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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - October 2020

Oct 2020

Oct 31, 2020

President Magufuli in Landslide Win Amid Fraud Claims

  • Tanzania's President John Magufuli has won re-election with a landslide victory in a poll that the opposition has described as fraudulent.
  • Mr. Magufuli's main rival, Tundu Lissu, said that his party's agents were prevented from entering polling stations during the election.
  • The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has dismissed the claims of fraud.
  • In its final results, the NEC said that the President took 84% of the vote, while Mr. Lissu received 13%.

Trump and Biden in Final Quest for Votes

  • President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will barnstorm across battleground states in the American Midwest where the coronavirus pandemic has exploded again, as they head into the final weekend before Election Day.
  • Trump will hold rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, while Biden planned stops in Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as Iowa on his busiest day of campaigning yet.
  • Michigan and Wisconsin were two of the three historically Democratic industrial states, along with Pennsylvania, that narrowly voted for the Republican Trump in 2016, delivering him an upset victory.
  • Minnesota, which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, is one of the few Democratic states that Trump is trying to flip this year. Biden has held a steady lead in opinion polls in Minnesota.

India Bid to Prevent Pakistan from Taking IPU Post

  • India will be manoeuvring to ensure that Pakistan does not win the elections to the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) that will take place in a virtual session during the meeting of its Governing Council from November 1 to 4.
  • The candidates for the election of the new IPU president, through remote electronic secret ballot, include Muhammad Sanjrani (Pakistan), Akmal Saidov (Uzbekistan), Salma Ataullahjan (Canada) and Duarte Pacheco (Portugal).
  • But for the Uzbek nominee, the others are formidable public figures in their own right.
  • Sanjrani is the Chairman of the Pakistan Senate and has headed the international affairs committee.
  • Ataullahjan is a candidate reluctantly put up by the liberal Ottawa government as she belongs to the Conservative camp but has had long innings in public life.
  • Pacheo is well versed with the politics in the IPU, Geneva, and has in the past headed the "12 plus geopolitical group" of the IPU.
  • The term of the new President of IPU will be from 2020-23.

Oct 30, 2020

UK's Labour Party Suspends Former leader Jeremy Corbyn

  • The UK's Opposition Labour Party suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn from its ranks after a report by the country's human rights watchdog held the party responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination during his time in charge.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which had launched an investigation into antisemitism within the party following a string of complaints, found that Labour had broken the law in its failure to handle antisemitism, or anti-Jewish, complaints and there were serious failings by its leadership at the time.

India and US Agree to Work Closely at UN Security Council

  • India and the US held consultations on issues related to the UN Security Council and agreed to work closely during India's upcoming term as a non-permanent member of UNSC during 2021-22.
  • Both sides held a wide-ranging discussion on issues on UN Security Council agenda and recent developments. They agreed to work closely together during India's upcoming term as a non-permanent member of UNSC during 2021-22.
  • The two countries also agreed to work closely together given their shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule-based international order. 

US and China Launch First Crisis Communications Working Group

  • Amid the growing tensions, US and China completed two-day virtual conference to inaugurate the first Crisis Communications Working Group between the two nations.
  • US and Chinese defense officials convened the first Crisis Communications Working Group by video teleconference to discuss concepts of crisis communications, crisis prevention, and crisis management.
  • The meeting provided an opportunity to build mutual understanding between the US military and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on principles to prevent and manage crisis and reduce risk to forces.
  • The two sides agreed on the importance of establishing mechanisms for timely communication during a crisis, as well as the need to maintain regular communication channels to prevent crisis and conduct post-crisis assessment.

Two Prominent Indian-Americans among Joe Biden's Core Advisers

  • Two prominent Indian-Americans are among Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden's core advisers who have been guiding him on issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery to foreign policy and climate change.
  • Among those advising him on the pandemic are Dr. Vivek Murthy, former US Surgeon General who was appointed by President Barack Obama and Harvard economist Raj Chetty is among those who have briefed Biden on economic issues.

Oct 29, 2020

Senegal's President Dissolves Government

  • Senegalese President Macky Sall dissolved his government. President Sall has signed four decrees to that effect.
  • No reason was given for the move or when the new cabinet is likely to be formed. The dissolved government had 32 ministers and three state secretaries.
  • While awaiting the putting in place of a new government, outgoing ministers and secretaries of state are charged with carrying out their ongoing affairs.
  • President Sall won a second term of five years in March 2019.

India Deplores Personal Attack on French President

  • India displayed solidarity with France and deplored personal attacks on President Emmanuel Macron by terming it as violation of the most basic standards of international discourse.
  • France is one of closest strategic partners of India and is expanding strategic partnership across Indo-Pacific region.
  • His criticism of Macron follows days after the French President dedicated a high-level ceremony to Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded for showing students caricatures of the Prophet.
  • Earlier Erdogan slammed France and Europe over what he saw as rising Islamophobia.

US Tries to Block Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

  • The appointment of Nigeria's Ex-Finance Minister to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been thrown into doubt after the US opposed the move.
  • A WTO nominations committee recommended the group's 164 members appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
  • She would be the first woman and first African to lead the WTO.
  • But the US, critical of the WTO's handling of global trade, wants another woman, South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee, saying she could reform the body.
  • The four-month selection process to find the next WTO director-general hit a road block when Washington said that it would continue to back South Korea's Trade Minister.

Indian Expats Can Give UAE Address in Passport

  • According to an official at the Indian Consulate in Dubai, Indian expats in the UAE and elsewhere can now provide their local address abroad in their passports.
  • The Indian Government has decided to allow its overseas citizens to add their local address mainly to aid those who do not have permanent or valid addresses in India.
  • Many people who have been staying for a long time in the UAE do not have a valid address in India. They may add their local UAE address in their passports.

Oct 28, 2020

Mateusz Morawiecki Defends Abortion Ruling

  • Poland's Prime Minister defended the tightening of the country's abortion law and condemned massive nationwide protests led by women's rights activists, and said that they should not be happening amid heightened coronavirus restrictions and decrying acts of aggression.
  • Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacted to five days of massive protests across Poland against a ruling by the country's top court that declared abortions due to fetal congenital defects unconstitutional.
  • The Constitutional Tribunal's ruling tightened what was already one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws. When it takes effect, abortion will be permitted only when a pregnancy threatens the woman's health or is the result of crime like rape or incest.

US Urges Diplomacy as Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting Rages

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as fighting in and around the mountain enclave entered a second month, defying a ceasefire brokered in Washington.
  • Armenia acknowledged overnight that Nagorno-Karabakh forces had withdrawn from a strategic town between the enclave and the Iranian border, an apparent military gain for Azerbaijan.
  • World powers want to prevent a wider war that might suck in Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia. The conflict is also close to pipelines that carry oil and gas from Azerbaijan to international markets.
  • Azerbaijan's military gains could make a diplomatic solution more difficult: it rejects any solution that would leave Armenians in control of an enclave that is part of Azerbaijan but populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Saudi Arabia to Reform Kafala Worker Sponsorship System in 2021

  • Saudi Arabia plans to cancel a foreign worker sponsorship system, known as kafala, and replace it with a new form of contract between employers and employees.
  • Saudi Arabia, which this year is chairing the Group of 20 major economies (G20), seeks to boost the private sector, and make it more attractive to foreign talent - under an ambitious plan to diversify its oil-based economy. 
  • The kafala system, which has been in place for seven decades in Saudi, generally binds a migrant worker to one employer. Rights groups criticised the system and said that it leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation. 
  • The initiative will be implemented in the first half of 2021.
  • Currently more than 10 million foreign workers live in Saudi Arabia under the kafala system that requires them to be sponsored by a Saudi employer and be issued an exit/re-entry visa whenever they want to leave the country.

Sixth BRICS Parliamentary Forum

  • Indian Parliamentary delegation under the leadership of Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla attended the sixth BRICS Parliamentary Forum. It was chaired by the Chairman of State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia.
  • The speakers and members of other BRICS parliaments such as Brazil, China and South Africa participated in the meeting. The forum was held virtually under the theme 'BRICS Partnership in the interest of Global Stability, Innovative Growth and General Safety: Parliamentary dimension'.
  • The forum discussed improvement in quality of life of people in BRICS countries, social protection of citizens during COVID-19 pandemic, preparation of legislative initiatives in the area of public health care and economic rehabilitation in the post COVID-19 period. This includes support measures to MSMEs and development of future Parliamentary cooperation among BRICS countries.

Oct 27, 2020

Senate Confirms Amy Coney Barrett to US Supreme Court

  • The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights.
  • All Democrats in the chamber voted against Barrett's confirmation, as did Republican Susan Collins of Maine, who agreed with Democratic objections to confirming a justice so close to the November  3 election.
  • President Donald Trump and his GOP allies in the Senate pushed for a quick confirmation of Barrett, and it came just 38 days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who for 27 years anchored the court's liberal wing.
  • Trump had said that he wanted his replacement for Ginsburg in place to avoid a deadlocked court should the outcome of the presidential election depend on a ruling, as was the case in 2000.

Brazil to Extend Military Deployment in Amazon Rainforest

  • According to Vice President Hamilton Mourao, Brazil's right-wing government will extend the military's deployment to fight destruction of the Amazon rainforest by five months through April 2021 from its previous November end date.
  • President Jair Bolsonaro would sign a decree by next week to extend the deployment to protect the world's largest rainforest, which acts as a curb on climate change by absorbing vast amounts of greenhouse gas.
  • Bolsonaro deployed the military to the Amazon in May this year (2020), repeating a similar deployment made in 2019 when fires spiked in the region and provoked international criticism that Brazil needed to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest.

Japan Rejects Nuclear Ban Treaty

  • Japan said that it would not sign a UN treaty that bans nuclear weapons and did not welcome its entry into force next year, rejecting the wishes of atomic bomb survivors in Japan who were urging the government to join and work for a nuclear-free world.
  • The United Nations confirmed that 50 countries have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, paving the way for its entry into force in 90 days.
  • The announcement was hailed by anti-nuclear activists, but the treaty has been strongly opposed by the United States and other major nuclear powers.

China to Sanction US Firms

  • China would impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon and other United States' companies involved in Washington's arms sales to Taiwan.
  • Zhao Lijian said that China was acting to protect its national interest, but did not spell out what form the sanctions would take.
  • The US State Department has approved the potential sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan, including sensors, missiles and artillery that could have a total value of $1.8 billion.
  • Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province it has vowed to bring under control, by force if necessary. 
  • China has imposed sanctions on Lockheed Martin and other US companies in the past for selling weapons to Taiwan, though it is unclear what form the penalties have taken.
  • The United States, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but Washington is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
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