MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 26 JANUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
A woman looks at the graffiti depicting the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny behind bars with a dove freeing him from detention, by an unidentified street artist known as Harry Greb. Navalny was detained after his arrival to Moscow from Germany on 17 January. Navalny urged Russians to take to the streets to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Fabio Frustaci /EPA
With Biden in White House, it won’t be smooth sailing for Modi
While Joe Biden, a liberal democrat and a secular integrationist, is the new tenant at the White House, Narendra Modi with an ideology diametrically opposed to Biden, is entrenched in New Delhi. Differences between the two are bound to arise as both are fiercely committed to their respective ideologies and political agendas. Touted in the Trump era as “strategic partners”, India and the US will be two different kettles of fish from now on. While India is lurching towards authoritarianism and communal intolerance, the US is trying to shed such tendencies. While Biden will be viewing Modi critically, Modi will be approaching Biden cautiously, even if he continues to indulge in his make-believe bear hug diplomacy.
Myanmar's Rakhine problem is a domestic and international challenge
Much about Myanmar's Nov. 8 general election was predictable: A landslide win for Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy; allegations of fraud from the military-aligned opposition; and disappointing results for most ethnic minority parties. But no one expected the poll to trigger an opportunity to end the fighting in the country's most sustained and vicious conflict in decades. Over the last two years, clashes between the military and the Buddhist-dominated Arakan Army, an insurgent group based in the country's west, have left thousands of combatants and civilians dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced in Rakhine and Chin states.
PM Modi can put lipstick on a pig but the fact is India now behind even Bangladesh
We have entered the 13th consecutive quarter of economic slowdown in India. Gross Domestic Product, meaning the total value of services and goods produced in this country in the last 12 months, shrunk in 2020-2021 against 2019-2020. We made less than we did the previous year. To return to where we were in January 2020, it will take perhaps another year. Perhaps longer, we do not know. The problem did not begin with Covid; it existed much before that. Growth began declining from January 2018 and has declined sequentially, meaning every quarter since then. The government has tried to tweak some of the numbers, something that Americans refer to as “putting lipstick on a pig” but to no avail.
Army, ISI chiefs discuss national security with PM Imran
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday held a meeting with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed to discuss, as per the official handout, “matters pertaining to national security”. No further details were provided by the Prime Minister Office but observers believe that the meeting might be linked with the current Afghan situation particularly after the Biden Administration announced to review the peace deal with the Afghan Taliban. The high-level huddle at the PM office is believed to have taken place to finalise Pakistan’s strategy as the Biden Administration will soon formally contact Islamabad to discuss the peace efforts in Afghanistan.
Chinese firm opens assessment tender for strategic deep-sea port in Western Myanmar
A Chinese company has invited proposals by Feb. 8 to provide consultancy services and field investigations environmental and social impact assessments of its ambitious Kyaukphyu deep-sea port project in Rakhine State. The move brings the Belt and Road Initiative project – which would open Chinese access to the Indian Ocean – one step closer to implementation. The project is a crucial aspect of the China-backed Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Deep Sea Port Project, which is part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. The SEZ is expected to allow Chinese trade to bypass the congested Strait of Malacca near Singapore while boosting development in landlocked Yunnan Province.
Myanmar military rolls out red carpet for Russian defense minister
Russian Defense Minister General Sergey Shoigu’s visit to Naypyitaw last week sends a signal that Myanmar and Russia intend to expand their defense cooperation. Myanmar’s generals have a long-term plan to modernize the military, and Russia is expected be a major partner in this process. During the visit, Myanmar and Russia agreed that Russia will supply Myanmar with Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems, Orlan-10E surveillance drones, and radar equipment.
What is Alexey Navalny’s endgame?
Thousands of people across Russia’s 11 time zones took to the streets on January 23 to protest against the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, braving the winter cold, the pandemic, and the very real threat of police brutality and incarceration. The event opens a long protest season in the run-up to parliamentary elections in September which are turning into a plebiscite on the legitimacy of President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule, whether he rigs them or not. The protests took place just a week after Navalny’s daring return to Russia. In August, he was rushed to a hospital in Germany after being poisoned with a nerve agent and stayed there several months to recover. Before departing from Germany, Navalny took part in an investigation into his poisoning (mainly led by British-based investigative group Bellingcat) and even had a long telephone conversation with one of the alleged assassins.