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The World This Week
APEC Summit: US-China “de-risking and diversifying”

  GP Team

The World This Week #239, Vol. 5, No. 43

APEC Summit: US-China “de-risking and diversifying”
Femy Francis 

What happened? 
On 11 November, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was held in San Francisco, US. It hosted world leaders of 21 member states and Silicon Valley chief executives aiming to bolster shared economic interests. The highlight of the event was the second in-person interaction between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Where Biden said: “There are critical global challenges that demand our joint leadership.” Xi also expressed that: “Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed.” The summit was attended by state heads of Japan, Canada and Indonesia amongst others. The 2023 summit theme focused on “creating a resilient and sustainable future for all.” It envisioned an: “Interconnected, innovative, and inclusive” region, additionally to further free and open economic policies to benefit workers and businesses globally. 

The summit successfully fostered collaborations between both countries, leading to the resumption of military communication paused since the visit of US Speaker of House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan. This includes military consultations and telephonic exchanges to prevent misunderstandings, alongside joint efforts to reduce methane emissions, a significant source of carbon. Additionally, Beijing committed to limiting fentanyl-based product exports to the US, addressing the pressing issue of drug overdoses that claimed 75,000 lives in 2023.

What is the background? 
First, background to APEC. The economic forum was established in 1989 aiming to collaborate with growing economies from Asia and the Pacific. According to APEC, it aims to: “create greater prosperity for the people of the region through regional economic integration.” The 21 member states are reckoned to account for 62 per cent of the global GDP in trade. While it is supported by the government the APEC is based on non-binding commitments and voluntary consensus.

Second, from “decoupling to de-risking and diversifying.” Beijing has time and again accused the West of discriminately disengaging and decoupling from it. The West refuted this by stating that they rather want to “de-risk and diversify,” as they unanimously agreed at G7 summit of 2023. The strategy entails that they do not aim to turn inwards by blocking China but are rather prepare itself for economic resilience required by diversifying dependence and hence de-risking. The summit was overshadowed by the highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Xi Jinping. The recently strained relationship between the US and the West with China came to a conjecture of skepticism and threat. The unknown motivation behind the aggressive rise of China has led to the West adopting policies of “de-coupling.” 

Third, diplomatic stance on Taiwan. The APEC summit was also attended by Taiwanese and Hong Kong representatives. The leaders conversed lengthily on the issue of Taiwan, where the US focused on maintaining peace in the strait. While Xi pushed for a final solution stating; while peace is good, at some point they need to move towards a resolution on the status of Taiwan. Xi also refuted the alarming rumors of Chinese plans to use military actions for reunification by 2027.

What does it mean? 
First, the US-China rapprochement overshadowed APEC. There is a temperamental shift in attitude between the two countries. Where recent years focused more on denouncing and isolating China as an aggressor, the US now sought to establish diplomatic ties. The summit while bringing positive change should not be the cause of overt optimism as both countries would remain wary over the finality of these commitments. One can observe that this meeting stands not to foster friendship but to deter aggression and hostility. 

Second, the art of balancing dual conjecture on Taiwan remained where Beijing re-established its claims on Taiwan. The US supported the status quo as it acknowledged the “one China” principle but also supported Taiwan’s right to independence and self-defence. The discussion stood vital for Taiwan as it reassured them of the US’s priorities. For Taipei, this underscores as paramount in garnering recognition and support to deter Beijing. 

Third, a successful de-escalation. The summit ended with moderate optimism as they tried to mend fractured relations. While they agreed on several fronts and restarted military contact, the question remains if the assurances will stand in times of distress. Therefore, the success of the summit cannot be quantified by the assurances made but would be based on its longevity. The culmination of the event showcases the successful de-escalation between the two haughty global powers. 

Regional Round-ups
News from around the World

Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri, Anu Maria, Arun S, Dhriti Mukherjee, Femy Francis, Gopi Keshav N, Namratha S,Navinan GV, Nuha Aamina, Padmashree Anandhan, Rishika Yadav, Rohini Reenum, Shamini Velayudham, Vetriselvi Baskaran and Yogeswari S

China This Week
China: Hosts five Southeast Asian countries for military exercises
On 13 November, China hosted five ASEAN countries for a joint military exercise, called “Aman Youyi-2023, or Peace and Friendship-2023.” It was held in the southern Guangdong province in China. The guest countries included Malaysia, Lao, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The People’s Army of China conducted the initiative focusing on counter-terrorism and maritime security. A Singapore-based think tank ISEAS opined that the drills were based more on propaganda and to showcase regional power. Vietnam Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army Rear Admiral Nguyen Viet Khanh, said that exercises were vital to further military cooperation. He further added that the issues of terrorism, piracy and climate change are transnational and require cooperation.

China: Homegrown fastest internet network of 1.2 terabits
On 15 November, The Strait Times reported that Chinese-based tech giants Huawei and China Mobile have successfully built a 3,000 kilometer internet network as the world’s fastest internet network. The Tsinghua University and Cernet Corporation jointly built the now claimed fastest and most stable internet service, with the terabits estimated to be of 1.2. China has been seeing technological strides as it recently unveiled its 5G smartphone technology with the world’s most sophisticated processor by Huawei.

Taiwan: KMT and TPP fail to decide on a candidate to run for the presidency
On 18 November, The Strait Times reported that the anticipated alliance of two opposition parties Kuomintang (KMT) and the smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) failed due to their inability to decide who would stand for the presidential ticket. Both parties agreed on relying on existing polls to decide coalition candidates. The efforts came to nought as no candidacy has been announced with one week left to register the name for elections. It is believed that an alliance is the only way that the strait can observe a more China-friendly policy and challenge the now-leading Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

China: Joint Sea Guardian-2023 navy exercise culminates
On 18 November, the Sea Guardian-2023 bilateral naval exercise, held in Karachi and the North Arabian Sea, between the Pakistan Navy and the Chinese Navy. It concluded with a closing ceremony at the Pakistan Navy Dockyard. The event, attended by officials from both navies, featured the participation of six units from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy). Operational maneuvers, covering aspects like anti-surface, anti-air, mine warfare, and special operations, were conducted in a simulated multi-threat environment, providing valuable training. Rear Admiral Liang Yang from Qingdao Naval Base also visited Pakistan, discussing matters of bilateral naval collaboration and regional maritime security with senior Pakistan Navy officials. The initiative focused on enhancing the professional skills of both navies and reinforcing their commitment to bilateral cooperation through the regular conduct of such exercises.

China: Xi seeks support from Fiji on core issues
On 17 November, Xi Jinping urged Fiji to continue offering “firm” support on Beijing’s core issues in a meeting with the Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka. The meeting took place at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. Discussions focused on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, including a concessional loan and a port modernization project in Fiji. Fiji expressed support for Xi'’s “vision for global security” and solidarity with China’s global security initiative. Xi assured China’s ongoing support for Fiji’s sovereignty and offered cooperation in various sectors.

China: Joseph Li visits Hong Kong amid Vatican tensions and religious control concerns
On 14 November, amid concerns about Beijing’s increased control over religious affairs in Hong Kong, Bishop of Beijing, Joseph Li, visited Hong Kong. It was the first trip by a mainland Chinese bishop since 1997. Due to tensions between China and the Vatican, observers closely monitor Li’s visit. The Vatican-China 2018 pact, renewed twice, faces challenges. Hong Kong, traditionally a Catholic hub, has 600,000 Catholics, while China has an estimated 10-12 million. The visit aligned with China’s “Sinicization” policy, emphasizing communist party obedience. A retired Chinese cardinal of the Catholic Church, Joseph Zen, who served as bishop of Hong Kong, urged perseverance amid difficulties, emphasizing faith’s importance.

East Asia and the Pacific This Week
South Korea: Strengthens disaster and climate response collaboration with the US
On 17 November, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety confirmed that South Korea and the US, agreed to enhance cooperation in disaster and climate change response. The move took place during safety-related ministerial talks in Washington, D.C. Interior Minister Lee Sang-min and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas met for the first time since the ministry’s 2017 establishment. Lee emphasized deepening collaboration under President Yoon Suk Yeol and Biden’s leadership. Discussions included both countries’ climate change strategies and a focus on identifying new risk factors for concentrated national preparedness efforts. Lee also highlighted Seoul’s national security system reform and nuclear civil defence in response to North Korea, proposing potential bilateral cooperation with the US department.

South Korea urges global unity on North Korea’s threats
On 17 November, Vice Defence Minister Kim Seon-ho urged for an enhanced international collaboration against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The statement was made during the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Jakarta. He emphasized the challenges posed by North Korea’s weapons development, advocating for concerted global efforts towards denuclearization. Kim criticized engaging in arms trade with North Korea as a breach of international law, implicitly referencing Russia. He stressed the significance of upholding a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, bilateral discussions with the Philippines’ Secretary of National Defence, Gilbert Teodoro, focused on fostering defence ties and supporting a peaceful resolution in the South China Sea. However, talks with Laos centred on backing Laos as ASEAN chair in 2024.

South Korea: Enhances defence collaboration with supply arrangement with US
On 17 November, the Defence Acquisition Program Administration said that South Korea and the US have signed a Security of Supply Arrangement (SOSA). The agreement is to prioritize the delivery of defence-related materials and goods between the two countries. The arrangement, a non-binding agreement, enables both countries to request priority delivery of defence-related orders, enhancing the security and resiliency of their supply chains. The move aligned with Seoul’s “peace through strength” defence strategy and Washington’s efforts to secure supply chains amid global conflicts. SOSA further strengthened the longstanding defence relationship between the US and South Korea, promoting collaboration and resiliency in national defence programs.

North Korea: UN committee passes resolution on human rights
On 15 November, the UN’s Third Committee on human rights approved a resolution for the 19th consecutive year concerning North Korean human rights. Emphasizing the international principle of non-refoulement, the resolution urged countries to prevent the forced return of North Korean escapees. It addressed growing concerns over the safety of defectors repatriated from China, emphasizing adherence to the Convention against Torture. The resolution condemned North Korea’s ongoing human rights violations and advocated Security Council action, potentially involving the International Criminal Court. Despite North Korea’s denunciation, South Korea continues its co-sponsorship of the resolution, aligning with efforts to address the North’s human rights issues.

South Korea: Trilateral talks with US and Japan addresses regional challenges
On 14 November, South Korea, the US, and Japan engaged in trilateral talks during the APEC summit in San Francisco to enhance collaboration amid global challenges. The diplomats discussed North Korea’s military ties with Russia, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Emphasizing the importance of like-minded cooperation, Foreign Minister Park Jin highlighted the success of agreements made during the trilateral summit, including regular meetings on various topics. The meeting aimed to address multiple security issues and prepare for the upcoming summit between Biden and Xi Jinping.

South Korea: Seeks Canadian support on North Korean dire human rights
On 13 November, Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho urged Canada’s aid in addressing dire human rights issues in North Korea during talks with Canadian Ambassador Tamara Mawhinney. Kim detailed South Korea’s efforts regarding North Korean defectors’ forced return from China and emphasized the need for Pyongyang’s denuclearization. The meeting followed reports of hundreds of defectors being repatriated from China. China, as a key ally of North Korea, routinely repatriates defectors despite facing harsh consequences at home. Mawhinney pledged Canada’s active role in enhancing North Korea’s human rights but specifics were not disclosed. Both sides highlighted the importance of multilateral cooperation in resolving North Korea’s human rights violations.

Japan: US approves USD 2.35 billion Tomahawk missile sale
On 17 November, the Pentagon confirmed the US State Department’s endorsement of a potential USD 2.35 billion arms deal with Japan. The deal consisted of 400 Tomahawk missiles, tactical systems, software, and technical support. This move came after Biden and Xi Jinping agreed to revive direct communications and counter fentanyl production during their talks. The Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified US Congress of the proposed sale, emphasizing that this approval does not signify finalized negotiations. Raytheon RTX.N is cited as the primary contractor for this missile provision, signaling heightened defence ties between the US and Japan.

Japan: Fumio Kishida and Xi discusses relations in bilateral talks
On 16 November, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Xi Jinping affirmed a commitment to bolster Tokyo-Beijing ties during their first bilateral meeting, in 2023, in San Francisco. Kishida urged Xi to lift China’s import ban on Japanese marine products. Both leaders agreed to resolve the matter through dialogue. They pledged continued communication between their countries and discussed Fukushima’s treated water release. Kishida sought the release of detained Japanese nationals and removal of buoys in Japan’s economic zone. Xi emphasized handling differences appropriately, focusing on common interests, and building a “new era” China-Japan relationship.

Japan: IPEF ministerial meeting advances economic initiatives
On 14 November, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) concluded discussions in San Francisco. It focused on “clean economy” and “fair economy” among four key areas. A fund aiding decarbonization efforts, led by private sector investment, is set to receive contributions from Japan, the US, and Australia totaling around USD 30 million. Efforts to combat corruption and ensure tax transparency were also highlighted. The signed agreement on semiconductor and mineral sharing progressed supply chain discussions, while talks on trade are ongoing after no agreement in this meeting.

Japan: Yoko Kamikawa coordinates humanitarian efforts in Gaza crisis
On 14 November, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa engaged in separate telephone discussions with counterparts from Jordan and Egypt. She affirmed collaboration to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza resulting from the Israel-Hamas conflict. Kamikawa briefed them on the recent Group of Seven meeting in Tokyo, emphasizing the urgent need for action. She stressed the importance of all possible measures, including temporary halts to military operations for humanitarian reasons, to address the crisis in Gaza. The talks aimed to facilitate cooperation and efforts to calm the situation in the region.

Japan: Extends aid to Bangladesh for patrol ships
On 15 November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed its provision of patrol ships valued at around JPY 600 million to Bangladesh. The provision is under the Official Security Assistance (OSA) framework, marking the second such agreement following the recent deal with the Philippines. Strengthening Bangladesh’s Navy in the strategic Bengal Bay is aimed to enhance surveillance and disaster response capabilities, securing Japan’s sea lanes for commercial vessels. This initiative also counters China’s expanding influence in Bangladesh through infrastructure projects and arms sales. Japan’s plan includes aid for Malaysia and Fiji in 2023, with Djibouti and Vietnam chosen as recipients for 2024 under the OSA program.

Japan: Set up of Marine Littorals Regiment in Okinawa
On 15 November, the US Marines established a littoral regiment in Okinawa, which is capable of a flexible and rapid response to strengthen the defence of remote islands in southwestern Japan. The 12th Marine Regiment was redesignated into the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment, located in the southern prefecture of Okinawa. The redesignation of Marine Regiments is part of a greater push to have three Marine Littoral Regiments operating in the Indo-Pacific region by 2030. The US carried out the redesignation following an agreement with Japan to maintain a low military presence in 2022. This move has come in response to China’s increased belligerence at sea.

Australia: Introduces stringent defence technology sharing law
On 13 November, Australia unveiled a law, Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023, tightening controls on sharing defence technology with foreigners. However, it offered exemptions to AUKUS allies, the US, and UK. The legislation mirrored US export controls, crucial for the AUKUS nuclear submarine plan. The law established criminal offences and tightened limits on sharing defence tech outside Australia but allowed free sharing among AUKUS partners. Defence Minister Richard Marles highlighted the pivotal role of this legislation in creating a seamless industrial base with AUKUS allies, aiming to streamline defence industry processes. However, President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Chennupati Jagadish noted that concerns arise over potential impacts on global scientific collaboration, especially with China.

Australia: AUKUS alliance strengthens undersea warfare capabilities
On 13 November, the US Department of Defence, in its press release, reported that the AUKUS alliance has enhanced maritime forces with new unmanned undersea vessels. It advances the warfare capabilities of the members, US, UK and Australia. During a joint exercise in Australia, the new Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Guidance showcased diverse undersea systems, vital for strategic maritime security. The UK’s HMS Tamar played a significant role in mine countermeasure operations. The initiative seeks to counterbalance China’s growing influence by ensuring safety and security in the region.

North Korea: Discusses joint exploration and trade boost with Russia
On 17 November, the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia, Alexander Kozlov, reported the discussions over joint exploration of metals and food trade. The discussions took place with North Korean diplomats. Kozlov highlighted agreements on mineral exploration, offshore projects, and increased food exports to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Talks also involved academic exchanges, cultural visits, and sports collaborations. Bilateral trade is up to USD 28 million but remains below pre-pandemic levels. The Russian delegation visited Pyongyang’s key venues amid growing ties post-Russia’s Ukraine invasion. The talks were aimed to strengthen economic cooperation amid increasing bilateral visits.

Southeast Asia This Week
Indonesia: ASEAN defence ministers discuss global issues
On 15 November, in a two-day meeting, the defence ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia expressed the need for a ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian assistance. Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, said that “concrete progress” towards a “peaceful solution” needs to be determined in Myanmar. The ministers also touched upon matters related to the South China Sea. They reiterated the implementation of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, created by China and ASEAN countries in 2002.

The Philippines: Rejects China’s call for issuing notice
On 16 November, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the country will not notify China about its resupply missions in its “territory in the South China Sea” and the “upkeep” of navy ships. It also said that China has to stop making claims and remove its “illegal structures” built in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the Philippines. Additionally, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, reiterated the US support to the Philippines in Jakarta.

Indonesia: Biden and Joko Widodo meet ahead of APEC
On 13 November, President Joko Widodo and Biden met at the White House ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. The US and Indonesia have agreed to cooperate in defence, that is, cybersecurity, space, nuclear and combined exercises. Both countries have also agreed to set up a work plan for a trade agreement. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that Indonesia will supply minerals to the US for electric vehicles. She also said they have agreed to implement the Just Energy Transition Partnership, which will help Indonesia “clean up its energy sector.”

South Asia This Week
Afghanistan: Haji Nooruddin Azizi meets Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad
On 14 November, Aljazeera reported that Taliban’s acting commerce minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi  met Pakistan’s foreign minister Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad. They discussed trade and the matter of transfer of cash and other assets belonging to thousands of Afghans that Pakistan has forcibly repatriated back to their homeland. Afghan citizens returning back have claimed that there are restrictions on the transfer of cash and property to Afghanistan from Pakistan. The meeting occurred shortly after Pakistan announced the expulsion of over a million undocumented Afghans. This action was a response to the Taliban government’s perceived inaction against armed groups using Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks in Pakistan. In response, the Taliban government has deemed these attacks a domestic matter and urged Pakistan to stop the deportation of refugees.

Pakistan: Reaches USD 700 million preliminary deal with IMF
On 15 November, Pakistan and IMF finalised a preliminary deal after a fortnight of negotiations, unlocking USD 700 million from a USD three billion bailout. Subject to IMF board approval, this agreement marked a disbursement totaling USD 1.9 billion. Initiated in June, the deal’s second tranche followed earlier reforms advised by the IMF, aiming to revive a flagging economy. While acknowledging a slight economic upturn, the IMF urged continued resilience against external risks. Pakistan’s financial woes persist, highlighted by dwindling reserves and high external debts. Analysts credit recent policy measures for positive economic indicators, suggesting adherence to IMF conditions may pave the way for future negotiations.

India: Joint production of aircraft weapons with Russia
On 14 November, according to Reuters, Indian enterprises were in a discussion with Rosoboronexport, a Russian state-controlled arms exporter. The discussions were on the joint production of aircraft weapons for the integration of the existing Indian Air Force. Russia’s RIA state news agency cited Rosoboronexport’s General Director, Alexander Mikheyev. He said: “Rosoboronexport is working with Indian private and public enterprises for the joint production of aviation weapons and integrating them into the existing aviation fleet in Indian Forces.” Further details about which Indian enterprise is organizing to produce, when to produce were not given by Mikheyev. Russia has recently begun collaborative production of AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles with India. According to the SIPRI report in 2023, Russia is the largest arms supplier for India in 2022.

Sri Lanka: Budget aims at economic recovery
On 13 November, President Ranil Wickremesinghe presented the country’s budget for 2024 which sets ambitious targets for the economic recovery of the country. The budget outlined a higher increase in the expenditure. As stated by Wickremesinghe, the three areas where government spending is most concentrated are public sector salaries, pensions and welfare, and interest payments on the government’s debt. Based on the data presented in the budget paper, the largest outlay will be for paying interest and maintaining the country’s debt. Growing rates of poverty in Sri Lanka have been reported in several studies, including those conducted by UN agencies and the World Bank. Wickremesinghe, while pointing out the decline in inflation, stated: “we still could not increase salaries and income to match the high cost of living” and “the increase in prices of fuel and electricity adversely impacted all households.”

India: To host the second Global South summit
On 15 November, Reuters reported that India will host virtually the second voice of the Global South on 17 November. The meeting will be headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The summit will be having ten sessions. The heads of the government will be featured in the inaugural and concluding session. The other eight will be ministerial sessions. This second summit of the global south is mainly to discuss the challenges arising from worldwide circumstances. The summit is also to maintain momentum in the wake of a virtual G20 Summit for a more inclusive global order. This initiative is anticipated to be brought up by 125 countries together for the summit as a common platform for sharing their insights. This initiative will show focus on the key achievements of the G20 meetings.

India: Indo-Pacific regional dialogue 2023
On 15 November, the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, attended the Indo-Pacific regional dialogue at New Delhi. Speaking at the dialogue, she said, given that India’s entire national power is derived from the ocean, the country’s blue economy presents a plethora of opportunities. She further added that the government is committed to supporting the maritime industry to the fullest extent possible. She went on to convey the fact that India is inextricably linked to the ocean and seeks to place India as a hub in vibrant and varied value and supply chains throughout the Indo-Pacific region and, in fact, the entire world. She added, India’s maritime connectivity both in general and trade centred connectivity are significant for the development of India’s economy for the next 25 years and now, India stands out as a bright spot in the economy despite the supply chain disruptions and economic turbulence which mainly stemmed out by the Russia Ukraine war.

Nepal: Unified Socialist Chairperson returns from China
On 15 November, Unified Socialist Chairperson Madhav Kumar left for China a few days before. On 07 November, a delegation of fifteen people, headed by Nepal, departed for China at the invitation of the Communist Party of China to take part in the conference of South Asian parties. Kunming, China, was the location of the gathering of South Asian parties. Along with leader Nepal, the delegation took part in the ‘Sharing the Achievements of the BRI’ program. According to the Unified Socialist, during the visit, Kumar held discussions with high-ranking officials and covered a wide range of topics, including improving ties between the Unified Socialist and the Communist Party of China.

Sri Lanka: Supreme Court finds the Rajapaksha brothers as guilty for the economic crisis
On 15 November, according to Al Jazeera reports, the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka held a symbolic ruling which found the brothers, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, guilty of triggering the economic crisis the country faced. Both the brothers are two former presidents. Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), a corruption screen, and four other activists brought the lawsuit against both the brothers. After multiple hearings, a five judge bench of the Supreme court ruled that the respondents have violated the public trust and were found guilty.

Sri Lanka: Urges newly appointed envoys to attract investments
On 16 November, according to the Colombo Page, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena asked the ten newly appointed envoys to majorly focus on attracting new investments. He also asked them to take new steps to draw joint ventures in the economic sector since the country’s rapid economic progress depends on the cooperation of other countries. This was addressed during the discussion with ten newly appointed envoys at the Temple Trees. He further added that “you (envoys) need to promote Sri Lanka as an ideal destination, largely as a location that is conducive to trade and investment, rather than just as a vacation spot.” He emphasized the importance of bolstering connections with the Spanish-speaking world, particularly with states of Latin America, by means of approved ambassadors from such countries.

India: Halt in trade talks, says Canada
On 17 November, Trade minister of Canada Mary Ng announced the decision to hold the trade talks with India as the investigation of the murder case of  Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar is still pending. This development came while she was addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. She uttered at the briefing, “My job as the trade minister is to make sure the support is there for the investors in India to continue to be available to them.” Beside, from the Indian side, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, in the course of addressing at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) revealed that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Canada was halted. Goyal added, “They will lose out (from halting the talks), India will not. The Indian market is bigger, and our country offers more opportunities.

Middle East and Africa This Week
Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu states there is no hostage arrangement “as of now”
On 18 November, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to keep up the military campaign in Gaza until the Hamas group is overthrown and the hostages it has taken are returned. He also stated that there is significant international criticism against Israel’s attack on Hamas. Netanyahu said that “as of now there is no deal” at a protracted news conference, dismissing “a lot of incorrect reports” about impending arrangements to free some or all of the around 240 prisoners being held. He said that the Israel’s public would be informed if a deal materialized. He referred to the five-day march that the families of the hostages had undertaken from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “We are marching with you, I am marching with you, all of the people of Israel are marching with you,” he said, adding that he had invited the families to meet with the war cabinet the following week. He further added, “We want to get back all the hostages, We’re doing the utmost to bring back the most possible, including in stages, and we are united on this.”

Israel: War cabinet greenlights UN aid via diesel tankers to Gaza 
On 17 November, the war cabinet unanimously approved a proposal by Israel Security Service (Shin Bet) and Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The proposal is to allow two diesel tankers daily for UN water and sewer needs in Gaza. The decision, prompted by a US request, will see tankers enter UN territory via the Rafah gate. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote to Netanyahu, expressing discontent and urging inclusion of coalition faction leaders in the war cabinet.

Qatar: Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Biden talks about humanitarian help and the hostages in Gaza
On 17 November, in a meeting with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Biden urged the swift release of hostages taken by Hamas in Israel. Al Thani maintains diplomatic relations with the Palestinian authority in control of Gaza. During a phone call with Al Thani while in San Francisco for an Asia-Pacific meeting, Biden emphasized the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas, as stated in a White House press release.

Syria: France issues arrest warrant for Bashar al-Assad
On 16 November, France issued international arrest warrants for President Bashar al-Assad, his brother, and two other high-ranking officials for their alleged use of prohibited chemical weapons against civilians in Syria. The warrants stem from investigations into chemical strikes in 2013 that claimed over 1,000 lives in Eastern Ghouta and Douma. This marked Assad’s first international arrest warrant amid accusations of war crimes following a brutal crackdown on protests that began in 2011. France claimed global jurisdiction over such alleged crimes. While Syria denies using chemical weapons, previous UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) joint investigations found evidence of chlorine and sarin gas use by the Syrian government, including an attack in April 2017.

Ghana: President Nana Akufo-Addo’s push for colonial reparations
On 15 November, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo urged African and Caribbean countries to demand reparations for the colonial atrocities and slavery. He described the assertion as “a valid demand for justice.” The comments were made during the reparations conference held in Ghana’s capital Accra. The conference was attended by leaders of African and Caribbean countries. Akufo-Addo stated: “No amount of money can restore the damage caused by the transatlantic slave trade and its consequences. But surely, this is a matter that the world must confront and can no longer ignore.” In September, during the UN General Assembly, Akufo-Addo commented that “no amount of money would ever make up for the horrors, but it would make the point that evil was perpetrated.” The conference aimed for a unified voice to assist African countries that are seeking reparations.  

Iran: Ebrahim Raisi attends OIC summit in Riyadh
On 11 November, President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to attend an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the ongoing Israeli-Gaza conflict. Raisi interacted with reporters before leaving for the summit and stated that this meeting should not be about declaring individual stances on the conflict but should rather lead to concrete actions in Gaza. His visit is the first by an Iranian president to Saudi Arabia since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries since last March, a rapprochement that was brokered by the Chinese. This marked Raisi’s current trip to Saudi Arabia, the first visit by an Iranian president in 11 years. In the aftermath of the meeting, on 12 November, The Guardian reported that the Gulf countries had disagreed with Iran’s interventionist approach towards the conflict and refused a call to arm the Palestinians in order to keep open the possibility of a diplomatic response.

Iran: Fears of regional escalation arise in the Middle-East as the US and Iran-backed groups exchange fire
On 14 November, Aljazeera reported that there has been an increase in the number of confrontations/fires exchanged between the US and Iran-backed armed groups in the Middle East. This development is seen since Israel launched its counter military offensive in Gaza Strip. Multiple bases of the US in Syria and Iraq have been targeted and attacked more than 50 times with several attacks having been launched this week. The attacks have involved drones, rockets and missiles but have inflicted only minor damage. US officials had informed last week that at least 56 US personnel have been injured in these attacks in Syria and Iraq that started on 17 October. In response, the US has launched retaliatory attacks and has warned that these strikes must stop. During the latest US counter-attack on 12 November, eight members of Iran-backed militias were killed, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). These attacks have led to a fear of regional escalation.

Iran: IAEA reports enriched Uranium stockpile surpasses limits
On 15 November, confidential reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed Iran’s barring of experienced nuclear inspectors and its possession of enriched uranium nearing weapons-grade levels. The IAEA criticized Iran’s move to withdraw inspector accreditation as “extreme and unjustified,” hindering agency operations. Tehran withdrew eight inspectors, including French and German nationals, citing political reasons. Iran reaffirmed its right to withdraw accreditation but is considering reinstating it. The report also highlighted Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile exceeding limits set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Tensions persist between Iran and the agency amidst failed efforts to revive the deal amid escalating nuclear activities since the deal’s unravelling in 2018.

Uganda: Parliament passes bill limiting oil imports through Kenya
On 14 November, Uganda’s parliament passed a bill permitting the state-owned oil company, Uganda National Oil Company (Unoc), to supply oil to the domestic market. Uganda imports 90 per cent of its oil through Kenya’s Mombasa port. According to Uganda’s Minister of Energy, Ruth Nankabirwa, the bill will limit the import of oil through Kenya as it “exposed Uganda to occasional supply vulnerabilities where Ugandan oil marketing companies were considered secondary whenever there were supply disruptions.” Members of the parliament who supported the bill asserted that it would reduce the fuel cost and the fuel cartels that “arbitrarily influence fuel pricing.”

Kenya: Parliament approves police deployment in Haiti
On 17 November, the Kenyan parliament approved the plan to deploy 1,000 police officers to Haiti to quell the gang violence. In September, the deployment plan was approved by the UNSC. However, Thirdway Alliance, an opposition party, legally challenged the plan citing it as “unconstitutional” and that only the military could be deployed outside the country. In October, Kenya’s High Court extended the blocking order on the deployment, reiterating that the deployment could not take place until the ruling in January. Members of the parliament who supported the plan asserted Kenya’s history of peacekeeping missions in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. 

Liberia: Joseph Boakai secures a majority in the run-off elections
On 18 November, the Election Commission of Liberia announced that Joseph Boakai secured a majority of 50.89 per cent votes against George Weah who secured 49.11 per cent during the run-off elections. The commission stated that they have announced the results from 99.58 per cent of the polling stations. The run-off elections were conducted after Boakai and Weah failed to secure a majority of over 50 per cent of the vote during the initial round of elections. Following the announcement, the incumbent President Weah expressed congratulations to Boakai stating: “The Liberian people have spoken and we have heard their voice.” He commented that the close competition “reveals a deep division within our country” and called on Liberians to “work together to find common ground... unity is paramount for mama Liberia.” 

Ethiopia: Indo-German development program to expand 
On 14 November, India and Germany held talks on expanding their Development Cooperation Program in Ethiopia and Benin. In Global South India’s development diplomacy is advanced by tie up with Germany. In 2022, both countries had established a program framework on sustainability and agriculture in Peru, Malawi, Cameroon and Ghana. Additionally, both countries aim to develop climate change related programs. Ethiopia is the second most populous country of Africa and is a key partner to India.

Somalia: UNSC adopts a resolution to extend ATMIS
On 15 November, the UNSC adopted a resolution to extend the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) for a period of six months. It will expire on 30 June 2024. The resolution 2710 gives authority for African Union member states to deploy up to 17,626 uniformed personnel to aid ATMIS till 31 December. The phase two drawdown adds an additional 3000 personnel as requested by the Somalian government. The resolution further authorized 14,626 personnel from 01 January to 30 June, 2024 and to complete phase three drawdown of 4000 personnel for ATMIS. The resolution requests furthermore steps that can be taken to develop.

Sudan: UN demands for an investigation for doubted genocide 
On 16 November, the UN demanded an investigation into the second wave of ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. The non-stop violence between the Rapid Support Force(RAF) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has left 10,500 people and over five million people displaced. The second wave of genocide likely to happen have already heft hundreds dead in West Darfur. The region had witnessed a genocide that left thousands of Darfur people dead back in 2003 under former President Omar al Bashir. The new attack began on 04 November, after Ardamata - Sudan Army’s base was taken control by RSF and Arab militia near West Darfur. The locals reported that RSF was involved in looting property, torturing and sexually abusing women and girls.

Europe This Week
Europe: New sanctions proposed against Russia target diamond exports
On 15 November, the European Commission proposed a new set of sanctions banning import of Russian diamonds and LPG. The latest sanction package is yet to get approval from all member states, but it aims to deter Russia from circumventing the “oil price cap.” On passing of the sanctions, Russia may face further cut in its diamond exports which now accounts for USD four billion. The sanctions target natural, synthetic diamonds and jewellery from 2024.

The UK: Cameron appointed back as foreign secretary
On 14 November, David Cameron was appointed back as foreign secretary after seven years. On 13 November, Rishi Sunak, UK’s Prime Minister met his new cabinet after James Cleverly was switched as home secretary and Suella Braverman was fired after her criticism against the metropolitan police. In his address to the cabinet, Sunak called it “an important week” with latest inflation figures out and court ruling on UK’s Rwanda policy ahead. They also discussed the war in Ukraine, conflict in the Middle East and the need for humanitarian pauses. All members in the Conservative Party have not approved the appointment of Cameron and the opposition called it a desperate move.

The UK: Supreme Court rules government Rwanda plan as unlawful
On 15 November, the UK’s Supreme court ruled Rwanda unsafe for asylum seekers, citing risks of refoulement and human rights abuses. The unanimous decision highlighted Rwanda’s poor record on human rights, extrajudicial killings, and media restrictions. Human Rights Watch and UNHCR previously warned of Rwanda’s unsuitability, mentioning systemic asylum flaws and refoulement incidents. Despite UK government claims and monitoring safeguards, the court finds Rwanda lacks the capacity to fairly process asylum claims. Critics urge the UK to scrap the Rwanda deal and build a fair asylum system.

Europe: European Commission reports stagnation in reducing the gender pay gap
On 14 November, the European Commission reported on the persisting gender pay gap in Europe. According to the report, women earn 13 per cent less than men on an average, similar to 2022, in 2023 for every EUR one earned by a man, a woman earns only 87 cents. Currently the gender pay gap decreased by 2.8 per cent and the commission reiterated: “Equal pay for the same work or work of equal value is one of the founding principles of the EU. It was laid down in the Treaty of Rome in 1957.” Still the progress on eradicating the pay gap has been on slow trail. Earlier to address this, the Commission adopted the Pay Transparency Directive in June 2023 to ensure the employers applied principles of equal pay and allotted EUR 6.1 million to member states to implement the directive. Yet the progress is yet to be utilized.

Americas This Week
El Salvador: Fee imposed on travellers amid US pressure on reducing migration
On 13 November, Associated Press reported that El Salvador’s government has applied a UDS 1130 fee on travellers from multiple countries, including Africa and India. Though officials have said it is an “airport improvement fee,” there has been increasing pressure from the US to curb the number of migrants that go to its southern border. There has been no comment from US officials over whether they had requested this fee, but it signals a potential political move for El Salvador’s President, Nayib Bukele, who is seeking re-election.

Paraguay: Diplomatic relations to be re-established with Venezuela after five years
On 15 November, the Paraguayan foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Paraguay and Venezuela have resumed diplomatic ties after five years of no relations. Recent talks between Paraguay’s President, Santiago Pena, and Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro, showed a step towards rebuilding ties that were severed in 2019 over Paraguay’s recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. The ministry’s statement added that both countries have agreed to restart diplomatic relations with “complete respect to the fundamental principles of equal rights, the self-determination of peoples, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states and of solidarity.”

Mexico: Tenth flexible credit line worth USD 35 billion approved by IMF
On 16 November, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board stated that it had approved a two-year flexible credit line for Mexico worth USD 35 billion, amid the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Mexico has so far received flexible credit lines since 2009, and is reportedly intending to treat this one as precautionary. The IMF’s Deputy Managing Director, Gita Gopinath, pointed out that though Mexico has “very strong” “macroeconomic policies and institutional policy framework,” it is exposed to external risks including “renewed volatility in the financial markets, increased risk premia, and capital outflows.”

Colombia: Fund for Life and Biodiversity set up for “environmental management and change”
On 16 November, Colombia’s environment ministry announced that the country’s government had launched a new Fund for Life and Biodiversity, managing roughly USD one billion by 2026 to protect the national ecosystems. The money will be managed by a trust that will ensure expenditure and resource-distribution efficiency, and the fund will be set up in a way that allows environmental initiates to receive multiple monetary resources. There will be five sources of financing for the fund, inclusive of carbon tax, government budget, and donations. Colombia is home to the Amazon rainforest and other jungles with dense biodiversity, which are prone to deforestation annually. However, if successful, this initiative will protect these forests which are vital for curbing climate change. Colombian Environment Minister Susana Muhamad described the fund as a “fundamental tool for environmental management and change,” expressing that they “hope to mobilise resources and actors to achieve interventions that respond to the needs of ecosystems and communities.”

Venezuela: Jorge Rodriguez responds to US threat of sanctions review
On 17 November, National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez stated that the country would not accept “ultimatums from anyone.” The statement came after the US warned that it would re-impose sanctions if there was no progress towards free elections. This development comes after the US removed oil sanctions from the country last month following a deal between the Venezuelan government and opposition regarding conducting democratic elections. The US additionally agreed to further ease sanctions in April 2024 if political bans from opposition leaders are lifted, and the “unjustly detained” US citizens are released. While the US has made it clear that the easing of sanctions is conditional and it expects the government to take concrete steps, Rodriguez responded by saying that “everybody should know that, we don’t care.”

The US: Joko Widodo presses Biden to “stop the atrocities in Gaza” during US-Indonesia talks
On 13 November, Widodo and Biden held talks that were largely characterised by discussions on the Israel- Hamas war. During the course of these talks, Widodo stated: “Indonesia appeals to the US to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza.” Though Biden has been keen for Indonesia to “play a larger role” in the Middle East, including supporting a two-state solution after the war ends, Widodo stressed that a “ceasefire is a must for the sake for humanity.” As the US is trying to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with Indonesia, Biden stated that the talks “mark a new era of relations between the United States and Indonesia across the board.” Other issues, such as the Myanmar crisis, cybersecurity, and climate change also came up. Through it all, Widodo maintained that while “Indonesia is open to cooperate with any country,” it would always “take the side of peace and humanity.”

The US: China and US to “work together” on addressing climate crisis after stalled cooperation
On 15 November, following a meeting between US climate envoy John Kerry and Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, both US and China agreed to resume cooperation on the climate crisis. Mutual actions on actions such as curbing methane and plastic pollution had stalled earlier due to political differences. However, as per a joint statement, both countries now “recognise that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world.” Several agreements were made on how to go about meeting climate goals, including accelerating “the substitution for coal, oil, and gas generation,” and making “meaningful” reductions in power sector emissions. Furthermore, China for the first time committed to including methane in its 2025 climate goals; however, elimination of fossil fuels was not included as China finds it to be “unrealistic.” The incoming director of the China Climate Hub at the Asia Society described the agreement between the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters as “a precondition for meaningful global progress.”

The US: Resolution for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza adopted by UNSC
On 15 November, Malta introduced a resolution in the UNSC, calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip” for aid delivery, which was adopted by 12 in favour, zero against, and three abstentions. Malta’s ambassador to the UN, Vanessa Frazier, said that the intention of the resolution is to “ensure respite” and “give hope to the families of all victims.” Several earlier resolutions on the Israel-Hamas war directed at humanitarian pauses and ceasefires had failed to pass earlier in the UNSC. While this resolution does not mention a ceasefire, it directly aims at getting aid into the conflict zone and safeguarding civilians, particularly children. Certain resources, including fuel, are to be transported to Gaza “unhindered.” In response, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said the resolution was “disconnected from reality,” as Israel actions followed international law in Gaza. He further described it as a “disgrace” as “the council is still unable to condemn” the “massacre” carried out by Hamas. The US envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas- Greenfield, voiced similar concerns, saying that she was “horrified” that the council had not condemned the “barbaric terrorist attack that Hamas carried out.”

Canada: Experts accuse Justin Trudeau of sending mixed signals on climate policy
On 14 November, Reuters reported on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sending mixed messages on climate policy, as he diluted his carbon tax policy to reduce the cost of living. Environmental experts, who say that the carbon tax is irreplaceable, are questioning the three- year exemption on heating oil introduced by Trudeau. There are suspicions that this is being done to gain votes, after provincial leaders had asked for relief for households using natural gas for heating. The climate finance director at environmental campaign group, Richard Brooks, said that they would “like to see the Liberals take a clear position that they are going to be climate leaders and use all tools available.” Brooks pointed out that this decision would mean that Canada would likely miss its 2030 emissions-reductions target. While defending its decision, the Liberal government said that an increase in the price of heating oil justified this relief in targets for low-income and rural households.

Panama: Indigenous protests amid mining controversy
On 12 November, indigenous demonstrators in Panama announced a 12-hour pause in the blockades as a gesture of goodwill towards affected citizens. They have maintained blockades on crucial roads for weeks. Their primary demand is the government’s revocation of a contract permitting a Canadian mining company to operate an open-pit copper mine in a biodiverse jungle. The roadblocks will be lifted on 29 November to facilitate access to scarce fuel and food in various regions impacted by the blockades. Recent reports indicate two protesters were fatally shot by a driver attempting to bypass a barricade last week. While the government emphasized the mine’s job creation, indigenous groups highlight its environmental threat. These protests have drawn global attention, reflecting growing concerns for environmental conservation in Latin America. Police have signalled their intent to dismantle the road barricades, potentially using force.

El Salvador: Top leader of MS-13 stand trial on terrorism charges
On 15 November, the US Justice Department said that a top leader of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang is under trial in New York on terrorism charges. Last week, Elmer Canales, known as “Crook de Hollywood,” was arrested by Mexican authorities and sent to Texas, as the federal court ordered him to stand trial in New York. Canales and the MS-13 members were charged with terrorism in 2020 as they were involved in organised crime over the past two decades in the US, Mexico and El Salvador. The US Attorney General Merrick Garland said: “He bears responsibility for the gang’s activities over decades to terrorise communities, target law enforcement, and sow violence here in the United States and Abroad.” Canales will face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

About the authors

Anu Maria, Dhriti Mukherjee, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Rishika Yadav and Shamini Velayudham are the Research Assistants at NIAS, Bengaluru. Rohini Reenum is a Phd scholar at NIAS, Bengaluru. Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri, Gopi Keshav N, Namratha S, Navinan GV, Vetriselvi Baskaran and Yogeswari S are Postgraduate scholars from University of Madras, Chennai. Nuha Aamina is a undergraduate scholar from St. Joseph's College, Bengaluru.

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