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Conflict Weekly
Political Crises in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Tunisia; Ceasefire in Yemen; and the Battle for Mariupol

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #118, 6 April 2022, Vol.3, No.01
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office

Today's issue marks the launch of the Third Volume of the Conflict Weekly. We thank you for the support over the last two years and hope you will continue encouraging us. 

Chrishari de Alwis Gunasekare, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Apoorva Sudhakar, Lavanya Ravi, and Sruthi Sadasivam

Sri Lanka: The economic woes spiral into a political crisis
In the news
On 1 April 2021, Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency following protests over the economic crisis. In his  address, he said: "At this crucial juncture the country needs stability to weather the current financial crisis and difficulties."

On 5 April, the government lost its majority in the Parliament, following a series of resignations by the Parliamentarians, from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its alliance partner, the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP). Earlier, the Cabinet ministers also handed over their resignations, and most of the political parties withdrew their support to the ruling party to remain independent within the Parliament.

On 5 April, the President revoked the emergency. During the week, people's protests were being held island-wide, with the citizens demanding the President resign over the severe economic crisis. On the protests, UN Human Rights Chief said: "the drift towards militarisation and the weakening of institutional checks and balances in Sri Lanka have affected the State's ability to effectively tackle the economic crisis."

Issues at large
First, the state of emergency. An extraordinary gazette notification was issued on 1 April, which can only be implemented in a situation of "exceptional threat, danger, or disaster" in order to secure "national security, public order, and undisrupted essential services." The emergency was declared on the heels of discontented citizens gathering outside the President's residence in a Colombo suburb on 31 March, demanding he step down immediately. The protest turned violent when the riot squads and the special task force members used rubber bullets and batons to disperse the angry crowds. Further repression came in the form of an island-wide curfew being implemented on 2 April, with an extraordinary gazette being issued on the same day prohibiting the people from gathering in public spaces. A social media ban was implemented at midnight and lasted for over 15 hours, which was put in place to maintain public order. 

Second, the protests. Non-partisan people's protests have been ongoing for over a month, which intensified last week as the people were forced to endure a 13-hour-long power cut on 31 March. People took to the streets in spite of the curfew and being aware that they could be arrested without a warrant under the emergency regulations. However, an interesting development was that in most cases, the protesting public were not deterred by law enforcement officers. The slogan "Gota Go Home" has been taken up by the masses, as they demand the President to step down and to be held accountable for the current crisis. Some of the protesters surrounded the residencies of several Cabinet Ministers, demanding that they resign as well. 

Third, the political crisis, following resignations. With the growing public dissent, all Ministers of the Cabinet resigned from their posts on 4 April. However, many experts questioned the constitutionality of this move; according to Article 49 of the Constitution, the Cabinet will not stand dissolved as long as the Prime Minister continues to hold office. A Cabinet reshuffle was done on the same day, with former Justice Minister Ali Sabry being appointed as the new Finance Minister. However, he handed over his resignation the next day. Similarly, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka also handed over his resignation saying: "In the context of all Cabinet Ministers resigning, I have today submitted my resignation." In the meantime, the President invited all political parties representing the Parliament to accept new ministerial posts and assist in resolving the crisis, which was rejected.
The Parliament was reconvened on 5 April, as party leaders agreed to hold a two-day Parliamentary debate over the prevailing situation. As of now, over 40 Ministers have declared that they will leave the government and function independently. This includes Ministers from ruling party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC). Meanwhile, Parliamentary opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa during the Parliamentary session proposed to abolish the Executive Presidency immediately stating: "There should not be a voice that is contrary to the voice on the streets. And the voice is that there should be change. What the people want is for this President and the entire government to step down."

Fourth, the continuing economic crisis. In the backdrop of the growing citizen uprisings are the country's deteriorating economic status. The regular load shedding of electricity continues while people are still queuing outside filling stations for scarce fuel supplies. On 4 April the Sri Lankan Stock Exchange halted trading as the share market plunged 5.9 per cent. The resignation of the Finance Minister comes as a blow in such a situation, as talks for an IMF programme are scheduled to take place in the coming days.

In perspective
First, the public protests have no sign of dying out and continue to grow in strength. This is perhaps the first time in recorded history since the Independence that Sri Lankan masses, despite their ethnicity, religious identity, or social class, have united against the ruling government. The movement is primarily led by the youth, and the public sentiment leans towards rejecting all existing political parties and calling for a complete reform of the current political system.

Second, the uncertain future. At this point, the people have completely lost faith in the Rajapaksa regime. As more MPs declare that they will operate independently, the ruling government has lost the Parliamentary majority. Even if the Rajapaksa regime does step down, the path ahead for Sri Lanka is unknown. The people would still have to deal with the mounting public debt while dealing with more shortages. Even if the talks for an IMF programme become successful, the austerity measures imposed will likely increase the burden on the public. However, Sri Lankan people remain hopeful as they protest for change, searching desperately for a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Pakistan: National Assembly dissolved; Imran Khan de-notified as prime minister
In the news
On 3 April, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on Imran Khan's advice under Article 58 of the Constitution. Following this decision, the Cabinet Division issued a notification, de-notifying Imran Khan as the prime minister and the 52-member federal cabinet. In his address to the nation, Imran Khan said, "Prepare for elections. No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be. When the assemblies will be dissolved, the procedure for the next elections and the caretaker government will begin."

On the same day, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri dismissed the no-confidence motion submitted by the joint opposition to removing the prime minister, terming it as "unconstitutional" under Article 5 of the constitution. Previously, the opposition in the National Assembly went ahead with the proceedings of the house despite its dissolution and completed the voting process on the no-trust motion against Imran Khan. The opposition declared the vote successful with 197 votes and the proceedings as "legal and valid."
Following the series of events, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial ruled that all orders and actions initiated by the President and prime minister regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly would be subject to the court's order.

Issues at large
First, the collapse of the PTI collation. Over the recent months, it became evident that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) collation was falling apart. The party’s allies were seen switching sides and losing confidence in the PTI. Initially, the with PTI with 155 Members of National Assembly (MNAs) had the required 172 number if the no-confidence vote was to take place because of its collation allies which comprised of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) (7), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) (5), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) (5), Sindh-based Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) (3), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) (1), two Independents, and Awami Muslim League (1). However, with the numbers changed after at least two of the PTI’s allies, MQM-P and the BAP along with few independent candidates drew back their support and joined the opposition. This fragile coalition coupled with the rise in the number of dissidents within the ruling party’s ranks led to its collapse.

Second, the opposition’s aggressive move against Imran. The opposition had jointly taken efforts to remove the PTI government since 2020 with the launch of the Pakistan Democratic Movement. However, their efforts have aggressively intensified with the filing of the no-confidence motion in March 2022. Both the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and other opposition parties have engaged actively in rallies, inter-party meetings and strategic planning to remove Imran Khan. When it comes to the number, three main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) (84), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) (56), and Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) (15) have the support the support of Balochistan National Party (BNP), Awami National Party and other PTI allies that have switched sides taking leaving them with sufficient numbers to pass the no-confidence motion. The results of which was seen when the opposition carried out the voting despite the house being dissolved. 

Third, parliamentary proceedings and the judiciary. Deputy speaker Suri’s decision has been heavily criticised as unconstitutional pushing the country towards another constitutional crisis. Additionally, the decisions made following the filing of the no-confidence motion are not in compliance with several constitutional norms. Thus, once again parliamentary proceedings end up in the judiciary as the Supreme Court took a suo motu notice of these developments, stating that these matters will be examined by the court before any decision are made. 

Fourth, the Establishment's role. The Establishment has publicly made it clear that it is has nothing to do with the developments in the National Assembly. The Establishment has largely left the PTI government to fight its own political battles by taking a step back.

In perspective
First, another incomplete term. Pakistan has once again kept up its tradition of incomplete political tenures. The current political crisis in Pakistan reveals the difficulties both governments and its prime ministers face in completing their terms.

Second, Imran's exit and the opposition's entry. Imran Khan's decision to dissolve the National Assembly shows that he has accepted his defeat but chose to leave on his terms. Meanwhile, the re-energized opposition's game plan post their no-confidence move remains unclear. However, the opposition's unity would likely take a hit.

Third, the role of judiciary. The proceeding of Parliament has once again ended up in the supreme court, an unprecedented move. However, even if the court manages to resolve the legal or constitutional crisis, the political crisis is unlikely to be resolved soon.

Tunisia: Another political deadlock, as President dissolves the Parliament
In the news
On 30 March, President Kais Saied dissolved the Parliament. Saied said: "Today, at this historic moment, I announce the dissolution of the Assembly of Representatives of the people, to preserve the state and its institutions." Saied added: "We must protect the state from division … We will not allow the abusers to continue their aggression against the state." Earlier, on the same day, parliamentarians met virtually and voted to repeal a presidential decree which had suspended the Parliament in July 200. The meeting was led by the former parliamentary speaker and leader of the opposition party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi. Saied termed the meeting as a coup attempt and maintained that elections will not be held within three months. Instead, he said there would be a new draft constitution for a referendum in July and elections would be held in December.

On 1 April, Ghannouchi said the anti-terrorism police had summoned him for questioning; several other parliamentarians in the virtual meeting were also summoned.

Issues at large
First, Saied's power grab. The dissolution of the Parliament comes eight months after Saied suspended Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and the Parliament in July 2021. Saied invoked Article 80 and assumed executive powers; he replaced cabinet ministers with acting ministers. In September 2021, Saied announced to rule by decree wherein he could appoint a cabinet and draft and implement policies without objections. In December 2021, Saied extended the suspension until December 2022 and said elections would be held on 17 December. The date marks the beginning of the Tunisian Revolution which sparked the Arab Spring in 2011. In February, Saied also issued a decree to abolish the High Judicial Council and establish the Supreme Judiciary Council. With this, Saied gained powers to select, promote, appoint and transfer, and act as a disciplinary chamber to remove judges.

Second, the debate on the constitution. In 2014, Tunisia adopted a new constitution; Saied, however, opines: "This constitution is based on putting locks everywhere and institutions cannot proceed with locks or deals." The current constitution provides for the direct election of the President and a coalition elects the PM. Saied has been calling for a transition to a presidential system, while the opposition prefers a full parliamentary system. The largest opposition party, Ennahda, rejected the idea of rewriting the constitution and said, deviating from the 2014 constitution implies moving away from democracy.

Third, sentiments on the ground. Tunisians have been holding demonstrations against Saied's power grab. Al Jazeera quoted several protesters who said that Saied's has failed to see the ground reality; Tunisia has been undergoing an economic crisis and unemployment, exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. In January, Saied launched an online poll to assess the public's opinion on rewriting the constitution. However, less than six per cent of the voters participated in the poll.

In perspective
First, over the last year have Tunisia has been in a political fix. Under the Kais Saied administration, Tunisia is witnessing one of the most tumultuous periods since the 2011 revolution. People have lost hopes for a better future as they bear the brunt of a political and economic crisis.

Second, the move to suspend and dissolve the Parliament, and interfere in the judicial process has helped Saied solidify his power. Therefore, Saied's decisions have been taking Tunisia further away from the democratic reforms that the revolution had once envisioned.

Yemen: Finally, a ceasefire
In the news
On 1 April, the warring parties of Yemen agreed to an UN-mediated ceasefire on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan. It is the first nationwide ceasefire attempted since 2016. The deal was brokered between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition coming into effect from 2 April. The foreign minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak tweeted: "We immediately announce the release of the first two fuel ships through Hodeidah port." On 1 April, a press release by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen stated: "I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have responded positively to a United Nations proposal for a two-month Truce which comes into effect tomorrow 2 April at 1900hrs. The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders; they also agreed for fuel ships to enter into Hudaydah ports and commercial flights to operate in and out of Sana'a airport to predetermined destinations in the region; they further agreed to meet under my auspices to open roads in Taiz and other governorates in Yemen. The Truce can be renewed beyond the two-month period with the consent of the parties."

On 2 April, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guiterres said: "You must take that momentum in order to make sure that this truce is fully respected and that it is renewed and that a true political process is launched."

Issues at large
First, the history of ceasefires in Yemen. The warring parties in Yemen - the Houthis and the Saudi Arabia led coalition have witnessed multiple ceasefires since the violence began in 2014. The Geneva talks of 2015 and the Kuwait talks of 2016, which resulted in UNSC resolution 2216 failed to stop the violence. The Stockholm Agreement of 2018 also resulted in a failure due to implementation issues- Sanaa airport remained closed despite demand by the Houthis.

Second, the scope and purpose of the ceasefire. The Houthis effectively control the internal resources of Yemen. By establishing a gray market mechanism where they impose additional taxes on the sale of goods and services and selling fuel at their own gas stations, the people particularly in the North relies more on the Houthis than the government. As a result, the Hadi government has fallen short of resources. Saudi Arabia led coalition which funds the Aden government has agreed to the truce despite having a conflict of interest to preserve the survival and strength of the Hadi government. Moreover, it gives time for armies to recuperate and restock. However, the ceasefire does not include the civil war against AQAP and the southern secessionists. The scope of the ceasefire agreement also does not stop all forms of violence in the country.

Third, the underlying economic warfare. The ceasefire agreement only prevents explicit violence and does not address the economic warfare tactics adopted by the two governments. The split of the central banks, the ban of currencies issued by the Aden central bank, and the lack of foreign exchange have depreciated the Yemeni Riyal to an abysmal level. Even though ports are currently open for commercial traffic, the Yemeni population will not be able to afford imports and will continue to rely on international aid for survival. Violence in the form of food riots and water resource warfare is not mitigated and hence expected.

In perspective
First, the question whether the ceasefire will hold. It seems less likely that the terms of the truce will be upheld by all the parties as evidenced by precedents. Second, it remains imperative that the interests of the people should be put first instead of a regional battle. Third, political processes that hold integrity need to be initiated by all the parties involved and this truce should be utilized as a starting point.

Ukraine: Russia's battle for Mariupol
In the news
On 31 March, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin claimed that "the shelling of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol will only end when Ukrainian troops surrender." Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been sent to Mariupol to raise the fighting spirit of the soldiers and to procure them extra weapons. He claimed that "Russian servicemen are going from building to building to free Mariupol from Nazi bandit groups."

On 3 April, Russia's Defense Ministry said, "High-precision sea and air-based missiles destroyed an oil refinery and three storage facilities for fuel and lubricants" at Odessa that were supplying fuel to Ukrainian troops.

Issues at large
First, the Russian strategies in Mariupol. Russia has forcefully deported thousands of Mariupol civilians to Yaroslavl and Taganrog regions. Although, Russia agreed to open humanitarian corridors from 31 March, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has already postponed its evacuation endeavors twice due to unfavourable external conditions. Further, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk accused Russia of blocking bus convoys that were heading to evacuate Mariupol civilians. The region is running out of food and water making daily life strenuous for the civilians. Additionally, Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure have rendered grave human casualties.  

Second, Mariupol's strategic significance for Russia. The town's location is crucial for Russia's geostrategic objectives and its historical ties. It is a port in proximity to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The city is part of Putin's vision of "Novorossiya" consisting regions of Kherson, Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Nikolayev and Odessa. Moreover, the Mariupol control would legitimize Putin's agenda of de-Nazification as the region houses the Azov battalion which has strong roots in Neo-Nazi groups. Additionally, Russia intends to construct a land corridor between the Donbas region and Crimea which would help it acquire control over 80 per cent of the Black sea coastline and hinder Ukraine's maritime trade.

Third, Russia's Black Sea objectives beyond Mariupol. Prior to the war, Russia used to conduct regular military exercises in the Black Sea. The international agreement permits Turkey to block Russian warships to navigate across the black sea in the time of war by shutting off the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits. These straits are strategically significant for Russia as the latter's Black sea fleets are stationed in the Black sea, the Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea which facilitates its Mediterranean Squadron operations and supply operations in Syria.

In perspective
First, Russia's military operations in Mariupol are likely to continue. While Russia has pledged to stop shelling in the wake of the surrender of Ukrainian soldiers, Ukraine has rejected any question regarding surrender. Russia's forced deportation of Mariupol civilians connotes that it is clearing the air to start the construction of the Crimea-Donbas land corridor. Furthermore, the presence of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov in Mariupol to boost personnel morale indicates Russian swiftness in operationalizing its objectives.

Second, although Russia launched missile attacks on Odessa's oil refinery and storage facilities, it is facing serious difficulties in progressing beyond Mykolaiv. The strong resistance from Odessa civilians might further delay Russia from gaining control over the region. However, Russia can easily advance towards Transdniestria, Moldova's separatist-controlled region where Russian troops are stationed from Mykolaiv, and control Odessa, cutting it off from the rest of Ukraine.

Third, Russia's military weakness in specific spheres was brought to limelight through this war. Thereby, Russia might have to work on strengthening its logistics support and communication facilities to succeed in the long run.  

Also from around the World
By Padmashree Anandhan, Sejal Sharma, Satyam Dubey, and Vijay Anand Panigrahi
East and Southeast Asia
China: Tension over a military base in the Solomon Islands   
On 5 April, the tensions between Australia, China and the Solomon Islands rose dramatically over a security treaty draft between China and the Pacific nations. While Canberra considers Beijing's military base in the Solomon Islands as a threat to its national security, China claims that Australia is promoting enmity and the US-led competition in the region. The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, believes that the stakeholders are not respecting its sovereignty. 

China: Asks the UK to stop interfering in Hong Kong   
On 4 April, Beijing condemned the latest report released by the UK criticizing China's Hong Kong policy. China urged the UK to stop interfering in Hong Kong. The UK, in its six-monthly report, criticized the law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong' special administrative region. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said: "Any attack and smear against the national security law cannot hold back the trend of Hong Kong's transition from chaos to stability and prosperity."

China: Promises to back the military junta in Myanmar
On 3 April, China vowed to back Myanmar irrespective of how the situation changes and vowed to provide unequivocal support to the military rule in Naypyidaw that seized power in 2021. China said that it wanted to deepen the exchange and cooperation with Myanmar. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: "No matter how the situation changes, China will support Myanmar in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and in exploring a development path suited to its national conditions."

North Korea: Nuclear strike warning to South Korea
On 5 April, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean head Kim Jong-un warned South Korea of nuclear strikes in retaliation for any pre-emptive attack launched by Seoul on Pyongyang. The furious reaction came after the statement of South Korean Defence Minister, Suh Wook, who spoke on South Korea's ability to strike Pyongyang's missile launch points. North Korea's testing of several missiles has heightened the tensions in the Korean Peninsula. A Senior Official of North Korea, Kim Yo-jong said: "In case South Korea opts for a military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty."

Japan: Proposes to increase its defence budget   
On 5 April, Japan's Defence Ministry decided to request a larger budget for the next fiscal year to strengthen its defence capabilities. It aims to counter the military threats posed by China and North Korea in the Indo-Pacific. Japan said that it will go ahead with its plan to strategize an exclusively defence-oriented policy to acquire enemy base strike capabilities. Defence Minister of Japan, Nubuo Kishi said: "The defence budget is a major indicator that shows the nation's will. We want to ensure a budget that is enough to strengthen our defence capabilities drastically for the fiscal year through March 2024."

Australia: Upgrades missile systems 
On 5 April, Australia announced the rearming of fighter jets and warships to increase its deterrence against potential adversaries Russia and China. Australia has planned to buy long-range strike missiles years ahead of schedule. It is also planning to equip with FA-18F Super Hornet fighter jets, which would improve US-manufactured air-to-surface missiles by 2024, JASSM-ER missiles, and ANZAC Class frigates. Along with this, the Hobart Class destroyers would be equipped with Norwegian-made Kongsberg NSM missiles by 2024. Defence Minister of Australia, Peter Dutton said: "When we look at what's happened in Ukraine, there is the prospect of Russians going into Poland or somewhere else in Europe. That would be a repeat of the 1930s and that's not something that we should allow to happen."

Australia: ADF Bushmaster to be sent to support Ukraine  
On 4 April, Australia is repainting and modifying four ADF Bushmaster vehicles to send them to Europe after a direct public request from the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Defence department took the initiative to provide the Bendigo-built armoured vehicles to the war-torn nation. The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said: "Australia would meet President Zelenskyy's request, by not just sending our prayers … we're going to be sending our armoured vehicles, our bushmasters as well, and we'll be flying them over on our C-17s."

Thailand: Insurgency group agrees to stop violence during Ramadan
On 2 April, the government and the rebel group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) agreed to halt violence during the holy month of Ramadan. The government delegation and the representatives of the BRN held peace talks earlier in Malaysia after a two-year pause owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the old rebellion caught fire again in 2004, more than 7,300 people have died in insurgency-related violence in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and parts of Songkhla, a Muslim area in southern Thailand. The Thai government hailed the talks as significant progress.

Indonesia: Education Minister rejects proposal to make Malay the second official language
On 4 April, Malaysia proposed to make Bahasa Melayu or the Malay language the second official language of ASEAN. Indonesia's Minister of Education rejected the proposal, stating Bahasa Indonesia would be a better option as it is the most used language in Southeast Asia, with usage in over 47 countries. He also took into consideration the attempt by Malaysia to uplift the Malay language at the ASEAN level and called for a review and debate on the matter.

Myanmar: Military leaders face criminal charges of torture filed in Turkey
On 29 March, the Myanmar accountability project (MAP) filed criminal charges of torture against Myanmar's junta leaders. Although the details remain confidential, the case centers on reports that expose the tortures and abuses by the junta in the military interrogation centre in Yangon's Mingaladon Township. MAP calls this complaint a first of its kind to be brought before a national court system outside of Myanmar and describes it as a response to the minimal efforts shown by the UNSC on this subject.  

Myanmar: Ten activists and a protest leader sentenced by prison courts
On 4 April, Yangon's Insein prison court handed three-year sentences to nine student activists and a journalist for expressing their opposition to the military dictatorship in the country. Out of the ten individuals sentenced for sedition under section 505a, five were Yangon's student union members while four were university students. In another instance, Man Zar Myay Mon, an anti-coup and environmental activist from Sagaing's Chaung-U township was sentenced to two years in prison for incitement while four charges are still pending against him.

South Asia
Nepal: PM Deuba expresses a desire to resolve border disputes with India
On 2 April, India and Nepal discussed the boundary issues as Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba urged India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to establish a bilateral mechanism to resolve the dispute. The two Prime Ministers inaugurated the first cross-border rail link between India and Nepal during their meeting in New Delhi. Nepal also signed on to the framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and became its 105th member. It was the first bilateral meeting between the two countries since the Kalapani boundary issue took shape in November 2019.

India: AFSPA to be removed from three north-eastern states
On 31 March, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from several districts across Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur. Amidst rising voices against the misuse of power by the security forces, the government removed the AFSPA from 23 districts entirely and one partially in Assam, along with 15 police station areas in six and seven districts of Manipur and Nagaland respectively. This decision is another step toward the Centre's idea of a 'dispute-free Northeast' taken just two days after the historic border settlement between Assam and Meghalaya. 

Afghanistan: Strict ban announced on the cultivation of opium poppy
On 3 April, the Taliban administration issued a decree banning the cultivation of opium poppy. It warned against harvesting the crop as it would be burnt and the cultivator would be treated according to Sharia law. Transportation, trade, import, and export of heroin, hashish, and alcohol were also declared illegal. The major powers have expressed their concerns over the drug trade in the country, therefore it becomes an important issue for the Taliban to address as it seeks formal international recognition.

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Syria: Mercenaries volunteer to fight in Ukraine for Russia
On 5 April, after Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced the recruitment of fighters from Syria. Many through the Wagner mercenary group have volunteered to fight in the Donbas region. Fighters are to be paid a tariff ranging from $200-$1000 a month. 

Turkey: Transfer of Khashoggi trial to Saudi Arabia
On 1 April, in hopes of mending ties with Riyadh, the Chief Justice of Turkey expressed a positive opinion on Saudi Arabia's request to transfer the Jamal Khashoggi trial. Human rights groups like Amnesty International criticized the move deeming it "spineless." Saudi Arabia cannot be expected to hold a fair trial due to a conflict of interest. The next hearing is expected to happen on 7 April.

Iran: The US sanctions the ballistic missile network
On 31 March, the Biden administration announced the sanctioning of the ballistic missile programme of procurement run by an agent named Mohammed Ali Hosseini. It claimed that the materials procured by the network are used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and defense industries for producing weapons. The sanctions will impact through the freezing of US assets of related companies and bar any Americans from associating further. These sanctions have been levied directly following the recent attack by Iranians near the US Consulate in the Erbil region of Iraq.

Mali: Army reports the killing of combatants in a military operation
On 2 April, Mali's army killed 203 combatants in an operation with the UN peacekeeping mission. The operation took place in the Mora region, where the army sized a large number of weapons and arrested 51. In the statement issued by Mali's military, it reported that after information on social media on the killing of 300 civilians, it said that through the operation 300 terrorists were neutralized. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, "disastrous consequences for the civilian population."

Somalia: The UNSC votes to authorize AMISOM
On 1 April, the UNSC voted uniformly to approve African Union's new transitional mission in Somalia  (AMISOM) to give the legal authority to act against armed groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. AMISOM located in the Horn of Africa has been involved in building peace and security along with the AU Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). The recent years have been chaotic in Somalia due to the al-Shabab group and the rise of ISIL-linked armed groups. The US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills said: "The ATMIS mandate provides the opportunity to adapt and reinvigorate the African-led, international effort against al-Shabab."

Africa: UN urges Europe to ease border access for Libyan Migrants
On 4 April, the UN's refugee agency requested Europe to be "generous and welcoming," to the migrants from other parts of the world. A recent report states that close to 90 people had drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross from Libya to reach Europe. The EU has been under constant criticism for cutting off migrants from the Libyan Coast Guard reaching the shores of Europe. Post crossing the Libyan migrants also face abuses in the detention centres. The UNHCR chief, Filippo Grandi said: "It must now urgently consider how to apply this to other refugees and migrants knocking, in distress, at its doors."

Europe and the Americas
Russia: Ministry of Defence denies killings in Bucha
On 3 April, upon the repeated accusations of killings in the town of Bucha located near Kyiv, the Russian Ministry of Defence has rejected all the condemnations from the West. It countered by saying "the latest provocation and the latest fake by the Kyiv regime," of Ukraine to accuse Russia. The same was also posted on Russia's Telegram channel stating the killings in Bucha as fake. In the post: "The Ukrainian Armed Forces subjected the city to artillery strikes, which also could have led to civilian deaths."

Ukraine: Forbes report on global supply chain disruptions 
On 03 April, Forbes reported the continuing war and its implications on global supply chains. Interos, a supply chain risk management company, stated how nearly 300,000 companies in the US and Europe had suppliers in Russia and Ukraine and now face continuing issues. The report further mentioned how the war had caused the most significant shift in supply chains. Interos founder and CEO Jennifer Bisceglie said: "Continued pressure on global supply chains will exacerbate imbalances between supply and demand, causing increased inflation and potentially stagflation."

The United Kingdom: Ministry of Defence report on Russian troop developments
On 4 April, the UK Ministry of Defence reported on increased shelling in the city of Mariupol, it pointed out that Russia's objective to capture Mariupol was to establish a land corridor from Russia to Crimea. It also added that Ukrainian troops had a strong resistance and still hold a key part of the city in control. Later the UK intelligence said that Russian troops and mercenaries were recouping and consolidating its offensives, military company in Donbas.

Mexico: Ukrainian refugees offered shelter 
On 4 April, a sports centre in North Tijuana was turned into a government shelter for refugees fleeing from Ukraine. Around 400 refugees, including women and children, were transferred to the shelter. This comes ahead of the United States easing restrictions for asylum seekers at the border. Law enforcement officers and resources have been amped up at the Tijuana-California border entry point, as the US promises to rehabilitate up to 100,000 Ukrainians. Approximately 1700 Ukrainians have entered Tijuana in the past few weeks. 

Peru: Curfew imposed after nationwide protests over rising prices of fuel and fertilizers
On 5 April, President Castillo enforced a curfew in Lima and Callao after lorry drivers and farmers blocked roads while protesting over the rising fuel and fertilizer prices. The sharp rise in prices, as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, triggered nationwide protests. Furthermore, the blockade on major routes caused a surge in food prices. 

Ecuador: Violent rampage inside prison kills 20 
On 4 April, El Turi jail saw a lethal riot break out amidst inmates as one of the gangs tried taking over the prison. The clashes killed at least 20 inmates, who were found mutilated and tortured. Members of the security forces were deployed to bring the situation under control. The culprits were identified, however, inmates are yet to be disarmed. The increase in prison violence is seen as a result of incursion by transnational crime cartels into Ecuadorian gangs. Since last year, around 320 inmates have been killed in prison and gang violence. 

Brazil: Flash floods and landslides cause eight casualties 
On 2 April, heavy torrential rains triggered floods and landslides across Rio de Janeiro. The increase in frequency and intensity of these downpours are attributed to the occurrence of La Nina and climate change. At least eight people, including six children between ages two to fifteen were found dead. Additionally, 13 people were reported missing. The latest storm has displaced several people and destroyed homes and civilian facilities. National Disaster Response Secretary Alexandre Lucas and military aircraft were deployed to aid and monitor local rescue efforts in the state.

The US: Pentagon commits second round of military assistance to Ukraine
On 2 April, the Pentagon announced a USD 300 million aid in military supplies as security assistance to Ukraine. The supplies include ten switchblade drones, missiles, machine guns, armoured vehicles and tactical secure communication systems. The aid will be sent under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative which allows the US to procure arms directly from manufacturers instead of using its own stockpiles. The Pentagon reportedly has spent USD 1.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the war started.

The US: President Biden calls for trial for war crimes in Ukraine 
On 4 April, as graphic images of civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha emerged President Joe Biden accused Russian President Putin of war crimes and called for a trial. Mass graves and tied-up bodies shot at close range were discovered in Bucha, which triggered a global outcry. The US seeks to impose further sanctions on Russia and build a case against it at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another avenue as it is not a party to the ICC. Russia has consistently denied being a part of the violence and has called it a staged show by Ukraine to tarnish its image. 

The UN: Secretary-General warns on climate disaster
On 2 April, IPCC released a report on climate disaster, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres criticized the governments and the business leaders for lying and warned that the climate crisis will be catastrophic. 

About the authors
Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Apoorva Sudhakar, and Padmashree Anandhan are Project Associates at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Chrishari de Alwis Gunasekare is a Research Assistant at Sri Lanka Press Institute. Lavanya Ravi and Sruthi Sadhasivam are postgraduate scholars at Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore. Sejal Sharma, Satyam Dubey, and Vijay Anand Panigrahi are postgraduate scholars at Pondicherry University, Pondicherry.

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November 2022 | CWA # 838

Rishma Banerjee

Tracing Europe's droughts