MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 22 JANUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
Facemasks of Hindu pilgrims kept for drying are pictured at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island south of Kolkata.
Imran Khan to leverage Pakistan’s wartime help to Sri Lanka
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is to visit Sri Lanka soon. The Hindu quotes a source in the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry to say that the visit is “likely towards the end of February.” Imran Khan’s proposed visit is significant in the context of India and China making vigorous efforts to strengthen their ties with Sri Lanka, which has assumed great strategic importance in the Indian Ocean region. Clearly, Pakistan does not want to be left out of the competition to woo Sri Lanka.
Food insecure Asians doubled to 265m in 2020: UN report
The COVID-19 pandemic may erase many of the gains made in food security and nutrition in the Asia-Pacific region, as stretched government budgets exacerbate chronic underinvestment in social protection, warns a group of U.N. bodies. The pandemic has pushed an estimated 140 million people in the Asia-Pacific region into extreme poverty and doubled the number facing acute food insecurity to 265 million, according to a report released on Wednesday by the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
China defends new village in Arunachal Pradesh amid border construction push
The construction of the village has been seen by analysts as a move to bolster China’s claim to the area, and part of a broader recent push by China to build civilian settlements in disputed frontier areas. China on Thursday said its construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” because it had “never recognised” Arunachal.
Rajapaksas marching Sri Lanka towards military rule
Even at the height of the Sri Lankan state’s armed conflict with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a civil war that saw brazen insurgent attacks on the capital and government installations, the island-nation’s democracy was never seriously at a risk. Now in peacetime, democracy is under unprecedented assault by the ruling Rajapaksa clan. As President Gotabaya Rajapaksa increasingly fills state institutions with ex-military colleagues and loyalists, Sri Lanka’s democratic foundations are slowly but surely being militarized. Observers feel it is only a matter of time before the defense establishment will march on to taking up elected state positions, too.
‘Timber Mafia’ from India running amok in Bhutan
Vast swathes of ancient primary forests in Bhutan have been felled by the “timber mafia” from neighboring Assam in India’s northeast, setting alarm bells off in the Himalayan kingdom. The phenomenon has been discernible for over a decade, but has increased in the last couple of years, an official claimed, with more areas being impacted in the southern districts of Bhutan that border Assam.
India going too far with strategic overdrafts
India has lately engaged in quite some eye-catching actions. These include the planning to deploy its most advanced nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-V (which can reach all of Asia), the release of a draft Arctic Policy, and the enhancement of all-round construction at border amid unsettled tensions with China. As the COVID-19 epidemic still rages across the country, India has said it is ready to save humanity with two "Made in India" coronavirus vaccines. All these moves show that under the Modi administration, India's ambition to become a "leading power" from "a country that counts for a great deal" has not been discouraged by the changes at home and abroad since 2020.
Malaysia's king works to restore public trust in the monarchy
Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, consented to declare a state of emergency earlier this month -- the country's first emergency proclamation since the 1969 racial riots. Officially, COVID-19 was cited as the reason, but the real intention was to stall the ongoing power struggle that has dominated Malaysian politics since former Prime Minister Najib Razak unexpectedly lost power in the May 2018 general elections. Many saw the emergency proclamation as a stamp of royal approval for current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, strengthening his hold on power. Such a scenario might appear plausible, if not for one serious flaw. If the palace did indeed favor Muhyiddin, why has the king declined his advice to declare an emergency in October last year?