The world around us changes in a matter of few days. The world is seeing a lot of hustle-bustle every day right from Americas to Indo-Pacific. Here is a sneak peak into what made news globally last week.
1. India Buys Helicopters Ahead of Trump Visit, Trade Pact Called Off
US President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit India on 24-25th February with a grand welcome at Ahmedabad. The diplomatic circles were buzz with a possible India-USA FTA that would open up new trade avenues. But President Trump negated the possibility when he tweeted ‘India didn’t treat US well’. Issues like trade tariffs, protectionist stance of India, concerns of USA pharma companies and H1B Visa policy have already strained India-US relations. Meanwhile, India announced to buy 24 MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters, continuing the defense relations between both the nations.
2. Pakistan Stays in the FATF Grey List
The world is simply not ready to agree that Pakistan is fighting terrorism. In the plenary meet of FATF, the inter-governmental panel decided to keep Pakistan in the Grey List. It means Pakistan is being suspected of funding terrorism and unless it shows progress in curbing terror financing, it can be pushed in the Black List. It would mean limited trade and no international monetary loans for the nation. India’s position of calling Pakistan a “Terrorist State”
3. Ashraf Ghani Wins in Afghanistan- Or Did He?
Presidential elections in Afghanistan which happened in September 2019 were marred with delays due to Taliban violence and US-Taliban talks. The results came last week with Ashraf Ghani retaining the Presidential position. Controversy erupted as opponent Abdullah Abdullah called the results biased and declared himself as the winner. This can seriously destabilize Afghanistan which is on verge of a truce between US and Taliban.
4. Possible US-Taliban Truce
Afghanistan has become synonymous with Taliban violence. But possibility of a truce is seen. When the US-Taliban delegates meet this weekend, they may announce an observing period of one week where no attacks would be made on opposite parties. This can be a stepping stone for further ceasefire. US has lost hundreds of soldiers since its presence in Afghanistan in 2001. The war with Taliban has pushed Afghanistan to the brink. India has always welcomed any peaceful resolution of Taliban problem with its focus being on development of Afghanistan through trade and infra projects.
5. Hardliners Lead in Iran Elections
Given the tensions with USA, the politics in Iran has gone in the hands of radical Islamic clerics. The Guardian Council has chosen hardliner candidates, all with the blessings of Ayatollah Khomeini. Given the limited democracy in Iran, the vote that took on 21st February saw the hardliners get to the forefront of the elections. This also means increased tensions with USA and uncertainty in the oil market.
6. The Weekly Coronavirus Update
The cases of deaths and infections of COVID-19 have reduced in intensity. This week, about 78000 cases were detected with deaths nearing 2400. The rate of fresh cases has reduced, showing the infection may have stabilized. Meanwhile, the Diamond Princess cruise which was anchored off Yokohama coast in Japan has been let off from the quarantine, freeing more than 3000 people. Novel cases were discovered in nations like UAE too.
7. Brexit Creates Issues for European Union
EU passes a long-term budget for seven years. The European Parliament was to meet to pass the 2021-2027 budget. But Brexit has left a $81 billion hole in EU’s finances that is making things worse. Big nations like Germany and France tried to bring about a consensus but failed. The negotiations broke down as a compromise couldn’t be sought, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Without a strong budget, EU can’t deal with issues of climate change, terrorism and increasing economic growth
8. Fragile Peace in Yemen
Five years have elapsed since the Shiite Houthis of Yemen pushed the nation into a civil war. US-Arab coalition has been fighting with them. United Nations tried its level best to restore peace in Yemen, which is already battered by refugees and cities resembling wastelands. But since last week, attacks have increased. Allegedly a missile was fired from Yemen to Saudi Arabia but was shot down by Saudi defense. Yemen has seen the worst of Iran-Saudi rivalry since Iran supports the Shiite Houthis while Saudi backs the Sunni government in Yemen.
9. France Takes a Strict Stance on the Entry of Islamic Imams
Given the apparent radicalism growing in France, President Immanuel Macron announced to restrict the Imams that enter France every year to preach in mosques, mainly from Turkey, Algeria and Morocco. France saw deadly attacks in Paris and shootings at Charlie Hebdo. The move is aimed at transparency in mosques and limit to migration that can bring radicalized Imams into France.
10. UK Sees a Historic Change in Immigration Regime
Post its exit from EU, Britain launched its new visa regime that be more equitable to EU and non-EU citizens. Points-based immigration system was launched that will assess candidates on education, skills and salaries. This will encourage more skilled workforce to enter UK. Salary threshold is being kept at 25,600 pounds, lower than previous 30,000 pounds. This will be a golden chance for Indian students and professionals to seek employment in UK, adding to better economic relations of India with UK.