surface warfare exercises, weapon firing drills and helicopter operations. This visit also holds special importance as Indian Naval ships celebrated the country’s 75th Independence Day in Vietnam.

    ‘Joint guidance for the Australia – India navy to navy relationship’ signed between Indian Navy & Australian Navy

    The document was signed between the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy on 18 August 2021. The document is aligned to the ‘2020 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ agreed by the Prime Ministers and aims to ensure shared approached to regional and global security challenges. The broad scope of the guidance is focussed on developing mutual understanding, cooperate for regional security; collaborate in mutually beneficial activities and to develop interoperability. The highlights of document include close cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Expert Working Groups subordinate to the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus framework.

    DRDO develops Advanced Chaff Technology for Indian Air Force

    Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) against hostile radar threats. Defence Laboratory Jodhpur, a DRDO laboratory developed the advanced Chaff material and chaff cartridge-118/I in collaboration with High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), a Pune based laboratory of DRDO, meeting qualitative requirements of IAF. The Indian Air Force has started the process of induction of this technology after completion of successful user trials.

    Indo-Kazakhstan joint training exercise to commence on 30 august 2021

    As part of military diplomacy and to strengthen the growing strategic relation with Kazakhstan, the 5th edition of Indo- Kazakhstan Joint Training Exercise, “KAZIND-21” will be conducted at Training Node, Aisha Bibi, Kazakhstan, from 30 August to 11 September 2021. The exercise is a joint training between both the Armies, which will boost the bilateral relations between India and Kazakhstan.
    The Indian Army contingent represented by a battalion of The Bihar Regiment consists of a total of 90 personnel led by a Contingent Commander. The Kazakhstan Army will be represented by a company group.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command calls on Chief of Defence Staff

    Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat held a meeting with Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (US INDOPACOM) Admiral John C Aquilino in New Delhi on August 25, 2021. Issues related to peace & security in the region and bilateral defence cooperation were part of the agenda for the meeting. Admiral Aquilino also held meetings with the Tri-Service Chiefs and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar. He is on an official visit to India from August 24-26, 2021.

    Indian Navy participates in Naval Exercise Malabar

    Indian Navy is participating in the sea phase of Exercise Malabar 2021 from 26 – 29 August 2021 along with the US Navy (USN), Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).This year marks the 25th edition of Ex Malabar, being hosted by USN in the Western Pacific.The Indian Navy’s participation includes INS Shivalik and INS Kadmatt and P8I patrol aircraft led by Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, VSM, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet. The US Navy will be represented by USS Barry, USNS Rappahannock, USNS Big Horn and P8A patrol aircraft. The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force will be represented by JS Kaga, Murasame and Shiranui, in addition to a submarine and P1 patrol aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy will be represented by HMAS Warramunga.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    MoD signs Rs 1,350 crore contract for Integrated Anti-Submarine Warfare Defence Suites with an Indian company

    Ministry of Defence (MoD) has concluded a contract with Mahindra Defence Systems Limited for procurement of 14 Integrated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Defence Suites (IADS) at a cost of Rs 1,349.95 crore in New Delhi on August 27, 2021.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Indian Navy’s Maiden Exercise with Algerian Navy

    As part of her ongoing goodwill visit to Europe and Africa, INS Tabar took part in a Maritime Partnership Exercise with Algerian Navy ship ‘Ezzadjer’ on 29 Aug 21. The exercise, held off the Algerian coast, saw participation of a frontline Algerian warship, ‘Ezzadjer’.

    BEL to supply of Naval Anti drone system

    Indian Navy has signed contract with Navratna Defence PSU Bharat Limited (BEL) for supply of the first indigenous comprehensive Naval Anti Drone System (NADS) with both hard kill and soft kill capabilities in New Delhi on August 31, 2021.

    INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

    Africa
    Somalia
    Somali army killed 60 al-Shabaab terrorists in Lower Shabelle

    On 17 August 2021, the Somali National Army (SNA) eliminated 60 al-Shabaab terrorists during a foiled attack on two military camps—Sabiid and Anole, in Lower Shabelle in Somalia. “We received intelligence inputs that the terrorists are grouped to attack outside Sabiid and Anole. Our soldiers killed 60 terrorists, including two al-Shabaab commanders,” said the SNA commander—Daud Abukar Abdi.
    On 02 April 2019, Somali security forces and African Union peacekeeping personnel liberated the strategic town of Sabiid.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    “al-Shabaab may try to imitate Taliban in Somalia”, warned security experts

    Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan may encourage other Islamic extremist groups, such as al-Shabaab in Somalia. “Somalia could see a similar development unless the Somali government ends its over-dependence on international security forces. Although al-Shabaab does not possess the military-like power of the Taliban, but nothing would stop them if they chose the similar path,” said former Somali intelligence official Abdulsalam Gulaid.

    According to the Somalia Transition Plan, approved by the government and the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, the AMISOM peacekeeping forces will gradually transfer security responsibilities to Somali security agencies before the complete pull-out. In July 2021, more than 250 al-Shabaab terrorists had been killed during Somali military operations unaided by AMISOM.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    US drone targeted Islamic State terrorists in Kabul

    On 29 August 2021, a United States (US) drone strike killed a suicide car bomber, affiliated with Islamic State-Khurasan Province (IS-KP) group, who was preparing to strike Kabul airport. Earlier, on 26 August 2021, an IS suicide bomber carried out an operation outside the Kabul airport in which 13 US troops were martyred and several Afghan civilians were killed.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Foreign terrorists of IS-KP and al-Qa’ida entered Afghanistan via Pakistan, cited UN report

    According to the United Nations (UN) Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring report, almost all foreign terrorists of Islamic State-Khurasan Province (IS-KP) and al-Qa’ida have entered Afghanistan via Pakistan, and also, the leaders of these outfits along with those of the Taliban have been living in Pakistan. The report also established ties between IS-KP, Taliban, and al-Qa’ida.

    “The Taliban’s capture of Kabul has invited radical Islamic groups in the region to move into Afghanistan. The ‘creeping aggression’ of Pakistan will soon turn Afghanistan into a breeding ground of terror,” said Mahmoud Saikal, former Afghanistan envoy to the UN.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Pakistan
    “Pakistan engineered Taliban’s return to Kabul,” claimed US experts

    The United States (US) analysts claimed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) provided planning assistance, training expertise, and even the ground advice to the Taliban all through the operations leading up to the capture of Kabul. The US experts cited that in last three months, the Pakistani military waved a surge of new breed of terrorists across the border from sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
    “The Taliban would not be where they are without the assistance of the Pakistanis,” said Douglas London, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Counter-Terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    DOMESTIC TERRORISM

    Jammu and Kashmir
    Security forces eliminated three JeM terrorists in Pulwama

    On 21 August 2021, security forces eliminated three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists in a counter-terrorism (CT) operation in Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Acting upon inputs, security forces launched Cordon and Search Operation (CaSO) in the forest area of Nagbaeran Tral in Pulwama district. The search operation led to the exchange of fire between security forces and terrorists after latter fired at the security forces.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    NIA charge-sheeted seven terrorists in narco-terrorism case

    On 27 August 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a supplementary charge-sheet against seven terrorists—Showkat Salam Parray, Asif Gul, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Romesh Kumar, Mudasir Ahmed Dar, Amin Allaiaka Hilal Mir, Abdul Rashid, in a narco-terrorism case, in NIA Special Court, Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

    On 11 June 2020, an accused terrorist—Abdul Momin Peer was intercepted Police Naka party at Kairo Bridge, Handwara. Abdul Peer was travelling from Baramulla to Handwara. During search cash amounting to ₹ 20,01,000 and two kilograms of Heroin was seized. The investigation has revealed that seven accused terrorists were involved in conspiracy for procuring and selling narcotic substances and generating funds in the J&K in close association with terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM).
    For more information:
    Click here to read…

    Security forces arrested six LeT terrorists from Bandipora district

    Security forces, on 24 August 2021, arrested six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists from Bandipora district in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and recovered arms and ammunition from their possession. The arrested terrorists have been identified as MuzaffarMohiuddin Lone, Mohammad Amin Lone, RizwanQadir Lone, Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, Javaid Ahmed Lone, and Mohammad Saleem Khan.

    “The preliminary investigation revealed that the arrested terrorists were providing shelter, logistics, and other support to the other active LeT terrorists in Bandipora district,” said a police official on the condition of anonymity.
    For more information: Click here to read…
    Two HM terrorists were killed in CT operation in Pulwama

    On 20 August 2021, security forces killed two Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorists in an exchange of fire in the Pampore area of Awantipora in Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). “Both terrorists were part of the hit squad of HM responsible for killing civilians in South Kashmir. An AK-47 rifle, and a pistol was recovered from the operation site,” said J&K Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Left-Wing Extremism
    Two high-ranking Maoists arrested in joint operations in Jharkhand

    In a joint anti-Naxal operation on 19-20 August 2021, the Jharkhand and Bihar police arrested two high-ranking Maoists—Ramesh Ganjhu and Pradyuman Sharma, from Chatra and Hazaribagh districts respectively.
    Ganjhu was involved in several ambushes against security forces in the past two decades across Jharkhand and Bihar. Pradyuman Sharma was arrested during a combing operation in forested area in Hazaribagh district.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Two ITBP personnel attained Veergati in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh

    On 20 August 2021, two Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel—Assistant Commandant Sudhakar Shinde, and Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Gurmukh Singh, attained Veergati in a Maoist attack in Narayanpur district in Chhattisgarh.
    “A squad from the Kadameta camp of the 45th Battalion of the ITBP, had gone on an area domination operation, when a small group of armed Maoists fired on them. The Maoists escaped with an AK-47 rifle, two bulletproof jackets, and a wireless set belonging to the security personnel,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP) Bastar—P Sundarraj.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Islamic Extremism
    NIA arrested two IS terrorists in ‘IS Kerala module case’ from Kerala.

    On 17 August 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested two Islamic State (IS) terrorists—Mizha Siddeeque and Shifa Harris, from Kerala in connection with ‘IS Kerala module case’. On 05 March 2021, NIA registered a suo moto case against Mohammed Ameen aka Abu Yahya and his associates, under Sections 120-B, 121, and 121-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 17, 18, 188, 20, 38, and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UA(P)A].
    Investigations revealed that Mohammed Ameen have been running various IS propaganda channels on different social media platforms such as Telegram, Hoop, and Instagram for propagating violent ideology of IS, and radicalisation & recruitment of new members for the IS module.
    For more information:
    Click here to read…

    BRICS adopted a new action plan to combat terrorism and terror-financing

    In the BRICS’s National Security Advisers (NSAs) meeting held virtually on 25 August 2021, the top security officials of the member nations adopted an action plan to boost practical cooperation in combating terrorism and terror financing. In action plan, India raised the issue of cross-border terrorism and activities of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which enjoys ‘State-support’ and threaten peace and security of the region. The meeting was chaired by India’s NSA—Ajit Doval.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Khalistan-inspired Extremism
    Police arrested two ISYF terrorists from Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts.

    On 20 August 2021, Punjab police arrested two International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) terrorists—Gagandeep Singh and Gurmukh Singh, from Phagwara and Jalandhar respectively. Police recovered huge cache of live grenades and tiffin bomb, along with pistols and ammunition from their possession.
    During the investigation, Gagandeep Singh revealed that a large weapons consignment had been sent from across the border via drones over the last few months. The major part of the consignment is with his associate—Gurmukh Singh. Swiftly acting on information, police raided the Gurmukh’s house in Jalandhar and arrested him. During the search of Gurmukh’s house, police seized two live hand grenades, a box of detonators, two tubes suspected to contain RDX, one roll of high explosive yellow wire, Indian currency worth ₹ 3.75 lakh, a licensed pistol .45 bore, 14 Indian Passports, a .30 pistol along with two magazines.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

    Ragnarok ransomware threat actors released the ‘master key’ to decrypt infected files.

    In a sudden move, the Ragnarok ransomware group shutdown their cyber-attack and released the master key that can decrypt the files locked with their malware. The threat actor did not leave an explanatory note about the sudden move, however, replaced all the victims on their leak site with a short instruction on how to decrypt the files.
    The Ragnarok ransomware group has been around since January 2020 and claimed dozens of victims after making headlines for exploiting the ‘Citrix ADC vulnerability’ in 2020. The affected companies are of various sectors including manufacturing and legal services, and are based in France, Estonia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Thailand, the US, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Spain, and Italy.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    The US and Singapore pledged for deeper cooperation in cyber security

    On 23 August 2021, the United States (US) and Singapore have signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) to strengthen their collaboration on cyber security across defence, financial, and research & development (R&D) sectors. One of these MoUs included an agreement between Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) and the US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to deepen the cooperation in cyber security beyond data sharing and exchanges.
    “Cyber threats do not adhere to borders, which is why international collaboration is a key part of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to cyber security. The MoU allows us to strengthen our existing partnership with Singapore, so that we can more effectively work together to collectively defend against the threats of today and secure against the risks of tomorrow,” said CISA Director—Jen Easterly.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Intelligent Waves won the contract from the USAF’s IW Research Project

    Technology systems integrator—Intelligent Waves has been awarded an Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) contract worth USD 8.4 million, for the acceleration and implementation of advanced wireless communications in both continental and outside continental US regions. “We will leverage our combined 5G and information security expertise to help protect the nation’s most critical assets, ushering a next-generation of speed and security for operators in-country and OCONUS,” said Intelligent Waves’ CTO Marqus Hutchison.
    Under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense – Research & Engineering and the US Air Force Warfare Centre (AFWC), the Defense Department has established the “5G to Next G” program. Intelligent Waves will be tasked with building a localized, private full-scale 5G cellular network with nomadic towers/base stations (5G test-bed) to support secure connectivity between the disaggregated operations centres.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Interpol issued global alerts as cyber criminals target governments with COVID-19 vaccine scams

    The Interpol has issued a global alert for Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) attempting to defraud the governments with fake offers to sell COVID-19 vaccines. Some 60 cases in 40 countries around the world emerged where officials in health ministries and hospitals have received scam offers for COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution in their country.
    Usually claiming to represent a vaccine manufacturer or a government agency facilitating the distribution of vaccines, the scammers are targeting both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers, as well as making contact via phone.
    For more information: Click here to read…

    Hacker stole records of T-Mobile’s 54.6 million customers

    After gaining unauthorised access through Brute Force into the T-Mobile network’s testing environments, an unidentified hacker stole data belonging to 54.6 million current, former, or prospective customers, containing Social Security Numbers (SSNs), phone numbers, names, addresses, dates of birth, prepaid PINs, and driver license/ID information. However, the attacker could not exfiltrate customer financial information, credit card information, debit or any other payment information.
    “The bad actor leveraged their knowledge of technical systems, along with specialised tools and capabilities, to gain access to our testing environments and then used brute force attacks and other methods to make their way into other IT servers that included customer data,” said Mike Sievert—T-Mobile’s CEO.
    For more information: Click here to read… ; Click here to read…

    VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 16-30 June 2021

    I. UNITED STATES

    Politics and Society

    Biden, Putin say progress made in Geneva but gulfs on issues remain, 16 June 2021

    President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin emergedfrom their meeting in Geneva projecting optimism for future relations despite continued divisions on thorny topics from cyberattacks to human rights abuses.In separate post-summit news conferences, Biden described the tone of the discussions as “good, positive” and Putin said it was “constructive” and there was a “glimpse of hope” regarding mutual trust.
    Click here to read…

    U.S., EU Forge Closer Ties on Emerging Technologies to Counter Russia and China, 17 June 2021

    The U.S. and EU plan to cooperate more on technology regulation, industrial development and bilateral trade following President Biden’s visit, in a bid to help Western allies better compete with China and Russia on developing and protecting critical and emerging technologies. Central to the increased coordination will be a new high-level Trade and Technology Council. The aim of the TTC is to boost innovation and investment within and between the two allied economies, strengthen supply chains and avert unnecessary obstacles to trade, among other tasks.
    Click here to read…

    Biden picks Russia pro for key Pentagon post, 23 June 2021

    President Joe Biden is set to nominate the chief executive of the U.S.-Russia Foundation and a former National Security Council official on Russia to be the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. The White House announced Celeste Wallander as the intended nominee on Tuesday. If confirmed, she would have a key role overseeing U.S. military security cooperation and foreign military sales at a time when Biden has placed a new emphasis on bolstering America’s alliances. Wallander also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and defense consulting firm WestExec Advisors lists her as a senior advisor there. If the Senate approves Wallander, she would advise Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl.
    Click here to read…

    U.S. to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal, 24 June 2021

    Roughly 650 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks. In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said. Overall, officials said the U.S. expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.
    Click here to read…

    US Ambassador to Russia vows to work towards ‘stable, predictable’ relations with Russia, 24 June 2021

    US Ambassador to Russian John Sullivan is back in Moscow and is ready to work to achieve stable and predictable relationship between Russia and the US, Sullivan. Upon his return to Moscow, the ambassador also participated in a TV interview with a Russian channel, TV Dozhd. Transcript of the interview.
    Click here to read…

    U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, 27 June 2021

    The United States carried out airstrikes early morning in Iraq and Syria against two Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said had conducted drone strikes against American personnel in Iraq in recent weeks, the Defense Department said. “At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said in a statement.
    Click here to read…

    Blinken and Lapid meet in Rome amid US-Israel relations reset, 27 June 2021

    Hush-hush diplomacy. In-person visits. And a very public no-surprises agreement on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet in Rome on Sunday as their new governments look to turn the page on former President Donald Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close alliance aggravated partisan divisions within both countries.
    Click here to read…

    Indonesia and US building maritime training center on edge of South China Sea, 28 June 2021

    Indonesia and the United States have broken ground on a new $3.5 million maritime training center in the strategic area of Batam, in the Riau Islands, Indonesia’s maritime security agency said. Attending the ceremony virtually on Friday, the US ambassador to Indonesia, Sung Kim, said the maritime center would be part of ongoing efforts between the two countries to bolster security in the region.
    Click here to read…

    Environment
    The West Coast Heat Has Killed Dozens and Hospitalized More In Canada And The U.S., 30 June 2021

    Scores of deaths along the U.S. West Coast and in the Vancouver metro area in Canada are being blamed on an ongoing heat wave that has broken records. Authorities said at least six deaths in Washington and have been attributed to the heat wave that began in the region. Temperatures in Portland topped at least 116 degrees on Monday after at least three days of record-high temperatures. The area is now cooling off, according to the National Weather Service, but the heat left its mark.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    Taming the New Wild West, 23 June 2021

    During the Cold War, summit meetings between the United States and the Soviet Union were often dominated by agreements to set limits on nuclear weapons and the systems built to deliver them. The US and Russia still discuss these topics, but at their recent meeting in Geneva, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin focused in no small part on how to regulate behaviour in a different realm: cyberspace. The stakes are every bit as great.
    Click here to read…

    Biden’s summit with Putin is a good start, 19 June 2021

    The summit was never intended to produce any breakthrough agreements but to lay the foundation for improving relations between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers and largely succeeded at that modest goal. Both nations agreed to return their ambassadors to each embassy (after both the Russian and American ambassadors withdrew late last year). They agreed to work constructively with each other on cybersecurity, on counterterrorism issues in Afghanistan, and on the peaceful development of the Arctic.
    Click here to read…

    II. EUROPE

    Politics and Society
    EU must be ‘more robust and resilient’ against Russian attempts to undermine it, says Borrell 16 June 2021

    The European Union must become “more robust and resilient” against Russia’s attempts to undermine it and respond to threats in a more systematic and unified manner, according to the European Commission. The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, presented the Commission’s proposed policy options on EU-Russia relations on Wednesday, entitled “Push back, constrain and engage.”
    Click here to read…

    Germany, Poland mark 30 years of Good Neighbourship treaty, 16 June 2021

    Signed on June 17, 1991, the Treaty of Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation was a milestone in the history of Poland and Germany.
    Click here to read…

    EU slaps coup-related sanctions on top Myanmar officials, 21 June 2021

    The European Union has imposed sanctions on several senior officials and organizations in Myanmar over the military coup in February and the security crackdown that followed. The EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 8 officials and froze the assets of 3 “economic entities” and the War Veterans Organization. Those targeted include ministers, deputy ministers and the attorney general, whom the EU blames for “undermining democracy and the rule of law, and for serious human rights violations.” Click here to read…

    Royal Navy ship off Crimea sparks diplomatic row between Russia and UK, 23 June 2021

    Britain was unexpectedly embroiled in a diplomatic and military dispute with Russia after Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender briefly sailed through territorial waters off the coast of the disputed territory of Crimea. The warship sailed for about an hour in the morning within the 12-mile limit off Cape Fiolent on a direct route between the Ukrainian port of Odesa and Georgia, prompting Russian complaints and a disagreement about whether warning shots were fired.
    Click here to read…

    Macron, Merkel and 15 other EU leaders defend LGBT rights amid row over new Hungarian law, 24 June 2021

    A group of 17 EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have signed a joint letter in defense of the LGBT+ community amid a raging controversy over Hungary’s new anti-LGBT law. Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law tabled by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age. Click here to read…

    EU imposes broad economic sanctions on Belarus over Ryanair incident, 24 June 2021

    The European Union imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions on Belarus targeting its main export industries and access to finance a month after it forced a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. The measures include banning EU businesses from importing goods or doing business with Belarusian companies in sectors including banking, petroleum products and potash, a salt used in fertiliser that is the country’s main export. The sanctions are far stricter than measures imposed in the past, which mainly consisted of blacklists of Belarusian officials and had little or no impact on the behaviour of President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994.
    Click here to read…

    The EU Lays Out Its Approach to Russia and Turkey, 25 June 2021.

    The results of a foreign policy-focused EU summit signal that bilateral tensions with Russia will continue while a more pragmatic approach to Turkey is possible. During a summit of EU heads of government and state on June 24-25, the bloc rejected a Franco-German proposal to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and only pledged to “explore” the format and conditions for dialogue with Moscow. The leaders also approved granting an extra 3 billion euros to Turkey over the next three years to continue the migration agreement between Brussels and Ankara, while Germany proposed to restart negotiations to upgrade the EU-Turkey customs agreement. The summit once again highlighted the European Union’s limitations when it comes to foreign policy, as the most crucial decisions are taken by unanimity, which severely constrains the bloc’s room for action on controversial issues.
    Click here to read…

    Le Pen’s far-right party suffers blow in French regional elections, 27 June 2021

    Marine Le Pen’s far-right party has suffered a serious electoral blow when it failed to win a regional election in its stronghold in the south of France. The Rassemblement National (National Rally) had pinned its last chances on taking the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region (PACA) after emerging victorious from last week’s first-round vote, although by a small margin. However, an alliance of rival parties to form a “republican front” against the RN-the withdrawal of the Socialist party and left-wing alliance candidate-prevented the far right taking the region.
    Click here to read…

    UK says it has yet to receive formal EU response in sausage row, 27 June 2021

    Britain has yet to receive a formal response from the European Union over its proposal to further extend a grace period on checks on some foodstuffs moving to Northern Ireland just days before the latest deadline, a minister said on Sunday. “We think we have put forward a sensible proposal, something actually quite moderate while we work out a long-term solution and I am hopeful over the next few days that those technical discussions, we’ll be able to get that secured with the EU,” Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis told Times Radio.
    Click here to read…

    German CDU chancellor candidate: Nord Stream could be halted if Russia abuses it, 27 June 2021

    Germany could stop gas flowing through the almost-complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia if Moscow breaks the terms of the arrangement or uses it to put pressure on Ukraine, conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet has said. The pipeline is a source of tension with the U.S. administration, which argues that it gives too much leverage to Russian President Vladimir Putin by increasing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
    Click here to read…

    Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven loses no-confidence vote, resigns 28 June 2021

    Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven lost a no-confidence vote on 21 June morning following which he has resigned from the post. Lofven, from the Social Democratic party, had been in power since 2014. He is the first Swedish prime minister to lose a vote of no-confidence. The Social Democrat leader rejected the alternative option of calling snap elections and has asked the parliamentary speaker to find a new government. Click here to read…

    EU citizens’ data will continue flowing into the UK after a crucial deal was reached, 28 June 2021

    The European Union has recognized Britain’s privacy rules as adequate with its own, a key move that will allow EU-U.K. data flows to continue after Brexit. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said the decision meant EU citizens’ personal information would be treated with the same level of protection as it would inside the bloc when transferred to the U.K. Businesses had worried that Britain and the EU wouldn’t come to an agreement on data equivalence, potentially putting billions of dollars’ worth of digital trade in jeopardy. Click here to read…

    Belarus cuts cooperation on migration with EU over sanctions, 28 June 2021

    Belarus has retaliated to the European Union sanctions by halting cooperation on stemming illegal migration and denying entry to EU officials. The EU has imposed new economic sanctions on Belarus over last month’s diversion of a passenger jet to arrest a dissident journalist. The sanctions target the country’s top export items, including potash – a common fertilizer ingredient, petroleum products and tobacco industry exports.
    Click here to read…

    Belarus suspends participation in Eastern Partnership, 28 June 2021

    Belarus is suspending its participation in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Republic of Belarus is suspending its participation in the EU initiative Eastern Partnership. Belarus is beginning the procedure of suspending its readmission agreement with the EU. We cannot fulfill our obligations in the framework of this agreement while under the sanctions and restrictions imposed by the EU,” the statement said.
    Click here to read…

    EU reforms to common agricultural policy branded ‘greenwashing’, 30 June 2021

    Environmentalists have criticised the European Union’s reform of its controversial common agricultural policy (CAP), arguing that it fails European citizens, small farmers and the climate. Greenpeace, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife, Friends of the Earth Europe and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) lambasted the provisional agreement and said it turns a blind on the climate and biodiversity crises.
    Click here to read…

    Health and Environment
    European Union vaccine passports issued in 17 countries, 21 June 2021

    European Union Digital COVID certificates (EUDCC) have now been issued to citizens in 17 countries. The vaccine passport (formally known as the EU Digital Green Certificate) provides digital proof whether a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. Member states are obliged to start issuing the first certificates within six weeks of 1 July, when the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation enters into application.
    Click here to read…

    EU countries approve landmark climate change law, 28 June 2021

    European Union countries has given the final seal of approval to a law to make the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions targets legally binding, as EU policymakers prepare a huge new package of policies to fight climate change.
    Click here to read…

    EU negotiators still far apart on environmental justice rights, 28 June 2021

    EU countries and the European Parliament are at loggerheads over the revision of the Aarhus regulation, which allows individuals and civil society to challenge law in court on environmental matters. The regulation implements the Aarhus Convention, an international treaty that promotes access to justice in environmental matters. While the EU is signed up to it, it is not acting in line with the treaty, according to the convention’s compliance committee.
    Click here to read…

    With the rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant, Europe is divided on how to police its borders, 29 June 2021

    The rise of the Delta variant is rekindling tensions over the management of the EU’s external borders. These divisions, which were much discussed at the beginning of the pandemic, resurfaced during the European summit in Brussels last week. On the one hand, Germany and France want to err on the side of prudence in the face of an influx of British tourists potentially carrying the Delta variant. On the other hand, southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece are anxious to protect their all-important tourist seasons.
    Click here to read…

    Tech and Economy
    The EU’s new VAT rules for e-commerce from 1 July 2021, 20 June 2021

    The new EU VAT system for business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales comes into force on 1 July 2021. This package of changes comprises: a one stop shop for accounting for VAT on B2C services and intra-EU distance sales of goods; an import one stop shop to pay import VAT on low value imports from outside the EU; and special VAT rules for goods sold to EU consumers via online marketplaces.
    Click here to read…

    EU’s Google Ad Tech Probe Strikes at Heart of Business Model, 22 June 2021

    Google faces a sweeping European Union probe into its advertising technology, a move that strikes at the heart of the tech giant’s business model. The European Commission said its new confrontation with the Alphabet Inc. unit will focus on concerns the company may be illegally favouring its own online display advertising technologies, squeezing out rivals. “This is probably the probe that many people were waiting for because it goes to the core of Google’s business,” said Aitor Ortiz, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. The biggest risk would be an order for Google to separate from or restrict its online ads operations, which “could have a significant impact on the money generated through online advertising,” he added.
    Click here to read…

    French delegation to attend Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, 25 June 2021

    A delegation from France will participate in the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which will be held in Vladivostok in early September, the president of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Emmanuel Quidet said on Friday. “We will come to the economic forum in September. We would like to organize a Franco-Russian roundtable…This is important to us, it’s important for our companies, because we see and are discovering opportunities that exist in the Far East and the Arctic,” Quidet said at a meeting that Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, the Russian president’s envoy to the Far East Federal District, held with a French business delegation in Vladivostok.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    Why are sanctions against Belarus not more effective? 18 June 2021

    It will probably not be European and American sanctions that decide Lukashenko’s fate, but the political calculation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Click here to read…

    Europe Will Not be Strategically Sovereign, uit Compromises on the Russia Question, 26 June 2021

    A strategically independent Europe needs, of course, some compromise, with an adversarial nuclear power next door, a form of “negative peace”. Unfortunately, the flaw in that plan, is that the EU is not a military power, and has no way to stop forces within which oppose this accommodation and compromises.
    Click here to read…

    A full agenda in Italy, 28 June 2021

    External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has just concluded a successful visit to Greece, the first in 18 years, where the two countries expressed convergence on the geo political and geo economic realities, including the Indo Pacific. The significance lies in the fact that Greece has been one of the earliest beneficiaries of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative with the strategic Piraeus port coming under the control of Chinese shipping company COSCO in 2016. As India tries to engage all countries in Europe, the prospects for a larger trade, investment and geographical indicators package become brighter. The action now shifts to the G 20 host country Italy.
    Click here to read…

    III. RUSSIA

    Politics and Society
    State Duma elections to be held in September, 17 June 2021

    The President signed Executive Order setting the election date for the new convocation of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. September 19, 2021 has been assigned for the Duma elections.
    Click here to read…

    Russia, Belarus have common vision of progress towards integration-Lavrov, 18 June 2021

    Moscow and Minsk have a common vision of how to make progress on all tracks of cooperation, including integration matters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his opening remarks at negotiations with his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei. At the meeting, evaluations were presented of the summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden.
    Click here to read…

    Nord Stream 2 AG begins certification as independent gas-transmission operator, continues challenging Third Gas Directive, 24 June 2021

    Nord Stream 2 AG, operator of the Nord Stream 2 construction and operations project, has applied for proactive certification as an independent transport-system operator, Nord Stream 2 AG said in a statement. “The application for certification of Nord Stream 2 AG does not imply any change or mitigation in the legal position of Nord Stream 2 AG in relation to the amended Gas Directive or the goals that it continues to pursue firmly in the aforesaid litigation and arbitration proceedings,” Nord Stream 2 AG said in the statement. The application has been submitted based on a request from Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), Germany’s federal Network Agency, in accordance with sections 4b, 10, and further to the law on the Germany’s energy industry, Energiewirtschaftsgesetz, EnWG, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
    Click here to read…

    Putin, Pashinyan discuss Nagorno-Karabakh during phone call, says Kremlin, 24 June 2021

    Russia will continue its mediation efforts to ensure stability in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin press service informed after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. “During an exchange of opinions on Nagorno-Karabakh, they stressed the importance of steady implementation of agreements between leaders of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan dated November 9, 2020, and January 11 of this year. Russia will continue active mediation efforts aimed to ensure stability in the region,” the message says. Click here to read…

    Russian naval ships, aircraft kick off drills in Mediterranean, 25 June 2021

    Russian naval ships and aircraft have kicked off joint drills in the Mediterranean Sea. The drills involve five warships, including the missile cruiser Moskva, the frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, and the submarines Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don.
    Click here to read…

    India-Russia NSAs discuss cooperation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific, 25 June 2021

    The national security advisers of India and Russia held a brainstorming session on several issues including the Afghan situation amid US troop withdrawal and the future role of Taliban on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) NSA-led meeting this week. Enhancing security & counter-terror cooperation, partnership between security agencies and the Indo-Pacific region were also among the topics discussed at the over two-hour meeting between the two NSAs.
    Click here to read…

    Russia, China Extend Treaty, Hail Ties, 28 June 2021

    The leaders of China and Russia on 28 June announced the extension of a 20-year-old friendship treaty, hailing increasingly close ties and the “stabilizing role” of their relationship. The Kremlin published a joint statement from Russia and China to mark two decades since the treaty was signed, as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping held a televised meeting by video link.
    Click here to read…

    West tries to ‘lay down the law’ in international relations – Lavrov, 28 June 2021

    Western countries using their rules to replace the existing instruments of international law shows that they are striving to “lay down the law” on the world stage, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote in his article published in Kommersant and Russia in Global Affairs. ”
    Click here to read…

    Rosatom starts building fifth unit of Kudankulam NPP in India, 29 June 2021

    Rosatom Group has begun the construction of No. 5 unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India. The ceremony was held by video conferencing due to coronavirus restrictions, the Russian state nuclear corporation’s engineering division, ASE said. “The project to build the Kudankulam NPP has been a symbol of close cooperation between Russia and India for many years. But we don’t want to rest on our laurels. Rosatom has all the latest nuclear energy technologies. Together with our Indian colleagues, we are prepared to jointly roll out serial construction of the latest 3+ generation of Russian-designed nuclear generating units at a new site in India. This is envisioned by existing agreements,” Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev was reported as saying at the ceremony.
    Click here to read…

    Putin slams incident with British warship off Crimea as a provocation, 30 June 2021

    The incident with the British guided missile destroyer Defender off Crimea was a clear provocation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual Q&A session. “This is, of course, a provocation, which is absolutely clear. What did these provocateurs want to show and what goals did they seek to achieve? First of all, it [the provocation] was comprehensive and was staged not only by the British but also by the Americans because the British warship ventured into our territorial waters in the afternoon while early in the morning, at 07:30, a US strategic reconnaissance plane took off from a NATO airfield in Greece, from Crete, I believe. I later received a report on that. We saw and observed it clearly,” the Russian leader said.
    Click here to read…

    Russia, U.S. planning meeting on strategic stability by mid-July – Lavrov, 30 June 2021

    Delegations from the United States and Russia could meet for talks over strategic stability before the middle of July; the two sides understand that only mutually acceptable agreements are possible in this sphere, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
    Click here to read…

    Putin meets Nazarbayev, 30 June 2021

    Vladimir Putin met with First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is in Russia on a working visit.
    Click here to read…

    Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, 30 June 2021

    The annual special Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV, Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Mir TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Click here to read…

    Health and Environment
    Russia’s Sputnik V shot around 90% effective against Delta variant, developers say, 29 June 2021

    Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 is around 90% effective against the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, its developers said. The shot, which Russia has actively marketed abroad, was previously found by researchers to be almost 92% effective against the original strain of coronavirus. Denis Logunov, deputy director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute which developed Sputnik V, said the Delta variant efficacy figure was calculated based on digital medical and vaccine records. Click here to read…

    EpiVacCorona vaccine to be manufactured in form of dosage syringes – developer, 29 June 2021

    The EpiVacCorona coronavirus vaccine developed by Russian consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor’s Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology will be manufactured both in the form of ampules and dosage syringes, Vector said in a statement. “As well as the usual format, ampules, the EpiVacCorona vaccine will now be available as a dosage syringe. The relevant changes to the certificate of registration were made on June 28,” the statement said. Click here to read…

    Russia sees 21,042 new Covid-19 cases, all-time high of 669 deaths in past 24 hours – HQ, 30 June 2021

    Russia has registered 21,042 new cases of Covid-19 and a record number of related deaths, 669, in the past 24 hours, the coronavirus response headquarters said in a statement on June 30. “Over the past day, 21,042 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in 85 regions of Russia, including 2,951 asymptomatic cases identified proactively (14.0%),” the headquarters said. mortality has grown again in Russia, to another all-time high of 669. The majority of deaths were reported in Moscow (117) and St. Petersburg (111).
    Click here to read…

    Economy
    Russian economy recovering, but outlook for sustainable growth unclear amid Covid, uncertainty – minister, 18 June 2021

    The public health situation and a number of other uncertainties currently make it impossible to make long-term forecasts about sustainable economic growth in Russia, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said. “It seems to me that at the moment it’s still early to talk about the sustainability of this growth. The recovery is underway, but ultimately we would not just like recovery, we need to grow further, after all. And right now it’s premature for us to make any far-reaching conclusions based on one month. We only have April in hand at the moment, May will start coming out next week,” Reshetnikov said at a briefing when asked if the worsening Covid-19 situation will affect the macroeconomic forecast for this year. Click here to read…

    Putin expects inflation in Russia will not exceed 5% in 2021, 30 June 2021

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said inflation in 2021 would be above the 4% target but that he did not think it would exceed 5%. “Inflation was in the region of 4% [in annual terms]. Now it has risen to 5.9% [annual, as of the end of May], nearly 6%. Of course the task is to suppress it. It is for this reason that the Central Bank has raised the key rate a little, so there is no excess money supply in the economy,” Putin said during a Q&A session.”I expect that inflation will return to the target, to 4%. We are unlikely to achieve it [4%] this year, but I think we’ll be able to get [back down] to a level of 5% [by December],” he said.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    While the media focused on theatrics, Putin & Biden quietly launched a new diplomatic effort to avert an apocalyptic nuclear war, 21 June 2021

    Atomic warfare was top of the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, met for crunch talks last week in Geneva, amid escalating hostilities and talk of a return to a ‘Cold War’ mentality. The first summit between the pair gives some room for cautious optimism. The atmosphere was respectful and calm, compared to how it might have been, and there seemed to be few aggressive or emotional accusations flying around in the way that has dominated relations between Moscow and Washington in the past.
    Click here to read…

    China-Russia: A Strategic Partnership Short on Strategy, 30 June 2021

    The Sino-Russian relationship, nothing like an “alliance,” will continue to endure and in some ways deepen. Chinese firms are still interested in Russia’s human capital and natural resources and Russian firms and investors want to find growth in China’s market. The Putin-Xi meeting, however, emphasized performance over substance, limited by domestic political considerations and the scope of the two countries’ mutual interests. There’s a sense that there is no clear consensus over what order in Central Asia and Eurasia more broadly ought to look like, nor any attempt to show that it’s not just the world’s democracies talking a mean game about coordinating climate efforts. Instead, China and Russia continue their repeated focus on presenting a united front against the dominance of American and transatlantic power – without reflecting on what that power is actually doing right now. Click here to read…

    VIF News Digest: International Developments (US, Europe and Russia), 01-15 June 2021

    I. UNITED STATES

    Politics and Society
    U.S. Formally Ends Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Asylum Policy, 1 June 2021

    The United States has formally ended the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court cases, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo sent to agency leaders. The administration of President Joe Biden paused the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), shortly after he took office on Jan. 20. Since then, more than 11,000 migrants enrolled in it have been allowed to enter the United States to pursue asylum claims.
    Click here to read…

    Ransomware Disrupts Meat Plants in Latest Attack on Critical U.S. Business, 1 June 2021

    A cyber attack on the world’s largest meat processor has forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses. The company, JBS, said the majority of its plants would reopen on in a day. But even one day’s disruption at JBS could “significantly impact” wholesale beef prices, according to analysts at Daily Livestock Report. The cyberattack is attributed to Russian hackers.
    Click here to read…

    Biden pushes for US voting rights law as restrictions mount, 2 June 2021

    President Joe Biden used the 100th anniversary of Tulsa’s race massacre to make a plea for sweeping legislation in Congress to protect the right to vote as Republican-led governments in Texas and other states pass new restrictions making it tougher to cast ballots.
    Click here to read…

    Biden suspends oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge, 2 June 2021

    The Biden administration has suspended oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a drilling program approved by the Trump administration and reviving a political fight over a remote region that is home to polar bears and other wildlife — and a rich reserve of oil.

    The order by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland follows a temporary moratorium on oil and gas lease activities imposed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office. Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order suggested a new environmental review was needed to address possible legal flaws in a drilling program approved by the Trump administration under a 2017 law enacted by Congress.
    Click here to read…

    US to Swiftly Boost Global Vaccine Sharing, Biden Announces, 3 June 2021

    President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others at a time of glaring shortages abroad and more than ample supplies at home. Of the first 19 million donated through COVAX, approximately 6 million doses will go to South and Central America, 7 million to Asia and 5 million to Africa. Click here to read…

    US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain, 8 June 2021

    The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer.
    Click here to read…

    Senate approves sprawling $250 billion bill to curtail China’s economic and military ambitions, 9 June 2021

    The Senate voted has voted to adopt an approximately $250 billion bill to counter China’s growing economic and military prowess. The proposal commits billions of dollars in federal funds across a wide array of research areas. It pours more than $50 billion in immediate funding into U.S. businesses that manufacture the sort of ultrasmall, in-demand computer chips that power consumer and military devices, which many companies source from China. And it paves the way for the next generation of space exploration at a time when Washington and Beijing are increasingly setting their eyes on the stars. lawmakers also approved a host of proposals that seek to limit China’s economic aspirations and curb its political influence. The bill opens the door for new sanctions targeting Beijing over its human rights practices, commissions a new study about the origin of the coronavirus and calls for a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. It even authorizes $300 million specifically to counter the political influence of the Chinese Communist Party.
    Click here to read…

    Biden opens overseas trip declaring ‘United States is back’, 10 June 2021

    President Joe Biden opened the first overseas trip of his term Wednesday with a declaration that “the United States is back” as he seeks to reassert the nation on the world stage and steady European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor. Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in sweeping terms, believing the West must publicly demonstrate it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
    Click here to read…

    US closes Trump-era office for victims of immigrant crime, 12 June 2021

    The Biden administration has dismantled a Trump-era government office to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants. This symbolises an effort to not link the immigrants with crime. President Trump had created the Victim of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, known by its acronym VOICE, by executive order during his first week in office in January 2017. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was replacing VOICE with a “more comprehensive and inclusive victim support system” – the Victims Engagement and Services Line.
    Click here to read…

    Biden, working with U.S. allies, pledges to confront China and Russia, 13 June 2021

    President Joe Biden vowed that the U.S. would once again work alongside its democratic allies to fight autocratic governments, singling out both Russia and China for aggressive behaviour at a news conference following the G-7 meeting of world leaders. He spoke about his commitment to reengage America on the world stage after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First” policies.
    Click here to read…

    Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit, 14 June 2021

    Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin.Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
    Click here to read…

    Health and Technology
    President Biden Announces Historic Vaccine Donation: Half a Billion Pfizer Vaccines to the World’s Lowest-Income Nations, 10 June 2021

    The U.S. has committed to donating 500 million life-saving vaccines by June next year, including 200 million to be delivered by the end of 2021. Donation will serve as the foundation for a coordinated effort by the world’s democracies to vaccinate people around the world.
    Click here to read…

    Biden drops Trump attempt to ban TikTok, WeChat; orders new review, 10 June 2021

    President Joe Biden on Wednesday withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat and TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps and others.
    Click here to read…

    US lawmakers introduce bills targeting Big Tech, 12 June 2021

    US lawmakers have introduced five bills aimed at limiting the power held by Big Tech companies. The bills were drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. They address topics including data, mergers, and the competitive behaviour of these companies – which could ultimately lead to them being forced to sell some assets. But there is not unanimous support for the bills targeting Big Tech.
    Click here to read…

    Novavax: Large study finds COVID-19 shot about 90% effective, 14 June 2021

    Vaccine maker Novavax has noted that its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses. The two-shot vaccine was about 90% effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe, the American company said. That would put the vaccine about on par with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
    Click here to read…

    Economy
    The U.S. Economy Is Sending Confusing Signals. What’s Going On? 3 June 2021

    Unemployment is still high, but companies are complaining they can’t find enough workers. Prices are shooting up for some goods and services, but not for others. Supply-chain bottlenecks are making it hard for homebuilders, automakers and other manufacturers to get the materials they need to ramp up production. A variety of indicators that normally move more or less together are right now telling vastly different stories about the state of the economy.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    Decoding the NATO summit, 14 June 2021

    In the summit communique, NATO members stopped short of labelling China a threat, but did little else to conceal their concerns, referencing “systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers.” The allies criticized Russia directly, saying it has “intensified its hybrid actions against NATO Allies and partners, including through proxies.”
    Click here to read…

    Biden-Putin summit: Ukraine should not expect miracles, 1 June 2021

    Ukraine is set to be high on the agenda when US President Joe Biden holds a hotly-anticipated summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on June 16. However, there is little reason to expect any breakthroughs towards ending the Kremlin’s seven-year campaign of aggression against Ukraine. Instead, the meeting will likely highlight the need for Ukrainian policymakers to bolster the country’s own defensive capabilities and strengthen Kyiv’s international position.
    Click here to read…

    II. EUROPE

    Politics and Society
    Brussels unveils plans to reform borderless Schengen Area, 2 June 2021

    With the aim of preparing the Schengen area for the post-COVID era and making it “stronger and more resilient”, the Commission has unveiled a new strategy centred on three pillars: external borders, internal measures and governance. The plan comes as European economies reopen after lifting coronavirus restrictions and cross-border travel gradually normalises. Schengen’s integrity has been severely damaged by two recent crises: the 2015 influx of migrants and refugees and the COVID-19 pandemic. Both episodes saw many EU countries reintroduce border checks, arguing the extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary measures.
    Click here to read…

    France’s New Caledonia set for final independence referendum in December, 2 June 2021

    The French Pacific Island of New Caledonia, which rejected independence in two previous referendums, will have a third and final vote on 12 December, France’s overseas territories minister said. The referendum would be followed by a two-year transition period to allow Paris to clarify its relations with New Caledonia, minister Sebastien Lecornu said. New Caledonia, which houses business operations for Brazilian multinational mining company Vale and French mining group Eramet, has been hit by riots in recent months.
    Click here to read…

    EU to impose new sanctions on Myanmar junta, companies, 3 June 2021

    The European Union will impose a new round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta and its economic interests in the coming days, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Reuters.
    Click here to read…

    G7: Germany urges vaccine solidarity, 3 June 2021

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday urged COVID-19 vaccine producers to step up alliances with manufacturers in developing countries. His remarks came ahead of a meeting of G7 health ministers in Britain amid increasing calls for wealthy countries to share COVID-19 vaccines with lower-income nations. Spahn also reiterated Germany’s support for financing the COVAX vaccine sharing program.
    Click here to read…

    The EU Bans Belarus Airlines and Reroutes Flights Around Its Airspace, 4 June 2021

    European and U.S. governments have been engaged in an apparent tit for tat with Belarus and Lukashenko’s government following the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich by the Belarusian government last month in which it forced the plane he was aboard to land in Minsk. European Union ambassadors have approved a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying over EU territory or landing in EU airports. European Union airlines will be prohibited from flying over Belarus as well. That affects about 400 civilian flights that usually fly over Belarus every day, according to European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol. That includes 300 overflights, about 100 operated by EU or British carriers.
    Click here to read…

    Resisting patent waiver, EU submits vaccine plan to WTO, 5 June 2021

    The European Union has submitted a plan to the World Trade Organization that it believes will more effectively broaden the supply of COVID-19 vaccines than the intellectual property (IP) rights waiver backed by the United States.India, South Africa and dozens of developing countries are demanding the waiver to address what they say is a “staggering inequity” in access to vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments.
    Click here to read…
    The EU is planning to end U.S. tariff battle with Biden due in Brussels next week, 9 June 2021
    The European Union wants the United States to commit to end their aircraft-related tariffs next week, according to a draft statement seen by CNBC, as both sides look to get the transatlantic relationship back on track. The EU is also hoping that President Joe Biden, who is due in Brussels for a summit early next week, will vow to end steel and aluminium duties before December this year, according to the document from the EU.
    Click here to read…

    MEPs back action against European Commission over Poland and Hungary, 10 June 2021

    MEPs have backed legal proceedings by the European parliament against the European Commission over a failure to trigger financial sanctions against Poland and Hungary for undermining the rule of law. The parliament’s legal service is now expected to prepare a case to be lodged at the European court of justice later this year, pitting two EU institutions against each other in the EU’s highest court, with only the formality of approval by key committees of the chamber now required.
    Click here to read…
    UK, EU seeking “radical” solutions to N. Ireland trade, 11 June 2021
    Britain is working with the European Union to urgently find radical proposals that would solve the post-Brexit trade problems in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said. The two sides are at loggerheads over how to ease post-Brexit trade between Britain and its province of Northern Ireland, with both accusing the other of dealing with part of their divorce deal called the protocol in bad faith.
    Click here to read…

    The EU-US summit, 15 June 2021

    The EU-US summit on 15 June 2021 marked the beginning of a renewed transatlantic partnership and set a joint agenda for EU-US cooperation in the post-pandemic era. The leaders committed to regular dialogue to take stock of progress.
    Click here to read…

    Canada, EU form raw materials pact to cut reliance on China, 15 June 2021

    Canada and the EU launched a new partnership to secure supply chains for critical minerals and reduce dependence on China in a push for jobs and to counter climate change. “With EU partners, we talked about what we can do to build a cleaner economy for years to come,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday after meeting with EU chiefs in Brussels. “To begin with, in order to continue creating good, green jobs for the middle class, we must secure supply chains for critical minerals and metals that are essential for things like electric car batteries.”
    Click here to read…

    U.S. and EU resolve 17-year Boeing-Airbus trade dispute, 15 June 2021

    The United States and European Union have resolved a 17-year-long fight over aircraft subsidies, agreeing to suspend tariffs for five years stemming from the Boeing-Airbus dispute. “This meeting has started with a breakthrough on aircraft,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who met with President Joe Biden at a U.S.-EU summit in Brussels. “This really opens a new chapter in our relationship because we move from litigation to cooperation on aircraft -after 17 years of dispute.”
    Click here to read…

    EU-China investment deal is still possible-but not before 2023, analyst says, 15 June 2021

    An investment pact between the European Union and China is still possible, but both sides may wait until 2023 at the earliest to ratify the deal, said an analyst from risk consultancy Eurasia Group. The EU and China agreed on the deal in December after seven years of negotiations. But tensions between the two-which saw both sides imposing sanctions on each other-led the European Parliament to freeze the deal until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians.
    Click here to read…

    Economy

    EU reaches deal on tax transparency for multinational firms, 2 June 2021

    European Union government and parliament negotiators have reached a deal on rules that will force large multinational companies to disclose how much revenue and tax they pay in the 27-nation bloc and how much in countries considered tax havens by the EU.
    Click here to read…

    The hurdles to German investments in India, 2 June 2021

    Germany is the seventh largest FDI provider in India since April 2000. The fast-track mechanism of problem resolution, however beneficial, has not led to a quantum leap in German investments. First, inter-governmental collaboration led to an increasing support for India’s development through governmental funding. However, Germany does not tie its ODA to its enterprises, unlike Japan, whose companies use ODA projects to create business in India. This is detrimental to converting ODA projects into greater trade and FDI into India. Secondly, large old German companies such as Siemens, Bosch, Bayer and Daimler have been in India for more than a century, reinvesting profits more than bringing in new FDI. There is also a regional dimension to this lack of diversification. There is also the problem of the lack of a bilateral investment treaty.
    Click here to read…

    Europe’s social peace requires a return to fiscal discipline, 2 June 2021

    “In the long run we are all dead,” wrote John Maynard Keynes 98 years ago. He believed short-term economic intervention was necessary in times of crisis to stabilise the economy. New stimulus programmes, including the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, are in line with this tradition. I was in favour from the outset — to the surprise of some people”, writes Wolfgang Schäuble-president of the Bundestag and a former German finance minister.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    As the EU debates rules for its economy, a more ambitious political vision is inevitable, 3 June 2021

    Ayear ago, the European Union arrived at a Hamiltonian moment. The sense of human solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths it was causing pushed European leaders to make unprecedented choices. The heart attack suffered by the economy justified a surge of concrete and mutual support. To manifest it, fiscal rules constraining member states’ social expenditures were suspended and a sizable and shared EU financial facility was established through the issuance of common debt. Europeans seemed ready to follow in the footsteps of the agreement engineered in 1790 by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton that transformed the United States into a true federation with a stronger central government.
    Click here to read…

    III. RUSSIA

    Politics and Society
    Putin highlights relations with ex-Soviet nations as Russia’s foreign policy priority, 1 June 2021

    Relations with former Soviet countries are among Moscow’s foreign policy priorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a video conference meeting with the permanent members of the country’s Security Council. “Relations with our closest neighbours, the former Soviet countries, are among Russia’s most important foreign policy priorities,” the president pointed out.
    Click here to read…

    Russia is ready supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal to India, 1 June 2021

    India asked Russia to supply at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal annually and Russia is ready to provide this volume, Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky told reporters on the sidelines of the Russian Coal and Mining exhibition. “We have prepared a draft memorandum of cooperation between the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Steel Industry of India. While preparing this document, we held several meetings via videoconferencing because of the pandemic and our Indian partners said, that they would like to purchase at least 40 mln tonnes of coking coal from Russia.
    Click here to read…

    President’s meeting with heads of international news agencies, 4 June 2021

    On the sidelines of the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin met by videoconference with the heads of the world’s leading news agencies.
    Click here to read…

    First line of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline now laid – Putin, 4 June 2021

    The pipes for the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline have now been laid, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “I am pleased to announce that today, 2.5 hours ago, the laying of pipes for the first line of the gas pipeline was successfully completed,” he said.
    Click here to read…
    Putin signs law denouncing Open Skies Treaty, 7 June 2021
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on Russia’s denunciation of the Treaty on Open Skies. The document was published on the official web portal for legal information. The law denouncing the Treaty on Open Skies was unanimously adopted by the State Duma on May 19 and approved by the Federation Council on June 2. Moscow has said that its denunciation of the treaty is connected to the United States’ own withdrawal from the treaty.
    Click here to read…

    The Foreign Ministry on about the expectations from the meeting between Putin and Biden, 8 June 2021

    A number of issues related to the organization of the summit of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are at an advanced stage of development, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Russia hopes that the result of the meeting between the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, will fix the movement forward in the field of strategic stability and stabilize relations with the United States, he added.
    Click here to read…

    Full transcript of exclusive Putin interview with NBC News’ Keir Simmons, 14 June 2021

    NBC News interview with Russian President Vladimir Putintook place in Moscow on June 11, 2021; NBC’s Keir Simmons posed several questions on Russia’s view on global and regional developments in the days leading to the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva.
    Click here to read…

    Erdogan sticks to his position on Russian missile deal after meeting with Biden, 14 June 2021

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave no indication that Ankara’s deal with Moscow for the S-400 missile system, which triggered U.S. sanctions on the NATO ally, would be reversed. Erdogan’s comments came on the heels of his first face-to-face bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ summit.
    Click here to read…

    Russia ready to reciprocally transfer US convicts, Whelan not among them – diplomat, 15 June 2021

    Russia is ready to hand over US citizens, convicted in Russia, via the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons mechanism; however, US citizen Paul Whelan, convicted in Russia for espionage is not among them, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
    Click here to read…

    Health and Economy
    CoviVac vaccine efficacy tentatively estimated at over 80% – developer, 2 June 2021

    The efficacy of the CoviVac coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chumakov Center exceeds 80%, however, the final stage of clinical trials is still ongoing, the Chumakov Center said in a material presented at the stand of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
    Click here to read…

    Russian GDP growth in April tops 10%, Econ Ministry could revise annual forecast in June – minister, 3 June 2021

    Russian annual GDP growth in April exceeded 10% compared to the decline in April of last year, the recovery of the economy is slightly ahead of expectations, and the annual forecast for 2021 could be revised in July, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov told reporters on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).
    Click here to read…

    Gazprom Neft considers Arctic development relevant; oil prices and tax regime facilitate this, 15 June 2021

    The current oil price environment, the tax regime for Arctic projects in Russia, and Gazprom Neft’s portfolio of shelf assets allow the company to consider development of the Arctic shelf as relevant, in connection with which dialog with the state on supporting geological exploration on the shelf is necessary, Deputy CEO for Upstream Vadim Yakovlev told reporters. “The tax regime [in the Arctic] creates good stimuli for projects at the production stage. This is primarily a lower rate of mineral extraction tax. At the same time, such projects are characterized by a very long investment cycle from the stage of seeking an estimate, geological exploration to commissioning. For this, we believe stimuli need to be created at the geological exploration state too, so that this part of the country’s resource potential also gets the opportunity for development,” Yakovlev.
    Click here to read…

    Perspective
    Will Russia Put China’s Arctic Ambitions on Ice? 5 June 2021

    Despite its enthusiasm, China’s efforts to become a key voice in Arctic affairs have been met with skepticism, even alarm by Arctic states, and few of its investment initiatives have borne fruit. Are China’s fortunes turning with strategic partner Russia assuming the role of chair of the Arctic Council, a two-year rotating position? For China, an observer in the organization since 2013, Russia’s new status as of May 20, 2021 provides opportunities as well as risks.
    Click here to read…

    Russia-US Summit: Global Is More Important than Bilateral, 15 June 2021

    The most positive expectations from the upcoming Russia-US summit are associated with the fact that neither side is approaching it from the position of maintaining peace and improving relations at any cost. Unlike a number of contacts of this level in the past, now Moscow and Washington are not ready, and do not seek, to compromise their principles in order to make their own lives calmer and more comfortable, and those around them – more confident in their future. The maximum diplomatic achievements of the summit (one can expect, for example, the return of the ambassadors to both countries) will not change the nature of the relationship.
    Click here to read…

    Africa Now – Weekly Newsletter (Week 38, 2021)

    Welcome to Africa Now, your weekly newsletter for Africa, presenting the most important developments in the continent – news that matters.

    COMMENTARY

    Comeback Season of Coups in Africa

    Although Military coups have been a part of African political life since the days of independence, with the introduction of multi-party politics of the 90s, the number of coups were coming down, blowing a second wind of change in Africa, and with it the hope for democratic transition in the continent. However, with three successful coups (two in Mali and one in Guinea early this month), one failed attempt in Niger and an institutional coup in Chad within a year, questions are arising regarding the nature of these coups, the reason of their resurgence, whether some of these coups can actually help in democratic transition, and the overall implications of these coups on prospects of democratic governance in Africa.

    NEWS

    Elections represent an opportunity for stability and unity in Libya

    “Libya is at a crossroads where positive or negative outcomes are equally possible,” said Mr. Kubiš. “With the election in December there is an opportunity for Libya to move gradually and convincingly into a more stable, representative and civilian track.” Click here to read

    Tunisian president rejects dialogue with ‘traitors’

    Tunisia’s President Kais Saied said on Tuesday he would not do deals with those he described as “traitors”, an apparent reference to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the biggest in the suspended parliament. Click here to read

    Russian mercenary deal in Mali trigger French alarm

    French ministers warned Mali on Tuesday against striking a deal with Russian private security group Wagner amid claims the West African country’s military junta is close to hiring 1,000 mercenaries from the controversial firm. Click here to read

    Zambian president promises to cut deficit, review mining policies

    Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema said on Friday his new government would implement policies to reduce the fiscal deficit, restore economic growth and review mining policies. In his first address to a new session of parliament since his election in August, Hichilema said officials would also review agricultural policies, revise electricity prices and reform state power firm Zesco. Click here to read

    Drought puts 2.1 million Kenyans at risk of starvation

    An estimated 2.1 million Kenyans face starvation due to a drought in half the country, which is affecting harvests. The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said people living in 23 counties across the arid north, north-eastern and coastal parts of the country will be in “urgent need” of food aid over the next six months, after poor rains between March and May this year. Click here to read

    Ethiopia targets implementation of 17 geothermal projects

    With a large-scale plan to invest up to $40 billion in 71 clean energy projects over the next 10 years, Ethiopia is targeting to become a major player in supplying electricity to the African continent. In line with this, the country expects to have 35,000 MW of installed geothermal capacity by 2037. Click here to read

    INDIA IN AFRICA

    MoS Muraleedharan to visit Algeria from Sep 15-17

    Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be visiting Algeria from September 15 to 17, an official statement said. During his visit, he will call on Algerian Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane and also to hold talks with his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra. Click here to read

    Eye on China, India set to cement Africa defense ties

    With China making deep inroads into Africa, India now plans to institutionalise a biennial conclave with the defence ministers of different countries of the continent. Defence minister Rajnath Singh will host the second India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD) on the side lines of the DefExpo scheduled at Gandhinagar in Gujarat in March next year. Click here to read

    India enters into agreements with African nations to import pulses

    India has entered into agreements with Malawi and Mozambique for the import of pulses and is negotiating with some other African nations to source pulses for meeting the domestic requirement, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said on Tuesday. Click here to read

    Mauritius Coast Guard gets Do 228 from India

    India has officially handed over a Do 228 turboprop aircraft to the Mauritius Coast Guard, which will lease it for maritime security duties. The Indian Navy said the aircraft (MSN 4059) was handed over to the Maritime Air Squadron of the National Coast Guard on 13 September. Click here to read

    India considers resuming vaccine exports soon, focus on Africa

    India is considering resuming exports of Covid-19 vaccines soon, mainly to Africa, as it has partly immunised a majority of its adults and supplies have surged, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines overall, stopped vaccine exports in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded. Click here to read

    Africa Now – Weekly Newsletter (Week 37, 2021)

    Welcome to Africa Now, your weekly newsletter for Africa, presenting the most important developments in the continent – news that matters.

    Another Day, Another Coup in West Africa

    In the early morning of Sunday, heavy gunfire was heard near Guinea’s presidential palace, in capital Conakry, prompting fear of instability. This was followed by social media updates, where people of Guinea saw their President Mr. Condé being held in custody by some men in military attire. And then the leader of the group, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the head of Guinea’s special forces, appeared on television to announce that he has staged a coup and urged the armed forces to back him. Thereupon, the constitution, government and all institutions were dissolved with an announcement that a new “union” government would be formed in weeks. Click here to read

    Latest News in Africa
    Islamists Thrashed by Liberal Parties in Morocco election

    Morocco’s moderate Islamist party suffered major losses in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a stinging setback in one of the last countries where Islamists had risen to power after the Arab Spring protests. Click here to read

    Kenya removed from piracy red list

    The global shipping industry has removed Kenya maritime waters within the Indian Ocean from the piracy red list, 12 years after it was designated a high-risk area (HRA). The move will save Kenya and East Africa millions of shillings in insurance and other security expenses, and could open up Kenya’s ports for more business. Click here to read

    Protests and Repression in eSwatini Intensify

    Since protests broke out in June, the police, military and security forces in eSwatini have killed at least 70 protesters and injured many more. eSwatini is the last feudal dictatorship in Africa, a system described by the current king, 53-year-old Mswati III, as a monarchical democracy, giving prominence to the monarchy and all power vested on him and his parasitic family. Click here to read

    In Zimbabwe, Late President Mugabe Book Set to Be Launched

    A book that discusses the life of Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe, published by the Richard Mahomva led Leader for Africa Network (LAN) is set to be launched virtually by the SAPES Trust. The book will be titled ‘ Remembering Robert Mugabe- Politics, Legacy and Death’. Click here to read

    ONGC is Exploring Some Stakes of Woodside Oil in Senegal

    India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. is exploring a purchase of a significant minority stake in the $4 billion-plus Sangomar oil project off the coast of Senegal from Woodside Petroleum Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter. Click here to read

    Nigeria struggles to find buyers for Oil Exports

    Nigeria has sent a signal that the recovery in global oil demand still has some way to go, with volumes for next month’s loading struggling to find a home, even among its main customers. Nigeria has sent a signal that the recovery in global oil demand still has some way to go, with volumes for next month’s loading struggling to find a home, even among its main customers. Click here to read

    Mauritius ex-PM flown to India for Covid treatment

    Mauritius former PM Navinchandra Ramgoolam flew to Delhi on Wednesday (September 8) on a charter for urgent Covid treatment at AIIMS. His condition is learnt to be serious. Click here to read