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|15 Friday to 22 Friday September 2017|



 








1. CHINA. In an apparent response to Indo-Japanese plans to invest in infrastructure projects in INDIA’s North Eastern States, CHINA warned third parties on 15 September 2017 against meddling in its boundary dispute with INDIA. The joint statement by Prime Ministers of INDIA and JAPAN on 14 September 2017, announced the setting up of the ‘Act East Forum’ and referred to plans to take up infrastructure projects such as road connectivity and electricity in INDIA’s North Eastern States. However, the declaration did not specifically refer to Arunachal Pradesh, large parts of which are claimed by CHINA which considers them as the disputed border in the ‘Eastern Section’. CHINA says that it is closely following the developments in the Indo -Japanese relations. Ties between INDIA and JAPAN have heavily improved and the two Prime Ministers have been cooperating in countering growing Chinese assertiveness across Asia.

SOUTH EAST ASIA

2. MYANMAR. The Pakistan-based leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) terrorist group MAULANA MASOOD AZHAR, Al-Qalam called for immediate response against the action of the Tatmadow (the Myanmarese Army) in the Rakhine State in MYANMAR, on 24 September 2017, in a JEM publication. The JEM leader’s statement is considered the first substantial call to arms by an Islamist group over the Rohingya crisis. This is a crucial development in terrorism in the region although the JEM and its predecessor Lashkar-e-Toiba have largely confined their activities to JAMMU and KASHMIR. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which is responsible for mounting Anti-Government attacks in the Rakhine State on 25 August 2017, has now promised to call off violence and the international observers compare that ARSA’s actions are reminiscent of the early days of LTTE terrorism experienced in SRI LANKA, which did its best to polarize the Tamil community. If the motive of ARSA too is to cynically widen communal feelings beyond the Rakhine State, it may just be succeeding. ARSA could follow the LTTE strategy of talking peace and redouble war efforts after the pause. Both the ISIS and Al Qaeda have begun referring to the Rohingya crisis while the suspects involved in the attempt to blow up the Myanmar Embassy in JAKARTA in 2013, have confessed that they are members of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization which has the objective of creating an Islamic state in MYANMAR’s Arakan region. The Rohingya crisis has become big news in the Muslim world and many politicians in South East and South Asia have seized on the issue to get maximum benefits for their own projects. Meanwhile, the former Foreign Minister of BANGLADESH Dr. IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (now with the Institute of South Asian Studies) says that Rohingya refugee camps in BANGLADESH could turn out to be breeding grounds of extremism in the manner that Afghan refugees who settled in PAKISTAN turned it in to a centre of terrorism.

3. SINGAPORE . SINGAPORE’s Prime Minister LEE HSIEN LOONG met Chinese President XI JINPING on 20 September 2017, in BEIJING and reaffirmed that SINGAPORE has consistently abided by its “One China “ policy and support the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. They discussed new areas of bilateral cooperation that include those in Financial, Judicial, Legal and Defence and agreed that both countries enjoy strategic congruence and share common interests in many areas including the successful collaboration in the three Government-to-Government projects, namely the Suzhov Industrial Park, the TIENJIN eco-city and the Chonqing Connectivity Initiative. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, both countries reaffirmed the three platforms, namely infrastructural connectivity, financial connectivity and third - country collaboration including joint training for officials from Belt and Road countries. SINGAPORE is an ardent supporter of the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from the early stages.

NORTH AMERICA

> 4. USA. Critics expressing their views on President TRUMP’s speech before the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2107, say that it was decidedly not what anyone would have expected from any of his predecessors as President of the United States and heralded a new style of American leadership in the global arena. The aim of TRUMP’s “America First” doctrine seems to turn back on the last half-century’s growth of global rules and global institutions and return to the primacy of the Nation State, which is being questioned by critics whether there is a possibility to roll back to philosophies that dominated the less globalized world of the early 1900s. Meanwhile, a resolution passed by both houses of the US Government and signed into law by President TRUMP rejects, White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and other hate groups and condemned the recent violence in CHARLOTTESVILLE while opposing hatred, bigotry and racism in all forms.

MIDDLE EAST

5. IRAQ. The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has launched a non-binding referendum on whether to declare independence in the Kurdish-controlled parts of Northern Iraq that has been autonomous since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi Kurds are due to vote on 25 September 2017 and the Kurdish President MASOUD BARZANI is coming under intense International pressure to postpone or abort the initiative. Iraqi Prime Minister HAIDER AL-ABADI declared the referendum illegal and made vague threats of Military action which the Kurds are ignoring. Turkish President RECEP ERDOGAN, in his speech to the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2017, demanded the cancellation of the referendum after launching a large Military drill previous day on the Iraqi border. Virtually all countries including the US and IRAN oppose the action with the exception of ISRAEL which sees a possible opening in a hostile region. BARZANI who says that he is exercising the Kurdish right to self-determination for which they have fought for 100 years is accused by his critics of calling the poll to secure his own power as the head of the Kurdishtan Democratic Party (KDP) by exploiting Kurdish patriotism. The Kurdish referendum will be very different from the British vote for Brexit-2016, because it does not force Kurdish leaders to break away from IRAQ. It will only bolster BARZANI and the KDP in Presidential and Parliamentary elections due on 1 November 2017.


|08 Friday to 15 Friday September 2017|



 








SOUTH ASIA

1. PAKISTAN. Several weeks after President TRUMP accused PAKISTAN of hosting safe havens for insurgents who cross the border to attack Afghan and NATO forces, Prime Minister SHAHID KHAQAN ABBASI said on 12 September 2017, that PAKISTAN has not received specific requests from the US to target alleged militant sanctuaries along the border with AFGHANISTAN. Meanwhile, PAKISTAN’s Permanent Representative in GENEVA, FARUKH AMIL brought up the KASHMIR issue taking exception to UN Human Rights Commissioner ZEID AL-HUSSEIN criticizing INDIA and PAKISTAN on 11 September for not allowing fact-finding teams to conflict areas. The Diplomat asserted that reports of atrocities and Human Rights abuses emanated from the Indian state and not from Pakistani-occupied territory and therefore questioned AL-HUSSAIN equating the two countries. SUMIT SETH, a First Secretary in INDIA’s UN Mission in GENEVA, while exercising the right to reply to PAKISTAN’s allegation said on 12 September 2017, that cross-border terrorism from PAKISTAN was at the root cause of the current situation in KASHMIR and that JAMMU and KASHMIR is an integral and inseparable part of INDIA and will always remain so.

SOUTH EAST ASIA

2. MYANMAR. The UNHRC accused MYANMAR of “ethnic cleansing” while refusing access to Human Rights investigators though at the moment it is not clear whether it is really “ethnic cleansing”. According to critics economic pressure is compelling sections of the majority Buddhist community in the Rakhine State to take a hardline on the presence of Rohingya Muslims and the scramble for land among ethnic groups is a causative factor in inter - ethnic strife. Following the mounting humanitarian crisis which displaced an estimated 365,000 and led to the death of around 500, there has been strong condemnatory statements from the UN, US, POPE FRANCIS and a number of Muslim nations across the world. CHINA, on 12 September 2017, on the other hand extended its fullest support to MYANMAR for its efforts in upholding peace and stability in the Rakhine state. This Chinese intervention appears aimed at heading off any attempt to censure MYANMAR at the UN Security Council. The Government of AUNG SAN SUU KYI defended the Military and said the troops were under orders to take full measures to avoid co-lateral damage while doing their legitimate duty to restore stability in the country.

FAR EAST

3. KOREAN PENINSULA. The US-drafted resolution against NORTH KOREA (DPRK) was passed unanimously on 11 September 2017, one month after the UN Security Council decided to impose economic sanctions in response to NORTH KOREA’s launch of an ICBM followed by a Hydrogen Bomb blast, its 6th Nuclear test on 3 September 2017. NORTH KOREA called the resolution, a provocation aimed at depriving the DPRK of its legitimate right for self defense. Meanwhile, a Gallup, Korea Survey conducted on 8 September 2017, showed South Koreans were considerably less concerned about a war in the Korean Peninsula compared to June 2007, nine months after NORTH KOREA conducted its first nuclear test in September 2006. The survey found that most South Koreans (58%) doubt that the DPRK will start a war while in 2007, 51% of respondents expected a war.

MIDDLE EAST

4. PALESTINE. ISMAIL HANIYEH, the head of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas met Egyptian leaders on 8 Saturday 2017, to discuss the mechanisms to ease the siege on GAZA STRIP that includes the opening of RAFAH crossing, security and power supplies. Relations between the Hamas movement and EGYPT have been tense since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood President MOHAMMED MORSI in 2013 and the takeover of the Government by the Military under the current President ABDUL FATTAH AL- SISI. ISRAEL which fought 3 wars with Hamas since 2008 has been maintaining a decade-long blockade on GAZA, and is now closely watching the Hamas-Egyptian relations. ISRAEL along with the US and the EU regards Hamas as a terrorist group and the TRUMP administration said recently that, it does not recognize even the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA) in the WEST BANK headed by Fatah leader and Western-backed President MAHMOUD ABBAS. The PA has now cut off electricity supply to GAZA to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of the enclave which was seized by them in 2007. Hamas leader seems to be trying to break through the sanctions by improving its relations with EGYPT. UN Secretary General ANTONIO GUTERRES visited Gaza in July this year and called the Israel-Egyptian blockade “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he had ever seen. In the meantime the Jewish settler population in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased to around 750,000 people. The population growth in Jewish settlements has not only surpassed population growth in ISRAEL but also that of the Palestinian population.

EUROPE

5. TURKEY. Turkish President RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN dismissed concerns within NATO over his country's decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 Surface-To-Air Missile Defense Systems on 13 September 2017. NATO says that TURKEY, which is a NATO member should invest in systems compatible with theirs. TURKEY, accuses allies of failing to meet its defence needs, adding that his country will continue to take precautions when it comes to all important security. Meanwhile TURKEY which holds the Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has sent its First Lady EMINE ERDOGAN to BANGLADESH to personally interact with Rohingya refugees. It was TURKEY in March 2011, that took the issue to the UN and initiated the formation of the Rohingya Contact Group under the OIC. It is now playing a proactive stance in the Rohingya issue and has made MYANMAR, the 7th largest recipient of TURKEY’s humanitarian assistance after SYRIA, SOMALIA, WEST BANK, GAZA STRIP, IRAQ, JORDAN and PAKISTAN. TURKEY, under President ERDOGAN, ranks second in the world after the US in foreign assistance with $ 6 billion spent in 2016. His pro-poor policies within the framework of Islam have kept him in power since 2002 even though criticized for being authoritarian.

6. RUSSIA. Analysts expressing their views on RUSSIA’s hitherto unprecedented annual strategic Military exercise “Zapad-2017” from 13-20 September, in WESTERN RUSSIA and BELARUS suggest that at least two conditions need to exist for RUSSIA to go on and offensive, following RUSSIA’s Military interventions in GEORGIA, UKRAINE and SYRIA since 2008, which involved some deployments concealed as military exercises. Accordingly, the Russian military-political leadership has to believe there is a credible, acute and serious threat to the country’s vital interests or to President PUTIN’s ruling party’s grip on power, or it has to be sure that they would prevail in a confrontation with the states against which they want to use force, or at least ensure a stalemate. The threats perceived by RUSSIA may include an attack against RUSSIA, an ally or a client, the attempted ouster of a friendly regime, or concern that one of post-Soviet neighbours may join an alliance like NATO which RUSSIA considers as hostile. The area selected for the Zapad-2017, the BALTIC REGION is one of the continent’s most vulnerable points in NORTHERN EUROPE in an actual war situation. Apparently, the Zapad - 2017, is an instrument of political coercion and has broader security ramifications beyond the European continent.


|31 Thursday August to 1 Friday September 2017|



 








SOUTH ASIA

1. INDIA . The third reshuffle-cum-expansion of the MODI cabinet took place on 3 September 2017. One of the significant landmarks in the reshuffle was the allocation of the Defence portfolio to NIRMALA SITHARAMAN who thus became the second female to head the Defence Ministry after former Premier INDIRA GANDHI. It also special as two women have become part of the all-important Cabinet Committee on Security in which the External Affairs Minister SUSHMA SWARAJ is already a member. This is at a time INDIA is striving hard to implement the concept of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR), articulation of INDIA’s vision for the Indian Ocean put forward by Prime Minister MODI in March 2015. Minister SUSHMA SWARAJ addressing the Second Indian Ocean Conference in COLOMBO on 5 September said that security is fundamental to the SAGAR vision and to effectively combat security challenges such as piracy, smuggling, maritime terrorism, illegal fishing, trafficking of humans and narcotics, the threats posed by the emergent non-state actors etc across the Indian ocean. She also highlighted INDIA engaging its neighbors in its “Blue Economy” initiatives while extending “Port Connectivity” as one of the major themes of Prime Minister MODI’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.

MIDDLE EAST

2. PALESTINE. During the visit of UN Secretary-General ANTONIO GUTERRES to the GAZA Strip on 30 August, Hamas leaders called for him to make all possible efforts to lift the GAZA siege. Mr. GUTTERRES said it could be done on the basis of a 2005 pact between ISRAEL and the Palestinian Authority that includes detailed Security arrangements for GAZA’s border crossings. The crisis has been aggravated due to ISRAEL and EGYPT maintaining tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods citing security reasons. Applying pressure on Hamas who have been engaged for years in dispute over power-sharing, Palestinian President MAHMOUD ABBAS slashed funding for Israeli supplied electricity to the GAZA strip, leading to prolonged daily blackouts in the enclave, Hamas seized from the Fatah faction in 2007. Mr. GUTERRES also called for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that collapsed in 2014.

FAR EAST

3. KOREAN PENINSULA. The missile guideline of the US - South Korea Bilateral treaty capping the development of the South Korean Ballistic Missile programme, to maintaining a range of 800 km and payload weight of 500 kg since 2012 is to be revised. This is in response to the standoff over NORTH KOREA’s (DPRK) Missile and Nuclear tests with the launch of Hwason-12 Intermediate - Range Ballistic Missile on 29 August 2017, that flew over JAPAN and landed in the Pacific. The impoverished DPRK and the rich, pro-US South Korea (ROK) are technically at war because the 1950-1953 conflict (The Korean War) ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. During the war, the DPRK was devastated by US bombing and suffered heavily in terms of life and property. The DPRK continues to defend its Nuclear Weapons programme as of utmost necessity to counter perceived US aggression. Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN said after the BRICS summit that, the DPRK would not halt its Missile testing programme until it felt secure from the US threat.

SOUTH AMERICA

4. COLOMBIA. The ceasefire between the Government of COLOMBIA and the last active Guerrilla group in the country, the National Liberation Army (ELN) on 4 September 2017, is a key step toward ending Latin America’s longest civil war. The cessation of hostilities between the ELN and the Armed forces of COLOMBIA follows the separate accord that led to the disarmament of COLOMBIA’s biggest rebel group, the Marxist FARC. This was accomplished 2 days before the scheduled visit by Pope FRANCIS. The two delegations to the peace talks held in QUITO, ECUADOR said the Colombian Government, ELN, the UNO and the Catholic Church would jointly monitor fulfillment of the ceasefire. Analysts warn that talks with the 1,500- strong leftist ELN rebels underway since February 2017, risk being even more complicated than the 4 - year negotiations with the FARC.

BRICS

5. The 9th BRICS summit held in XIAMEN, CHINA from 3 - 5 September 2017, came at a time when the bloc is entering a new stage of intensive development in a South -South cooperation. It gave an opportunity for CHINA to demonstrate its new role in international relations and the global economy, at a time the US policy seems to be in disarray and there is no clear understanding of how the US President’s inward looking economic policy would be coordinated with the economic policies in other countries. BRICS presents a clear-cut strategy of creating a just world order and demonstrates its role as an alternative source of power, derived from the combination of rising global economies, BRAZIL, RUSSIA, INDIA, CHINA and SOUTH AFRICA, can contribute to introducing new rules of international behavior, and cooperation. The BRICS mechanism has already proved its efficiency in becoming a channel for finding solutions in the bilateral and intra-BRICS political arena. It was during a BRICS High Representatives meeting in CHINA before the Summit, that Chinese and Indian officials found compromises to the DOKLAM territorial issue. BRICS is also be united on issues like the Korean conflict and on the fight against terrorism as well as other issues of today. The “BRICS-plus” concept introduced by CHINA, to invite five other nations to attend the Summit is a new innovation that brings other regional powers to the BRICS process on a permanent basis and in the future, a model could emerge helping these countries to cooperate with BRICS on various economic and political issues.


|25 Friday to 31 Thursday August 2017|



 








SOUTH ASIA

1. PAKISTAN. PAKISTAN’s National Security Committee (NSC) on 24 August rejected the specific allegations and insinuations made against PAKISTAN by US President TRUMP on 21 August 2017 at the unveiling of his Afghan strategy and stressed that to “scape goat” PAKISTAN will not help in stabilising AFGHANISTAN. The NSC referred to PAKISTAN’s sacrifice of thousands of troops and civilians and over $120 billion of economic losses sustained in the Afghan conflict after collaborating with the US “War on terror” since 9/11. The NSC further said that, claims of billions of Dollars in aid to PAKISTAN are misleading and that the reimbursements to PAKISTAN since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the US for its operations in AFGHANISTAN. The NSC observed that PAKISTAN had to manage the blowback of a protracted conflict in AFGHANISTAN that resulted in deluge of refugees, flow of drugs and arms and more recently in the shape of terrorist safe havens in Eastern Pakistan from where anti – Pakistani terrorist groups operate and launch attacks inside PAKISTAN. The US wants PAKISTAN to clear tribal areas used by the Taliban- affiliated HAQQANI network considered the most lethal insurgent group fighting in AFGHANISTAN, to delegitimise terrorist groups focused on attacking INDIA and to end “vertical” Nuclear proliferation which increases PAKISTAN’s own delivery systems and warheads. US options for pressuring PAKISTAN include curtailing aid, sanctioning Pakistani officials, stepping up drone attacks inside PAKISTAN, taking away PAKISTAN’s status as a major non-NATO ally or even naming PAKISTAN as a state sponsor of terrorism. Following the NSC deliberations CHINA’s top Diplomat and State Councillor YANG JIE CHI defended PAKISTAN’s role in AFGHANISTAN at a meeting with the US Secretary of State, this week.

SOUTH EAST ASIA

2. SINGAPORE. According to a 2017 study by the Norwegian consultancy firm, Menon Economics, SINGAPORE continues to emerge as the world’s top maritime capital. The report cites expert consensus that SINGAPORE would remain the ‘Most important city’ by 2022 while SHANGHAI would become the second most important maritime hub. The strategic location, the favourable political framework, access to a large pool of talent and an overall conducive environment for doing business are fundamental and key elements to be among the best in the world. Menon Economics, in arriving at its conclusions looked at 24 objective indicators and survey responses from more than 250 industry experts across all continents. The rankings have been compared in 5 categories; the city’s strengths as a shipping centre, offering for maritime finance and law, maritime technology, ports and logistics and its overall attractiveness and competitiveness. These factors are responsible for converting a country into a major maritime and logistics destination by creating the environment required for a maritime economy. SRI LANKA the 23rd largest container port in the world attracts 14 % of mostly Southern Indian cargo, but it is a long way to achieve status of a world – class maritime nation.

3. MYANMAR. The Myanmar Army on 25 August referring to the coordinated attacks launched by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group previously known as HARAKAH AL-YAQIN identified Rohingya derogatorily as ‘Bangali Insurgents’ implying they are intruders from BANGLADESH. The attack mounted against 30 Police posts and an Army base in RAKHINE State has the danger of sparking communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhist ethnic Rakhines. This major escalation in the North Western State appears to have spawned a potent insurgency which has grown in size similar in nature to the rise of the LTTE in the 1980s. AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR’s de-facto leader said that the ARSA attacks were deliberately carried out after an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Chief KOFI ANNAN released its final report with recommendations on steps to be taken to end sectarian strife and violence. Meanwhile, on 29 August BANGLADESH Government proposed Joint Military Patrols with the Myanmar Army facilitating its anti-subversive campaign against ARSA.

MIDDLE EAST

4. QATAR. The social reforms undertaken by QATAR which have been initially sparked by QATAR winning its bid for the 2022 Soccer World Cup, break with policies among the 6 members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - SAUDI ARABIA, the UAE, QATAR, KUWAIT, OMAN and BAHRAIN. These policies have been designed to protect the region’s autocratic rulers than enhance Human Rights. The revived reform momentum though moving at a very slow pace is an indication how the Saudi-UAE led Diplomatic and Economic boycott of QATAR has backfired. QATAR’s refusal to comply with the demands made by the SAUDI alliance is likely to impact long-standing social, economic and political relationships in the Gulf in ways that the Gulf States have not envisioned. Former CIA operative and Middle East expert GRAHAM E. FULLER says that small Gulf States now have increasing reasons to fear SAUDI ARABIA’s growing assertiveness under Crown Prince MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN. The boycott of QATAR constitutes a new display of Saudi aggressiveness and provide an insight into the future geopolitics in the region. Meanwhile, QATAR announced on 22 August that it would restore full diplomatic relations and strengthen bilateral relations in all fields with the Islamic Republic of IRAN despite the demand of the Saudi-axis that QATAR distance itself from the Shia ruled country.

NORTH AMERICA

5. US. Following the CHARLOTTESVILLE violence the UN has issued a warning to the US about racism and hate crimes stressing US leaders have not sufficiently condemned white supremacy. President TRUMP has criticised for his response to the racially motivated violence in CHARLOTTESVILLE in which he blamed “both sides”, (white supremacists and those protesting them) for the clashes that left one woman dead and dozens injured. Secretary of State REX TILLERSON on being questioned on President TRUMP’s Charlottesville remarks on 27 August, responded that “President speaks for himself” and told that US was committed to freedom and equal treatment of people the world over.




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