MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 17 FEBRUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
People protest the recent military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb. 16, 2021. Meanwhile, Myanmar police filed a second charge against ousted State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, extending her house arrest. Suu Kyi's lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the ousted leader is being charged with violating the country's Natural Disaster Law, without elaborating further. Suu Kyi was first charged with illegally importing walkie talkies and meant to be held under house arrest until Wednesday.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
India-China border dispute: as both sides withdraw troops, did New Delhi get a poor deal?
After nine tense months, India and China’s border stand-off might now be inching towards a resolution. Since last week, both sides have agreed to withdraw thousands of their troops from the Pangong Tso glacial lake high in the Himalayas. Footage supplied by the Indian government shows Chinese tanks turning away from the lake’s north bank and heading towards their base camps, followed by Indian tanks doing the same. On Indian news channels, many are hailing this as a victory for the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But within some analyst circles in New Delhi, scepticism and criticism are prevailing rather than collective relief at a conflict averted between two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Myanmar has no easy way back to elections
The political journey of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha offers a playbook of sorts for Myanmar's coup-maker Min Aung Hlaing. In 2014, then army chief Prayut staged a coup and suppressed pro-democracy activists and politicians from the ousted Pheu Thai Party. He oversaw the drafting of a new Constitution that made it harder for Pheu Thai to return, and then held an election in 2019 which rebranded him as a civilian politician. Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power on Feb 1, appears to be putting those set pieces in place. His chief rival, the leader of the National League for Democracy party, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, is now detained under charges that could rule her out of any future election - even if she is freed again.
Nepal takes Tripura chief minister’s statement up with India’s Ministry of External Affairs
Nepal has taken exception to a recent statement by Biplab Kumar Deb, chief minister of Tripura state of India, in which he quoted India’s Home Minister Amit Shah as saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party would soon form its government in Nepal. A Nepali diplomat in the Nepali embassy in New Delhi told the Post over the phone that Ambassador Nilamber Acharya telephoned Arindam Bagchi, joint secretary in charge of Nepal and Bhutan at India’s Ministry of External Affairs, and expressed his reservations about Deb’s statement. Deb on February 13 said that during a tea party with the state leadership of Tripura, Shah had said that he plans to establish the party in neighbouring countries after winning in most of the states in India.
Pakistan accuses India of stoking conflict in Indian Ocean
Pakistan’s foreign minister has accused eastern neighbour India of adopting “belligerent and aggressive policies” to raise the chances of conflict in the Indian Ocean, the Pakistani state news agency reported. Shah Mehmood Qureshi also discussed concerns about India’s acquisition of advanced naval weapons technology from Western partners and through domestic development in his comments to the Ninth International Maritime Conference in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Monday. “India’s belligerent and aggressive policies – currently driven by an extremist Hindutva ideology – pose an immediate and pervasive threat to international and regional peace and security,” he said, as quoted by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news service.
South Africa asks India's Serum Institute to take back vaccines
South Africa has asked the Serum Institute of India to take back the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses the company had sent in early February, The Economic Times reported on Tuesday, a week after the country said it will put on hold use of AstraZeneca's shot in its vaccination program. AstraZeneca has said its vaccine appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant, based on data from a study by South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University.
The Biden administration can make a difference in the Middle East
The floodgates of unsolicited foreign policy advice for the Biden administration are now wide open. Some sensible individuals offer useful suggestions. However, much of the advice is coming from former US government officials who participated in creating the very foreign quagmires they now audaciously propose to fix. Their policy prescriptions often reflect a serious lack of understanding of international issues that prioritises agendas pushed by domestic and foreign lobbies and narrow US goals over effective diplomacy. I prefer to stay out of the policy advice game, and instead, only highlight a few enduring principles that might be useful in strengthening any major power’s foreign policy.