MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 25 FEBRUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
A supporter of a faction of the ruling Communist party gets her face painted before taking part in a victory rally after a supreme court ruling to overturn the prime minister’s decision to dissolve parliament.
Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images
Leave now, extension, or indefinite stay: Biden’s 3 bad Afghanistan options
President Joe Biden has been presented with three broad options for how to prolong or end America’s involvement in the 20-year Afghanistan War — and all three have significant drawbacks for the administration and the Afghan people. Here’s what Biden’s military and intelligence advisers offered up in recent days, as reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, details of which I later confirmed. Each plan has serious pitfalls, experts and US officials say.
Pakistan to give Sri Lanka US$ 50 million as credit for defense projects
The Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged a US$ 50 million credit line for Sri Lankan defense projects, the Joint Communique issued on Wednesday at the end of his two-day visit to Sri Lanka said. The communique also said that efforts will be made to increase bilateral trade to US$ 1 billion. Presently it is about US$ 460 million while the potential is stated to be US$ 2.7 billion. On defense, both sides expressed satisfaction at the existing bilateral cooperation in the field of defense, and noted that the elevation of staff-level talks to Defense Dialogue has further provided an opportunity to expand security sector relations.
Indonesia and Myanmar foreign ministers meet in Bangkok
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met her Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin in Bangkok on Wednesday, as Jakarta steps up its push for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations-led resolution of the crisis in Myanmar. Marsudi traveled to the Thai capital after canceling a planned trip to the Burmese capital of Naypyitaw. Indonesia faces the difficult task of uniting the 10-nation ASEAN bloc behind its efforts, but Marsudi said member states have finally agreed to hold a foreign ministers' meeting to discuss the Myanmar situation. Marsudi's meeting with Wunna Maung Lwin was held at the Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, north of Bangkok.
Supreme Court may have brought politics on track but experts say crisis hasn’t ended
While declaring the dissolution of the House of Representatives unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Tuesday also said that its winter session must resume within 13 days, or by March 8. The first order of work for the reinstated House will be the formation of a new government as the Nepal Communist Party with 173 members in the 275-member lower house has split and there is no immediate likelihood of the two factions coming together. How that process for the formation of a new government will move ahead, however, depends on the steps that Oli takes, according to observers.
Myanmar: Optimism and Fear
Over the weekend, and into Monday Myanmar time, the situation in the country continues to disintegrate. Although the civil disobedience movement continues to show its strength, with large demonstrations over the weekend and on Monday, the armed forces have begun to crack down with deadly force in Mandalay and other parts of the country; police killed two protestors in Mandalay on Saturday, and injured at least twenty others. The situation is particularly ominous, however, for several reasons. One, as the independent analyst David Scot Mathieson notes in a detailed piece on the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military has consistently shown both high levels of brutality and an ability to keep itself from splintering, even in the face of protests and other pressures that have forced militaries in other countries to splinter. “The Tatmadaw has been remarkably successful at ensuring institutional cohesion,” he notes.
India’s democratic exceptionalism is now withering away. The impact is also external
Levitsky and Ziblatt are now clearly relevant to India. India’s democracy is backsliding, not because of the generals and soldiers, but because elected politicians are subverting democracy. Very soon, two of the most widely read annual democracy reports — by America’s Freedom House and Sweden’s V-Dem Institute — will be published. They had argued last year that India was on the verge of losing its democratic status. Let us see whether this year’s reports call India undemocratic, or only “partly free”.
Biden to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman about Khashoggi report
President Joe Biden is expected to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on Wednesday, ahead of the scheduled release of a US intelligence report detailing the disappearance and murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Citing a source, the news website Axios reported late on Tuesday that the “imminent release of the explosive report” could entangle one of the king’s sons without mentioning any names. Should it proceed as scheduled, the call would be the first conversation between Biden, as US president and King Salman.