The World This Week

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The World This Week
Macron's Africa visit, Suspension of the START treaty and the return of COVID origin debate

  GP Team

TWTW#204, 05 March 2023, Vol. 5, No. 8

Macron's visit to Africa:  Renewed focus amid global attention to Africa 

What happened?
On 1 March, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Gabon to commence his tour to Africa. Macron and other heads of state and ministers of Central African countries attended the One Forest Summit, a joint initiative of France and Gabon. Gabon's Minister of Forests said the Summit aimed to create “a group of heads of state who will go on the world stage to fight for these issues of forest conservation.”

On 2 March, Macron addressed a French community and said: “The age of Francafrique is well over…Sometimes I get the feeling that mindsets haven’t moved along as much as we have, when I read, hear and see people ascribing intentions to France that it doesn’t have.”

On 3 March, Macron visited Angola and met President Joa Lourenço. The two leaders discussed the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and also inked an agreement on agriculture and agri-food production. On the same day, Macron visited the Republic of Congo and met President Denis Sassou-Nguesso ahead of the last stop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 4 March to mark the last leg of his tour. 

On 27 February, before embarking on his Africa tour, Macron said France’s military bases in Africa would be restructured. He said: “The bases as they exist now are a heritage from the past…These bases will not be closed but re-organised.”

What is the background?
First, the restructuring of France's Africa policy. In February, Burkina Faso terminated an agreement that allowed France to station troops to fight against Islamist insurgency in the country. Previously, in November 2022, France's Operation Barkhane against Islamist insurgents in Mali was terminated. The military governments in both countries blamed France. In November 2022, Macron said France would engage with its African partners to rework the “status, format and missions of the current French military bases in the Sahel and West Africa.” The developments come as France is facing backlash for alleged political interference and maintaining economic control over its former colonies. Lately, France has had strong military engagements in Africa, especially among its former colonies in West and North Africa. However, with the shifting political landscape in Africa, Paris is attempting to move beyond its military engagement. 

Second, balancing Russian influence in Francophone Africa. There is a debate on whether Russia has been expanding its influence in Africa, particularly in former French colonies where Paris continued its stronghold. France and other Western countries hold that Russia, through the private military company Wagner Group, is involved in military operations in Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic. Amid the West’s apprehensions, these countries have held that they have the right to engage with Russia; in February, Mali said it had no obligation to justify its relations with Russia and Burkina Faso’s prime minister said Russia seemed “a reasonable choice.”

Third, placing Macron's visit amid the larger global interest in Africa. Following the end of the Cold War, global attention on Africa waned. However, there is a renewed global attention; Macron’s visit comes less than a month after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Africa in February for the second time since the beginning of 2023. In January, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang continued the 33 years-long practice of visiting Africa at the beginning of every year. Following the US-Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and First Lady Jill Biden visited Africa in January and February, respectively.

What does it mean?
First, Macron’s visit weeks after Burkina Faso’s termination of the agreement signals an urgency in Paris to rework and consolidate its Africa policy. By renewing efforts to engage with countries other than its former colonies, France also is looking beyond its traditional partners in Africa. 

Second, France and the West see Russia as a competent influence in the continent. The series of visits by leaders of the US, Russia, France and China indicate that Africa is a key player in the global power play. Therefore, the continent is set to be a theatre of global politics in the near future. 

Russia-US: New START treaty legally suspended

What happened?
On 28 February, the Russian government signed a Federal Law suspending the Treaty between them and the US on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. The statement read, “The United States has intentionally failed to perform its inspection-related obligations under the Treaty,” as the reason for its suspension of the Treaty. 

On 27 February, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, stated that the Russian decision to freeze the New START treaty was the “right response” to Washington’s anti-Russia policies. The statement came after the Russian announcement on 21 February of suspending its participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 2010, popularly known as the New START. 

Antonov claimed Washington has substantially violated the central provisions of New START, such as “illegitimately” withdrawing submarine-launched ballistic missile systems and heavy bombers from the deal’s counting rules after declaring them incapable of carrying out nuclear missions using “a procedure not agreed upon with Russia.” Moscow claims that it would continue to respect the terms of the Treaty despite the suspension. However, inspections paused in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The US has accused Russia of violating the treaty by not allowing inspections on its territory.

What is the background?
First, a background to the treaty. In the year 2010, former US president Barack Obama’s administration and the Russian government negotiated the New START treaty, which entered into force in 2011. The agreement aimed to cap the US and Russian arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons for ten years with a provision to extend it for another five years. The two sides also agreed to place a robust verification regime to ensure compliance. The New START replaced the 1991 START 1 treaty and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The New START effectively continued the process of verifiability of the START. In February 2021, the US and Russia agreed to extend the treaty by five years until 2026. The treaty limited nuclear warheads, missiles, bombers, and launchers; however, it did not limit the number of non-deployed ICBMS or SLBMs- but were monitored. There is no legal provision for the extension of the treaty after its death.

Second, the fate of other treaties, and START as the last remaining one. Following the 1960s testing boom, the Limited Test Ban Treaty was the first regime introduced to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. The non-proliferation treaty was then introduced to halt the proliferation of nuclear capabilities. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was introduced to limit the deployment of ICBMs. SALT I and SALT II were introduced to restrict the number of nuclear missile silos and submarine-launched missile tubes. SALT II was agreed upon to further limit the nuclear weapons and launch platforms and impose notification requirements and a ban on new testing- this failed to materialise following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1982, the START I was proposed, which sought to cut warhead counts and delivery vehicles; the treaty was signed in 1991. The agreement was seen as a success when both sides, which each had more than ten thousand deployed warheads in 1990, pledged to reduce their arsenals to well below six thousand by 2009. START II was a follow-up of this.

Third, the relevance of arms control in the current geopolitical crisis. NATO has a new approach to regional security, and the Ukraine war has created a sense of imbalance in the region. New variations of bloc-based security dynamics are emerging in the global order. Russia, on multiple occasions throughout the one-year of the war, was seen threatening the use of nuclear weapons. Moscow has also announced its intent to deploy its nuclear arsenal in Europe. The sales of missiles, launchers, and other critical technology have increased in recent months, and SLBMs have been used by Ukraine to defend themselves. A series of remarks from Russian political figures about the prospect of Russia using nuclear weapons have been made in the magazine Voennaya Mysl (Military Thought). The discourse in US media has also encouraged the Pentagon to "defeat" up to 70 per cent of Russia's strategic nuclear forces "using a conventional instant global strike.” The suspension of the treaty would remove all forms of verification mechanisms of stocks and capabilities of the two nuclear-capable countries.

What does it mean?
First, the need for arms control in the face of aggressive strategies. Treaties like New START have successfully kept communication channels open, and worked on transparency and confidence building (TCBM) among countries. The cap on the deployment of strategic warheads has kept relative peace among the major nuclear powers that account for 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear warheads.

Second, closer to 'point of no-return'. Both the US and Russia have indicated the potential of a rapid increase in the nuclear stockpile. Putin in his statement of suspending the treaty, Putin also threatened to resume nuclear testing if the US does the same, claiming that Washington is considering renewed nuclear testing.

Third, arms control mechanisms beyond the US and Russia. The New START negotiations have tried to get China on board the treaty. China has rejected this. It would be useful to bring a system to encourage such TCBMs among many other nuclear-capable countries.

China: Low confidence in lab-leak theory reignites debate on source of COVID-19 

What happened?
On 28 February, the FBI Director Christopher Wray backed the US Energy Department’s statement and supported the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic arose from a Chinese laboratory experiment. The report released by the Energy Department claimed that it had “low-confidence” in the lab-leak theory. 

Wray said: “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.” He also accused China of obstructing the truth and said: “I will just make the observation that the Chinese government... has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we're doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing.” 

What is the background?
First, the previous investigations from the US. In 2021, the FBI concluded its primary investigation and claimed that it had moderate confidence in the theory that the pandemic originated by accident at a laboratory in China. The FBI suspects that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting “gain-of-function” research, a study that involves increasing the pathogen’s ability to understand the probability of causing an outbreak. This kind of research was temporarily prohibited in the US until 2018. However, the US suspects that the COVID-19 pandemic broke out through the Wuhan Institute’s lab because of an error or lack of procedure. According to molecular biologist Alina Chan, the Institute had proposed a research project in 2018 which seemed to be a blueprint for viruses like the coronavirus. Nonetheless, only two of the 18 US intelligence agencies believed in the lab-leak theory. Besides, none of the agencies can confidently claim an intentional leak. 

Second, other foreign investigations. Australia was one of the first countries to call for an open investigation into the origin of the coronavirus in April 2020. The World Health Organization conducted a 28-day long investigation in Wuhan in January 2021. On 30 March, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for further studies into the virus's origin as the investigation was unable to find the source. China was, again, accused of being uncooperative in helping the scientists discover the origin and instead causing obstacles in the investigation. In September 2021, the Lancet COVID-19 Commission was disbanded 14 months after its creation due to conflicting interests and political agenda. 

Third, China’s response. The People’s Republic of China has consistently denied the allegations of an error leading to the outbreak. In the words of the Chinese government, the country has been transparent and open in sharing the research on the virus and its vaccinations. However, it is possible that the virus leaked out while the lab was being shifted to a new location in Wuhan, as reported by WHO. Nonetheless, the government did seem apprehensive when allowing the investigation by the UN. 

What does it mean?
China seems vehemently preventing the continuation of any research on the source of the virus. There can be two outcomes of such an investigation; one, where the results find no error on China’s part or second, where the country is accused of creating a pandemic that single-handedly brought down the global economy, development pace and caused political and financial turmoil in many states. 

Such an accusation may not only result in China have to pay a hefty amount in reparations for its error, but will also tint its image as a progressive entity in the international order. The image that it is building for itself as a global power will be obstructed as countries may question the efficiency and capabilities of Chinese commodities and services. Moreover, such an eventuality may hamper China’s funding for research on virology, vaccines and other similar research interests. 

Also in the news...
Regional round-ups

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: NPC spokesperson rejects being Europe’s systemic rival 
On 4 March, the spokesperson for the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress Wang Chao rejected the concept of pitting China against Europe as “systemic rivals.” Wang noted that the notion was promoted by the cold-war mentality and ideological biases. He said: “China-EU relations have grown steadily since last year. Both sides agreed to work for the sound and stable development of China-Europe relations, reject a new Cold War, and block confrontation and economic decoupling.” 

China: FM Qin Gang meets Russian FM for the first time after the release of position paper 
On 2 March, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang met the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in India and reiterated China’s position on the war in Ukraine. The leaders met for the first time since China released the position paper on the Ukraine war. Wing Gang said: “China supports a political solution to the Ukraine crisis and opposes fanning the flames and sabotaging peace talks with double standards, sanctions and pressure.” Lavrov expressed Russia’s appreciation of China’s objective and impartial position and constructive role. 

China: President Xi signs numerous agreements during Lukashenko’s state visit 
On 1 March, President Xi Jinping met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who is on a three-day state visit to China. The meeting is a show of the friendship shared between the countries who upgraded their relationship to an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” in September 2022. The leaders signed a joint statement on developing exemplary relations between the countries in the new era. Other agreements in the field of economy, trade, industry, agriculture, customs, science and technology, health, tourism, sports and interregional cooperation were also signed during the meeting. 

Myanmar: JFM accuses India of collaborating with Junta
On 1 March, Justice for Myanmar group accuses India of collaborating with Mynammar Junta in aiding the atrocities implicated towards their citizens. Yantra India Limited shipped 122 mm barrels to Myanmar Junta in 2022. The company is officially part of public sector companies that are run under the Department of Defence Production at the Indian defence ministry. Since the coup in 2021, the regime used airstrikes, shelling and arson attacks on its civilians trying to kill the resistance movement. India is also accused of providing fuses by a company called Sandeep Metalcraft used in the creation of detonation ammunition. JFM said that the continued weapons supply by India to Junta shows India’s disregard for International Humanitarian Law and norms of conduct.

Myanmar: United Nations accuses Junta of engaging in a war with its people
On 3 March, United Nation criticized Myanmar Junta at war against its own country’s people. Myanmar’s military rule has been accused of seeing civilians as adversaries. Since the collapse of Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, the country has become a “festering catastrophe”. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners which monitors deaths and arrests estimated that 3,071 people had been killed by the junta and 19,936, including elected leaders, have been detained since the coup. According to the UN, nearly 39,00 houses have been burned in military operations and used inhumane tactics called “Four cuts” to paralyze the resistance where: food, recruitment, communication and access to money are blocked.

The Philippines: PCG confirmed the oil spillage; will affect 21 protected areas
On 3 March, the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed oil spillage from MT princess Empress cargo. This came after the diesel spillage from the tanker on 27 February. The direct effects can be observed in the four coastal towns in Oriental Mindoro where the white sand beaches have reported the presence of oil. The spillage area also includes the 21 locally protected marine areas that are in danger, where it could potentially risk seagrass beds, mangroves and dispersion pathways for the fish larva. A public urgency has been expressed in the expedited cleaning of the sea to minimize the damage incurred.

South Asia This Week 
India: Defence Agreement with Italy
On 2 March, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived in India. She met the Indian Prime Minister and discussed bilateral relations including defense cooperation. Both countries signed an MoU on defense cooperation and agreed to conduct joint military exercises. A declaration of intent on migration and mobility has also been signed. Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement: “Prime Minister Meloni’s visit is expected to further strengthen and deepen the long-standing relationship between India and Italy,”

India: G20 Foreign Minister Meeting
On 2 March, India hosted the G20 Foreign Minister Meeting. There were deep divisions among the countries in Russia-Ukraine War. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met for the first time since the war. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted to “focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us”.  Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said: "We tried, but the gap between the countries was too much," The meeting also focused on issues including food security, development cooperation, terrorism, and humanitarian assistance.

India: Olaf Scholz meet Modi to form trade deal
On 25 February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the strengthening of business and defence ties between the two countries regardless of differences of opinions existing on the Ukraine war. Scholz said that both countries should move towards forming a trade deal between European Union and India which long has been held over a disagreement over tariffs. They also discussed the different positions the two countries take on the Ukraine war and openly sort opinions and engaged in the assessment of the war. Sholz said, “There is huge potential for intensified cooperation, in sectors such as renewables, hydrogen, mobility, pharma, digital economy, and many more”.

Pakistan: Standing Committee calls for expediting Iran gas pipeline project
On 2 March, National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs informed the government that the Pakistan-Iran Gas pipeline project needs to complete as the deadline approaches.  The committee raised concern over the ordinary delay of construction and that as per agreement should they fail to complete the project by 2024, they would face USD 18 billion fines from the French court. The committee stressed the need to put all efforts into completing the project and secure waivers from sanctions on the oil trade with Iran.

Pakistan: DHL to ‘scale’ down operations from March
On 27 February, logistics company DHL said that they would cut its operations short in the country starting in March and blamed the government for placing restrictions on outward remittances for foreign companies. In a notice, the company reiterated that they would “suspend” the import operations and limit outbound shipments to a maximum weight of 70kg per shipment from 15 March for all the customers billed in Pakistan and that the last pick-up date is decided on 14 March. This comes as the government has allegedly barred outflows of the US dollar and has left various companies at a stalemate. DHL said that the constraint has deemed their operations “unsustainable” to continue to provide the “full product offerings” in Pakistan and apologised for their decision. According to the International Air Transport Association, Pakistan topped the list with blocked funds and was to pay nearly USD 225 million funds for repatriation, with DHL’s scaling down choking half the commercial industries in the country. 

Pakistan: Ambassador to Afghanistan resigns 
On 1 March, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq resigned from his position; Sadiq said, “After serving close to three years as Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, I have requested the government that the time has come for me to move on and focus on my pursuits.” This resignation comes as trade between the two countries is expected to rise and there has been an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan after the Kabul government's fall.

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Kazakhstan: Closes down the trade office in Russia to not help in escaping of sanctions
On 27 February, Kazakhstan’s government announced the liquidation of its “trade representation office” in Russia. According to the Ministry of Trade claimed that the scheduled tasks had been completed and the move would not affect the bilateral cooperation. The agreement between Kazakhstan and Russia came into force in 1992 and was renewed in 2012, the trade office was key to Kazakhstan exporters to access the Russian market and bring in foreign investors. The decision comes in reaction to the sanctions imposed on Russia, Kazakhstan does not adhere to international sanctions nor does it wish to help Russia circumvent it.

South Africa: The US downplays joint military exercise with Russia and China
On 2 March, the US commander in Africa, General Michael Langley downplayed the recent joint military exercise by South Africa along with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean. He said that the US offered better security partnerships to African countries however, would not force them to pick partners to cooperate militarily with. He described the joint naval exercise as power projection by Russia and China. Additionally, he warned of the growing presence of the Russian Wagner Group in west African countries, saying that they are destabilising entities. 

Uganda: President defends decision to terminate UN’s OHCHR operations
On 2 March, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni defended his government’s decision to terminate the operations of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country. Responding to a journalist who questioned the decision, he said: “This is because we have Ugandan Human Rights Commission which is mandated by the constitution. So having others which are not part of our constitution system is first of all unnecessary, but also diversionary.” He added: “They [OCHR] don't have the powers of enforcement.'' This comes after the Ugandan government announced that it would not renew the mandate of the OHCHR on 3 February.

Nigeria: Ruling party wins the election, Bola Tinubu announced as new President
On 2 March, ruling party All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu, won Nigeria’s presidential elections by securing 37 per cent of votes. After being announced the winner, he said in a televised speech: “I take this opportunity to appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team up together. It is the only nation we have. It is one country and we must build it together.” Meanwhile, Peter Obi, opposition candidate belonging to the Labour party criticised the election results claiming that voters were robbed at the polling station and pledged to legally challenge the results. He said at a news conference: “We won the election and we will prove it to Nigerians.” The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Fakki congratulated Tinubu urging all parties to "uphold peace and the rule of law." Further he added: "Any post-election dispute or grievance (should) be pursued through the judicial system, as provided for by the law." Following the announcement of the results, the US State Department stated: “This competitive election represents a new period for Nigerian politics and democracy.” The UK Prime Minister congratulated the new President Bola Tinubu saying: “I look forward to working together to grow our security and trade ties, opening up opportunities for businesses and creating prosperity in both our countries.”

Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: Defence Minister inspects troops amid fight for key Donbas city
On 4 March, the Russian defence ministry revealed that the Defence Minister inspected one of the command centres coordinating the military operation in Ukraine. He is said to have discussed the work of medical units and broader supply issues and emphasised the need to house troops in secure quarters. Further, the minister handed out medals, thanking soldiers and officers for “fighting admirably.” The visit took place in the context of the Russian forces fighting to seize the key Donbass city of Artyomovsk, called Bakhmut in Ukraine. The city, which had a pre-conflict population of over 70,000, is a logistical hub that could enable further Russian advances.

Ukraine: Varied claims over fight in Bakhmut creates ambiguity 
On 26 February, on the continuing fight between Ukraine and Russia in Bakhmut, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned over the increasing complexity of the situation in the frontline. He said that the forces are constantly defending despite Russia trying to destroy its protection. Since the fight in Bakhmut has been persisting, Zelenskyy urged for “modern aviation” to counter Russia than only combat aircraft.
On 28 February, the Ukraine armed forces Commander reported on the battle situation in Bakhmut to be “extremely tense.” He remarked that despite Russia facing losses, it has been deploying Wagner group to break into the defences held by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy added: “The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions for fortification and defence.” On 01 March, Ukraine armed forces, General Staff updated on the ground situation. According to the report Ukraine’s air force had carried out 16 strikes in Russian controlled areas in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, as it observed Russia shifting into offensive mode. It observed the Russian strikes to be targeted in “Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk directions.” On 01 March, Ukraine’s armed forces eastern command spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi reported on Russian deployment of soldiers in Bakhmut who had previously fought in Syria and Libya. Cherevatyi confirmed the continued “heavy fighting” in Bakhmut and how Ukrainians have been successful in inflicting “enormous losses” for Russia. On 01 March, on the fight in Bakhmut, the Wagner Group Founder Yevgeny Prigozhin reported on fierce fighting by the Ukraine forces to deter Russia from capturing the city. He added that Ukraine was deploying extra reserve units in Bakhmut which has challenged Russia’s move to encircle the city. Prigozhin said: “Tens of thousands of Ukrainian army fighters are putting up furious resistance. The bloodiness of the battles is growing by the day.”

Germany: Foreign and Development minister's proposes inclusion of gender in foreign policy
On 01 March, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and German Development Minister Svenja Schulze proposed to invest in gender equality policies. They released a list of new directives to develop lobbying for prioritizing women in all fields. Schulze stated the benefits of “feminist foreign policy” being a more equal society would mean less suffrage, hunger and poverty as it works towards making the society more equal in all senses.  Germany seeks to invest EUR 12 billion in development projects where they specifically tackle gender equality with that they are looking into the creation of an ‘ambassador of feminist foreign policy’ to further the cause. Greens party spokesperson said: “We will also more systematically allocate our financial resources in the service of feminist foreign policy.” The main plan of the proposal is to allocate eight per cent of the development project funds to gender equality initiatives and that the government would make sure that they can participate in equal footing by being accessible to women. Germany also looks into promoting this initiative worldwide by establishing feminist women mediators in the African Union.

Hungary and Egypt: Viktor Orban and Abdel Fattah met Hungary and Egypt  strengthening bilateral relations  
On 28 February, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with Egypt president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. They discussed their historical and bilateral relations. The Ukraine war led to Hungary to stress on peace and its efforts to reduce tensions. Orban said: "We are also prepared to engage in disputes with the Western world because we want a diplomatic solution, a ceasefire, and peace talks.” They discussed the issue of illegal migration and that there is a need to provide a strong baseline. Hungary and Egypt look forward to strengthening economic ties to invest in agriculture, food, energy and tourism. They also announced inter-company negotiations to purchase Liquefied natural gas from Egypt so that it can be supplied to the Hungarian government from 2026.

Argentina: Ministry announces push to restart talks on Falkland Islands with UK
On 2 March, the Foreign Ministry said Argentina had asked the UK to restart talks over the status of the Falkland Islands. The development comes after Argentina pulled out a 2016 agreement that allowed the two countries to agree to disagree on the Falkland sovereignty earlier in the week. The UK Foreign Secretary responded: "The Falkland Islands are British. Islanders have the right to decide their own future - they have chosen to remain a self-governing UK Overseas Territory." The Falkland Islands is an archipelago in the South Atlantic.

The US: German Chancellor visits White House to discuss the Ukraine War
On 3 March, the US President Joe Biden and the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held a private meeting in the White House and discussed the war in Ukraine. Biden appreciated Germany’s role in countering the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The leaders also discussed the global security and other economic issues that have risen as a result of the war. Biden and Scholz declared that they were in lockstep on maintaining the pressure on Russia in the second year of the war.

The US: Supreme Court expresses scepticism over student loan debt 
On 28 February, the Supreme Court initiated the hearing for partially forgiving the student loans that could cost the government over USD 400 billion. The bench consisted of nine justices who expressed low confidence in the plan and claimed that President Biden overstepped his authority in promising such a programme. On 2 March, the Education Department announced its plan to block some schools from participating in federal financial aid programmes unless the owners pledged to assume personal liability. The statement in the press release said: “The department will require leaders that fail to operate in a financially responsible way to assume personal liability for unpaid federal student loan debts.” 

About the Authors
Rashmi Ramesh and Akriti Sharma are PhD scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Avishka Ashok, Anu Maria Joseph, Apoorva Sudhakar are Research Associates at NIAS. Femy Francis is a Research Intern at NIAS.

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