MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 22 FEBRUARY
PICTURE OF THE DAY
A swarm of desert locusts fly after an aircraft sprayed pesticide in Meru. It has been more than a year since the worst desert locust infestation in decades hit the region. A new wave of the insects is spreading through Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, but the use of cutting-edge technology and improved coordination is helping protect the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images
Where were the protesters when the Rohingya were being murdered?
For almost three weeks there have been mass protests on the streets of Myanmar. On 1 February, the Tatmadaw, or military, moved against the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, claiming fraud in last November’s elections, which her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), comprehensively won. The nationwide defiance of the military coup has been courageous and impressive and echoes similar protests in Russia, Belarus and elsewhere. But, as welcome and important as these demonstrations are, they also lead to a difficult and uncomfortable question. Where was all the marching and shouting and defiance over the past four years as the Tatmadaw organised a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people, razing their villages, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh?
Jaishankar’s visit to Male enhances India’s economic engagement with the Maldives
Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s current foray into the Maldives is meant to further enhance India-Maldives economic ties which have been growing exponentially since the exit of the pro-China Abdullah Yameen regime in 2018. According to a Maldivian government spokesman Miuvan, Jaishankar would oversee the signing of a number of MoUs and symbolically hand over 100,000 COVIDSHIELD vaccines during his two-day sojourn. The MoUs would be on: the Second Amendatory Dollar Credit Line Agreement; the Geydhoshu Fish processing plant in N. Kendhikulhudhoo; Cooperation in the Field of Sustainable Urban Development; Cooperation and Collaboration in Broadcasting; and the Letter of Intent between the Fahi Dhiriulhun Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of India.
As US plays off India and China, it risks losing a nuclear-armed ally: Pakistan
A month after Joe Biden assumed the US presidency, Pakistan is increasingly concerned that the direction of its future relationship with the United States could be determined by Washington’s competition with China and the role that neighbouring nemesis India might play in it. Since assuming power on January 20, Biden’s administration has placed great emphasis on strengthening the role of the Quadrilateral Alliance comprising the US and its key allies in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical theatre: Japan, Australia and India. Building a “stronger regional architecture” under the umbrella of the Quad to counter China’s expanding role in the Indo-Pacific has figured prominently in US government readouts about recent conversations between the US secretaries of state and defence and their Indian counterparts, as well as for Biden’s video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 8.
What is the EU's stand on the Kashmir conflict?
India recently invited an international group of 24 envoys to Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to showcase "normalcy" a year after the region was stripped of its special semiautonomous status. Armed guards and officials from the Foreign Ministry accompanied diplomats from Europe, Africa, and Central and South Asian nations this week on a tour of Srinagar, Kashmir's largest city. The envoys were then escorted to the western town of Magam, where they met several officials, including recently elected local body representatives. "A curated tour of foreign dignitaries to showcase normalcy in the valley to the outside world is misleading," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a Kashmir separatist leader, told media.
Afghanistan at a key crossroads in its history
Almost two decades after 9/11, one of the biggest early foreign policy decisions that US President Joe Biden will have to make is over Afghanistan, at a crossroads in its history. Biden and his new administration are in the throes of a comprehensive policy review over how best to end America’s 20-year engagement there, its longest war. Biden will report before the May 1 deadline to withdraw all foreign forces, set in a US-Taliban peace agreement brokered by the Trump team. NATO, which took control of international security operations in Afghanistan in 2003, met last week to discuss its own presence in what is also the military alliance’s longest, costliest, and most ambitious operation. At the meeting, NATO defense ministers effectively pushed back a decision on the May 1 deadline to await Biden’s review, to try to ensure alignment with Washington.
Duterte wants US$16 billion for VFA with American military
A demand by the Philippine government that the United States quadruple its aid to Manila in exchange for allowing US troops to operate in the country may have shocked Washington, but some experts think the country’s strategic position in the South China Sea justifies the price tag. Following recent bilateral talks aimed at sealing a new Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, President Rodrigo Duterte put the US on notice that if it wanted a deal it would “have to pay”.