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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - November 2020

Nov 2020

Mar 08, 2021

India, Iran, Russia to be Part of New US Push to Find Settlement in Afghanistan

  • The US plans to convene a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of India, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran to forge a common approach on ending the war in Afghanistan while simultaneously taking steps to speed up a settlement with the Taliban.
  • This was conveyed by US secretary of state Antony Blinken in a letter sent to President Ashraf Ghani. The letter marks the first time the new Biden administration has outlined its approach towards Afghanistan as it undertakes a review of the troubled peace process with the Taliban as well as plans to withdraw all American forces from the war-torn country by May 1.
  • As a first step, the US intends to ask the United Nations to convene Foreign Ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the United States to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.

Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Fully Welcomes Proposed Electoral Changes

  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that the city's government fully welcomes changes to the city's electoral system that will substantially increase central government control over Hong Kong politics and exclude Beijing's critics.
  • Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China's National People's Congress would mean the largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong's leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure that the city is run by "patriots." The Election Committee would also have the right to vet candidates for the Legislative Council, weeding out any suspected of being insufficiently loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party.
  • Currently, half of Hong Kong's legislature is directly elected by voters, although the mass resignation of opposition legislators to protest the expulsion of four of their colleagues for being "unpatriotic" means the body is now entirely controlled by Beijing loyalists.

Nepal's SC Quashes Unification of PM Oli

  • Nepal's Supreme Court quashed the unification of the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Unified MarxistLeninist) led by Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.
  • The CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) merged in May 2018 to form a unified Nepal Communist Party following victory of their alliance in the 2017 general elections.
  • An apex court bench of justices Kumar Regmi and Bam Kumar Shrestha issued the verdict giving authenticity of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to Rishiram Kattel, who had registered the party at the Election Commission (EC) in his name prior to the formation of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Oli and Prachanda, The Kathmandu Post newspaper reported.
  • Kattel had challenged the Election Commission's decision to register Nepal Communist Party (NCP) under Oli and Prachanda in May 2018.
  • The bench said that a new party cannot be registered with the Election Commission when it already has a party registered with a similar name.

Egypt and Sudan add to Pressure on Ethiopia over Nile Dam

  • Egypt and Sudan have once again called for international mediation to end a long-running dispute over the construction of Ethiopia's dam on the River Nile.
  • Both countries fear the dam could affect their water supply.
  • The call came as the Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was on a visit to Sudan for the first time since the overthrow of its former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
  • During his visit to Khartoum Mr Sisi met Sudan's civilian and military leaders.
  • The fact that these were separate meetings points to the somewhat awkward relationship between the different personalities in Sudan's transitional administration.
  • But it seems they all agreed on one key issue: Ethiopia's controversial dam.
  • In a statement after the talks, Egypt and Sudan called for a new round of dialogue with an expanded mediation team to include officials from the African Union, the United States, the EU and the UN.
  • They said an agreement had to be reached before Ethiopia starts the next stage of filling the dam's huge reservoir, which is expected to begin in June or July.

Bangladesh Appoints Nation's First Transgender News Anchor

  • A private news channel has appointed Bangladesh's first transgender news presenter. Tashnuva Anan Shishir started presenting news for Boishakhi TV from the International Women's Day 2021.
  • The Boishakhi TV authorities said that the appointment of the transgender newscaster was done on the occasion of 50 years of liberation of Bangladesh as it was the most neglected population of the country.
  • The TV channel has appointed another transgender Nusrat Mau as one of the main characters for the regular drama section of the TV channel's entertainment wing.
  • Tashnuva Anan is a model and actor who began her career in theatre group Natua in 2007. She has been actively associated with theatre in Bangladesh with appearances in many popular productions.

Pakistan PM Imran Khan Wins Trust Vote

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan won a trust vote in the National Assembly amid a boycott call by the Opposition parties, strengthening his government's legitimacy after an embarrassing defeat of the Finance Minister in the hotly-contested Senate elections.
  • Prime Minister Khan secured 178 votes in the 342-member lower house of Parliament during a special session convened on the directives of President Arif Alvi. A total of 172 votes was needed for a simple majority.
  • The floor test took place without the Opposition as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an alliance of 11 parties – boycotted the voting.

Mar 07, 2021

Beijing to Overhaul Hong Kong Electoral System

  • China's top law-making body has unveiled plans to ensure only patriots can govern Hong Kong, as Beijing tightens its grip on the city with changes to the electoral system.
  • Premier Li Keqiang, addressing the National People's Congress (NPC), warned the world not to interfere.
  • The move follows the imposition of a tough security law.
  • Critics say Beijing is crushing dissent and removing the 'one country, two systems' agreement it made with the UK.
  • Under the agreement, Hong Kong, a former British colony, was allowed to continue with its own legal system and have rights including free speech and freedom of the press.

Ghana Opposition Leader Disagrees with Poll Ruling

  • Ghana's opposition leader and former President John Mahama has said he disagrees with the process and ruling of the Supreme Court on his petition challenging the results of the last years' presidential election.
  • But he said he is legally bound by the decision of the court.
  • The Supreme Court upheld Nana Akufo-Addo's victory, dismissing allegations of irregularities.
  • Reacting to the court's verdict, Mr Mahama expressed disappointment that the head of the electoral commission, Jean Mensa, did not testify on alleged irregularities.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the opposition leader had failed to prove that none of the candidates had won more 50% as is required to win the presidential election in the first round.

Mar 06, 2021

Biden Appoints Two more Indian-Americans to Key Administration Position

  • US President Joe Biden has appointed two more Indian-Americans in key administrative positions.
  • Chiraag Bains has been appointed as Special Assistant to the President for Criminal Justice and Pronita Gupta has been named Special Assistant to the President for Labour and Workers.
  • The announcement for appointing Bains and Gupta was part of more than 20 appointments of additional policy staff who will serve with the White House COVID Response Team, Domestic Climate Policy Office, Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.

Mar 05, 2021

Turkey Widens War Technology Hunt

  • Turkey is pushing to co-manufacture warplanes and missiles with Pakistan, a hookup that could also give it access to prized war technology from China.
  • Turkish defence and government officials have held periodic talks with Pakistani counterparts — the last high-level discussion was in January —about developing and manufacturing military hardware with Pakistan, according to people from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations. The people didn't say when they'll meet again or how close they are to an agreement.
  • A deal would get Nato-member Turkey closer to some of China's military technology. Pakistan builds its JF-17 fighter jets with China and is said to have adapted Chinese designs for its Shaheen ballistic missile.

Viktor Orban's Fidesz to Quit Europe's Centre-right EPP

  • Hungary's ruling party, the right-wing Fidesz, is to leave the largest grouping in the European Parliament.
  • The European People's Party (EPP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing its internal rules in a move that would have made it easier to expel Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party.
  • Mr. Orban denounced the decision as "anti-democratic" and announced Fidesz's withdrawal from the bloc.
  • He and the EPP have long been at odds over his democratic record in Hungary.
  • The party had been suspended from the centre-right EPP since 2019 over concerns about human rights in Hungary and its attacks against the EPP leadership.

President Joe Biden's Pick to Lead White House Economic Council Confirmed

  • The US Senate has overwhelmingly voted to confirm President Joe Biden's nominee Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University economist, to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers, making her the first African-American to hold the position.
  • The upper chamber of Congress confirmed Rouse's nomination in a 95-4 vote.
  • Rouse, who currently serves as dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, was a member of former President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

Imran Khan to Seek Confidence Vote after Shock Loss

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will seek a confidence vote in the National Assembly, or parliament's Lower House, after his Finance Minister lost an election for a seat in the upper house, the biggest test yet for his three-year-old government.
  • Khan addressed the nation and the premier met the powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the head of the country's spy agency, General Faiz Hameed.
  • The developments followed a surprise loss for the prime minister in the country's Senate after Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh lost a tightly fought battle for a seat in the indirectly elected house against the opposition-backed former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

India Proposes Inclusion of Chabahar Port in International North-south Corridor

  • India proposed the inclusion of Iran's Chabahar port in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200 km multi-mode route spanning 13 countries, and also called for Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to be made part of the corridor.
  • Chabahar Port, where an Indian state-run firm operates a terminal, is a key part of India's plans to enhance connectivity to Afghanistan and the Central Asian states. The port played an important role in shipping humanitarian aid to Afghanistan amid the Covid-19 pandemic and India recently supplied heavy cranes to boost its capabilities.

Mar 04, 2021

Egypt and Sudan Back DR Congo to Mediate Dam Dispute

  • Egypt and Sudan have backed the Democratic Republic of Congo to lead negotiations on their row with Ethiopia over the mega dam on the Nile River.
  • A joint statement by their foreign ministers affirmed their support for an enhanced structure of negotiation sponsored by the African Union (AU) that include the US, the European Union and the UN.
  • The ministers also noted that a unilateral filling of the dam for the second phase would be a direct threat to their countries' water security.
  • Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who met Sudan's Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq, said that the dam was a vital issue for both countries.
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