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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - December 2020

Dec 2020

Aug 23, 2021

Taliban Wants Ties with All Countries, Including US

  • Taliban's political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said that the insurgent group intends to have economic and trade ties with all countries around the world, including the US.
  • Baradar denied media reports that the Taliban has not intended to have diplomatic and trade ties with Washington.

Lord Botham Appointed Trade Envoy to Australia

  • Ian Botham, the former England cricketer known for legendary clashes with Australia, has been appointed UK government trade envoy to the country.
  • Lord Botham, Baroness Hoey and several MPs, have been made trade envoys to boost British business interests around the world.
  • International trade secretary Liz Truss tweeted the former all-rounder would bat for UK business down under.
  • He is one of 10 new trade envoys.
  • Trade envoys are a network of parliamentarians drawn from across the political spectrum, who are appointed by the Prime Minister.
  • Lord Botham, who played 102 Test matches for England between 1977 and 1992, is an advocate of field sports and a prominent Brexit supporter who was knighted in 2007, in recognition of his services to charity and cricket.

Taliban Co-founder in Kabul to Hammer out New Afghan Govt.

  • Almost a week after the Islamist militants took over the capital without resistance, Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar arrived in Kabul for talks with other leaders to hammer out a new Afghan government.
  • The Taliban official said that the group planned to ready a new model for governing Afghanistan within the next few weeks, with separate teams to tackle internal security and financial issues.

Aug 22, 2021

Judges Reject President's Appeal to Change Kenya Constitution

  • Appeal Court judges in Kenya have upheld an earlier decision by a lower court blocking a government-backed plan to make fundamental changes to the country's constitution, calling the project unconstitutional and unlawful.
  • Dubbed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), and spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political nemesis-turned-ally, Raila Odinga, it had sought to make these and other changes:
  • Introducing the position of a prime minister as a way to dilute power
  • Giving Kenya's 47 counties bigger budgets to implement development schemes
  • Making the cabinet leaner and more representative of the nation
  • Giving corruption scam whistleblowers 5% of any funds recovered.
  • This judgement is seen as a win for Deputy President William Ruto, who had opposed BBI.
  • It also comes exactly year before the next presidential election, which is regarded as a two-horse race between Mr. Odinga and Mr. Ruto.

UK Will Work with Taliban if Necessary

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the United Kingdon would work with the Taliban if necessary after the militants' capture of Afghanistan, and defended his Foreign Minister who has come under fire for his handling of the situation.
  • Johnson said that the situation at Kabul airport, where thousands of desperate Afghans have thronged seeking exodus from the country, was getting slightly better.

Taliban Appeals for International Recognition

  • The Taliban have appealed to the international community to recognise it amid growing resentment against it at home and abroad, even as the Afghan militant group sought to placate China, saying that Beijing can play a big role under its rule in the strife-torn country.
  • Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the international community should "respect the will of the Afghan people" and officially recognise his group which has taken over power in Kabul.
  • He also urged international monetary organisations to release funds to the new government.

Aug 21, 2021

Malaysia's King Appoints Ismail Sabri as Prime Minister

  • Malaysia's king appointed Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the Prime Minister, replacing Muhyiddin Yassin, who stepped down this week after losing his parliamentary majority.
  • Mr. Ismail Sabri, who was Muhyiddin's deputy, takes over as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with a surge in COVID-19 infections and an economic slump, amid growing public anger over the handling of the health crisis.
  • He secured majority support, with the backing of 114 of parliament's 222 members.
  • His appointment returns the role of Prime Minister to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia's 'grandold party', which was voted out in a 2018 general election amid widespread accusations of graft.

Pakistan Fences Off from Afghan Refugees

  • On the surface, it almost looks normal on this part of the Pakistani-Afghan border.
  • But a closer look shows how much things have changed.
  • The tricolour flag of the Republic of Afghanistan has been replaced with the white flag of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, and in place of Afghan border security forces now stand gun-holding bearded Taliban militants.
  • They are now in control of Torkham - the busiest crossing with Pakistan.
  • A few days back, hundreds of panicked Afghan civilians gathered here for days, desperate for a way out.
  • Then what seemed inevitable happened: outnumbered Afghan police forces surrendered to the Taliban.
  • Pakistan, worried about a fighting spillover, had shut its side of the border prior to the Taliban's takeover. But after brief closure it was reopened for trade and restricted pedestrian movement.

Aug 20, 2021

IMF Suspends Afghanistan's Access to Funds

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the lender's resources.
  • The move follows the Taliban's takeover of the country last weekend.
  • An IMF spokesperson said it was due to "lack of clarity within the international community" over recognising a government in Afghanistan.
  • Resources of over $370m (£268m) from the IMF had been set to arrive on 23 August.
  • These funds were part of a global IMF response to the economic crisis.
  • Access to the IMF's reserves in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) assets, which can be converted to government-backed money, have also been blocked. SDRs are the IMF's unit of exchange based on sterling, dollars, euros, yen and yuan.

China NPC: Three-child Policy Formally Passed into Law

  • China has formally revised its laws to allow couples to have up to three children, to boost the birth rate.
  • The regulation was one of several passed at a meeting of the country's top lawmakers, the National People's Congress (NPC).
  • That decision has now been formally passed into law, along with several resolutions aimed at boosting the birth rate and "reducing the burden" of raising a child, said Xinhua news agency.
  • These include cancelling the "social maintenance fee" - a financial penalty couples pay for having children beyond the limit, encouraging local governments to offer parental leave, increasing women's employment rights; and improving childcare infrastructure.

Aug 19, 2021

Taliban Delegation Meets Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

  • Amid efforts to set up a new government in Afghanistan, a delegation of the Taliban led by Anas Haqqani met former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and other officials.
  • Anas Haqqani, who is a senior leader of the Haqqani Network militant group, held negotiations with Hamid Karzai, the old government's main peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of Afghan Senate Fazal Hadi Muslimyar and others.
  • The Haqqani Network is an important faction of the Taliban based on the border with Pakistan.
  • Hamid Karzai had announced the formation of a coordination council along with Gulbudeen Hekmatyar and Abdullah Abdullah to look at affairs and smooth transition of power to the Taliban.
  • Afghanistan is currently without a government after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country leading to the Taliban taking over Kabul.

Nepal's Opposition Party Splits

  • After months of intraparty rift, Nepal's opposition party CPN-UML has formally split as an opposition faction led by Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal registered a new party named CPN-UML Samajbadi. The new party under Madhav Nepal's chairmanship has 95 central committee members out of which 58 are from CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist Leninist) led by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

US Freezes Taliban Access to $9.5 Billion Afghan Monetary Reserves

  • The US has frozen nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to the nation as it tries to keep a Taliban-led government from accessing the money. As per reports, any central bank assets that the Afghan government has in the US will not be available to the Taliban, which remains on the Treasury Department's sanctions designation list.
  • US sanctions on the Taliban mean that they cannot access any funds. The vast majority of DAB's assets are not currently held in Afghanistan. Most of the rest is in other international accounts and at the Bank for International Settlements, a bank for central banks based in Switzerland, and not physically in DAB vaults, leaving about 0.2 per cent or less of the total accessible to the Taliban.
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