MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 17 APRIL
PICTURE OF THE DAY
Farmers eat a meal during a 24-hour blockade of a major expressway as part of their ongoing protests against new farm laws in Dasna.
Russia’s South Asia diplomacy
Russia’s long-serving Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shuttled between Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad in recent weeks, putting on a diplomatic display that could be described as admirably adroit as much as it was divisive. From China and India, Lavrov fulminated against a hostile America’s attempts to divide Asia through the “Indo-Pacific” concept and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. But in Pakistan he welcomed America’s talks with the Taliban.
China may send peacekeepers to Afghanistan when US troops leave: Experts
Beijing may consider sending a peacekeeping force to Afghanistan if the security situation in the South Asian country poses a threat to the neighbouring Chinese province of Xinjiang after American troops pull out, analysts said. US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he would withdraw all remaining US troops – about 2,500 – from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack in New York. The withdrawal may pose a threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability, which could spill over into Xinjiang and disrupt China’s counterterrorism efforts. In 2018, China trained Afghan troops and helped set up a mountain brigade. The training took place in China and the aim of the brigade was to counter possible attacks by al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Thaw in Pakistan-India tensions is 'tactical': Experts
United Arab Emirates-brokered backdoor diplomacy has brought a thaw in otherwise mounting tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, but it is no more than a “tactical move,” say local experts. Senior Pakistani and Indian intelligence officials held a series of secret meetings in Dubai in January this year in an attempt to stem the escalating tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the disputed Kashmir valley between the two neighbors. Last month, the two militaries agreed to honor the 2003 cease-fire along the LoC, followed by an exchange of letters between the two premiers, which was widely viewed as an outcome of the backdoor diplomacy. The UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, confirmed Wednesday that the Gulf state is mediating between New Delhi and Islamabad to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.
Who’s who in Myanmar’s National Unity Government
Myanmar’s ousted lawmakers formed a parallel government on Friday in an attempt to defy and discredit the country’s ruling military regime, restore civilian rule and establish a federal union. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), established by ousted lawmakers in the wake of the military coup in February, said in a statement that it had formed a National Unity Government (NUG) based on the mandate bestowed on it by the people in the 2020 general election, which the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. Despite being outlawed by the regime, the CRPH enjoys popular support at home and abroad. The new government is a coalition of democratic forces in Myanmar, including stakeholders from the country’s ethnic groups, formed under the terms of the Federal Democracy Charter, which the CRPH made public in March. The charter guarantees the formation of a federal union, something the country’s ethnicities have long sought.
Afghanistan war cost more than $2T and 240,000 lives, report finds
When you add up the cost of Defense and State Department funds sunk into Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support, then throw in the cost of caring for the conflicts’ veterans and the interest on the money borrowed to cover it all, you’re looking at over $2 trillion, according to a report released Friday. The Costs of War Project detailed its most recent estimates, finding that most of the money came out of $933 billion in DoD overseas contingency funding. The rest includes: $443 billion in DoD base budget increases to support the war; $296 billion to care for veterans; $59 billion in State overseas contingency funds; and $530 to cover the interest on the money borrowed to fund 20 years of deployments. Those funds do not, however, include the amount the United States government is obligated to spend on lifetime care for American veterans of this war, nor does it include future interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war.
Keep your distance, Kashmir police tell media
When word gets out of a gunfight between security forces and separatists in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the media are quick to respond. "All it takes is a call from sources," said Qisar Mir, a photojournalist in the state's Pulwama district. "The moment I get a confirmation, be it any time and weather, I have to immediately rush to the spot and cover the gunfight." But that could change after the police chief in India-controlled Kashmir told media to stay clear of clashes, citing safety and national security risks. The remarks by Kashmir's police inspector general, Vijay Kumar, would prevent media from covering these clashes live. Instead, a district senior superintendent of police would brief journalists on what took place. Kumar's remarks were made during a news conferences, during which he said media should keep their distance and not carry live coverage.
Iran starts enriching uranium at 60%, its highest level ever
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Tehran has started 60 percent uranium enrichment at Natanz nuclear facility, days after an explosion at the site that Tehran blamed on Israel. “We are now getting nine grams [almost a third of an ounce] per hour,” Ali Akbar Salehi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on state television, after Tasnim news agency reported that production was under way at the Natanz nuclear facility. Earlier, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said Iranian scientists had successfully started enriching 60 percent uranium at 12.40am (20:10 GMT on Thursday). The comment by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, quoted by state television, did not elaborate on the amount Iran planned to enrich. However, it is likely to raise tensions even as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over a way to allow the US back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces.