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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - December 2020

Dec 2020

May 16, 2021

Zimbabwe High Court Forces Out Chief Justice

  • Zimbabwe's High Court has ruled that the president's extension of the Chief Justice's term of office by five years is illegal.
  • A group of lawyers had challenged the move which followed a recent constitutional amendment passed by parliament that raised the retirement age of senior judges from 70 to 75.
  • The judges ruled that Luke Malaba, who turned 70, had ceased to be Chief Justice as any constitutional amendment needed to be put to a referendum.
  • Justice Malaba faced some criticism in 2018 for dismissing an opposition petition which had sought to annul the election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa - alleging the vote had been marred by "mammoth theft and fraud".
  • It was Zimbabwe's first election following the ousting the year before of long-time leader Robert Mugabe.
  • The recent constitutional amendments also allow Mr. Mnangagwa to appoint senior judges without being vetted by parliament and remove the requirement for a running mate in presidential elections.

Raisi and Larijani Enter Iran Presidential Race

  • Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani have registered to run in next month's presidential election.
  • The two conservatives, who have close ties with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are seen as the leading contenders to succeed Hassan Rouhani.
  • Mr Rouhani, a moderate, is not allowed to run for a third consecutive term.
  • More than 300 other hopefuls have also applied to be candidates. They must all now be vetted by the Guardian Council.
  • The 12 theologians and jurists on the council approved only six of the more than 1,600 candidates for the last election in 2017, which Mr. Rouhani won in the first round with 57% of the vote. Mr. Raisi came second with 38%.
  • Since then there has been rising discontent in Iran over the state of the country's economy, which has been crippled by US sanctions reinstated in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump.
  • He abandoned a nuclear deal negotiated by Mr. Rouhani that saw Iran limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Iran stopped abiding by key commitments in response to the move.

China World's First Country to Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids

  • China will become the world's first country to ban all synthetic cannabinoid substances. The ban is likely to come into effect on July 1. The move comes as China tries to curb the manufacturing & trafficking of the drug. The synthetic cannabinoids are highly camouflaged, as some are found in e-cigarette oil, and some are found in cut tobacco made from various flower petals, or plant stems and leaves. In Xinjiang, it has a commonly known nickname of "Natasha."
  • Synthetic cannabinoids are highly camouflaged, as some are found in e-cigarette oil & some are found in cut tobacco made from leaves, flower petals, etc.
  • The synthetic cannabinoid has become one of the most-abused new psychoactive substances.
  • Cannabinoid substances pose a severe threat to society, where the abuse of such substances gives rise to incidents such as intentional injuries and impaired driving.

May 15, 2021

Chad's New Military Leader Woos Key Ally Nigeria

  • Chad's new military leader has been in Nigeria for talks with President Muhammadu Buhari to shore up regional support for his regime.
  • Lt Gen Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno heads a military council after his father, President Idriss Déby, died of injuries sustained during clashes with rebels last month.
  • Chad is a key ally in the fight against Islamist groups in the Sahel region of Africa - in particular the Nigeria-based militants Boko Haram.
  • Nigerians know and appreciate the role Chad played in helping us to combat terrorism, and we will continue the collaboration.
  • The Nigeria President, himself a former military ruler, offered his support to Lt Gen Déby in helping him return Chad to democratic rule, which the military council has said will happen within 18 months.

Neera Tanden Appointed White House Senior Adviser

  • Indian-American Neera Tanden has been appointed senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, two months after she withdrew her nomination as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget due to stiff opposition from Republican senators.
  • She has been entrusted with two tasks – launch a review of the US Digital Service, and plan contingencies that could result from the Supreme Court's consideration of Republican lawsuits seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Jacinda Ardern Tops Fortune's World's 50 Greatest Leaders 2021

  • New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has topped the 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list for 2021, released by Fortune Magazine. The 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list for 2021 is the eighth edition of the annual list which celebrates leaders, some well-known and others who aren't so familiar, who made a difference amid the "truly unprecedented times" of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • From India, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India (SII) is the only Indian among the top 10 names. He is placed in the 10th spot.

May 14, 2021

Rajesh Agrawal Re-appointed London's Deputy Mayor for Business

  • India-born entrepreneur Rajesh Agrawal has been re-appointed as London's Deputy Mayor for Business by Mayor Sadiq Khan after he won a second term in local elections last week.
  • As Khan made "jobs, jobs, jobs" a top priority for his next term in office, Agrawal also committed himself to the agenda and made a pledge to focus on a "fairer and greener recovery" for the UK capital from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Agrawal, who is also the co-chair of the Labour Friends of India (LFIN) diaspora representative group of the Opposition Labour Party, arrived in London in 2001 and went on to grow a small foreign exchange and money transfer enterprise into a multi-million-pound UK-headquartered business.

Martin Griffiths Appointed UN Humanitarian Chief

  • The UN chief has appointed veteran British diplomat Martin Griffiths, a seasoned negotiator with wide global experience, as the new UN humanitarian chief.
  • Griffiths brings extensive leadership experience in humanitarian affairs at headquarters and country levels, both strategically and operationally as well as senior level experience in international conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation.
  • Griffiths has spent the last three years as the UN special envoy for Yemen and he briefed the UN Security Council earlier Wednesday on his latest efforts to peacefully resolve the six-year conflict.

Oli Re-appointed as Nepal PM

  • K P Sharma Oli was reappointed as Nepal Prime Minister after the opposition parties, riddled by factionalism, failed to secure majority seats in Parliament to form a new government.
  • Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari had asked the opposition parties to come up with the support of majority lawmakers to form a new government by Thursday after Oli lost a crucial trust vote.
  • The Nepali Congress (NC) under the leadership of party president Sher Bahadur Deuba had announced its intention to stake a claim for the Prime Minister's post.
  • Though Deuba had received support from Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', a meeting of current and former NC office bearers at the party president's residence on Thursday concluded that the sharp division within the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) whether to support the NC-led government had made the formation of an alternative government impossible.

Hong Kong Legislature Approves China Loyalty Laws

  • Hong Kong's Opposition-devoid legislature approved new powers allowing the government to sack public office holders and bar election candidates from standing if they are deemed "disloyal" to local authorities or China.
  • The new laws are part of sweeping changes that Beijing has ordered for Hong Kong's already limited electoral system which will dramatically reduce the number of directly elected politicians and ensure only "staunch patriots" enter politics.
  • Along with a sweeping national security law, the political changes are part of a broad campaign to quash dissent after huge and often violent democracy protests rocked the finance hub in 2019.
  • Under the new powers, all public office holders will be required to make a "pledge of loyalty" that they must adhere to throughout their term. It includes principal government officials, Cabinet members, legislators and judges as well as members of the legislature.

May 13, 2021

Biden Signs Cybersecurity Executive Order after Colonial Pipeline Attack

  • US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that advances federal cybersecurity capabilities and encourages improvements in digital security standards across the private sector which has been hit by a spate of high-profile cyber attacks.
  • The executive order establishes a series of initiatives designed to better equip federal agencies with cybersecurity tools. It follows a cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline that caused some internal computer systems to be disabled with ransomware. This led Colonial to shut the pipeline, triggering fuel shortages and panic buying in the southeastern United States.
  • The pipeline cyberattack is the latest in a string of high profile cyber incidents against U.S. companies and government agencies over the last six months.

Vladimir Putin Calls for De-escalation in Israel-Palestinian Clashes

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Israel and the Palestinians to halt fighting in a call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that the world needs to give Israel a "strong" lesson.
  • The Israeli army has launched hundreds of air strikes on the Gaza Strip since Monday, where Hamas and other militants have responded by firing back volleys of rockets on Israeli cities.
  • Erdogan, a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause, has stepped up diplomacy, speaking to a range of regional leaders and condemning Israel's "terror".

May 12, 2021

Pakistan Won't Hold Talks with India until Decision on Kashmir Reverse

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan would not hold talks with India until New Delhi reverses its decision of scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated it into two Union territories.
  • Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that no talks presently were taking place with India but parleys could be held if New Delhi revisited its policy regarding Kashmir and provided relief to the people of Kashmir.
  • "Jammu and Kashmir cannot be an internal issue of India as it is on the agenda of the UN and there are several Security Council resolutions on it, he said while addressing a news conference in Islamabad.
  • India has repeatedly said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the country is capable of solving its own problems.

China's Population Grows at Slowest Pace

  • China's births fell to their lowest in almost six decades amid the pandemic last year, putting the country's population on course to peak within the next five years and adding pressure on Beijing to step up reforms to maintain economic growth as the workforce shrinks.
  • There were 1.412 billion people in China last year, according to the results of a once-a-decade census, up 5.38 per cent from a decade before, but slightly below previous official projections. The annual average population growth of 0.53 per cent in the past decade was the slowest since the 1950s.
  • China's population has become much more urbanised and educated over the past decade, trends which should allow the world's second-largest economy to continue expanding even after its population peaks. In order to remain an engine of world growth, China will require a large increase in spending on pensions and health care and more investment in education and infrastructure to boost productivity.
  • Slower growth in the population means it could peak before 2025, according to estimates from Bloomberg Economics. The number of children born in the country last year fell to 12 million, the National Bureau of Statistics said — down from 14.65 million in 2019 and the lowest number since 1961 when the country was struggling in the aftermath of a famine that killed tens of millions of people.

Yoweri Museveni Sworn in for Sixth Term

  • Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni was sworn in for his sixth term.
  • He won re-election in a disputed poll in January.
  • Security was increased in the capital, Kampala, ahead of his inauguration. Several heads of states had arrived for the ceremony - including from Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia.
  • Troops surrounded the home of Robert Kyagulanyi popularly known as Bobi Wine, who was the election runner-up.

China Warns Bangladesh of 'Substantial Damage' if it Joins US-led Quad

  • China has warned Bangladesh against joining the US-led Quad alliance, saying that Dhaka's participation in the anti-Beijing "club" would result in "substantial damage" to bilateral relations.
  • The unusual warning from Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming came weeks after visiting Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe emphasied to Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid that Beijing and Dhaka should make joint efforts against powers from outside the region establishing a "military alliance" in South Asia and practising "hegemonism".
  • Reacting to the Chinese envoy's controversial remarks, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Dhaka maintained a non-aligned and balanced foreign policy and it would decide what to do according to those principles.
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