MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 18 FEBRUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
The first lady Emine Erdoğan makes a speech at the Meeting on Combating Climate Change held by the Turkish ministry of environment and urbanisation at the Beştepe National Congress and Culture Centre.
Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty
No defense agreement during Imran Khan’s Lanka visit
Sri Lanka and Pakistan will not be signing any defense agreement during the visit of the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to Sri Lanka from February 22 to 24, Lankan Foreign Secretary Adm. Prof. Jayanath Colombage said. “A number of agreements on economic cooperation, culture and other subjects are on the cards but none on defense,” Adm. Colombage said. He was asked to comment on a report in a Sunday newspaper that there would be an agreement on maritime security. While Sri Lanka has been having naval exercises with India regularly under the SLINEX series, it has not had any such exercise with Pakistan either in the bilateral or the multilateral format, though Pakistani naval vessels have been visiting Colombo off and on.
On Myanmar, Biden has multilateral ambitions but little leverage
On Feb. 10, the day U.S. President Joe Biden announced sanctions on Myanmar's military leaders, a senior State Department official briefed bipartisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the situation in the Southeast Asian country. While lawmakers expressed strong support for condemning the coup and returning Myanmar to democratic control, they also recognized that Washington has little direct leverage to persuade the junta to change course. "There was an urging by both Republican and Democratic members to pursue a multilateral sanctions-and-pressure campaign against Myanmar to exert more leverage, and in particular convince Japan and Singapore to act, given they are Myanmar's largest financial partners behind China," according to one participant in the briefing.
India central bank warns of bad debt surge as pandemic relief ends
Indian banks will see a spike in bad debt later this year as a key coronavirus relief measure expires, the central bank says, flagging a source of potential financial instability that could hamper lending to businesses and individuals. Nonperforming debt will account for 13.5% of all outstanding bank loans in September, the Reserve Bank of India forecasts, up 6 percentage points from a year earlier. The RBI granted a deferment on loan payments to businesses and individuals at the end of March 2020 as infections began to rise. Even if the payments are past due, the debts have not been considered nonperforming.
Pakistan in diplomatic push to exit FATF grey list
Pakistan has reached out to member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in an effort to garner their support for exiting from the grey list, just days ahead of a meeting of the global watchdog on terror financing. The FATF plenary is set to begin on February 22. This year the session would be held virtually. The four-day meeting would decide whether to keep Pakistan in the grey list or not. Although Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sounded optimistic about the outcome of the upcoming FATF meeting, officials admitted that Pakistan would remain in the grey list at least until June. Ahead of the FATF plenary, Pakistan has been seeking the support of member countries for an on-site visit, a crucial step -- if agrees -- will brighten Islamabad’s chances of formally exiting the grey list by June.
Government seeks logistical support from India, China even as poll uncertainty continues
Almost two months after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli declared snap polls for April 30 and May 10, the Supreme Court is in the final leg of hearing writ petitions against his House dissolution move, with the amicus curiae starting to present their arguments from Tuesday. If five members of the amicus curiae complete their arguments by Friday, a verdict is likely in about two weeks. Elections will take place only if the court upholds House dissolution. The Election Commission has meanwhile expedited its preparations. After holding a consultation with the parties, the poll body has sought support from neighbouring countries. It, however, has yet to resolve the Nepal Communist Party legitimacy dispute, the sine qua non of the elections.
Biden seeks to sideline Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The Biden administration has said it expects Saudi Arabia to “change its approach” to the US and signalled that it wants to minimise any direct contact between the president and the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The stance marks an abrupt change compared with the Trump administration, which showered the young heir with attention and praise. It comes as intelligence officials are preparing to release – possibly as early as next week – a declassified report to Congress that will describe its assessment of the crown prince’s alleged culpability in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the US-based Washington Post journalist who was killed by Saudi officials in 2018.