The World This Week

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The World This Week
GCC-EU Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting, and EUs New Pact on Migration

  GP Team

The World This Week #234, Vol. 5, No.38
15 October 2023

27th GCC-EU Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting
Shamini Velayutham

What happened?
On 10 October, the 27th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-European Union (EU) Joint Council meeting was held in Muscat, Oman. It was attended by the foreign ministers of the GCC and the EU. Oman’s Foreign Minister led the GCC delegation, while the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell ledthe EU delegation. 

The meeting discussed enhancing EU-GCC cooperation in trade, investment, renewable energy, climate change, cybersecurity, and humanitarian aid. They also focused on recent developments in Israel, Gaza, Iran’s role, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine. 

What is the background?
First, a brief note on the GCC-EU Joint Council meeting. The first joint ministerial meeting between the EC and GCC took place in 1985, culminating in the signing of the Cooperation Agreement that went into effect in February 1989. It notably improved the relationship between the EU and GCC, leading to Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. FTA was anticipated to significantly increase interregional trade and investment, resulting in better circumstances for Gulf exporters’ access to the EU and an influx of European investments into the Gulf economies, facilitating the GCC’s initiatives for economic diversification. However, the negotiations stalled in 2008 due to opposition from European petrochemical producers, EU’s carbon taxes, GCC’s customs union efforts, and disagreements over clauses like the ‘human rights clause’ and foreign ownership in GCC companies. 

Second, the focus on economic vertical. By the 1990s, EU-GCC trade became significant. Today, GCC is the EU’s sixth-largest export market. Trade remained resilient during the global financial crisis. EU exports to the GCC, dominated by manufactured goods, chemicals, and electrical products, played a key role. Two factors influence this trade: GCC development projects since 2000, enhancing infrastructure and regional economic activity. GCC also strengthened security ties with the EU after events like the US invasion of Iraq and Iranian developments. The EU is GCC’s second-largest trading partner after China, comprising 12.3 per cent of GCC exports and 7.8 per cent of imports in 2020. The EU is GCC’s top import partner. In 2020, the EU received 6.9 per cent of GCC exports, ranking as the fourth-largest export partner.

Third, major developments during the recent meetings. In the 25th session held in Brussels, the GCC-EU Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting acknowledged the positive impact of the GCC Parliamentary Committee’s visit to the European Parliament. In the 26th session, ministers stressed the importance of GCC-EU collaboration and commended GCC countries for their commitments, including active participation in COP26 and efforts toward net-zero goals and the Circular Carbon Economy strategy. 

What does it mean?
First, Europe’s positive impact on the GCC. From the GCC’s perspective, the EU shares interests in trade agreements and human rights concerns in GCC countries. The EU excels in climate change and green initiatives and can assist Gulf countries in their transitions. GCC expects EU support for societal and economic reforms, especially in human rights and gender equality. The EU’s influence and peace-building role can enhance security cooperation and mediation in the region. Collaborating in international development and humanitarian efforts showcases the Gulf countries’ role as global donors through multilateral organizations. 

Second, a way forward. The EU is a global leader addressing challenges such as climate change and digitalization. Closer EU-GCC partnership is key, benefiting both regions and addressing global issues like climate action, the green economy, COVID-19 recovery, and more. The GCC’s role in energy security and the green transition, as a major fossil fuel producer, is crucial for global stability.

EUs New Pact on Migration: Four Takeaways
Padmashree Anandhan 

On 09 October, the Eurostat projected a fall in EUs population from 453 in 2026 to 420 million by the end of 2030 and predicted the working population to reduce to 50 per cent from 59 per cent. According to Eurostat the inflow of migrants will be 98 million by 2100 with many from Africa, and Asia. The report comes after the reform agreement was signed on 04 October by the EU to deal with the migrant influx in crisis situations.

On 04 October, Spain’s EU Presidency announced the signing of an agreement to reform EU Migration and Asylum Policy. In a statement released by the Government of Spain: “EU Ambassadors have reached an agreement on the regulation addressing situations of crisis and force majeure in the field of migration and asylum.” The agreement is seen as a break to the EU’s deadlock to reform the migration policy since 2016. In the voting process, Hungary and Poland voted against whereas Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained from voting.

On 06 October, in response, Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki called it: “draconian penalties.” The response comes as the reform was passed under the norms of “qualified majority,” where member states against the reform cannot exercise their veto.

Following are the four takeaways.
1. Tighter background checks

The first key technical part of the reform is “The Screening and European Dactyloscopy (Eurodac) regulations.” Under this a “pre-entry procedure” will be placed to examine the asylum seeker profile. This will include identity, facial image, health, security, and vulnerability check not lasting more than five days. Next is the Eurodac, which will verify with the present database of previous asylum requests. This helps the authorities to study the background and prevent the movement of refugees into the EU and also accelerate the return procedure for those who are denied entry.

2. Clarity and common procedures
Till now, the EU member states, which had adopted “unilateral and uncoordinated” measures to handle the influx of asylum seekers, challenged the EU’s “collective decision making.” The first is the Asylum Procedures Regulation (APR) which includes border and asylum procedures. Therefore, for any migrant coming from Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, or Pakistan who might pose risk or has submitted fraudulent information will be denied entry. The fourth element of the legislation is the management where one EU member states face sudden influx. In such a scenario, the latest reform mandates other EU member states to help in relocation (30,000 per year), contribution (EUR 20,000) and aid in operational support in terms of human resource, facility, and equipment.

3. A faster mechanism to handle crisis situation
The “Crisis Regulation” provides rules applicable for the EU’s asylum system when endangered with a mass number of migrant influx. This can be useful in the repeat of scenarios of 2015 migrant crisis, COVID-19, and the war in Ukraine. In such cases, authorities will now be allowed to enforce stricter measures by extending the “border procedure and detention period from 12 to 20 weeks.” This has gained criticisms from NGOs saying it might lead to massive confinement, and degradation in refugee requests, but from the EU level this is viewed as a faster and collective measure to leeway the pressure faced by EU member states.

4. Divide in the EU over efficient implementation of measures
A strong divide existed among Germany, Italy, Poland and Hungary due to immense pressure from an unexpected inflow of migrants across the region.  When the talks began at the EU level on reforming the migration policy, a debate sparked between Italy and Germany over rescue service vessels. According to Italy it was a source factor for migrants to enter Europe, whereas Germany argued it as life saving boats. This resulted in the inability to agree on a common measure or provisional deal under the “Crisis Regulation.” For Poland and Hungary, the policy casted doubt over fair coordination of management of migrant inflow, as the vote was done on “qualified majority” basis. Therefore, some critical aspects of managing migrant influx between EU member states which are in the front of receiving remain to be settled.

TWTW Regional Roundups
News from around the World 

Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri, Anu Maria Joseph, Arun S, Dhriti Mukherjeee, Femy Francis, Nuha Aamina, Padmashree Anandhan, Rishika Yadav, Shamini Velayutham, Vetriselvi Baskaran, and Yogeshwari S.

China This Week
China: Belt and Road Forum to celebrate tenth anniversary
On 11 October, Strait Times reported that China will be hosting the third Belt and Road Forum during 17-18 October in Beijing. It marks the tenth anniversary of the initiative championed by President Xi Jinping. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the event. Representatives from developing countries, particularly Latin America and Africa, are also expected. Putin has refrained from international travel since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant against him probing the war crimes committed.

China: USD 58.8 billion loss due to natural calamities, says the Ministry of Emergency Management
On 08 October, the Ministry of Emergency Management reported that China incurred a USD 58.8 billion loss in facing natural calamities like landslides, hailstorms and typhoons. It is estimated that 499 people died or went missing within the first nine months of 2023 due to natural disasters. Additionally, the calamities affected 89 million people, and 2.75 million had to migrate or evacuate their homes. They found that the North and North-East regions were the most affected and the report blamed Climate Change for the calamities. 

China: Australian journalist Cheng Lei, released after three years
On 10 October, Australian journalist Cheng Lei, detained in China since August 2020 on national security-related accusations, has been freed and reunited with her family in Australia. She was initially jailed for three years for sharing Chinese state secrets overseas. Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia, welcomed her return, though details of her release conditions were not disclosed. Cheng’s release followed the completion of judicial processes in China. She was deported after serving her sentence. Her case lacked transparency and judicial fairness, and her trial was held secretly. Dr Yang Hengjun, Another Australian detained on national security charges, remains detained.

China: US sailor pleads guilty in espionage case involving the Chinese Intelligence
On 10 October, a US Navy sailor, Petty Officer Wenheng “Thomas” Zhao, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and receiving a bribe after admitting to providing Chinese intelligence officers with unclassified private US military information, including details on military exercises, operational orders, and blueprints. The arrests are part of the US government’s efforts to combat espionage and cyber-attacks, which China has denied.

Taiwan: Differences with China over trade barriers 
On 09 October, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced its plans to extend its investigation against “Taiwanese trade barriers” against China. The Taiwanese Office of Trade Negotiations accused China’s investigation as politically aiming to interfere with the coming Taiwanese Presidential elections. The office stated that the extension is till 12 January 2024, one day before the Presidential elections in Taiwan will be held, hinting at their motivation to sway the polls to their benefit. Taiwan accuses China of violating the norms of the WTO and that any bilateral trade issue should be addressed in consultation with both sides.

Taiwan: US waiver to the Semiconductor Manufacturing Company
On 13 October, Taiwanese Minister for Economic Affairs Mei-Hua Wang announced that the US had extended the waiver, allowing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to supply US-made chip making equipment to their factories in China. Recently, South Korea also got approval to send their equipment to China. Taiwan’s Economic Affairs Minister Wang Mei Hua said: “My understanding is that TSMC has recently received a waiver extension from the United States. Its operations in mainland China are normal.” He said that it is trusting that TSMC, an international company, will protect their business secrets and follow regulations.

Taiwan: President advocates “Peaceful Coexistence” with China 
On 10 October, President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan reiterated her commitment to “peaceful coexistence” with China, emphasizing unrestricted interactions between both nations’ people. Amid escalating military and political pressure from Beijing, Tsai, in her National Day speech, stressed the importance of safeguarding Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty. She expressed the desire for peaceful relations with China, acknowledging the need to maintain the status quo for peace across the Taiwan Strait. China has rejected talks, viewing Tsai as a separatist. Taiwan will hold national elections in January, with Tsai’s deputy Lai Ching-te currently leading the polls. Despite Tsai’s conciliatory tone, China’s foreign ministry accused her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of being the “biggest threat to peace” due to their refusal to accept Taiwan belonging to China. Most Taiwanese people, as per a July poll, support maintaining the island’s status quo, with only a small percentage advocating for unification or independence.
East and Southeast Asia This Week
Japan: IAEA on the radioactive substance level near a nuclear power plant
On 11 October, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that a team of experts from countries like Canada, China and South Korea would visit Japan to collect samples of seawater, deposits and fish from the nearby areas of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. The expert teams will stay in Japan during 16-23 October to determine the radioactive substance level from the samples. 

North Korea: 1,000 containers of military equipment to Russia
On 13 October, the US revealed that North Korea supplied more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia in recent weeks. The information was shared by National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby. The White House has voiced concerns over this, labelling the growing cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow as a threat to regional stability. Observers suspect an arms deal may have been brokered during the 13 September summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

North Korea: Threatens “most powerful and rapid first strike” against US
On 13 October, Korean Central News Agency said that the country issued a threat to launch the “most powerful and rapid first strike.” The strike will be against US strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula. This threat comes in response to the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan’s recent visit to the port of Busan, South Korea. Moreover, two-day trilateral naval drills were held involving the US, South Korea, and Japan, from 09 October to 10 October. North Korea denounced these deployments as “undisguised” provocations. It claimed the right to use preemptive nuclear arms if it perceives a nuclear attack imminent. Pyongyang has recently enshrined its commitment to strengthen its nuclear arsenal in its constitution.

North Korea: Surge in rail traffic along the North Korea-Russia border
On 08 October, the US think tank Beyond Parallel observed an increase in rail traffic along the North Korea-Russia border. These rails were speculated to supply ammunition to Russia to refill its depleted munition stores. This issue has come to the forefront following a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin and their visit to the military sites. Foreign Officials suspect that the agreement has been signed in exchange for sophisticated Russian weapons technologies to munitions. The United States and South Korea have warned both nations of the consequences of the speculated weapon transfer deal which violates United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban all weapon trade involving North Korea.

South Korea: Talks on suspending Inter-Korean military agreement
On 10 October, Defence Minister of South Korea Shin Wonsik made comments that he is considering suspending the 2018 Inter-Korean military agreement. This agreement is responsible for maintaining buffer zones along land and sea boundaries and no-fly zones above the border. According to Shin Wonsik, this agreement prevents South Korea from utilizing its air surveillance when North Korean nuclear threats are growing, which could be a potential threat to their national security. This statement comes in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militant groups, as South Korea worries that similar incidents could unfold to them anytime. However, the Liberal opposition in South Korea criticized the statement and described the agreement to keep them away from North Korea as a safety valve.

South Korea: Ruling party’s defeat in by-election 
On 12 October, the ruling People Power Party faced a significant defeat in a by-election as Kim Tae-woo lost by a larger margin than anticipated. The outcome is seen as a barometer of public sentiment leading up to the 2024 general election. The ruling party acknowledged the voter sentiment but said the results have implications across the country. The Democratic Party leader, Lee Jae-myung, attributed the victory to the people’s voice and a wake-up call for the ruling party. Kim Tae-woo’s controversial candidacy and the defeat have prompted the ruling party to develop new strategies for Seoul, a key swing city in the upcoming general election.

New Zealand: Christopher Luxon secures election victory
On 14 October, former businessman Christopher Luxon emerged victorious in New Zealand's election. It marked a change from the previous liberal government led by Jacinda Ardern. Luxon's government is yet to take shape, with ballots still being counted. Outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins conceded after Luxon's win. Luxon's campaign slogan, "back on track," emphasized change and transformation. The election may have a significant impact on the country's future policies and direction. Luxon said: "We are going to restore law and order, and we are going to restore personal responsibility."

Timor-Leste: Prime Minister addresses Archipelagic and Island States forum
On 10 October, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão participated in the First High-Level Meeting of the 2023 Archipelagic and Island States Forum (AIS Forum) in Bali, Indonesia. The AIS Forum, is a global initiative involving 51 island and archipelagic countries. It aims to address marine resource utilization, climate resilience, ocean pollution, emergency management, and sustainable fisheries. Gusmão highlighted Timor-Leste’s vulnerability to climate change and marine environment degradation and the significance of finalizing maritime borders. He introduced Timor-Leste’s efforts to promote the Blue Economy and plans to establish a Marine Research and Education Centre on Ataúro Island. Gusmão appreciated Indonesia’s leadership in facilitating collaboration among island and archipelagic states.

Laos: Japanese Foreign Minister visits to discuss bilateral cooperation
On 11 October, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and her delegation embarked on a working visit. During an official bilateral meeting in Vientiane, the two sides discussed past cooperation and plans for future collaboration. The ministers explored various areas of bilateral cooperation, including the economy, trade, investment, development, culture, education, and regional and international issues. The ongoing strengthening of the relationship between the two countries was noted, with a focus on preparing for Laos’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2024. It also marked the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Philippines: China deports 36 nationals linked to illegal POGO
On 14 October, the Chinese Embassy in Manila announced that 36 Chinese nationals connected to an illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) have been deported. The move comes following ongoing law enforcement cooperation between China and the Philippines. The deportation is part of a crackdown on illegal POGOs after a raid on Rivendell Global Gaming Corporation in Pasay City. The Embassy affirmed its support for the cooperation between the two countries in safeguarding social, economic, and people-to-people exchanges. An initial group of POGO employees had been deported to China earlier in September.

Vietnam: Exchange with Singaporean navy
On 12 October, the naval forces of Vietnam and Singapore conducted a friendship exchange aboard Sailing Ship 286-Lê Quý Đôn. It coincided with the vessel’s visit to Singapore. The event included officers, sailors, and trainees from Ship Lê Quý Đôn, leaders from Singapore’s Maritime Training and Doctrine Command, officers. It also included sailors from the Singaporean navy, and representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore. The exchange aimed to enhance the solidarity, mutual understanding, and trust between the two navies. Both countries expressed their commitment to promoting stronger coordination and cooperation. Ship Lê Quý Đôn's visit marks the ninth visit by a Vietnamese navy vessel to Singapore.

Vietnam: Collaboration on wind farm construction with Russia
On 14 October, Russia and Vietnam made agreements for the construction of wind farms in Vietnam. The cooperation was discussed between Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov and Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien. It was during the Russian Energy Week in Moscow. The ministers also discussed collaboration on the supply and joint production of oil and gas resources, and cooperation in the coal sector. They further discussed the modernization and construction of new electric power facilities in Vietnam. Protocols were signed to existing intergovernmental agreements aimed at developing geological exploration and the production of oil and gas in Vietnam.

Thailand: To boost economic cooperation with Malaysia
On 11 October, Thailand and Malaysia agreed to enhance their economic cooperation, increase bilateral trade, and develop the Thai-Malaysian border into areas of growth. It was during a meeting between Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. They discussed various areas of mutual interest. Thavisin proposed strengthening cooperation in agricultural and food products, particularly halal food products. He also proposed cooperation in the digital economy, green economy, hi-tech sectors, and foreign direct investments. The leaders also discussed improving border connectivity and promoting trade ties, aiming to create an area of mutual growth in southern Thailand and northern Malaysia.

Myanmar: 29 civilians killed by an artillery strike
On 10 October, in north-east Myanmar, 29 people, including children, at a Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) camp were killed. The National Unity Government (NUG) blames the Junta for carrying out the attack but Major General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson of the Junta denied this claim. Parts of the camp, situated on the outskirts of Laiza, near the Chinese border, were targeted by powerful explosions. Kachin officials have stated that at least 11 children were among those killed and 56 more people were injured. 

Malaysia: To move towards ‘dedollarisation’, in trade with China
On 10 October, the Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim called for trading in local currencies, with its largest trading partners- Indonesia, Thailand and China. This is a strategy to overcome reliance over the dollar and increase currency usage.  He added that the rising costs due to depreciation  of the ringgit against the US dollar is due to external factors such as rising US interest rates. By implementing structural reforms, Malaysia will be able to appeal to potential investors, this shall help bolster the economy.

Malaysia: Goldman Sachs files lawsuit against the government
On 11 October, in a UK court, Goldman Sachs lodged a suit against Malaysia, with regard to its 1 MDB project; the former asserts that the Malaysian government has failed to keep its end of the deal via non-recovery of assets and non-settlement of assets against the guarantee provided by the financial institution. Malaysia has responded with a plea for carrying out negotiations, with respect to the 2020 pact, however it only calls for tougher penalties and the lack of information tied towards how the assets were utilised has frustrated the company. Goldman claims to have to pay an interim of USD 250 million if Malaysia didn’t receive at least US$500 million from assets and proceeds by 8 August 2022. Malaysia’s 1MDB task-force on the other hand, says that it has repeatedly asked for extensions, to arrange for a deadline, where they could jointly resolve any disputes- November 8 is the latest deadline. 

South Asia This Week
Nepal: Ten students killed in the Hamas attack
On 9 October, ten Nepali students were killed and four others were injured as a result of the Hamas terror attack on Israel, according to a statement released by the Nepali Foreign Ministry. The statement also read, “Out of the 17 Nepali nationals working on a farm at Kibbutz Alumim, an area near the Gaza Strip, two safely escaped, four were injured and one is still missing. The Nepali government convened a meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, to examine the losses and set up a "Coordination Mechanism'' to organize the rescue of the Nepali’s who are now living in Israel.

Afghanistan: Four UK Citizens Freed
On 10 October, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) spokesperson announced the release of four British citizens who had been held captive in Taliban-run Afghanistan. The FCDO further revealed that the identities of the four Nationals were unknown and that they had been detained for breaking the law. FCDO apologized to the Taliban and urged UK people to abide by "UK counter terrorism legislation".  According to a UN report, there have been 1,600 incidents of rights violations in the region since the Taliban took control of it. Many nations issued travel alerts to their nationals directing against visiting Afghanistan due to rising security threats.

India: UNGA President's Comments on an attempt by India to get a permanent UNSC seat 
On 10 October, Dennis Francis, president of the UN General Assembly, said that "UNSC membership is a weighty responsibility but the responsibilities were not beyond the capacity of the Government of India and the question of when is to decide is by the UN members".  India has been bidding for permanent membership at the UN Security Council since 1994. But in the tenure of its two year non-permanent membership (2021-2022) for the eighth time, the state has gained world attention. Also, this attempt by India has been backed by five UNSC members, the UK, the US, France, China and Russia.

Maldives: Governor to chair IMF and World Bank in 2024
On 14 October, the Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), Ali Hashim, was named the Chair of the Boards of Governors. It is for both the IMF and the World Bank in 2024. This appointment was unanimously proposed by the Executive Directors of the Asia-Pacific region. It was during the ongoing Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Marrakech, Morocco. It marked the first time that the Maldives will take up a leadership position within the IMF or World Bank. This selection reflects international confidence in the Maldives and its foreign policy principles, and comes at a pivotal time for both institutions.

Nepal: 40th ICAPP Standing Committee meeting and fifth Asia Europe Political Forum
On 12 October, Kathmandu hosted the 40th standing committee meeting of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and the fifth annual meeting of the Asia Europe Political Forum. The meeting will be held till 15 October. More than 50 participants, including ministers, lawmakers, and leaders from 26 political parties are attending. They represent countries like China, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and more, who are attending the conference. The leaders will discuss contemporary issues related to the shared future of Asian and European continents, with Communist Party of Nepal (UML) Chairman KP Sharma Oli addressing the inaugural session on 14 October.

Nepal: Signs Labour agreement for trainee workers with Germany
On 12 October, Nepal News reported that Nepal and Germany inked a bilateral labour agreement. It will allow trainee workers from Nepal to access service facilities similar to German citizens. Under the agreement, aspiring trainees can spend a year in Germany by applying through an online system. Workers may only take up jobs in their field of interest and skill upon completing their training. The agreement does not specify any particular region, and applications will be considered from all regions based on needs.

Pakistan: Aims to boost bilateral trade with Russia
On 12 October, Pakistan’s Commerce Minister, Gohar Ejaz, and Russian Ambassador to Pakistan, Danila V. Ganich, agreed to increase bilateral trade. Both countries are committed to strengthening their cooperation and enhancing the trade volume between them. In recent reports, Pakistan is considering a long-term deal to purchase up to one million tonnes of Russian oil annually. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the total bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia amounted to USD 920 million. Pakistan mainly exports citrus fruit, textiles, and medical apparatus to Russia, while its imports from Russia include wheat and coal. The meeting signifies a step toward further expanding trade ties between the two countries.

India: Close to finalizing trade deal with UK
On 13 October, Hindustan Times reported that India and the UK are reportedly in advanced stages of negotiations for a trade deal. Progress has been being made on issues such as business mobility, Scotch whisky, and automobiles. The two countries are hopeful for a breakthrough within the next two weeks. India’s request to ease business mobility for short-term professional deployments is designed to facilitate services trade and is not related to immigration, according to officials. Other issues being addressed include inter-company movement of workers, rules of origin, and increased access to the Indian market for British dairy products and electric vehicles.

India: Continues talks to ease border standoff with China
On 11 October, according to the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, senior military commanders from India and China concluded their 20th round of talks. It was aimed at resolving the ongoing standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Although no breakthrough was reported, both sides agreed to maintain the dialogue and keep peace in the border areas. The talks, held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point in Ladakh, followed a two-month gap since the last round of negotiations. The ministry’s statement indicated that the commanders discussed a mutually acceptable resolution to remaining issues and committed to keeping peace on the ground. 

Bhutan: India’s railway investment promises boost for connection
On 14 October, according to Bhutan Live, the Indian government’s allocation of INR 120 billion is set to bolster the development of the first-ever Bhutan-India railway link. The allocation is for expanding and modernizing railway infrastructure in the northeastern region. This fully-funded project is expected to create a 57.5-kilometer railway line connecting Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Sarpang, Bhutan. The completion is anticipated in 2026. The project is significant in facilitating trade, tourism, and cultural exchange, strengthening the bilateral relationship between Bhutan and India. It is part of a shared vision formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries in 2005, advancing connectivity and cooperation.

Sri Lanka: To resume high-speed ferry service after four decades with India
On 14 October, India and Sri Lanka relaunched an international, high-speed passenger ferry service. It is between Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Kankesanthurai in Sri Lanka’s northern province. The HSC Cheriyapani, carrying 50 passengers and 12 crew members, embarked on this historic journey after nearly four decades of suspension. The relaunch was marked by the flags-off ceremony with the participation of Union Minister for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal. Tamil Nadu Minister for Public Works, Highways, and Minor Ports, EV Velu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe celebrated the move. They emphasized its importance for bilateral ties.

Bangladesh: US delegation visits Awami League President Sheikh Hasina
On 13 October, a three-member delegation from the US Institute for Peace (USIP) visited the political office of Awami League President Sheikh Hasina in Dhanmondi. They were welcomed by Awami League Presidium Member Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Muhammad Faruk Khan. During the meeting, there was a discussion on various foreign policy issues, the political tension in the subcontinent, and Bangladesh’s relationship with countries like India and China. No specific discussions about the upcoming election took place during the visit. The meeting aimed to understand Bangladesh’s position on international and regional matters.

Sri Lanka: Debt Restructuring deal with China's EXIM Bank
On 11 October, the Sri Lankan government announced that it has finalized the preliminary agreement with EXIM Bank of China, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance. "This agreement will assist the nation in getting IMF second trenches," the Finance Ministry added. Additionally, in an effort to resolve the economic problem, the nation is renegotiating debt agreements with other foreign countries.

Azerbaijan: Presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia meet in Bishkek
On 12 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met in Bishkek. It is the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan. During the meeting, they expressed their delight with the progress of economic and trade ties between the two countries. They highlighted the dramatic increase in trade volume. Concerning interregional cooperation, the parties discussed Azerbaijan’s successful work with 70 regions of Russia. They also emphasized the significance of frequent interregional conferences as a platform for such cooperation. In the course of the conversation, they expressed satisfaction with the growth of the North-South transport corridor’s potential. They also expressed satisfaction with the overall rise in the volume of automotive and railway freight traffic along this path. The Presidents’ discussion included topics such as the value of fostering greater agricultural cooperation.

Uzbekistan: Tashkent hosts the Uzbek-Azerbaijani healthcare forum
On 12 October, the Uzbek-Azerbaijani Health Forum was held in Tashkent. It was part of the “Uzbekistan-Azerbaijan Decade of Health” honoring National Leader Heydar Aliyev’s 100th birthday. It was hosted with assistance from the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the coordination of the health ministries of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. The meeting was attended by officials from the health ministries of both countries, key Uzbek governmental entities, medical schools, the Azerbaijani ambassador to Uzbekistan, scientists, and medical professionals. The primary objectives were to discuss developments in the fields of healthcare and medical science in both countries, as well as the application of new technologies, the digitalization of healthcare. Additionally, the forum focused on the work in the area of public health and the exchange of expertise between medical institutions and specialists in the two countries. 
Middle East and Africa This Week
Saudi Arabia: To pause normalization talks with Israel
On 14 October, Saudi Arabia reportedly halted normalization talks with Israel and the US, It paused diplomatic efforts in light of Hamas’ invasion of Israel. The Saudis are not ending the discussions but have frozen them until violence subsides. The recent phone call by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi suggested a departure from US efforts to isolate Iran. It further highlighted this shift. The Biden administration was invested in these talks and saw an Israel-Saudi agreement as vital for regional acceptance. The escalating conflict, which has killed thousands, may have a lasting impact on Middle East diplomacy.

Liberia: Presidential and parliamentary elections
On 10 October, Liberia conducted its presidential and parliamentary elections. According to the National Election Commission (NEC), nearly 2.4 million people are registered to vote. President George Weah, a former football player, is seeking a second six-year term. He is running against the main opposition leader and former Vice-President, Joseph Boakai. Weah came to power in 2017 after securing 61 per cent of the votes defeating Boakai. The EU, the AU, ECOWAS and the US have deployed observers to oversee the elections. The NEC will begin publishing the results on 17 October.

Burkina Faso: Russia to build nuclear power plant
On 13 October, the Burkina Faso junta signed a deal with Russia to build a nuclear power plant in the country. The development comes after Putin’s talks with Burkinabe military ruler Captain Ibrahim Traore during the Russia-Africa summit held in Moscow in July. Capt Traore stated: "We have a critical need for energy, this is an important point for me because we need, if possible, to build a nuclear power station in Burkina Faso to produce electricity." He added: "Our position is rather strategic because we are in the heart of West Africa and we have an energy deficit in the sub-region." The deal aims to achieve 95 per cent electricity access in urban areas and 30 per cent in rural areas by 2030. The country’s ties with Russia strengthened after the coup in 2022 and the worsened ties with France.

Europe and the Americas This Week
Germany: New migration bill proposed to allow more authority for deportation
On 11 October, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser revealed a migration bill to restructure deportation. The bill would grant more powers to German authorities to carry out the deportation of migrants of a dangerous nature such as criminals, and smugglers. The measures include an extension in the “period of detention” from 10 to 28 days as a preparation time for the authorities to deport. A spokesperson from the Social Democratic Party stated that the discussion on the proposal was underway with the local and state authorities. Next step will be to reach consensus among the coalition parties to make possible adjustments to avoid repatriations. For the same, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the opposition party lead Fridrich Merz from Christian Democratic Union for a meeting on 13 October to gather consensus for the migration policy. 

Germany: CDU and CSU win elections in Bavaria
On 08 October, Deutsche Welle reported on the win of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the elections held in Bavaria and Hesse. According to the report, the win of CSU and CDU showcased the gains of the AfD party (far-right). The CDU led by Boris Rhein won 34.6 per cent followed by Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right with 18.4 per cent and lastly Social Democrats placed in third place with 15.1 per cent. In the case of Greens and SPD which received 14.4 per cent and 8.4 per cent failed to meet the threshold to enter Bavaria’s parliament.

Luxembourg: Christian Social People’s Party wins general elections
On 08 October, in Luxembourg general elections, center-right Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) won the elections with 21 seats out of 60. The outgoing coalition consisting the Greens, the Socialists and liberal Democratic Party led by Xavier Bettel failed to secure a majority. The election result indicates the strong hold of CSV which will initiate the formation of the coalition on 09 October. According to CSV leader Luc Frieden: “…voters voted massively for a different government and a different policy…They put the CSV in a position to play a key role in the formation of that government.” In the case of the right wing Alternative Democratic Reform party (ARD), it made gains with extra seats securing fourth place in the election.

Spain: PLD Space firm succeeds in launching Miura-1 private rocket
On 07 October, Spain’s firm PLD Space launched its first private rocket. This will be Europe’s full private rocket to step its space agenda. The rocket called Miura-1 was launched from a military base in Andalusia. According to Chief Executive of PDL Space, Raul Torres, the systems in the rocket worked “perfectly” after two failed attempts. In recent years, Europe was under scrutiny due to its failure in sending small satellites. Along with Spain, firms from Scotland, Sweden and Germany are in line to join the race in sending small payloads.

Europe: Western Europe assures for Israel; divide over Palestine aid
On 09 October, leaders from France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US assured support for Israel and condemned Hamas’ acts of terrorism. They denounced the attacks by Hamas as an act of terrorism and pledged to defend. They stressed the need for unity and not exploiting these attacks against Israel. On recognition of aspirations of Palestinians, clarified that Hamas does not represent that rather offers terror and violence. The leaders also pledged to be coordinated to take steps towards a peaceful Middle East. On granting aid to Palestinians, concerns emerged in the EU over standing for Israel and to freeze funds to Palestine. The disagreement is expected to prolong the aid.

Slovakia: Smer, Hlas, and SNS form new coalition government
On 11 October, the Hlas party, finishing third in the 30 September election, chose to enter a coalition with the Smer party, which won the election, and the Slovak National Party (SNS). Together, these parties have 79 seats in Slovakia’s parliament. The incoming government faces fiscal and geopolitical challenges but claims prior experience makes them well-prepared. The coalition agreement allocates ministries with Smer taking six, Hlas receiving seven, and SNS three. The new government’s campaign pledges include ending military support for Ukraine and resisting sanctions on Russia, sparking concerns in Brussels.

US: Steve Scalise out of race to become House’s next speaker
On 12 October, following the failure to secure enough votes, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise dropped out of the race to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Post a sudden meeting of Republicans, Scalise announced that there are “schisms that have to get resolved,” stating that the focus should be “on what this country needs.” During his statement, he also shed light on “games being played” within the party. He affirmed that whoever assumed the role would be someone who was not doing it for “their own personal interest.” The next nomination for this position is currently unclear, which means it will take some time for Congress to pass spending bills. It is to avoid a government shutdown in mid-November. Some have shown interest in nominating Jim Jordan, supported by Donald Trump, who faced a surprising loss to Scalise. Another option is to enhance the powers of the House's Acting Speaker, Patrick McHenry.
US: California state legislature passes bill requiring companies to disclose carbon emissions
On 09 October, Californian Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would make it mandatory for companies with more than USD one billion in annual revenue to declare their greenhouse gas emissions. The bill, which was passed by the state legislature, is a step forward in pressuring big corporations to take steps to combat climate change. As a state, California is known for both its cutting-edge climate action and for the number of multi billion dollar companies it houses. While Newsom stated that the bill is a “bold response,” he raised concerns over the “implementation deadlines” and the “overall financial impact of this bill on businesses.” The Chamber of Commerce also echoed similar views, stating that it would be costly for companies to follow.
US: Investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents reaches final stages
On 09 October, the White House stated that President Joe Biden had been interviewed voluntarily over the last two days. It is into his handling of classified documents found in his home and former private office. Special counsel Robert Hur had been appointed in January by the US attorney general, as is the procedure with cases involving allegations against political figures. Biden, who had been surprised at the discovery of the documents which date back to his tenure as vice president under Barack Obama, expected that matter to be inconsequential. The investigation has now reached its final stages, after “cooperation” from the President and White House staff who were all extensively interviewed by Hur’s team.
US: EU warns Zuckerberg and Musk on “terrorist content” related to Hamas 
On 10 October, the EU gave Mark Zuckerberg, Meta's founder, a 24-hour ultimatum to combat "disinformation" related to Hamas attacks on social media platforms. EU's industry chief, Thierry Breton, expects Meta to use "proportionate and effective" measures to prevent the spread of "terrorist content" tied to the EU-proscribed group Hamas. A Meta spokesperson told the BBC that their teams are working to keep content safe, in compliance with their policies and local laws. Breton informed Elon Musk that "terrorist" content with fake and manipulated elements remained on platform X. Musk defended X's open and transparent policy, which he believes aligns with the EU's stance.
US: California governor vetoes bill seeking to end caste-based discrimination
On 08 October, California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would ban caste-based discrimination, protecting those of South Asian descent. Proponents of the Bill were majorly those belonging to the lowest class, the Dalits. They argued that it was necessary to prevent bias from upper-caste people in the housing, education, and technology sectors. The bill, which would have made California the first state to outlaw caste-based discrimination, was described as “unnecessary” by Newsom. He held that since the state “already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, colour” and other factors, civil rights would anyway be protected liberally. In response, the Hindu American Foundation stated that the decision to veto the “divisive bill” effectively prevented a “civil rights and constitutional disaster.”

About the Authors
Padmashree Anandhan, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis and Rishika Yadav, Dhriti Mukherjeee and Shamini Velayutham are Research Associates at NIAS. Vetriselvi Baskaran, Arun S, Yogeshwari S and Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri are postgraduate scholars at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras, Chennai. Nuha Aamina is an undergraduate scholar at the Department of International Relations, Peace and Public Policy, St Joseph's University, Bangalore. 

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