MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 29 MARCH
PICTURE OF THE DAY
COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH
Hindu devotees carry urns containing milk on their heads while taking part in a religious procession to celebrate the Panguni Uthiram festival in Chennai.
China resents US presence in Afghanistan
As Biden prepares a soft landing for his controversial decision to keep the US forces in Afghanistan even beyond the May 1 deadline stipulated in the Doha pact, Beijing has reason to be worried. In remarks on Thursday, Biden did not rule out the possibility of US troops staying in Afghanistan through the end of the year. Biden said, “It’s not my intention to stay there for a long time. We will leave. The question is when we leave.” When asked specifically if US troops will still be in Afghanistan next year, he parried, ”I can’t picture that being the case.” Biden could have been categorical, but he preferred to be metaphorical.
Violent protests spread in Bangladesh after Modi visit
At least a dozen people have been reported injured in clashes between police and demonstrators in Bangladesh, as violence spread across the country on the third day of protests against the visit of India’s Hindu-nationalist leader. Protesters also on Sunday reportedly attacked Hindu temples and a train in eastern Bangladesh. Five people had died on Friday, and another six on Saturday, after police shot at demonstrators in several major districts across the Muslim-majority nation of 168 million people. The protesters – mostly from the Hefazat-e-Islam group – were angry at the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who they accuse of stoking communal violence against Muslims in his country.
On bloodiest day for Myanmar civilians, India attends military parade by coup leaders
India was among only eight countries which chose to send a representative to attend the Myanmar Armed Forces Day military parade in Naypyitaw on March 27, a day that saw the country’s military shoot and kill at least 90 civilians, with some reports putting the death toll at 114. Weeks of demonstrations and a deadly crackdown have roiled the nation since the February 1 coup brought back full military rule. The death toll before Saturday’s bloodbath was estimated at more than 400. Indian officials confirmed that India’s military attaché attended the massive parade. The date marks the 76th anniversary of the Burmese National Army’s resistance against the occupying Japanese during the Second World War. None of the other countries which sent representatives to the official parade of the Myanmar military despite the coup and mounting civilian casualties would be considered democratic by Western or (traditional) Indian standards – China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and Russia. Russia was represented by its deputy defence minister, while the rest sent representatives from their local embassy.
Russia could upset India’s US-China balancing act
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to New Delhi last week was the latest symbol of Washington’s desire for the two sides to close ranks against China’s increasing assertiveness, observers say. Yet in drawing closer to the United States, India could risk alienating its long-time defence ally and largest arms supplier Russia, with whom Delhi enjoys a “special and privileged strategic partnership”.
Afghanistan: What next?
“It is going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline in terms of tactical reasons. It’s hard to get those troops out. We will leave, the question is when we leave.” — US President Joseph Biden. If the Biden administration wants to review Doha agreement, the Taliban are vehemently against revising the timeline of May 1 for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan and have warned of serious consequences if Washington reneges on its commitment. As a result, one can anticipate a standoff as far as the US and Taliban are concerned.
Pakistan, India FMs to come face to face after two years
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is all set to travel to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to attend the Heart of Asia Conference scheduled for March 30, a meeting which among others would be attended by Indian External Affairs Minister Subhramanyam Jaishankar. Top diplomatic officials said that the conference could be important as a likely meeting of foreign ministers of Pakistan and India will determine the direction of relations.
Iran and China sign 25-year cooperation agreement
Iran and China have signed a long-gestating 25-year cooperation accord as both countries remain under Unites States sanctions. The agreement was signed in Tehran on Saturday by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Wang, who touched down in Tehran on Friday for a two-day visit as part of his Middle East trip, also met with President Hassan Rouhani, and Ali Larijani, a representative of the Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei who is said to have been the point person on the 25-year accord. The agreement is said to have been in the works since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran in 2016, also agreeing to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600bn in the next decade.