MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 29 APRIL
PICTURE OF THE DAY
A worker paints over a mural of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Russia's government has ordered opposition leader Alexey Navalny's political organization to shut down, at least for now. The fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin just ended a three-week hunger strike in a Russian prison.
What do closer Russia-Pakistan ties mean for the region?
The Russian foreign minister’s recently concluded visit to South Asia heralds a new era in Russia’s South Asian policy. Russia and India are strategic partners; while Moscow was once Pakistan’s predominant security concern. But the geostrategic developments in the last decade or so have resulted in a global strategic realignment. A change in Russia’s South Asian policy is also visible. New alliances are being developed which would likely have serious implications for regional security and strategic stability. Before regional security implications are analysed, it is important to assess what has compelled this change in regional strategic orientation. To deconstruct the change in Russia’s South Asian policy, two important components require analysis.
India grieves 200,000 dead, with likely many more uncounted
Three days after his coronavirus symptoms appeared, Rajendra Karan struggled to breathe. Instead of waiting for an ambulance, his son drove him to a government hospital in Lucknow, the capital of India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh. But the hospital wouldn’t let him in without a registration slip from the district’s chief medical officer. By the time the son got it, his father had died in the car, just outside the hospital doors. “My father would have been alive today if the hospital had just admitted him instead of waiting for a piece of paper,” Rohitas Karan said. Stories of deaths tangled in bureaucracy and system failure have become dismally common in India, where deaths on Wednesday officially surged past 200,000. But the figure is likely far lower than the true count.
China pushes defence ties with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka
China’s Minister of Defence Wei Fenghe, visiting Bangladesh and Sri Lanka this week, has called on countries in the neighbourhood to resist “powers from outside the region setting up military alliances in South Asia”. General Wei’s comments in Dhaka on Tuesday came amid a push back from Chinese officials on the India-U.S.-Australia-Japan Quad grouping, which some in Beijing have described as a quasi-military alliance.
Severe wave in India reveals Quad’s hypocrisy in combating COVID-19
The attitude of the other three Quad countries to the raging COVID-19 epidemic in India has shocked and disappointed both Indians and the world. This was even after the Biden administration announced it would ship 60 million doses of vaccine to other countries including India. At the first summit of Quad leaders, they stated that, "Quad partners are working collaboratively to achieve expanded manufacturing of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines at facilities in India." What they considered at that time was India's commercial value and manufacturing capability. When India's vaccine production is affected by the epidemic, it is natural for the other three countries - the US, Japan and Australia - to fear an obligatory relationship with India or bear the consequences of India's losses. Unfortunately, Washington does not uphold the concept of a community with shared future for mankind. But it fears that the epidemic in India could eventually bring disasters to the US itself. So it first declined to help India, then eventually chose to export vaccines under great international pressure.
US orders embassy staff to leave Kabul as it begins troop pullout
The United States has ordered non-essential staff to leave its Kabul embassy, citing increased threats as Washington prepares to end its 20-year war in Afghanistan. The order came two weeks after President Joe Biden announced that US troops, currently about 2,500, would leave the country by September. Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan, warned in a Senate hearing that US aid could be slashed if a Taliban-dominated government did not respect human rights. The State Department said in a travel advisory that it had “ordered the departure from US embassy Kabul of US government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere”. Ross Wilson, the acting US ambassador in Kabul, said the State Department took the decision “in light of increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul”.
The metaphysics of India’s colonial project in Kashmir
The juridical apparatus of the Indian state is built to criminalise Kashmiri resistance and normalise their oppression. One of the oft-repeated assertions that one comes across concerning Kashmir is that it is marked by a condition of “lawlessness”. However, such an argument presupposes the possibility of a stable and steady rule of law, against which the “lawlessness” stands as a kind of anomaly. Such an argument fails to consider how the application of law, its reformulation, its suspension, are all malleable instruments in the Indian colonial epistemic and political arsenal. The fact that Kashmiris are subjected to Indian laws, regardless of the complexion of the law, is in and of itself a problem. The point is not that the Indian state misuses its power in Kashmir, but that the Indian state must not wield any power at all, regardless of how this power is made use of.
Biden: 'We are in a competition with China to win the 21th century'
As U.S. President Joe Biden's first 100 days draw to a close, he has one key message to the nation and the world: "America is on the move again." In his first speech to Congress Wednesday night, Biden introduced an ambitious plan to strengthen U.S. national power -- from adding four more years to public education to boosting investment in research and development -- so as to fend off the challenge of China. "We're in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century," the president said to a standing ovation. On foreign policy, Biden said that he has told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, "just as we do with NATO in Europe -- not to start conflict -- but to prevent conflict."