MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 10 JUNE
PICTURE OF THE DAY
A boat sailing among mucilage, a jelly-like layer of slime that develops on the surface of the water due to the excessive proliferation of phytoplankton, gravely threatening the marine biome, on the Caddebostan shore of Turkey’s Marmara Sea.
Yasin Akgül/AFP/Getty Images
Australia: Kick-starting a new strategic and defence partnership with Bangladesh
Australia’s 2020 defence strategic update identifies the northeast Indian Ocean as a priority area as part of our immediate region, but it’s also where our security relationships are the least developed. A new report published by the National Security College examines Australia’s interests in that region and options for enhanced security relations with Bangladesh. For at least a decade, Australia has concentrated on India as its key South Asian partner, but it is now time to broaden that strategy to include other countries in that region. Enhanced security, political and economic relations with Bangladesh should be part of that. Despite being one of the first countries to recognise an independent Bangladesh, Australia has not properly developed the relationship.
Maldives: A strategic pawn in the Indo-Pacific great game
An aggressive version of cultural nationalism, with a subterranean agenda of establishing Akhand Bharat – a unified South Asia under Indian suzerainty – somewhere along the line, has subtly shaped India’s foreign policy in the past seven years. Professed by the country’s current set of rulers, this sub-regional concept of unifying smaller nations under Modi’s “Hindutva” umbrella has found resonance in Indian diplomats’ official utterances too. Indian High Commissioner to Maldives Sunjay Sudhir’s reference to India and Maldives being “one nation” in an official tweet, causing a great domestic furore in the host country, amply reflects diplomatic insensitivity, and confirms that New Delhi’s public diplomacy outreach too is coloured by the expansionist neo-Hindutva agenda.
UN warns of ‘mass deaths’ in Myanmar after 100,000 flee fighting
A United Nations rights expert has warned of “mass deaths from starvation, disease and exposure” in eastern Myanmar after “brutal, indiscriminate attacks” by the military forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in Kayah State. In a statement on Wednesday, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, called for urgent international action, saying attacks by the military – which took power after a February coup – were “threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children” in Kayah or Karenni state. “Let me blunt,” Andrews said. “Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen since the February 1 coup, could occur in Kayah State absent immediate action.”
Pakistan’s Afghan predicament
Heavy casualties suffered by the Afghan government forces in recent days underscore the fierceness of the insurgents’ assault. Fierce fighting is going on in 26 of the 34 provinces. With no sign of the two warring sides reaching a negotiated political settlement there seems little possibility of cessation of hostilities. The growing violence threatens to push Afghanistan into a new civil war with serious consequences for the region. The deteriorating situation across the border has also worsened Pakistan’s predicament as the country is caught in the midst of a geopolitical crisis. It faces multiple security and foreign policy challenges with the threat of the Afghan conflict spilling over to Pakistani soil.
Kashmir: Surviving COVID-19 under the military boot
In April and May, as India experienced a massive surge in coronavirus cases due to the Indian government’s criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 response, the news from Indian-administered Kashmir was disturbing. The highly militarised region, which had already suffered a debilitating lockdown before the pandemic started, was struggling. Reported infections and deaths were breaking grim records each day as Kashmir’s healthcare system was overwhelmed by thousands of new cases. The public health response was crippled by inadequate equipment and staffing of medical facilities. Hospitals in the region have an intensive care capacity of 450 units for a population of 12.5 million – or one ICU bed for every 27,000 residents. In Kashmir, one doctor is employed for every 3,866 people, way below the average for India of 1 to 2,000. By contrast, the region has no shortage of military infrastructure and personnel. Known as the world’s most intensely militarised zone, it hosts one Indian soldier for every 14 residents.
Bangladesh’s unplanned relocation of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island is risky
In late May, thousands of Rohingya refugees whom Bangladesh authorities had relocated to remote Bhasan Char island broke out of their shelters during a visit by United Nations representatives. “We don’t want to live here,” they chanted. The protests indicate the extent of the problems on the silt island in the Bay of Bengal, where nearly 20,000 Rohingya, including over 8,000 children, have been moved in recent months from the refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar. In research by Human Rights Watch for a new report, refugees described being lured to the island with false promises of adequate food and livelihood, monthly cash assistance and access to proper health care and schools. A recent cyclone that missed the island still caused strong winds and some flooding there, leading refugees to fear for their safety in the face of the upcoming monsoon season.
What to expect when Biden, Erdogan meet
Expectations are soaring in Ankara over the forthcoming meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on June 14. Erdogan said recently, “I believe that our meeting with Mr. Biden at the NATO summit will be the harbinger of a new era.” Without doubt, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s remarks at a White House briefing on Monday on Biden’s first presidential tour abroad carried positive vibes — that Biden is looking forward to reviewing the “full breadth” of Ankara-Washington ties and discuss Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, Afghanistan and other regional issues as part of an “expansive agenda” next week, while acknowledging that the two leaders will also look at the “significant differences” between the two NATO allies.