Weekly Newsletter

The State Duma, lower house of Russian Parliament, on 22nd December, granted expanded immunity to the former Russian presidents. The bill signed by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin grants the former presidents of Russia immunity from prosecution. Once Presidents have left Kremlin, they and their families are immune from the prosecutions of crimes that they have committed in their life. The legislation exempts from police investigation, arrests or being searched. Before this legislation, Russian Presidents were immune to prosecutions for the crime that they committed, but only for the time they served as president. Even if the President now is accused of treason or grave crimes, and the Supreme Court has found him guilty, confirming the charges, the President will be immune from legal penalties and any kind of consequences. The bill that has now become a law, is a part of Russian constitutional amendments which were approved in summer and that allowed Putin to remain in power until 2036, when he will be 86 years old.   This law was followed by the Russian constitutional amendments, which allows Putin to run for elections for another two terms, and allows him to remain in Presidential seat until 2036. He has been ruling Russia as a president since 2000. After this legislation, Presidents after they have left the office are no more prohibited to become Senators for life in Federation Council, the upper house of Russian Parliament. A position of the former Russian President in the Senate also comes with the expanded immunity. Apart from this legislation, the Russian Parliament has also passed a law that has made information about employees of Russian Judicial System, officers working for law enforcement agencies or with regulatory authorities and military personnel classified as confidential. These legislations required a sign from the Russian President, Putin, which is merely a formality. However, to revoke the protections that new law has given the former presidents a supermajority of Russian lawmakers will be required. The immunity given to the presidents has played a significant role in Putin’s rise to power. Putin previously granted immunity to a former president, Boris Yeltsin, from being interrogated, arrested or his house being searched by the police. The analysts in Russia have interpreted this decision of Putin as an incentive, to Yeltsin who stepped down from presidency and chose Putin as his successor. Although Yeltsin denies the rumors of having any deal with Putin in this regard. The previous law that grated presidential immunity was first time adopted by Russian Parliament in 2001. Other than Yeltsin, the only other former President who can enjoy the Presidential immunity is Dmitry Medvedev, who remained in office from 2008 till 2012, after which Putin was allowed to return back as President.

Weekly Newsletter

US in favor of asserting influence in Pacific against China:

The United States of America has been opposing the China’s expansionist behavior and territorial claims in South China Sea for a long time. In order to contain the influence and expansion of China in Pacific, the USA sends warships via strategic waterway almost frequently. These exercises and objecting the claims of China by the USA has upset Chinese authorities. China believes that it has restrained the relationships and also undermining the stability in the region. South China Sea is a part of Pacific Ocean and China claims ninth-tenth of South China Sea. About $3 trillion worth of trade takes place in South China Sea every year. Along with China, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam hold the competing claims.

In August 2020, a US Navy aircraft carrier carried out an exercise in the disputed South China Sea. A strike group, led by the USS Ronald Reagan, conducted flight operations and high-end maritime stability operations and exercises. This drill took place amid the heightened tensions between China and USA. USA has accused China of taking advantage of pandemic to enforce claims over South China Sea and elsewhere. On August 28th, The United States Department of Defense said that China launches tests of four ballistic missiles during military exercise around the Paracel Islands in the disputed territory of South China Sea which is a clear threat to peace and security in the region. The Pentagon claimed that such exercises by China violated her commitment under 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that would complicate the relations and escalate tensions. It is said that over the past few decades China has built up military installations on several disputed reefs and outcrops in the South China Sea to assert its claim over much of the area. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia also have maritime claims to the sea. China claims that USA is grossly interfering in her internal affairs and that China will take firm measures to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.

Recently in December 2020, the USA has warned China that her warships will be more assertive if China violated International Law and expansionist policies in South China Sea. Pentagon has claimed that “several countries, notably Russia and China are contesting the balance of power in key regions and seeking to undermine the existing world order”. Pentagon further added that US Navy will be more present and visible in the Pacific to detect and document any breach of International Law. China responded that US is involved in rousing up the conflict in the region.

After Years of Considering Them a Foe, US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Meet Taliban:

On Tuesday, General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff met Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar and senior leaders of Afghan Taliban on Wednesday in Kabul. General Milley for prolonged time considered Taliban as the formidable foe that would not fade away in dust easily. The Associated Press has reported that Milley met with Taliban officials earlier this year in June, but the meeting was kept a secret. Milley met with senior US officials and the President Ashraf Ghani. The officials discussed the contemporary security environment in Afghanistan in which they emphasized specifically on the immediate reduction of violence. If the violence continues and the attacks increase, it will put the progress of Peace talks and agreements at risk. The Taliban led violence is creating a burden on the Afghan security forces, for which the innocent civilians suffer. Taliban have been deliberately destroying the roads, infrastructure and bridges of the country in order to halt the deployment of Afghan troops. According to the military spokeswoman, Commander Sarah Flaherty the meeting was a part of the military channel established as a part of deal in February between US-Taliban. The deal called for the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan in spring and Taliban to initiate negotiations with the Afghan government. As a part of deal, Taliban are to cut off all ties with Al-Qaeda and not allow the land of Afghanistan to be used as terrorist’s safe haven. But US did not withdrew the troops, as it claims that the withdrawal of forces depends upon the on-ground condition in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Taliban still maintain contact with Al-Qaeda and have been involved in violent attacks that target Afghan security forces and civilians. Flaherty further added, “The Chairman discussed the need for an immediate reduction of violence and accelerate progress towards a negotiated political solution which contributes to regional stability and safeguards U.S. national interests.” The agenda of such meetings is to achieve credibility and trust in Afghanistan and that the US is fully committed to bringing peace and stability in the country. However, Biden’s policy on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan remains unclear and has not publicly declared if he will continue with the February agreements or not. If the US troops withdraw, some of the military equipment will be taken back to America, some will be handed over to Afghan security forces while remaining will be destroyed.

Smoke Box in South Asia:

 Analysts call air pollution as a “Silent Killer” and the SMOG will be increased yearly in plain lands of South Asia. Rice farmers traditionally use combine harvesters to cut their rice in October, leaving behind about four inches of stubble. With less than two weeks before they have to ready their fields to sow wheat, burning is the fastest way to clear the land without any cost and without any effort. In Pakistan, rice is grown on an area of about two million hectares, mainly in the Punjab and Sindh provinces. Most of the fields are cleared by burning every year. Farmers say the new farm equipment can help combat smog, but note that crop burning produces only a small share of the province’s pollution.

These cities are the most populated cities around the globe and the air pollution index is getting higher every year because of factories and massive use of automobiles and lastly at the end of year burning of field make it more badly. Now the Governments are providing Machines to the farmers for shedding the field waste rather than burning it, farmers have been using the rice stubble shredder and Happy Seeder for the past few years technology will facilitate farmers and government in their own ways technology could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 78 percent. Efforts to curb air pollution will benefit South Asia in the future and this will have a positive impact on people’s life and most importantly hospitals will be less burdened. 

South Asia took over China and other countries of the world and become the hub of the most polluted cities in the world. In 2020, twenty-one of the world’s 30 worst polluted cities were in India, the Pakistani city of Lahore and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, also made the top 10, making South Asia a particularly toxic region. Air pollution is a longstanding problem in Pakistan, India & Bangladesh in every October and November, contaminates in the air in Punjab province shoot up as farmers burn rice stalks left behind after harvesting to clear their fields to plant wheat. South Asia failed to meet WHO PM 2.5 targets. PM 2.5 is fine particulate matter that is good to inhale and not harmful to the human body. It is a health emergency the air quality monitors in South Asia routinely show hazardous levels in November and December. An estimated 1.2 million people have died because of India’s dirty air in 2017.

Weekly Newsletter

Morocco and Israel to normalize their relations

Morocco is a country that has a long Jewish history. It has long been expected that Morocco will eventually normalize relations with Israel because before the formation of Israel in 1948, Morocco was home to Jewish people. Several thousand Jewish populations have been settled in Morocco for decades and Jewish trace their legacy back to Morocco. Israel and Morocco
developed diplomatic ties on a very basic level during the 1990s but those relations were halted by
the outbreak of a second uprising of Palestinians in 2000. The diplomatic ties were never ended
entirely because till this day about 50,000 Jews travel to Morocco every year to learn and connect
with their history there.
Recently on Thursday, Morocco and Israel have agreed to fully normalize diplomatic and official
ties with Israel. In a US brokered deal, Morocco is the fourth Arab country to normalize ties with
Israel along with United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain by setting the conflicts aside in past
four months. In order to acquire a firm deal between Morocco and Israel, US will recognize
Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara where Morocco is facing a decade long territorial
conflict with Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a movement to establish an independent country in
a territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged and appreciated the Morocco
for reaching a deal and called it another ray of light and peace. He further announced that there
will be direct flights between Morocco and Israel along with great diplomatic missions.
US has been trying to entice Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel but Saudi Foreign Minister Prince
Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud replied that Riyadh will only consider recognizing Israel if peace deal
will peace deal will “delivers a Palestinian state with dignity and with a workable sovereignty that
Palestinians can accept”.
Palestinians are feeling abandoned by the peace deal made by multiple Arab States and calling it
a betrayal against them. Palestinians believe that the peace deal will affect the status of their long
standing demand of Israel leaving the territory that rightfully belongs to Palestinians before
receiving any recognitions. Bassam as-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s
Executive Committee reacted belligerently and condemned deals made by Arab countries saying
that it is a retreat from Arab Peace Initiative (2002) that Israel must end its unlawful occupation of
Palestinian lands. Moroccan King Mohammed told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a
phone call on Thursday that negotiations between Israel and Palestine is the only way to resolve
the conflict and that he stands by the idea of Two-State solution.

U.S to Impose Sanctions on Turkey for Purchasing Russian S-400

The Trump administration is set to impose sanctions on Turkey for acquiring Russian S-400 missile defense system. The US House of Representatives adopted the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for passing sanctions against Turkey. The bill was passed with a vote of 355 in favor while 70 votes against it. Since 2019, when Turkey received the S-400 Russian air defense system worth
$2.5 billion, Capitol Hill has been pushing Trump to impose mandatory sanctions on her NATO
ally. As an immediate response to this purchase, the US quickly expelled Turkey out of the F-35
fighter jet program. But President Donald Trump who spent much time in office improving
relations with Turkey, stalled the imposition of the penalties. The Pentagon has been warning that
the S-400 could likely jeopardize the F-35, if its radar is used to scan the jet passively. This would
allow the Russian system to easily identify the target and destroy its combat. Through the NDAA,
the US is to impose sanctions against the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Turkish Stream
pipeline. The sanctions would also include blocking US exports to Turkey, banning the officials
from making US transactions, or barring the US banks or other international monetary institutions
from making loans to Turkey. Such a move could be detrimental for the future Turkish economy.
Another response that is being considered by the lawmakers in the US is to further arms sales to
Ukraine. Two experts familiar with the issue said that the Trump administration would impose
sanctions “as mild as possible”. This would placate the Congress without causing damage to the
US extensive US-Turkey military partnership. In response to this pressure on Trump to impose
sanctions, he wrote on Twitter, “I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will veto.” But if the US Senate accepts
the bill, which it is likely to, the President will have no more authority to stall the sanctions any
further. This time the situation is tough for President Trump, who has only a few weeks left in the
office, because if the bill is passed and signed, it gives the President only 30 days to impose the
sanctions. However, if Donald Trump fails to impose penalties against Turkey, the new Presidentelect Biden would be obligated to enforce them as soon as he takes the office. Biden might go
ahead imposing the new sanctions but how harsh or mild they will be, depends on the nature of
the relationship between two countries. Relations with Turkey are a concern for the Biden
administration. This is the case due to the location, economic and military strength of Turkey,
which makes it a valuable ally for the US, especially against Russian threat. The US Congress
perceives close ties between Turkey and Russia as a political issue, which could also be detrimental
to the NATO operations.

Nuclear Escalation between Pakistan and India: Where It Could Lead?

Nuclear tension is increasing between India and Pakistan after the incident of the Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019. The two superpowers of South Asia are steps away from nuclear war, things got worse
when Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down an Indian fighter jet on 26th Feb 2019 in Balakot. Indian defense minister announces that India may revoke its existing commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack known as ‘no first use’, that means India could Strike Nuclear weapon at any point.
Many analysts Expressed their views by saying both the countries became more aggressive
towards each other after 1998 when both became a nuclear power. Mr. Imran Khan mentioned the
risks of nuclear war between two countries on different occasions, on the other hand, Satinder
Kumar Sikka who was the part of Indian Nuclear program in 1998 argues that India should be able
to use nuclear weapons if there is an increased risk that Pakistan would do so first. “If we are
threatened by Pakistan, we have every right to retaliate”.
India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974 and the government committed to no first use in 2003,
China is also in the list of No first use of Nuclear weapons but now Indian stance has been changed
& using the nuclear weapons at first. If India firms up the change in its no first use policy, Pakistan
might take this as a signal that India could strike at Pakistani nuclear installations. And that might
in turn, ready Pakistan to use up all its nuclear weapons first. “And so, you get this destabilizing
dynamic where as soon as the crisis becomes nuclearized, there is a reason for both sides to go
first for their upper hand.
The increasing tension between both the countries will further increase if any incident happens
again within the territory of India, without any investigation India is going to blame Pakistan and
could respond with force. In response to that Pakistan Military will retaliate and hence the conflict
will be promoted in this scenario, one party needs to be calm to avoid such conflict that could lead
to nuclear war. There is a lot of expansion in the nuclear stockpile from both the sides till 2025
both the countries will have 400-500 nuclear weapons. Increasing this much nuclear weapons is
an alarming situation for the region.

Weekly Newsletter

Afghan Peace Talks Progress

The CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker and Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary General Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi welcomed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan on Saturday in Doha. Secretary Pompeo met with Taliban and Afghan government’s negotiators in Qatar along with Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha. Progress in delayed peace talks and withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan were thoroughly discussed. Recently, violence broke out in Kabul when rockets hit densely populated areas killing at least eight people. SITE Intelligence Group, ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan have claimed the responsibility of carrying out the attack. The US Secretary’s visit highlighted the attack and emphasized the negotiators on stimulating and sharing their ideas on increasing the successful outcomes to deal with such issues. It is true that peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government have not progressed much because of different issues i.e. the Taliban are expecting to have a Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence but Afghan government is not agreeing to it because it will sideline the Hazaras who are predominantly Shia and they will become more vulnerable to violence. The delayed and stalled process of talks have surged the violence in Afghanistan. In response to the recent visit of Secretary Pompeo and violence augmentation in Kabul, Taliban started negotiating and talking to Afghan government. The representatives of Taliban and Afghan government announced on December 2nd, 2022 that they have reached a preliminary deal which is their first ever written agreement in a span of 19 years. Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team informed that,

“The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalized and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda.”

The Taliban spokesman also confirmed that a joint working committee has drafted the agreement which includes a way forward for further discussions which will allow the negotiators on both sides to pay attention to more serious issues including ceasefire. As per US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, agreement is three pages long including rules and procedures for the negotiations and inclusive ceasefire. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, also said that the agreement will help both sides to reach some conclusions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraged the negotiators on both sides for their willingness to find common grounds. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry also encouraged the negotiators upon reaching the preliminary deal and said that it is another substantial step ahead. The agreement is an important development which is very essential for Afghanistan at the moment.

Massacre of Farmers in Nigeria

Nigeria has been facing and fighting violence for years. It is reported on Sunday that dozens of farmers and people were gruesomely slashed and massacred in northeastern Nigeria. The killings were carried out in the early afternoon of Saturday in the village of Koshobe and other rural communities in the Jere local government area near Maiduguri, the capital of the conflict-hit Borno state. As per the United Nation the death toll initially was 110.  Security forces and volunteers are still looking for dead bodies and at least 10 women that are still missing. According to Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, armed men entered the area and started killing men and women who were busy harvesting the rice fields. He further explained that people were not only ruthlessly killed but wounded as well. The incident has been called the most violent attack against harmless and unarmed civilians during the entire year. Though nobody has claimed the responsibility for carrying out this act but as per estimated Boko Haram and other minor groups including the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been involved in carrying out heinous crimes and killing in the same vicinity in recent years. Boko Haram has also been involved in stealing farmer’s money and crops. It has also been reported that these groups are involved in killing at least 30,000 people and displacing about two million people, who are seeking refuge in Nige, Chad and Cameroon, during their armed campaign. The UN has urged that culprits behind this massacre must be brought to justice and the President of Nigeria seconded UN, while denouncing the attack, that the security crisis will be tackled. The president condemned the senseless killings of hard working Nigerian farmers by the hands of terrorists in Borno state.

Trump Bans Cotton Imports from Xinjiang

The U.S Customs and Border Protection Agency stated that under “Withhold Release Order,” the government has banned the import of cotton products from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), which is China’s largest producer and a quasi-military organization. The Trump administration scaled up the economic pressure on Chinese region, Xinjiang as it has asserted that the factory has employed people to work forcefully. People who are working in the factory are said to be the detained Uyghur Muslims or from other Muslim minority groups. The reports suggest that the mega firm XPCCC has employed 12% of Xinjiang’s population. XPCC was founded in 1954, as a business and paramilitary unit, to settle the far west region of China. In 2015, XPCC produced 30% of Chinese cotton and the U.S. Treasury Department imposed a ban on all dollar transactions with the company. Kenneth Cuccinelli, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, who also manages the border agency views the label of “Made in China,” as a warning signal. In a news conference, he stated that

“The cheap cotton goods you may be buying for family and friends during this season of giving – if coming from China – may have been made by slave labor in some of the most egregious human rights violations existing today in the modern world,”.

 The government is considering imposing a region wide Xinjiang cotton import ban. According to the reports of the United Nations, nearly 1 million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in these camps, living in inhumane conditions. However, Chinese authorities deny such allegations and have stated that these camps have been created as vocational training centers for fighting growing extremism in the region, which poses a threat to the country’s peace and stability. A ban like this is going to have far reaching implications for the textile companies in China, who are involved in apparel business with the US traders and clothing companies. Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman said that US has been fabricating the news of slavery of people in Xinjiang. The US economic practices against China undermine the market principles and can result in increasing unemployment in the region. The suppliers will sharply increase the manufacturing costs due to the new economic sanctions. There are only a few large enterprises that will be able to guarantee that no product of their company has been manufactured from the XPCC cotton. But for the small business owners, giving guarantees like these to the US importers would be very difficult, which will leave a very negative impact on their product sale.  Banning cotton imports from XPCC means banning all cotton imports from China. The US ban on importing cotton products from China could have implications for the other clothing exporters, specifically those in Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. The garment factories in China and other textile producing countries have been using the XPCC cotton. Since the imposition of the new law, any US firm that is caught doing business with the XPCC could be blacklisted and will be liable to pay a civil financial penalty (the greater of twice the value of the transaction or US$307,922 per transaction). Similarly, if the executives of the company are found to willfully violate the economic ban on XPCC, they will become subject to civil and criminal penalties.   In the last days of his presidency, Trump has been taking steps to establish the United States’ rigid position against China. Such measures are likely to make it difficult for president-elect Joe Biden difficult to ease tensions between America and China. In retaliation, China could impose a ban on import of US cotton and can therefore, intensify the trade war between the countries.

Iran Passes a Law to Boost Uranium Enrichment

The Iranian parliament on Tuesday approved a bill allowing uranium enrichment by at least 20% and a rise in low-level enriched uranium stocks. Iran steps up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal if sanctions are not eased in two months. Uranium will be used for different purposes including the making of Nuclear Weapons. The decision had been made in retaliation for the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist in Tehran last week, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, Iran’s hardline dominated parliament had on Tuesday approved the bill with a strong majority. The draft law called the “Strategic Action Plan for Lifting the Sanctions and Protecting the Interests of the Iranian Nation” was accepted by 251 votes in the 290-member parliament, the Votes show the Iranian interest in the new Law.

Under the new law, Tehran would give two months to the deal’s European parties to ease sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors, imposed after Washington quit the pact between Tehran and six powers in 2018. The law pushed by hardline lawmakers would make it harder for US President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office in January to rejoin the agreement. If the bill passed by the parliament gets the final approval of the Constitutional Council and becomes a law, the Iranian Atomic Energy Authority will begin to enrich uranium by at least 20% and increase their stockpile this could be an alarming situation for US and European countries. Iran is permitted to keep up to 300 kilograms, or about 660 pounds, of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent purity, a level that can be used for civilian purposes like nuclear power fuel. Iran has also stopped UN inspections on its nuclear sites. Iran also includes an additional point to allow Iran to withdraw in two months from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), if the parties to the nuclear agreement do not take steps to normalize Iran’s banking relations, trade and oil exports. This decision will cause more difficulties for Iran and compel the US to get back into the pact.

UK Approves Covid-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use

UK making them the 1st country to begin vaccinating its population from COVID-19. British authorities announce this vaccine for emergency use, it’s a green signal for the world & a first step towards ending the pandemic backed by rigorous science and multiple experiments from months. Multiple countries have invested in vaccine as the second wave of COVID put the countries into new economic burden, American drug maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the United States and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and funeral homes in some places and forcing new rounds of restrictions on citizens and more load on economy of the states.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the U.K. and allow them to work on the vaccination of COVID-19, recommended the vaccine could be used after it reviewed the results of clinical trials that showed the vaccine was 95 per cent effective overall, it also offered significant protection for older people, among those most at risk of dying from the disease. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “The vaccine will begin to be made available across the U.K. from next week. It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.” People over 80, and health-care workers and other care workers will be the first to receive the shot in the UK. The drugmaker Pfizer will deliver its first shipping to the UK with the limited supplies of 80,000 vaccines & in the second half most will be delivered to the US but the final testing must be completed before that. Still this is unclear whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots protect against people spreading the coronavirus without showing symptoms? Another question is how long protection lasts? The vaccine also has been tested in only a small number of children, none younger than 12, and there’s no information on its effects in pregnant women. Lot of work still has to be done.