MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 21 APRIL
PICTURE OF THE DAY
NEW DELHI, INDIA
A family sits in a truck at a bus station in New Delhi on April 19, 2021, to leave for their villages as India battles a record-breaking spike in Covid-19 coronavirus infections that has forced the capital into a week-long lockdown.
US naval intrusion exposes India’s political weakness
In a move that has deeply embarrassed the Indian government, a guided missile destroyer from the US 7th Fleet transgressed into India’s exclusive economic zone on 7 April. Later that day, the fleet commander issued a statement saying, ‘This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims.’ Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long hailed the special relationship between the two countries, highlighting his efforts to elevate India–US engagement to new levels. The US’s unannounced naval incursion has raised questions about whether the bonhomie that characterised bilateral ties under former US president Donald Trump will be reset by President Joe Biden.
Amit Shah’s anti-Bangladesh comments are unacceptable
Thanks to our honourable foreign minister for giving a befitting response to unwarranted comments made by the Indian home minister Amit Shah. From time to time, negative and offensive remarks made by Amit Shah and other Indian leaders have caught our attention. The people of Bangladesh have been infuriated at such comments, though there has hardly ever been any official protest by the government. For 30 years now, a favourite topic of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their allied hardliner Hindutva allies, has been about “large numbers of illegal infiltrators” into India from Bangladesh who are altering the demography of India. The imaginary figure of such ‘infiltrators’ had initially been said to be 3 million (30 lakh). But at the start of this century, BJP’s top leader Lal Krishna Advani put this number at 23 million (2 crore 30 lakh).
'Modi's leadership main reason for COVID mishandling, he's a megalomaniac': Ramachandra Guha
In a hard-hitting and sharply critical interview, one of India’s most highly regarded historians and widely read political commentators has said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership style is the principal reason for the mishandling of the present COVID-19 crisis. Although Ramachandra Guha also blames Modi’s “sycophantic cabinet”, the country’s institutions, including the Supreme Court, which have let down the country and the yes-men officials and bureaucrats who Modi has surrounded himself with, he says the main blame and responsibility rests squarely on the prime minister’s shoulders.
Asean faces ‘Catch-22’ by inviting Myanmar coup leader to talks
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is facing a “Catch-22” dilemma ahead of Saturday’s high-level talks on Myanmar’s post-coup crisis, observers say, as the bloc comes in for criticism for inviting the putsch’s architect Min Aung Hlaing to the meeting. The reproval followed comments on Sunday by a member of the country’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) – which is seeking international recognition as the rightful government of Myanmar – that Asean had not reached out to them. On social media, anti-coup protesters used the hashtag “AseanrejectSAC” to push the bloc to reconsider army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s invitation – with some commentators saying having him sit on the table alongside the bloc’s other leaders lent legitimacy to his February 1 coup.
‘Himalayan Quad’ hype is Cold War mentality
A recent article in the South China Morning Post explores the possibility of China creating its own security bloc, the so-called Himalayan Quad. Citing a former Belarusian diplomat in India, the article argues that recent developments could theoretically "push Beijing to institutionalise the Himalayan Quad project involving China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as a counterweight to the Quad." Some began to hype the "Himalayan Quad" after the video conference of the foreign ministers of the four countries held on July 27 last year. Meanwhile, this is actually a normal mechanism of cooperation between China and its neighbors. According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the main focus of this conference was to strengthen China's cooperation with these countries in collective response to the pandemic, COVID-19 containment and vaccines, as well as post-COVID-19 economic recovery and development.
Xi takes swipe at US by urging restraint from 'meddling'
In a message seemingly directed at the U.S. and its allies, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged countries across the world to adopt multilateralism rather than erecting barriers to cooperation. Speaking via video on Tuesday to the Boao Forum for Asia, an annual meeting held in the Chinese southern province of Hainan, Xi said countries should refrain from "bossing others around or meddling in others' internal affairs." This was an ostensible reference to the recent uproar about allegations of Beijing's using the forced labor of ethnic minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The speech came days after U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to work together to confront challenges from China at a meeting in Washington last week.