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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - April 2019

Apr 2019

Apr 30, 2019

Sirisena Replaces Police Chief

  • President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a former Army commander to the post of Defence Secretary, and named a new police chief, as part of his promised effort to overhaul Sri Lanka's security establishment in the wake of the Easter blasts that killed over 250 people.
  • General S. H. S Kottegoda was appointed the Secretary of Defence, after Hemasiri Fernando resigned from the post.
  • President Sirisena also named Deputy Inspector-General Chandana Wickramaratne as the acting police chief. The incumbent Pujith Jayasundara, who Mr. Sirisena had earlier asked to resign, was asked to go on compulsory leave after he refused to resign.
  • As per Sri Lankan law, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) can be removed from the post only with a parliamentary resolution backed by a majority and based on a subsequent inquiry by a committee.

China and Pakistan Sign Agreement on Space Cooperation

  • China and Pakistan have signed an agreement on joint space exploration including manned missions. This agreement marks a new phase of cooperation between the two all weather allies.
  • The agreement will serve as a high-level foundation for cooperation in space science and exploration. Both nations will conduct scientific and technological experiments, astronaut training, along with manned space applications and achievement transformation.

Socialist Party of Spain Wins Election

  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialists have won snap elections, without the necessary majority to govern solo, in a fragmented political landscape marked by the far-right's entry into parliament. The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Mr. Sánchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia's failed secession bid in 2017.

Ultimatum to Netanyahu

  • Israel's Attorney-General has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a week's time to confirm that he wants a formal hearing to defend himself before corruption charges are filed against him.
  • Avichai Mandelblit said that Mr. Netanyahu's lawyers that if he wants to exercise his right to defend himself before possible indictment, he must notify authorities by May 10. The hearing itself must then take place no later than July 10. Mr. Netanyahu's lawyers have been protesting non-payment of their fees and are refusing to collect the case files until they are paid, the letter said. Mr. Netanyahu, who won a fifth term in office, faces the prospect of becoming the first sitting Premier to be indicted.

Apr 29, 2019

BRI Framework

  • India's decision to skip the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) may have led to the exclusion of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor from the list of projects covered by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) umbrella.
  • In an annex tagged with the Joint Communiqué of the Leaders' Roundtable of the BRF, which concluded in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry website has not listed the BCIM as a project covered by the BRI, the giant connectivity initiative speared by China to revive the ancient Silk Road across Eurasia and Africa.
  • South Asia is covered by three major undertakings — the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC); the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway; and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Spain's Snap Election

  • Spaniards flocked to vote in a tense snap general election that could see the far-right make a dramatic entrance in Parliament.
  • Opinion polls give outgoing socialist Premier Pedro Sánchez a win but without the necessary majority to govern alone, meaning he will have to seek alliances in a political environment that has soured since Catalonia's failed secession bid. After a tense campaign, voter turnout stood at 60.75%, up from 51.21% at the same time in the preceding polls in 2016.

Apr 28, 2019

Deals Signed at BRI Summit

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping said that $64 billion in deals were signed at a summit on his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and more nations would join the global infrastructure programme.
  • Mr. Xi and 37 world leaders wrapped up a three-day forum in Beijing with pledges to ensure that projects on the new Silk Road are green and financially sustainable.
  • A document released after the meeting showed Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Luxembourg, Jamaica, Peru, Italy, Barbados, Cyprus and Yemen were the latest countries to join the club.

Joint Committee Meet

  • A joint committee representing Sudan's military leadership and protesters will hold its first meeting to discuss their demand for civilian rule.
  • Protest leaders have held several rounds of so far inconclusive talks with the ruling military council since the army toppled veteran President Omar al-Bashir on April 11 following four months of nationwide protests.
  • Earlier this week, the two sides agreed to set up a joint committee to chart the way forward.
  • The Alliance for Freedom and Change, which brings together grassroots organisers with opposition and rebel groups, has kept up mass protests for a return to civilian rule since Mr. Bashir's overthrow after three decades in power.
  • Western governments have expressed support, but Sudan's key Gulf Arab lenders have backed the military council, while African states have called for more time for the army to hand over to civilians.

Apr 27, 2019

Prisoner Swap Offer Only for U.S.

  • A prisoner swap offered by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is only for the United States and would not involve Britain.
  • Mr. Zarif proposed that Iranians jailed in the United States or held in other countries on extradition requests issued by the Americans could be swapped for foreigners imprisoned in Iran.

China and Russia Pose Threat to U.S.

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray described China as the most significant "intelligence collection" threat. His comments were made at a discussion at the Washington offices of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank.

Qatar is Set to Abolish Controversial Exit Visa System

  • According to the UN's International Labour Organisation, Qatar is set to abolish its controversial exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019.
  • Last year, the exit visa was eliminated for the majority of workers, this year that will be extended to all remaining categories of workers.
  • In September 2018, Qatar approved legislation to scrap the kafala, or sponsorship, system which required that foreign workers obtain permission from their employers to leave the country.

Apr 26, 2019

Law Strengthening Ukrainian Language Use

  •  Ukraine's Parliament passed a law enforcing the use of the Ukrainian language in official settings, a move likely to rile Russian-speaking areas of the country and Moscow.
  • Lawmakers approved the measure, which also increases the quota for Ukrainian-language television and radio programming, just days after Russian-speaking Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President.
  • Officials at all levels as well as doctors, teachers, lawyers and others, will have to speak Ukrainian or face fines. The law will not apply to private communications or religious rites.
  • The law will not be enforced for three years as centres are set up around the country to support the learning of Ukrainian language and culture.

Muslim Refugees in Negombo Flee

  •  Days after a deadly bomb attack shook Negombo, killing over a hundred people praying at the St. Sebastian's Church, a new, unexpected conflict has heightened tensions in the coastal town.
  • Hundreds of refugees who live in Negombo, some 40 km north of Colombo, have been forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in nearby mosques and police stations, following a sudden hostility from a section of locals.
  • A mixed ethnic town, Negombo is home to a sizeable number of Catholics and fewer Muslims, and hundreds of refugees who fled persecution in their countries.
  • Over 1,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, hailing from countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, live in the town, with government and UNHCR support.
  • They have enjoyed cordial ties with the local community. 

Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Resigns

  •  Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned, taking responsibility for what the government earlier termed "a major lapse" in intelligence on the Easter attacks.
  • Mr. Fernando is the first official to step down after both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said they were unaware of the imminent threat, though the security establishment had received prior intelligence.
  • While Mr. Sirisena promised to overhaul the security structure, making key changes in 24 hours, the new Secretary is yet to be named.
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