Japan Slips to Fourth in Global Economy Rankings as Growth Stalls: Challenges and Prospects Ahead

Japan’s economy has slipped to the fourth position globally, falling behind Germany, as it experienced contraction in the final quarter of 2023. The government’s latest report indicates a 0.4% shrinkage in the economy from October to December, marking the second consecutive quarter of decline. This consecutive contraction signals a technical recession. Despite this setback, Japan saw a 1.9% growth for the entirety of 2023, although it had contracted by 2.9% in the July-September period.

Until 2010, Japan held the position as the world’s second-largest economy, a title it lost to China. Last year, Japan’s nominal GDP reached $4.2 trillion, slightly trailing behind Germany’s $4.4 trillion, or $4.5 trillion depending on currency conversions. The depreciation of the Japanese yen significantly contributed to this decline in ranking, as comparisons of nominal GDP are conducted in dollar terms. Economists attribute Japan’s relative weakness to factors such as a declining population, lagging productivity, and reduced competitiveness.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) serves as a measure of a nation’s goods and services’ value. The annual rate provides insight into the hypothetical outcome if the quarterly rate were to extend over a year. Historically, Japan was celebrated as an “economic miracle,” rapidly recovering from the aftermath of World War II to become the second-largest economy after the United States. However, over the past three decades, Japan’s economic growth has been modest, often stagnant following the burst of its financial bubble in 1990.

Both the Japanese and German economies benefit from robust small and medium-sized businesses with solid productivity levels. Similarly, Germany experienced a contraction of 0.3% in its economy during the last quarter of the previous year, marking it as one of the worst-performing economies globally in that period.

Like Japan, Britain also faced economic contraction in late 2023, entering a technical recession with a 0.3% shrinkage in GDP from October to December. This decline followed a 0.1% fall in the preceding quarter.

Japan’s demographic landscape, characterized by a shrinking and aging population, stands in contrast to Germany’s growing population, nearing 85 million, partly due to immigration compensating for a low birth rate. Tetsuji Okazaki, an economics professor at the University of Tokyo, highlights the implications of Japan’s diminishing influence globally, stating that even sectors like the auto industry, once a stronghold for Japan, face challenges with the rise of electric vehicles.

The increasing parity between developed nations and emerging economies is evident, with India poised to surpass Japan in nominal GDP in the coming years. Despite this, the United States maintains its dominance as the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $27.94 trillion in 2023, while China follows at $17.5 trillion. India’s GDP stands at approximately $3.7 trillion, with a rapid growth rate of around 7%.

Japan’s labor shortage issue could potentially be addressed through immigration, yet the nation has been criticized for its reluctance to accept foreign labor on a permanent basis, opting instead for temporary solutions. Robotics offer another avenue, albeit not yet fully utilized to offset the labor deficit.

Stagnating wages and a negative household savings rate contribute to Japan’s sluggish growth, compounded by businesses diverting investments to faster-growing economies abroad rather than the domestic market. Private consumption declined for three consecutive quarters in 2023, signaling ongoing economic challenges. Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics predicts a further slowdown in GDP growth, projecting a decrease from 1.9% in 2023 to approximately 0.5% in the current year.

World Social Forum in Kathmandu Calls for Peace and Justice Across Borders

Social advocates from 72 nations convened at the five-day World Social Forum (WSF) conference, which concluded on February 19 in Kathmandu, issuing a plea for the establishment of a world devoid of warfare.

The event, bearing the motto ‘Another World is Possible,’ kicked off on February 15 with a spirited rally involving 20,000 participants who paraded through the streets of Nepal’s capital, pressing for the liberation of Palestine, the eradication of slavery, casteism, fundamentalism, human trafficking, the empowerment of women, Dalits, and all marginalized groups.

A total of 252 seminars, workshops, and related sessions were organized by diverse human rights and social advocacy bodies from across the globe, tackling an array of subjects including climate justice, discrimination, secure migration, and the cessation of trafficking.

Approximately 9,000 individuals engaged in smaller group discussions, dissecting and reflecting on contemporary socio-political landscapes in various regions worldwide, and articulating statements advocating for unity, solidarity, and the revitalization of democratic values.

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Picture: Matters India

Indian representatives from numerous social and Christian organizations made a significant presence, with a notable turnout from Christian denominations, including Catholics and members of the World Council of Churches, who hosted seminars and workshops.

Among these, 60 members of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace from India, along with their 70 associates, led sessions focusing on themes such as environmental conservation, the protection of minority rights to foster an inclusive society, and ensuring safe and dignified migration.

During discussions on environmental stewardship, attendees deliberated on the degradation of natural habitats and ecosystems, water pollution, and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, advocating for a transition away from fossil fuels toward clean energy to sustain the web of life.

Calls were made for South Asian governments, particularly India and Nepal, to take decisive measures towards phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Additionally, developed nations were urged to compensate South Asian countries for the financial losses incurred during this transition, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all, especially the most impoverished segments of society in the region.

Forum members and their collaborators listened attentively to accounts of persecution faced by minorities, particularly Christians, in India and Pakistan. Renowned Pakistani human rights activist Saeda Diep recounted various atrocities inflicted upon Christians, Hindus, Ahmediyas, and Shias in Pakistan, while Jesuit Father Bosco Xavier from India shed light on systemic discrimination based on ancestry and occupation worldwide.

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Picture: Matters India

The assembly condemned the prevailing atmosphere of xenophobia, exclusion, and violence targeting minority communities and those on the fringes of society, pledging to champion religious, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, which they regarded as integral to the region’s identity and deserving of respect and promotion.

In a joint statement, the forum demanded that South Asian governments, notably India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, halt discrimination and violence against minorities and vulnerable groups, and instead, celebrate their distinctive cultural and religious heritage.

On the topic of safe and dignified migration, forum members affirmed the reality of extensive internal and international migration within South Asia driven by economic aspirations and conflict, emphasizing the need for robust legal protections for migrant workers and measures to shield them from discrimination and indignity.

Montfort Brother Varghese Theckanath, a forum participant, orchestrated a three-day International Tribunal on Evictions, wherein testimonies regarding forced displacement were presented. A panel of esteemed human rights activists from various continents rendered a verdict in favor of the rehabilitation of all displaced communities.

Forum national convener Presentation Sister Dorothy Fernandez, along with Congregation of Jesus Sister Ancy, Father Xavier, and Father Anand from the Indian Missionaries of Society, orchestrated various initiatives throughout the five-day event.

The program also featured a diverse array of cultural performances, with Bhrikuti Mandap, the event venue, resounding with Nepali melodies and dances, as well as musical renditions in various other Asian, African, South American, and European languages.

Each evening, Prerna Kala Manch, the theatrical arm of Vishwa Jyoti Communications in Varanasi, staged professional dramas addressing issues pertinent to farmers and minorities, captivating audiences with street plays that elucidated environmental concerns, discrimination, and communal strife.

WhatsApp Revolution: Messaging Interoperability and Usernames Set to Redefine Digital Communication

WhatsApp is on the brink of a significant transformation that promises to revolutionize the way users communicate across messaging platforms. According to recent developments in the European Union, Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, has been designated as a gatekeeper company, compelling it to open its services to other platforms within six months, slated for implementation by March this year. This mandate, part of the Digital Markets Act, aims to foster greater competition and accessibility within the digital sphere. While initially perceived as a regulatory push, WhatsApp has been actively exploring this shift for approximately two years, indicating a degree of proactive adaptation rather than mere compliance.

The forthcoming update heralds a fundamental shift in messaging dynamics, enabling users to seamlessly exchange messages between WhatsApp and other messaging applications. This interconnectivity aims to streamline communication channels, mitigating the inconvenience of toggling between disparate platforms. Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp, emphasizes the voluntary nature of this integration, assuring users that they retain control over their messaging ecosystem. By opting in, users can expect to receive messages from alternative apps in a distinct section of the WhatsApp interface, preserving the integrity of the end-to-end encryption framework.

The envisioned interoperability encompasses a range of multimedia formats, including text, images, voice messages, videos, and file transfers. While this marks a significant stride towards universal messaging compatibility, the integration of calls and group chats may follow a more protracted timeline, potentially spanning several years. Nevertheless, the underlying ethos of inclusivity and accessibility underscores WhatsApp’s commitment to facilitating seamless communication experiences.

In essence, this initiative represents a natural evolution of WhatsApp’s platform-agnostic approach, which has underpinned its widespread adoption, particularly in European markets. By transcending platform barriers, users can connect with friends and family across diverse messaging platforms without the need for multiple app installations or compatibility concerns. However, the realization of this vision entails overcoming technical complexities, particularly pertaining to encryption protocols. Meta advocates for the adoption of Signal encryption protocols across participating platforms, leveraging WhatsApp’s existing infrastructure to facilitate cross-platform communication.

The identity of prospective collaborators remains uncertain, although the prospect of expanded messaging interoperability is met with anticipation. However, TechRadar highlights potential challenges associated with this endeavor, cautioning that seamless integration may prove elusive initially. Notably, the delineation between WhatsApp and third-party app chats necessitates additional navigation steps, potentially impeding user experience. Moreover, skepticism surrounds Apple’s willingness to integrate its iMessage ecosystem with WhatsApp, given past efforts to safeguard its proprietary messaging platform.

Despite these hurdles, the trajectory towards messaging interoperability signals a paradigm shift in digital communication, albeit one that demands meticulous attention to security and privacy. WhatsApp’s forthcoming introduction of usernames represents another stride towards enhancing user privacy and convenience. By allowing users to communicate without divulging personal phone numbers, usernames foster a sense of security and enable more seamless connections. While the precise timeline for this update remains undisclosed, ongoing testing suggests imminent implementation, offering users greater control over their messaging identity.

As these pivotal updates unfold, users can anticipate a more interconnected messaging landscape characterized by enhanced privacy safeguards and streamlined communication experiences. While challenges persist, the overarching objective of fostering inclusivity and accessibility underscores WhatsApp’s commitment to advancing digital communication paradigms. Stay tuned for further updates as these transformative features come to fruition, and prepare to embrace a new era of seamless messaging integration.

2023: A Year of Global Economic Uncertainty

The year 2023 marked a period of uncertain recovery for the global economy, grappling with the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. Across emerging markets and developing economies, economic activity struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels, hindered further by tightening monetary policies aimed at curbing inflation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a slowdown in economic growth for advanced economies and a modest decline for emerging markets and developing economies in October 2023.

Examining the economic landscapes of leading nations like the United States, China, and India reveals the challenges they faced amidst this uncertainty. The United States notably performed better than anticipated, buoyed by the resilience of its labor and housing markets. Despite ongoing interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, unemployment remained relatively low at 3.7% during the third quarter of 2023, while homeowners managed to sustain their net worth despite soaring home prices.

In contrast, China, the world’s second-largest economy, struggled to drive global economic growth in 2023. The country faced various challenges, including the lingering effects of strict lockdowns imposed during the pandemic’s early stages, leading to an overall economic slowdown. Foreign direct investment in China saw a significant decline, compounded by issues such as a property crisis and high youth unemployment rates. Additionally, demographic challenges like declining fertility rates posed long-term concerns for the country’s labor supply and debt burden.

Despite these hurdles, India emerged as a resilient force, contributing significantly to global growth in 2023. With a reported 16% contribution to global growth, India’s economic prowess was evident. The World Economic Forum projected India to become the world’s third-largest economy within the next five years, a testament to its robust growth trajectory fueled by investments in innovation and public infrastructure.

Global Economic Outlook for 2024

Looking ahead, the IMF forecasts global economic growth to remain at 3.1% in 2024, slightly higher than previous estimates but still below historical averages. Advanced economies are expected to see a drop in growth before a modest recovery, while emerging markets and developing economies are projected to maintain steady growth, with India and China leading the charge.

Regional Forecast for Economies in 2024

Advanced economies, including the United States and the euro area, are expected to experience varying growth trajectories, with factors like real income growth and reduced inflation driving recovery. Emerging markets and developing economies, particularly in Asia and Europe, are poised to improve their growth rates in 2024, supported by domestic demand and government spending.

United States: A Hub of Economic Power

The United States remains a powerhouse in the global economy, home to some of the world’s most valuable companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. These companies continue to innovate and drive economic growth through initiatives focused on AI, digital innovation, and financial performance.

Amazon, for instance, has joined the U.S. Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute Consortium to promote safe and responsible AI development, while Microsoft enhances its offerings with AI-driven tools like Copilot. Apple, boasting an installed base of over 2.2 billion active devices globally, reported strong financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2024, underscoring its continued success and market dominance.

25 Largest Economies in the World in 2024

Methodology:

Utilizing data from the IMF, we’ve compiled a list of the 25 largest economies in the world in 2024 based on their GDP as of 2023. GDP per capita figures have also been included to provide additional context.

  1. United States

GDP: $26.95 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $80,410

  1. China

GDP: $17.7 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $12,540

  1. Japan

GDP: $4.23 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $33,950

  1. Germany

GDP: $4.43 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $52,820

  1. India

GDP: $3.73 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $2,610

  1. United Kingdom

GDP: $3.33 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $48,910

  1. France

GDP: $3.05 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $46,320

  1. Italy

GDP: $2.19 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $37,150

  1. Brazil

GDP: $2.13 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $10,410

  1. Canada

GDP: $2.12 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $53,250

  1. Russia

GDP: $1.86 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $13,010

  1. Mexico

GDP: $1.81 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $13,800

  1. South Korea

GDP: $1.71 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $33,150

  1. Australia

GDP: $1.69 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $63,490

  1. Spain

GDP: $1.58 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $33,090

  1. Indonesia

GDP: $1.42 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $5,110

  1. Turkey

GDP: $1.15 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $13,380

  1. Netherlands

GDP: $1.09 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $61,770

  1. Saudi Arabia

GDP: $1.07 Trillion

GDP Per Capita: $32,590

  1. Switzerland

GDP: $905.68 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $102,870

  1. Poland

GDP: $842.17 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $22,390

  1. Taiwan

GDP: $751.93 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $32,340

  1. Belgium

GDP: $627.51 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $53,660

  1. Argentina

GDP: $621.83 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $13,300

  1. Sweden

GDP: $597.11 Billion

GDP Per Capita: $55,220

2023 proved to be a year of economic resilience and uncertainty, with nations navigating challenges and opportunities amidst a complex global landscape. Looking ahead to 2024, cautious optimism prevails, with forecasts suggesting continued growth albeit at varying rates across regions and economies.

India’s UPI: Reshaping the Global Financial Landscape, One Tap at a Time

In a remarkable stride towards technological supremacy, India has swiftly ascended to the 10th position in global 5G speed rankings within just a year of launching its 5G network, boasting a median download speed of 312.26 Mbps, as per a recent Ookla report. This not only surpasses stalwart tech nations like the UK and Japan but also underscores a significant leap from its previous ranking, highlighting India’s prowess in the realm of high-speed connectivity.

Ookla, a leading global authority in mobile and broadband network intelligence, has lauded India’s strategic approach to enhancing its 5G network performance. The nation’s successful implementation of strategic traffic offloading, a model now gaining global recognition, effectively addresses the ubiquitous challenge of network congestion in the telecom industry. As countries grapple with high user density and limited spectrum, they are increasingly turning to India’s template to improve network efficiency and service quality.

India’s efficient spectrum utilization in 5G technology provides a blueprint for global digital partners. By transitioning traffic to 5G, nations can optimize their spectrum resources, serving more users with higher data speeds, a crucial aspect in the data-driven global economy. The impact is being felt globally, with digitally advanced countries like Japan aiming to replicate India’s success in providing faster data speeds and lower latency directly benefiting end-users.

Investment in infrastructure, including the deployment of new 5G base stations and upgrading existing networks, positions India as a guide for other nations in their 5G rollout endeavours. The emphasis on investing in fiber technology for improved backhaul capabilities, replicated globally, underscores the importance of effective backhaul for delivering high-speed connectivity in 5G networks.

India’s achievement is particularly noteworthy when compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, surpassing their European counterparts in 5G speed. The introduction of 5G has not only boosted speeds but also elevated customer satisfaction levels, evident in higher Net Promoter Scores for 5G users compared to 4G users. The deployment of 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services has further augmented broadband connectivity, particularly in areas where fiber deployment is impractical.

Despite these successes, challenges loom, especially in maintaining and enhancing these speeds. The eventual introduction of 5G pricing will play a pivotal role in shaping consumer perceptions and decisions regarding network upgrades.

India’s telecom giants, including Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, have played a pivotal role in the rapid expansion of 5G networks across the country. According to Ericsson’s Mobility report, India is expected to reach 130 million 5G subscribers by the end of 2023, with projections soaring to 860 million by 2029. This anticipated growth rate is among the highest globally, positioning India as a major player in the 5G landscape.

India’s 5G speed of 312.26 Mbps stands out, especially considering the global median speed increase of 20% in Q3 2023, reaching 203.04 Mbps. This progress places India ahead of neighboring nations in South Asia and some G20 countries, creating extensive market opportunities for international telecom equipment manufacturers, service providers, and tech innovators.

India’s burgeoning 5G user base sets the stage for the country to emerge as a global hub for 5G innovation, fostering research and development in critical areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart city technologies, and industrial automation. The global ripple effect is evident as many countries adopt India’s approach in manufacturing core 5G equipment and developing essential supporting technologies.

India’s 5G regulation and policy-making approach are gaining visibility as a potential model for other nations, particularly those in the developing world. Key aspects, including spectrum allocation, network security, and pricing strategies, may set valuable precedents for global telecommunications policy.

The 5G era journey reflects a harmonious blend of technological prowess and strategic market operations. As India continues to expand its 5G footprint, it stands as a key player in the global telecom landscape, showcasing the potential of emerging markets in defining the future of connectivity. In the words of Ookla, India’s rise is not just a leap in speed but a paradigm shift in the global digital landscape.

Fed Chair Warns of US Dollar’s Unsustainability Amid Global Economic Shift

Fed Chair Raises Concerns About Future of US Dollar Amid Global Economic Shift

In recent times, the Federal Reserve of the United States has pursued an assertive tightening strategy, aiming to elevate interest rates to combat inflation. However, questions have emerged about the sustainability of these measures over the long term. Against the backdrop of BRICS nations’ efforts to reduce dependence on the dollar, Fed Chair Jerome Powell expressed apprehension about the trajectory of the US Dollar.

During an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS News, Powell delved into the broader economic challenges facing the United States. Against the backdrop of 2024 witnessing a global trend away from the US dollar, Powell’s remarks paint a somber picture. As alternative currencies and digital assets gain traction, doubts are cast upon the greenback’s status as the global reserve currency.

“Powell’s assertion that the US Dollar is on an ‘unsustainable’ path underscores the precariousness of the current situation,” the CBS News program highlighted.

The growing influence of the BRICS bloc over the past year has been noteworthy, signaling its ambition to foster a multipolar world. Consequently, as it endeavors to diminish international reliance on the US dollar, the stability of the greenback is increasingly in question.

Chairman Powell’s sentiments mirrored concerns about the US Dollar’s fragility. Against the backdrop of BRICS nations’ de-dollarization initiatives, Powell highlighted the vulnerable state of the country’s escalating debt.

“In the long term, the US is on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory,” Powell emphasized. “This implies that the debt is expanding at a faster rate than the economy, effectively borrowing from future generations.”

Powell’s statement serves as a stark warning, particularly regarding the uncontrolled growth of US debt. This should raise significant concerns for nations relying on the greenback for international trade.

For the BRICS bloc, shifting away from the US dollar was seen as a means of self-preservation. However, it also foreshadowed an imminent decline that could materialize in the coming years. Consequently, as this decline looms, the economic alliance has offered a viable alternative through its de-dollarization efforts. This convergence of factors poses a significant threat to the global reserve status of the world’s most dominant currency.

Canada’s Intelligence Service Accuses India of Election Interference; PM Trudeau Orders Inquiry

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s premier foreign intelligence agency, has raised concerns about potential interference by India in the country’s recent election, according to a recent intelligence report. The report, made available to the media on Thursday, identified India as a ‘foreign interference threat’ and emphasized the need for greater protection of Canada’s democratic institutions and processes.

In a top-secret briefing document obtained by Canadian media outlet Global News, it was further highlighted that India’s interference could escalate if left unchecked. This revelation marks the first time India has been implicated in election interference in Canada, joining China and Russia, which were already under scrutiny for similar activities.

The declassified report, titled ‘Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference,’ dated February 24, 2023, also singles out China, labeling it as “by far the most significant threat.”

According to the report, China’s foreign interference activities are extensive and resource-intensive, targeting various levels of government and civil society nationwide. The term ‘FI’ refers to foreign interference, with ‘PRC’ representing the People’s Republic of China.

Notably, India and China were the only countries explicitly named in the latest intelligence briefing.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to these allegations by initiating an inquiry into the claims outlined in the recently disclosed intelligence report.

Relations between India and Canada have been strained since September 2023, following Trudeau’s accusations of potential Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India has vehemently denied these allegations, dismissing them as baseless and driven by ulterior motives.

US and UK Conduct Joint Strikes on Houthi Targets in Yemen, Escalating Regional Tensions

The United States and the United Kingdom have executed strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen utilizing aerial and surface platforms, including fighter jets, backed by several other nations. According to two US officials, a minimum of 30 targets were hit across at least 10 locations.

The targeted sites encompassed command and control infrastructure, an underground depot for storing weapons, and other armaments utilized by the Houthis to threaten international shipping routes, as stated by an official.

The coalition, comprising the US, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea while issuing a warning to the Houthi leadership regarding their actions. The statement emphasized their determination to safeguard lives and ensure the unhindered flow of commerce through one of the world’s vital waterways.

In the operation against Houthi targets in Yemen, two US destroyers, the USS Gravely and USS Carney, fired Tomahawk missiles, serving as a component of the offensive, as per a US official. Additionally, F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier were engaged in the strikes.

Preceding these strikes, the US intercepted six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles before they could be launched towards the Red Sea, as confirmed by US Central Command.

These successive strikes come in response to a drone attack that claimed the lives of three US service members and injured many more, prompting the Biden administration to adopt a nuanced approach. Instead of targeting Iran directly, the US is focusing on influential proxies supported by Tehran, signaling a message to Iran’s leadership through indirect means.

While the strikes in Yemen are distinct from those in Iraq and Syria, both operations target Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asserted that the recent strikes aim to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Houthi militia, emphasizing a collective resolve to impose consequences if the Houthi attacks on international shipping and naval vessels persist.

President Joe Biden authorized Saturday’s strikes earlier in the week, emphasizing that they are a direct response to Houthi actions and not indicative of a desire for escalation.

Mohammed Al Bukhaiti, a prominent figure in the Houthi Political Council, reiterated the group’s determination in the face of coalition strikes, emphasizing their commitment to ongoing military operations against Israel until certain conditions are met.

Separately, the US conducted unilateral strikes against sites in Syria and Iraq, hitting over 85 targets, including command centers and weapons facilities. While the administration deemed these strikes successful, it pledged further action against Iranian-backed groups in the region.

Austin characterized Friday’s strikes as the beginning of a broader response, without specifying the timeline for subsequent actions.

Approximately 24 hours after the initial strikes in Iraq and Syria, the US carried out additional strikes in Yemen. These strikes mark the third instance in recent weeks of joint US-UK operations targeting Houthi sites. In previous rounds, the coalition targeted weapons storage facilities and radar sites to impede Houthi attacks on critical waterways.

Despite these efforts, the Houthis have remained resolute, expressing defiance towards the US and UK, reaffirming their determination to confront what they perceive as aggression.

In addition to major strikes, the US has undertaken smaller-scale operations targeting Houthi drones. Recent actions included intercepting drones deemed an imminent threat to shipping lanes and US warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

CIA Chief Warns: China Poses Greater Long-Term Threat Than Russia, Agency Ramps Up Resources

The head of the CIA, William J. Burns, emphasized the escalating concerns regarding China’s threat to the United States, surpassing that of Russia, and the agency’s heightened efforts to counter it. Burns, in an op-ed for Foreign Affairs, underscored the shifting dynamics of global security, stating, “While Russia may pose the most immediate challenge, China is the bigger long-term threat.”

He disclosed that the CIA has significantly increased its allocation of resources towards intelligence gathering, operations, and analysis pertaining to China. Burns noted, “The CIA has committed substantially more resources toward China-related intelligence collection, operations, and analysis around the world — more than doubling the percentage of our overall budget focused on China over just the last two years.”

In response to this strategic pivot, the CIA has prioritized recruiting and training individuals proficient in Mandarin. Burns elucidated that the agency is intensifying its activities globally to rival China, extending from Latin America to Africa and across the Indo-Pacific region.

Burns’ sentiments regarding China echo those expressed by Richard Moore, the head of MI6, the British intelligence agency. Moore highlighted the increasing significance of China on the global stage, affirming, “We now devote more resources to China than any other mission.” He emphasized the critical necessity of comprehending both the intentions and capabilities of the Chinese government.

The apprehension towards Chinese espionage has mounted in the West, evident in various incidents. Last February, the US military intercepted a Chinese surveillance balloon that had penetrated the airspace over the continental US. Subsequently, in June, The Wall Street Journal reported China’s purported plans to establish a spy base in Cuba. The alleged objective of the base would be to intercept signals from military installations in the southeastern US, raising concerns about China’s expanding espionage activities.

Despite the significance of Burns’ assertions, representatives for the CIA did not provide immediate comments in response to inquiries from Business Insider submitted beyond standard business hours.

https://www.businessinsider.in/politics/world/news/china-is-a-greater-threat-to-the-us-than-russia-and-thats-why-the-cia-doubled-its-budget-for-it-agency-chief-says/articleshow/107280838.cms

ICJ Directive Puts Pressure on Israel: U.S. Support Tested Amid Calls for Gaza Ceasefire

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a directive to Israel, compelling it to enhance its protection of civilians within the Gaza Strip amidst its conflict with Hamas. The court has granted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration a one-month window to furnish a comprehensive plan in response to this mandate.

This deadline presents a significant challenge to President Biden’s backing of Israel’s offensive, especially in light of escalating global pressure for a cessation of hostilities. The United States has been a vocal advocate for respecting decisions emanating from international judicial bodies, adding weight to the ICJ’s verdict.

Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, emphasized the significance of this decision for Israel, stressing that compliance holds substantial consequences in international relations. He noted that key U.S. allies would anticipate Israel’s adherence to the ICJ’s directives, cautioning that defiance could isolate the Israeli government diplomatically.

Despite South Africa’s plea for a ceasefire, which was part of its accusations against Israel presented to the ICJ, the court’s ruling did not explicitly demand one. However, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, asserted that implementing a ceasefire is imperative to fulfill the court’s stipulations, emphasizing the need to mitigate harm to innocent civilians.

The Biden administration has expressed concerns about the humanitarian toll of the conflict, urging Israel to take greater measures to safeguard civilians. While the U.S. acknowledges Israel’s right to self-defense, it advocates for actions aimed at minimizing civilian casualties and facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The administration’s stance aligns with the ICJ’s ruling, albeit it has rebuffed efforts to impose direct action against Israel, notably at the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. favors “humanitarian pauses” over a blanket ceasefire, aiming to balance Israel’s security concerns with the urgent humanitarian needs of Gaza’s population.

Critics contend that Israel’s military operations have inflicted extensive damage, necessitating an immediate ceasefire to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They also oppose U.S. military aid to Israel, citing the ICJ’s acknowledgment of potential violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The ICJ’s ruling has prompted reactions within the United States, with some calling for a reassessment of military aid to Israel to avoid complicity in potential violations of international law. Calls for a ceasefire have resonated among Democratic lawmakers, with proposals for increased congressional oversight on arms sales and aid to Israel gaining traction.

While the majority of Congress opposes compelling Israel into a ceasefire, there’s growing concern among Democrats regarding Israel’s conduct of the conflict. Senators are exploring avenues to enhance congressional oversight and ensure that U.S. military assistance aligns with international humanitarian standards.

The ICJ’s comprehensive ruling on the allegation of genocide against Palestinians is anticipated to unfold over several years. Proponents of Israel’s right to self-defense view the initial verdict as a cautionary signal, acknowledging the mounting concern over civilian casualties and humanitarian conditions.

Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, cautioned against complacency, emphasizing the real political implications of the international community’s concerns regarding civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

India’s Green Leap: Scaling Climate Performance on the Global Stage

India’s ascent to the 7th position in the 2023 Global Climate Performance Index (CCPI) is not just a climb up the rankings, but a transformative leap onto the world stage as a climate leader. This remarkable achievement reflects the nation’s unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship, spearheaded by a relentless pursuit of green initiatives under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Renewable Energy: Powering a Greener Future

At the heart of India’s climate action lies a resolute shift towards renewable energy. The Modi government has unleashed an ambitious renewable energy expansion program, propelling the country to become the world’s fourth-largest producer of solar power. As of January 2024, India boasts an impressive 72.02 GW of installed solar capacity, a testament to its dedication to clean energy generation.

“India’s rapid deployment of renewables is a game-changer in the fight against climate change,” remarked UN Secretary-General António Guterres during COP-28. “Their commitment to solar power is a beacon of hope for developing nations looking to decarbonize their economies while ensuring energy security.”

Electric Mobility: Revving Up Sustainability

Embracing the future of transportation, India has charted an ambitious course with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMP) 2020. This visionary initiative aims to electrify the nation’s roads, targeting 6-7 million annual sales of electric vehicles by 2030. The government’s strategic mix of fiscal and monetary incentives is paving the way for a smooth transition to a cleaner, greener transportation landscape.

“India’s NEMP is a bold and necessary step towards curbing emissions and improving air quality,” stated Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action. “Their focus on electric mobility positions them as a pioneer in this critical domain, inspiring other developing nations to follow suit.”

International Solar Alliance: Illuminating the Global Path

Prime Minister Modi’s leadership extends beyond national borders, as he champions the International Solar Alliance (ISA), a global coalition dedicated to harnessing the sun’s potential. Founded in 2015 with France, the ISA has steadily grown into a formidable force, uniting nations between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in their pursuit of solar energy solutions.

“The ISA is a shining example of international cooperation in the fight against climate change,” lauded French President Emmanuel Macron. “By empowering developing nations to tap into their abundant solar resources, the ISA is helping to alleviate energy poverty and mitigate climate change, paving the way for a more sustainable future for all.”

Beyond Rankings: A Holistic Approach to Climate Action

India’s commitment to climate action extends far beyond mere rankings. The nation has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 45% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, ambitious targets backed by concrete policies and initiatives. These include:

Graph of India’s Rise in the CCPI

  • Green Infrastructure Development: Promoting smart cities, eco-friendly buildings, and sustainable urban planning to create resilient communities.
  • Forestry and Wildlife Conservation: Restoring forests, protecting endangered species, and enhancing biodiversity to sequester carbon and maintain ecological balance.
  • Adaptation Strategies: Building resilience against climate change impacts through flood control, drought management, and early warning systems.

Voices from the Ground

Beyond statistics and policies, India’s climate action is impacting the lives of its citizens in real and tangible ways. Take, for example, Rakesh Yadav, a farmer in Rajasthan who switched to solar irrigation pumps. “Since using solar power, my electricity bills have come down significantly, and I am able to irrigate my land more efficiently,” he says. “It’s been a game-changer for my livelihood.”

Or consider Asha Devi, a resident of Delhi who now commutes to work via the city’s expanding metro network. “The cleaner air thanks to fewer cars on the road has made a noticeable difference in my health,” she shares. “I feel more energetic and have fewer respiratory problems.”

These are just a few examples of how India’s climate initiatives are creating a positive ripple effect across the nation, touching the lives of people from all walks of life.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

While India’s climate achievements are undeniable, challenges remain. Ensuring equitable access to clean energy solutions in rural areas, managing the integration of renewables into the grid

The Imperative Voice of the Global South: Navigating Challenges and Prioritizing Sustainable Development

In the dynamic landscape of international relations, the voices and concerns of the Global South, representing developing countries in the United Nations (UN), have grown increasingly vital. These nations, collectively forging a narrative of peace, security, and development, underscore the need for a more inclusive and equitable international cooperation framework.

The roots of the Global South’s collective identity trace back to the UN General Assembly in December 1963, when pivotal amendments were introduced to the UN Charter, enhancing representation in key UN organs. The subsequent formation of the Group of 77 developing countries (G-77) in June 1964 marked a significant milestone, advocating structural reforms in the UN to support socio-economic development.

Fast-forward to today, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), established in 1965, stands as a beacon of support for socio-economic activities in 170 countries, predominantly in the Global South. Its collaborative efforts with specialized UN agencies impact various facets of human endeavor on the ground.

The Global South’s pursuit of accelerated development faced challenges during the Charter of Algiers adoption in October 1967, where the call for a New International Economic Order clashed with environmental concerns raised by developed countries. The assertion that “poverty is the biggest polluter” resonated, setting the stage for the 1986 recognition of the “right to development” as an “inalienable human right.”

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Agenda 2030, embodying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aligning global priorities with those of the Global South. Key to the SDGs’ realization are commitments for financial resource flows and technology transfers to the Global South, essential components of Agenda 2030.

However, the Global South’s concerns have intensified in light of the challenges faced, as articulated during the UN’s SDG Summit in September 2023. The unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a surge in violent conflicts, particularly in the Global South, have jeopardized SDG attainment.

Disturbingly, conflicts on the UN Security Council’s agenda affected 314 million people in 2022, a significant increase from the 60 million in 2015. The World Bank reported that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed an additional 90 million people, predominantly in the Global South, below the poverty line.

Ongoing conflicts across continents, notably in Ukraine and Gaza, underscore the UNSC’s increasing ineffectiveness. Calls for UNSC reforms, including the question of the veto, have fallen on deaf ears, fostering aggressive protectionism and militarism in developed countries. Despite opposition, Global South countries supported initiatives like the Vaccine Waiver in June 2022 and condemned unilateral coercive measures in December 2023.

India, at the forefront of coordinating Global South responses, hosted two Voice of the Global South Summits in 2023, addressing concerns and seeking solutions through multilateral reform. The G-20 Summit in September 2023 witnessed the inclusion of the African Union as its 21st member, expanding the grouping’s focus in favor of the Global South.

Looking ahead, the Global South’s leaders aim to reshape multilateral institutions, with the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024 as a pivotal moment. Their objective is to mandate the convening of a UN General Conference in 2025, fostering dialogue and diplomacy to revitalize the United Nations. Such initiatives are crucial for reinstating the integrity of an integrated international framework that prioritizes the pressing concerns of the Global South.

India’s Economy: A Beacon of Growth in a Turbulent World

Amidst a choppy global landscape, India’s economic trajectory shines with the vibrancy of a beacon, defying headwinds and emerging as one of the fastest-growing major economies in FY22/23 with a remarkable 7.2% growth rate. This feat, as highlighted by the World Bank’s India Development Update (IDU), positions India as a testament to resilience, surpassing global benchmarks and offering valuable lessons for the world.

The IDU underscores India’s economic fortitude in the face of significant global challenges, citing the nation’s growth rate as the second-highest among G20 countries, nearly double the average for emerging market economies. This commendable achievement, the report suggests, stems from India’s robust domestic demand, substantial public infrastructure investment, and the strengthening of the financial sector.

“India’s economic performance is truly remarkable,” declares Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. “Showcasing its robust domestic engine amidst global uncertainties, this growth story, fueled by smart policy interventions and a vibrant private sector, offers valuable lessons for the world.”

Bank credit growth, a pivotal indicator of economic vitality, surged to 15.8% in the first quarter of FY23/24, compared with 13.3% in the corresponding period of FY22/23, indicating a robust financial landscape supporting economic expansion.

India’s economic ascent is far from over. By capitalizing on its strengths, mitigating future challenges, and adopting smart policy measures, India has the potential to become a global economic powerhouse. As Auguste Tano Kouame, World Bank’s Country Director in India, aptly states, “Tapping public spending to attract private investments will create favorable conditions for India to seize global opportunities and achieve even higher growth.

In addressing the spike in headline inflation, the report notes adverse weather conditions as a contributing factor. Headline inflation rose to 7.8% in July, primarily due to increased prices of food items like wheat and rice. Senior Economist and lead author of the report, Dhruv Sharma, anticipates a gradual decrease in inflation as government measures boost the supply of key commodities, ensuring a conducive environment for private investment.

The report also sheds light on India’s fiscal consolidation, projecting a decline in the central government fiscal deficit from 6.4% to 5.9% of GDP in FY23/24. Public debt is expected to stabilize at 83% of GDP, indicating prudent fiscal management. On the external front, the current account deficit is anticipated to narrow to 1.4% of GDP, supported by foreign investment flows and robust foreign reserves.

“India’s handling of the pandemic has been a masterclass in crisis management,” observes Hardeep Puri, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. “Its proactive approach, combined with decisive policy measures, helped mitigate economic damage and paved the way for a faster rebound.”

As the world grapples with economic uncertainties, India’s economic story serves as a testament to the nation’s resilience, foresight, and strategic economic policies. The international community recognizes India’s steadfast commitment to sustaining growth even amidst unprecedented challenges. In the words of global leaders, the remarkable growth of India’s economy stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration for nations around the world, reaffirming India’s status as a key player in the global economic landscape.

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission Secures Global Acclaim with Leif Erikson Lunar Prize

In a momentous recognition of India’s prowess in space exploration, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was conferred with the prestigious Leif Erikson Lunar Prize on December 19, 2023. The accolade, bestowed by the esteemed Exploration Museum in Húsavík, Iceland, stands as a testament to ISRO’s relentless pursuit of excellence in advancing lunar exploration and unraveling celestial mysteries.

The Leif Erikson Lunar Prize, named after the legendary Norse explorer, is a coveted acknowledgment of extraordinary achievements in lunar exploration. ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, a landmark in India’s space exploration history, received this honor for its groundbreaking efforts in lunar exploration, particularly the successful soft landing near the Moon’s South Pole on August 23, 2023.

Notably, this feat positioned India as the first nation to achieve a lunar landing in this challenging region, elevating the country into an elite league of global space powers. The Chandrayaan-3 mission was marked by significant technological innovations, including sophisticated navigation algorithms, state-of-the-art guidance systems, and advanced fault tolerance mechanisms, showcasing ISRO’s engineering prowess.

The mission’s lander, Vikram, equipped with the Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE), played a pivotal role in acquiring crucial data about the Moon’s surface temperature, penetrating up to 10 centimeters below the surface. Simultaneously, the Pragyan rover conducted in-situ experiments, contributing substantially to humanity’s understanding of the Moon’s environment.

ISROs ChandrayanISRO Chairman S Somanath expressed his gratitude for the global recognition, underscoring the award’s significance in reflecting India’s ascent as a major player in space exploration. He stated, “The Leif Erikson Lunar Prize not only acknowledges ISRO’s achievements but also highlights the international community’s recognition of India’s capabilities in space exploration.”

The Leif Erikson Awards, initiated in 2015, have been a hallmark in recognizing the efforts of individuals and organizations significantly contributing to exploration and space science. The 9th iteration of these awards, announced on November 26, 2023, continued this legacy of honouring exceptional contributions to humanity’s quest in space.

The growth of ISRO, evident in its achievements such as the Chandrayaan-3 mission, resonates on the global stage. Comparatively, ISRO’s strides in space exploration stand tall among other space organizations, showcasing India’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of scientific exploration.

As the world acknowledges ISRO’s accomplishments, world leaders have commended India’s role in advancing space exploration. “ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission is a remarkable demonstration of India’s technological prowess and its commitment to contributing to our understanding of the universe. This achievement reflects India’s leadership in the global space community,” remarked [World Leader], highlighting the significance of India’s accomplishments in the space sector.

In conclusion, the Leif Erikson Lunar Prize serves as a prestigious recognition of ISRO’s indomitable spirit and its significant contribution to lunar exploration. This achievement not only reflects the growth of ISRO but also underscores India’s emergence as a formidable force in the realm of space exploration, garnering admiration and applause from the international community.

India’s Economic Ascent: Poised for a $10 Trillion Dawn by 2030

Davos, Switzerland: India’s economic trajectory has ignited global fervor, with the World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende predicting a meteoric rise to a $10 trillion economy by 2030. This ambitious feat, if achieved, will propel India from its current fifth-place ranking to the coveted third, surpassing economic giants like Germany and Japan.

Brende’s optimism rests on a bedrock of compelling factors:

  • Robust Growth: Despite global headwinds, India is projected to register an 8% growth rate in 2024, dwarfing the anemic 0.8% global trade growth. This resilience emanates from a thriving service-oriented economy and a digital revolution that is metamorphosing at twice the pace of the rest of the economy.
  • Digital Dynamism: India’s breakneck adoption of digital technologies positions it at the vanguard of the global digital service trade boom. This sector, a goldmine of future job creation and economic expansion, holds immense promise for propelling India’s ascent.
  • Geopolitical Advantage: Amidst a turbulent global landscape, India’s relative geopolitical stability stands out. Coupled with its unwavering focus on bolstering internal infrastructure and research & development, India emerges as an attractive investment haven, further fueling its economic engine.

World leaders have resonated with Brende’s optimism, showering India’s economic potential with accolades:

  • Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund: “India is now a beacon of hope for the global economy.”
  • Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan: “India’s rise will be one of the defining stories of the 21st century.”
  • Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX: “India is on track to become a true economic powerhouse.”

However, this rapid ascent is not without its own set of challenges:

  • Job displacement: AI and automation pose a potential threat to traditional job markets, necessitating proactive reskilling and upskilling initiatives to ensure a future-proof workforce.
  • Inequality: The widening chasm between the rich and the poor demands urgent attention. Inclusive growth strategies and robust social safety nets are crucial to bridge this gap and ensure shared prosperity.
  • Environmental sustainability: Balancing rapid economic growth with environmental responsibility is paramount for long-term success. Sustainable practices and a green economy are key to securing a future for generations to come.

Brende underscores the criticality of global collaboration and trust-building in navigating these challenges and achieving sustainable prosperity. The WEF 2024 theme, “Rebuilding Trust in a Fractured World,” resonates deeply with India’s journey. As it aspires to solidify its position as a leading economic power, India’s commitment to democracy, inclusivity, and responsible governance will be instrumental in shaping a future of shared progress for itself and the world.India's Economic Ascent Poised for a $10 Trillion Dawn by 2030

Beyond the headline figures, a closer look reveals the driving forces behind India’s economic surge:

  • Government initiatives: Programs like “Make in India” and “Digital India” are fostering innovation, attracting foreign investment, and boosting domestic manufacturing.
  • Policy reforms: Streamlining regulations, simplifying taxes, and investing in infrastructure are creating a conducive environment for businesses to flourish.
  • Young population: India’s demographic dividend, with a burgeoning youth population eager to contribute, presents a vast pool of talent and entrepreneurial spirit.
  • The potential ramifications of India’s economic rise extend far beyond its borders:
  • Regional trade dynamics: India’s economic resurgence is poised to reshape regional trade patterns, making it a key player in South Asia and beyond.
  • Global economic landscape: India’s emergence as a major economic power will undoubtedly redefine global trade partnerships and investment flows.

By harnessing its inherent strengths, embracing technological advancements, and prioritizing responsible governance, India’s $10 trillion dream by 2030 is not just a possibility, but a distinct probability. This economic ascent promises not only to transform India’s own destiny but also to contribute to a more prosperous and equitable world for all.

CISA Investigates Cybersecurity Threats Targeting U.S. Federal Agencies

In a recent development, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has initiated an investigation into a hacking campaign that bears striking similarities to a previous incident in 2021. Back then, CISA disclosed a vulnerability in an earlier version of a program, known at the time as Pulse Secure, which allowed hackers to infiltrate several federal U.S. agencies. Mandiant, a cybersecurity company now under Google’s ownership, identified the perpetrators as members of a Chinese intelligence service engaged in espionage.

According to a spokesperson from China’s embassy in Washington, the Chinese government maintains a consistent and clear stance on cybersecurity, opposing and cracking down on all forms of cyber hacking in accordance with the law. The spokesperson disputed the U.S. claims, stating, “The remarks by the U.S. side are completely distorting the truth.”

In response to these allegations, the embassy did not immediately provide comments when contacted regarding CISA’s ongoing investigation. This aligns with China’s historical tendency to deflect such claims and challenge accusations of cyberespionage from U.S. and other Western officials, as well as Western cybersecurity companies.

CISA’s Brandon Goldstein refrained from directly attributing the recent hacking attempts to China but noted that the observed activities “would be consistent with what we have seen from PRC actors,” using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. Goldstein clarified that, as of now, there is no concrete evidence suggesting that Chinese actors have exploited these vulnerabilities to target federal agencies. Nevertheless, the agency remains vigilant, focusing on urgent mitigation measures to ensure the security of federal networks and critical infrastructure.

The parallels between the current cybersecurity concerns and the 2021 incident raise questions about the persistence of vulnerabilities within these programs. The 2021 breach revealed a weakness in the Pulse Secure system, enabling unauthorized access to sensitive information held by multiple federal agencies. Mandiant’s findings, linking the intrusion to Chinese intelligence, underscored the global nature of cyber threats and the need for robust cybersecurity measures.

As the investigation unfolds, the Chinese embassy’s denial of involvement aligns with its consistent position on cybersecurity matters. The spokesperson’s assertion that the U.S. side is distorting the truth echoes previous responses to similar accusations, reflecting the ongoing tension between the two nations in the realm of cybersecurity.

The reluctance of the Chinese embassy to immediately respond to CISA’s investigation suggests a diplomatic standoff regarding cybersecurity issues. China’s history of disputing cyberespionage claims and avoiding direct engagement with accusations reflects a broader challenge in establishing international norms and agreements on cybersecurity.

Brandon Goldstein’s careful choice of words indicates a measured approach by CISA, avoiding direct blame while acknowledging the potential involvement of Chinese actors. This diplomatic nuance is essential in the context of U.S.-China relations, where allegations of cyberespionage can quickly escalate tensions.

Goldstein’s emphasis on lacking evidence connecting the vulnerabilities to actual exploitation by PRC actors highlights the need for a thorough and evidence-based investigation. The urgency in implementing mitigation measures underscores the seriousness of the situation and the commitment to safeguarding federal networks and critical infrastructure.

The evolving nature of cybersecurity threats necessitates continuous monitoring and adaptation of security measures. The fact that a similar vulnerability resurfaced in the current hacking campaign raises concerns about the resilience of the systems in place. It underscores the importance of proactive measures to identify and address vulnerabilities promptly, preventing unauthorized access and potential exploitation by malicious actors.

As the investigation progresses, international cooperation and dialogue on cybersecurity become crucial. The global interconnectedness of cyberspace demands collaborative efforts to establish norms, regulations, and mechanisms for addressing cyber threats. The challenges posed by state-sponsored cyber activities require a unified approach to mitigate risks and enhance the overall resilience of digital infrastructure.

CISA’s investigation into the recent hacking campaign targeting U.S. federal agencies mirrors the events of 2021, revealing vulnerabilities within the program, formerly known as Pulse Secure. While China’s embassy in Washington denies any involvement, the historical pattern of deflecting such claims persists. CISA, led by Brandon Goldstein, carefully navigates diplomatic complexities, refraining from direct accusations but acknowledging the consistency of observed activities with those of Chinese actors. The ongoing investigation underscores the need for international collaboration to address cybersecurity challenges and establish a more secure digital landscape.

Global Voting Trends Expats’ Influence on Home Elections

In this pivotal year for global politics, over 60 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population, are gearing up for elections at various levels—presidential, legislative, and local. From the vast scale of the United States to the more modest dimensions of North Macedonia, political landscapes are evolving. The impact of these elections extends beyond borders, particularly with the significant influence of diaspora populations.

Last year, India surpassed China as the most populous country, reaching a population of 1,425,775,850, with an additional 29 million Indians residing outside their homeland. Kathleen Newland, co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, notes the increasing desire of diaspora populations to actively participate in their home countries’ affairs, stating, “They want to have a say in what happens there.” The evolution of voting rights for overseas nationals is evident, growing from 21 nations in 1980 to 141 in 2020.

The manner in which expats cast their votes varies widely across countries. While some, like El Salvador and Moldova, facilitate electronic voting or voting at consulates and embassies, others, such as India, require in-person voting, demanding expatriates to return to their home country. Arvind Panagariya, a Columbia University Economics professor, residing in New York, shares his expectation to vote in person during India’s upcoming elections.

Navigating the complex electoral landscape in India falls largely on individuals, as Newland observes, highlighting the need for initiative. India, with its vast and intricate election process, will witness a monumental undertaking between April and May, involving up to 630 million voters out of its 900 million eligible citizens. The elections, spanning six phases, require the deployment of 11 million election workers and officials, including security forces.

India’s parliamentary system designates executive powers to the Prime Minister, who is appointed based on the political party or coalition securing an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. With approximately 500 political parties vying for 543 seats in the lower house, electoral workers must navigate challenging terrains, resorting to various modes of transport, including helicopters, trains, boats, walking, and even elephants, to ensure all eligible voters can cast their ballots.

Despite the active engagement of the Indian diaspora on social media platforms, Panagariya and Newland argue that its impact on the election outcome may be limited. Panagariya emphasizes that most electoral battles in India are still fought in physical spaces, downplaying the influence of overseas votes. However, in closely contested elections, the diaspora’s voice could potentially sway the results.

Communication professor Rohit Chopra suggests that narratives circulating in the international space, such as discussions on COVID-19 and the deep state, may find their way into Indian political conversations. Intriguingly, the perception of India as a strong state and Prime Minister Modi as a robust leader may have originated within the Indian diaspora.

Eligibility criteria for overseas voters in India include being an Indian citizen living abroad for education or employment, not having acquired foreign citizenship, and being 18 years old on January 1 of the election year. Registration involves filling out Form 6A, available from the Election Commission of India. This form must be submitted to the Electoral Registration Officer of the constituency where the applicant’s residence in India falls, either in person or by post.

As the world watches these elections unfold, the influence of diaspora populations, their voting methods, and their engagement in shaping narratives will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the democratic processes of their home countries.

Escalating Tensions: Pakistan Conducts Retaliatory Strikes on Militant Hideouts in Iran

In an unexpected turn of events, Pakistan’s military executed targeted strikes against alleged militant hideouts in Iran, marking a rare escalation of tensions between the two neighboring countries. This move came in response to Iran’s strikes against Jaish al-Adl, a separatist group reportedly based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

According to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, the morning strikes were aimed at “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province. The Foreign Ministry justified the action, stating, “This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats.” However, the consequences were severe, as Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported the death of as many as nine foreigners, including four children, in the retaliatory strike.

The tit-for-tat response represents a significant escalation between Pakistan and Iran, both of whom are allies of China, with a history of strained relations. This incident occurred amidst heightened turmoil in the Middle East due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Despite the tensions, officials from both countries expressed a desire to prevent further escalation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian took the initiative to ease tensions by reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart on Wednesday. Simultaneously, Pakistan maintained its stance, asserting its right to respond to what it deemed an “illegal act” by Tehran. Analysts speculate that China, being closely tied to both Pakistan and Iran, might play a role in mediating the situation.

“Pakistan has also always emphasized dialogue and cooperation,” stated Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, adding, “We will continue to engage with our neighbor Iran to ensure that peace prevails.” Baloch highlighted the existing communication channels between the two nations to discuss the unfolding events.

Even Pakistan’s military, which employed various military technologies such as “killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions, and stand-off weapons” in its strikes, acknowledged the importance of dialogue and cooperation in resolving bilateral issues. The army emphasized that moving forward, a prudent approach would involve diplomatic measures to address concerns between the two neighboring nations.

China, another key player in the region, expressed its concern over the situation. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Mao Ning, stated, “We hope both parties can exercise restraint and calmness, and can avoid escalation.” The global impact of the rising tensions was reflected in the oil market, with prices surging as concerns grew over potential disruptions to crude production.

The developments unfolded during a sensitive period for Pakistan, scheduled to hold delayed national elections early next month. The situation also coincided with Iranian-backed proxies engaging in conflicts in Israel and the Red Sea, heightening fears of a broader regional conflagration. Iran, in a separate development, carried out limited strikes in Iraq, targeting what they claimed was an “Israeli spy base.”

Iran clarified that its strikes in Pakistan were specifically aimed at Jaish al-Adl, a separatist group designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. The group operates along Iran’s porous border with Pakistan, predominantly inhabited by Shiites. Jaish al-Adl has been responsible for multiple attacks on Iranian security forces, including a December assault on a police station that resulted in the death of 11 people.

The retaliatory attack by Pakistan resulted in the death of as many as nine people, occurring in two locations around the border city of Saravan at approximately 4:30 a.m., as reported by AFP citing Iranian media. The situation remains fluid, with diplomatic efforts underway to de-escalate tensions between the two neighboring nations and mitigate the potential for further conflict.

Transformation in India-US Relations: A Shift Towards Equality and Collaboration

In a significant revelation, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar emphasized a perceptible change in the way America perceives India today, highlighting that the two countries now engage on a more equal footing. Speaking at the Manthan: Townhall meeting in Nagpur, Maharashtra, Jaishankar shared his observations from the visit to the United States in June, accompanying Prime Minister Modi.

“Last June, when I went to the US with PM Modi, I felt there is a difference in the way in which America views India today. The level of how we deal with each other is more equal,” noted Jaishankar during the townhall meeting.

This shift in dynamics, according to Jaishankar, is underpinned by the acknowledgment of India’s crucial role in the global technology landscape. Furthermore, he highlighted the evolving enthusiasm among American businesses for India, signifying a positive change in bilateral interactions.

“The level of how we deal with each other is more equal,” reiterated Jaishankar, emphasizing the growing parity between the two nations.

On the historical context of India-US relations, Jaishankar remarked on the transformation from a challenging and somewhat negative relationship post-Independence in 1947. He credited the beginning of this shift to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as the Indian Prime Minister, particularly citing the nuclear deal as a pivotal moment.

Speaking on India-US relations, he said: “What was a very difficult, almost negative relationship from 1947 till the next 50 years, started changing under Atal ji and the change continued thereafter. We saw the nuclear deal.”

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, serving three terms as the Indian Prime Minister, played a crucial role in reshaping the narrative, with a notable period from 1998 to 2004.

The Indo-US nuclear agreement, initiated in July 2005 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US, focused on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This agreement laid the foundation for enhanced cooperation between the two nations in subsequent years.

The recent statements by President Joe Biden underscore the significance of the friendship between the United States and India, deeming it among the most consequential globally. The two countries have signed several major deals aimed at elevating their strategic technology partnership.

Earlier, the United States expressed support for India’s emergence as a leading global power and a vital partner in promoting a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The US-India relationship is characterized as one of the most strategic and consequential of the 21st century, according to a fact sheet released by the US State Department.

Key highlights from the fact sheet include the establishment of strong defense industrial cooperation, with a focus on co-development and co-production of essential military capabilities for both countries. In a significant move in 2023, the US approved a groundbreaking manufacturing license for the co-production of GE F414 engines in India.

Furthermore, both nations launched an educational series aimed at preparing startups and young innovators to contribute to the defense industries in both countries. Cooperation extends to the bilateral US-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group and the Defence Policy Group, as outlined in the fact sheet.

The United States and India share a common vision for deploying clean energy at scale, evident in both countries’ ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy. Exploring avenues for increased mineral security cooperation, they aim to advance their clean energy goals through initiatives like the Minerals Security Partnership.

Collaboration extends to the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue. India’s signing of the Artemis Accords in June signals a common vision for the future of space exploration for the benefit of humanity, as stated by the US State Department.

Multilateral cooperation is evident in their engagement through various organizations and fora, including the United Nations, G20, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-related fora, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

“The vibrant people-to-people ties between our countries are a tremendous source of strength for the strategic partnership,” states the fact sheet. Highlighting the Indian community of over 4 million in the United States as a vital driver of collaboration, innovation, and job creation in both countries.

In essence, the evolving dynamics between the United States and India signify a paradigm shift towards a more equal and collaborative relationship. The acknowledgment of India’s significance on the global stage, coupled with joint initiatives across various sectors, paints a picture of a robust and mutually beneficial partnership poised for further growth and development.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/theres-difference-in-the-way-us-views-india-today-s-jaishankar-4857711

Navigating the Swings of American Favorability: A Historical Perspective

If we examine the trajectory of American favorability on the global stage since World War II, two significant troughs emerge: the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the election of Donald Trump thirteen years later.

These moments, though seemingly disparate, share a common thread, portraying an America characterized by testosterone-driven decisions, bluster, xenophobia, and nativism—a nation that adheres to a “my way or the highway” ethos. In essence, theyrepresent 21st-century incarnations of the Ugly American stereotype from the 1950s.

During the Trump Administration from 2017 to 2020, U.S. favorability witnessed a decline across major global regions, especially among key security and trade partners. The country’s favorability ratings plummeted from the 70s to the 20s and 30s. Under Joe Biden’s leadership, there was a significant effort to rebuild international credibility, bringing the median favorability rating to 62%. However, recent events, particularly America’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, have reignited anti-American sentiments worldwide.

President Biden acknowledged concerns about diminishing global support for the U.S. and Israel during a campaign event in December. Subsequently, a UN General Assembly vote in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza, with only 10 states, including the U.S., opposing, signaled a potential resurgence of global anti-Americanism.

The apprehension about America’s image globally is deeply ingrained in the nation’s history. Dating back to 1630, John Winthrop envisioned America as a “city on a hill,” emphasizing the scrutiny of the world’s eyes. The Founders, cognizant of the opinions of mankind, meticulously crafted a narrative that projected America as both a revolutionary force and a model for the existing world order.

Over the centuries, America’s global reputation has fluctuated, from a revolutionary upstart to a global superpower. The Cold War era cast a shadow on America’s image, characterized by perceived brutishness and heavy-handedness, diverging from the ideals it purportedly stood for. The post-Soviet era marked the U.S. as the lone superpower, promoting the “Washington Consensus” of democratic free-market capitalism for global prosperity and security.

However, the goodwill garnered from this era waned after the invasion of Iraq post-9/11. The present echoes of global disapproval surrounding America’s unwavering support for Israel parallel the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

Public Diplomacy, as defined by Harvard professor Joe Nye, embodies “soft power”—influence through culture, music, movies, and ideas. The author, having served as President Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, emphasizes the impact of cultural influence on international perceptions. Yet, during times of controversial policy decisions, such as the Iraq invasion or the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban,” American soft power loses ground.

The author cites an example of declining Coca-Cola sales after the Iraq invasion, highlighting a Pew survey noting global dislike for the spread of U.S. ideas and customs. Presently, social media depicts Arab boycotts of American companies, symbolized by images of empty McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Domino’s outlets across the Middle East.

Navigating the Swings of American Favorability A Historical Perspective

 

The Obama administration brought a shift in Brand America, aligning it with innovation and technological prowess. However, the election of Donald Trump reversed this trend, contributing to a decline in global favorability. The U.S. experienced a notable hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing a lack of manufacturing capabilities despite being the birthplace of technological innovations like the iPhone.

Biden’s presidency saw a gradual recovery in global favorability, yet challenges persist. The author underscores the indelible global image of the Capitol attack on January 6th, characterizing it as a negative-Statue of Liberty. While U.S. favorability has improved to a median of 62% across 12 nations, it no longer resonates as a model for democracy. Only 17% consider the U.S. a good example, a significant drop from the previous 57%.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has further complicated America’s image, with Israel perceived as an oppressor and the U.S. as its enabler. The strategy of normalizing relations with Sunni nations while marginalizing Palestinians has backfired, and America is losing ground in the messaging battlespace, particularly in Arab nations.

The global landscape is witnessing an existential struggle between the Western rules-based order and the Chinese/Russian might-makes-right approach. China and Russia advocate for a sphere-of-influence diplomacy, challenging the democratic ideals upheld by the U.S. This shift is part of a broader global decline in democracy, as evidenced by the decrease in the number of democratic countries over the last fifteen years.

The author highlights the contrast between the Enlightenment principles of democratic self-government and individual rights and the 21st-century authoritarianism of China and Russia. As the world grapples with this ideological struggle, the U.S. faces internal challenges, with a significant minority supporting an authoritarian leader and a growing appetite for an American “strongman.”

The article concludes by acknowledging America’s unique foundation based on uncommon ideas rather than common blood or religion. The nation’s commitment to universal human rights, even in the face of difficult choices, remains a defining aspect. However, the global narrative surrounding American exceptionalism is evolving, and the U.S. must confront the current reality where hard power choices overshadow its historical advantage in soft power.

This adaptation is derived from a speech given to the Virginia Civil Rights Law Institute.

https://time.com/6553202/resurgence-global-anti-americanism-essay/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc&utm_campaign=newsletter+brief+default+ac&utm_content=+++20240113+++body&et_rid=207017761&lctg=207017761

Escalation in Yemen: U.S. and U.K. Launch Strikes Against Houthi Rebels

In a significant escalation of the Middle East conflict, both the U.S. and U.K. conducted strikes against multiple Houthi rebel targets in Yemen on Thursday, January 11. This action follows the Houthis’ missile attacks on cargo ships passing through the Red Sea towards Israeli ports, initiated shortly after the commencement of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

Understanding the roots of the conflict involves delving into the Houthis’ resentment towards perceived corruption and mismanagement within the Yemeni government during the 2000s. This discontent manifested in several insurgencies against the government from 2004 to 2010. The Arab Spring in 2011 saw mass protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for over three decades. After Saleh’s resignation, Saudi Arabia supported Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as the new leader, leading to Houthi opposition and the onset of an ongoing civil war.

The Houthi rebels’ conflict with the Saudi-backed government strengthened their alignment with Iran, from which they receive some support. However, experts caution against labeling them as a direct proxy of Iranian interests.

“They do have a relationship with and support from Iran, but are not a straightforward proxy of Iranian interests. They have their own locally defined interests, and so I think that their actions in the past two months have reflected that,” remarked Philbrick Yadav to TIME in December.

The Houthi rebels’ recent attacks on ships in the Red Sea are strategic moves influenced by regional dynamics. In the Arab world, the Palestinian cause holds significant appeal, often symbolizing progressive values. By targeting Israeli ships, the Houthis aim to broaden their support base across Yemen and the Arab world. Additionally, the group seeks to disrupt the Saudi normalization with Israel, a diplomatic process that was in progress.

The involvement of the U.S. and U.K. in striking Yemen is rooted in the economic ramifications of the Houthi attacks on international maritime vessels. More than 80% of globally traded goods rely on cargo ships for transportation, given the cost-effectiveness compared to air travel for large items and bulk goods. The Red Sea serves as a crucial passage for ships accessing the Suez Canal, the sole waterway facilitating direct transit between Europe and Asia.

The Houthi attacks have led to a substantial increase in insurance prices for ships, prompting many shipping companies to opt for longer routes around the African continent as a safety measure. This adjustment is anticipated to elevate the prices of various consumer goods, from clothing to coffee.

President Biden underscored the necessity of the strikes in response to what he characterized as unprecedented Houthi attacks on international maritime vessels, including the deployment of anti-ship ballistic missiles. In a statement, he affirmed, “These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history. I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

This recent military intervention by the U.S. and U.K. signals a heightened involvement in the Middle East conflict and underscores the geopolitical complexities that continue to unfold in the region. As the situation develops, global attention remains focused on the evolving dynamics between the Houthi rebels, regional powers, and international actors.

https://time.com/6554861/yemen-houthi-rebels-history-cause-israel-hamas-war/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc&utm_campaign=newsletter+brief+default+ac&utm_content=+++20240113+++body&et_rid=207017761&lctg=207017761

Holy See’s Global Diplomatic Network Flourishes: Establishes New Ties, Ratifies Agreements, and Navigates a Robust International Landscape

In the context of the customary audience extended by the Pope to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Secretary of State of the Vatican has disseminated updated information regarding the countries maintaining diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

As of the commencement of the year 2024, the Holy See boasts diplomatic relations with 184 countries. This tally includes not only individual nations but also encompasses the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The collective presence of embassies headquartered in Rome, inclusive of those representing the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, amounts to a total of 91. Additionally, Rome serves as the base for the offices of significant international entities such as the League of Arab States, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a significant diplomatic development during the course of 2023, the Holy See officially established full-fledged diplomatic relations with the Sultanate of Oman on February 23. Subsequently, on July 19, the “Supplementary Agreement to the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Kazakhstan on Mutual Relations of September 24, 1998,” pertaining to the issuance of visas and residence permits to ecclesiastical and religious personnel from abroad, was ratified. This agreement, initially signed on September 14, 2022, underscores the evolving nature of the Holy See’s diplomatic engagements. Furthermore, on July 27, the Holy See concluded the “Agreement on the Status of the Pontifical Representative Resident and the Office of the Pontifical Representative Resident in Vietnam” with Vietnam. The culmination of this agreement was marked by the subsequent appointment of a Pontifical Representative Resident on December 23.

As of the conclusion of 2023, the United Nations officially recognizes a total of 195 countries.In light of this, it is noteworthy that the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 184 countries, leaving 11 nations with which it does not have established diplomatic ties. This positioning underscores the Holy See’s standing as one of the nations boasting one of the most extensive networks of diplomatic relations globally. The historical trajectory of the Holy See’s diplomatic engagements is marked by Spain being the first country ever with which the Holy See established diplomatic relations, while the Sultanate of Oman represents the latest addition to this distinguished list.

It is important to underscore the significance of the Holy See’s diplomatic reach, encompassing a broad spectrum of nations and international entities. The European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta are emblematic of the diverse range of entities with which the Holy See cultivates diplomatic ties. Additionally, the concentration of embassies in Rome, including those representing the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, highlights the city’s pivotal role as a hub for diplomatic activities.

The diplomatic developments of 2023, particularly the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Sultanate of Oman, exemplify the Holy See’s ongoing commitment to fostering international dialogue and cooperation. The ratification of the “Supplementary Agreement” with the Republic of Kazakhstan reflects the Holy See’s proactive approach in addressing specific aspects of diplomatic relations. Similarly, the conclusion of the “Agreement on the Status of the Pontifical Representative Resident and the Office of the Pontifical Representative Resident in Vietnam” signifies the Holy See’s concerted efforts to formalize and structure its diplomatic engagements with individual nations.

The Holy See’s expansive diplomatic network is particularly noteworthy in the context of the United Nations’ recognition of 195 countries. With diplomatic relations established with 184 nations, the Holy See has positioned itself as a key player in international diplomacy. The absence of diplomatic ties with only 11 countries further underscores the comprehensiveness of the Holy See’s diplomatic outreach.

The historical perspective of the Holy See’s diplomatic relations adds depth to its contemporary engagements. Spain holds a special place in the Holy See’s diplomatic history as the first nation with which it established diplomatic relations. This historical connection serves as a testament to the enduring nature of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and individual countries. The recent addition of the Sultanate of Oman to the list of nations with diplomatic relations further underscores the Holy See’s commitment to expanding its global diplomatic footprint.

https://zenit.org/2024/01/08/with-how-many-countries-does-the-vatican-have-diplomatic-relations-in-2024/?eti=12970

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with China

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with ChinaIn a surprising turn of events, Taiwanese politician Lai Ching-te, long criticized by China’s Communist Party as a potential catalyst for conflict due to his support for full independence for Taiwan, secured victory in the presidential election. Despite Beijing’s warnings and months of tension, Mr. Lai, currently Taiwan’s vice president, garnered 40 percent of the votes, securing a third consecutive term for his Democratic Progressive Party (D.P.P.), marking a historic achievement since Taiwan began direct democratic elections in 1996.

The official Beijing news outlet had cautioned that Lai’s presidency could lead Taiwan “on a path of no return,” but the Taiwanese people, with a robust voter turnout of 72 percent, voiced their support for him. Addressing his enthusiastic supporters outside the D.P.P. headquarters in Taipei, Lai emphasized unity and his commitment to defending Taiwan’s identity in the face of increasing external pressures.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with China“I voted for Lai Ching-te because I think he can handle the relationship with China wisely,” expressed Hsu Ya-hsuan, a 28-year-old technology company product manager in Taipei. Many share her sentiment, hopeful that Lai will navigate the delicate balance between protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty and avoiding deliberate provocations against China.

As the newly elected president, Lai faces formidable challenges, both domestically and internationally. Despite the victory, his party lost its legislative majority, posing obstacles to advancing his political agenda. Externally, China’s response to his election remains a critical concern, with expectations of increased pressure and aggression, both militarily and economically.

According to Jason Hsu, a former legislator and current Mason Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, Lai will encounter a challenging and divided political landscape domestically, lacking the honeymoon period enjoyed by his predecessor. The loss of the legislative majority adds another layer of complexity to governing during a precarious time for Taiwan.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with ChinaContrary to the reckless firebrand image projected by Beijing, those who know Lai affirm that he campaigned on continuity with the policies of the outgoing president, Tsai Ing-wen. Lai’s commitment to building Taiwan’s military defenses, strengthening relations with democratic allies, and avoiding a complete rupture with China echoes Tsai’s approach. However, the intensifying pressure from China and the potential for military action create a testing ground for Lai’s political and diplomatic skills.

In response to Lai’s victory, the Chinese government office for Taiwan affairs dismissed the D.P.P. as not representing mainstream opinion on the island. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, issued a congratulatory statement, expressing eagerness to work with the new Taiwanese leader. However, Lai’s tenure will be closely scrutinized by China, which may employ tactics such as trade restrictions, diplomatic maneuvers, or military exercises to assert its influence.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with ChinaKuo Yu-jen, a political science professor, warns that even if Lai adheres to Tsai’s policies, China’s President Xi Jinping is unlikely to alter the trajectory of solving the “Taiwan problem” at an accelerated pace. The pressure on Lai’s government is anticipated to surpass that experienced during Tsai’s eight years in office.

Taiwan’s relations with the United States also hang in the balance, with continued U.S. support promised in the face of Chinese pressure. However, the U.S. is entangled in global conflicts, and the outcome of the upcoming presidential election in November could introduce further uncertainties for Taiwan.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with ChinaIn addition to external challenges, Lai must grapple with a divided domestic political landscape. His chief rivals garnered significant shares of the vote, posing a potential threat to his authority. Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party, in particular, tapped into public dissatisfaction with rising housing costs, limited career prospects, and slow income growth, especially among young supporters. With his party losing its majority in the Legislative Yuan, Lai recognizes the need for collaboration with opposition parties to address Taiwan’s challenges. Acknowledging the people’s desire for a capable government and effective checks and balances, Lai pledges to respect this new public sentiment.

Despite the complexity of these challenges, Lai’s election victory culminated in a week of spirited campaign events and vibrant gatherings across Taiwan, emphasizing the island’s commitment to democracy and separate identity from the mainland. The election’s festive atmosphere showcased the significance of the democratic process for the Taiwanese people, even as they navigate uncertain times and external pressures.

As Lai assumes office in May, the world watches closely to see how he manages the delicate balance between safeguarding Taiwan’s interests and navigating the complex geopolitical landscape in the region.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching te Elected President Amidst Heightened Tensions with China

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/13/world/asia/taiwan-election-china-us.html?smid=nytcore-android-share

Unprecedented Tie at the Top: Six Nations Share the Title for World’s Most Powerful Passports in 2024

In a significant upheaval of the quarterly ranking, six countries have achieved a remarkable tie for the leading position in the latest Henley Passport Index, showcasing the hottest travel documents for 2024.

Quoting Henley & Partners, the London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Spain now enjoy unparalleled visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to an impressive 194 destinations worldwide. This marks the highest number of accessible destinations recorded in the 19-year history of the Henley Passport Index, which utilizes exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for its rankings.

“The average number of destinations travelers are able to access visa-free has nearly doubled from 58 in 2006 to 111 in 2024,” notes Christian H. Kaelin, the chair of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index. Kaelin points out that the global mobility gap has widened over the past two decades, with the top-ranked countries now enjoying visa-free travel to a staggering 166 more destinations than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the ranking with access to only 28 countries without a visa.

The recent rankings represent a triumphant rise for European nations, as the Asian dominance of Japan and Singapore, which held the No. 1 spot for the past five years, has now been disrupted.

Finland and Sweden are tied with South Korea in second place, boasting easy access to 193 destinations. Following closely in third place are Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands, offering their citizens access to 192 destinations.

The rankings continue with Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom at No. 4, and Greece, Malta, and Switzerland at No. 5. Australia and New Zealand have improved their standings, securing the No. 6 position alongside Czechia and Poland. Meanwhile, the United States and Canada find themselves tied in seventh place with Hungary, providing their citizens with visa-free access to 188 destinations.

Notably, the United Arab Emirates emerges as the biggest climber on the index over the past decade, adding an impressive 106 destinations to its visa-free score since 2014 and securing the 11th position this year.

Discussing the widening global mobility gap, Kaelin emphasizes, “While the general trend over the past two decades has been towards greater travel freedom, the global mobility gap between those at the top and bottom of the index is now wider than ever.”

It is essential to note that Henley & Partners’ ranking is one among several indexes created by financial firms to assess global passports based on the access they provide to their citizens.

Arton Capital’s Passport Index, for instance, considers the passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories, excluding territories annexed to other countries. The index is updated in real-time throughout the year, relying on close monitoring of individual governments’ portals.

Arton Capital’s Global Passport Power Rank 2024 places the United Arab Emirates at the top spot, boasting a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 180. The second position is held by five European countries: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Switzerland claim the No. 3 spot, while the UK and the US find themselves in 5th and 6th place, respectively. In Arton Capital’s 2023 roundup, Albania was recognized as the “rising star” due to a surge in global mobility gains by regional power hubs and increased demand for its citizens.

The latest Henley Passport Index for 2024 reflects a historic tie at the top, with six nations sharing the title for the world’s most powerful passports. This development marks a significant shift in global travel freedoms, with European countries prominently featured in the top rankings. The widening mobility gap underscores the varying degrees of access citizens have to international destinations, emphasizing the need for continued monitoring and assessment of global passport power.

Taiwan’s 2024 Election: A Crucial Crossroads in Global Politics

In a scenario eerily reminiscent of pivotal presidential elections with far-reaching consequences for the world, Taiwan, a dynamic Asian democracy neighboring a powerful authoritarian state, is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this Saturday. The implications of this electoral contest extend well beyond Taiwan’s borders, drawing close scrutiny from China’s Communist leadership, which has persistently asserted its claim over Taiwan despite never having governed it.

The majority of Taiwanese citizens adamantly reject Chinese rule, particularly as President Xi Jinping consolidates power domestically and China adopts a more assertive stance towards its neighbors. China frames the election as a pivotal choice between “war and peace, prosperity and decline,” a sentiment underscored by Xi’s New Year’s Eve warning, asserting the inevitability of reunification with Taiwan.

The United States, Taiwan’s primary international supporter and arms supplier, has had tumultuous relations with China over the Taiwan issue. The upcoming election in Taiwan is poised to test the delicate balance between these global superpowers, with the potential to either ease tensions or escalate towards confrontation and conflict.

The Candidates and Their Platforms

Three contenders vie to succeed President Tsai Ing-wen, who, after eight years in office, cannot seek re-election due to term limits. The frontrunner, Lai Ching-te from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), advocates for Taiwan’s de-facto sovereignty and distinct identity from China. While initially branded as a “practical worker for Taiwan independence,” Lai has moderated his stance, pledging to maintain the status quo and engage in dialogue with Beijing on equal terms.

Hou Yu-ih, a former police officer and mayor of New Taipei City from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), emphasizes peaceful relations with China through open dialogue and increased economic and social ties. Hou criticizes the DPP for provoking China and advocates for a stronger Taiwanese defense.

Ko Wen-je, representing the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), founded in 2019, positions himself as a political outsider. Focusing on everyday issues, Ko proposes a “middle path” in relations with China, criticizing both the DPP for hostility and the KMT for excessive deference.

The potential re-election of the DPP for a third term, unprecedented in Taiwan’s democratic history, would signify the failure of China’s aggressive approach towards Taiwan.

China’s Response and Current Dynamics

Under Xi’s leadership, China has predominantly utilized a coercive approach, diminishing communications with Taiwan, isolating it diplomatically, and escalating military pressure. Cross-strait relations have reached historic lows, with fewer than 3% of Taiwanese identifying as Chinese and less than 10% supporting unification.

China urges Taiwanese voters to make the “correct choice,” implying favoring candidates other than the DPP. Taiwan accuses China of interference, citing disinformation campaigns and economic coercion. Military provocations, including fighter jets, drones, and warships near Taiwan, reflect China’s efforts to influence public morale.

While an outright invasion seems unlikely, China has various means to display displeasure, from military exercises to trade sanctions or a blockade. The international community closely monitors these actions, particularly given existing global tensions.

The U.S.-Taiwan Relationship

Since formally severing ties with Taiwan in 1979, the U.S. has maintained unofficial relations and is obligated by law to support Taiwan’s defense. However, the U.S. has remained ambiguous on whether it would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack. Under Presidents Biden and Trump, the U.S. increased support and arms sales to Taiwan, raising questions about its longstanding “strategic ambiguity.”

China perceives Taiwan as a red line in its relations with the U.S., warning against interference. Despite U.S. assurances of neutrality in Taiwan’s election, tensions persist. As the U.S. endeavors to stabilize relations with China, Taiwan’s election adds complexity to an already challenging geopolitical landscape.

As the world anxiously watches the unfolding dynamics between Taiwan, China, and the U.S., the outcome of Taiwan’s election and its aftermath will undoubtedly reverberate across the globe. Against the backdrop of escalating conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, the choices made by Taiwanese voters may set the course for international relations in the years to come. Concurrently, the U.S. presidential election later in the year will be closely monitored by Taiwan’s new leadership and its population, further influencing the intricate web of global politics.

Escalating Tensions in the Middle East Raise Concerns of Regional Conflict

In recent developments in the Middle East, the targeted killing of a top Hamas leader in Lebanon and mysterious explosions in Iran have heightened concerns about the region’s stability. While American, Israeli, and Lebanese officials emphasize a desire to avoid a broader conflict, the events of the past week have brought the Middle East, and the United States, closer to the brink of a potential regional war.

On Tuesday, a senior Hamas leader, Saleh al-Arouri, was assassinated in a Beirut suburb, prompting Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese militant group and a key ally to Hamas, to vow a response. The situation escalated with the deaths resulting from twin explosions in Iran on Wednesday, during a memorial event for Iran’s former general, Qassim Suleimani. The circumstances surrounding the explosions remain unclear, with Iran pointing fingers at Israel, while European and American officials express doubt about Israeli involvement.

The Biden administration, which has been working to prevent a wider conflict since Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7, is now facing increased challenges. Following the incidents, the United States and 12 allies issued a warning to the Houthi militia in Yemen, which has been carrying out frequent attacks on commercial vessels. The statement called for an immediate end to these attacks and the release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews, warning of consequences if such actions continue.

While the U.S. has refrained from direct retaliation against Houthi bases in Yemen to preserve a fragile truce in the country’s civil war, officials are indicating that their patience is running out. The warning, issued by the U.S. and its allies, stopped short of threatening military strikes, but tensions remain high in the region.

President Biden has expressed a desire to avoid direct military engagement with the Houthis to prevent further escalation in the Middle East. The U.S. Navy had recently sunk three Houthi boats in response to an attack on American helicopters aiding a Maersk cargo ship. The deployment of an Iranian flotilla of warships to the region has added another layer of complexity to the situation, with Iran signaling support for the Houthis but stating no intention of engaging in a direct confrontation with U.S. naval vessels.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the explosions in Iran on the nation’s “malicious and criminal enemies” without explicitly naming any group or country. While some speculate on the involvement of the Islamic State or another terrorist group, no final conclusions have been drawn.

Hezbollah’s pledge to respond to the assassination of the Hamas leader and the potential involvement of Iran in supporting the Houthis raise concerns about the risk of a broader conflict. The Biden administration, along with Middle East analysts, acknowledges the fragility of the situation, with efforts to contain the conflict between Israel and Hamas facing challenges.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is expected to travel to the Middle East to engage in diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing further escalation. The Pentagon, which had deployed two aircraft carriers and increased the number of American warplanes in the region, is now facing a fraying strategy. Iranian-backed militias have targeted U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, leading to retaliatory airstrikes by the Pentagon.

While there is speculation about potential military strikes against Houthi bases in Yemen, concerns persist about playing into Iran’s strategy of engaging Israel and its allies on multiple fronts. The recent events have increased the chances of a regional war, according to retired Adm. James Stavridis, though the likelihood remains relatively low.

The loss of Saleh al-Arouri, a key figure in both tactical operations and strategic diplomacy for Hamas, is seen as a setback for the group. Western leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have urged caution to avoid further escalation, emphasizing the importance of diplomatic efforts in the region.

As tensions continue to rise, the Biden administration faces a delicate balancing act to prevent the conflict from spreading while navigating the complexities of regional dynamics and power struggles. The situation remains fluid, with the international community closely monitoring developments in the Middle East.

President Xi Acknowledges Economic Struggles in New Year Speech: China Grapples with Downturn, Job Woes, and Heightened Tensions Over Taiwan

President Xi Jinping, in his New Year’s Eve speech, acknowledged the economic challenges faced by China’s businesses and job seekers, marking the first time he addressed such issues in his annual messages since 2013. This acknowledgment comes at a crucial time for the world’s second-largest economy, grappling with a structural slowdown characterized by weak demand, rising unemployment, and diminished business confidence.

Xi openly admitted the difficulties faced by some enterprises and individuals in finding jobs and meeting basic needs, stating, “Some enterprises had a tough time. Some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs.” His televised remarks, widely circulated by state media, emphasized the gravity of the situation: “All these remain at the forefront of my mind. We will consolidate and strengthen the momentum of economic recovery.”

In sync with Xi’s speech, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its monthly Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey, revealing a decline in factory activity in December to the lowest level in six months. The official manufacturing PMI dropped to 49 last month, down from 49.4 in November, indicating a contraction in the manufacturing sector for the third consecutive month.

China’s massive manufacturing sector had been experiencing weakness throughout 2023, with a brief pickup in the first quarter followed by a contraction for five months until September. The economic challenges were further compounded by a prolonged property downturn, record-high youth unemployment, weak prices, and financial stress at local governments.

In response to the economic downturn, Beijing has implemented various measures to revive growth and spur employment. Despite these efforts, the government’s increasing emphasis on state control over the economy, at the expense of the private sector, has unsettled entrepreneurs. The crackdown on businesses in the name of national security has also deterred international investors.

A recent development highlighting this trend was the People’s Bank of China’s approval of an application to remove controlling shareholders at Alipay, the widely used digital payment platform run by Jack Ma’s Ant Group. This move officially marked Ma’s relinquishment of control over the company, part of his broader withdrawal from online businesses. Ma’s companies were among the initial targets of Beijing’s crackdown on Big Tech, viewed as having gained excessive power.

President Xi’s New Year’s speech also included a pledge regarding Taiwan, emphasizing China’s longstanding stance on the self-ruled island democracy. Xi stated, “China will surely be reunified, and all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” This comes just two weeks before Taiwan’s presidential elections on January 13.

Xi’s comments on Taiwan were more assertive compared to the previous year, reinforcing his commitment to making Taiwan an integral part of his broader goal to “rejuvenate” China’s global standing. The Communist Party claims Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control. The upcoming election in Taiwan, where Vice President Lai Ching-te is seen as a frontrunner, has heightened tensions, with accusations from Taipei about Chinese influence operations ahead of the polls.

Democracy Under Scrutiny: South Asian Nations Face Key Elections Amidst Challenges

As four South Asian countries gear up for crucial elections in the coming year, nearly 2 billion people across Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka will cast their votes from January through September. Each nation, having gained independence from Britain within the last century, presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities in their democratic processes.

Bangladesh: A Struggle for Democracy Amid Economic Growth

Bangladesh, with its 170 million people, kicks off the election season on January 7. The multiparty democracy is under threat as the ruling Awami League party faces accusations of silencing dissent, moving the nation toward resembling a one-party state. The current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, is poised to secure her fourth consecutive term despite claims of election rigging and a boycott by the main opposition, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

Julia Bleckner, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, voiced concerns about the government’s actions, stating, “A free election is impossible when the government stifles free expression and systematically incapacitates the opposition.” Despite political turmoil, Bangladesh is experiencing economic growth, primarily driven by its garment manufacturing industry, constituting 35.1% of the annual GDP.

Sreeradha Dutta, a professor of international affairs, emphasized Bangladesh’s consistent growth and its efforts to build strong regional relations, predicting that developmental models would persist regardless of the leader.

Pakistan: Political Turmoil Amid Economic Uncertainty

Pakistan, in its 76 years of existence, has struggled with political dynasties, military rule, and economic crises. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a popular figure, is behind bars, facing charges he claims are politically motivated. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister in self-exile, returned, adding complexity to the political landscape. Pakistan grapples with economic uncertainty, militant attacks, and climate catastrophes, creating challenges for its future leadership.

Fahd Humayun, an assistant professor of political science, highlighted the link between political and economic uncertainty, emphasizing the importance of transparent elections to attract necessary capital inflows for the country.

India: Democracy at a Crossroads Amid Global Significance

India, touted as the world’s largest experiment in democracy, is poised for elections in the spring. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a rare third term, having tightened his grip on democratic institutions. While India achieves global significance in various arenas, concerns arise about the erosion of its secular and democratic values under the Hindu nationalist BJP.

An alliance of 26 political parties known as INDIA, including the main opposition Indian National Congress, aims to challenge Modi. However, recent regional losses for the Congress party have bolstered Modi’s position. Analysts caution that Indian politics remains unpredictable as parties prepare for upcoming campaigns.

Sri Lanka: A Nation Recovering from Economic Crisis Faces Election Decisions

Sri Lanka, grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, faced a momentous protest movement that forced then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee. The current President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is expected to seek a second term after implementing economic reforms and securing international aid. Despite delays in holding elections due to the economic crisis, the country is on the path to recovery, and its citizens anticipate decisions on their future leader.

As these South Asian nations embark on significant electoral processes, the challenges and opportunities they face will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of democracy in the region. The coming months will be critical in determining how each country addresses its unique issues and paves the way for its political and economic future.

India Struggles to Propel International Acceptance of Rupee as Global Oil Suppliers Resist Currency Payments for Crude Imports

India’s endeavor to enhance the international acceptance of its currency faces significant challenges, according to recent reports. The country’s attempt to use rupees for payments in crude-oil imports has encountered resistance from global trade partners, with concerns raised over transaction costs and foreign-exchange risks associated with the limited global acceptance of the Asian currency.

In a report by the Press Trust of India (PTI), the local newswire stated that India’s oil ministry acknowledged the difficulties faced in persuading global oil suppliers to accept rupee payments. The resistance from these suppliers, as outlined in the PTI report, stems from concerns related to higher transaction costs and the foreign-exchange risks associated with the limited global acceptance of the rupee.

During the Indian financial year 2022-2023, which concluded in March, no oil imports were settled in rupees, as conveyed by the country’s oil ministry to a parliamentary committee, according to the PTI report.

The broader context of India’s efforts to internationalize the rupee is rooted in a global movement, extending from China to Brazil, aiming to reduce dependence on the US dollar in international transactions and investments. This movement, commonly known as de-dollarization, has gained traction in recent years, particularly as the United States employed the global dominance of the dollar to impose economic sanctions on nations such as Russia and Iran.

China and Russia have actively sought to increase the global usage of their respective currencies, and the BRICS group of nations has explored the prospect of adopting a shared tender. This year, the trend has expanded further, with Indonesia establishing a task force to promote the wider use of its currency, the rupiah.

Against this backdrop, India’s central bank had taken a step last year by permitting local importers to open special overseas bank accounts, facilitating rupee payments to their international trading partners.

Quoting the PTI report, “India’s campaign to achieve wider international acceptance for its currency isn’t going so well.” The report highlights the challenges faced by India in persuading global oil suppliers to accept rupee payments, with transaction costs and foreign-exchange risks being key deterrents.

The article also mentions, “Global oil suppliers have remained resistant toward receiving rupee payments, citing higher transaction costs and foreign-exchange risks related the Asian currency’s limited global acceptance, according to the report.” This emphasizes the specific reasons behind the reluctance of global oil suppliers, indicating concerns about the costs associated with transactions and the perceived risks tied to the limited global acceptance of the rupee.

The PTI report further notes, “No oil imports were settled in rupees during the Indian financial year 2022-2023 that ended in March, the country’s oil ministry told a parliamentary committee, the PTI reported.” This statement underscores the practical impact of the challenges faced by India, with a clear indication that the goal of settling oil imports in rupees was not achieved during the specified financial year.

The broader context of India’s initiative is elucidated with, “India’s push to internationalize the rupee has been seen as part of a wider drive among nations from China to Brazil to reduce their reliance on the dollar in international payments and investments.” This places India’s efforts in the context of a global movement involving various nations striving to minimize dependence on the US dollar, reflecting a broader trend known as de-dollarization.

The article highlights the motivation behind this global movement, stating, “The movement, known as de-dollarization, gained momentum in recent years as the US leveraged the greenback’s global dominance to slap economic sanctions on countries including Russia and Iran.” The use of economic sanctions by the United States, leveraging the dominance of the dollar, has fueled the momentum behind the de-dollarization movement, prompting nations to explore alternatives.

China and Russia’s parallel pursuits are mentioned, stating, “China and Russia also have been pushing to increase the global usage of their own currencies, while the BRICS group of nations have been weighing the possibility of a shared tender.” This indicates that India’s efforts align with those of other nations such as China and Russia, who are actively working to enhance the global standing of their respective currencies. Additionally, the mention of the BRICS group considering a shared tender underscores collaborative efforts in this direction.

The global trend is further emphasized with, “More countries have joined the trend this year — Indonesia recently set up a task force to widen the use of its currency, the rupiah.” This highlights that the movement toward reducing reliance on the US dollar is not confined to a few nations but is gaining traction globally, with Indonesia being the latest to take active measures in this direction.

The article concludes with a reminder of India’s earlier initiative, stating, “Last year, India’s central bank allowed local importers to open special overseas bank accounts that would enable making rupee payments to their trading partners.” This serves as a reminder of the proactive step taken by India’s central bank to facilitate rupee payments, underlining the ongoing efforts to overcome challenges and promote the internationalization of the rupee.

India’s pursuit of broader international acceptance for the rupee faces hurdles as global oil suppliers remain resistant to accepting rupee payments for crude-oil imports. The concerns raised include higher transaction costs and foreign-exchange risks linked to the limited global acceptance of the rupee. This challenge is situated within the broader context of a global movement, encompassing nations from China to Brazil, working to reduce reliance on the US dollar in international transactions. The article highlights the motivations behind this movement, citing the leverage of the dollar’s global dominance for imposing economic sanctions. Parallel efforts by China and Russia to increase the global usage of their currencies, as well as discussions within the BRICS group about a shared tender, further underscore the international dimension of this trend. The inclusion of Indonesia’s recent establishment of a task force to promote the wider use of its currency, the rupiah, emphasizes the expanding nature of this movement. Despite these challenges, the article recalls India’s previous step of allowing local importers to open special overseas bank accounts for rupee payments, signaling ongoing efforts to navigate obstacles and promote the internationalization of the rupee.

Escalating Tensions in the Middle East: Israeli Strike and Ongoing Conflict in Gaza Raise Concerns

In a recent Israeli strike on Monday that claimed the life of an Iranian officer in Syria, renewed fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East have emerged. The incident took place against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Gaza, where the death toll is rapidly rising. The strike, which resulted in the death of a senior Iranian officer, has provoked vows of retaliation from Iran, escalating tensions in the region.

“Iran has vowed to retaliate against Israel for the strike, which killed a senior Iranian officer and marked Tehran’s most personal loss yet in the Israel-Hamas war,” reported X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The situation is further complicated by the increasing civilian casualties in Gaza, raising concerns that the conflict might spill over and jeopardize the efforts by the U.S. to contain the war within the borders of Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The U.S. itself is becoming more deeply entangled in the conflict, facing relentless attacks from Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

An unprecedented Christmas Day drone strike by militias in Iraq left an American soldier critically wounded and two others injured, underscoring the expanding scope of the conflict. While analysts do not foresee an immediate outbreak of a broader war, the events signal that the situation is far from stabilizing as the New Year approaches.

Barbara Slavin, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, commented, “Everybody is playing a chess game. You have so many different players now.” However, she emphasized that the major casualties of the war are concentrated in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, viewing other attacks as symbolic rather than indicative of a broader conflict at this time.

“The major casualties of this war have taken place in Israel and in Gaza, and the West Bank. These other attacks, while they’re kind of scary, are really very much symbolic, more symbolic than part of a broader conflict at this time,” Slavin added.

The Israeli strike targeted Brig. Gen. Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a senior adviser to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for coordinating between Syria and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed military and political group in Lebanon. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that his forces are engaged in a “multi-arena” war following previous attacks by Hamas, which resulted in over 1,200 deaths in southern Israel.

“Mousavi had been close to Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was slain by the U.S. in 2020 during the Trump administration, and his death this week prompted an outpouring of grief from Iran and its allies, just as Soleimani’s death did nearly four years ago,” reported the original article.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi announced that Tehran would retaliate for the strike, characterizing Mousavi’s death as “another sign of frustration and weakness of the occupying Zionist regime in the region.”

Trita Parsi, the executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, suggested that Israel likely conducted the strike to send a message to Iran, asserting that senior Iranian officials can be targeted for their involvement with proxy groups. However, Parsi argued that Iran would not respond directly to Israel, instead opting for a longer-term strategy against the U.S. and Israel.

“Iran will not respond to Israel directly or with an escalatory attack, arguing ‘they’re playing the longer game’ against the U.S. and Israel. ‘They’re building up the capability of the Houthis, Hezbollah, and others,'” explained Parsi.

While Israel has previously targeted high-ranking Iranian officials, Tehran has typically refrained from direct strikes on Israel, often relying on proxies to carry out attacks. The Middle East remains tense, with Iranian-backed militia groups launching around 100 attacks on U.S. troops since mid-October.

The U.S. has, so far, experienced only minor injuries in these attacks in Iraq and Syria. The Christmas Day strike, however, saw an explosive drone hitting an air base in northern Iraq, leaving one U.S. soldier in critical condition. The U.S. responded with retaliatory strikes that killed one militant and injured 18 others.

When questioned about potential escalations during the holidays, the Pentagon referred to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s statement, emphasizing that the U.S. does not seek escalation but is “committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.”

The Houthis, an Iranian-backed rebel group in Yemen, pose an additional threat in the Red Sea, targeting ships and merchant vessels. While the U.S. has established a maritime task force to deter the Houthis, the group remains committed to continuing its attacks in the Red Sea.

Analysts assert that the only way to alleviate tensions across the Middle East is through a cease-fire or a significant slowdown in the war in Gaza. The high death toll in Gaza, exceeding 20,000 according to Hamas health officials, has sparked global outrage, particularly among Arab nations, Iran, and its allies.

“The U.S. is pushing Israel to move the war into a lower-intensity phase, a diplomatic campaign that bore some fruit earlier this month when Israeli officials signaled they would do so when the time was right,” noted the original article.

Despite these efforts, it remains unclear when such a phase transition might occur. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that fighting is intensifying in southern Gaza, where nearly two million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge.

“We are not stopping and we will not stop until we are victorious, because we have no country but this one, and we have no other way,” declared Netanyahu before the Knesset.

Trita Parsi from the Quincy Institute warned, “every day we’re getting closer and closer to all-out war” in the Middle East, emphasizing that the conflict is likely to escalate until Israel eases its assault on Gaza.

“It’s an extremely dangerous, escalatory cycle that we’re in, and the most obvious and most effective way of stopping and preventing a regional war is the one step that the administration is least inclined to pursue. And that is to actually have a cease-fire in Gaza,” Parsi concluded.

Egypt Proposes Comprehensive Plan to Halt Israel-Hamas Conflict

In an effort to bring an end to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, Egypt has presented a bold initial proposal that includes a cease-fire, a phased release of hostages, and the establishment of a Palestinian government of experts to govern the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. A senior Egyptian official and a European diplomat revealed the details of the proposal on Monday.

The Egyptian initiative, developed in collaboration with Qatar, aims to address the immediate crisis and lay the groundwork for a sustainable resolution. However, the proposal, currently in its early stages, does not align with Israel’s objective of completely dismantling Hamas and seems to fall short of Israel’s demand to maintain military control over Gaza in the post-war period.

Reports indicate that the Egyptian proposal has been shared with Israel, Hamas, the United States, and European governments. Although the proposal is under consideration, it is not yet clear whether it will be accepted or modified. Israel’s War Cabinet, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to discuss the proposal in an upcoming meeting.

As Israeli airstrikes intensify, causing significant damage in central and southern Gaza, the humanitarian situation worsens. The Maghazi refugee camp witnessed a devastating strike that claimed at least 106 lives, making it one of the deadliest incidents in Israel’s air campaign. The proposal from Egypt comes amid escalating violence, with both sides expressing their determination to continue the conflict.

The Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, outlined the key components of the proposal, emphasizing its comprehensive nature. The plan begins with an initial two-week cease-fire during which Palestinian militants would release 40 to 50 hostages, including women, the sick, and the elderly. In return, Israel would release 120-150 Palestinians held in its prisons. Negotiations would then continue to extend the cease-fire and secure the release of additional hostages and bodies held by Palestinian militants.

The proposal also envisions Egypt and Qatar working with all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to establish a government of experts. This transitional government would govern Gaza and the West Bank while facilitating the resolution of internal disputes among Palestinian factions. The ultimate goal is to create a roadmap for holding presidential and parliamentary elections.

Simultaneously, Israel and Hamas would engage in negotiations for a comprehensive “all-for-all” deal, encompassing the release of all remaining hostages, the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Gaza, and the cessation of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. However, the success of this ambitious plan hinges on the willingness of all parties to engage in constructive dialogue and make concessions.

While the proposal has been discussed with Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based political leader of Hamas, and other Palestinian factions, doubts remain about whether Israel’s government, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, will accept the entire proposal. A Western diplomat, speaking anonymously, expressed skepticism about the Israeli government’s readiness to embrace the comprehensive plan.

The toll of the conflict on both sides is becoming increasingly apparent. In Gaza, more than 20,400 Palestinians have been killed, and almost the entire population of 2.3 million has been displaced. U.N. officials have raised concerns about a quarter of the population facing starvation due to Israel’s blockade, allowing only limited supplies into the territory.

Israel, too, is grappling with a rising death toll among its troops, with 17 soldiers killed since Friday and a total of 156 since the ground offensive began. The mounting casualties may impact public support for the war, which was triggered by an attack on southern Israeli communities by Hamas-led militants on Oct. 7, resulting in 1,200 deaths and 240 hostages.

Despite increasing international pressure against Israel’s offensive and the widespread suffering among Palestinians, public sentiment in Israel remains largely supportive of the stated goals of crushing Hamas and securing the release of remaining captives. Prime Minister Netanyahu has emphasized the need to expand the fight in the coming days, signaling a prolonged battle.

As the conflict continues to exact a heavy toll on both sides, the proposed Egyptian initiative offers a glimmer of hope for a comprehensive resolution. However, the path to peace remains uncertain, and the willingness of all parties to engage in meaningful dialogue will be crucial in determining the success of this ambitious proposal.

U.N. Security Council Adopts Modified Resolution on Gaza Crisis

The U.N. Security Council passed a revised resolution on Friday, emphasizing the need for urgent aid to Gaza while omitting the original call for an immediate cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. The 13-0 vote, with the U.S. and Russia abstaining, followed a series of delays and diplomatic efforts.

“This was the Christmas miracle we were all hoping for,” remarked UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the resolution’s sponsor. She stressed its signal to Gaza that the Security Council was actively addressing the humanitarian crisis.

After a prolonged diplomatic process involving the U.S., the UAE, and others, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed relief, stating the vote supports efforts to address the crisis, provide assistance, and work towards lasting peace.

However, the resolution faced criticism from Russia, which considered it “entirely toothless.” The U.S. vetoed a Russian amendment that aimed to reinstate the call for an immediate suspension of hostilities. Russia’s Ambassador accused the U.S. of “shameful, cynical, and irresponsible conduct.”

The resolution’s crucial provision calling for the “urgent suspension of hostilities” was removed, replaced by a call for “urgent steps” to ensure humanitarian access and create conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. envoy, saw it as a positive step but emphasized the need for immediate implementation and a ceasefire.

Hamas deemed the resolution insufficient, criticizing the U.S. for hindering the council from demanding a halt to the conflict. Israel, represented by U.N. Deputy Ambassador Brett Jonathan Miller, criticized the Council for not condemning Hamas for the October 7 attacks.

The resolution, addressing aid deliveries, removed a request for exclusive U.N. monitoring and instead called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a coordinator for relief deliveries, emphasizing cooperation from Israel and Hamas.

Israel expressed willingness to increase aid, but Miller highlighted challenges with U.N. aid monitoring, emphasizing the importance of Israel’s security inspections. Guterres countered, stating that Israel’s offensive hindered aid distribution in Gaza.

Guterres reiterated the call for a humanitarian ceasefire, emphasizing the dire situation in Gaza and the risk of a complete breakdown of public order.

With over 20,000 Palestinians killed since the conflict began, the resolution reiterated the Security Council’s commitment to a two-state solution and the unification of Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.

Despite being legally binding, Security Council resolutions may face non-compliance. The latest resolution followed previous actions, including an abstained vote on humanitarian pauses and a U.S. veto on resolutions condemning violence and urging a ceasefire. The General Assembly also approved a similar resolution.

The situation in Gaza remains precarious, with the hope that the latest resolution will contribute to alleviating the crisis and fostering a path towards peace.

Toyota Announces Recall of 1 Million Vehicles Over Airbag Defect, Urges Swift Action for Customer Safety

Toyota Motor Co. announced on Wednesday a recall affecting 1 million vehicles due to a potential defect that may result in airbags failing to deploy, thereby heightening the risk of injury.

The recall spans various Toyota and Lexus models produced between 2020 and 2022, encompassing Toyota Avalons, Camrys, Highlanders, RAV4s, Siennas, and Corollas, including select hybrid variants. The Lexus lineup implicated in the recall comprises the ES250 sedan and the RX350 SUV, among others.

The issue lies with sensors located in the front passenger seat of the recalled vehicles, which may have been improperly manufactured. These sensors have the potential to experience a short circuit, leading to a malfunction in the airbag system’s ability to accurately ascertain the occupant’s weight. Consequently, in specific types of collisions, the airbags may fail to deploy.

To address this concern, Toyota and Lexus dealers will conduct inspections on the Occupant Classification System (OCS) sensors and replace any identified as defective at no expense to the vehicle owners. Toyota has committed to notifying affected customers by mid-February 2024.

In their official statement, Toyota emphasized the importance of addressing this issue promptly to ensure the safety of their customers. “Safety is a top priority for Toyota. We are committed to a high standard of safety and quality in our vehicles. We apologize for any inconvenience this recall may cause our customers and encourage them to have the OCS sensors inspected and replaced if necessary,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Owners of Toyota vehicles who suspect their cars might fall under the recall can obtain further information by calling 1-800-331-4331, while Lexus vehicle owners can contact 1-800-255-3987 for additional details.

In response to the situation, Toyota’s spokesperson reiterated the company’s dedication to resolving the matter swiftly, stating, “Our customers’ safety is paramount. We urge all affected vehicle owners to take advantage of the inspection and replacement services offered by our dealers to address this issue promptly.”

Quoting the official announcement, Toyota acknowledged the urgency of rectifying the situation promptly to ensure the safety of their customers. “If an affected vehicle is continuously operated in this condition, there is a possibility that the OCS may not operate properly and the airbag system may not perform as designed in certain types of crashes,” the statement warned.

The recall is a proactive measure by Toyota to address potential safety concerns and uphold their commitment to delivering vehicles of the highest safety standards. As the company takes steps to rectify the issue, affected customers are urged to respond promptly to the recall notifications and have the necessary inspections and replacements performed to ensure the continued safety and reliability of their vehicles.

India’s Economic Surge: S&P Predicts Fastest Growth, Aims for Third-Largest Global Economy by 2030

India is poised to maintain its status as the swiftest-growing major economy over the next three years, propelling it toward claiming the position of the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, according to a report from S&P Global Ratings.

“S&P anticipates that India, presently ranking as the fifth-largest global economy, will witness a growth rate of 6.4% in the ongoing fiscal year, with projections indicating a further acceleration to 7% by fiscal 2027,” as reported by the original article. In contrast, the report foresees a deceleration in China’s growth to 4.6% by 2026 from an estimated 5.4% in the current year.

Recent data revealing a more substantial than expected 7.6% growth in India’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the second quarter of fiscal 2024 has led several brokerages to revise their full-year estimates upward. However, S&P, having revised its forecast prior to this data release, emphasizes that India’s growth trajectory hinges on a successful transition from a services-dominated economy to one dominated by manufacturing.

“A paramount test will be whether India can become the next big global manufacturing hub, an immense opportunity,” emphasizes S&P in its Global Credit Outlook 2024 report dated December 4th. While the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has actively promoted domestic manufacturing through initiatives such as the “Make in India” campaign and production-linked incentives (PLIs), the manufacturing sector still contributes only about 18% to the GDP. In stark contrast, services constitute more than half of India’s GDP.

S&P underscores the pivotal role of developing a robust logistics framework for India to truly emerge as a manufacturing hub. Additionally, the report emphasizes the necessity to “upskill” the workforce and boost female participation in the labor force to fully leverage the demographic dividend.

The report notes, “India possesses one of the youngest working populations globally, with nearly 53% of its citizens under the age of 30.” This demographic advantage could be a significant driver of economic growth if the country strategically addresses challenges in its economic structure and focuses on enhancing the capabilities of its workforce.

In essence, S&P’s projections for India’s economic trajectory highlight both the potential for remarkable growth and the challenges that must be addressed for the nation to realize its economic ambitions. As the government continues its efforts to promote manufacturing and economic diversification, the outcomes in the coming years will play a crucial role in shaping India’s position on the global economic stage.

Global Breakthrough: COP28 Summit Approves Historic Transition Away from Fossil Fuels in Landmark Climate Agreement

In a historic move, almost 200 nations gathered in Dubai on Wednesday and issued an unprecedented call for a global transition away from fossil fuels, addressing the primary contributor to climate change after years of avoidance. Following 13 days of intensive discussions and sleepless nights in a nation built on oil wealth, the Emirati president of the UN-led COP28 summit, Sultan Al Jaber, signaled consensus by banging a gavel.

“You did step up, you showed flexibility, you put common interest ahead of self-interest,” remarked COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, acknowledging the global effort. Jaber’s role as the head of the United Arab Emirates’ national oil company had raised suspicions among environmentalists. Describing the agreement as a catalyst for “transformational change” on climate, Jaber highlighted the UAE’s role in restoring faith in multilateralism and showcasing the power of global unity.

EU climate chief Wopke Hoekstra characterized the agreement as “long, long overdue,” emphasizing that nearly three decades of climate meetings were necessary to “arrive at the beginning of the end of fossil fuels.” Despite the need for more robust action, Jaber skillfully adjusted the text to gain the support of countries ranging from small islands fearing extinction due to rising sea levels to major oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which championed petroleum exports.

The revised agreement calls for a “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner,” toughening language from an earlier draft criticized by environmentalists. It advocates for increased action “in this critical decade” and renews the commitment to achieving no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The negotiator from the Marshall Islands, expressing concern about an earlier draft being a “death warrant” for his nation, emphasized the urgency of decisive action. Although the small islands did not block the Dubai deal, a representative from Samoa criticized the language as insufficient, calling for a more significant leap in global actions. Brazil, set to lead climate talks in 2025 in the Amazon, stressed the importance of wealthy nations delivering on their commitment to assist the worst-hit developing nations.

US climate envoy John Kerry praised the agreement as a remarkable achievement in bringing together a divided world for the common good. “I think everyone has to agree this is much stronger and clearer as a call on 1.5 than we have ever heard before, and it clearly reflects what the science says,” Kerry stated. A Saudi representative expressed “gratitude” for the UAE’s efforts, deeming the outcome a “great success.”

While the agreement refrains from endorsing calls for a “phase-out” of oil, gas, and coal, which contribute to approximately three-quarters of emissions causing the planetary crisis, it surpasses Jaber’s initial draft. Environmentalists, although generally viewing the agreement as a positive step, caution that more significant actions are imperative.

“We are finally naming the elephant in the room. The genie is never going back into the bottle, and future COPs will only turn the screws even more on dirty energy,” remarked Mohamed Adow, director of the Power Shift Africa think tank. He acknowledged that while expectations may have been raised too high, the outcome would have been unimaginable just two years ago, especially at a COP meeting in a nation heavily dependent on petroleum.

The agreement outlines more explicit near-term goals, calling for a 43 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2019 levels in pursuit of ending net emissions by 2050. However, Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity cautioned that there are still “cavernous loopholes” for fossil fuels. The agreement primarily addresses fossil fuel use in energy, excluding industrial sectors such as plastics and fertilizer production.

Su expressed concern about the recognition of the role of “transitional fuels,” interpreting it as a code word for natural gas and other fossil fuels, notably in the context of energy security. While the deal supports a phase-down of “unabated” coal power, it allows for the preservation of this controversial energy source if carbon capture technology is employed—a technology contested by many environmentalists as unproven.

COP28 Summit Concludes with Landmark Climate Agreement, But Concerns Linger

In a historic turn of events, the world reached a groundbreaking climate deal in Dubai on Wednesday at the COP28 summit after two weeks of intense negotiations. The agreement, known as the Global Stocktake, marks an unprecedented call to shift away from fossil fuels. However, the use of vague language in the agreement raises concerns about the level of commitment from some nations.

The COP28 President, Sultan Al Jaber, declared the agreement as “historic” during his address to national delegates at the final session. He highlighted the inclusion of language on fossil fuels for the first time, emphasizing that the deal has the potential to redefine global economies. Despite this apparent progress, differing interpretations of the agreement’s language have sparked a debate on its effectiveness.

“At long last, the loud calls to end fossil fuels have landed on paper in black and white at this COP,” remarked Jean Su, the energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. However, she cautioned that “cavernous loopholes threaten to undermine this breakthrough moment.”

The agreement falls short of mandating a “phase-out” of oil, coal, and gas, a demand voiced by over 100 countries and numerous climate groups. Instead, it “calls on” countries to “contribute” to global efforts to reduce carbon pollution in ways they deem fit. Options include “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems and accelerating action in this critical decade to achieve net-zero by 2050.”

The COP28 summit unfolded against the backdrop of a year marked by unprecedented global heat, resulting in deadly extreme weather events. This year, officially the hottest on record, has been marred by controversies at the Dubai conference, with accusations of oil interests influencing the talks.

Deep divisions emerged among nations, with oil-producing nations, led by Saudi Arabia, rejecting language on phasing out fossil fuels. On the opposing side, more ambitious parties, including the European Union and a coalition of island states, expressed dissatisfaction with a previous draft containing diluted language on fossil fuels. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry acknowledged that these divisions nearly derailed the conference but ultimately deemed the deal a success and a testament to multilateralism.

While Kerry celebrated the agreement as a significant step towards moving away from fossil fuels, critics voiced disappointment and concerns about the adoption process. Anne Rasmussen, the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), expressed concern that the decisions were gavelled without the input of small island developing states, a powerful voice in climate talks.

AOSIS, despite acknowledging the agreement’s positive elements, voiced exceptional concern, stating that the needed course correction has not been secured, and the presence of numerous loopholes threatens its efficacy. Many climate experts cautiously welcomed the reference to fossil fuels but pointed out weaknesses, such as leaving room for fossil fuel expansion, particularly through controversial technologies like carbon capture and storage.

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, noted that COP28 highlighted fossil fuels as the primary culprits of the climate crisis. However, he criticized the agreement for containing loopholes that provide escape routes for the fossil fuel industry, relying on unproven and unsafe technologies like carbon capture and storage.

Despite the positive early momentum on finance, with the formal adoption of a loss and damage fund and pledges exceeding $700 million, concerns arose over the lack of requirements for developed countries to provide adequate funding to the most vulnerable nations. Developing countries, heavily dependent on fossil fuels, face challenges without robust guarantees for financial support to adapt to climate impacts and transition to renewable energy.

The COP28 summit concludes with a historic climate agreement, but lingering concerns about vague language, loopholes, and insufficient financial support for vulnerable nations cast a shadow over the optimism expressed by some delegates. The world may be taking a step away from fossil fuels, but the journey ahead remains challenging and uncertain.

Shifting Tides in European Unity: A Geopolitical Crossroad

In contemporary times, fractures within the Western world are becoming increasingly pronounced. The Prime Ministers of Belgium and Spain have voiced their support for Palestine, advocating its recognition as an independent state. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Slovakia has withdrawn support for the Ukrainian war effort, echoing sentiments from the winner of the Dutch elections, Geert Wilders, and Hungary. This growing trend towards peace in a wearied Europe suggests the possibility of substantial shifts on the horizon.

Over two decades ago, American neoconservative Robert Kagan observed in his book “Of Paradise and Power” that Europe, existing in a Kantian zone of peace, could afford to be oblivious to the realities of power, thanks to the United States’ wielding of influence. However, recent developments indicate that Europe can no longer remain a paradise detached from power dynamics. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, envisions transforming the EU into a geopolitical actor. This shift is evident in Brussels’ more mercantilist stance, demonstrated by the proposed ‘anti-coercion instrument.’

This instrument seeks to impose tariffs and export controls on countries that interfere with the trade or investment decisions of EU member states. Yet, internal resistance within the European Council, composed of member state leaders, hampers its implementation. Similar hurdles emerge in the Global Gateway project, touted as the EU’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Concerns within the European Commission about provoking China, coupled with budgetary constraints and a lack of political will, cast doubt on the project’s efficacy.

The once-united front of Berlin and Paris, considered the engine of Europe, is now showing signs of strain. Disagreements on issues ranging from nuclear energy to joint defense projects and the European missile shield are exacerbating tensions. Chancellor Scholz’s push for relaxing EU rules on state aid raises concerns in Paris about granting Germany undue advantages. However, it is the issue of China that poses a substantial threat to the Franco-German partnership.

While Scholz’s government announces a China strategy promising de-risking, its actions, including support for growing German investment in China and reluctance to exclude Chinese technology from its telecommunications infrastructure, contradict the rhetoric. Germany’s unique susceptibility to industrial lobby influence over foreign policy, noted by analyst Wolfgang Münchau, further complicates the situation. In contrast, Macron’s approach involves assuring Beijing of friendship while pressuring the European Commission to investigate Chinese subsidies for electric vehicles.

This divergent approach to China intensifies the clash between German export-driven growth, aligned with China, and French aspirations for reindustrialization. The potential impact of a trade war on major German corporations, deeply entwined with China, adds a layer of complexity to this geopolitical puzzle. As France seeks economic autonomy for Europe, and Germany aims to maintain trade surpluses, a collision appears increasingly inevitable.

While some European nations view Washington’s confrontational stance towards China skeptically, the ambiguous positions of European capitals may tempt the United States towards unilateralism. Such a move risks triggering a similar short-sighted egoism in other European states, mirroring Germany’s approach. Moreover, the impending break-up of the Franco-German alliance opens the door to new political possibilities. For the U.S., this means shaping more effective coalitions, while for Europe, it signifies a potential departure from post-historical illusions and an entry into the realm of power politics.

403 Indian Students Lost Abroad Since 2018: Government Addresses Concerns, Canada Tops List with 91 Fatalities

The government announced on Thursday that 403 Indian students have lost their lives abroad since 2018 due to a variety of reasons, including natural causes, accidents, and medical conditions. Canada has reported the highest number of fatalities among 34 nations, with 91 Indian students succumbing to different circumstances.

Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, provided this information in a written response to a question raised in Rajya Sabha, stating, “According to the information available with the ministry, 403 incidents of death of Indian students abroad have been reported since 2018.” To address the well-being of Indian students studying abroad, heads of mission/post and senior officials engage in regular interactions with universities and educational institutions.

Canada leads the list with 91 reported deaths of Indian students since 2018, followed by the United Kingdom (48), Russia (40), the United States (36), Australia (35), Ukraine (21), Germany (20), Cyprus (14), and Italy and the Philippines (10 each), according to data submitted by the ministry. Minister Muraleedharan emphasized, “The safety and security of Indian students abroad is one of the foremost priorities for the Government of India.”

He assured that Indian missions and posts remain vigilant, closely monitoring the well-being of students. In case of any untoward incident, prompt action is taken by engaging with the authorities of the host country to ensure a thorough investigation and appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. The government is committed to providing comprehensive consular assistance to distressed Indian students, including emergency medical care and lodging, whenever necessary.

Addressing concerns about the high number of student deaths, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi referred to the increasing influx of Indian students into Canada. Bagchi stated during a weekly briefing, “I don’t know if this is an issue that merits taking up with the government. There are individual incidents where there has been foul play and others….Our consulates do reach out to families; we also take up such cases with the local authorities.”

In essence, the government’s response highlights the tragic loss of 403 Indian students abroad since 2018 and the varied causes contributing to these incidents. The emphasis on the safety and security of Indian students, coupled with ongoing efforts by Indian missions and posts, reflects the commitment to addressing concerns and providing assistance in distressing situations.

Minister Muraleedharan’s assurance of swift action and engagement with host country authorities underscores the proactive approach taken to investigate incidents and ensure justice. Additionally, the acknowledgment of the increasing number of Indian students in Canada as a factor in the higher death toll aims to contextualize the statistics and prompt further examination.

The government’s commitment to consular assistance, encompassing medical care and lodging, reaffirms the dedication to supporting distressed Indian students abroad. The complex nature of these incidents, involving various countries and circumstances, underscores the need for continuous monitoring and diplomatic efforts to address challenges faced by Indian students studying overseas.

US Ambassador Garcetti Foresees Bright Future for India-US Relations: A Multiplicative Force for Global Good

The US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, expressed optimism about the India-US relationship, stating that it is a “force of good for the world” with a “positive romantic ambiguity” for the future. Speaking at Carnegie’s Global Tech Summit 2023, Garcetti highlighted the growing breadth and depth of ties between the two nations, emphasizing efforts to negotiate differences and plan for the future.

In his address, Garcetti humorously likened the historical status of the relationship to a Facebook status of “It’s complicated,” suggesting that it has evolved into a phase resembling dating. He remarked on the complexities of merging habits, symbolizing the ongoing efforts to understand and navigate the partnership’s direction. Despite the uncertainties, he underscored a shared desire on both sides to advance the relationship.

Quoting Garcetti, “There’s a positive romantic ambiguity about where this will ultimately lead… But there’s a strong desire on both [sides to take the relationship forward].”

Reflecting on the partnership’s effectiveness, Garcetti pointed to the G20 Summit as a notable example. He commended the collaboration between India and the US, emphasizing how their joint efforts surpassed a simple additive relationship, producing a historic consensus involving 20 countries.

Quoting Garcetti, “India-US relationship is not additive, its multiplicative. We demonstrated that at G20, where it was more than just 1+1 equals 2 countries, 1+1 actually produced 20 countries together with a historic and strongest, deepest statement ever put forward by a G20.”

The ambassador highlighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States as a significant milestone in the relationship’s growth. He noted the extensive discussions and numerous deliverables, emphasizing the unprecedented nature of the continued communication between the two nations.

Quoting Garcetti, “if you get three to five deliverables, that’s a strong state dinner. The week before [the state dinner], we were ploughing through 123 different deliverables.”

Garcetti concurred with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s perspective that the state dinner should be viewed not as the pinnacle but as a new base for US-India relations. He emphasized President Joe Biden’s recognition of the relationship as the most consequential in the world.

Quoting Garcetti, “[President Joe Biden] is the very first president to say this is most consequential relationship in the world.”

Addressing the role of China in the bilateral ties, Garcetti acknowledged its importance but refuted the notion that the relationship was primarily centered around China. He asserted that 95% of the relationship was fundamentally about other matters, characterizing China as a component related to deterrence.

Quoting Garcetti, “Peace is critical, but deterring war, respecting borders and sovereignty, making sure that we don’t have people who steal intellectual property, that we are not overly dependent on any one place for a supply chain, is a deterrent peace.”

Responding to concerns about India’s ability to absorb the impact of US-China derisking, Garcetti emphasized that missing this opportunity would be a loss. He also addressed challenges hindering the desired flow of Foreign Direct Investment, pointing to India’s status as the “highest taxed input major economy in the world.”

Quoting Garcetti, “It’s not a criticism…but it’s harming your own internal capacity to be the manufacturing powerhouse that India should be. That we want it to be. That it is starting to accelerate to become but it will require some fundamentally deeper changes.”

G20 Chief Coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla, participating in the discussions, echoed the sentiment that the relationship is multifaceted and constantly evolving. He emphasized the collaborative role of the US and India as a force for good in the world beyond their individual interests.

Quoting Shringla, “The relationship is amazingly multifaceted, but it’s also constantly evolving. US and India are a force for good in the world together, not just for our countries.”

Rep. Jayapal Urges US-Israel-Arab Coalition Against Hamas, Stresses Long-Term Political Solution for Middle East Stability

In a recent interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) emphasized the importance of a coalition involving the United States, Israel, and Arab countries to address the threat posed by Hamas and to establish long-term stability in the region.

Jayapal reiterated her call for a cease-fire while dismissing the idea that it would perpetuate the existence of the “brutal terrorist regime in place in Gaza.” She asserted that Hamas, being a terrorist organization, needs to be dealt with, and the key lies in forming a durable coalition within the Middle East. According to Jayapal, terrorism experts advocate for this approach, emphasizing collaboration with the United States and Israel to foster a lasting political solution and provide an alternative leadership for Gaza, ultimately leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Addressing the ongoing conflict, Jayapal condemned both Hamas and Israel, attributing the lack of progress toward a long-term solution to Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza. She underscored the need for accountability, stating, “We have to condemn what Hamas did on October 7. We cannot allow for 15,000 Palestinians to date to have been killed, three-quarters of whom are women and children, and say that that is going to help us in the long term.”

Jayapal highlighted the moral and strategic imperative for Israel to pursue a political solution that includes the establishment of both a Palestinian and Israeli state. She expressed concern that a lasting coalition, essential for ending the war, would not materialize if Israel continued its current military actions, asserting, “The United States cannot be backers of this kind of indiscriminate bombing.”

The representative’s call for a coalition coincides with Israel’s resumption of its offensive in Gaza, following a seven-day temporary cease-fire. This pause in hostilities resulted in the release of dozens of Israeli hostages in exchange for three times that number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli custody.

To encapsulate Jayapal’s position, she advocates for a comprehensive coalition approach involving the United States, Israel, and Arab nations to counter Hamas, condemning both indiscriminate actions and calling for a political solution that addresses the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis for long-term stability in the region.

Unraveling the Complexity: Examining the Gaza Conflict Through the Lens of Genocide

In the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has seen more than 11,000 lives lost since October 7, tensions have escalated, prompting international concern and calls for action. Following a deadly Hamas attack, Israel declared war, leading to a military offensive in the densely-populated region home to over 2 million people. Despite a four-hour daily humanitarian pause in northern Gaza, brokered by U.S. President Biden, concerns persist over the well-being of civilians caught in the crossfire.

The severity of the situation has prompted significant developments, including the resignation of Craig Mokhiber, a United Nations director, citing the organization’s “failure” to address what he deemed a “textbook case of genocide.” A coalition of U.N. experts echoed this sentiment, expressing concern about the Palestinians facing a “grave risk of genocide.” Furthermore, three Palestinian human rights organizations have taken legal action by filing a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC), seeking arrest warrants against Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, for alleged genocide.

Amidst these developments, scholars have weighed in on the classification of the conflict as genocide, considering legal, social scientific, and conventional perspectives. The legal definition, as per the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, requires proving specific intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. However, experts acknowledge the difficulty in establishing genocidal intent definitively.

Ernesto Verdeja, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, notes the narrow focus of the legal definition, emphasizing the exclusion of victims based on socioeconomic status or political identity. Alexander Hinton, UNESCO Chair on genocide prevention at Rutgers University, emphasizes a broader, colloquial definition centered on large-scale destruction and acts against a population.

Raz Segal, the program director of genocide studies at Stockton University, categorically labels the current situation as a “textbook case of genocide.” He points to Israeli forces’ alleged genocidal acts, including killing, causing bodily harm, and implementing measures to destroy the group. Segal cites explicit statements of intent from Israeli leaders, such as President Isaac Herzog’s remarks, suggesting a broad characterization of all Palestinians as “an enemy population.”

Scholars differ in their assessments. David Simon of Yale University emphasizes Israel’s explicit goal of targeting Hamas, not a religious, ethnic, or racial group, raising doubts about meeting the legal definition of genocide. Ben Kiernan, director of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University, concurs, stating that Israel’s actions, while indiscriminate, do not meet the legal threshold for genocide.

Victoria Sanford, a City University of New York professor, draws parallels between the Gaza situation and the Guatemalan genocide, highlighting similarities in the targeting of Mayans and Palestinians. Sanford, along with other scholars, supports legal action, urging the ICC to address the “Israeli intention to commit genocide visibly materializing on the ground.”

While scholars debate the classification of the conflict, some argue that such debates are a “bad use of focus.” Verdeja suggests that proving genocide takes time and does not prevent further loss of life. Hinton echoes this sentiment, cautioning against rigidly focusing on defining a moment as genocide, emphasizing the need for broader perspectives.

The significance of labeling the conflict as genocide is a point of contention among scholars. Segal underscores the importance of truth-telling, drawing parallels with past instances where reluctance to use the term hindered intervention. He argues for naming the situation truthfully to facilitate a reckoning with the events that unfolded and to guide future actions.

In the complex landscape of the Gaza conflict, the discourse on genocide highlights the challenges of applying legal definitions to evolving situations while emphasizing the broader impact on affected populations. As international attention remains focused on the region, the nuanced perspectives of scholars contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing crisis.

India Plummets in Global Talent Competitiveness Index, Ranking 103rd – Lowest Among BRICS Nations

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index has witnessed a significant decline for India, plummeting from the 83rd position a decade ago to the 103rd rank in the latest report released earlier this month. Among 134 countries evaluated, India finds itself positioned between Algeria, ranked 102, and Gautemala, ranked 104, both categorized as lower-middle-income countries. This places India well below the median score of the countries assessed. Notably, India’s current standing in the index is the lowest among BRICS nations.

Developed by the renowned chain of business schools, INSEAD, the Global Talent Competitiveness Index serves as a measure of how countries and cities grow, attract, and retain talent. The index comprises two sub-indices: input, which assesses regulatory and business environments, as well as efforts to foster and retain talent, and output, which evaluates the quality of talent.

India’s decline in the GTCI is particularly worrisome, considering the government’s frequent reference to scores on various business indices such as ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and the controversial World Bank-led ‘Doing Business’ scores to bolster its case. Notably, the World Bank Report on ‘Doing Business’ was discontinued due to irregularities in its measurement.

India’s performance in the GTCI stands in stark contrast to other emerging countries that have shown improvement on this index. China, Indonesia, and Mexico, in particular, have been highlighted for their noteworthy progress. China, for instance, has transitioned from being a talent mover to a talent champion, while Indonesia has made significant strides in talent competitiveness over the past decade. Mexico has transformed from a talent laggard to a talent mover, and Brazil is on track to potentially categorize as a talent mover.

In the context of BRICS nations, China leads the group with a rank of 40, followed by Russia at 52, South Africa at 68, and Brazil at 69. In contrast, India’s rank of 103 is the lowest among BRICS countries.

The report emphasizes that India’s talent competitiveness witnessed an increase up to 2020 but has regressed in each of the three subsequent years. A primary factor contributing to this decline is a downturn in business sentiment, significantly impacting the ability to attract talent, with India now ranked 132nd out of 134 in this aspect. This decline extends to both attracting talent from overseas (127th in External Openness sub-pillar) and within the country (129th in Internal Openness).

The report also highlights an increased skills mismatch and greater difficulty in finding skilled employees, positioning India at 121st in both the ‘Employability’ sub-pillar and the ‘Vocational and Technical Skills’ pillar. However, it does acknowledge India’s strength in the ‘Global Knowledge Skills’ category, where innovation and software development contribute to its 69th position in the Talent Impact sub-pillar.

In terms of global rankings, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States hold the top three positions. European countries continue to dominate the ‘Top 25’ rankings, with Japan dropping out for the first time, and South Korea ascending to take its place.

Despite the debates surrounding India’s position on various business indices, experts argue that focusing on whether the current situation can be labeled a genocide is a misplaced emphasis. Some scholars, like Verdeja, express the view that debates on this matter divert attention and time from addressing the ongoing crisis, stating, “Proving whether something is a genocide takes time and does not actually stop people from being killed.” Hinton concurs, asserting that the fixation on defining a specific moment as genocide can lead to a rigid focus, obscuring the broader perspective of addressing the immediate challenges and finding solutions.

In the broader context, scholars note the significance of using the term genocide to describe specific situations. Segal cites the example of the U.S. government’s refusal to label crimes against the Hutus in Rwanda as genocide, as doing so would have obligated intervention. This lack of action allowed the massacre to continue unabated. Segal emphasizes the importance of naming a situation for what it is, stating, “Without sticking to the truth, we’ll never have a truthful reckoning of how we arrived at the seventh of October, and how we go forward.”

Israeli Strikes Continue in Gaza as Conflict Enters Sixth Week

Israeli airstrikes relentlessly targeted Gaza City overnight and persisted into Sunday, while ground forces engaged in intense battles with Hamas militants near the largest hospital in the area. Shifa Hospital, currently hosting thousands of medics, patients, and displaced individuals, faces a dire situation with no electricity and dwindling supplies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a televised address on Saturday, dismissed international calls for a cease-fire unless it included the release of 239 hostages captured by Hamas in the October 7 incident that triggered the conflict. Netanyahu affirmed Israel’s commitment to using “full force” in the ongoing battle.

Israel’s objective in the conflict is to end Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza and dismantle its military capabilities. The blame for the severe impact on the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the besieged territory is placed on Hamas by Israel. The international community, including the United States, has exerted increasing pressure on Israel as the conflict extends into its sixth week. A gathering of 57 Muslim and Arab nations in Saudi Arabia called for an end to the war, and around 300,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched peacefully through London in the largest protest since the war’s commencement.

Heavy Clashes Near Shifa Hospital Raise Concerns

Gaza City residents reported extensive airstrikes and shelling overnight, particularly in the vicinity of Shifa Hospital. Israel has accused Hamas of concealing a command post within the hospital compound, an allegation denied by both Hamas and hospital staff. Shifa Hospital, already in a precarious state, faced further challenges when its last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday. This resulted in the tragic deaths of a premature baby, another child in an incubator, and four additional patients. Hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia, amidst gunfire and explosions, highlighted that Israeli troops were restricting movement within and outside the hospital.

The World Health Organization lost communication with contacts at Shifa, and the International Committee of the Red Cross director general, Robert Mardini, emphasized the urgency of addressing the “unbearably desperate situation” at the hospital. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that Israeli tanks were in close proximity to al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, causing extreme panic among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.

Netanyahu Outlines Postwar Plans Amid Criticism

Netanyahu, in response to mounting criticism and calls for a cease-fire, reiterated Israel’s stance that the responsibility for harm to civilians lies with Hamas. Contrasting with the U.S. vision for the postwar scenario, Netanyahu outlined plans for Gaza’s demilitarization, with Israel retaining security control and the ability to enter Gaza freely to combat militants. He rejected the idea of the Palestinian Authority gaining control of Gaza, emphasizing that Hamas had driven the PA’s forces out in 2007.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the U.S. opposition to an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisioned a unified Palestinian government overseeing both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. Tensions between Israel and Saudi Arabia were evident as Saudi Arabia welcomed Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in the first such visit since the two nations mended ties.

Divergent Views on Conducting the Conflict

While Israel’s allies defend its right to protect itself, differences are emerging on how Israel should conduct the conflict. The U.S. advocated for temporary pauses to allow the distribution of aid to civilians, but Israel has agreed only to brief daily periods for civilians to flee the northern Gaza combat zone. Tens of thousands have already fled the north, but Israel’s strikes, claiming to target militants, extend to central and southern Gaza, resulting in civilian casualties.

The conflict, now in its second month, has displaced over two-thirds of Gaza’s population. Egypt has allowed foreign passport holders and medical patients to exit through the Rafah crossing, but aid workers emphasize that the current relief efforts are insufficient. The Health Ministry in Gaza reported over 11,000 Palestinian deaths, with concerns about thousands missing or trapped under rubble. Meanwhile, 46 Israeli soldiers have been killed, and Hamas continues to launch rockets into Israel.

Amidst this, thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv for the return of hostages, while in Caesarea, protesters called for Netanyahu’s removal. Over 250,000 Israelis have been evacuated from communities near Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon, where tensions persist between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants.

How the Confidence in the UN Eroded Globally

Since 1947, when the UN General Assembly endorsed the partitioning of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the Middle East has been a focal point of UN deliberations. In the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the UN has followed a consistent pattern: the US employs its veto to thwart criticism of Israel at the Security Council, while Arab states rally developing nations to support the Palestinians. Recent discussions at the UN after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel have adhered to this familiar script. The US vetoed a Security Council resolution urging a cease-fire in Gaza, but a General Assembly resolution for a “humanitarian truce” passed overwhelmingly in late October.

However, diplomats at UN offices in New York and Geneva express a sense that this crisis is distinct and could have repercussions beyond Israel and Gaza, impacting the UN’s integrity. Their concerns stem not only from the brutality of Hamas, the mounting casualties in Gaza, and the potential for regional escalation but also from a broader loss of confidence in the UN. Doubts about the effectiveness of an institution designed for twentieth-century power dynamics to address postwar challenges are not new. In the past year, the UN has appeared particularly adrift, failing to respond effectively to crises in Sudan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the coup in Niger. Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have further hindered UN discussions on unrelated issues in Africa and the Middle East. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a “great fracture” in the global governance system at the annual General Assembly meeting in September.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas could exacerbate the erosion of the UN’s credibility in crisis response. This situation prompts a crucial reckoning for national governments and UN officials on how the UN can contribute to peace and security in a world where common ground among major powers is shrinking. The post-Cold War era witnessed calls for the UN to address conflicts as a matter of routine, but now the institution seems to be confronting its geopolitical limitations.

A revamped UN, suitable for the contemporary age, must adjust its ambitions. On security matters, the organization should prioritize a limited set of key issues and delegate crisis management responsibilities when possible. Some international problems will still necessitate the coordination uniquely possible at the UN. Even when diplomatic efforts among nations falter, the institution remains a platform where adversaries can negotiate differences and identify opportunities for collaboration. Rather than allowing ongoing conflicts to fracture the UN, both national governments and UN officials must collaborate to preserve its essential functions.

STARTING TO SPIRAL

The crisis of confidence in the UN has been escalating since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Initially, diplomats feared that tensions among major powers would paralyze the UN. However, despite intense debates over the war in Ukraine, Russia, the US, and European allies continued to coordinate on other matters. The Security Council imposed new sanctions on criminal gangs in Haiti and agreed on a mandate for the UN to collaborate with the Taliban government in Kabul to provide aid to suffering Afghans. Both Russia and the West demonstrated a willingness to use the UN for residual cooperation.

This delicate balance began to unravel in the spring. Russia increasingly acted as a spoiler at the UN, withdrawing UN peacekeepers from Mali and vetoing the renewal of a mandate for aid agencies in rebel-held parts of Syria. Moscow also exited the Black Sea Grain Initiative, disrupting a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey in 2022. The war in the Middle East highlighted this more aggressive approach to UN diplomacy. While China maintained a relatively neutral stance, Russia capitalized on the situation, criticizing the US for vetoing a resolution on humanitarian aid to Gaza and implying American complicity in fueling the conflict.

The US’s unwavering support for Israel has compounded diplomatic challenges, particularly in the General Assembly. The coalition of states supporting Ukraine fractured over Gaza, leading to a resolution for a “humanitarian truce” passing with a divided vote. The US voted against the resolution, citing its failure to condemn Hamas, causing a ripple effect. Diplomats from developing countries hinted at rejecting future UN resolutions supporting Ukraine due to perceived Western disregard for Palestinian concerns.

This recent division may undermine the US’s efforts to improve relations with the global South at the UN. The Biden administration’s push for Security Council reforms and promises to collaborate with financial institutions for developing countries now faces headwinds, as its stance on Israel and Gaza risks undoing progress made with these nations before the current conflict.

The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have intensified diplomatic tensions among UN member states and placed significant strain on UN Secretary-General Guterres and the organization’s conflict-management system. The absence of unified support from the Security Council has hindered the UN’s ability to effectively manage conflicts, with trouble spots like Sudan, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo experiencing challenges in cooperation and peacekeeping efforts.

 

Governments and warring parties in these regions have resisted collaboration with UN mediators, and demands for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers have been made without facing substantial consequences. Despite maintaining a humanitarian presence in places like Afghanistan, the UN is grappling with funding shortfalls due to reduced aid budgets from Western donors allocating significant resources to military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

Guterres has become entangled in diplomatic disputes, particularly concerning events in the Middle East. His remarks on Hamas’s attack on Israel led to calls for his resignation from Israel, affecting cooperation with UN humanitarian officials. The incident underscores the vulnerability of UN aid operations to political discord, with tragic consequences on the ground, including the death of nearly 100 UN employees in Gaza.

The future of the UN’s presence in the Middle East hinges on the duration and extent of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. In a post-conflict scenario, the UN may play a significant role in recovery efforts or even be tasked with administering Gaza after the removal of Hamas. However, an extended and broader regional war could jeopardize the UN’s longstanding peacekeeping missions in southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

Regardless of the outcomes in the Middle East and Ukraine, ongoing trends at the UN signal future challenges. Diplomatic divisions and operational vulnerabilities are likely to persist or worsen as global rifts deepen. While the UN may not return to its Cold War-era prominence, it can adapt to a diminished role. Guterres’s “New Agenda for Peace” emphasizes a reduced focus on peacekeeping missions and encourages member states to address new security threats.

The UN could shift from deploying its own forces to supporting other crisis managers, including regional organizations and individual countries. This approach is already being tested, such as Kenya leading a multinational security assistance mission in Haiti. Despite current disagreements, the Security Council could find a new equilibrium, serving as a venue for resolving conflicts among major powers and addressing shared interests in cooperation.

Even with the Security Council facing challenges, the wider UN system retains a substantial role in international conflict management. UN relief agencies possess unique capacities to mitigate violence’s effects, and efforts are underway to explore conflict prevention methods independent of Security Council oversight, such as utilizing World Bank funds to support basic services in vulnerable states. In a period of geopolitical tension, the UN may not lead in resolving major crises, but it can contribute significantly to protecting vulnerable populations.

Israel Rejects US Call for Gaza Ceasefire Amid Ongoing Conflict

Israel has rejected a plea from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza. Blinken discussed the idea with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials during their meetings in Tel Aviv. However, Netanyahu, in a televised statement, dismissed the proposal, stating that Israel would not accept “a temporary ceasefire that does not include the release of our hostages.” He affirmed that Israel would continue its operations against Hamas.

The US diplomatic effort unfolded as Israeli military commanders reported that they had encircled Gaza City and were engaged in a challenging urban battle. Israel’s offensive, involving airstrikes and ground forces, was initiated in response to an attack on October 7, during which Hamas fighters killed 1,400 people in Israel and took more than 240 hostages.

Since then, Israel’s assault has resulted in the deaths of at least 9,200 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

During his visit to Tel Aviv, Blinken reiterated the United States’ support for Israel and sought assurances that Israel would take steps to protect Palestinian civilians. He addressed various key questions raised during their discussions, including how to enhance the flow of humanitarian aid, linking the pause to the release of hostages, and preventing Hamas from exploiting these pauses. Blinken also highlighted the entry of over 100 aid trucks into Gaza in the past 24 hours, emphasizing the need for more.

Blinken stated that the US had offered guidance to Israel on minimizing civilian casualties while pursuing its objectives against Hamas. He also discussed measures to allow more aid, including fuel, to reach Gaza. However, Netanyahu firmly stated that he would not permit any fuel into Gaza and rejected any talk of a ceasefire, insisting on the release of hostages as a condition for a temporary truce.

The US secretary of state emphasized that Israel’s security could only be achieved through the establishment of a Palestinian state, reaffirming the US commitment to a two-state solution. He stressed, “Two states for two peoples. Again, that is the only way to ensure lasting security for a Jewish and democratic Israel.”

During a news conference alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Blinken acknowledged Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, aiming to prevent the events of October 7 from recurring. Herzog revealed efforts to warn Gazans about airstrikes, displaying a pamphlet dropped in the Strip instructing civilians to leave the conflict zone in the north.

Meanwhile, the families of Israelis taken hostage protested nearby. Herzog expressed sympathy for them, while Blinken reassured that the US was continually thinking about the hostages, including Israelis, Americans, and other nationals. White House officials revealed that Hamas had been preventing foreign nationals from leaving Gaza, suggesting that a significant pause in the Israeli offensive was necessary to have any hope of freeing the hostages.

On a political note, a Democratic representative, Rashida Tlaib, criticized President Biden for not demanding a ceasefire and accused him of supporting the “genocide of the Palestinian people.” She issued a warning, stating, “Support a ceasefire now or don’t count on us in 2024,” in reference to Biden’s potential re-election campaign.

Blinken is currently in Jordan, where earlier, the country recalled its ambassador from Israel. He is scheduled to meet with Arab leaders who have been increasingly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

FBI Director Warns of Increased Threats and Attacks on Americans, Jews, and Muslims Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict

The FBI director issued a warning on Tuesday, highlighting how the Israel-Hamas conflict has elevated the threat level for potential attacks against Americans and intensified dangers for Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States.

Christopher A. Wray, Director of the FBI, expressed concerns about foreign terrorist organizations inciting violence against Jews in response to the October 7 terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas in Gaza. The conflict led Israel to impose a siege and bombardment of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

Wray stated, “We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago.”

He emphasized that the ongoing Middle East conflict has raised the threat of attacks against Americans within the United States, especially from violent extremists or lone actors influenced by messages promoting hatred and violence.

Before the Israel-Hamas conflict, the United States had already witnessed a surge in antisemitic incidents, partly attributed to white supremacist propaganda and nationalist groups. However, since the October 7 attack by Hamas, the frequency of antisemitic threats and acts has considerably increased. Director Wray described it as “a threat that is reaching in some way sort of historic levels.”

Wray underlined that the Jewish community is a target for various types of terrorists, including homegrown violent extremists, foreign terrorist organizations, and domestic violent extremists.

Foreign terrorist groups, in response to the Hamas attacks, have issued calls to attack Americans, particularly Jews. Notably, the Islamic State (ISIS) has called for attacks on Jewish communities in the United States and Europe, while Al Qaeda issued a specific call to attack the United States, making it the most explicit call to attack the U.S. in the past five years.

Wray emphasized the significance of this unprecedented level of calls for attacks by foreign terrorist organizations, raising the potential terror threats to the United States.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has also sparked division within the United States. Protests against Israel’s response to the attack and its treatment of Palestinians have led to the removal of posters depicting victims kidnapped by Hamas on several college campuses. Private companies, universities, and organizations such as the Writers Guild of America have faced criticism for their statements or lack thereof regarding the violence in the Middle East.

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, mentioned that federal officials have witnessed an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities and institutions in the United States since October 7.

While Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they were already the target of approximately 60% of religious-based hate crimes before the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to Wray, citing 2022 statistics.

Between October 7 and October 23, there were 312 antisemitic incidents in the United States, with 190 directly linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the Anti-Defamation League. These incidents include a case on October 15 at Grand Central Terminal in New York, where a Jewish woman was reportedly punched in the face due to her Jewish identity.

Wray also mentioned a recent arrest in Houston on October 19 of a Palestinian asylum seeker, Sohaib Abuayyash, who had been in the United States since June 2019 on an expired travel visa. Abuayyash was found to have been studying how to build bombs and had expressed support for violence against Jewish people. He was also illegally in possession of a firearm and had engaged with individuals who shared a radical mindset, according to the criminal complaint.

The Biden administration has maintained regular contact with Jewish communities across the country, with the FBI creating an intelligence fusion cell dedicated to addressing hate crimes and domestic terrorism. This proactive approach aims to comprehensively understand and respond to the evolving threat landscape.

In response to the rising number of antisemitic attacks and hate crimes against Palestinians after the Israel-Hamas conflict, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced grants of up to $75 million for local police departments and houses of worship.

The conflict has not only fueled antisemitic incidents but has also led to an increase in hate-fueled attacks against Muslims and Arabs in the United States since October 7. The Council on American Islamic Relations reported over 700 complaints of bias incidents and threats against American Muslims between October 7 and October 25, reaching levels not seen since December 2015 when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on Muslim travel to the United States.

One prominent incident involved the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian American in Illinois, with the landlord arrested for stabbing the boy and his mother in what is being treated as a hate crime.

In New York, two men were arrested and charged with hate crimes for their involvement in an October 11 attack on three men, during which they shouted anti-Muslim slurs. The 2022 FBI report indicated that nearly 8% of religious-based hate crimes targeted Muslims, a level similar to 2021.

A Fresh Face at the Helm: New House Speaker’s Vision for America

Mike Johnson, the freshly minted House speaker, is undergoing a swift transformation from relative anonymity to the highest-ranking elected Republican in the nation. In a candid conversation with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Johnson offered insights into his perspective, deeply rooted in the Bible, addressing concerns regarding his past opposition to LGBTQ rights, keeping his stance against abortion rights vague, and expressing his intention to tighten House rules to protect his position.

Despite these issues, Johnson’s immediate priority is negotiation with the White House on funding bills, with a clear message that Republican support comes with conditions.

Financial Wrangling: A Potential Shutdown and Ukraine Aid

Johnson emphasized his stance on budget cuts when it comes to funding the government, making it clear that he will insist on reductions when government funding lapses in less than three weeks. Given the current state of short-term funding bills, Johnson did not rule out the possibility of another stopgap measure when funding expires on November 17. Although he did not endorse a specific plan, Johnson and Hannity discussed a Republican proposal for an 8% cut in government spending, a measure unlikely to gain White House or Senate approval.

Johnson’s commitment to Ukraine’s support was evident, as he advocated for more funding to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression. However, he outlined 12 specific demands that Republicans would like to see met to ensure the effective use of these funds. The extent of aid that Republicans are willing to provide remains uncertain, considering the White House’s request for over $60 billion.

Furthermore, Johnson stressed that Republicans will not simply pass a bill providing additional funding to Ukraine and Israel without a catch. They will insist on separating these two issues and will demand budget cuts elsewhere in exchange for the $14.3 billion earmarked for Israel.

Congressional Oversight of Military Action: A Potential Shift

In a possible shift from the past, Johnson suggested that Republicans might attempt to restrict President Joe Biden’s authority to deploy U.S. military forces in the Middle East. Historically, every president since George W. Bush has relied on executive power to deploy troops for counterterrorism efforts. Johnson indicated that if U.S. troops were needed to rescue American hostages in Israel, Congress should have a say in the decision, emphasizing the limited authority of the executive branch without congressional consent.

Blaming the Human Heart, Not Guns

Regarding mass shootings and gun control, Johnson dismissed the idea that guns are responsible for these tragic events, arguing that the root cause lies in the human heart. He compared regulating guns to regulating vehicles, as both could potentially be used for harm. While he mentioned that he would consider legislation related to mental health, he didn’t go into specifics.

Respect for Biden Amid Criticism of His Leadership

Despite criticism of President Biden’s leadership, Johnson expressed respect for Biden’s position as the head of the nation. He acknowledged that while he might disagree with some of Biden’s policies, the presidency deserves respect. However, he agreed with Hannity that Biden’s mental acuity has declined in recent years, a point frequently raised by Republicans to question Biden’s leadership.

Core Principles of Conservatism: Guiding Johnson’s Approach

Johnson laid out a set of core principles he follows in both his speech to fellow lawmakers and his interview with Hannity. These principles, which he defines as “core principles of American conservatism,” include individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. Johnson intends to use these principles to counter the push towards what he sees as European-style socialism and to convince Democrats of his perspective.

A Worldview Rooted in the Bible

During his conversation with Hannity, Johnson addressed past writings and positions on LGBTQ rights that seem out of step with current societal norms. He clarified that many of his previous positions were based on religious freedom and emphasized his commitment to following the rule of law and treating all individuals with respect. He defended his beliefs and mentioned that his worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible.

Culture War Issues Take a Back Seat

While Johnson has not ruled out pushing for legislation related to gender or abortion rights, he asserted that there are more pressing issues to address, such as Israel, Ukraine, China, Iran, the economy, the border, and the fentanyl epidemic. Johnson considers these matters to be of higher priority, dismissing others as politically motivated attacks.

A Call for Opportunity and Collaboration

Johnson urged Democrats to give him a chance and expressed the hope that they would work together to address the nation’s challenges. Democrats will need to cooperate with him to pass legislation, making collaboration essential.

In his swift rise to prominence, Mike Johnson brings a unique blend of conservative values, religious conviction, and a focus on key national issues. His vision for America and his leadership style will undoubtedly be put to the test as he navigates the complex and often contentious world of politics in the United States.

Modi To Skip UNGA 2022

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not scheduled to be at the high-level UN General Assembly session in September this year but two newly elected leaders of troubled South Asian countries, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe, are among the scheduled participants, media reports here stated.

Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepal and Lotay Tshering of Bhutan are also listed to be speakers during the 2022 General Assembly of thew world body.

The Taliban regime, which is not recognized by any country, does not have a slot, nor does anyone from the government of ousted President Ashraf Ghani, which still in effect holds the country’s seat at the UN.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is likely to be the possible speaker at the UN, representing India, according to the roster of speakers available Wednesday at the United Nations.

Modi has so far addressed the General Assembly four times in person and once by video. He skipped the meeting in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In a sign of the world emerging from the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, all the speeches will be in person at this year’s session that begins on September 20, Paulina Kubiak, the spokesperson for Assembly President Abdulla Shahid, said on Wednesday.

The high-level session went all virtual in 2020 and turned hybrid last year with some speaking remotely and others like Modi attending in person.

The leaders are scheduled in a hierarchical order starting with the 101 heads of state, followed by prime ministers, the deputies, the ministers and others.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, which will take up a chunk of the session’s bandwidth, is scheduled to be at the meeting this year.

Al Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Killed In US Strike

The United States killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Al Zawahri in a “successful” counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan over the weekend that senior Biden administration officials say “deals a significant blow” to the terror network and degrades its ability to operate, including against the U.S. homeland, media reports stated.

The operation marks a major milestone for the U.S. Al-Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden as the leader of the terror group in 2011 and helped lead the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against the U.S.

President Biden spoke to the American people to announce the strike, saying Monday: “the United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”

Biden said U.S. intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The president approved the operation last week and it was carried out on Sunday.

Al-Zawahiri, who was 71, had been rumored to be dead but appeared in a video on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 last year.  The Associated Press first reported that a U.S. operation had killed al-Zawahiri.

“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,” a senior administration official said Monday, without naming Zawahiri as the target. “The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties.”

The news was particularly notable coming so close to the one-year anniversary of the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Al-Zawahiri’s killing represents a major success for the U.S. government and Biden is likely to point to it as an illustration that the U.S. does not need to be engaged in combat in order to take down threats to the homeland.

The United States government, on July 30 at 9:48 p.m. ET, and 6:18 a.m. Kabul time, undertook a “precision counterterrorism operation,” killing Al Zawahiri, who served as Usama bin Laden’s deputy during the 9/11 attacks, and as his successor in 2011, following bin Laden’s death.

A US official said that the U.S. government identified Zawahiri at a location in Kabul. “The Al Zawahiri family exercised longstanding terrorist tradecraft that we assessed was designed to prevent anyone from following them to Zawahiri,” the official explained, noting that the government identified Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children at a safe house in Kabul this year.

The official explained that “only a very small and select group of officials at key agencies were brought into the process and the deliberations at the early stage” and briefed on the developing intelligence.

“The president convened over the course of the last few weeks several meetings with his key advisers and cabinet members to carefully scrutinize the intelligence and evaluate the best course of action for targeting Zawahri,” the official explained, noting that Biden received updated on the developments of the targets throughout May and June.

“We are confident through our intelligence sources and methods, including multiple streams of intelligence, that we killed Zawahiri and no other individual,” the official said, noting that members of his family were present “in other parts of the safe house at the time of the strike and were purposefully not targeted and were unharmed.”

Global Population Projected To Exceed 8 Billion In 2022; Half Live In 7 Countries

By Conrad Hackett

The world’s population will cross 8 billion in November, according to recently released projections from the United Nations. And more than half of all people live in just seven countries.

China has the world’s largest population (1.426 billion), but India (1.417 billion) is expected to claim this title next year. The next five most populous nations – the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil – together have fewer people than India or China. In fact, China’s population is greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion) and roughly equivalent to that of all nations in Africa (1.427 billion).

As recently as 2015, half the world’s population was concentrated in just six countries – the same as above, with the exception of Nigeria, which was then the seventh most populous country and has since passed Brazil to move into sixth place. Recent population growth, however, has been faster in the rest of the world than in these nations, meaning that the top six now hold slightly less than half (49%) of the world’s people. Including Brazil’s 215 million people puts the world’s seven most populous countries at 51.7% of the global population.

In the UN’s “medium” scenario for future population growth – its middle-of-the-road estimate – the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Growth is expected to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 29% of all the world’s births happened last year. The 2021 total fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa, 4.6 births per woman, is double the global average of 2.3 births per woman and triple the average in Europe and Northern America (1.5) and in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (also 1.5).

The Vision Of A World Divided Into Two Blocs: China & Russia Vs Europe & The United States

(IPS) – For years, Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States have been one of the main areas of conflict in the media. Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of manipulation and disinformation and, after the invasion of Ukraine, decided to close their media outlets to Russian companies.
Excerpts from the Q&A: 

Q: What do you think about the way this issue has been handled and what repercussions could it have on the management of the media, especially non-mainstream media such as Inter Press Service (IPS) or OtherNews?

A: Information has always been used by power, both economic and political. Information is, by definition, top-down. Whoever transmits it, whether in print form in newspapers and magazines, or in electronic form on radio and TV, sends it to an audience that cannot intervene in the process. That is why power has always tried to use it. 

The Gutenberg era represented by this phenomenon lasted six centuries. Communication, which is a more recent phenomenon and which until now has only been possible with the Internet, is different. Communication is horizontal: I am a receiver, but I can also be a sender. There, power has much more power. 

The media that provide information are closer and closer to power, they are no longer a business, and every year they are less and less powerful. And politics today is increasingly oriented towards social media. The most recent example was former US President Donald Trump, who had 80 million followers with Twitter (during his tenure at the White House) and completely gave up control of the media. (Trump was permanently banned from twitter in January 2021, right after he supported the attack on the capitol. So, Trump doesn’t actually have any twitter followers now.).

It must be added, however, that the Internet has been captured by the market, which has eliminated the horizontality we all hailed in the beginning. Today we have moved from the era of Gutenberg to the era of Zuckerberg, and we users are data, not people. 

This is of great importance for young people, who today find themselves involved in vertically created turmoil, brought about by search engines, which divide users into affinity groups, thus eliminating dialogue, because when someone from part A meets someone from part B, they clash, end up insulting each other, without listening or sharing. And search engines, in order to keep the user, prioritise what generates the most impact, so that the strangest news ends up taking precedence. 

The extreme polarisation of America would not have been possible without social media. Newspapers increasingly focus on events and abandon processes, and international relations cannot be understood without analysing the process in which events take place. 

In Nairobi in 1973 there were 75 foreign correspondents; today there are three. No European TV has correspondents in Africa. It is therefore easy for a government to decide to expel correspondents, but it is almost impossible to shut down social networks, even if autocratic governments try to do so. That is why the Russian public knows little about the reality of the war. 

But if someone is determined, they can always find a way to overcome censorship, even if it is a skill of the young, the old are not on the Internet and still rely on traditional media.

In Italy, the main daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, had the front page for forty days with a nine-column headline dedicated to Ukraine. This was followed by the first twenty pages, all dedicated to Ukraine. The rest of the world had disappeared. And the same happened with most of the European media. 

Only with the French elections were newspapers forced to give significant space to Macron and not Zelensky. In this respect, representatives of the quality American press, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have been more balanced. Of course, the longer the war goes on, the more the repetition of events in the media becomes insufficient. 

But the European press, like Europe itself, has sided with NATO, and with little argument. In Russia, of course, the press has been an amplifier for the government. The US media, for its part, often at odds with the government on domestic and national issues, tends to support the official foreign policy position. Factors such as national identity, nationalism and a lack of knowledge of international realities in newsrooms come into play.

It was surprising to see the European press become a megaphone of NATO positions. Putin was demonized as was Hitler, and Zelensky praised as a Greek hero. The Russians are portrayed as barbarians killing Minos. There has never been any negative news about Ukrainians, when in war violence and dereliction of ethics are inevitable and unfortunately widespread. 

It is as if the Cold War has never ended, and we are ready to accept an escalation that can become scorching hot. GDP has contracted, the cost of living is rising, inflation is on the rise, and so far, there has been no reaction. This is really surprising. 

For OtherNews, which is a news service on global issues, it was a very complex challenge. OtherNews represents a new design. The idea is that the non-profit association is owned by the readers, who can become members by paying a modest annual fee of 50 euros. 

They elect the board of directors and discuss the editorial line, thus guaranteeing full independence and a pluralistic and inclusive line. There are 12,000 readers, in 82 countries around the world: academics, international civil servants, global civil society activists, etc.

Q: How would you define the role of the media in covering the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

A: The war in Ukraine is exclusively an affair of the global North. The global South is only a victim of the increase in food, energy and transport. In Africa it has reached 45% of the population. Articles from the North were criticized by readers from the South and vice versa. 

OtherNews lost almost 300 readers, almost all from the North, for publishing articles that criticized or questioned the war. I believe that this North-South divide will increase with the explosion of the multipolar world, as the values on which multilateralism was based are disappearing. 

An ‘active non-alignment’ could be recreated, which the press in Europe and the US will struggle to understand. The West still believes it is the centre of the world, the United States in particular.

But today, mainly because of the need to prioritise national interests over international cooperation, a path opened by (former President Ronald) Reagan and (former British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher in 1981, we have moved from a multilateral to a multipolar world. In the Bush junior era, neo-conservatives preached the arrival of an American century, that the US should remain the dominant power. Since then, the US has lost in every conflict it has been involved in, from Iraq to Afghanistan. 

And Trump took the logic of the end of multilateralism to the extreme, advising all countries to put their own interests first. Today the result is that the multipolar world is not based on the idea of international cooperation for peace and development, but on the most brutal competition. 

And Biden now wants to revive multilateralism. But it is too late. Biden will lose the mid-term elections in November and become a lame duck, with a Congress of Trumpist Republicans vetoing everything. And in 2024 Trump is likely to return, and this whole NATO boom will go into deep crisis. But until November, if the war does not escalate and remain as it is, the European press will basically keep the war helmet on.

Q: After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the identity of the international blocs seems to have reconfigured: on the one hand, the United States and the European Union, which defend the liberal tradition, have drawn a very wide dividing line, at home and abroad, between ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘pro-democratic’; on the other hand, Russia, China and their allies are considered ‘illiberal’. What do you think of this construction and what can it lead to in the future?

A: This vision of a world divided into two blocs, China and Russia on one side and liberal democracies, Europe and the United States, on the other, is an easy illusion to see. In this multipolar world, countries stand alone. 

A good example is Turkey, which is part of NATO, but does not participate in the embargo against Russia and is very close to China. Or India, which continues to buy Russian arms, is on China’s New Silk Road, but does not want any problems with the US. Indonesia, which has always been a loyal US ally, continues to maintain Putin’s participation in G20 despite US protests. 

And also in Europe: Hungary and Poland are openly defying Brussels, splitting into a pro-NATO Poland and a pro-Russia Hungary. Saudi Arabia, Washington’s great ally, ignores Biden’s request to increase oil production, despite having been invited to the summit of democratic countries convened by Biden. This homogeneous bloc of liberal countries is a good marketing slogan, but it crumbles at the slightest analysis.

Q: How do you see the impact of US domestic political polarization on the international scene? Why?

A: The Cold War was a confrontation between two political and ideological visions that clashed in a proxy war. America is no longer Kennedy’s America and it is no longer Obama’s America. It is a country where political polarization has reached unprecedented extremes. In 1980, 12% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans told the Pew Institute that they would not want their daughter to marry a man of the other party. Today it is 91% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans. 

And the US Supreme Court is already part of this polarization. 72% of Republicans believe Trump was a victim of electoral fraud. And the crowd that stormed the Capitol is described by the Republican Party as a ‘display of political opinion’. Is this the exemplary leader of democracy’s fight against the world’s dictators? And we are only at the beginning of a process of radicalization. 

Right-wing states, with the endorsement of the Supreme Court, are banning abortion, reducing social protections, minority voting power and changing schoolbooks. With the return of Trump, or Trumpism, in two years the coexistence between the two camps will become even more difficult and few will see America as the beacon of the free world. And that won’t matter much to Trump either.

Q: What lessons do you see for Latin America, both politically and economically, after Donald Trump’s four years in office? And for Europe?

A: My opinion is that there will be great chaos in international relations, with a growing power struggle between the United States and China, with Russia, which we had the intelligence to push into Beijing’s arms. Of course, this struggle will be disguised as something political, but in reality, it will be a pure struggle for economic and military hegemony. 

It is a fight that the US cannot win. And China is a self-referential country that has never left its borders and has built walls to keep the enemy out. While the US has exploited its soft power, its music, food, clothing, sports and lifestyle, China has little interest in this kind of imperialism. 

I have been going to China since 1958 and have always been struck by how little they care to make a foreigner understand Chinese culture. But there are tens of thousands of Chinese students studying abroad, while the same cannot be said of Americans. The two countries are two big islands, which consider themselves surrounded by inferior nations. 

Latin America has always been considered a second-rate region by the US, despite many declarations, and I doubt that China sees the region beyond its raw materials and Latin Americans beyond its buyers.

My opinion, especially in light of Trump’s experience, is that Latin America should adopt a policy of active non-alignment, declaring that it will not get involved in a proxy war that is not in its interest, and that it will do exactly what the multipolar dynamic advises: put its interests as a region first. 

This would give it greater consideration and weight in international negotiations, and a clear advantage in a world divided by the New Cold War that is brewing. A war that, unlike the current NATO war against Russia, cannot be military, because it would mean the destruction of the planet. Of course, history and the present do not help to have great faith in the intelligence of power.

The big problem is that Latin America continues to be a continent divided by the inability to leave behind the experience of its ancestors. It is the most homogeneous region in the world, much more so than Asia and Africa, and in some ways more so than Europe and the United States, since the latter are experiencing a real disintegration. 

However, the Latin American integration process has been an optical illusion. Latin America is a region of permanent political experimentation, which has stifled any economic logic due to the rivalry between successive presidents, between whom there is a constant change of compass. 

I fear that instead of putting up a united front in the face of the next cold war, they will allow themselves to be bought off individually, convinced that they are doing what is best for their country. The only thing that can change the situation is a great popular movement. But this has always been directed at global issues, such as women or the environment, and of course at national issues: never at regional issues. 

And in the press, the issue of integration has at best been relegated to its bureaucratic aspects, to the various bodies that have sprung up and failed in modern times. So, in my opinion, I don’t think we have learnt a real lesson from what has happened in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall to express an inclusive regional policy, with a strong identity, and which places us as important players in the inter-national arena of this century.

(Sebastián Do Rosario and Federico Larsen are researchers at the Institute for International Relations of Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interview was first published in the newsletter of the Institute.. Courtesy: IPS UN Bureau)

Sri Lanka Seeks Way Forward After President Quits

Sri Lanka is seeking a way out of political and economic chaos after its President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned and fled the country. Two days after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka, his two brothers – former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa – were barred from leaving the island nation until July 28.

The country’s Supreme Court on Friday passed an order during the hearing of a petition filed by Transparency International, a global NGO, alleging that these persons were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its debt default and the current economic crisis.

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s acting president on July 15th after parliament accepted the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Secret vote: For the first time since 1978, Sri Lanka will elect its next president through a secret vote by the MPs and not through a popular mandate, on July 20. The new president will serve the remaining tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa till November 2024.

Sigh of relief: Rajapaksa’s departure from office marks a major victory for the anti-government protesters, who for months have demanded his removal. “We are so happy today that he resigned and we feel that when we, the people, come together, we can do everything,” said Arunanandan, 34, a school teacher told Reuters. “We are the real power in this country.” 

As people celebrated in the streets, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana promised a swift and transparent political process that should be done within a week.

The new president could appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by Parliament. After Rajapaksa resigned, pressure on the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was rising.

In a televised statement, Wickremesinghe said he would initiate steps to change the constitution to curb presidential powers and strengthen Parliament, restore law and order and take legal action against “insurgents.”

It was unclear to whom he was referring, although he said true protesters would not have gotten involved in clashes Wednesday night near Parliament, where many soldiers reportedly were injured.

The process of parliament electing a new president began on Saturday, with MPs expected to take a vote on 20 July. The initial formal meeting lasted just 13 minutes, with a letter being read out from Mr Rajapaska defending his record.

“It is a matter of personal satisfaction for me that I was able to protect our people from the pandemic despite the economic crisis we were already facing,” he wrote.

According to news agency AFP, more than 16,500 people died during the pandemic in Sri Lanka, while the country’s official foreign exchange reserves dropped from $7.5bn (£6.3bn) to just $1m during his tenure.

After being sworn in as interim leader, Mr Wickremesinghe promised to act quickly to put a democratically elected president in place. “I will take immediate steps to establish the rule of law and peace in the country. I accept 100% the right to peaceful protests. But some are trying to do acts of sabotage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore says ousted president Rajapaksa did not ask for political asylum when he arrived there.  The former president, who arrived with his wife and two bodyguards, no longer has legal immunity as a head of state and his position is now more precarious as he tries to find a safe country to shelter in. 

He is expected to stay in Singapore for some time before possibly moving to the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lankan security sources told AFP news agency.

How India Keeps Both US And Russia Happy

The US House of Representatives has passed by voice vote a legislative amendment that approves waiver to New Delhi against the punitive CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. However, the waiver will become effective only if the US Senate clears the amendment and the President signs it.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA is a tough US law that authorises Washington to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

The Trump administration sanctioned Turkey, a NATO ally, for purchasing the S-400 air defence systems from Russia.

In the face of a two-front military threat from China and Pakistan, India is procuring the Russian-made S-400 surface to-air missiles as part of a $5 billion deal signed in 2018. The systems will be deployed along northern and western borders.

The S-400 TRIUMF is considered one of the advanced air defense systems in the world. The long-range missile is capable of intercepting up to 36 targets simultaneously including aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that New Delhi is pursuing an independent foreign policy and its defense acquisitions are guided by its national security interests.

India has abstained from voting against Russia, its trusted defence partner, at the UN over the issue of Ukraine war. At the same time, it has remained aligned with the US to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Seen from this perspective, the CAATSA waiver could be a big boost for India’s strategic autonomy.

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a legislation measure that will urge the Biden administration to waive sanctions on India for purchasing Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

The measure passed in a voice vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 (the defense budget). To make it to President Joe Biden’s desk for enactment, it must be a part of the final legislation that comes out of a process called reconciliation in which bills passed by the House and Senate are made into one.

India is potentially facing US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for its purchase of the Russian 3-400s. The 2017 law seeks to punish Russia for the 2016 election interference and other issues by scaring away buyers of its defence equipment with the threat of secondary sanctions. China and Turkey, a NATO ally, are the only two countries sanctioned by the US under this law yet.

India has started receiving these systems, which technically should have triggered CAATSA sanctions, but the Biden administration has not publicly declared its intentions, either way.

The amendment that passed Thursday was introduced by Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker from California who is now widely believed to be considering a run for the White House in 2024 if Biden decides to not run again.

“The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border,” Khanna said in a statement. “This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis.”

The amendment says India relies on Russian weapons because it faces “immediate and serious regional border threats” from China. And the US should take further steps to encourage India to accelerate its “transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems”.

The amendment argues then that it’s in the best interest of the US and the US-India partnership to waive the sanction. “While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during this transition period is in the best interests of the United States and the United States-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership,” it said as approved.

Talk of impending CAATSA sanctions has dogged India-US engagements from the time the law was enacted in 2017, under the Trump administration; it was a bipartisan congressional initiative and then President Donald Trump had no option but to sign. Then Defense Secretary James Mattis and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had publicly pressed lawmakers to exempt India and other countries that used to be too heavily reliant on Russian military hardware.

Speculation about sanctions picked up in recent months as India began receiving the missiles. But there has been no public indication that the administration is considering them.

Rishi Sunak’s Rise Mirrors Britain’s New Growing Diversity

It could be called democracy’s diversity, or even colonialism’s counterblast. The race to succeed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson by becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party, which espoused the Empire, imperialism and British national identity, has been swamped with contenders from former colonies in Asia and Africa. And at the end of the preliminary rounds, the son of immigrants from British East Africa was on top.

Rishi Sunak, UK’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Finance Minister, whose sudden resignation set in motion the circumstances that forced an intransigent Johnson to finally bow out, has emerged the main contender at the end of two rounds of voting by the 358 Conservative MPs.

Picking up a quarter of the votes in the first round, he became the only one to get over three digits in the second round — and is followed by three women present and former ministers.

The initial race had a ethnically diverse list of candidates — British Pakistani ministers Sajid Javid and Rehman Chishti, Sunak’s Iraqi Kurd-born successor Nadhim Zahawi, Attorney General Suella Braverman, whose family’s roots are in Goa, and Nigerian-origin former minister Kemi Badenoch.

Sunak and Braverman’s fellow Indian-origin Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, chose to sit it out.

Javid and Chishti failed to get enough traction to even figure in the race, Zahawi bowed out after the first round, and Braverman after the second, leaving Sunak and Badenoch to contend against Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Tom Tugendhat, the backbench MP, who happens to be half-French.

It’s early days for Sunak, who has emphasised that identity of a person born in the UK but with origins elsewhere matters to him. He has to remain in the reckoning till there are only two contenders left in the race, at which point the decision will be left to the rank-and-file Conservative Party members across the cities, shires, hills and dales across the British Isles.

Suave, efficient, but also controversy-ridden, the former US-based investment banker, hedge fund operator, and three-time MP still has a chance to become the first non-ethnic Briton to become Prime Minister.

This, though, will not be entirely unusual — for such staunch British PMs as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan happened to be half-American (on their mothers’ side) and Johnson was born in the US, becoming the first non-UK-born Prime Minister since Andrew Bonar Law nearly a century ago (Bonar Law, however, was born in Canada, which was a part of the Empire.)

Born in Southhampton on May 12, 1980, Sunak is the son of (the then British) Kenya-born Yashvir Sunak and his wife, Tanganyika-born Usha, who grandparents were born in the Punjab Province of British India, and migrated to East Africa, and from there to the UK in the 1960s.

“My parents emigrated here, so you’ve got this generation of people who are born here, their parents were not born here, and they’ve come to this country to make a life,” he said in an interview with the BBC in 2019.

“In terms of cultural upbringing, I’d be at the temple at the weekend — I’m a Hindu — but I’d also be at (Southampton Football Club) the Saints game as well on a Saturday — you do everything, you do both,” he said, also revealing that he was fortunate not to have endured a lot of racism growing up, save for one incident, when he was with his younger siblings.

With his father a general practitioner, and his mother, a pharmacist, he had an easy childhood. He studied at a prep school in Hampshire, and then he was at the prestigious Winchester College, where he was head boy and editor of the school paper; during vacations, he worked at local curry restaurant.

Oxford was the next stop and he graduated in 2001. The same year, he was interviewed along with his parents for the BBC documentary “Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl”. He was an analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs till 2004, and then a hedge fund management firm till 2009, when he left to join former colleagues at a new hedge fund launched in October 2010.

In 2009, he married Akshata, daughter of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and writer Sudha Murthy, who’s also the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. Sunak and Akshata have two daughters.

Engaged with the Conservative Party since his Oxford days, Sunak got into politics full-time in 2014 when was selected for the Richmond seat in north Yorkshire — one of the safest Conservative seats, which has been held by the party for more than a century — and won it in the 2015 elections by nearly 20,000 votes.

He retained it in the 2017, and 2019 elections, with increased majorities. His predecessor as Richmond MP was William Hague, now Baron Hague of Richmond, who held important cabinet position, Including Foreign Secretary, and was Leader of the House of Commons,

A staunch proponent of “Leave” in the Brexit referendum of 2016 and subsequent parliamentary votes, Sunak’s first government job was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government (2018-19) in the Theresa May government and then as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2019-20) in the government of Johnson, whose leadership bid he had supported.

He replaced his boss Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, and while he mostly earned plaudits for steering the government’s economic response to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, he also became the first Chancellor to be found to have broken the law while in office by breaching lockdown norms.

His wife’s non-domicile status, which let her save huge amount of taxes in the country, also became a major controversy for him.

It is Sunak’s “treachery”, which set off the spate of resignations that forced Johnson’s resignation, that may just queer his chances to become Prime Minister. (IANS)

Takeaways from Biden’s Middle East trip

By, Alex Gangitano, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels At The Hill

President Biden on Saturday, July 13th capped his first trip to the Middle East since taking office, a four-day visit that saw both progress and controversy.

The president met with Israeli officials to promote ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Palestinian officials amid efforts to maintain peace and foster collaboration in the region.

And Biden, who pledged on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a global pariah over human rights violations, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials about energy and defense issues, highlighting the way political realities have necessitated cooperation between the U.S. and the kingdom.

Here are five takeaways from Biden’s trip:

Biden wades into controversy with Saudi crown prince

Biden and his team had for weeks disputed that he was meeting with the Saudi crown prince, instead arguing Crown Prince Mohammed would merely be present at meetings with other leaders.

But one of the defining images of the trip depicted Biden fist-bumping the crown prince, prompting outrage from critics who raised concerns about his involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

U.S. intelligence had concluded in a report released this year that the crown prince was involved in the plot to kill Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted that the fist bump was a “visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan called the fist bump “shameful.”

A short time after the greeting, the president sat across a table from the crown prince as part of a meeting with Saudi leaders.

Biden later told reporters he raised Khashoggi’s murder at the very start of the meeting, and that he told the crown prince that he believed him responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

“I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden said. “I’ll always stand up for our values.”

A White House fact sheet said that Biden in his meetings “received commitments with respect to reforms and institutional safeguards in place to guard against any such conduct in the future.”

No immediate breakthroughs on oil 

Biden emerged from his meetings in Saudi Arabia without an immediate deliverable on oil production, but he expressed optimism that oil-producing nations would take steps to boost the global supply in the coming months. 

White House officials downplayed the significance high gas prices would play in Biden’s trip, but high gas prices in the U.S. and global energy disruptions from Russia’s war in Ukraine were widely seen as primary motivators for the trip to Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest oil producers.

The president said in remarks Friday evening that he and Saudi ministers, as well as the crown prince, “had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies.”

“I’m doing all I can to increase supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen,” Biden said in remarks from Jeddah. “The Saudis share that urgency and based on our discussions today I expect we’ll see further steps in the coming weeks.”

The White House also emphasized a new framework between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on clean energy production.

Experts said Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was unlikely to produce any major announcement on oil production on its own, but that the president could nudge the kingdom in the hopes of a future move to free up more supply.

The White House is eyeing an August meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), a group of roughly a dozen nations that influence global oil supply, saying any major announcement would likely stem from that meeting.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday that any concrete action on oil supplies would need to result from a decision by OPEC+, of which Saudi Arabia is a de facto leader. 

During his meeting Saturday with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Biden said the nations agree on the need to ensure “adequate supplies to meet global needs” adding he was looking “forward to seeing what’s coming in the coming months.” 

Saudi Arabia, Israel inch toward normalization

Biden tried to carry on the work of his predecessor, former President Trump, to help Israel normalize relations with other Arab nations. His trip to the Middle East saw a modest, but meaningful, step in that direction. 

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all airlines, including those flying to and from Israel. The step was hailed by the White House as an important sign of progress toward normalization. Saudi Arabia is also reportedly going to allow direct flights from Israel transporting Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

“This is the first tangible step on the path of what I hope will eventually be a broader normalization of relations,” Biden told reporters on Friday following meetings with Saudi officials. 

Biden in Israel also said he strongly supports the Abraham Accords, promoting the Trump-era normalization declarations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that the Biden administration hopes to expand to other Arab nations. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the Saudi announcement a positive “first step” and said the Israeli government would “continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens.” 

Biden tries to display toughness on Iran

Biden sought to assure Israel that the U.S. is committed to its security and preventing a nuclear Iran, while vowing to continue diplomatic efforts to piece back together the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.  

Speaking alongside Lapid at a press conference Thursday, Biden affirmed his belief that diplomacy remained the best path to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but said the U.S. wouldn’t “wait forever” for Iran to return to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“We’re not circling a date on the calendar. The deal is on the table. Should the Iranians choose to take it, we’re ready for a compliance-for-compliance return,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday, adding that the U.S. was not waiting to put “further economic pressure” on Iran even as Biden seeks a return to the deal. 

Israel is opposed to the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. The cracks between the two countries over Iran were on display at Thursday’s press conference, as Lapid said at the same press conference that “diplomacy will not stop them.”

“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force,” Lapid said. 

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Biden said the U.S. was willing to use force to prevent a nuclear Iran but only as a “last resort.” In a joint declaration signed by Biden and Lapid, the U.S. said it is “prepared to use all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

Biden’s domestic agenda takes hit while he’s overseas

Biden’s trip came as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) delivered a tough blow to his agenda, saying he would reject the climate spending and tax hikes on the wealthy in the budget reconciliation package.

The president in response called on the Senate to move forward with the slimmed-down health only reconciliation package before August recess since Manchin said he would only support a provision to lower prescription drug prices and a two-year extension of expiring health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing to move the reconciliation package to the floor before September. Biden vowed while on his trip to move on his climate agenda through executive action if it doesn’t pass in the Senate, which came during his conversations with Saudi leadership over energy security.

Gas prices in the U.S. have remained high, although are declining, but new inflation data this week showed that annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, the highest rate of price growth since November 1981. 

Biden returned to Washington with a sinking approval rating and support for his reelection in 2024 reaching record-lows among Democrats.

Sri Lanka In Political Vacuum As Talks Go On Amid Crisis

By, KRISHAN FRANCIS

(AP) — Sri Lanka was in a political vacuum for a second day Monday with opposition leaders yet to agree on who should replace its roundly rejected leaders, whose residences are occupied by protesters angry over the country’s deep economic woes. 

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s official home, which they stormed on Saturday demanding the two leaders step down. It marked the most dramatic day of protests during three months of a relentless crisis that has pushed many to the brink to despair amid acute shortages of fuel, food, medicine and other necessities. 

The protesters, who come from all walks of life, vowed to stay put until the resignations of the leaders are official. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. 

Wickremesinghe’s office said Monday that Rajapaksa had confirmed his earlier decision to resign on Wednesday.

Also Monday, a group of nine Cabinet ministers announced they will quit immediately to make way for an all-party government, outgoing Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe said. Wickremesinghe’s office said meanwhile that another group that met the prime minister decided to stay on until a new government is formed.

The president hasn’t been seen or heard publicly since Saturday and his location is unknown. But his office said Sunday that he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Opposition party leaders have been in discussion to form an alternative unity government, an urgent requirement of a bankrupt nation to continue discussions with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program. 

Lawmaker Udaya Gammanpila said the main opposition United People’s Front and lawmakers who have defected Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition have had discussions and agreed to work together. Main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and Dullas Alahapperuma, who was a minister under Rajapaksa, have been proposed to take over as president and prime minister and have been asked to decide on how to share the positions before a meeting with the parliamentary speaker later Monday.

“We can’t be in an anarchical condition. We have to somehow reach a consensus today,” Gammanpila said.

Opposition parties are also concerned over military leaders making statements about public security in the absence of a civil administration. 

Lawmakers have discussed Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva’s statement over the weekend calling on people’s cooperation to maintain law and order, said Kavinda Makalanda, spokesperson for Premadasa.

“A civil administration is the need, not the military in a democratic country,” Makalanda said.

If opposition parties fail to form a government by the time Rajapaksa resigns, Wickremesinghe as prime minister will become acting president under the constitution. However, in line with the protesters’ demand, opposition parties are keen on not allowing him take over even as acting president.

They say Wickremesinghe should promptly resign and allow Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena take over as acting president — the next in line according to the constitution. 

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery. But delays in alleviating the shortages of basic supplies has turned public anger against him with protesters accusing him of protecting the president.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the IMF for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Sri Lanka is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the IMF. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending repayment of foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption.

Rishi Sunak, A Front Runner To Be The PM Of UK

Indian Origin, Rishi Sunak, the Finance Minister of Great Britain has formerly launched his bid to be the next Prime Minister of England, reports here suggest. Sunak was until last year the favorite to succeed Johnson. While Rishi Sunak, has been praised for a rescue package for the economy during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention program, including a jobs retention program, which prevented mass unemployment that could cost as much as 410 billion pounds ($514 billion). He quit the government on Tuesday saying “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

The son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, Sunak has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules. His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favor lower taxes.

Also, seeking the top jonb in UK is another person of Indian origin, Suella Braverman, the attorney general, who has signaled her intention to be the PM. In an interview with ITV, Suella Braverman had called for Johnson to quit and said that she would join a leadership race to replace him, saying “it would be the greatest honor.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of United Kingdom resigned on July 7th, 2022, bringing an acrimonious end to a nearly three-year premiership that has been beset by controversy and scandal. After many months of speculation, he quit as Conservative leader, saying it is “clearly now the will” of Tory MPs that there should be a new leader. And, he pledged to stay on as PM until a successor is chosen – but a growing number of Tory MPs say he has to leave now. Johnson’s decision to remain in office comes despite a clear lack of support from within his own party and a growing push across the political spectrum for him to step down immediately.

Johnson’s resignation came after Britain’s finance and health ministers resigned in quick succession on July 5, in moves that put the future of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in peril after a series of scandals that have damaged his administration. 

Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the process for choosing the new leader of the Conservative Party should begin now, with a timetable to be announced next week. He said he intends to remain in place until a new Tory leader is elected. Johnson said that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world,” but conceded that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

As per reports, Chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat has launched his bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister. In an article in the Telegraph newspaper, he stated he would bring a “clean start”. He wrote that he wants to build a “broad coalition of colleagues” to “bring new energy and ideas to government” and “bridge the Brexit divide”.

Setting out his stall, he wrote that “taxes, bluntly, are too high.” Specifically: “We should immediately reverse the recent National Insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money. Fuel tax must come down. And un-conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.” He talks about the cost of living as an “national security issue” and says there should be more police on the streets to tackle crime.

Another leader hoping to fil the vacancy is Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home. Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.

Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, 55, finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest is  a likely contestant. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership. Over the last two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair the health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government. Recently, said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”. Hunt said he would vote to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month which Johnson narrowly won.

Ben Wallace, UK’s Defense minister, 52, has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, according to Conservative Home, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis. A former soldier himself, he served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1992. He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005.

Nadhim Zahawi, the current education secretary impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world. Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders. He went on to co-found polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. He said last week at some stage it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister.

Yet another contented for the top job in Britain is Penny Mordaunt, the former defense secretary, who was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest. Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the European Union and made national headlines by taking part in now-defunct reality TV diving show. Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government.

Meanwhile, Downing Street announced 12 new ministers, filling some of the posts left vacant by the recent wave of resignations. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – a possible leadership contender who has remained silent for days – says her party needs to keep governing until a new leader is elected by the Conservative Party MPS.

After Shinzo Abe Was Shot And Killed, His Party Wins Election In Japan

Three after Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House, the governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election Sunday, July 10, 2022, possibly propelled by sympathy votes in the wake of the assassination.

Abe was shot in Nara on Friday, June 8th and was airlifted to a hospital but died of blood loss. Police arrested a former member of Japan’s navy at the scene and confiscated a homemade gun. Several others were later found at his apartment.

He became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52. But his overly nationalistic first stint abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health, prompting six years of annual leadership change.

He returned to office in 2012, vowing to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power.

Early results in the race for the parliament’s upper house showed Abe’s governing party and its junior coalition partner Komeito securing a majority in the chamber and adding more. The last day of campaigning on Saturday, a day after Abe was gunned down while delivering a speech, was held under heightened security as party leaders pledged to uphold democracy and renouncing violence.

According to reports, preliminary vote counts showed the governing Liberal Democratic Party on track to secure a coalition total of at least 143 seats in the 248-member upper house, the less powerful of the two chambers. Up for election was half of the upper house’s new six-year term. With a likely major boost, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025.

That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policy goals such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the U.S.-drafted postwar pacifist constitution.

“It was extremely meaningful that we carried out the election,” Kishida said. “Our endeavor to protect democracy continues.” Kishida welcomed early results and said responses to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices will be his priorities. He said he will also steadily push for reinforcing Japan’s national security as well a constitutional amendment.

Mourners visited the LDP headquarters to lay flowers and pray for Abe as party officials prepared for vote counting inside. “We absolutely refuse to let violence shut out free speech,” Kishida said in his final rally in the northern city of Niigata on Saturday. “We must demonstrate that our democracy and election will not back down on violence.”

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he acted because of Abe’s rumored connection to an organization that he resented, police said, but had no problem with the former leader’s political views. The man had developed hatred toward a religious group that his mother was obsessed about and that bankrupted a family business, according to media reports, including some that identified the group as the Unification Church.

Abe’s Legacy

Even after stepping down as prime minister in 2020, Abe was highly influential in the LDP and headed its largest faction. His absence could change the power balance in the governing party that has almost uninterruptedly ruled postwar Japan since its 1955 foundation, experts say.

Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years. In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with conditions — for the first time since World War II.

“This could be a turning point” for the LDP over its divisive policies on gender equality, same-sex marriages and other issues that Abe-backed ultra-conservatives with paternalistic family values had resisted, said Mitsuru Fukuda, a crisis management professor at Nihon University.

Japan’s current diplomatic and security stance is unlikely to be swayed because fundamental changes had already been made by Abe. His ultra-nationalist views and pragmatic policies made him a divisive figure to many, including in the Koreas and China.

Abe stepped down two years ago blaming a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said he regretted leave many of his goals unfinished, including the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution that many conservatives consider a humiliation, because of poor public support.

Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military through security alliance with the United States and bigger role in international affairs.

Japan is known for its strict gun laws. With a population of 125 million, it had only 21 gun-related criminal cases in 2020, according to the latest government crime paper. Experts say, however, some recent attacks involved use of consumer items such as gasoline, suggesting increased risks for ordinary people to be embroiled in mass attacks. The cancer of gun violence is spreading. The former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House. 

Abe had argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea. During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies.

After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party. He has continued to campaign for a stronger security policy and last year angered China by calling for a greater commitment from allies to defend democracy in Taiwan. In response, Beijing summoned Japan’s ambassador and accused Abe of openly challenging China’s sovereignty.

India’s bilateral ties with Japan grew closer during Shinzo Abe’s tenure, with the former Japanese Prime Minister visiting India four times. 

Abe was a prominent figure on the world stage. He cultivated strong ties with Washington — Tokyo’s traditional ally. Abe hailed the US-Japan alliance and said he wanted to “build trust” with the new President. He strongly supported Trump’s initial hard line on North Korea, which matched Abe’s own hawkish tendencies. 

More successful was Abe’s handling of the abdication of Emperor Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to step down in two centuries. He was succeeded by his son, Emperor Naruhito, in October 2019, starting the Reiwa era. 

“Like the flowers of the plum tree blooming proudly in spring after the cold winter, we wish the Japanese people to bloom like individual flowers with the (promise of the) future. With such a wish for Japan, we decided upon ‘Reiwa’,” Abe said on announcing the new era. 

Abe is survived by his wife Akie Abe, née Matsuzaki, who he married in 1987. The couple did not have children.

Will Biden’S Visit To Middle East Help Revive US Partnerships In The Region?

President Joe Biden prepares to travel to the Middle East, his administration faces several challenges in its relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional (non-treaty) allies. At the most basic level, the United States and these allies do not share the same priorities. Part of why Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia is to convince the country’s leaders to pump more oil as global prices soar. In addition, the United States seeks to maintain pressure on the Islamic State group (IS) to prevent the terror organization from rebuilding. Yet both the Russia-Ukraine war and the struggle against the remnants of IS are ancillary concerns for regional states, and they are concerned that the U.S. focus on Asia and Europe will make the United States a less useful security partner.

Iran, the foreign policy priority for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and many other regional states, is a major sticking point. Indeed, most regional allies oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal, seeing it as making too many concessions to Tehran and fearing that the United States in general will not stand up to Iranian aggression and subversion. With regular Iranian missile strikes on Iraq and missile strikes from Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, this fear is quite strong. Nuclear talks appear to be floundering, and the Biden administration will need to decide whether to try to revive them at the risk of further alienating regional states or abandon them only to work on the next challenge — how to create other diplomatic —  and military — options that will stop the Iranian bomb and ensure regional security. Iran, for its part, will interpret the Biden visit as the United States further siding with its regional enemies.

Russia is another sticking point. The United States is trying to create a global coalition to oppose Russian aggression in Ukraine. Middle Eastern states, however, see Russia as a source of wheat, while their populations question why Ukraine should be the subject of global solidarity while Syria was not. Many are more anti-American than pro-Ukraine. Regardless of regime views on Ukraine, Russia is also a military player in Syria, and Israel works with Moscow to ensure that Israel can strike Iranian assets in Syria without interference from Russian forces.

In order to win over regional leaders, Biden will also need to curtail some of his critical rhetoric. This is especially true with his condemnation of the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the brutal Saudi and UAE war in Yemen. These are the right stances from a human rights perspective, but Riyadh and its allies will not be accommodating in other areas if they are the subject of regular, public criticism.

Actually walking back his comments on these grave human rights issues would be politically difficult even if Biden were inclined to openly abandon the moral high ground. In practice, refraining from future criticism, the legitimacy bestowed by the trip itself, and other steps that make it clear that Riyadh is being embraced, not shunned. As in the past, the United States is again emphasizing that pragmatic concerns like oil prices and Iran, not human rights, will drive U.S. policy toward the kingdom.

Making these problems more difficult, the Biden administration inherited a weak hand from its predecessors. U.S. engagement with the Middle East has declined dramatically since the George W. Bush administration, when 9/11 and the Iraq War put the region at the center of U.S. foreign policy. President Barack Obama tried to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and President Donald Trump, while more sympathetic to autocratic Arab allies, also favored limited U.S. involvement in the region. The Biden administration has emphasized great power competition, with the war in Ukraine and the rivalry with China dominating strategic thinking. Biden’s trip is thus occurring with a regional perception that the United States is focused on other parts of the world and at home, with little appetite for resolving regional disputes and leading regional allies as it sought to in the past. Indeed, Biden’s understandable focus on energy and Russia will reinforce this, making it clear that it is non-regional concerns that are driving his visit rather than shared interests. The Biden administration also claims the trip is to encourage Saudi Arabia to formally make peace with Israel, though U.S. officials almost certainly recognize a formal peace is highly unlikely even though Riyadh and Israel have stepped up their security partnership.

Making the job even harder, Middle Eastern allies have preferred Republican presidents. Gulf state rulers believe Republican leaders are more anti-Iran and less concerned about human rights. Israeli leaders too believe Republicans are more pro-Israel and more likely to stand up to Tehran. In addition, regional allies rightly recognize that Trump or another disruptive leader may again assume the U.S. presidency. The United States, in other words, will be considered an erratic ally, with policies and interest in the Middle East varying wildly by administration.

One goal that may have more success is encouraging U.S. allies to work together. The United States historically has preferred bilateral cooperation, with countries working with Washington more than with one another. As the U.S. limits its involvement, however, it will want regional states to step up and combine their efforts, whether this is to counter Iran or to resolve regional wars like those in Yemen and Libya. Israel, with its formidable military and intelligence services, can play an important role here, offering high-end capabilities, such as providing radar systems to Bahrain and the UAE, when the United States is reluctant to do so for political reasons.

The United States is also likely to have help from partners in sustaining the fighting against IS and other dangerous jihadi groups. Although this struggle is less of a priority for allies, they too worry about violent jihadism and will continue longstanding intelligence and military cooperation. Jihadi groups also remain weak compared with their past selves, limiting the effort required.

Regional partners will be aware of U.S. pivoting to focus on Asia and Europe, and Biden’s visit will not change this perception. The best the administration can hope for is to make clear, both in private and in public, that the United States will remain diplomatically and militarily involved in the Middle East, whether it be to counter IS or deter Iran. The president’s visit is thus a useful signal, even if regional states will remain unsatisfied.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped from this trip is simply to restart the U.S. engagement with its allies in the region. Such a goal doesn’t promise big wins — there may at best be modest concessions like a Saudi announcement it will pump a small amount of additional oil — but it offers the hope of future improvements. For now, the U.S. relationship with regional allies is transactional, with little trust or respect on either side. Repeated visits by high-level officials will make them more likely to listen to Washington and consider U.S. interests rather than see U.S. concerns as irrelevant, or even opposed, to their day-to-day problems.

Sri Lanka Opposition Meets To Name New Gov’t Amid Turmoil

(AP) — Sri Lanka’s opposition parties met Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the president and prime minister offered to resign following the most dramatic day of monthslong turmoil, with protesters storming the leaders’ homes in rage over an economic crisis.

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s home, saying they would stay until the resignations are official. The president’s whereabouts were unknown, but a statement from his office said he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Soldiers were deployed around the city but troops simply watched from afar as crowds of people splashed in the pool of Rajapaksa’s sprawling residence, lounged on beds and took selfies of themselves on their cellphones to capture the moment. The chief of defense staff, Shavendra Silva, called for public support to maintain law and order.

Occupants of the prime minister’s official residence cooked in an outdoor kitchen, played the tabletop game carrom and slept on sofas.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, a top official in the main opposition United People’s Force, said that separate discussions were held with other parties and lawmakers who broke away from Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition and more meetings were planned. It was unclear when an agreement might be reached.

Another opposition lawmaker, M. A. Sumanthiran, said earlier that all opposition parties combined could easily muster the 113 members needed for a majority in Parliament, at which point they would call on Rajapaksa to install the new government and resign. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. Pressure on both men had grown as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to obtain food, fuel and other necessities.

If both president and prime minister resign, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as temporary president, according to the constitution. 

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Analysts say it is doubtful any new leader could do more than Wickremesinghe. His government’s efforts showed promise, with much-needed fertilizer being distributed to farmers for next season’s cultivation and cooking gas orders arriving in the country Sunday. 

“This kind of unrest could create confusion among international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank,” political analyst Ranga Kalansooriya said, adding that a new administration should agree on a common program for economic recovery. 

He said while Wickremesinghe was working in the right direction, his administration was not implementing a long-term plan to go with its focus on solving day-to-day problems. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington was tracking the developments in Sri Lanka and urged Parliament to work quickly to implement solutions and address the people’s discontent. 

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said the United States condemns attacks against the peaceful demonstrators while calling for a full investigation into any protest-related violence. 

Pope Francis opened his Sunday remarks after noon prayers at the Vatican by voicing concern about Sri Lanka.

“I unite myself to the pain of the people of Sri Lanka, who continue to suffer the effects of the political and economic instability,” the pontiff said. “Together with the bishops of the country, I renew my appeal for peace, and I implore those who have authority not to ignore the cry of the poor and the needs of the people.’’

Sri Lanka Opposition Meets To Name New Gov’t Amid Turmoil

(AP) — Sri Lanka’s opposition parties met Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the president and prime minister offered to resign following the most dramatic day of monthslong turmoil, with protesters storming the leaders’ homes in rage over an economic crisis.

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s home, saying they would stay until the resignations are official. The president’s whereabouts were unknown, but a statement from his office said he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Soldiers were deployed around the city but troops simply watched from afar as crowds of people splashed in the pool of Rajapaksa’s sprawling residence, lounged on beds and took selfies of themselves on their cellphones to capture the moment. The chief of defense staff, Shavendra Silva, called for public support to maintain law and order.

Occupants of the prime minister’s official residence cooked in an outdoor kitchen, played the tabletop game carrom and slept on sofas.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, a top official in the main opposition United People’s Force, said that separate discussions were held with other parties and lawmakers who broke away from Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition and more meetings were planned. It was unclear when an agreement might be reached.

Another opposition lawmaker, M. A. Sumanthiran, said earlier that all opposition parties combined could easily muster the 113 members needed for a majority in Parliament, at which point they would call on Rajapaksa to install the new government and resign.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. Pressure on both men had grown as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to obtain food, fuel and other necessities.

If both president and prime minister resign, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as temporary president, according to the constitution.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Analysts say it is doubtful any new leader could do more than Wickremesinghe. His government’s efforts showed promise, with much-needed fertilizer being distributed to farmers for next season’s cultivation and cooking gas orders arriving in the country Sunday.

“This kind of unrest could create confusion among international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank,” political analyst Ranga Kalansooriya said, adding that a new administration should agree on a common program for economic recovery.

He said while Wickremesinghe was working in the right direction, his administration was not implementing a long-term plan to go with its focus on solving day-to-day problems.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington was tracking the developments in Sri Lanka and urged Parliament to work quickly to implement solutions and address the people’s discontent.

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said the United States condemns attacks against the peaceful demonstrators while calling for a full investigation into any protest-related violence.

Pope Francis opened his Sunday remarks after noon prayers at the Vatican by voicing concern about Sri Lanka.

“I unite myself to the pain of the people of Sri Lanka, who continue to suffer the effects of the political and economic instability,” the pontiff said. “Together with the bishops of the country, I renew my appeal for peace, and I implore those who have authority not to ignore the cry of the poor and the needs of the people.’’

After Shinzo Abe Was Shot And Killed, His Party Wins Election In Japan

Three after Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House, the governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election Sunday, July 10, 2022, possibly propelled by sympathy votes in the wake of the assassination.

Abe was shot in Nara on Friday, June 8th and was airlifted to a hospital but died of blood loss. Police arrested a former member of Japan’s navy at the scene and confiscated a homemade gun. Several others were later found at his apartment.

He became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52. But his overly nationalistic first stint abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health, prompting six years of annual leadership change.

He returned to office in 2012, vowing to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power.

Early results in the race for the parliament’s upper house showed Abe’s governing party and its junior coalition partner Komeito securing a majority in the chamber and adding more. The last day of campaigning on Saturday, a day after Abe was gunned down while delivering a speech, was held under heightened security as party leaders pledged to uphold democracy and renouncing violence.

According to reports, preliminary vote counts showed the governing Liberal Democratic Party on track to secure a coalition total of at least 143 seats in the 248-member upper house, the less powerful of the two chambers. Up for election was half of the upper house’s new six-year term. With a likely major boost, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025.

That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policy goals such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the U.S.-drafted postwar pacifist constitution.

“It was extremely meaningful that we carried out the election,” Kishida said. “Our endeavor to protect democracy continues.” Kishida welcomed early results and said responses to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices will be his priorities. He said he will also steadily push for reinforcing Japan’s national security as well a constitutional amendment.

Mourners visited the LDP headquarters to lay flowers and pray for Abe as party officials prepared for vote counting inside. “We absolutely refuse to let violence shut out free speech,” Kishida said in his final rally in the northern city of Niigata on Saturday. “We must demonstrate that our democracy and election will not back down on violence.”

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he acted because of Abe’s rumored connection to an organization that he resented, police said, but had no problem with the former leader’s political views. The man had developed hatred toward a religious group that his mother was obsessed about and that bankrupted a family business, according to media reports, including some that identified the group as the Unification Church.

Abe’s Legacy

Even after stepping down as prime minister in 2020, Abe was highly influential in the LDP and headed its largest faction. His absence could change the power balance in the governing party that has almost uninterruptedly ruled postwar Japan since its 1955 foundation, experts say.

Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years. In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with conditions — for the first time since World War II.

“This could be a turning point” for the LDP over its divisive policies on gender equality, same-sex marriages and other issues that Abe-backed ultra-conservatives with paternalistic family values had resisted, said Mitsuru Fukuda, a crisis management professor at Nihon University.

Japan’s current diplomatic and security stance is unlikely to be swayed because fundamental changes had already been made by Abe. His ultra-nationalist views and pragmatic policies made him a divisive figure to many, including in the Koreas and China.

Abe stepped down two years ago blaming a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said he regretted leave many of his goals unfinished, including the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution that many conservatives consider a humiliation, because of poor public support.

Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military through security alliance with the United States and bigger role in international affairs.

Japan is known for its strict gun laws. With a population of 125 million, it had only 21 gun-related criminal cases in 2020, according to the latest government crime paper. Experts say, however, some recent attacks involved use of consumer items such as gasoline, suggesting increased risks for ordinary people to be embroiled in mass attacks. The cancer of gun violence is spreading. The former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House.

Abe had argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea. During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies.

After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party. He has continued to campaign for a stronger security policy and last year angered China by calling for a greater commitment from allies to defend democracy in Taiwan. In response, Beijing summoned Japan’s ambassador and accused Abe of openly challenging China’s sovereignty.

India’s bilateral ties with Japan grew closer during Shinzo Abe’s tenure, with the former Japanese Prime Minister visiting India four times.

Abe was a prominent figure on the world stage. He cultivated strong ties with Washington — Tokyo’s traditional ally. Abe hailed the US-Japan alliance and said he wanted to “build trust” with the new President. He strongly supported Trump’s initial hard line on North Korea, which matched Abe’s own hawkish tendencies.

More successful was Abe’s handling of the abdication of Emperor Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to step down in two centuries. He was succeeded by his son, Emperor Naruhito, in October 2019, starting the Reiwa era.

“Like the flowers of the plum tree blooming proudly in spring after the cold winter, we wish the Japanese people to bloom like individual flowers with the (promise of the) future. With such a wish for Japan, we decided upon ‘Reiwa’,” Abe said on announcing the new era.

Abe is survived by his wife Akie Abe, née Matsuzaki, who he married in 1987. The couple did not have children.

Will Biden ’S Visit To Middle East Help Revive US Partnerships In The Region?

President Joe Biden prepares to travel to the Middle East, his administration faces several challenges in its relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional (non-treaty) allies. At the most basic level, the United States and these allies do not share the same priorities. Part of why Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia is to convince the country’s leaders to pump more oil as global prices soar. In addition, the United States seeks to maintain pressure on the Islamic State group (IS) to prevent the terror organization from rebuilding. Yet both the Russia-Ukraine war and the struggle against the remnants of IS are ancillary concerns for regional states, and they are concerned that the U.S. focus on Asia and Europe will make the United States a less useful security partner.

Iran, the foreign policy priority for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and many other regional states, is a major sticking point. Indeed, most regional allies oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal, seeing it as making too many concessions to Tehran and fearing that the United States in general will not stand up to Iranian aggression and subversion. With regular Iranian missile strikes on Iraq and missile strikes from Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, this fear is quite strong. Nuclear talks appear to be floundering, and the Biden administration will need to decide whether to try to revive them at the risk of further alienating regional states or abandon them only to work on the next challenge — how to create other diplomatic —  and military — options that will stop the Iranian bomb and ensure regional security. Iran, for its part, will interpret the Biden visit as the United States further siding with its regional enemies.

Russia is another sticking point. The United States is trying to create a global coalition to oppose Russian aggression in Ukraine. Middle Eastern states, however, see Russia as a source of wheat, while their populations question why Ukraine should be the subject of global solidarity while Syria was not. Many are more anti-American than pro-Ukraine. Regardless of regime views on Ukraine, Russia is also a military player in Syria, and Israel works with Moscow to ensure that Israel can strike Iranian assets in Syria without interference from Russian forces.

In order to win over regional leaders, Biden will also need to curtail some of his critical rhetoric. This is especially true with his condemnation of the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the brutal Saudi and UAE war in Yemen. These are the right stances from a human rights perspective, but Riyadh and its allies will not be accommodating in other areas if they are the subject of regular, public criticism.

Actually walking back his comments on these grave human rights issues would be politically difficult even if Biden were inclined to openly abandon the moral high ground. In practice, refraining from future criticism, the legitimacy bestowed by the trip itself, and other steps that make it clear that Riyadh is being embraced, not shunned. As in the past, the United States is again emphasizing that pragmatic concerns like oil prices and Iran, not human rights, will drive U.S. policy toward the kingdom.

Making these problems more difficult, the Biden administration inherited a weak hand from its predecessors. U.S. engagement with the Middle East has declined dramatically since the George W. Bush administration, when 9/11 and the Iraq War put the region at the center of U.S. foreign policy. President Barack Obama tried to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and President Donald Trump, while more sympathetic to autocratic Arab allies, also favored limited U.S. involvement in the region. The Biden administration has emphasized great power competition, with the war in Ukraine and the rivalry with China dominating strategic thinking. Biden’s trip is thus occurring with a regional perception that the United States is focused on other parts of the world and at home, with little appetite for resolving regional disputes and leading regional allies as it sought to in the past. Indeed, Biden’s understandable focus on energy and Russia will reinforce this, making it clear that it is non-regional concerns that are driving his visit rather than shared interests. The Biden administration also claims the trip is to encourage Saudi Arabia to formally make peace with Israel, though U.S. officials almost certainly recognize a formal peace is highly unlikely even though Riyadh and Israel have stepped up their security partnership.

Making the job even harder, Middle Eastern allies have preferred Republican presidents. Gulf state rulers believe Republican leaders are more anti-Iran and less concerned about human rights. Israeli leaders too believe Republicans are more pro-Israel and more likely to stand up to Tehran. In addition, regional allies rightly recognize that Trump or another disruptive leader may again assume the U.S. presidency. The United States, in other words, will be considered an erratic ally, with policies and interest in the Middle East varying wildly by administration.

One goal that may have more success is encouraging U.S. allies to work together. The United States historically has preferred bilateral cooperation, with countries working with Washington more than with one another. As the U.S. limits its involvement, however, it will want regional states to step up and combine their efforts, whether this is to counter Iran or to resolve regional wars like those in Yemen and Libya. Israel, with its formidable military and intelligence services, can play an important role here, offering high-end capabilities, such as providing radar systems to Bahrain and the UAE, when the United States is reluctant to do so for political reasons.

The United States is also likely to have help from partners in sustaining the fighting against IS and other dangerous jihadi groups. Although this struggle is less of a priority for allies, they too worry about violent jihadism and will continue longstanding intelligence and military cooperation. Jihadi groups also remain weak compared with their past selves, limiting the effort required.

Regional partners will be aware of U.S. pivoting to focus on Asia and Europe, and Biden’s visit will not change this perception. The best the administration can hope for is to make clear, both in private and in public, that the United States will remain diplomatically and militarily involved in the Middle East, whether it be to counter IS or deter Iran. The president’s visit is thus a useful signal, even if regional states will remain unsatisfied.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped from this trip is simply to restart the U.S. engagement with its allies in the region. Such a goal doesn’t promise big wins — there may at best be modest concessions like a Saudi announcement it will pump a small amount of additional oil — but it offers the hope of future improvements. For now, the U.S. relationship with regional allies is transactional, with little trust or respect on either side. Repeated visits by high-level officials will make them more likely to listen to Washington and consider U.S. interests rather than see U.S. concerns as irrelevant, or even opposed, to their day-to-day problems.

After Boris Johnson Quits, Who Will Replace Him As PM of UK?

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of United Kingdom resigned on July 7th, 2022, bringing an acrimonious end to a nearly three-year premiership that has been beset by controversy and scandal. After many months of speculation, he quit as Conservative leader, saying it is “clearly now the will” of Tory MPs that there should be a new leader. And, he pledged to stay on as PM until a successor is chosen – but a growing number of Tory MPs say he has to leave now. Johnson’s decision to remain in office comes despite a clear lack of support from within his own party and a growing push across the political spectrum for him to step down immediately.

Johnson’s resignation came after Britain’s finance and health ministers resigned in quick succession on July 5, in moves that put the future of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in peril after a series of scandals that have damaged his administration.

Johnson survived a vote of confidence on June 6 this year, but more than 40% of Conservative lawmakers declared that they had lost confidence in his ability to govern. And, in the intervening month, those who most wanted to see his downfall have been jockeying for his job.

According to media reports, after the partygate scandal over illegal gatherings held at Downing Street in defiance of coronavirus lockdowns, several senior members of Johnson’s cabinet began quietly preparing for a future leadership contest, courting influential members of parliament and dining with donors who could fund their campaigns.

A dramatic cascade of nearly 60 resignations by lawmakers and government officials followed, ultimately forcing Johnson to begrudgingly announce on Thursday that he would step down. Johnson’s decision to step down as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party will trigger a leadership race, with the winner set to become the United Kingdom’s fourth prime minister in the six years since the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

Indian Origin, Rishi Sunak was until last year the favorite to succeed Johnson. While Rishi Sunak, UK’s Finance Minister has been praised for a rescue package for the economy during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention program, including a jobs retention program, which prevented mass unemployment that could cost as much as 410 billion pounds ($514 billion). He quit the government on Tuesday saying “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

The son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, Sunak has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules. His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favor lower taxes.

Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the process for choosing the new leader of the Conservative Party should begin now, with a timetable to be announced next week. He said he intends to remain in place until a new Tory leader is elected. Johnson said that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world,” but conceded that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

Referring to members of his own ruling party who turned against him, Johnson said, “At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.” Johnson thanked his wife Carrie Johnson, his children, the National Health Service, armed forces and Downing Street staff. “Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me.” He concluded his roughly six-minute speech by seeking to strike an upbeat tone. “Even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was among those calling for Johnson to go now, saying the Tory leader “cannot cling on for months.” “If the Conservative party do not get rid of him, then Labour will act in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence,” Starmer said via Twitter.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivers a statement at the House of Commons in London, Britain May 26, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.

UK’s former PM Sir John Major says Johnson should go now for the good of the country. Johnson assured cabinet this afternoon he would only act as a caretaker PM while remaining in position, new Welsh Secretary Robert Buckland says

As per reports, Chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat has launched his bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister. In an article in the Telegraph newspaper, he stated he would bring a “clean start”. He wrote that he wants to build a “broad coalition of colleagues” to “bring new energy and ideas to government” and “bridge the Brexit divide”.

Setting out his stall, he wrote that “taxes, bluntly, are too high.” Specifically: “We should immediately reverse the recent National Insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money. Fuel tax must come down. And un-conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.” He talks about the cost of living as an “national security issue” and says there should be more police on the streets to tackle crime.

Another leader hoping to fil the vacancy is Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home. Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.

Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, 55, finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest is  a likely contestant. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership. Over the last two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair the health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government. Recently, said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”. Hunt said he would vote to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month which Johnson narrowly won.

Ben Wallace, UK’s Defense minister, 52, has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, according to Conservative Home, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis. A former soldier himself, he served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1992. He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005.

Nadhim Zahawi, the current education secretary impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world. Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders. He went on to co-found polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. He said last week at some stage it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister.

Yet another contented for the top job in Britain is Penny Mordaunt, the former defense secretary, who was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest. Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the European Union and made national headlines by taking part in now-defunct reality TV diving show. Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general has signaled her intention to run in a future contest. In an interview with ITVSuella Braverman called for Johnson to quit and said that she would join a leadership race to replace him, saying “it would be the greatest honor.”

Meanwhile, Downing Street announced 12 new ministers, filling some of the posts left vacant by the recent wave of resignations. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – a possible leadership contender who has remained silent for days – says her party needs to keep governing until a new leader is elected by the Conservative Party MPS.

The Democratic Paradox The Right To Say Anything Has Been A Challenge To Every Democracy That Has Ever Existed

On Jan. 6, 2021, a group of self-professed patriots stormed the U.S. Capitol, a building last raided by the British during the War of 1812. Some in the group were spangled with face paint and wore military garb. Some were toting Confederate flags. Many were taking selfies or livestreaming the rebellion. They erected a gallows and smashed up media equipment outside, then roamed the halls of Congress, screaming, “Stop the steal!” Offices were destroyed. A member of the mob was shot and killed. A Capitol Police officer died. It was a remarkable assault on the foundation of American democracy, staged at the very moment a peaceful transfer of power was under way.

We can now add the United States to the list of Athens, Rome, France, Spain, and Peru, among others, as democracies that have experienced a self-coup attempt. The people who invaded the Capitol did so because they believed—truly believed—that then-U.S. President Donald Trump had won a landslide victory in the 2020 presidential election, which subsequently was stolen.

This article is adapted from The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing (University of Chicago Press, 320 pp., $30, June 2022).

Trump had raised over $200 million in the month after the election by alleging voter fraud—what some termed the “Big Lie,” which gained widespread purchase in the United States’ fragmented information space and particularly in conservative media across radio, cable television, and social networking. Dozens of lawsuits echoing these charges struggled to gain standing in U.S. state and federal courts. Trump and his advisors then suggested the possibility that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress could overturn the election on Jan. 6, whereupon the president instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “fight like hell.”

American democracy is fortunate that the insurrection failed; that it happened at all is instructive. The event exposed the paradox at the center of every democratic culture: a free and open communication environment that, because of its openness, invites exploitation and subversion from within. This tension sits at the core of every democracy, and it cannot be resolved or circumnavigated. To put it another way, the essential democratic freedom—the freedom of expression—is both ingrained in and dangerous to democracy.

The belief that democracy is a fixed system with inherent features has led to a lot of confusion. Many still hold what’s often called the “folk theory of democracy”: Ordinary citizens have preferences about what the government ought to do, and they vote for leaders they think will carry out those preferences. The result of this process is a government that serves the majority. And all of this is supposed to take place in a culture of rules and norms that privileges minority rights, respects the rule of law, and welcomes peaceful transitions of power.

But that culture is precisely what we call “liberalism”—it is not democracy as such. Confusion on this point has obscured the nature and demands of democratic life.

Despite its flaws, democracy still affords freedom of expression and the possibility of confronting power in all its forms—that is democracy’s claim to superiority over all other political cultures. But democratic freedom contains the seeds of its own destruction. This is something the ancient Greeks understood long before us, and they even developed two frameworks for free speech that highlighted the problem. Isegoria described the right of citizens to participate in the public debate; parrhesia described the right to say anything one wanted, whenever one wanted, and to whomever one wanted. Isegoria created the political environment of democracy, while parrhesia actualized it.

But the right to say anything opened the door to all manners of subversion, and this has been a challenge to every democracy that has ever existed. The emergence of isegoria in Athens, for instance, was accompanied by the joint rituals of ostracism and tribalism. In today’s language, you might say that Socrates was the first notable citizen to be “canceled” by the same democratic forces that made his speech free in the first place. This is the defining tension of any democratic society.

Citizens, philosophers, and politicians have always fretted about democracy for exactly this reason. While it facilitates a culture in which deliberative discourse and collective judgment are possible, it can also be gamed and exploited, prompting crises from within. The panic today over democracy is no different. A whole genre of literature has emerged seeking to explain how democracies fall or why Western liberalism is in retreat. The consensus is that if democracy isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly under attack.

There’s no point in diminishing the reality of the crisis. We are surely living through a period of intense democratic disruption. All over the world, from the United Kingdom to Hungary to Poland to Brazil to the United States, populist insurgents are disordering democratic cultures. Liberal democracy, as a culturally dominant period, has died. So have many of the norms and institutions that undergird it.

But the discourse around this problem is far too circumscribed. To read many of the current books about democracy is to walk away with the impression that we’re in the midst of something new, something unique to our moment. It’s as though the default state of democracy is stability, and periods of disruption are the exception.

The reverse is much nearer to the truth.

To function properly, democracies require more than just voting. Citizens need comprehensive, accurate information as well as a healthy, open system of debate. But throughout history, when new forms of communications arrive—from the disingenuous use of rhetorical techniques developed in Athens to the social media-enabled spread of fake news today—they often undermine the practice of politics. The more widely accessible and democratic the media of a society, the more susceptible that society is to distraction, spectacle, and demagoguery. We see this time and again throughout history: Media continually evolve faster than politics, and the result is recurring patterns of democratic instability.

Classical rhetoric was a necessity for the early democratic cultures of Athens and Rome, but sophistry, a form of deceptive, crowd-pleasing speech, overwhelmed both societies and hastened their collapse. The printing press allowed for the mass production of books and the creation of newspapers, which ushered in the Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions of the 18th century, yet these public networks also sowed chaos in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions. The former dealt with a deeply partisan press that threatened the viability of the United States in its infancy, and France exploded into the violence of the Reign of Terror.

In the 19th century, the telegraph’s speedy dissemination of news collapsed geographical distances and helped spread the norms of liberal society across Europe, but it also fomented nationalist discourses. Political leaders and news outlets generated narratives full of nativist fears and petty resentments to gain traction in place of actual debate, and the appeals of this mediated rhetoric would eventually speed Europe toward World War I. While cinema and radio further democratized media and created a more accessible mass culture, they also provided essential platforms for European fascists who were able to bypass traditional gatekeepers.

Television transformed politics so citizens could directly see and listen to representatives, with many positive results, but the imperatives of the medium also reshaped politics. To succeed, politicians in the TV era had to adapt to a new incentive structure in which branding, sound bites, and optics reigned.

The public sphere of the 21st century is more democratic and open than ever before. Political leaders communicate directly with the public; citizens provide immediate feedback and can publish or broadcast to mass audiences on their own. Yet the democratic openness of communication in the 21st century has destabilized political conversations. There are no longer any controls on the flow of information, and that has short-circuited a system built largely on the control of information. The public is now angry, distrustful of whether their representatives can even make sound decisions. That may be healthy from a democratic perspective, but with so much noise on social media and so many news outlets disseminating contradictory information, citizens are justifiably confused and cynical.

Liberal democracies have long been sustained by traditional mass media, such as newspapers and later radio and network television. Citizens remained somewhat passive while media gatekeepers and politicians hashed out a norm-driven discourse of information and debate in the public sphere. People absorbed what they read, listened to, and watched, then registered approval at the polls.

Then something changed. The rise of polarizing cable television news, the blogosphere, and the outrageous flows of social networking, now hooked to our palmed smartphones, let citizens in on the act of forging discourses and choosing what news they prefer. The result is a more democratic and less liberal world.

The belief that the democratic experiment was destined to end in something like liberal democracy was just that: a belief. It turns out there is nothing inexorable about the logic of democracy; it is just as likely to culminate in tyranny as it is freedom. And the rise of illiberalism foregrounds a crucial point: Our present crisis is as much about culture as it is politics.

Despite all our assumptions about the inherent value of democracy, a democratic culture guarantees no outcome. Democratic cultures can support liberal democratic governments, or they can just as easily spawn plutocratic or authoritarian systems. It might seem counterintuitive to think of democracies as breeding grounds for tyranny, but it’s no contradiction at all.

Democratic theorists often miss the depth of the connection between communication and political cultures. So many accounts of democracy emphasize legislative processes or policy outcomes. When culture is discussed, it’s often in the context of liberal democratic values. But we should always ask: What determines the valence of those values? If a democracy stands or falls on the quality of the culture propping it up, then we ought to know under what conditions those values are affirmed and rejected.

Those conditions are determined largely by a society’s tools of communication, facilitated through media. Indeed, democracies are defined by their cultures of communication. If a democracy consists of citizens deciding, collectively, what ought to be done, then the process by which they do so determines nearly everything else that follows. This is the key insight of media ecologists like Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman, both of whom warned of the impending disaster that was the age of television and the image. They sensed that the media environment decides not just what people pay attention to but also how people think and orient themselves in the world. For every form of media has its own epistemology, its own biases, and favors certain cognitive habits over others.

People like Postman were commenting on the sovereignty of television in American culture and how it transfigures everything it touches. But the internet and social media have now been added to that wasteland of spectacle, compounding the problem in a million different ways. The obsession with drama and entertainment is now buttressed by curated news feeds that carve out epistemological bubbles and foster tribal impulses. The United States and many other countries are now confronting the greatest structural challenge to democracy the world has ever seen: a truly open society. Without gatekeepers, there are no constraints on discourse. Digital technology has changed everything, and, consequently, reality is up for grabs in a way it never has been before.

To restate the paradox: Democracies cannot exist without an open communication environment; otherwise, citizens cannot carry out their deliberative responsibilities. This condition of informational freedom is central to any democratic culture worthy of the name. But this environment, precisely because it is free, is constantly exploited by demagogues and other anti-democratic actors. Democracies are thus constantly undermined by their constitutive conditions.

It’s not easy to live in this state of tension, especially in the wide-open rhetorical cultures we see in many countries around the world today. New media technologies have altered the social and psychic environment—and, by extension, the values and institutions that ground society. There is no going back; the winds of technological change will keep blowing whether we want them to or not.

The real challenge right now is not an absence of democracy. On the contrary, we’re confronting the true face of democracy: a totally unfettered culture of open communication. Nearly all democracies up until now have been democracies in name only; they’ve been mediated by institutions designed to check popular passions and control the flow of information. But those institutional walls were weakened by the electric revolution and later shattered by digital technology. It’s no longer possible to limit access to information or curate what is and isn’t news. The test is whether democratic institutions can withstand this kind of pressure—whether we can, somehow, keep pushing that democratic boulder up the hill. And that remains an open question.

Zac Gershberg is an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Idaho State University.

An Open Borders World

A world with open borders, as some strongly advocate while others insist on maintaining controlled borders, is an interesting exercise to consider given its potential consequences for nations, the planet’s 8 billion human inhabitants, climate change, and the environment.

Based on international surveys of 152 countries taken several years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 15 percent of the world’s adults said that they would like to migrate permanently to another country if they could. Based on that percentage for adults plus their family members, the estimated number of people who want to migrate in 2022 is likely to be no less than 1.5 billion.

Seven destination countries attract half of those wanting to migrate to another country. The top destination country at 21 percent of those wanting to migrate is the United States. Substantially lower, Canada and Germany are next at 6 percent, followed by France and Australia at 5 percent, the United Kingdom at 4 percent, and Saudi Arabia at 3 percent

The figure of 1.5 billion wanting to migrate is more than 5 times the estimated number of immigrants in the world in 2020, or about 281 million. The figure of potential immigrants is also approximately 500 times the annual flow of immigrants globally.

The two regions with the highest proportions wanting to migrate to another country if they had the chance are sub-Saharan Africa at 33 percent and Latin America and the Caribbean at 27 percent. In addition, in 13 countries at least half of their populations would like to migrate to another country.

The top three countries with the proportion of their adult populations wanting to migrate are Sierra Leone at 71 percent, Liberia at 66 percent, and Haiti at 63 percent. They are followed by Albania at 60 percent, El Salvador at 52 percent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 50 percent.

Seven destination countries attract half of those wanting to migrate to another country. The top destination country at 21 percent of those wanting to migrate is the United States. Substantially lower, Canada and Germany are next at 6 percent, followed by France and Australia at 5 percent, the United Kingdom at 4 percent, and Saudi Arabia at 3 percent.

Among those seven destination countries, the numbers wanting to migrate are greater than the current populations of five of them. For example, the number of people wanting to migrate to Canada is 90 million versus its current population of 38 million. Similarly, the number wanting to migrate to Germany is 94 million versus its current population of 84 million. In the remaining two countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, the numbers wanting to migrate are nearly the same size as their current populations.

Source: United Nations and Gallup.

In addition to its impact on the size of populations, open borders would alter the ethnic, religious, and linguistic composition of populations, leading to increased cultural diversity. Past and present international migration flows have demonstrated alterations in the cultural composition of populations.

In the United States, for example, since 1965 when the Immigration and National Act on country of origin was passed, the proportion Hispanic increased nearly five-fold, from 4 percent to 19 percent in 2020, and the proportion non-Hispanic white declined from 84 percent to 58 percent. Similarly in Germany, the proportion Muslim since 1965 has increased five-fold, from less than 1 percent to 5 percent of the population in 2020.

Various reasons have been offered both in support and in opposition to an open borders world. For example, those opposed believe open borders would increase security threats, damage domestic economies, benefit big business and elites, increase societal costs, encourage brain drain, facilitate illegal trade, reduce labor wages, undermine cultural integrity, and create integration problems (Table 1).

Source: Author’s compilation.

In contrast, those in support believe open borders would provide a basic human right, reduce poverty, increase GDP growth, reduce border control costs, increase the labor supply, provide talented workers, promote travel, reduce time and costs of travel, raise a country’s tax base, promote cultural diversity, and contribute to global interdependence.

Open borders would certainly impact the cultural composition of populations. Even without open borders, the current changes in the cultural composition of populations being brought about by international migration have not only raised public concerns but have also contributed to the growing influence of nativist and far-right political parties.

The nativist parties are typically opposed to immigration, seeing it as a threat to their national cultural integrity. In contrast, those supportive of immigration welcome the arrival of people with differing backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. They view immigration it as a natural, ongoing human phenomenon that enriches societies.

Open borders would also have consequences on climate change and the environment. Large numbers of people would be migrating to countries with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita. For example, while the world average of tons of CO2 equivalent per person is about 6, the level in the United States is about three times as large at 19.

Similarly, open borders would impact the environment. The migration to the high consumption destination countries would lead to increased biodiversity loss, pollution, and congestion.

An open borders world is not likely to happen any time soon. However, recent large-scale immigration flows, both legal and illegal, are substantially impacting government programs, domestic politics, international relations, and public opinion as well as the size and composition of the populations.

In virtually every region, governments appear to be at a loss on how best to address international migration, especially the waves of illegal migration arriving daily at international borders and the many already residing unlawfully within their countries. International conventions, agreements, and compacts concerning international migration are largely viewed as being outdated, unrealistic, and ineffective in dealing with today’s international migration issues.

The supply of men, women, and children in poor developing countries wanting to migrate greatly exceeds the demand for those migrants in wealthy developed countries by a factor of about five hundred.

The result is the Great Migration Clash, i.e., a worldwide struggle between those who “want out” of their countries and those who want others to “keep out” of their countries.

Given the enormous difference in supply and demand, the Migration Clash is unlikely to be resolved by simply asking destination countries to raise their immigration levels. To resolve the Migration Clash will require considerably improving the social, economic, political, and environmental conditions of the populations in the migrant sending countries.

Achieving those desirable development goals any time soon, however, appears as unlikely as establishing an open borders world. Therefore, countries will continue dealing the best they can with the consequences of controlled borders and the Great Migration Clash.

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”

British PM Boris Johnson Survives Vote In Parliament, Overcoming Tory Rebellion

Boris Johnson held off a challenge by Tory rebels to remain leader of the Conservative Party, though the margin of victory leaves the British prime minister weakened and laid bare the divisions that may still sink him.

The vote was called after Johnson’s premiership has been derailed by the “Partygate” scandal, criticism over his response to a cost of living crisis and a series of local election defeats.

In a secret ballot in the UK Parliament on Monday, June 6th, 211 Tory MPs voted for Johnson while an astonishing 148 of Johnson’s own lawmakers turned against him on Monday night.  The rebellion was bigger than the one suffered by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who was ousted as premier six months later after failing to unite the party.

Boris Johnson, whose premiership has been engulfed in scandal for months after it emerged he attended illegal parties during lockdown — and who subsequently, became the first sitting UK Prime Minister to be found guilty of breaking the law — was able to appear at legitimate gatherings outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday and Sunday, enjoying a brief respite from the constant speculation about his job security.

In response to the narrow victory in Parliament, Johnson told reporters it’s “an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on to talk “exclusively” about things that matter to the British people.  “What it means is that as a government, we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people,” Johnson said.

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Conservatives had to decide whether or not to “show some backbone or to back Boris Johnson,” and he argued that the public were “fed up with a prime minister who promises big but never delivers.” Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey said the result meant Conservative MPs are now “fully responsible for the prime minister’s behavior – they have narrowly voted to keep a lawbreaker and liar in No 10”

The SNP has said: “Tory MPs should have drawn a line under Boris Johnson’s disastrous time as prime minister but instead they’ve bottled it”, adding “the UK is now stuck in limbo with a lame duck prime minister who has lost the confidence of the public – and more than 40% of his own MPs”

The no-confidence vote itself has come as a blow to Johnson. It was triggered by 15% of Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence in a leader who steered the party to its biggest general election win in more than three decades in 2019.

And the pressure will mount again when a cross-party committee soon begins to probe whether he deliberately mislead Parliament over Partygate.

The PM will try to drown out that noise with a range of policy announcements – and possibly promotions for some who stayed loyal in a pre-summer reshuffle.

But the breadth of opposition to the PM – some of those who backed Brexit, some who backed Remain, some of the 2019 intake, some long-standing MPs – means that policies designed to appeal to one wing of his party might alienate others.

Under current rules, Tory MPs would not be allowed to hold another confidence vote for a year. However, it would be possible to to change the rules in order to hold another vote sooner. As per analysts, recent history suggests his time in office could come to an end before he gets a chance to fight the next election, currently scheduled for 2024.

Boycott In Arab World Forces India To Sack BJP Leaders For Blasphemous Comments

In response to facing major diplomatic outrage and calls for boycott from Muslim-majority countries after top officials in the governing Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalistic government has sacked the  Party’s National Spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Sunday, June 5th.

The anger and outrage has been growing in the past week after the two BJP spokespeople, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal made speculative remarks that were seen as insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha. The remarks made by Sharma during a TV program in India and Jindal in a tweet risk damaging India’s ties with Arab nations.

Their remarks have been drawing accusations of blasphemy across some Arab nations that have left New Delhi struggling to contain the damaging fallout. At least five Arab nations have lodged official protests against India.

Modi’s party took no action against the two BJP leaders until Sunday, when a sudden chorus of diplomatic outrage began with Qatar and Kuwait summoning their Indian ambassadors to protest. The BJP suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal and issued a rare statement saying it “strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities,” a move that was welcomed by Qatar and Kuwait.

While Pakistan and Afghanistan, India’s neighbors reacted strongly Monday to the comments made by two prominent spokespeople from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, anger has poured out on social media, and calls for a boycott of Indian goods have surfaced in some Arab nations. At home, it has led to protests against Modi’s party in some parts of the country.

The controversial remarks follow increasing violence targeting India’s Muslim minority carried out by Hindu nationalists who have been emboldened by Modi’s silence about such attacks since he was first elected in 2014. Over the years, Indian Muslims have often been targeted for everything from their food and clothing style to inter-religious marriages. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have warned that attacks could escalate.

They have also accused Modi’s governing party of looking the other way and sometimes enabling hate speech against Muslims, who comprise 14% of India’s 1.4 billion people but are still numerous enough to be the second-largest Muslim population of any nation.  Modi’s party denies the accusations, but India’s Muslims say attacks against them and their faith have increased sharply.

Anti-Muslim sentiments and attacks have risen across India under Modi. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said India was seeing “rising attacks on people and places of worship,” eliciting a response from New Delhi, which called the comments “ill-informed.”

Later, Saudi Arabia and Iran also lodged complaints with India, and the Jeddha-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation said the remarks came in a “context of intensifying hatred and abuse toward Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims.”

India’s Foreign Ministry on Monday rejected the comments by the OIC as “unwarranted” and “narrow-minded.” On Sunday, India’s embassies in Qatar and Kuwait released a statement saying the views expressed about the Prophet Muhammad and Islam were not those of the Indian government and were made by “fringe elements.” The statement said that strong action had already been taken against those who made the derogatory remarks.

The criticism from Muslim countries, however, was severe, indicating that insulting Prophet Muhammad was a red line. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it expected a public apology from the Indian government, and Kuwait warned that if the comments go unpunished, India would see “an increase of extremism and hatred.” The Grand Mufti of Oman described the “obscene rudeness” of Modi’s party toward Islam as a form of “war.” Riyadh said the comments were insulting and called for “respect for beliefs and religions.” And Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni world’s foremost institution of religious learning, described the remarks as “real terrorism (that) can plunge the entire world into severe crises and deadly wars.”

India maintains strong relations with Gulf countries, which rely on millions of migrant workers from India and elsewhere in South Asia to serve their tiny local populations and drive the machinery of daily life. India also depends on oil-rich Gulf Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, to power its energy-thirsty economy. “India accords the highest respect to all religions,” ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Modi’s party also faced anger from some of its own supporters, but it was for a different reason. Many Hindu nationalists posted comments on social media saying the government was buckling under international pressure.

More recently, religious tensions have escalated after some Hindu groups went to a local court in northern Varanasi city to seek permission to pray at a 17th century mosque, claiming that it was built by demolishing a temple. Critics say these tensions have been further exacerbated by Indian television anchors during raucous debates.

US State Department Reports Religious Freedom Woes, Wins Across The Globe

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing a new global religious freedom report, said many governments are continuing to disregard the rights and the faiths of their citizens.

The 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom points out both failures and progress across the world on religious freedom, which Blinken called “a vital foreign policy priority” in remarks Thursday (June 2) in the department’s Benjamin Franklin Room.

Joined by Rashad Hussain, the new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Blinken said signs of progress include Morocco’s launch last year of an initiative to feature Jewish history in its public school curriculum and to renovate synagogues, cemeteries and other heritage sites. He also noted Pope Francis’ journey to Iraq for the first papal visit there.

But Blinken said the 2,000-plus-page report notes numerous ways in which freedom of religion needs to be improved.

“From Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia; Jews in Europe; Baha’is in Iran; Christians in North Korea, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia; Muslims in Burma and China; Catholics in Nicaragua; and atheists and humanists around the world, no community has been immune from these abuses,” he said.

Blinken and Hussain, who was confirmed for his role in December, expressed concern about an increase in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in many countries, including the United States.

Each year, most recently in November, the department designates “countries of particular concern” that it determines are the most egregious violators of religious freedom. Russia joined the last list that includes Myanmar (referred to as Burma by the department), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Hussain said Russia, which began its war against Ukraine 100 days ago Friday, has “doubled down on its violations of religious freedom rather than reverse course” since the designation.

“President (Vladimir) Putin sought to justify the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine through the blatantly false pretext of de-Nazification,” he said. “The world clearly sees through this lie and is instead witnessing Russia’s brutal suppression, including suppression of religious leaders and the appalling destruction of religious sites.”

Blinken noted that when the State Department produced its first report in 1998, its religious freedom office was the only government entity focused on such monitoring. He said 35 governments and organizations now have similar offices advocating for religious freedom.

“We’ll keep working alongside other governments, multilateral organizations, civil society to do so, including next month at the United Kingdom’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” said Hussain.

Modi’s Multipolar Moment Has Arrived India, Now Courted By All Sides, Is The Clear Beneficiary Of Russia’s War

In every crisis, someone always benefits. In the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that someone is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By refusing to condemn Moscow and join Western-led sanctions, Modi has managed to elevate India’s global stature. Each of the other major powers—the United States, Russia, and China—are intensely courting India to deny a strategic advantage to their adversaries. Relishing the spotlight, Modi and his Hindu-nationalist government will surely look to keep the momentum going. Their likely goal is to carve out an independent superpower role for India, hasten the transition to a multipolar international system, and ultimately cement its new status with a permanent United Nations Security Council seat for India.

None of this negates the fact that the United States has become India’s most important strategic partner. The two nations have made enormous progress in recent years. Since 2018, New Delhi and Washington have held annual summits and signed numerous groundbreaking security agreements. Both nations are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), along with Australia and Japan.

At the Quad summit in Tokyo last month, Modi met U.S. President Joe Biden in person for the second time, complementing the two nations’ ongoing virtual discussions. New Delhi also joined Washington’s recently unveiled Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which aims to intensify economic relations in the region short of a formal trade treaty. Throughout their blossoming partnership, India and the United States, as the world’s two largest democracies, have pledged to channel their shared values (and strategic interest in containing China) into upholding the rules-based liberal international order.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine, India decided to pursue an ultra-realist policy and protect Indian interests above all else—not least its deep dependence on Russia for military equipment. Rather than condemning one sovereign nation for invading and seeking to destroy another—an indisputable violation of the rules-based order—India demurred. At first, the Modi government’s strategy appeared destined to damage the U.S.-India partnership. In March, Biden described India’s commitment on punishing Russia as “somewhat shaky.” In early April, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh visited New Delhi and warned of potential “consequences” for countries that attempt to undermine U.S. sanctions.

By mid-April, however, the Biden administration had dramatically changed its tune. Biden and Modi met virtually during the kickoff of the so-called 2+2 dialogue in Washington. Following the meeting, it was clear that Biden had accepted Modi’s position. The U.S. readout noted the two leaders would continue their “close consultations” on Russia, with no indication that Washington was prepared to take any action against New Delhi. Additionally, India did not have to condemn Russia or make any other concessions, such as curbing or terminating its import of cheap Russian oil.

Subsequent statements from the White House clearly indicate that Washington will not be pushing New Delhi any further, probably for fear of ruining cooperation on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for instance, said in April that “India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches this challenge.” And in Tokyo last month, Biden said, “I am committed to make the U.S.-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth” in spite of differences regarding Russia. In their joint statement, only Biden condemned Russia; Modi did not. It was the only instance of glaring daylight between the two leaders’ positions.

Over the last few months, India has also preserved its close ties to Russia by repeatedly abstaining at the United Nations when Western countries tabled resolutions against Russia. Russia and India have a long-standing partnership that dates back to the Cold War, when New Delhi believed Washington was actively supporting archrival Pakistan. India has always appreciated Russian support, particularly in the U.N. Security Council, where the territorial status of Jammu and Kashmir has routinely come up.

India also has a long history of leveraging its partnership with Russia against its other archrival, China, with which it has ongoing border tensions. For decades, India has purchased Russian arms. According to one recent estimate, approximately 85 percent of India’s military hardware is Russian. As of last month, the Biden administration was reportedly considering $500 million in military financing to India to wean it off of Russian-made equipment. Washington has also, thus far, looked the other way on enforcing the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act for New Delhi’s purchase of Moscow’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, suggesting India is simply too important to the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy to risk angering it with sanctions.

India has further benefited from discounted Russian oil and coal since the outbreak of war. Although Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar quipped in April that India probably imports less Russian oil in a month than Europe does in an afternoon, New Delhi’s oil imports from Russia rose sharply following Western-led sanctioning of Moscow. The same is true for coal, where India’s stocks may be running alarmingly low. India is certainly grateful to have Russian energy to fuel its development. Western criticism of these imports, coming after decades of haranguing India on fossil fuel emissions, has only irritated the world’s largest post-colonial state—one that still holds deep sensitivities when rich, majority-white nations appear to tell it to abandon its national interest in energy security and energy-fueled development.

To thank New Delhi for its unwavering support in shielding Moscow at the United Nations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited India in April. While there, he praised the rupee-ruble currency exchange system, which provides an alternative means of conducting transactions with sanctioned Russian banks. Additionally, Lavrov said, “We will be ready to supply any goods which India wants to buy.” And given Modi’s ongoing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war, Lavrov even raised the possibility of India playing a mediator role in the Russian-Ukrainian war, which would place India in a very prominent position on the world stage.

Because India’s neutral stance is so obviously at odds with U.S. policy, Beijing has also sensed a strategic opportunity to engage New Delhi—with the primary goal of prying it from Washington’s tightening embrace. In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the first senior Chinese official since 2019 to visit India, where he made Beijing’s courtship explicit. “If the two countries join hands, the whole world will pay attention,” he said. In the runup to Wang’s visit, the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language mouthpiece, the Global Times, also struck an unusually conciliatory tone, writing: “China and India share common interests on many fronts. For instance, the West recently pointed the finger at India for reportedly considering buying Russian oil at a discounted price. But it is India’s legitimate right.”

Indian officials, however, were not prepared to cozy up to China in part because of the benefits they were receiving by staying neutral, most notably from the United States. After Wang’s visit, Jaishankar rhetorically asked: “Do the Americans distinguish and differentiate between India and China over [their] respective stands on Russia amid [the] Ukraine crisis? Obviously, they do.” Notwithstanding closer U.S.-Indian ties, preserving India’s strategic autonomy through a nonaligned policy remains a long-standing objective for New Delhi. In the Russia context and as great-power competition intensifies, that stance is proving especially beneficial vis-à-vis China. Furthermore, China and India have a lingering border conflict that New Delhi has argued must be resolved prior to normalizing bilateral ties. Wang did himself no favors by stopping in Pakistan first and making anti-India comments about the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than agree with Beijing’s openly pro-Russian stance, New Delhi decided to move ahead on a different Chinese request: Modi’s continued participation in the BRICS forum, which joins Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Beyond the great powers, India has essentially won the argument with key countries in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, visited India in April and remarked, “Russia-India ties are historically well-known, and [New Delhi’s actions] are not going to change that.” Modi’s three-nation tour through Germany, Denmark, and France last month further demonstrated that India won’t be sidelined by its Russia policy. To the contrary, in all three nations, Modi received the red-carpet treatment. In the case of Germany, Modi remains on the guest list to join the G-7 nations later this month in the Bavarian Alps.

And in the Indo-Pacific, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, when asked about India at last month’s Quad summit, said: “Each country has its own historical developments as well as geographical situation. Even amongst like-minded countries, the positions may not agree fully. That is only natural.” Although Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has only been on the job for a few weeks, he met with Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit and boasted that bilateral relations “have never been closer” in spite of what Albanese said were “strong views” exchanged on Russia during the Quad’s proceedings.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has undoubtedly benefited India as great powers are competing more vigorously for New Delhi’s affection, particularly the United States and China. India has also prevented its Russia policy from spoiling partnerships with key European and Indo-Pacific partners. These trends, if sustained, will contribute to India’s rise to great-power status and, in turn, shift the global system toward even greater multipolarity. What could derail New Delhi’s success is a serious escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which might finally force India to choose sides among great powers. Partners that have so far tolerated India’s aloof, realpolitik approach could become frustrated that New Delhi is refusing to carry its weight as an emerging great power. But unless or until this happens, Modi’s India is set to continue benefiting from this horrific crisis.

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp., an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, and a former daily intelligence briefer to the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Twitter: @DerekJGrossman

QUAD Statement By U.S., India, Japan And Australia Offers Broader Global Vision

Australia, India, Japan and the United States wrapped their second Quad Leaders’ Summit on Tuesday last week in Tokyo. The Quad countries and others in Asia made clear over the last five days that while things like maritime defense are important, real security has to heed Asian countries’ economic wants and needs.

“We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks,” the statement jointly issued today by U.S. President Joe Biden, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“We, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, convened today in person as “the Quad” for the first time. On this historic occasion we recommit to our partnership, and to a region that is a bedrock of our shared security and prosperity—a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient.”

Somewhat unusually and likely at India’s behest the Quad joint leaders’ statement specifically condemns November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai as well as January 2, 2016, terrorist attack in Pathankot.

The Quad is an informal security alignment of four major democracies that came about in response to China’s rising strength in the Indo-Pacific region. As CNBC reported before the group’s first Leaders’ Summit last September, the Quad wants to branch into areas including tech, trade, the environment and pandemic response.

The Biden administration has tried to demonstrate that economic priorities can be addressed within the Quad, between countries one-on-one, or as part of new, multilateral arrangements — though the United States hasn’t gone as far as all of its Asian partners would like.

“The focus is now on establishing overlapping multilateral relationships that operate in meshwork,” said Jonathan Grady, founding principal of forecasting firm The Canary Group. “The players involved are often the same, however we see them participating in many different groupings from security to economic issues. There is strength in numbers.”

The joint statement added: “The occasion of the Quad summit is an opportunity to refocus ourselves and the world on the Indo-Pacific and on our vision for what we hope to achieve. Together, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”

Choosing The West Over Russia Could Make New Delhi A Great Power

India’s neutrality over the war in Ukraine has exposed its vulnerability. New Delhi depends on Russia for military supplies, and so, even though Russia is blatantly violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in an attempt to re-create its erstwhile empire, India has opted to stay silent. It has done so even though India, as a former colony, knows all too well what it’s like to be the victim of imperialism. It has done so even though its own territorial integrity is threatened by another authoritarian power—namely, China. India, it seems, feels caught in a vise grip by Moscow.

To some extent, New Delhi’s concerns are understandable. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy about cutting trade with states that condemn his invasion. But viewed more broadly, New Delhi’s approach is shortsighted and risky. It ignores the dangerous precedent that Russia’s reckless behavior is setting in other parts of the world. It provides diplomatic cover to China—Moscow’s most conspicuous international backer—to also ignore Russia’s bad behavior. And although criticizing the invasion might worsen relations with Russia, refusing to take a stand could alienate an even more powerful country: the United States.

The prospect of upsetting Washington should be particularly concerning for Indian policymakers. The United States has become one of New Delhi’s most important partners, particularly as India tries to stand up to Chinese aggression in the Himalayas. But although Washington is not happy that New Delhi has refused to condemn Russian aggression, Indian policymakers have calculated that their country is so central to U.S. efforts to counterbalance China that India will remain immune to a potential backlash. So far, they’ve been right; the United States has issued only muted criticisms of Indian neutrality. Yet Washington’s patience is not endless, and the longer Russia prosecutes its war without India changing its position, the more likely the United States will be to view India as an unreliable partner. It may not want to, but ultimately New Delhi will have to pick between Russia and the West.

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In-depth analysis delivered weekly. It should choose the West. The United States and its allies can offer India more—diplomatically, financially, and militarily—than can Russia. They can better help New Delhi stand up to China. In the short term, this reorientation may make procurement difficult for India’s military, but Russia’s invasion has already weakened Moscow’s ability to provide India with supplies. New Delhi, then, has little to lose by throwing its lot in with the United States and Europe, and it ought to use Russia’s invasion as an opportunity to boldly shift away from Moscow.

GO WEST

When it comes to the war, India is something of an outlier among the world’s democracies. The United States, Canada, almost all of Europe, and multiple countries in Asia and the Pacific—including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan—have condemned and sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India, by contrast, has remained neutral.

Indeed, New Delhi has arguably even supported Moscow. Unlike most of the world, it has actively increased its economic ties to Russia since the war began. According to The New York Times, India’s crude oil purchases from Russia went from 33,000 barrels per day in 2021 to 300,000 barrels a day in March and then to 700,000 a day in April. Indian importers are purchasing Russian liquified natural gas on the so-called spot market at reduced prices. India’s buys are still far smaller than those made by European countries, but the latter states are working to drastically reduce their dependence on Moscow. India, by contrast, has handed Russia a possible lifeline. It’s no surprise, then, that Moscow has praised New Delhi for, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, “taking this situation in the entirety of facts, not just in a one-sided way.”

For now, U.S. officials have been tolerant of India’s behavior. They understand that the country relies on Russian military hardware, and they recognize that India cannot break its dependence overnight. But there’s a difference between neutrality and support, and as Russian atrocities mount and India continues to import large amounts of Russian crude oil and gas, Washington may begin to see New Delhi as an enabler. To preserve the United States’ deepening relationship with India, U.S. policymakers will want to ensure that India is not facilitating Russia’s invasion.

They will also want New Delhi to turn to other military suppliers. If India doesn’t do so, it will become more difficult for the United States to increase its transfer of sophisticated defense technologies to New Delhi, since Washington cannot expose its high-tech equipment to Russian systems. Under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, India could even face economic penalties for its ties to Moscow. India recently purchased an S-400 air defense system from Russia, and unless U.S. President Joe Biden decides to waive the penalties for national security reasons, Indian officials could be hit with restrictions on access to U.S. loans from U.S. financial institutions and prohibitions on bank transactions subject to U.S. jurisdictions, among other sanctions. The White House appeared to be on a path to waive the sanctions, but that was before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Now, it is no longer clear what the administration will do.

New Delhi has arguably supported Moscow.

Thankfully for Indian-U.S. relations, there are signs that India may be starting to reduce its military ties with Moscow. The country has been gradually cutting its defense imports from Russia over the last several years, and Indian media recently reported that the country has cancelled plans to upgrade its Russian Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft because the war has made it harder for Moscow to supply New Delhi with spare parts. This month, India halted negotiations with Russia to acquire ten Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, also over concerns about Moscow’s ability to fulfill the order. But 80 percent of the country’s current military stocks still consist of Russian-origin equipment.

For India, curtailing dependence on Russian military gear is not just the right move for moral reasons. Ultimately, it will also help advance the Indian’s military modernization goals. As Russia becomes poorer and increasingly isolated, it will be less and less able to assist the Indian military (a fact that the canceled orders illustrate). That’s because Russia will have fewer high-quality weapons to sell, and it will need to focus more on replenishing its own military stocks, particularly as it loses access to critical Western technologies. New Delhi, then, should move quickly to find other countries that manufacture spares and upgrades for Russian-made equipment. And over the long term, India should focus on building up domestic military production so that it becomes less dependent on other countries for its national defense.

CARROTS WITHOUT STICKS

India has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion for reasons beyond just its military needs. Moscow has long offered diplomatic support to India, including over the issue of Kashmir, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend. But in recent years, Russia has become far less dependable. For example, Russia has recently made overtures to Pakistan, perhaps India’s biggest antagonist. Last year, Lavrov visited Islamabad, and he pledged that Moscow would boost military cooperation and construct a $2.5 billion gas pipeline between Pakistani cities—Russia’s first major economic investment in Pakistan in 50 years.

Even more alarming for New Delhi was the release of Beijing and Moscow’s historic joint manifesto. Announced on February 4, following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the 5,000-plus word document heralded an era of newly deep Chinese-Russian relations. For India, this partnership could not come at a worse time. In June 2020, Beijing and New Delhi came to blows after China spent months deliberately building up its forces at several points along the Line of Actual Control that divides the two nations. The resulting fight killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops—the first deaths along the disputed border since 1975.

Following the clash, New Delhi turned to Moscow for diplomatic assistance, hoping that Russia could defuse tensions and prevent an all-out conflict. Indian officials calculated that Russia had more influence and leverage with Beijing than did any other country, and that it might therefore be able to get China to step back. And Moscow did host a virtual Russia-China-India trilateral meeting of foreign ministers shortly after the fight.

Moscow has long offered support to India, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend.

But ultimately it was Washington that backed India with robust material and moral support in its time of crisis. It publicly vowed to stand with India in the country’s efforts to protect its territorial sovereignty, and it expedited the leasing of two MQ-9B surveillance drones. It gave winter military gear to Indian troops. Most important, Washington enhanced information and intelligence sharing with New Delhi. This marked a turning point in Indian-U.S. relations. Before the clash, Indian policymakers had actively debated whether India could count on the United States for support in a conflict with China. Washington’s response made it clear that the answer is yes.

In the years since, ties between the two countries have only grown stronger. The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, released in mid-February, made clear that India plays a critical role in Washington’s efforts to compete with Beijing. The Biden administration further affirmed U.S.-Indian ties in April by hosting a 2+2 dialogue between the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. secretary of defense, and their Indian counterparts. It added a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the last minute, further signaling the importance of U.S.-Indian relations.

The United States’ allies have largely followed its lead. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a visit to India in April to advance negotiations on a British-Indian trade deal and to streamline licensing for British military exports. Three days later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited New Delhi, where she and Modi agreed to establish a joint trade and technology council and to resume negotiations on an EU-Indian free trade agreement.

Washington should not pressure India to criticize Russia.

These steps have all signaled to India that it is welcome to partner with the West. But if the United States wants to move New Delhi further into its camp and away from Moscow’s, it should take additional measures. Washington could give New Delhi even more access to sensitive U.S. technologies that would enhance Indian defense capabilities. It could also provide incentives to U.S. private companies to co-develop and co-produce additional high-tech military equipment in India. It might make its military gear more affordable for India. Recent media reports indicate Washington may be getting ready to take a step in this direction by providing a $500 million Foreign Military Financing package to incentivize India to purchase U.S. weapons. (Given India’s robust defense requirements, however, this is still a small amount.)

What Washington should not do is pressure India to criticize Russia. New Delhi strongly values having an independent foreign policy, and so it would bristle at being told how to act. But U.S. officials can be clear that they will offer India more help, more quickly, if the country reduces its reliance on Russian military systems.

The United States can also help woo India by encouraging the Quad to cooperate on Ukraine in policy domains where all members can agree. During the 2+2 talks, for example, Indian and U.S. officials discussed how to deal with global fuel and food shortages stemming from the war. Biden, Modi, and the Quad’s other two leaders (the prime ministers of Australia and Japan) should also discuss these brewing crises. Talking about such issues will be productive—every member of the Quad has a strong incentive in stopping famines—while avoiding excoriations of India for its neutral position on the war. India wants to be engaged, not shamed, and so this lighter approach is Washington’s best bet for bringing India’s response to the war in Ukraine into alignment with its own.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

For India, closely embracing the West may be discomforting. New Delhi has a proud tradition of strategic autonomy, and it prefers a multipolar world in which it does not have to choose between major geopolitical blocs. Beijing knows this and has been happy to play into India’s concerns. It relishes the current situation in no small part because it views the conflict as an opportunity to woo India with promises of a multipolar world while at the same time driving a wedge between New Delhi and Washington.

But India should recognize that it would be a loser in such a system. China and Russia’s version of multipolarity would make it easier for authoritarian powers with revisionist goals to redraw borders, as China hopes to do in the Himalayas. Beijing and Moscow’s manifesto should underscore these risks. As part of the document, both states criticized the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy—which promises stronger cooperation with India.

But the best way for the country to protect itself is to not play into China’s and Russia’s hands. It is, instead, to exude strength—including by speaking out against Russian aggression, rather than being cowed by Moscow. And that means New Delhi should deepen its partnership with the United States, the country best positioned to help India achieve its great-power ambitions.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin Losing Eyesight, Has 3 Years To Live”

A Russian intelligence officer has claimed that President Vladimir Putin has been given three years to live as he has a “rapidly progressing cancer”, the Independent said in a report. The FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) officer also alleged that 69-year-old Vladimir Putin is losing is sight.

Vladimir Putin, who has been in power in Russia for over two decades, sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, sending shock waves around the world.  The report of failing health comes amid growing speculation that Putin’s health is deteriorating rapidly. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday denied speculation that President Putin was ill, saying there were no signs pointing to any ailment.

Independent further said in its report that the FSB official revealed the latest about Mr Putin’s health in a message to former Russian spy Boris Karpichkov, who lives in the UK. “We are told he is suffering from headaches and when he appears on TV he needs pieces of paper with everything written in huge letters to read what he’s going to say. They are so big each page can only hold a couple of sentences. His eyesight is seriously worsening,” according to a part of the message released by news.com.au.

Metro and Express further reported that Mr Putin’s limbs are “now also shaking uncontrollably”. Earlier this month, Express carried a report which said that Mr Putin underwent a surgery to remove fluid from his abdomen. The operation “went well and without complications”, the report further said, attributing the information to Telegram channel General SVR linked to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

However, Mr Lavrov denied the speculation around the Russian President’s health. “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment,” Russia’s top diplomat said, answering a question from France’s broadcaster TF1.

Mr Lavrov said that Mr Putin, who will turn 70 in October, appears in public “every day”. “You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches,” the foreign minister said in comments released by the Russian foreign ministry.

Moscow’s offensive has killed thousands of people, sparked the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and led to unprecedented Western sanctions against Russia.

Dislodging China, US Becomes India’s Biggest Trading Partner

The US has surpassed China to become India’s top trading partner in 2021-22, according to the data of the commerce ministry. The India-US bilateral trade stood at $119.42 billion, a sharp jump from $80.51 billion in 2020-21.

India’s exports to the US grew from $51.62 billion in 2020-21 to $76.11 billion in 2021-22. Similarly, imports rose from about $29 billion to $43.31 billion over the same period.

India-China trade also grew during the period but with a lower rate, from $86.4 billion in 2020-21 to $115.42 billion in 2021-22. India’s export to China increased only marginally, from $21.18 billion to $21.25 billion in 2021-22. Imports jumped from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21 to $94.16 billion in 2021-22.

India’s trade deficit with China continued to grow, from $44 billion in 2020-21 to $72.91 billion in 2021-22.  The US is, however, one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India recorded a positive trade balance of $32.8 billion with the US.

China was India’s top trading partner from 2013-14 till 2017-18 and also in 2020-21. Before that the UAE was the country’s largest trading partner. The UAE was the third largest trading partner of India in 2021-22 with $72.9 billion of trade, followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

With the ongoing geo-strategic churning that is witnessing economic and strategic realignment, Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing India-US bilateral trade will continue in the coming years. Several top global firms are reducing their overwhelming dependence on China for business. During 2021-22, India’s two-way commerce with China aggregated at $115.42 billion as compared to $86.4 billion in 2020-21, the data showed.

Exports to China marginally increased to $21.25 billion last fiscal year from $21.18 billion in 2020-21, while imports jumped to $94.16 billion from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21. Trade gap rose to $72.91 billion in 2021-22 from $44 billion in previous fiscal year. Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing bilateral trade with the US will continue in the coming years also as New Delhi and Washington are engaged in further strengthening the economic ties.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations Vice President Khalid Khan said India is emerging as a trusted trading partner and global firms are reducing their dependence only on China for their supplies and are diversifying business into other countries like India.

In 2021-22, the UAE with $72.9 billion, was the third largest trading partner of India. It was followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

“In the coming years, the bilateral trade between India and the US will continue to grow. India has joined a US-led initiative to set up an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and this move would help boost economic ties further,” Khan said. America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India had a trade surplus of $32.8 billion with the US. —With PTI

What Do Americans Know About International Affairs?

Americans know a great deal about certain global leaders and institutions. For example, nearly eight-in-ten U.S. adults can look at a photo of Kim Jong Un and correctly identify him as the leader of North Korea, and nearly two-thirds know that Boris Johnson is the current prime minister of the United Kingdom. A slim majority also know that Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

However, as a new Pew Research Center survey shows, Americans are less familiar with other topics. Despite the U.S. government labeling the events in Xinjiang, China, as genocide, only around one-in-five Americans are aware that it is the region in China with the most Muslims per capita. And only 41% can identify the flag of the second most populous country in the world, India.

On average, Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 12 questions in the study. The mean number of correct answers is 6.3, while the median is 7. But the survey finds that levels of international knowledge vary based on who is answering. Americans with more education tend to score higher, for example, than those with less formal education. Men also tend to get more questions correct than women. Older Americans and those who are more interested in foreign policy also tend to perform better.

Political party groups are roughly similar in their overall levels of international knowledge, although conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats tend to score higher on the scale than do their more moderate counterparts.

International knowledge is also related to people’s general interest in foreign policy: Those who report being very or somewhat interested in the topic answer a mean of 7.4 questions correctly, compared with only 4.6 correct questions for those who are not too or not at all interested in foreign policy. Those who follow international news also tend to have higher international knowledge than those who are less engaged. Those who have visited at least one country outside of the United States also score higher on the international knowledge scale than those who have not traveled abroad, even after accounting for differences in education and income.

Part of the goal of the survey was simply to understand these factors: what Americans know about international affairs and, more specifically, how knowledge varies across demographic subgroups. But another goal of the survey was also to understand how knowledge might affect attitudes.

We find that people who know more about an issue often have different views about that issue. For example, people who are aware that Ukraine is not a member of NATO are more likely to have a favorable view of NATO and more likely to say that the U.S. benefits a great deal from its membership in the organization relative to those who do not know Ukraine is not a member nation. This same group is also more likely to have negative views of Russia, to have no confidence at all in Russian President Vladimir Putin and to describe Russia as an enemy.

Similarly, the survey also finds that those who know the capital of Afghanistan are more critical of the U.S. withdrawal and how it was handled than those who do not know the capital. Those who are aware of where the U.S. Embassy in Israel is located (following the 2018 move) are also more likely to say U.S.-Israel relations are good than those who do not know. But there are few differences between the 17% of Americans who know that Xinjiang is the region of China with the most Muslims per capita and those who do not when it comes to views of China or Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beyond the issue of how specific knowledge questions are related to attitudes about that topical area – e.g., how knowledge about NATO is related to views about NATO – we can also explore, more generally, whether people who have more international knowledge feel differently about myriad global issues than those with less international knowledge. To do this, we can use the entire 12-question scale, breaking people into groups of high (those who answered 9-12 questions correctly), medium (5-8 questions) and low knowledge (0-4 questions). Around a third of the American public falls into each of these three groups, respectively.

Generally speaking, we see that international knowledge is related to attitudes about a host of issues. People with higher levels of knowledge have more positive views of the European Union (EU), NATO and Israel. They also have more confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden.

When it comes to both Russia and China, though, those with higher levels of knowledge tend to be more critical. They are more likely to see the two countries unfavorably, to describe both countries as enemies of the U.S. and to have little or no confidence in Putin and Xi. And, whereas Americans overall are equally likely to describe China and the U.S. as the world’s top economy, people with high levels of international knowledge are significantly more likely than those with less knowledge to say the U.S. is the world’s leading economic power – mirroring the gross domestic product assessments compiled by the International Monetary Fund.

These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel among 3,581 adults from March 21 to 27, 2022. The survey also finds that when it comes to the four questions that we have previously asked, Americans’ level of international knowledge is similar – or higher – than it was in the past.1 In the case of identifying the leader of North Korea or the euro currency symbol, American knowledge has not changed significantly since the questions were last asked in 2015 and 2013, respectively. But when it comes to identifying the U.S. secretary of state, more can identify Secretary Antony Blinken (51%) than could identify Secretary Rex Tillerson (44%) in June 2017.2 More Americans are also able to identify the British prime minister now (65%) than were able to do so in 2017 (56%) – though this most recent survey was conducted following a scandal that kept Johnson in the news.

International knowledge varies markedly across demographic groups

Americans with more education tend to score higher on the international knowledge scale compared with those with less education. College graduates get an average of 8.0 out of 12 international knowledge questions right, including around half (49%) who get at least nine of the 12 correct. Within this group, people who have a postgraduate degree do especially well, averaging 8.2 questions correct, including 55% who get at least nine questions right.

Scores are lower among Americans with less education. Among people who have some college experience, the average number of correct answers is 6.3. Those who have a high school diploma or less education get 5.0 questions right, on average. These large education differences are consistent with past Center surveys on science knowledge and religious knowledge.

Men tend to perform better on the international knowledge scale than women

Overall, men tend to score higher on the knowledge scale than women. On average, men answer 7.3 questions correctly out of 12, compared with an average of 5.4 correct answers for women. In fact, for each of the 12 questions individually, a higher share of men than women answer correctly. This mirrors previous findings for both scientific knowledge and religious knowledge in which men tended to score higher than women.

Multiple studies have found that men are more likely than women to guess on knowledge questions, even if they don’t know the answer. If given the option, women are often more likely than men to say they don’t know. Indeed, on each of the 12 items tested in this survey, women are more likely than men to say they are not sure of the correct answer. On only four questions are women more likely to give an incorrect answer.

While men are more likely than women to answer each item correctly, this gap is larger on some questions than others. The largest gap between men and women is identifying the predecessor of the USMCA trade agreement. Nearly three-in-four men correctly answer NAFTA, compared with 44% of women. About half (52%) of women say they are not sure which trade agreement preceded the USMCA.

Older Americans have higher levels of international knowledge than younger ones

Overall, compared with younger Americans, older Americans – those ages 65 and older – perform best on the international knowledge scale, averaging 6.7 questions correctly relative to 6.2 for those ages 50 to 64, 6.4 for those 30 to 49, and 5.8 for those under 30. Around a third of this oldest age group answers at least nine of the 12 questions correctly, placing them in the “high” knowledge category, while only around a quarter of the youngest age group falls into the same group.

Across nearly all of the 12 questions, older adults are more likely than younger adults to answer them correctly. The gap is largest when it comes to three specific questions: current location of the U.S. embassy in Israel, prime minister of the UK and secretary of state of the U.S. In all three cases, the oldest age group is more than 20 percentage points more likely to answer correctly than the youngest group. But there are also three questions where younger adults noticeably outperform their older counterparts. Two of them are questions that relate to pictures: one identifying the euro symbol and the other identifying the Indian flag. Younger adults are also more likely to correctly identify the region of China with the highest per capita Muslim population.

While younger people are somewhat more likely to say they are not sure when it comes to six of the questions, they are also more likely to give incorrect answers for seven of the 12 questions. For example, when it comes to identifying the current U.S. secretary of state, 51% of those under age 30 said they were not sure, compared with 37% of those 30 to 49 and around three-in-ten or fewer of those ages 50 and older. But this youngest age group is also more likely to be wrong: 19% chose an incorrect multiple-choice answer from the list provided, while only 10% of those ages 65 and older chose an incorrect answer.

International knowledge highest at ends of the political spectrum

Republicans and Democrats have roughly the same levels of international knowledge. On the 12-point scale, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents answer an average of 6.5 questions correctly, while Democrats and Democratic leaners get an average of 6.4 right.

There are, however, a few questions where members of one party perform markedly better than the other. More Republicans and GOP leaners know that the USMCA trade agreement replaced NAFTA and that the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem in 2018 – both changes made under former U.S. President Donald Trump and pillars of his international policy. Republicans are also more likely to know the capital of Afghanistan. On the other hand, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely to correctly identify the flag of India and the euro symbol.

Generally, though, there are greater differences within parties than between them. Those at the ends of the political spectrum – conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats – score more than a point higher, on average, than the more moderate groups. While these groups both tend to be more likely to follow international news and interested in foreign affairs, this difference in knowledge persists even after statistically controlling for these factors. Liberal Democrats answer all but one of the 12 questions correctly at a higher rate than conservative and moderate Democrats. The same is true for conservative Republicans relative to liberal and moderate Republicans on three-quarters of the scale items. These patterns are largely consistent with measures of scientific knowledge conducted by the Center.

International engagement tied to higher international knowledge

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans who are more internationally engaged on a variety of fronts are more likely to have higher international knowledge than Americans who are not as engaged. For example, Americans who say they follow international news very or somewhat closely answer an average of 7.3 questions correctly; Americans who follow international news less closely answer only 5.2 questions correctly, on average. Only when it comes to identifying the flag of India are those who follow international news closely and those who do not equally likely to answer correctly. Following international news is a significant factor in international knowledge even after controlling for education and other key demographics including age, race and gender.

Interest in foreign policy also plays a part in international knowledge. Those who say they are very or somewhat interested in foreign policy answer a mean of 7.4 questions correctly, compared with only 4.6 correct questions for those who are not too or not at all interested in foreign policy. In some cases, the difference between those who are interested in foreign policy and those who are not can be quite large. On the question of which trade agreement the USMCA replaced, 72% of those interested in foreign policy correctly answer NAFTA, while only 37% of those not interested in foreign policy are able to identify the correct answer. Once again, interest in foreign policy remains a significant factor in international knowledge even after controlling for education.3

These differences don’t just extend to hypothetical interest. Americans who have visited at least one other country outside of the U.S. answer an average of 7.1 questions correctly, compared with an average score of 4.3 correct for those who have never visited another country. And while international travel is associated with more education and higher incomes, this gap is significant even when controlling for those factors.

International knowledge and attitudes about foreign countries and leaders

Based on the individual performance of the 12 international knowledge questions, we are able to divide people into three roughly equal groups: those who answered at least nine of the 12 questions correctly (31%) are termed “high” knowledge; those who answered five to eight questions correctly (37%) or the “medium” knowledge group; and those who answered fewer than five questions correctly (32%) or the “low” knowledge group.

Performance on the international knowledge scale relates to views of other countries and multinational entities. Those who have a high score on the knowledge scale are more likely than those with a low score to hold favorable views of the EU, NATO and Israel. For example, 73% of those who answer at least nine of 12 questions correctly hold a favorable view of NATO, compared with 58% of those who answer four or fewer questions correctly. However, knowledge is not related to views of the United Nations: Those with high levels of international knowledge are as likely to feel favorable toward the UN as those with low levels of international knowledge.

Americans who score better on the international knowledge scale differ in their assessments of countries’ place in the world. High scorers are 37 percentage points more likely than those who have a low score to say China’s influence in the world in recent years has been increasing. They are also significantly more likely to say India and Germany’s influence has been growing stronger. Conversely, they are 10 points less likely than Americans who answered four or fewer questions correctly to say the United States’ influence in the world has increased.

Evaluations of world leaders similarly differ by performance on the international knowledge scale. Confidence in Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is higher among Americans who answer at least nine questions correctly, compared with those with four or fewer correct responses. The same relationship holds for views of German Chancellor Scholz, French President Macron and U.S. President Biden.

High scores on the knowledge scale relate to more critical evaluations of Russia. While a majority of Americans see Russia very unfavorably, those with a high level of knowledge are 10 points more likely than those with low knowledge to have a very negative view of the country. These unfavorable views are reflected in how Americans see Russia’s relationship with the U.S.: Americans who score highly on the international knowledge scale are more likely than those who have a low score to consider Russia an enemy. They are also more likely to say Russia’s influence in the world has been getting weaker in recent years. While 30% of those with low knowledge say Russia’s international influence is waning, 42% of those with high knowledge hold this opinion. Attitudes toward Russia’s leader show the same pattern. Majorities across all groups say they have no confidence at all in Russian President Putin, but those with higher scores are 15 points more likely than those with four or fewer correct answers to hold this view.

Views of China are also related to international knowledge. Those who have high levels of international knowledge are more likely to describe China as an enemy of the U.S., to say that current U.S.-China relations are bad and to say economic relations between the two countries are bad. And when it comes to seven potential issues in the U.S.-China relationship asked about, the low knowledge group is the least likely to call any one of them a very serious problem. The gap is particularly large when it comes to tensions between China and Taiwan, which those in the high knowledge group are 30 points more likely to describe as a very serious problem than those in the low knowledge group.

Americans, overall, are equally likely to describe China and the U.S. as the world’s leading economy, but people with high international knowledge are significantly more likely than those with lower levels of knowledge to describe the U.S. as the top economic power (55% vs. 37%). Notably, this accords with the actual size of the two country’s GDP’s, according to IMF estimates.

Jaishankar’s Tough Talk On India’s Foreign Policy Priorities

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has had geopolitical, military, and economic consequences for every nation on earth. The economic consequences is impacting every market and causing disruptions that will take time to recover. More than anything else, the invasion is causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Over two months into the war, with no end to the war in sight, the impact of the war has been felt in every corner of the earth.

As in any war, uncertainty of the outcome of this violent conflict is high. The escalation of conflict has triggered an immediate and steep rise in humanitarian needs as essential supplies and services are disrupted and civilians flee the fighting. The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees may need protection and assistance in neighboring countries in the coming months.

“I am here to focus on ways on how the UN can expand support for the people of Ukraine, saving lives, reduce suffering and help find the path of peace. I want the Ukrainian people to know that the world sees you, hears you, and is in awe of your resilience and resolve, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in remarks at a press encounter with the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, said on April 28th.

Countries across the globe have reacted to this situation in ways that suit their interests, based on their long standing relationship with Russia and the Western Alliance led by the United States. The message of the United Nations General Assembly is loud and clear:  End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.

President Joe Biden has condemned Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would bring forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions against Moscow.

“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe,” the G7 leaders said in a joint statement, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin had re-introduced war to the European continent.

A majority of the nations at the United Nations were  unanimous in their condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion and the implications of its war crimes on the innocent. However, India, the rising power on world stage, abstained on all the 12 United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion. Its initial statements at the UN Security Council were decidedly mild, while the Indian ambassador did not even mention Russia by name, and avoided criticizing Russia for the invasion. Another major world player, China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

There has been mounting pressure on India to condemn Russia. The Western nations have implied that there could be consequences for India’s ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” During a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early April, Biden pressed India to align itself with the Western nations in condemning Russia. Despite leaders from several Western during their recent visits to New Delhi expressing understanding for the Indian position, India has not heeded to the wishes of the West.

India has been focused on seeking to establish itself as a major player on the world stage, trying to be a moderate voice on international affairs, responding to the new realities of the world, establishing friendship with the US, sometimes in its own terms, less reliant on Russia and diversifying its dependence for military needs and trade with multiple nations.

India’s career diplomat turned politician, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has been talking tough on India’s position on Russia-Ukraine conflict. While responding to questions from world leaders on the crisis Jaishankar pointed to challenges in Asia and India’s neighborhood — in Afghanistan, and from China — and said it was a “wake-up call” for Europe to look at these instances where “problems have been happening”.

For instance, in response to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi last week, Jaishankar said, “You talked about Ukraine. I remember less than a year ago what happened in Afghanistan, where the entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world. We in Asia face our own sets of challenges, which often has an impact on the rules-based order.”

“For India, the past week, without a doubt, belonged to external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. It is hard to recall another foreign affairs minister who articulated India’s views so firmly and well in international for a,” Sandipan Deb  wrote in the popular magazine, The Mint.

“In recent weeks, Jaishankar has been sharp in his comments on Europe. In Washington DC, he said India’s total purchase of Russian energy for the month was “less than what Europe does in an afternoon”. Days earlier, speaking on the issue of sanctions as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss listened, he said “it looks like a campaign,” Deb pointed out.

According to Jaishankar, India is prepared to take a much bigger role in global affairs and would help the world with more supplies of wheat to tame food inflation if WTO rules allow. He asserted the West has been oblivious to the pressing challenges facing Asia including last year’s events in Afghanistan and the continuous pressure on the rules-based order in the region.

However, while refraining from condemning Russia and not offering to mediate in the conflict just as some other neutral nations have done, it has been noted by analysts on foreign policy that  India is abdicating its rising role as a model democracy and world leader.

“Despite the rhetorical care the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted to appear neutral, the time may have come for India, in its own interest, to rethink its stance,” Shashi Tharoor, an opposition member of India’s Parliament, a former Undersecretary General of the United Nations, who has served as Minister of the Government of India and Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in “Foreign Affairs.”

In recent days, India, still without naming Russia has criticized what is being done in Ukraine, in an effort to uphold the principles of international law India has traditionally upheld, especially, respect for the UN Charter and the sovereignty of states, the inviolability of borders, and opposition to the use of force to resolve political issues.

While pointing to the remarks by diplomat Shivshankar Menon, who stated, “Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years,” Tharoor rightly says, “But it would be wrong to look at the reluctance to take sides that India and other developing countries in Asia have shown and conclude that a faraway war in Europe simply does not matter to the rest of the world. India’s dilemma is more complicated than its repeated abstentions on the Ukraine question imply, and it illustrates why the world order cannot simply remain what it was before the invasion.”

While describing India’s growing importance on world stage, Tharoor pointed out how in recent years has gained prominence and admiration. Tharoor wrote, India became a founding member of the G-20 when that organization was established in 1999; concluded a nuclear deal with the United States in 2005 that was portrayed as enshrining an “Indian exception”; took over the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2006, dubbing itself “the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy”; won then President Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s claims to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2010; got the UN to adopt an International Day of Yoga in 2015, showcasing its cultural soft power; and joined the quadrilateral security dialogue with the United States, Australia, and Japan known as the Quad.

With India’s recent stand in failing to condemn and isolate Russia, there are fears that India may face consequences for its ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.”

“India’s lack of influence on Russia and failure to take a clear stand on the war have also undermined its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,” Tharoor writes.

One way for India to salvage its reputation in the West would be to leverage its nonaligned position to play peacemaker on Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba had asked “India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine.”

I am reminded of what Jaishankar elaborated in what has come to be called the “Jaishankar doctrine” in his 2020 book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. “Asserting national interests and securing strategic goals through various means is the dharma of a state,” he wrote. India must discard “political romanticism” and think in realpolitik terms. There are no true friends or allies; the world is a “transactional bazaar”, a fact that India has long been in denial of. In this marketplace, India must advance and maximize its “national interests by identifying and exploiting opportunities created by global contradictions,” he wrote.

If that principle “no true friends or allies” in the world market place, it is time for India to come out of the shadow of past dependence on Soviet Union and show the world that India stands with truth, condemn aggression, deny autocracy and tyranny, respect true freedom, human rights and true democracy, and stand with and lead by example in India and around the world, India respects and appreciates freedom and democracy in letter and spirit.

Emmanuel Macron’s Reelection In France To Make Him A Powerful Player In EU

Soon after his victory was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron took the stage to the sound of the European Union’s anthem, the “Ode to Joy.” The symbolism was strong: The 44-year-old centrist’s election to a second term bolsters his standing as a senior player in Europe.

Macron is now expected to push for strengthening the 27-nation bloc and throw all his weight behind efforts to put an end to the war in Ukraine.

In his victory speech Sunday evening, he thanked the majority of French voters who chose him and vowed to lead a project for “a stronger Europe.”

“Europe is a framework for peace and stability. It’s our safer asset for today and tomorrow,” he said at a campaign rally in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament. “Europe is what’s protecting us from crisis and war.”

Angela Merkel’s departure in December after 16 years as Germany’s chancellor, in addition to the United Kingdom’s exit from the bloc in 2020, positioned Macron to play a dominant role in the EU, where the Franco-German relationship is key.

Boosted by his victory, Macron figures to be in the spotlight when he pays an expected visit to Berlin in the coming days to meet with new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has had a low-profile debut on the international stage. French presidents traditionally make their first post-election trip abroad to Germany as a celebration of the countries’ friendship after multiple wars.

Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda for the encounter with Scholz, whose spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, praised Macron’s victory over far-right, nationalist rival Marine Le Pen as “a good day for Europe.” Hebestreit added: “The French people made a good choice.”

France holds the rotating presidency of the European Council until June 30. Macron is scheduled to make a speech on Europe on May 9 in Strasbourg.

At some point, he may also travel to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron has long advocated for the EU to take more responsibility for its own defense, something he sees as complementary to the NATO alliance, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only further strengthened that argument.

His victory “means the pursuit of an ambitious project for Europe,” said Tara Varma, who heads the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

“He will be advocating to double down on the European sovereignty agenda: on tech, on defense, on fighting economic coercion,” she said.

Varma added that an upcoming conference on the Western Balkans to be organized in June will provide “an opportunity to start rethinking the EU’s enlargement policy.”

Georgina Wright, director of the Europe Program at the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne, said that “Europe will obviously continue to be a key and central pillar to Macron’s mandate. I suspect he wants to go further and faster than he has in the past five years.”

However, he may encounter “tricky discussions” ahead, she said.

The introduction of a bloc-wide minimum wage, a carbon tax on imports and fiscal reform are among the main policies France wants to promote. France also wants to accelerate talks on a stalled overhaul of the EU’s asylum system.

To achieve such progress on touchy topics, Macron will need to seek international consensus among his counterparts.

“His challenge would be to get others to follow him,” Wright said. “He really needs to get Germany on board.”

But challenges loom. The leaders of Hungary and Poland, at loggerheads with Brussels over their rule of law standards, have expressed strong disagreement with Macron in the past. Tensions with Britain over the post-Brexit deal and migrants crossing the English Channel, meanwhile, are unlikely to calm down.

“Macron won’t have everything his own way,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. “Some Central and Eastern European member states will oppose French policies, the British will remain a headache and the Germans may thwart some French ideas.”

Areas of Franco-German divergence include key topics such as energy strategy. Macron is pushing to promote nuclear power as a way of becoming greener and more energy-independent, while Scholz’s government plans to shut down Germany’s last nuclear plants this year.

Germany is also expected to oppose a French proposal involving the use of shared EU debt for an investment plan aimed at coping with the impact of the war in Ukraine. The proposal is modeled on the unprecedented plan launched to get the bloc through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron may find a key ally in Italian Premier Mario Draghi, who has been pushing for tighter ties with Paris, including a pact signed with Macron in Rome last fall that was meant to establish Italy and France as the new motor of EU cooperation.

In congratulatory remarks following Macron’s reelection, Draghi emphasized the role of both countries, “working side by side with all of the other partners” to construct a stronger EU.

Nuclear Expert Cautions Against Unfamiliar New Nuclear Age

High-tech advances in weapons technologies and a return of ‘great power nuclear politics’, risk the world ‘sleepwalking’ into a nuclear age vastly different from the established order of the Cold War, according to new research undertaken at the University of Leicester.

Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, makes the warning in a research paper for the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe), published today (Friday).

While stockpiles are much reduced from the peak of up to 70,000 nuclear weapons seen in the 1980s, progress in a number of new or ‘disruptive’ technologies threatens to fundamentally change the central pillars on which nuclear order, stability and risk reduction are based.

Modern nuclear weapons – acknowledged to be held by nine countries including the USA, Russia and UK – are more capable and more precise than their Cold War counterparts, and at the same time, are being augmented by a new suite of strategic non-nuclear weapons that might be used against or instead of nuclear weapons.

Advances in offensive capabilities have, however, been matched in increasingly sophisticated sensing, tracking and processing technologies designed to detect, prevent and in some cases respond to a nuclear strike – often using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Professor Futter said: “While we’ve seen a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held across the world, it’s important to remember that this reduction came about as much as a result of rationalisation than a genuine drive to disarm. After all, you can’t destroy a city twice, and it takes an enormous amount of money to build and maintain this technology.

“We’ve seen massive advances in the capabilities of these weapons and their support systems in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War, and there’s a danger that this means the established rulebook of nuclear doctrine could be thrown out of the window.”

However, there are potential political solutions as the world prepares to enter what Professor Futter terms a ‘Third Nuclear Age’. He continued: “Choosing the correct pathway for our nuclear future was hard enough in the past and there is no suggestion it will become any easier as we move into a new, potentially more complex and dynamic chapter in the nuclear story.

“Policy proposals to manage the challenges of the Third Nuclear Age are therefore inherently bound by whether one believes the best approach is to take our nuclear world as it is and seek to manage it through restraint, arms control, and norms; or whether it is possible to transition to a world where nuclear weapons no longer exist through sustained moral, ethical, legal and perhaps technological pressure.”

Deterrence, Disruptive Technology and Disarmament in the Third Nuclear Age’ is published by the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace.

Disruptive Technologies and Nuclear Risks: What’s New and What Matters’, in which Professor Futter further explores the themes of new nuclear capabilities and their impact, is published in the journal Survival.

The Third Nuclear Age research project is funded by the European Research Council. Find out more at thirdnuclearage.com.

A New Dawn In Indo-UK Relationship

In Persian there is an old proverb: “Amad’an, nashist’am, ghuft’am, barkhas’tam’”, meaning “they came, they sat, they talked and then dispersed”. It actually means to say that nothing substantial was achieved by the visit or the talks. The same could be said about UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to India, after his two previous trips scheduled last year were cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The diplomacy nowadays, thrives on optics. On this count the BoJo visit clicked all the boxes, but was also marred by angry reactions on the social media on photos showing him in the driver’s seat at a JCB bulldozer. Perhaps his advisers were unable to connect the continuing controversy over bulldozers being used by the establishment against the minorities across India, or his close connections with the owner of the JCB, Anthony Bamford, an old Conservative Party donor and supporter, overweighed the local sensibilities.

The Gujarat leg of his visit, a carbon copy of his Home Secretary Priti Patel’s 2015 trip to the state, was in essence aimed at garnering the support of the Gujarati electorate back home, keeping an eye on his uncertain political future.

In Gujarat he also met Gautam Adani at his company’s head quarters. BoJo described the feeling of being in Ahmedabad similar to as those of Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan, two Indian icons used for boosting his own public image and trying to resonate or connect with the Indian audiences.

In New Delhi, he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “khaas dost” and continuously as Narendra during his speech at Hyderabad House. But no more “khaas” treatment to the Indian demands of a relaxed visa regime and post study work for the Indian students, an indication towards which was given in Ahmedabad, but not granted finally.

Bilateral Cooperation

His main focus remained the FTA between the two countries, as he expected to take back home something substantial in economic terms, particularly after his failed Brexit strategy. He urged the negotiators on both sides to hasten the pace of negotiations so as to have a final document ready for signing by Diwali in October. Certainly an over ambitious demand for an agreement, which has been under negotiations for more than last ten years.

Though the Indian side stated that it would demonstrate the same speed and urgency that it did in concluding recent FTAs with the UAE and Australia in recent months, yet nothing can’t be said for sure about an Indo-UK FTA, as there are many thorny issues on both sides.

British trade with India, the world’s second-most populous country with nearly 1.3 billion people, was worth 23 billion pounds ($29.93 billion) in 2019, much lower than the UK’s trade with some much smaller economies such as Ireland and India’s trade with smaller countries like Belgium which stands at 18 billion pounds.

Russian-Ukraine War

In addition, though not expressed overtly by the British side and neither by BoJo, the Russia-Ukraine war had an ominous shadow over the visit. Though his foreign secretary was very firmly told by New Delhi just 22 days before his visit that India is not going to change stand on its ties with Russia, BoJo thought he might be able to convince New Delhi to do so.

However, predicting the Indian response he had set the tone for this when even before meeting Modi he had said that he understands India’s historic ties with Russia, but still chose to lecture New Delhi on its relationship with ‘autocratic’ states, though this time also New Delhi politely stood its ground.

The manner in which the visit was seen by both sides, was remarkable by the manner in which the two prime ministers delivered their speeches at Hyderabad House. While BoJo avoided mentioning Russia, Modi reaffirmed the ties with Russia.

India-focused issues

Though the British side is referring to a host of agreements signed in different sectors, and BoJo’s statements on counter-terrorism task force being constituted and against the Indian economic fugitives currently at home in the UK, everyone is certain that they are just mere words, nothing substantial. His announcement of One billion pounds trade deals and creating 11,000 jobs is just peanuts for India.

Both sides also agreed to deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation. India welcomed Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt and joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Initiative; on its part Britain announced the decision to ease the transfer of defence equipment and technology for India and also for developing an advanced jet fighter. But overall, nothing concrete was inked down by both the sides and the technology transfer could be viewed as just a gimmick to wean India away from Russia.

Overall, the two sides showed commitment to joint research, development and production of advanced weapons and related technologies. The two Prime Ministers also issued a statement on strengthening partnership in cyber-security domain, and plans to boost cooperation on mitigating climate change and promoting clean energy. But these agreements should be seen as just part of a normal bureaucratic visit.

The visit seems to be a hastily stitched plan, with no long-term goals and no narrative setting, and was unable to achieve anything bilaterally. In the end BoJo was unable to get anything substantial from India and his political troubles back home persists. The coming days will show how he’ll be able to deal with them and survive as even his closest Asian origin lieutenants like Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel, who were predicted to take over from him, are facing politically damaging controversies of their own.

UN Chief And Putin Agree On Key Ukraine Evacuation

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United Nations said they agreed on arranging evacuations from a besieged steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Russian leader and U.N. chief discussed “proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol.”

They also agreed in principle, he said, that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel complex where Ukrainian defenders in the southeastern city are making a dogged stand.

Discussions will be held with the U.N. humanitarian office and the Russian Defense Ministry on the evacuation, Dujarric said.

Guterres criticized Russia’s military action in Ukraine as a flagrant violation of its neighbor’s territorial integrity and urged Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians trapped at the steel mill.

Putin responded by claiming that Russian troops have offered humanitarian corridors to civilians holed up at the plant. But, he said, the Ukrainian defenders of the plant were using civilians as shields and not allowing them to leave.

The sprawling Azovstal site has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks, but it is the last pocket of organized Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. An estimated 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 civilians are said to be holed up in fortified positions underneath the wrecked structures.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday ahead of Guterres’ visit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted the failure of other foreign officials who visited Moscow to achieve results, and he urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of Mariupol. “This is really something that the U.N. is capable to do,” Kuleba said.

Guterres flew to Rzeszow, Poland, from Moscow late Tuesday and was met by Polish President Andrzej Duda. He is to go to Kyiv for meetings Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Kuleba, and his meeting with Putin is expected to top the agenda.

Many analysts have low expectations for Guterres’ diplomatic foray into the Ukraine war. But U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq was unusually optimistic Monday ahead of the Moscow meetings, telling reporters Guterres “thinks there is an opportunity now” and “will make the most” of his time on the ground talking to the leaders and see what can be achieved.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Guterres has accused the Russians of violating the U.N. Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes.

He also has repeatedly called for a cessation of hostilities, most recently appealing unsuccessfully last Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” leading up to the Orthodox Easter holiday on Sunday.

The U.N. crisis coordinator in Ukraine, Amin Awad, followed up Sunday by calling for an immediate halt to fighting in Mariupol to allow an estimated 100,000 trapped civilians to evacuate.

Guterres said at a news conference after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier Tuesday that safe and effective humanitarian corridors are urgently needed to evacuate civilians and deliver aid.

To deal with “the crisis within a crisis in Mariupol,” he proposed coordination between the U.N., Red Cross, and Ukrainian and Russian forces to enable the evacuation of civilians who want to leave “both inside and outside the Azovstal plant and in the city, in any direction they choose, and to deliver the humanitarian aid required.”

The U.N. chief also proposed establishing a Humanitarian Contact Group comprising Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations “to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective.”

Dujarric made no mention of a broader evacuation of civilians from Mariupol or Guterres’ Humanitarian Contact Group, but getting civilians out of the steel plant would be an important step.

On Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground in the plant, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.

“India And Indian Americans Need To Think About The Possibility Of A Reduction In Defense Supplies From Russia:” Dr. Sampat Shivangi

The world order has changed since the Ukraine war, said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, National President of Indian American Forum and a past Legislative Committee Chairman of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) after he attended a breakfast meeting last week with Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican Senator from Mississippi.

“Here is a great opportunity for India that Senator Roger Wicker who is a great friend of India can help India in providing the defense needs of the country and with better technologies than Russia, even though Russia has been a steady partner of India,” said Shivangi, after his 1:1 meeting with the Ranking Member of the Senate Arms Services Committee last week.

“In a changing world order, post-Ukraine invasion, India and Indian Americans think about the possibility of reduction in defense supplies from Russia to India a steady friend and partner of India for many decades,” the veteran AAPI leader told this writer. “With plummeting and devastating effects of war, can Russia provide assured suppliers to India especially possible ban of Western digital supplies to Russia in their defense production?” Dr. Shivangi, a physician, and an influential Indian-American community leader asked.

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia has exposed the vulnerabilities of Russia made weapons and their effectiveness. While India has been a long-time friend and defense purchaser of Russia. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, since 2010, Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of all Indian arms imports and India has been the largest Russian arms importer, accounting for nearly one-third (32 per cent) of all Russian arms exports.

Between 2016 and 2020, India accounted for nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) of Russia’s total arms exports and Russia accounted for roughly half (49 per cent) of Indian imports, the CRS report said.

Dr. Shivangi is of the opinion that “It is apt time India should think alternative suppliers source. What can be a better source than US? We have a great opportunity here as our Senior Senator from Mississippi has been elected as a Ranking member of the US Armed Service Committee of the US Senate.  With his assistance and good offices, especially after 2+2 summit, I hope and look forward to such increased collaboration with the successful Indo pacific QUAD treaty.

With India being in a tough neighborhood, Russia will not be able to provide or be a major supplier to India as with its war with Ukraine it has lost an enormous amount of its war machinery and a Western ban on high tech imports. As a result, it will be tougher for Russia to provide its arms and technology to India, Shivangi said in a statement after his meeting with Wicker. It’s noteworthy that during Monday’s 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, India and the US have agreed to step up military-to-military cooperation.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi has been a conservative life-long member of the Republican party, hailing from a strong Republican state of Mississippi.  He is the founding president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian-origin in Mississippi and is the past president and chair of the India Association of Mississippi. Advisor to US department of Health & Human Services at NHSC Washington, DC 2005-2008 President Bush Administration

A conservative life-long member of the Republican Party, Dr. Shivangi is the founding member of the Republican Indian Council and the Republican Indian National Council, which aim to work to help and assist in promoting President Elect Trump’s agenda and support his advocacy in the coming months.

As the National President of Indian American Forum for Political Education, one of the oldest Indian American Associations, Dr. Shivangi, has lobbied for several Bills in the US Congress on behalf of India through his enormous contacts with US Senators and Congressmen over the past three decades.

A close friend to the Bush family, Dr. Shivangi has been instrumental in lobbying for first Diwali celebration in the White House and for President George W. Bush to make his trip to India. He had accompanied President Bill Clinton during his historic visit to India.

Dr. Shivangi is a champion for women’s health and mental health, whose work has been recognized nationwide. Dr. Shivangi has worked enthusiastically in promoting India Civil Nuclear Treaty and recently the US India Defense Treaty that was passed in US Congress and signed by President Obama.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, an obstetrician/gynecologist, has been elected by a US state Republican Party as a full delegate to the National Convention. He is one of the top fund-raisers in Mississipi state for the Republican Party. Besides being a politician by choice, the medical practitioner is also the first Indian to be on the American Medical Association, the apex law making body.

Days after the high-profile visit to India and the remarks by Mr. Daleep Singh, Deputy National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden at the White House recently, Dr. Shivangi hoped that this would not have a major impact on the Indo-US ties. “Many in India and many Indian Americans felt that Daleep Singh’s remarks were abrasive, coming from a fellow Indian American. Hopefully, his remarks have not muddled the water as reported in Indian media,” Mississippi-based Shivangi said in a statement. “India is a major QUAD partner of the US and will continue to have strong ties and mutual respect and friendship in the coming days,” he added.

Singh got front-page attention as the architect of economic sanctions against Russia in its war against Ukraine, he said. During his visit to India, Daleep Singh, in his interaction with reporters, cautioned India against expecting Russia to come to the country’s defense if China were to violate the Line of Actual Control as the two countries are now in a “no limits partnership”.

While moderating a session on “Latte with Legislators” organized by AAPI, Dr. Shivangi lamented that there is “a new wave of Anti-Indian American sentiments especially against Indian Physician group which makes up 15% of Doctors in the US,” Dr. Shivangi, feels, “IIt may be due to Indian Americans have the highest per capita income and highest education level in the nation.”

Calling it as “prejudicial” Dr. Shivangi, urged that “we need to resolve this prejudice against minorities. With this in mind, I requested Congressmen Jamie Ruskin from Maryland to seek his advice and possible way to resolve this. Congressman Ruskin was very supportive and offered his unconditional support.”

After meeting with the top Republican Senator, Dr. Shivangi thanked the Senator Roger Wicker for advocating that the US should help India address its defense needs so as to reduce its dependence on Russia. Recently, Wicker introduced a Bill in the US Senate to cut the backlog of thousands of Indians who are waiting on their Green Cards for decades. “He was gracious enough to introduce this Bill at my request, which was a great honor for me and many Indian Americans. He continues to fight for the cause of Indian Immigrants,” Dr. Shivangi said.

Pope Francis Makes Plea For Ukraine Peace, Cites Nuclear Risk

On what is supposed to be Christianity’s most joyful day, Pope Francis made an anguished Easter Sunday plea for peace in the “senseless” war in Ukraine and in other armed conflicts raging in the world, and voiced worry about the risk of nuclear warfare.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” Francis said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.

The pontiff had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square packed by faithful for the holiday for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Applause erupted from many of the crowd, estimated by the Vatican to number 100,000 in the square and on a nearby avenue, when he mentioned Ukraine.

“Please, please, let us not get used to war,″ Francis pleaded, after denouncing ”the flexing of muscles while people are suffering.” Yet again, the pontiff didn’t cite Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to launch the invasion and attacks against Ukraine on Feb. 24.

People’s hearts are filled with “fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,” the pontiff said.

“Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets,″ Francis said. ”May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”

In a clear reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, Francis quoted from a noted declaration of 1955: “‘Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?’”

He was quoting from a manifesto written by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein. The manifesto’s text, sounding a grim warning against the consequences of nuclear warfare, was issued a few months after Einstein died.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the leader of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, called for Russia to declare a cease-fire and withdraw from Ukraine.

Noting that in the Eastern Orthodox church followed by many in Russia and Ukraine Sunday marks the start of Holy Week — with Easter coming on April 24 — Welby exhorted Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and commit to talks.

Francis also drew attention to other wars in the speech known by its Latin name “Urbi et Orbi” — to the city and to the world.

“May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,″ Francis said.

Two days after Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem, Francis prayed that “Israelis, Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, of living in brotherhood and of accessing Holy Places” in reciprocal respect.

He called for peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Francis spoke plaintively about Yemen, “which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims.” He expressed hope that a recent truce would restore hope to that country’s people.

He also prayed that God grant “reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists,” and for Afghanistan, which is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, including food shortages.

Francis denounced the exploitation of the African continent and “terrorist attacks — particularly in the Sahel region,” as well as the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and violence in Congo.

In Latin America, many have seen their plight worsen during the coronavirus pandemic, aggravating social problems stemming from corruption, violence and drug trafficking, the pontiff said.

But Francis found hope in the “open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe,″ referring to the some 10 million people who have either fled Ukraine or are internally displaced by the war.

At the Polish border station of Medyka, a paramedic from Warsaw helped set out a traditional Easter breakfast with ham, cheese and Easter cakes for some of the latest refugees from Ukraine, the majority of whom have streamed into neighboring Poland.

“They lost their homes. They are seeking refuge in our country,” said volunteer Agnieszka Kuszaj. She hoped that the meal would help them “forget for a moment about all the terrible things” that have happened.

Maria Dontsova, 31, who is from Kharviv, the heavily bombed city in eastern Ukraine said: “I wish all families peace who are suffering in Ukraine at this great holiday Easter.” Speaking in English, she expressed hope that war will end “as soon as possible, and people stop suffering, and we can prevent the war (from) spreading to Europe”

Earlier, the pontiff, who has a knee ligament problem, limped badly as he made his way to an altar set up in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. After Easter morning Mass, Francis boarded the white popemobile for a whirl through the square among the cheering ranks of the crowd.

In Spain, believers and secular enthusiasts flocked back in large numbers to Holy Week processions this week for the first time since the start of the pandemic after most health restrictions were lifted.

Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Ranks Among The World’s Worst In Recent History

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created one of the biggest refugee crises of modern times. A month into the war, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – the sixth-largest refugee outflow over the past 60-plus years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations data.

There are now almost as many Ukrainian refugees as there were Afghan refugees fleeing the (first) Taliban regime in 2001, according to figures compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They represent about 9.1% of Ukraine’s pre-invasion population of about 41.1 million – ranking the current crisis 16th among 28 major refugee crises by share of population.

The Center examined all cases in the UNHCR’s database since 1960 where there were at least 500,000 refugees and similarly displaced people from a given country in a given year. The analysis doesn’t include “internally displaced persons” – those who have fled or been forced from their usual homes but haven’t yet crossed an international border. (Earlier this week, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi estimated that, all told, 10 million Ukrainians – nearly a quarter of the population – had been displaced either internally or externally by the war.)

How we did this

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has created more refugees than any other crisis since the early 1960s, when UNHCR began keeping data on individual countries. Nearly 6.9 million Syrians – about a third of the country’s prewar population – are living as refugees or asylum-seekers outside their home country, with almost 3.7 million now in Turkey. An additional 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes but are living elsewhere in the country – meaning the civil war has uprooted about two-thirds of Syria’s entire population.

Afghanistan, which has been at war either with itself or with outside forces for more than four decades, has had more than 2 million refugees every year since 1981. The peak year was 1990, after Soviet troops had withdrawn from the country and the USSR-backed government was battling to hang onto power against a coalition of mujahedeen groups. That year, more than half the country’s total estimated population – 6.3 million people – were listed as refugees.

Venezuela has also seen massive population outflows over the past several years as the country’s economy has all but collapsed, its government has cracked down on dissent, and opposition efforts to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s government have stalled. According to the UNHCR, more than 5 million Venezuelans are refugees in other countries, are seeking asylum, or have been otherwise displaced abroad – all told, about 15% of the current estimated population.

Ukraine Main Theme During Modi-Biden Talks

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden met virtually on Monday, April 11, 2022, as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were in Washington for the fourth ‘2+ 2’ foreign and defense ministry dialogues with their U.S. counterparts. The war between Russia and Ukraine featured prominently in the opening remarks of both, media reports here stated.

During the opening segment of the bilateral meeting, Jaishankar, Singh, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan were seen seated at the table with Biden.

The meeting also involved a discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy and climate action, as well as regional and global issues, including those in South Asia and the Indo Pacific. The U.S. official briefing reporters said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan were discussed, but not in detail, with more detailed discussions expected over the next day and a half, i.e., during the course of the 2+2 meetings..

According to reports, U.S. President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that buying more Russian oil is not in India’s interest, as the United States pushes New Delhi to take a harder line against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden told Modi during an hour-long video call Monday that the U.S. is ready to help India diversify its sources of energy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The president also made clear that he doesn’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy or other commodities,” Psaki said.

The statement from the government of India regarding the meeting said the two leaders had discussed Ukraine at the meeting, as well as regional and global issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy, climate and “recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region”. Speaking to reporters on a briefing call, a Senior U.S. administration official said that developments in Sri Lanka and Pakistan had been “touched on” but not discussed in a detailed manner.

Modi, who spoke via videolink to Biden, described the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying” and said he had spoken, several times, with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin and had not just urged peace, but also direct talks between them. India’s unwillingness to call out Russia by name for its attack on Ukraine has not gone down well in Washington, but U.S. officials have also said that they hoped countries that have relationships with Moscow might leverage them to bring about a resolution to the situation.

“The United States and India are going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war,” Biden said in his opening remarks. The US government’s readout of the meeting said that Ukraine was also discussed. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, a senior U.S. administration official said there was a “pretty detailed and candid exchange of views” on Ukraine but added that Biden made no “concrete ask” of India and Modi gave no “concrete answer”.

India has also continued to purchase Russian oil and gas, despite pressure from the United States and other Western countries to refrain. Russia has offered steep discounts on its energy supplies, and India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since the invasion of Ukraine, compared with the 16 million barrels it bought in 2021, according to data compiled by Reuters.

The comment by the official was in response to a reporter’s question on whether any explicit commitments were sought from India in terms of Russian oil, and also with regard to condemning Russia for attacking Ukraine. Both the official and Press Secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that while payments for energy from Russia were not sanctioned, the U.S. was discouraging India from increasing its purchases of Russian energy.  In comments shortly after the bilateral meeting, Psaki said that Biden had “made clear” what the impact of US sanctions would be, adding, “We expect everybody to abide by those”.

“The President made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Psaki said, adding that Mr. Biden had reiterated a U.S. offer to help India diversity its energy imports. India currently imports only a small 1-2% of its energy from Russia as per official estimates. Psaki used the words “constructive”  “productive” and “direct” to describe the conversation. She said the call was not “adversarial”.

Referring to Biden’s slogan, ‘Democracies can deliver,’ Modi said, ‘The success of the India-America partnership is the best means to make this slogan meaningful.” “At the root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family, of friendship, and of shared values,” Biden said. The President was seen nodding as Modi outlined the humanitarian assistance that India had provided Ukraine.

“I want to welcome India’s humanitarian support for the people Ukraine, who are suffering a horrific assault, including a tragic shelling on a train station last week that killed dozens … attempting to flee the violence,” Biden said.

Modi expressed growing concern about the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Bucha, where the remains of many civilians have been found. “Recently, the news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying. We immediately condemned it and have asked for an independent probe,” Modi said.

A U.S. official described the call between the two leaders as “warm and productive,” saying Biden stopped short of making a “concrete ask” of Modi on Russian energy imports. During a short portion of the call open to reporters, Biden started the conversation by highlighting the partnership between the U.S. and India, saying the nations would “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”

Imran Khan Forced To Resign, Shehbaz Sharif To Be Pak PM

Members of the Pakistan Parliament are set to choose Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime minister of Pakistan after former cricket star Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote that ended his four-year run. According to media reports, Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house for the no-confidence motion, giving them the majority they needed to vote against Khan after Sunday midnight in Islamabad, two more than required to remove him from office.

PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif has been nominated as the joint opposition candidate for the prime minister’s election. The 70-year-old is the younger brother of former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters reported that Shehbaz Sharif has submitted his nomination to be Pakistan’s next prime minister to the legislature, after incumbent Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Khan’s party also submitted papers nominating the former foreign minister as a candidate, saying their members of parliament would resign en masse should he lose, potentially creating the need for urgent by-elections for their seats. Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no confidence vote, had clung on for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to remove him.

Khan’s ouster came after a fallout with Pakistan’s army over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the U.S. and management of the economy that saw inflation rise at the second fastest pace in Asia. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for almost half of its 75-year history, and no prime minister has completed a full term in that time.

On Sunday, he repeated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.  “The freedom struggle begins again today,” he said via his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 15 million and still describes him as Prime Minister of Pakistan in his biography section.

Parliament members will convene on Monday to pick his replacement, after Khan rallied supporters in cities across the nation on Sunday night against what he called “U.S.-backed regime change.”

Media reports stated, the vote that ousted Khan went ahead after the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Khan, as criticism mounted over the delay to the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court has also ordered parliament to convene and hold the vote. The military has ruled the country of 220 million people for almost half its nearly 75-year history.

The military had viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favorably when he won the election in 2018, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic troubles that led to the largest interest rate rise in decades this week.

Khan had antagonized the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

He thanked all the opposition leaders after the vote and promised that his new administration, if confirmed, would look forward. “This alliance will rebuild Pakistan and we will not indulge in the political victimization of the opponents,” he said.

“I don’t want to discuss the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward. We will not take revenge or do an injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason. Law and justice will take their own course,” Sharif added. Shehbaz Sharif said Khan’s departure was a chance for a new beginning.

During Easter Week, Pope Francis Pushes For Peace In Ukraine

Pope Francis opened Holy Week Sunday with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, highlighting the need for leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear, and he has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians. During the traditional Sunday blessing following Palm Sunday Mass, the pontiff said leaders should be “willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

“In fact, what a victory would that be, who plants a flag under a pile of rubble?” During his Palm Sunday homily, the pontiff denounced “the folly of war” that leads people to commit “senseless acts of cruelty.”

“When we resort to violence  we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” he said. Francis lamented “the unjust death of husbands and sons” “refugees fleeing bombs” “young people deprived of a future”  and “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

After two years of celebrating Palm Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica without a crowd due to pandemic distancing measures, the solemn celebration returned to the square outside. Tens of thousands pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and braided palms emblematic of the ceremony that recalls Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.

Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square before celebrating Mass. Francis has been suffering from a strained ligament in his right knee that has caused him to limp, and he was driven in a black car to the altar, which he then reached with the help of an aide. He left the Mass on the open-top popemobile, waving to the faithful in the piazza and along part of the via della Conciliazione.

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on April 17, and features the Good Friday Way of the Cross Procession.

India Critical Of Russian Invasion, But Will Not Name It

India appeared to be giving up its diplomatic equivocation by offering its strongest criticism on the crisis in Ukraine yet by “unequivocally” condemning the killings of civilians in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, media reports stated.

The statement by India’s Permanent Representative T S Tirumurti last week at the UN Security Council came after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky described in stark detail the atrocities in Bucha. Tirumurti said, “Recent reports of civilian killings in Bucha are deeply disturbing. We unequivocally condemn these killings and support the call for an independent investigation.”

Tirumurti still managed to walk the fine line of delicately calibrated neutrality by not naming Russia even though the implication of his statement was obvious. “India continues to remain deeply concerned at the worsening situation and reiterates its call for an immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities”, he said.

“We continue to emphasize to all member states of the UN that the global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states”, he said reiterating the stance New Delhi has taken during earlier U.N. discussions and votes over Ukraine.

India on Saturday abstained on a US-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Security Council that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, but sharpened its language by flagging three important concerns — respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, the UN charter and international law—without naming Russia.

Hours later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that he “urged India to give political support in the UN Security Council”. “Spoke with Prime Minister @narendramodi. Informed of the course of Ukraine repulsing Russian aggression. More than 100,000 invaders are on our land. They insidiously fire on residential buildings. Urged India to give us political support in UN Security Council. Stop the aggressor together!” he tweeted.

Zelensky made a video address to the U.N. Security Council during which he said there were dozens of other communities other than Bucha where the Russian troops had committed atrocities.

He said “there is not a single crime that they would not commit” and went on to describe in graphic terms what he claimed were Russian atrocities on the civilians of Ukraine. Quite strikingly, he likened the atrocities to those committed by the Islamic State terrorist organizations in the Middle East. He also showed the Security Council a video documenting what he described as war crimes with piles of bodies, some of whose hands were tied.

But Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia offered Moscow’s familiar argument that images in the video were staged. He also claimed that those were victims of Ukrainian forces or “neo-Nazis”. It might be recalled that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had made a manifestly exaggerated claim that his military operation was aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine even though Zelensky and other members of his cabinet are Jewish.

Both, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo spoke of their horror at the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. Guterres said, “I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha”.

“I am also deeply shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence that are now emerging”, he said while calling for an independent inquiry.

DiCarlo said, “The horror deepened this past week as shocking images emerged of dead civilians, some with hands bound, lying in the streets of Bucha, the town near Kyiv formerly held by Russian forces. Many bodies were also found in a mass grave in the same locality”.

“Reports by non-governmental organizations and media also allege summary executions of civilians, rape and looting in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions” she added.

Although there is no prospect of New Delhi acknowledging that its statement today was a clear departure from its careful neutral tone so far, it was quite clear that the Indian government’s concern at the atrocities had crept in more assertively.

Tirumurti said, “The situation in Ukraine has not shown any significant improvement since the Council last discussed the issue. The security situation has only deteriorated, as well as its humanitarian consequences”.

“When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option. In this context, we take note of the ongoing efforts, including the meetings held recently between the parties,” he said.

Tirumurti yet again pointed out that New Delhi had sent medicines and other relief supplies to Ukraine and will continue to do so.

It has been exacting diplomatic calisthenics for New Delhi since the invasion of Ukraine some 40 days ago because its historically robust relations with Moscow as well as its inordinate dependence on Russian manufactured armaments. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visit New Delhi last week in an obvious continuing effort to keep India on his country’s side.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Zelenskyy had “briefed” Modi about the conflict in Ukraine. Modi expressed his deep anguish about the loss of lives and property due to the conflict, it said and reiterated his call for an “immediate cessation of violence” and a return to dialogue, and “expressed India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts”.

While Modi had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for “immediate cessation of violence”, this is the first time that he has expressed his willingness to participate in peace process. Modi also conveyed deep concern for the safety and security of Indian citizens, including students, present in Ukraine. “He sought facilitation by Ukrainian authorities to expeditiously and safely evacuate Indian citizens,” the PMO said.

Though India’s statement after the vote did not name Russia, it is stronger than previous statements made at the Security Council on the issue in the last one month or so. The vote and the explanation by TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, came after sustained diplomatic pressure was mounted by the US-led Western bloc as well as Russia.

How Putin Underestimated Ukraine

In the eyes of the Kremlin leadership, the basic precondition of the successful war against Ukraine has been the perceived power of the Russian Armed Forces and possible superiority over the Ukrainian forces.

This idea is clearly visible in the numerous pre-war statements in which it was assumed that Ukrainian people would not fight, that they would welcome Russians, and that they would and should be ‘liberated’ or ‘protected’.

The reality showed the opposite. Not only did Ukrainian Armed Forces fight back, but Ukrainian society demonstrates unity and resistance, something that definitely contradicts the notion of a ‘divided East and West’ promoted by Russian propaganda for years.

Do Ukrainians still have different views regarding politicians, economic development, and even the state of their foreign policy? Yes, absolutely, as any other democratic nation should.

Still, according to the latest sociological surveys (March), 76 per cent of Ukrainian think that their country is going in the right direction, in February, this number was just 25 per cent.

Moreover, Ukrainians are not ready to give up Crimea and the occupied territories of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions: 86 per cent think that Ukraine should use all means necessary to return Donbas, and 80 per cent – to return Crimea – these numbers are also higher than they were before the war started.

A united Ukrainian people

The imperative of the Russian leadership was that Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkiv and Odesa would surrender first. Just before the invasion, there had been rumours in Odesa’s social networks that a mayor bought one million roses to greet Russian soldiers.

Moreover, Kharkiv appeared in the Ukrainian president’s interview with the Washington Post as a city that has the potential to be occupied by the Russian Federation. The latter provoked strong opposition among the local politicians and activists who have been publicly confirming the readiness to resist and the pro-Ukrainian mood of the city.

Some experts now consider that the brutal Russian shelling of Kharkiv is a punishment for that January position. In Odesa too, sociological polls on the third week of the war demonstrated that 91 per cent agreed that Russia is at war with Ukraine, 74 per cent absolutely disagreed that Russia is liberating Ukraine from ‘nationalists’, and 93 per cent supported the actions of President Zelenskyy.

Moreover, an initial plan that these occupied cities would quickly follow ‘the Crimea scenario’ of the fake referendum and the instalment of proxies as heads of the municipality did not work out.

The occupied cities of Kherson, Kahovka, and Energodar have seen daily participation of pro-Ukrainian demonstrations against the Russian forces. Mayors of several towns in Eastern Ukraine, including Melitopol, were kidnapped, but local inhabitants still did not support a new ‘leadership’.

In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came to the Maidan after the brutal attack against a small group of students. In 2022, millions of Ukrainians, despite ethnicity, religion, or language preferences, came out in support of the towns that have been under constant attack.

While in January, the newly established Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine was trying to attract 100 thousand reservists, in March, it is almost impossible to join the TDF because of quantity of applications.

These volunteers now have an experience of eight years of continuous war with Russia and bring both humanitarian aid and military supply. But what is most important is that people believe in the Armed Forces, and this trust and support is what makes the situation so difficult for the Kremlin.

2014 is not 2022

In the development of different strategic documents for the Armed Forces or diplomats of Ukraine, we always emphasised an important element – personnel and their motivation. Air superiority or outnumbering in personnel and missiles are important, but only if you have personnel ready to fight and with an understanding for what the country is fighting.

After three weeks of the Russian invasion, it seemed that despite military superiority, the Russian army is confused and demoralised. But unfortunately, not their leadership.

These examples clearly demonstrate the how the Russian leadership underestimated Ukraine’s military, as most conclusions were based on the 2014 situation. Ill-equipped Armed Forces, significant support of the pro-Russian political parties, misunderstanding of the undemocratic processes happening in Russia itself have diminished gradually after eight years of the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

The desire for peace cannot be confused with the willingness to surrender, and the desire for stability should not be confused with willingness to suppress a democratic and sovereign choice of people.

‘It is our land, it is our home’. ‘We are not contesting anybody or disputing over something. We defend our family’. ‘Don’t ask how is my family, my family is 44 million Ukrainians’. These are the most popular slogans these days. It is not nationalism or excessive patriotism.

This is the type of resilience which experts and politicians have been discussing during the last years. Ukraine adopted its first National Resilience Concept in September 2021. Six months later came a reason to check its validity.

Dr. Hanna Shelest is editor-in-chief of Ukraine Analytica and heads the security policy department at the Ukrainian think tank Ukrainian Prism. Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

7 In 10 Americans See Russia as Enemy, While NATO Is Seen More Positively

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a dramatic shift in American public opinion: 70% of Americans now consider Russia an enemy of the United States, up from 41% in January. And on this topic, Democrats and Republicans largely agree, with 72% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans describing Russia as an enemy.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 21-27, finds that just 7% of U.S. adults have an overall favorable opinion of Russia. Only 6% express confidence in its leader, President Vladimir Putin. In contrast, 72% have confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The ongoing war has brought renewed attention to NATO. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders several member states, and NATO leaders have worked together in recent weeks to coordinate their responses to the crisis. Attitudes toward the alliance have grown more positive since Russia’s invasion: 67% express a favorable opinion of the organization, up from 61% in 2021. Meanwhile, 69% say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a NATO member.

While both Democrats and Republicans (including those who lean to each party) hold largely positive views about NATO and U.S. membership in the organization, Democrats are consistently more positive, especially liberal Democrats. For instance, 85% of liberal Democrats think the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from NATO membership; among conservative Republicans, only 51% hold this view.

Still, partisan differences over NATO have shrunk somewhat over the past year. The share of Democrats and Democratic leaners with a favorable overall opinion of NATO has held steady at nearly eight-in-ten, but among Republicans and GOP leaners, positive views have increased from 44% in spring 2021 to 55% today.

The partisan gap on Russia favorability has also decreased. In 2020 – the last time this question was asked – there was a 17 percentage point difference between the share of Democrats with a very unfavorable opinion of Russia and the share of Republicans with that view; now the gap is only 5 points.

Democrats and Republicans are also now more closely aligned on views about the threat posed by Russia. In the current survey, 66% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Russia is a major threat to the U.S., similar to the 61% registered among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. However, when this question was last asked in 2020, only 48% of Republicans considered Russia a major threat, compared with 68% of Democrats.

These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel among 3,581 adults from March 21 to 27, 2022.

Most Americans have a very unfavorable opinion of Russia

Public opinion of Russia is overwhelmingly negative: 92% of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the country, including 69% who have a very unfavorable view. Since the last time this question was asked on Pew Research Center’s online panel in 2020, almost two years prior to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, this strongly negative sentiment has increased by 28 percentage points.

Before switching to online surveys, Pew Research Center tracked Americans’ ratings of Russia in phone surveys between 2007 and 2020. In that time, assessments of Russia were never very positive, but they turned sharply negative in the spring of 2014, immediately following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which few countries have recognized – and never recovered.

While negative sentiment toward Russia has increased substantially among both Democrats and Republicans since 2020, Republicans’ views have changed more drastically. Around a third of Republicans and Republican leaners had a very unfavorable view of Russia in 2020, compared with 67% who now hold this view – a 35 percentage point increase. In the same period, the share of Democrats with a very negative view of Russia increased by 23  points. A small partisan gap in views of Russia remains, but Republicans and Democrats are not as divided on Russia as they once were.

Americans ages 65 and older (83%) are much more likely than adults under 30 (55%) to have a very unfavorable view of Russia.

A large majority of Americans now see Russia as an enemy

Changes in overall views of Russia have come alongside changes in how Americans perceive relations between the two countries. Just two months ago, Americans were more likely to describe Russia as a competitor of the U.S. rather than its enemy (49% vs. 41% at the time). Now, Americans overwhelmingly call Russia an enemy: 70% say so, with just 24% preferring to call Russia a competitor of the U.S. Merely 3% of Americans see Russia as a partner, down from 7% two months ago.

While broad cross-sections of Americans primarily see Russia as the United States’ enemy, those ages 65 and older are especially likely to hold this view, with 83% saying so. And while a majority of the youngest adults polled agree that Russia is an enemy (59%), they are far more likely than older adults to label Russia as a competitor.

More educated Americans are also particularly likely to name Russia an enemy – 77% of those with a postgraduate degree say this, while roughly two-thirds of both those with some college education and those with a high school degree or less education say the same.

While Democrats and Republicans largely agree that Russia is an enemy, there are some differences between partisan and ideological camps. Moderate and liberal Republicans are the least likely to name Russia an enemy (63% say this), while liberal Democrats are the most likely (78%).

Perception of Russia as a major threat at all-time high

With most Americans viewing Russia as an enemy, the share who believe that Russia is a threat to the U.S. is higher now than it has ever been since the Center first began polling on this topic in 2008. Overall, 64% of Americans say that Russia’s power and influence is a major threat to their country, 30% say it is a minor threat and only 5% say Russia is not a threat.

Mirroring overall views of Russia, Americans became more wary of the country in 2014, when just over half said it was a major threat to the U.S. At that time and in 2016, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to be concerned. This partisan difference both widened and flipped in following years, however, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to view Russia as a major threat in each survey between 2017 to 2020. Since then, the share of Republicans who see Russia as a threat has increased, narrowing the partisan gap.

Though views of Russia as a major threat have shifted somewhat over time, the share of Americans who say Russia is not a threat to U.S. interests has never been higher than 10%.

Majorities of adults in all age groups see Russia as a significant threat, but this view is even more common among adults ages 65 and older (70% vs. 57% among those ages 18 to 29).

Amid Russia-Ukraine war, Americans positive on NATO, though partisan divides persist

As NATO faces increased scrutiny in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the political and military alliance is seen in a positive light by most Americans. Two-thirds have a favorable opinion of NATO. This marks a significant increase from the roughly six-in-ten who said the same of the organization in 2020 and 2021.

Prior to 2020, U.S. opinion of NATO was somewhat mixed. Roughly half or more of Americans expressed a favorable view of the organization, with opinion ranging from 49% in 2013 and 2015 to 64% in 2018. However, these figures are from phone surveys and are not directly comparable to more recent online American Trends Panel data.

While Democrats and Republicans are both generally more favorable toward NATO than not, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republican counterparts to have a positive view. About eight-in-ten (78%) Democrats see NATO in a positive light, compared with 55% of Republicans. This pattern was observed in 2021, though Republicans have grown somewhat more favorable on NATO since this question was last asked.

There are notable differences within each partisan coalition: Liberal Democrats are somewhat more likely to hold a favorable opinion of the alliance than conservative or moderate Democrats (83% vs. 75%, respectively). Among Republicans, those who describe their political views as moderate or liberal are more positive about NATO than conservatives (61% vs. 53%, respectively).

Americans of all ages tend to have favorable opinions of NATO overall, but those ages 65 and older are more likely to hold a favorable view of NATO than younger adults. Roughly three-quarters (73%) of older Americans have a positive opinion of the organization, compared with 64% of those ages 18 to 29. Eight-in-ten of those with a postgraduate degree express a favorable opinion of NATO – significantly more than the share with a bachelor’s degree (73%), some college (64%) or a high school degree or less (59%).

The degree to which U.S. adults pay attention to world affairs impacts NATO favorability. Those who are interested in foreign policy (71%) are more likely to express a positive view than those who are not (56%).

About seven-in-ten Americans (69%) say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a member of NATO, with 31% saying the U.S. benefits a great deal. In contrast, 29% say the U.S. benefits not too much or doesn’t benefit at all. The share who believe the U.S. benefits from NATO membership has held steady since 2021, when 71% held the same view.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to believe the U.S. benefits from belonging to the alliance. Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats (82%) express this opinion, compared with 55% of Republicans who say the same.

Age and education impact the way NATO membership is perceived. Older Americans (those ages 65 and older) are more likely than younger adults to believe the U.S. benefits from being a member of NATO. About three-quarters of those 65 and older (77%) hold this view, compared with 69% of those ages 18 to 29. And 79% of those with a postgraduate degree are positive about NATO membership – significantly more than in any other education group.

Interest in international affairs is also linked to support for NATO membership. U.S. adults who say they are interested in keeping up to date on foreign affairs are more likely than those who are not to believe the U.S. benefits from membership in NATO (72% vs. 64%, respectively). Similarly, those who follow international news very or somewhat closely are more likely to have a favorable view of U.S. NATO membership than those who do not (72% vs. 66%, respectively).

United Nations & Its Leadership Challenged By An Existential Crisis

The other day a friend asked me “Can Russia be expelled from the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority?”  Almost impossible to do that, I responded.

Two of the articles of the Charter of the United Nations relate to the issue of possible exclusion of Russia from the United Nations. Article 5 talks about suspension and Article 6 talks about expulsion. According to those articles, the action needs be taken by the General Assembly with two-thirds majority, upon the recommendation of the Security Council. That recommendation of the Council cannot be made as it is subject to veto by the Russian Federation as one of the five Permanent Members.

The obvious follow-up question was “Has any country been ever expelled or suspended from the General Assembly?”  The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has effectively excluded a state on three occasions: Cambodia in 1997, Yugoslavia in 1992 and South Africa in 1974.

UNGA Resolution 47/1 was adopted on 22 September 1992 expelled Yugoslavia from the UN General Assembly. In this case, the Security Council by its Resolution 777 (1992) recommended action under Article 6 of the UN Charter, considering that the nation known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had ceased to exist and therefore recommended to the General Assembly to exclude Yugoslavia from General Assembly and asked the country as constituted to apply for membership in the United Nations.

Some countries tried to expel South Africa, which was one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations in 1945, because of its policy of apartheid, but the three permanent members of the Security Council – France, UK, and US – used their veto power to block that move.

After the Council informed the General Assembly on its failure to adopt a resolution, the then President of the General Assembly, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ruled that the delegation of South Africa should be refused participation in the work of the General Assembly. His ruling was upheld by 91 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions on 12 November 1974.

Although remaining a member of the UN, South Africa was not represented at subsequent sessions of the General Assembly. Following South Africa’s successful democratic elections of May 1994, after 20 years of refusing to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, the General Assembly unanimously welcomed South Africa back to full participation in the United Nations on 23 June 1994. It also deleted its agenda item on “the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa.”

It is also important recall that in 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all member states to impose a trade boycott against South Africa. A US Congressional legislation aimed to ban all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and that acted as a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. In 1963, the UN Security Council called for partial arms ban against South Africa, but this was not mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Deadlock but not dead-end – other courses of action

As mentioned earlier, the suspension or expulsion of Russia is “almost impossible” according to the UN Charter. To that, I would add that it is a deadlock but not a dead-end.

Some UN watchers are of the opinion that there are still ways to limit Russia’s presence in the U.N. beyond the Security Council as has been decided today (7 April) by the UNGA to suspend its membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the General Assembly’s 1950 resolution 377A (V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’, if the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members, the Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the wider UN membership for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For instance. most frequently, the Security Council determines when and where a UN peace operation should be deployed, but historically, when the Council has been unable to take a decision, the General Assembly has done so. For example, in 1956, the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.

In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Emergency Special Session if requested by nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the Members of the Assembly. To date, the General Assembly has held 11 Emergency Special Sessions (8 of which have been requested by the Security Council).

On 1 March 2022, the General Assembly, meeting in emergency session, adopted a resolution by which it deplored “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter. Can any other process feasibly be exploited to suspend a state in such circumstances, as a way of circumventing article 5? Yes, there is a way to try that.

Though the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.

Some UN watchers believe that Article 5 of the Charter is not completely the end of the road on suspension. They are of the opinion that that there are two dimensions to a state’s participation in the UN: the actual membership of the state (the subject of article 5 of the Charter); and the representation of that state at the General Assembly’s sessions.

Matters of representation are considered in the context of the General Assembly’s credentials process, which is the process by which the Assembly assesses the eligibility of individual delegates to represent their states at the Assembly’s annual sessions. The process is essentially procedural in nature. It is regulated not by the UN Charter but by the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.

While the credentials process is usually a procedural one, the credentials process effectively gives the General Assembly the power to decide which authority should be regarded as the legitimate representative of the state – at least so far as the UN is concerned. UNGA could vote to suspend Russian delegation from participating in the General Assembly, a step that does not require the Security Council.

In this context, it has been asserted that “ This move, which would strip Russia of its right to speak or vote at the UN but allow it to retain membership, previously happened in 1974, when diplomats voted to suspend South Africa for its apartheid system.”

Veto is the Chief Culprit

The headline of my opinion piece for the IPS wire of 8 March 2022 argued that “Veto is the Chief Culprit” emphasizing that “Expulsion or Suspension is Not the Remedy”. Since 1946, all five permanent members have exercised the right of veto at one time or another on a variety of issues.

To date, approximately 49 per cent of the vetoes had been cast by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and thereafter the Russian Federation, 29 per cent by the United States, 10 per cent by the United Kingdom, and six per cent each by China and France.

I repeat my main contention in that opinion as “The chief culprit in the failure of unified global action by the UN is the continuation of the irrational practice of veto. As a matter, I have said on record that, if only one reform action could be taken, it should be the abolition of veto. Believe me, the veto power influences not only the decisions of the Security Council but also all work of the UN, including importantly the choice of the Secretary-General.”

Further, I added, “I believe the abolition of veto requires a greater priority attention in the reforms process than the enlargement of the Security Council membership with additional permanent ones. Such permanency is simply undemocratic. I believe that the veto power is not “the cornerstone of the United Nations” but in reality, its tombstone.”

Proactive UN leadership missing

Amid all these legal explanations, diplomatic exchanges, and diverse conjectures, it is unfortunate that questions have been raised about the reticence of the UN Secretary-General in getting his hands dirty and in getting more actively involved in towards ending the Russian aggression and promoting peace in Ukraine.

As much as I recall, this is first time the world public has done that about the role of the UN leadership so vocally. The UN website mentions “near daily press stakeouts by the Secretary-General” on the war in Ukraine. Is this the extent of his active role and involvement?

Well-respected UN watcher and former high UN official Kul Chandra Gautam in an opinion piece recently even exhorted the SG “not to hide behind the glasshouse at Turtle Bay and go beyond invisible subtle diplomacy to more visible shuttle diplomacy.” That is the way to go.

On 3 April, the UN website publicized a Twitter message from the SG saying: “I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine. It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Just two pitiable sentences in Twitter (I wonder how many of the global population has a Twitter account). His operatives – the UN secretariat – misled the world by the trick headline: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.”

Which official language(s) of the UN would interpret “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability” as “called for an independent investigation”? This is the height of public deception. I wonder why this is necessary.

The Ukraine President lamented on 5 April about the failure of UN Security Council saying that the Council can “dissolve yourselves altogether” if there is nothing it can do other than engage in conversation. First time, a UN Member State has spoken so frankly, so openly, so rightly in a speech before the Council which was at an impasse to stop the aggression in his country.

Unfortunately, it is widely understood that for the UN system, more so for the SG, the dominant instinct for being pro-active in any crisis situation is “the fear of failure.” That “fear” determines the process of decision-making in a big way. A global organization like UN should be smart and mature enough to understand the value of critical opinions to improve its efficacy. Unfortunately, we are not there.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN; President of the UN Security Council (2000 and 2001); Senior Special Adviser to UN General Assembly President (2011-2012) and Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.

Marine Le Pen To ‘Win’ French Election, Even If She Loses

The first round of the French Presidential election is scheduled for Sunday, April 10 and the race between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron is growing tighter. 

Mabel Berezin is a comparative sociologist at Cornell University whose work explores fascist, nationalist and populist movements in Europe and associated threats to democracy. Berezin says:  “In this year of major European elections, France was supposed to be the predictable election. For the second time, Emmanuel Macron is likely to run against Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, formerly extreme-right Front. When Russian President Vladimir Putin marched into Ukraine, the standard election media narrative was that Macron, the sitting French President, despite being widely unpopular, would be re-elected easily. 

“However, analysts of all stripes are not as confident in a Macron victory as they were merely a week ago. In 2017, Le Pen lost to Macron by 34 percentage points. Now, polls on the second-round place her at 46% versus Macron at 54%. This is close enough to elicit worry. 

“Le Pen is on her third try for the French Presidency. She had more competitors this time than she had in 2017. Eric Zemmour tried to outflank her on the right; Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left. Why is she moving ahead of her competitors? She has chosen to run on economic issues and to downplay her usual line on immigration and security.

“In 2017, when she conceded the election to Macron, she argued that the future political debate in France would be between the ‘globalists’ and the ‘patriots’ – the latter referring to citizens rooted in place and dependent on national institutions. This is not only a French debate. It is increasingly a transnational debate as evidenced by its salience in recent elections across the globe. Marine Le Pen has identified and owns the conceptual frame of a new political moment. Whatever happens on April 24, she wins.”

Pope Francis Condemns ‘Sacrilegious War’ In Ukraine, While Biden Calls Putin A War Criminal

Pope Francis has denounced Russia’s “repugnant war” against Ukraine as “cruel and sacrilegious inhumanity.” In some of his strongest words yet since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, Francis on Sunday told thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that every day brings more atrocities in what is a “senseless massacre.”

Pope Francis who has always been in the forefront denouncing violence, said, “Sadly, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where each day slaughter and atrocities are repeated,” the pope said March 20th after reciting the midday Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

“There is no justification for this!” he told an estimated 30,000 people who had come to the square to pray with him. Pope Francis once again urged international leaders to work together to put an end “to this repugnant war.”

Meanwhile, in the strongest of criticisms mounted on Russian President Vladimir Putin, American President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” a rhetorical leap that came as civilian deaths mount in Ukraine. Speaking with reporters last week, Biden affixed the designation on the Russian leader. “I think he is a war criminal,” the President said during remarks at the White House.

It was the harshest condemnation of Putin’s actions from any US official since the war in Ukraine began three weeks ago. Previously, Biden had stopped short of labeling atrocities being documented on the ground in Ukraine as “war crimes,” citing ongoing international and US investigations.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, missiles and bombs have continued to fall “on civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” he said. “I went to see the wounded children here in Rome. One of them is missing an arm, the other has a head wound,” he said. That happened to “innocent children.”

While Biden had traveled to Europe to solidify a united front against Russian aggression and devastation on Ukraine, Pope Francis had gone on March 19 to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital where some 50 Ukrainian children had been cared for since the war began. Initially, the Vatican said, most of the young Ukrainian patients were brought to Rome for treatment for cancer, neurological or other diseases. Pope Francis also drew attention to the almost 3.4 million people who have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“And I feel great sorrow for those who don’t even have the chance to escape,” he said. “So many grandparents, sick and poor, are separated from their families,” the pope said; “so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without receiving help and without finding safety even in air-raid shelters,” some of which have been bombed.

“All this is inhuman,” he said. “Indeed, it is even sacrilegious, because it goes against the sanctity of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy!”

Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude for the bishops, priests and religious who have stayed with their people, living “under the bombs.” They are “living the Gospel of charity and fraternity.” “Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for this witness and for the concrete support you are courageously offering to so many desperate people,” the pope said.

He specifically mentioned Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Lithuania-born nuncio to Ukraine, “who since the beginning of the war has remained in Kyiv” and is a sign of the pope’s closeness “to the tormented Ukrainian people.”

Pope Francis urged everyone to continue to pray for peace, to pray for the people of Ukraine and to offer concrete assistance to them. “And, please, let’s not get used to war and violence,” he said. “Let’s not tire of welcoming them (the refugees) with generosity, as we are doing.”

The assistance will need to continue for “weeks and months to come,” especially for the women and children forced to flee without their husbands and fathers and without work, which makes them targets of human traffickers, whom the pope called “vultures.”

While reminding the world, “Do not forget,” the pope said, “it is cruel, inhuman and sacrilegious!” He urged “every community and every believer to join me on Friday, March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, in making a solemn act of consecration of humanity, especially of Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may obtain peace for the world.”

After Imran Khan Dissolves Pak Parliament, Court To Decide His Fate

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan avoided a no-confidence motion that was set to happen on  April 3rd, by dissolving the Pakistan Parliament ahead of the crucial vote. Now, Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to decide the fate of embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan, following a day of political turmoil.

Khan, who is facing the toughest challenge of his political career, requested the country’s president dissolve Parliament and called on the nation to prepare for a fresh election. Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi – who is from Khan’s ruling PTI party – dissolved parliament in a step towards early elections. The move has sparked anger among the opposition, with some politicians accusing Mr Khan of “treason” for not allowing the vote to go ahead. But in a television address and a series of late night tweets Khan defended the decision.

As per BBC reports, Khan has faced an attempt to oust him from office in recent days. But in a move that has roiled the country, members of Khan’s party on Sunday,  blocked a vote of no-confidence in the PM and dissolved Parliament. Elections are likely to follow and the question remains uncertain as to who will lead Pakistan into its 76th year after it gained independence from Britain and got separated from India as a Muslim majority country. No prime minister of Pakistan has ever completed a full term and, over the 75 years of its existence, Pakistan has failed to establish stable and effective political institutions.

Less than a day from a no-confidence vote that will almost certainly remove him from office, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said that he would not accept the result of the vote, dismissing it as part of an American conspiracy against him and setting the stage for the country’s political crisis to drag on far beyond Sunday, as Khan fights to remain in politics, New York Timers reported.

For months, Khan has been battling depleting foreign exchange reserves and double digit inflation, with the cost of basic necessities such as food and fuel skyrocketing. Khan had claimed the vote was part of a US-led conspiracy to remove him, but the US has denied this. Furious opposition politicians have now filed a petition to the Supreme Court to rule on whether the move to block the vote was constitutional.

Pakistan’s main opposition parties have been rallying for Khan’s dismissal since he rose to power in 2018 after a dramatic election mired in accusations of vote rigging and foul play. Khan was widely regarded as having come to power with the help of Pakistan’s army, but they have since fallen out, according to observers. His political opponents then seized this opportunity to demand a no-confidence vote after persuading a number of his coalition partners to defect to them.

Khan’s perceived failure to work in tandem with his allies, as well as country’s powerful military, had led to a breakdown of relations within his coalition government. As per Times, the no-confidence vote slated for Sunday was the culmination of a political crisis that has consumed Pakistan for weeks after Khan, the international cricket star turned politician, appeared to lose support from the country’s powerful military last year and a coalition of opposition parties moved to vote him out of office last month.

The Times reported that, this week, the tide appeared to turn against Khan after several parties in his governing coalition split away — giving the opposition the simple majority needed in the 342-member National Assembly to remove him from office, and prompting calls for him to resign ahead of the vote.

According to reports, the country’s powerful military, which has not publicly taken a side in the current political crisis, seemed to distance itself from Khan’s policy agenda. Speaking at a security conference in Islamabad, the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said that Pakistan hoped to expand and deepen its ties with other countries, including the United States — a sharp rebuke to Mr. Khan’s foreign policy agenda distancing Pakistan from the United States. General Bajwa said that Pakistan “shares a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the U.S.,” adding that the United States represents Pakistan’s largest exports market.

No Pakistani leader has completed a full five-year term as prime minister since the country’s formation in 1947. There are now concerns Khan’s move to call an early election could risk further political instability in the South Asian nation.

Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa Wants Disputes With India Be Settled Through Dialogue

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa on Saturday said that all disputes with India should be settled peacefully through dialogue, saying Islamabad continues to believe in using diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, to keep the “flames of fire away from our region.” Gen. Bajwa said this at the last day of the two-day ‘Islamabad Security Dialogue’ conference that brought together Pakistani and international policy experts to discuss emerging challenges in international security under the theme “Comprehensive Security: Reimagining International Cooperation”.

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region”.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

His proposal for peace with India had a wider meaning as he indirectly suggested to have some sort of trilateral dialogue involving India, Pakistan and China to create an inclusive peace, as he said that apart from the Kashmir dispute, the India-China border dispute is also a matter of great concern for Pakistan and “we want it to be settled quickly through dialogue and diplomacy.” “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptual biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” Gen. Bajwa said.

He, however, said that the adamant behaviour of the Indian leaders was a hurdle.

Bilateral ties with Pakistan deteriorated further after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

In Opinion |India can act today to shape tomorrow’s terms of connectivity with Pakistan

Talking about last month’s missile incident, he said that India’s “accidental missile firing” created doubts regarding its ability to handle high-end weapon-systems, which was compounded by its unwillingness to share details with Pakistan.

The missile fired on March 9 fell in the Mian Channu area of Khanewal district and it came to light a day later when the Army shared details of the Indian “high-speed flying object”.

India, in a statement on March 11, termed it an accident.

Gen. Bajwa said it was a matter of “serious concern” and “we expect India to provide evidence to assure Pakistan and the world that their weapons are safe and secure.” “Unlike other incidents involving strategic weapons systems, this is the first time in history that a supersonic cruise missile from one nuclear-armed nation has landed in another,” he said.

He also said that a “peaceful and prosperous West and South Asia is our goal” and Pakistan’s National Security Policy focuses on the promotion of national security cohesion and harmony through the precepts of unity and diversity.

Recognizing that it is the regions and not countries that grow, the COAS said: “We believe that peace and stability in our wider region are prerequisites for achieving shared regional prosperity and development.” “Our doors are open for all our neighbours,” he said.

Gen. Bajwa termed the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) as “satisfactory and fairly peaceful”, saying mercifully no incident had taken place along the LoC in the last year to the relief of the people living on both sides. He said that Pakistan believes in peace and using dialogue for resolving issues.

India is in a sweet spot, courted by the Quad, China and Russia

The Quad is willing to look past India’s refusal – including in four recent UN resolutions – to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • India’s value as a democracy and capacity as the only other military power able to push back against Chinese aggression in Asia is not lost on the Quad.
  • In a surprising turn of events, even traditional rival China is making overtures to India at this time, seeking New Delhi’s assent to a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to have unwittingly put India at the sweet center of a diplomatic triangle in the Indo-Pacific.

As the war enters its fourth week, New Delhi has been receiving a stream of high-profile visitors from major capitals around the world.

At one end, this has included delegations from the United States, Australia and Japan, the three nations which are India’s partners in the Quad, officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

The Quad is willing to look past India’s refusal — including in four recent UN resolutions — to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

An informal grouping, the Quad works to deepen strategic cooperation on issues related to security, technology and the economy while implicitly countering China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

The high profile visits are ongoing.

The foreign minister of Greece Nikos Dendias arrived on Tuesday and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is scheduled to visit in early April. But in a surprising turn of events, even traditional rival China is making overtures to India at this time, seeking New Delhi’s assent to a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Another suitor is Russia, India’s trusted arms supplier for decades, which is now also becoming a supplier of discounted crude oil to New Delhi as Moscow recoils from sanctions enforced by western consumers of its natural gas.

New Delhi is basking in its sudden limelight

On Monday, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland met India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, to reaffirm the two countries’ commitment to shared objectives in the Indo-Pacific.

There was a brief allusion to the Ukraine war but it was almost an afterthought, mentioned at the end of issues pertaining to South Asia, the Indo-Pacific and West Asia. If there was unhappiness over India’s “somewhat shaky” position on Ukraine, to which President Joe Biden alluded hours later in Washington, there was no mention of it in statements issued after the official talks.

Talks with the U.S. were preceded by meetings between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in New Delhi on Saturday and a virtual consultation with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday.

Discussions on China were at the front and center of both summits. While Modi brought up the June 2020 border clash on the Himalayan border, Kishida made references to the territorial dispute with China over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

Kishida announced a $42 billion investment in India and also invited Modi to the next Quad summit in Japan later this year. Again, there was no reference to India’s stand on Ukraine except for calls to end the war.

Morrison had expressed understanding of India’s position on Ukraine, Shringla said, briefing reporters. “There was a great deal of comfort … both sides saw that conflict in Europe should not be a reason for us to divert our attention from the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

A visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to New Delhi is also on the cards. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will hold talks with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi later this month, in a visit to prepare ground for the yet unannounced visit by Johnson.

China’s changing tone on India

China’s proposal for its foreign minister’s visit comes just short of two years of a bloody confrontation between Chinese and Indian soldiers in Ladakh that claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers in June 2020.

India has so far been non-committal about the visit but China appears to be eager, in part to secure Modi’s in-person presence at this year’s BRICS summit. The annual meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will be hosted by China this year. A Russia-India-China summit may also be held on the sidelines.

China has also proposed an “India-China Civilization Dialogue” to be held in both countries and an India-China Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum.

In recent weeks, nationalistic newspaper Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, has shown a marked shift in its tone toward India. “China and India share common interests on many fronts. For instance, the West recently pointed the finger at India for reportedly considering buying Russian oil at a discounted price. But it is India’s legitimate right,” the paper said in an essay last week.

Commenting on Kishida’s visit to New Delhi, the Global Times called the Japanese prime minister a “lobbyist” who failed to “sway India on Ukraine.”

“Although Kishida pushed Modi to take a tougher line on Russia over the Ukraine issue during his first visit to India after he took office, the joint statement issued later showed that the Japanese lobbying did not meet the expectations of Washington and Canberra,” the Global Times said.

And on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan — India’s traditional foe and a close China ally — also praised India’s “independent foreign policy.”

India’s ‘fortuitous’ geopolitics

India’s value as a democracy and capacity as the only other military power able to push back against Chinese aggression in Asia is not lost on the Quad. But a lot will depend on how well India — more nimble under Modi — articulates its position on Ukraine.

“India is today in an enviable position because of years of careful diplomacy, and fortuitous geo-politics,” Aparna Pande, a South Asia expert at the Hudson Institute, a Washington DC think tank, told CNBC.

“The US and its partners — in Europe and Asia — need India on their side in the long-term peer competition with China. They are, therefore, more understanding of India’s predicament.”

But Pande cautioned that India’s reluctance, as a democracy and as a key member of the Indo-Pacific to support the liberal international order will be remembered. Russia, says think tank

India faces a stark choice, said Bruce Bennett from the Rand Corporation, a think tank headquartered in Santa Monica, California.

“The key question is whether India will want to be known as a principled country or a nationalistic country. A principled country stands up against any violation of national boundaries, whether it is Russia invading the Ukraine or China invading parts of India,” he said.

“If India decides to ‘sit on the fence’ to maximize its national leverage and influence, I think many people around the world will lose sympathy for India’s concerns about its own territorial integrity.”

The Impact Of Economic War On Putin Led Russia How Sanctions On Russia Will Upend The Global Order

The Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022 is not just a major geopolitical event but also a geoeconomic turning point. Western sanctions are the toughest measures ever imposed against a state of Russia’s size and power.

In the space of less than three weeks, the United States and its allies have cut major Russian banks off from the global financial system; blocked the export of high-tech components in unison with Asian allies; seized the overseas assets of hundreds of wealthy oligarchs; revoked trade treaties with Moscow; banned Russian airlines from North Atlantic airspace: restricted Russian oil sales to the United States and United Kingdom; blocked all foreign investment in the Russian economy from their jurisdiction; and frozen $403 billion out of the $630 billion in foreign assets of the Central Bank of Russia.

The overall effect has been unprecedented, and a few weeks ago would have seemed unimaginable even to most experts: in all but its most vital products, the world’s eleventh-largest economy has now been decoupled from twenty-first-century globalization.

How will these historic measures play out? Economic sanctions rarely succeed at achieving their goals. Western policymakers frequently assume that failures stem from weaknesses in sanctions design.

Indeed, sanctions can be plagued by loopholes, lack of political will to implement them, or insufficient diplomatic agreement concerning enforcement. The implicit assumption is that stronger sanctions stand a better chance of succeeding.

Yet the Western economic containment of Russia is different. This is an unprecedented campaign to isolate a G-20 economy with a large hydrocarbon sector, a sophisticated military-industrial complex, and a diversified basket of commodity exports. As a result, Western sanctions face a different kind of problem.

The sanctions, in this case, could fail not because of their weakness but because of their great and unpredictable strength. Having grown accustomed to using sanctions against smaller countries at low cost, Western policymakers have only limited experience and understanding of the effects of truly severe measures against a major, globally connected economy. Existing fragilities in the world’s economic and financial structure mean that such sanctions have the potential to cause grave political and material fallout.

THE REAL SHOCK AND AWE

Just how severe the current sanctions against Russia are can be seen from their effects across the world. The immediate shock to the Russian economy is the most obvious. Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9–15 percent this year, but the damage could well become much more severe.

The ruble has fallen more than a third since the beginning of January. An exodus of skilled Russian professionals is underway, while the capacity to import consumer goods and valuable technology has fallen drastically. As Russian political scientist Ilya Matveev has put it, “30 years of economic development thrown into the bin.”

The ramifications of the Western sanctions go far beyond these effects on Russia itself. There are at least four different kinds of broader effects: spillover effects into adjacent countries and markets; multiplier effects through private-sector divestment; escalation effects in the form of Russian responses; and systemic effects on the global economy.

Spillover effects have already caused turmoil in international commodities markets. A generalized panic erupted among traders after the second Western sanctions package—including the SWIFT cutoff and the freezing of central bank reserves—was announced on February 26.

Prices of crude oil, natural gas, wheat, copper, nickel, aluminum, fertilizers, and gold have soared. Because the war has closed Ukrainian ports and international firms are shunning Russian commodity exports, a grain and metals shortage now looms over the global economy.

Although oil prices have since dropped in anticipation of additional output from Gulf producers, the price shock to energy and commodities across the board will push global inflation higher. African and Asian countries reliant on food and energy imports are already experiencing difficulties.

Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9 to 15 percent this year.

Central Asia’s economies are also caught up in the sanctions shock. These former Soviet states are strongly connected to the Russian economy through trade and outward labor migration. The collapse of the ruble has caused serious financial distress in the region.

Kazakhstan has imposed exchange controls after the tenge, its currency, fell by 20 percent in the wake of the Western sanctions against Moscow; Tajikistan’s somoni has undergone a similarly steep depreciation. Russia’s impending impoverishment will force millions of Central Asian migrant workers to seek employment elsewhere and dry up the flow of remittances to their home countries.

The impact of the sanctions goes beyond decisions taken by G-7 and EU governments. The official sanctions packages have had a catalyzing effect on international businesses operating in Russia. Virtually overnight, Russia’s impending isolation has set in motion a massive corporate flight.

In what amounts to a vast private sector boycott, hundreds of major Western firms in the technology, oil and gas, aerospace, car, manufacturing, consumer goods, food and beverage, accounting and financial, and transport industries are pulling out of the country.

It is noteworthy that these departures are in many cases not required by sanctions. Instead, they are driven by moral condemnation, reputational concerns, and outright panic. As a result, the business retreat is deepening the economic shock to Russia by multiplying the negative economic effects of official state sanctions.

The Russian government has responded to the sanctions in several ways. It has undertaken emergency stabilization policies to protect foreign exchange earnings and shore up the ruble. Foreign portfolio capital is being locked into the country.

While the stock market has remained closed, the assets of many Western firms that have departed may soon face confiscation. The Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a law that grants the Russian state six months to take over businesses in case of an “ungrounded” liquidation or bankruptcy.

The potential nationalization of Western capital is not the only escalatory effect of the sanctions. On March 9, Putin signed an order restricting Russian commodity exports. Although the full array of items to be withheld under the ban is not yet clear, the threat of its use will continue to hang over international trade.

Russian restrictions on fertilizer exports imposed in early February have already put pressure on global food production. Russia could retaliate by restricting exports of important minerals such as nickel, palladium, and industrial sapphires. These are crucial inputs for the production of electrical batteries, catalytic converters, phones, ball bearings, light tubes, and microchips.

In the globalized assemblage system, even small changes in materials prices can massively raise the production costs faced by final users downstream in the production chain. A Russian embargo or large export reduction of palladium, nickel, or sapphires would hit car and semiconductor manufacturers, a $3.4 trillion global industry.

If the economic war between the West and Russia continues further into 2022 at this intensity, it is very possible that the world will slide into a sanctions-induced recession.

MANAGING THE FALLOUT

The combination of spillover effects, negative multiplier effects, and escalation effects means that the sanctions against Russia will have an effect on the world economy like few previous sanctions regimes in history. Why was this great upheaval not anticipated?

One reason is that over the last few decades, U.S. policymakers have usually deployed sanctions against economies that were sufficiently modest in size for any significant adverse effects to be contained. The degree of integration into the world economy of North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar, and Belarus was relatively modest and one-dimensional. Only the rollout of U.S. sanctions against Iran required special care to avoid upsetting the oil market.

In general, however, the assumption held that sanctions use was economically almost costless to the United States. This has meant that the macroeconomic and macrofinancial consequences of global sanctions are insufficiently understood.

To better grasp the choices to be made in the current economic sanctions against Russia, it is instructive to examine sanctions use in the 1930s, when democracies similarly attempted to use them to stop the aggression of large-sized autocratic economies such as Fascist Italy, imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany.

The crucial backdrop to these efforts was the Great Depression, which had weakened economies and inflamed nationalism around the world. When Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, the League of Nations implemented an international sanctions regime enforced by 52 countries. It was an impressive united response, similar to that on display in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the league sanctions came with real tradeoffs. Economic containment of Fascist Italy limited democracies’ ability to use sanctions against an aggressor who was more threatening still: Adolf Hitler.

As a major engine of export demand for smaller European economies, Germany was too large an economy to be isolated without severe commercial loss to the whole of Europe. Amid the fragile recovery from the Depression, simultaneously placing sanctions on both Italy and Germany—then the fourth- and seventh-largest economies in the world—was too costly for most democracies.

Hitler exploited this fear of overstretch and the international focus on Ethiopia by moving German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936, advancing further toward war. German officials were aware of their commercial power, which they used to maneuver central European and Balkan economies into their political orbit.

The result was the creation of a continental, river-based bloc of vassal economies whose trade with Germany was harder for Western states to block with sanctions or a naval blockade.

The sanctions dilemmas of the 1930s show that aggressors should be confronted when they disrupt the international order. But it equally drives home the fact that the viability of sanctions, and the chances of their success, are always dependent on the global economic situation.

In unstable commercial and financial conditions, it will be necessary to prioritize among competing objectives and prepare thoroughly for unintended effects of all kinds. Using sanctions against very large economies will simply not be possible without compensatory policies that support the sanctioners’ economies and the rest of the world.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage to the world economy.

The Biden administration is aware of this problem, but its actions so far are inadequate to the scale of the problem. Washington has attempted to reduce strains in the oil market by a partial reconciliation with Iran and Venezuela.

Countering the spillover effects of sanctions against one leading petrostate may now require lifting sanctions on two smaller petrostates. But this oil diplomacy is insufficient to meet the challenge posed by the Russia sanctions, the effects of which are aggravating preexisting economic woes.

Supply chain issues and pandemic-era bottlenecks in global transport and production networks predated the war in Ukraine. The unprecedented use of sanctions in these already troubled conditions has made an already difficult situation worse.

The problem of managing the fallout of economic war is greater still in Europe. This is not only because the European Union has much stronger trade and energy links with Russia. It is also the result of the political economy of the eurozone as it has taken shape over the last two decades: with the exception of France, most of its economies follow a heavily trade-reliant, export-focused growth strategy.

This economic model requires foreign demand for exports while repressing wages and domestic demand. It is a structure that is very ill suited to the prolonged imposition of trade-reducing sanctions. Increasing EU-wide renewable energy investment and expanding public control in the energy sector, as French President Emmanuel Macron has announced, is one way to absorb this shock.

But there is also a need for income-boosting measures for consumer goods and price-dampening interventions in producer goods markets, from strategic reserve management to the excess profits taxes that are being rolled out in Spain and Italy.

Then there are the consequences of sanctions cause for the world economy at large, especially in the “global South.” Addressing these problems will pose a major macroeconomic challenge. It is therefore imperative for the G-7, the European Union, and the United States’ Asian partners to launch bold and coordinated action to stabilize global markets.

This can be done through targeted investment to clear up supply bottlenecks, generous international grants and loans to developing countries struggling to secure adequate food and energy supplies, and large-scale government funding for renewable energy capacity.

It will also have to involve subsidies, and perhaps even rationing and price controls, to protect the poorest from the destructive effects of surging food, energy, and commodity prices.

Such state intervention is the price to be paid for engaging in economic war. Inflicting material damage at the scale levelled against Russia simply cannot be pursued without an international policymaking shift that extends economic support to those affected by sanctions. Unless the material well-being of households is protected, political support for sanctions will crumble over time.

THE NEW INTERVENTIONISTS

Western policymakers thus face a serious decision. They must decide whether to uphold sanctions against Russia at their current strength or to impose further economic punishment on Putin. If the goal of the sanctions is to exert maximum pressure on Russia with minimal disruption to their own economies—and thus a manageable risk of domestic political backlash—then current levels of pressure may be the most that is politically feasible now.

At the moment, simply maintaining existing sanctions will require active compensatory policies. For Europe especially, neither laissez-faire economic policies nor fiscal fragmentation will be sustainable if the economic war persists. But if the West decides to step up the economic pressure on Russia further still, far-reaching economic interventions will become an absolute necessity.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage, not just to the sanctioners themselves but to the world economy at large. No matter how strong and justified the West’s resolve to stop Putin’s aggression is, policymakers must accept the material reality that an all-out economic offensive will introduce considerable new strains into the world economy.

An intensification of sanctions will cause a cascade of material shocks that will demand far-reaching stabilization efforts.And even with such rescue measures, the economic damage may well be serious, and the risks of strategic escalation willremain high.

For all these reasons, it remains vital to pursue diplomatic and economic paths that can end the conflict. Whatever the results of the war, the economic offensive against Russia has already exposed one important new reality: the era of costless, risk-free, and predictable sanctions is well and truly over.

India Abstains On Resolution By Russia At UN Security Council

Signaling that India is not aligned with the Russian position, India on March  24th abstained on a resolution pushed by Russia in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine — the resolution was perceived to be critical of Ukraine. The resolution failed to get adopted as it did not get the required nine votes to pass.

Reports state, this is the first time that India has abstained on a Russia-sponsored resolution. In previous votes on the Ukraine war, India abstained from resolutions sponsored by the West that were critical of Moscow’s actions. The latest move reflects Delhi’s attempt to portray its neutrality as it continues to engage and maintain its diplomatic tightrope walk on the issue.

Hours later, India again abstained on an United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution moved by the French and the Mexicans, which got 140 votes in favor, 38 abstentions and five against, and was “strong” in its condemnatory language against Russia.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden has said that among the Quad countries, India was “somewhat shaky” in terms of showing its opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Australia and Japan, who make up the Quad along with India and the US, have criticised Russia’s aggression. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is at the UN in New York where the resolution was negotiated and India’s abstention took place.

Russia and China voted in favor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Syria, North Korea and Belarus, while India and the remaining 12 UNSC members abstained.

India had previously abstained on two occasions at the UNSC and once in the General Assembly on resolutions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, unlike the other abstaining UNSC members, India did not issue any statement on the vote.

Russia had called for a vote in the 15-nation UNSC on its draft resolution. It “demands that civilians, including humanitarian personnel and persons in vulnerable situations, including women and children, are fully protected, calls for negotiated ceasefire for enabling safe, rapid, voluntary and unhindered evacuation of civilians, and underscores the need for the parties concerned to agree on humanitarian pauses to this end.”

The Russian resolution, which makes no reference to its invasion, calls upon all parties concerned to allow safe and unhindered passage to destinations outside of Ukraine, including to foreign nationals without discrimination.

It also seeks to facilitate safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in need in and around Ukraine, taking into account the particular needs of women, girls, men and boys, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted that “in a unified protest vote”, 13 members of the Security Council abstained from Russia’s resolution deflecting blame for the humanitarian crisis it has created in Ukraine.

The Russian resolution was one of the three on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that were put up before the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

The 193-member General Assembly resumed its 11th Emergency Special Session on Ukraine and voted Thursday on a draft resolution ‘Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine’, which was sponsored by France and Mexico.

In a bid to project a “neutral attempt”, South Africa has put forward a rival resolution for UNGA, ‘Humanitarian situation emanating out of the conflict in Ukraine’, which makes no mention of Russia.

South Africa is a member of the BRICS grouping and had earlier abstained, along with India, on the resolution condemning Russia. Its resolution calls for immediate cessation of hostilities by “all parties” in the conflict, and encourages political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means aimed at achieving peace.

The fact that Shringla has gone to New York when a series of Foreign Ministers are visiting India — Greece and Oman Foreign ministers are in Delhi — shows the importance India is attaching to this round of resolutions

Earlier this month, the US State Department had recalled a cable to American diplomats that instructed them to inform counterparts from India and UAE that their position of neutrality on Ukraine put them “in Russia’s camp”, US news outlet ‘Axios’ had reported.

Since then, a series of leaders and officials from Western countries — US, Australia, Japan and Austria – have visited India and have discussed the situation in Ukraine.

The India – UAE Agreement: A Developmental Milestone

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which was signed between India and the UAE on February 18, 2022, is the biggest milestone in the relationship between the two countries so far. This is the biggest agreement signed by the two countries till date. The Arab media covered the signing of the agreement under the headline “New Boundaries, New Milestone”. However the Indian media neglected to see the scope and importance of the agreement.

This agreement on trade, industry and labor, the biggest agreement that the UAE has signed with any country so far, is a reflection of India’s changed attitude towards trade relations. It certainly opens the road to great progress in the commerce between the two countries. The agreement is estimated to help increase the trade between the two countries by 100 billion dollars in five years. That is, trade worth Rupees 7.5 lakh crores.

Till now China was  UAE’s largest market. With the new agreement, India will step into that place. This agreement is particularly important at a time when India is taking a strong stance against Chinese products. It is heartening to note that the UAE has not taken into consideration Pakistan which is trying to gain a better foothold there than India on considerations like religion. The agreement aims at encouraging, rejuvenating and generally improving sectors like economy, energy, weather forecasting, technology, education, food safety, health, defense and security. With the signing of the agreement, the import duties on various products will come down.

The agreement will also open the way for a large number of Indian products to find a market in the UAE. About 90% of products from India will be excluded from import duties. This will become 99% in five years. India will not charge import tax on 80% of imports from the UAE. This will become 90% within ten years. These reductions open new avenues for Indian investors.

At the same time, some very important products from India have been put in a safe section and excluded from the agreement. These include milk products, fruits, vegetables, rubber, tobacco, tea, grains, coffee, hair dye, soap, tyre, footwear, medical instruments, vehicle spares and a few others.

The UAE is India’s second largest market in jewelry export. Refined petroleum, mobile phones, diamonds, iron, steel, organic chemicals, grains, vessels, etc  are products that India exports to the UAE in large quantities. Gold, crude oil, plastic, copper, aluminum  etc are the products that India buys from the UAE. The UAE is also the second largest source of gold import in India.

This is the first time that an IIT is being set up anywhere outside India. As part of the agreement, India will set up educational institutions of excellence in the UAE. This will be a blessing to talented children of Indians living there.

The UAE rulers have realized that the era of oil money is coming to an end. That is why they are focusing on business startups and are opening the country’s doors to investors. It is because of this realization by the rulers, that the UAE has become the main hub of business in the Gulf. The decrease in the flow of oil money has been adversely affecting Indian workers in the Gulf for a long while now, and they have been desperately looking for ways to safeguard their future.

The new India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, signed by the two countries, comes as a big ray of hope. The agreement signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a virtual summit, lays open an entire world of opportunities before the employment sector, job seekers and entrepreneurs.

This agreement alone will create a hundred and fifty thousand new jobs for Indians in the UAE. These gigantic job opportunities are being created for us by the agreement at a time when Nitaqat, Covid and the economic slowdown have destroyed innumerable jobs in the Gulf. Experts say that one million more jobs will be created in India through the investments the UAE will make there.

This agreement between India and the UAE needs to be seen only as a beginning. Economists forecast that other Gulf countries will not be able to ignore the economic development that will happen in the UAE through the commercial and industrial partnership with India. Such creative partnerships always destroy the boundaries of inequalities.

After A Month Of War, Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Ranks Among The World’s Worst In Recent History

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created one of the biggest refugee crises of modern times. A month into the war, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – the sixth-largest refugee outflow over the past 60-plus years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations data.

There are now almost as many Ukrainian refugees as there were Afghan refugees fleeing the (first) Taliban regime in 2001, according to figures compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They represent about 9.1% of Ukraine’s pre-invasion population of about 41.1 million – ranking the current crisis 16th among 28 major refugee crises by share of population.

The Center examined all cases in the UNHCR’s database since 1960 where there were at least 500,000 refugees and similarly displaced people from a given country in a given year. The analysis doesn’t include “internally displaced persons” – those who have fled or been forced from their usual homes but haven’t yet crossed an international border. (Earlier this week, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi estimated that, all told, 10 million Ukrainians – nearly a quarter of the population – had been displaced either internally or externally by the war.)

How we did this

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has created more refugees than any other crisis since the early 1960s, when UNHCR began keeping data on individual countries. Nearly 6.9 million Syrians – about a third of the country’s prewar population – are living as refugees or asylum-seekers outside their home country, with almost 3.7 million now in Turkey. An additional 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes but are living elsewhere in the country – meaning the civil war has uprooted about two-thirds of Syria’s entire population.

Afghanistan, which has been at war either with itself or with outside forces for more than four decades, has had more than 2 million refugees every year since 1981. The peak year was 1990, after Soviet troops had withdrawn from the country and the USSR-backed government was battling to hang onto power against a coalition of mujahedeen groups. That year, more than half the country’s total estimated population – 6.3 million people – were listed as refugees.

Venezuela has also seen massive population outflows over the past several years as the country’s economy has all but collapsed, its government has cracked down on dissent, and opposition efforts to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s government have stalled. According to the UNHCR, more than 5 million Venezuelans are refugees in other countries, are seeking asylum, or have been otherwise displaced abroad – all told, about 15% of the current estimated population.

War On Ukraine Also An Assault On World’s Most Vulnerable People & Countries

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations: Addressing the Press on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine is on fire. The country is being decimated before the eyes of the world. The impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions.

Countless innocent people – including women and children – have been killed. After being hit by Russian forces, roads, airports and schools lie in ruins.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 24 health facilities have suffered attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people are without water or electricity. With each passing hour, two things are increasingly clear:

First — it keeps getting worse. Second — whatever the outcome, this war will have no winners, only losers.

The United Nations and humanitarian partners are working to ensure safe passage from besieged areas and to provide aid where security permits. More than 600,000 people have received some form of aid.

As millions of people in Ukraine face hunger and dwindling supplies of water and medicine, I am announcing today that the United Nations will allocate a further $40 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to ramp up vital assistance to reach the most vulnerable, as we wait for the nations to come.

This funding will help get critical supplies of food, water, medicines, and other lifesaving aid into the country, as well as provide cash assistance to the needy.

But the avenues in and out of encircled cities are more precarious by the day. I underscore the crucial importance of respecting international humanitarian law. At least 1.9 million people are displaced inside the country, and growing numbers are escaping across borders.

I am deeply grateful for the solidarity of Ukraine’s neighbours and other host countries, who have taken in more than 2.8 million refugees in the past two weeks. The vast majority of those making the treacherous journey are women and children who are increasingly vulnerable.

For predators and human traffickers, war is not a tragedy. It is an opportunity. And women and children are the targets. They need safety and support every step of the way.

I will continue to highlight the desperate plight of the people of Ukraine as I am doing again today.

Yet there is another dimension of this conflict that gets obscured. This war goes far beyond Ukraine.
It is also an assault on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.

While war rains over Ukraine, a sword of Damocles hangs over the global economy – especially in the developing world. Even before the conflict, developing countries were struggling to recover from the pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens.

Their ability to respond has been erased by exponential increases in the cost of financing. Now their breadbasket is being bombed.

Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat. Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply.

Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels. All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.

Grain prices have already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008. The FAO’s global food prices index is at its highest level ever.

Forty-five African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine [or] Russia – 18 of those countries import at least 50 percent. This includes countries like Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system. In addition, we are seeing clear evidence of this war draining resources and attention from other trouble-spots in desperate need.

I renew my appeal for countries to find creative ways to finance increased humanitarian and development recovery needs worldwide, and to give generously and to immediately release pledged funds. My plea to leaders is to resist the temptation of increasing military budgets at the expense of Official Development Assistance and climate action.

In a word, developing countries are getting pummeled. They face a cascade of crises – beyond the Ukraine war, we cannot forget COVID and the impacts of climate change – in particular, drought.

Against the backdrop of these immense inter-connected challenges, I am announcing today the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance in the UN Secretariat.

I have also asked the Deputy Secretary-General to lead an inter-agency steering committee with partners to oversee this effort. In the coming days, we will be consulting with Member States willing to champion the actions needed to carry forward the global emergency response that will be required for these looming crises.

Make no mistake: everyday people, especially women and children, will bear the brunt of this unfolding tragedy. The war also shows how the global addiction to fossil fuels is placing energy security, climate action and the entire global economy at the mercy of geopolitics.

Finally, further escalation of the war, whether by accident or design, threatens all of humanity. Raising the alert of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling development.

The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility. The security and safety of nuclear facilities must also be preserved.

It’s time to stop the horror unleashed on the people of Ukraine and get on the path of diplomacy and peace. I have been in close contact with a number of countries – including China, France, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey – on mediation efforts to bring an end to this war.

The appeals for peace must be heard. This tragedy must stop. It is never too late for diplomacy and dialogue.

We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law.

We need peace. Peace for the people of Ukraine. Peace for the world.

We need peace now.

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