The World This Week

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The World This Week
The waiver debate on vaccine patent, UK-France tensions over fishing rights, China-Australia tensions, North Korea's response to Biden, and Russia's tough posture towards Navalny

  GP Team

The World This Week #118, Vol. 3, No. 19

Joeana Cera Matthews, Sourina Bej, Dincy Adlakha, Harini Madhusudan, and Avishka Ashok 

Vaccine patent waiver: The new debate stands divided 
What happened?
On 5 May, Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, announced the Biden administration's position on the proposal that India and South Africa submitted at the WTO: "The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines." 

On 6 May, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, said she was considering the proposal. She said: "The European Union is also ready to discuss any proposal that addresses the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner… ready to discuss how the US proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective." 

On 7 May, Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, warned that the move "threatens to disrupt the flow of raw materials… will unleash a scramble for the critical inputs we require in order to make a safe and effective vaccine." 

What is the background?
First, the demand-supply imbalance. Advocates of the waiver believe there is a widespread imbalance in the demand for and supply of vaccines. Only a few companies have exclusive rights to manufacture vaccines. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson had promised global manufacturing of vaccines but remain suspended. The Serum Institute of India, a key supplier for Asia, Africa, and South America stands prohibited from exporting by India. Huge global supply gaps mean many people in the developing world are not expected to receive vaccines until 2023. 

Second, the emerging debate on the relaxation of vaccine patents. The primary argument for the waiver is on the demand numbers; it emphasizes the ability to provide vaccines by increasing production in the poorer parts of the world lagging behind in their inoculation drives. The critics, however, argue that waiving patents will not increase production. Since countries would face hurdles with raw material access, distribution, and safety standards, they argue, it would eventually lead to the quality and efficacy of the vaccines being questioned. They also refer to the risk of imminent counterfeit doses. 

Third, the different positions of the US and the EU. The US strongly believes in intellectual property (IP) rights, but ending the pandemic is a greater need. The US has kept most doses produced domestically while exporting a portion to Mexico and Canada. This raises questions about the intent behind the sudden US support for the waiver. The EU thinks that the IP rights waiver can wait and suggest countries follow the bloc's example to permit ample export of doses. The US is backed by Australia and New Zealand while the EU by the UK, Japan, and Switzerland.

Fourth, the stance of the pharmaceutical industry. The industry is worried that the waiver would cut into their profits. To eliminate the need for a waiver, the companies consider alternate solutions like deals that increase vaccine supply to countries facing shortages – via donation or selling them on a non-profit basis. The drug industry now has strong motivation to shift the debate to that of a 'global equity problem' and is taking pragmatic steps towards solving this imbalance. 

What does this mean?
The crisis is enormous. The focus should be on steps making an immediate difference to the demand-supply imbalance countries face. As the immediate measures to meet vaccine requirements need to be prioritized. This needs to be addressed with the argument, that the waiver would disincentivize anyone from taking big risks in the face of future global health threats. A via-media is required.

UK and France: BREXIT pangs deepen as a new rule restricts fishing rights
What happened? 
On 6 May, France dispatched two naval policing boats as French fishermen, angry over the loss of access to fishing off their coast, protested off the English Channel island Jersey. The French fishermen have steamed into Jersey waters to demonstrate against new rules requiring them to submit their past fishing activities in order to receive a license to continue fishing in the island's waters. On 5 May, Britain directed two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, to patrol the waters around the Jersey port, which is a self-governing British Crown Dependency near northern France.  
What is the background? 
First, the new restriction by Jersey.  The Jersey port has become the flashpoint over access to fishing rights as post-BREXIT regulations are implemented. According to the rules, which came into force this month, 41 permits have been issued based on fishing history between 2017 and 2020 to French fishing vessels to operate in Jersey's waters. France responded, saying no such consultation about any new conditions affecting all boats has been agreed during Brexit transition talks. Jersey's role in the dispute gets complicated as it is not part of the UK or as part of the EU. This Crown dependency island means freedom from Westminster and the power to exercise day-to-day control over its fishing waters. However, the UK government is ultimately responsible for its international relationships. That is why access to fishing waters around the Channel Islands is dealt with specifically in the new UK-EU trade agreement. 

Second, conflict over fishing rights a post-BREXIT reality. When the UK left the EU in January 2020 – the talks during the transition period left the common fisheries policy that has peacefully divvied up the spoils of Europe's waters since the 1970s. The Brexit talks also ended the Bay of Granville agreement between Britain and the Channel Islands government, which had established a pattern of rights for French boats up to three miles from the islands' coasts. Within the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement struck there is a new EU-UK fisheries agreement that offers French fishers the continuation of the status quo in a zone between six and 12 miles from the UK's shores up to 2026 if they can prove that they had previously been operating in those waters. With the end of several common rules, the fishermen would be without livelihoods, a reality post-BREXIT Europe begins to face. 

Third, unheard demands by fishermen communities. From Ireland to Jersey, the fishermen's voice has been largely missing while signing any agreement over access to fishing rights. In addition, when the Jersey government adds two conservation measures, dealing with dredging and nesting areas, it means the creation of restricted zones, and limit the kind of fishing equipment which can be used. Many of the local boats could be put out of business, and smaller boats would also be affected.  

Fourth, domestic issues pushing the nationalist narrative around fishing rights. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been seen escalating the crisis and using the fishing spat as an "Election Day stunt." Choking and scramble to gain access to the English Channel has been a historical precedent since the Cold War.  Even though Jersey is economically insignificant, it is culturally important, and fishing was the thorniest issue during the UK-EU divorce talks. Similarly, the fishing rights issue is also a central issue for the 2022 French presidential election. Amid this, Jersey's rule gets embroiled in the larger expression of domestic issues in the regional relations. 

What does it mean? 
Both the UK and EU are stuck with wider disputes for the long haul. From Northern Ireland to Jersey island, the EU-UK relation will have to accommodate the deeper nuances and economic needs of those impacted in the divorce. The French fishers ended their protest, but the row remains unresolved. The workable solution would be to form a consultation body with various fishermen communities and chart a policy accommodating the grassroots voices. 

China: Canceling the Strategic Economic Dialogue with Australia
What happened?
On 6 May, the National Development and Reform Commission, state economic planner of China, announced that it is indefinitely suspending the Strategic Economic Dialogue with Australia, which was launched in 2014 to strengthen the bilateral economic and investment ties. 

The statement on the NDRC website has accused Australia of disrupting "the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin called it a "necessary and legitimate" response to Australia. He mentioned that Australia is "abusing" national security concept to pressure cooperation from China.
What is the background?
First, the Sino-Australian differences in recent years. Sino-Australian relations are at their multi-decade low. Tensions began since Australia becoming the first country to ban telecom giant Huawei in 2018. In April 2020, when Australia demanded an international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 virus, China retaliated with a series of accusations of racism and human rights abuses. In July 2020, travel restrictions from Australia after the passing of Hong Kong National Security Law invited further trouble as China imposed sanctions and high tariffs on commodities from China. Although the housing industry and iron ore imports constituting majority of the trade between the two remained unaffected, wine was imposed with more than 200 per cent tariffs and other commodities like coal, barley, beef, and cotton were also highly affected. The scraping of the Victorian BRI project, in April 2021, by the federal government in Australia came as the final blow.

Second, the regional and international environment. Although the relationship between China and Australia has always faced challenges due to Australia's intimacy with the USA, the latest currents in the Sino-US trade war have made it difficult for allies like Australia to reconcile with China. Australia considers itself as an emerging power in the Indian Ocean, and is a partner in the Quad as well as the Supply Chains Resilience Initiative. However, China sees it as the weakest link in the chain of US allies. The attempts made by Australia to diversify its trade partners were not well received by the rising superpower of China. While China is pushing for a bigger goal of sending a message to its opponents in the West by giving Australia one of the hardest economic punishments, Australia is also stubborn to stand up to the bully.

Third, the domestic aspirations. President Xi's aggressive foreign policies have brought back the Chinese nationalism narrative to the front. A key function of his presidency is built exclusively on this nationalism cultured by the Communist Party. President Xi has hit back on any western power that recommends China a democratic system. In his 'great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,' he has built strong anti-American and anti-foreign sentiments. Moreover, in this tussle of domestic aspirations, Australia is a soft target for China. Prime Minister Morrison has also shown his wariness towards foreign interference in his country and has been scrutinizing every foreign deal under the backdrop of Australian national interests. By not visiting China even once, he has signalled that he is ready for the diplomatic war without fear.

What does it mean?
First, the impact on economy. The co-dependence between China and Australia in numerous sectors will keep the effect on their economies within check but, Australia will lose more since China remains its largest trading partner despite tensions.

Second, Australia's alternative partners of economic cooperation are also dependent on China which leaves it with little scope to squirm its way out from the sanctioned existence.

North Korea: Pyongyang considers Biden's new approach as hostile 
What happened?
On 2 May, the Korea Central News Agency, mouthpiece of the North Korean government, released three statements in response to Biden's new policy on North Korea, which was disclosed after months of review. The statements called the policy "a big blunder" and "intolerable." 

On 3 May, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan explained that the policy aims to reduce tensions between the two countries and completely denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Sullivan said: "Our policy towards North Korea is not aimed at hostility. It's aimed at solutions. It's aimed at ultimately achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
On 5 May, the G7 members appealed to North Korea to restart negotiations on ending its policy on nuclear arms and resuming the inter-Korean dialogue. The group also extended their support for the US policy on denuclearizing the peninsula. 

What is the background?
First, Biden's approach towards North Korea. The US President Joe Biden firmly believes that the US policy towards North Korea was due for a comprehensive review as the previous administrations were unable to yield any positive outcomes in the issue of nuclear diplomacy. Even though former President Donald Trump succeeded in conducting multiple summits with Kim Jong-un, the meetings did not result in any significant developments. The previous attempts to engage with North Korea have made it certain for Biden that sanctions and coercion will not produce any positive results. 

Second, North Korea's resilience towards sustenance and protecting its interests. North Korea has managed to withstand sanctions and trade embargoes from the West and continues to pour huge amounts of money into its nuclear programs. The capital to support the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-un may have illegal sources, but the fact remains that the country has sustained itself and its nuclear goals even during the pandemic. However, the cost was paid heavily by the common man. The continuity of the nuclear goals over the decades is evidence that the previous policies of the West have failed to contain North Korea. Denuclearization will not be on the agenda for Kim Jong-un. 

Third, the quest for a suitable approach towards North Korea. The issue of North Korean threat due to its nuclear capabilities is not a recently evolved crisis. The US Presidents from George W Bush to Joe Biden have been compelled to deal with Kim's nuclear ambitions during their presidency. However, Joe Biden faces a pressing challenge as he needs to formulate a policy that would ultimately appease South Koreans, Japanese, and North Koreans. The challenge primarily lies in pushing North Korea towards a future without nuclear ammunition. Joe Biden's new policy tries to learn from his predecessors' mistakes and attempts to combine sanctions with diplomatic negotiations. 

What does it mean?
The new policy, announced on 30 April, seems to be a combination of the Trump and Obama approach; wherein the US will attempt to engage with North Korea, primarily through diplomacy but will rationally resort to sanctions if it fails to produce the expected results. Despite convincing efforts to resolve the issue of denuclearization, it is unlikely that the new approach of Joe Biden will lead to much success. A moderate approach, combining sanctions and negotiations may still not be enough to solve the problem of denuclearization in the coming decade. 

Russia: Alexi Navalny's network added to the 'Extremist List'
What happened?
On 4 May, changes to the election law in Russia were submitted to the lower house of Duma, which seeks to ban people linked to terrorist or extremist organizations from running for office. It includes anyone in the hierarchy of extremist groups, including the financial donors or individuals who played a role up to three years before the court ruling.  

On 30 April, Russia's state financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring blacklisted Alexi Navalny's political network as a 'terrorist-linked organization, which means authorities can choose to block the organization's bank accounts at will. A court ruling to ban the network's crowdfunded work, and name Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), as an "extremist" organization is expected in June, which would further restrict the party's 50 regional headquarters from operating and potentially put members and supporters at risk of lengthy jail terms. "We've seen a lot of 'laws against Navalny,' but this is something new," tweeted Navalny's senior aide Leonid Volkov. However, he says, the "extremism" court ruling will not affect the team's "Smart Voting" strategy that seeks to unseat the pro-Putin ruling party in the upcoming parliamentary elections. 

What is the background?
First, Putin's consolidation of power within Russia. Putin has remained the central authority figure of Russia since 2000. In early 2020, he announced a number of constitutional amendments in his annual address at the Federal Assembly. An amendment allows two more terms for Putin's rule until 2036. In early 2020, the Prime Minister was forced to resign, and several members of the Parliament were replaced. Restrictions have been placed on foreign investments in Russian entities, while also redefining what a foreign agent is. The Putin government managed to place Navalny back in prison just in time for the elections. Subsequently, the government has cracked down on Navalny's network and frozen the party's assets to suppress their movement against him. All of these played a part in consolidating powers.

Second, the rise of Navalny as the internationally popular opposition to Putin. Alexi Navalny rose to popularity when his attempt to contest for the 2018 elections against Putin was quashed. In 2020, the poisoning of Navalny garnered him the limelight as the solid opponent for Putin. The Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has represented Navalny in his absence by instigating protests and investigating corruption. In January 2021, Navalny released a video on YouTube of Putin's palace exposing the corruption within the party. This video gained three million views. Following his arrest, they organized protests in 198 towns and cities across the country. The network members have also shown genuine successes in local and regional electoral politics, particularly in the Siberian cities of Novosibirsk and Tomsk.

Third, the increasing international attention towards Russia. In the months since President Biden took office, Russia's actions at the borders, cybersecurity, and the mistreatment of Navalny in prison have been criticized by the US and its Western allies. The West has also placed sanctions condemning Navalny's arrest and his prison treatment. Along with this, there is an emphasis on domestic issues like rampant corruption, income inequality, and a weak economy within Russia. 

What does it mean?
President Putin now has the power to continue until 2036, and he would not let anything come in the way of it. The Russian government's approach to Navalny's organization would be made an example of what would happen to those that defy Putin. The multiple sanctions and the international criticism have not stopped Putin from taking drastic measures to suppress all forms of opposition. There is no other force within Russia that is as strong as Navalny that would replace him in his movement against the ruling party.  Would Putin then remain undisputed until anything happens to him? 

Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation seems to have served its purpose and now has become a liability to the members who were a part of it. And despite the suspension of the party's activities from 29 April, the members intend to uphold the spirit behind the movement and participate in their individual capacities. This could be seen as a stepping stone. Many individuals of the disbanded party seek to participate in the elections in their individual capacities while securing the safety of the people who supported them. The impact of Navalny's popularity on the people of Russia is unknown, and the "Smart Voting" strategies of the movement could still stand as a surprise factor in the September elections.

Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: Xuelong 2, the icebreaker, returns back from Antarctica
On 8 May, China's Xuelong 2 (Snow Dragon 2), the second research icebreaker, returned back to its base in Shanghai from Antarctica. According to the Ministry of Natural Resource, this was the 37th Antarctic expedition which lasted 179 days. The mission focused extensive survey of the biosystem and environment in the southern ocean.  

China: Long March 5B rocket debris lands in the Indian ocean
On 8 May, France24 reported that a large part of the Chinese rocket Long  March 5B which was launched in the previous week, would re-enter the earth's atmosphere and was capable of harming the civilian population. The location and timing of re-entry were unclear. On 9 May, the rocket re-entered the earth's atmosphere and landed in the Indian Ocean, close to the Maldives. However, as predicted by the Chinese officials, most of the components belonging to the rocket were destroyed upon entering the earth atmosphere

Hong Kong: Joshua Wong and three others sentenced for unauthorized assembly
On 6 May, Hong Kong District Court sentenced pro-democracy protestor Joshua Wong and three others for taking part in an unauthorized assembly on 4 June 2020, commemorating Tiananmen Square. Wong, already in prison, will face additional ten months in jail. Three others Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, and Jannelle Leung were sentenced for term four to six months. Stanley Chan, District Court judge, said: "Freedom of assembly is not unlimited." He also said: "The sentence should deter people from offending and re-offending in the future."

Hong Kong: Police distributed 12-page magazine to newsrooms
On 6 May, Hong Kong police delivered a 12-page magazine, "Know the Facts: Rumors and Lies Can Never Be Right," to newsrooms as an attempt to push back against "Fake news." The magazine criticized the "wicked and slanderous" attacks held against police. Chris Yeung, the Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman, said: "There is no doubt it is the worst of times." He also said: "government's push against what it called fake news was an attempt to avoid accountability for public discontent."

Myanmar: Violent crackdown continues against protestors
On 8 May, the military government declared several lawmakers from the parallel government as "terrorists" and held them responsible for the numerous bomb attacks, arson, and killings. On 7 May, a military council spokesperson announced that the country would not welcome a visit by ASEAN envoy until the stability in the State is restored. On the same day, a pre-dawn strike was conducted in the Natmouk district of Magway. As Myanmar marked three months of protests since the coup, a total of 765 people have lost their lives, and thousands have been reprimanded unlawfully by the military government. On 5 May, the parallel government also announced the establishment of a "people's defense force" to protect the protestors from the brutal crackdown. 

Thailand: Court demands investigation into the Sunday protests
On 3 May, the Office of Judiciary called for an investigation by the Royal Thai Police into the protest organized by REDEM outside the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The protest turned violent and resulted in clashes between the protestors and the police. Firecrackers and other explosives were also used in the protest, which caused immense confusion and chaos. On 6 May, the Criminal Court rejected the applications of bail of Ratsodon leaders who have been charged under Article 112 of the criminal code for lèse-majesté. 

Southeast Asia: Uncontrollable spike in Coronavirus cases
On 8 May, the Philippines recorded the highest number of new cases in Southeast Asia. It registered 6979 new infections and 10,94,849 active cases. A nationwide travel ban and a total lockdown has been announced in Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia to stop the spread of the virus. Southeast Asian countries are witnessing a 19 per cent spike in cases and a 48 per cent spike deaths compared to the previous week. 

New Zealand: Parliament shows concern about human rights abuses in Xinjiang
On 5 May, the Parliament in New Zealand declared serious human rights abuses taking place in the Xinjiang region. The members of the Parliament supported the motion but insisted on removing the word "genocide" from the statement. The declaration was made soon after Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta expressed discomfort in being included in statements being made by the Five Eyes collectively. The Chinese embassy reacted to the statement and condemned New Zealand's interference in its internal affairs. 

South Asia This Week
India: 5G trials begin, China expresses 'concern and regret'
On 4 May, the Department of Telecommunication granted Telecom Service Provider (TSPs) permission to conduct trials for 5G technology for six months. The Department excluded Chinese companies from its trials. The trial aim at testing 5G spectrum propagation, model tuning, evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors, testing of indigenous technology, applications, and 5G phones and devices. Ministry of Communication said: "The applicant TSPs include Bharti Airtel Ltd., Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., Vodafone Idea Ltd., and MTNL. These TSPs have tied up with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers which are Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and C-DOT." The Chinese embassy in New Delhi, "express concern and regret that Chinese telecommunications companies have not been permitted to conduct 5G trials with Indian telecom Service Providers in India." 

India: PM Boris Johnson-Narendra Modi hold virtual summit 
On 4 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson agreed to adopt the "Road Map 2030" to raise the bilateral ties to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Leaders also unveiled a plan to conclude an interim trade deal by 2022.  According to the Ministry of External Affairs press release, both emphasized their commitment in areas like people-to-people relationships, trade and prosperity, defense and security, climate action, and healthcare. 

Sri Lanka: Releases 86 Indian fishermen after 10 hours 
On 3 May, 86 Indian fishermen on 11 boats were detained by Sri Lankan Navy personnel for crossing Indian waters while fishing in the Palk Strait. They were let off after 10 hours and handed over to Indian authorities. According to The Hindu, Sri Lankan Coast guard officials warned the fishermen and advised them not to violate the maritime boundaries. Fisheries Department said: "We have repeatedly been educating the fishermen not to cross the IMBL. Moreover, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lankan Navy personnel, too, had intensified surveillance."

Pakistan: PM Imran Khan on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
On 7 May, Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit. According to the Arab News, Khan and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman held a series of talks on the "importance of expanding bilateral cooperation" in various fields. The countries signed two agreements for the treatment of crimes and criminals and agreed to create a "higher coordination council." The leaders also discussed several regional and international concerns, including efforts to combat extremism.

Afghanistan: 55 killed in a targeted attack in Kabul 
On 8 May, three explosions near girls' school in Dasht-e Barchi, west Kabul which led to the killing of at least 55. No group has claimed responsibility. President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack. He said: "the Taliban, by intensifying their illegitimate war and violence, showed that they have no interest in a peaceful solution to the current crisis."

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Kyrgyzstan: President signed the new constitution
On 5 May, President Sadyr Japarov signed a new constitution into law. The new constitution grants greater powers to the President and reduces the decision-making powers of the legislature. It was approved by 80 per cent of voters in April, in a referendum with a turnout of around 39 per cent. Japarov said: "Every nation builds its life on the basis of its own values. From time immemorial, our people have had two values: freedom and justice." He also said: "It is necessary to bring in the concept of natural management, the administration of affairs in a manner befitting the natural characteristics of the Kyrgyz ethnos."

Israel: President passes the opportunity to form the government to opposition leader
On 5 May, the President of Israel passed the offer to form a government to the opposition leader Yair Lapid after Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to form a government for the fourth time. The President believes that the Lapid holds the capacity of forming a new government as he currently has the support of 56 members of the 120 seats in the Parliament. The number is still not enough to make a majority. Lapid has refused to make a coalition with Netanyahu due to his criminal indictment. A deadlock on the issue may mean elections for the fifth time in two years. 

Yemen: US senators urge Biden to raise USD 2.5 billion in aid 
On 4 May, four US senators appealed to US President Joe Biden in an open letter, urging him to provide more funds for war-torn Yemen. The appeal comes as the UN fund for humanitarian aid in Yemen fell short of USD 2.5 billion as most economies worldwide experience an economic slowdown due to the pandemic. The senators urged the US to increase its contribution to the fund considering the 20 million Yemenis who depend on aid for survival. 

Somalia: Government announces resumption of friendly relations with Kenya
On 6 May, the government of Somalia announced the restoration of ties with Kenya after months of severing ties. The Ministry of Information spokesperson said: "The Federal Government of Somalia announces that in keeping with the interests of good neighbourliness, it has resumed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya." The two countries which severed ties in December 2020, agreed to maintain friendly relations based on mutual trust and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

Nigeria: Kidnappers released 29 abducted students after two months of captivity
On 5 May, the Kaduna State Police reported that kidnappers released 29 students held hostage for nearly two months. The students were forcefully taken away from a forestry college in the State, and ten of them were released earlier. Since December 2020, almost 700 people have fallen victim to similar kidnappings in the country. The government has not yet clarified if a ransom had been paid for the release of the students.

Eritrea: President visits Sudan as tensions with Ethiopia heightens 
On 4 May, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki reached Khartoum to hold talks with Sudanese officials for a two-day visit. The talks take place as tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan heighten. The leaders conducted closed talks on cooperation and strengthening bilateral relations. The Eritrean Information Ministry said: "agreed to strengthen their efforts in the implementation of the Agreement of Cooperation reached between the two countries in the political, economic, social, security, and military sectors."

Europe and The Americas This Week
Spain: People's Party wins Madrid regional elections
On 4 May, the People's Party managed to win the elections but fell short of a complete majority in the Madrid regional elections. The People's Party won 65 seats out of 136 seats in the regional assembly, while the Socialist Party lost a few seats and was only able to hold 24 seats. The vox also won 13 seats in the assembly and is now considered to be a critical player in Madrid politics. 

Switzerland: Diplomat dies after falling from a high-rise building in Iran
On 4 May, Iran reported the death of the first secretary at the Swiss embassy in Tehran. The news agencies in Iran claimed that the death was caused due to a fall from her residential high-rise building; the cause of her fall has not been identified yet. The death of the diplomat is now being investigated by the authorities in Iran. 

The UK: Three-day long G7 meeting in London 
On 3 May, the United Kingdom hosted the G7 meeting in London. It is the first in-person meeting held by the G7 and included the Foreign and Development Ministers of the seven-member countries. Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa and the Chair of ASEAN also joined the meeting as guests. The ministers discussed tackling global threats, upholding democracy and human rights, climate change and the pandemic. Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula were also discussed at the summit. 

Colombia: Protestors gather in thousands to challenge corruption and economic distress
On 4 May, the United Nations stated violent repression of protests in Colombia. A UN spokesperson said: "We are deeply alarmed at developments in Cali overnight, where police opened fire on demonstrators, and a number of people were killed and injured." The country has witnessed a week of protests across the country as people express their anguish against the government. The state police used excessive force to suppress the protests and has led to an increase in fatalities. The Defense Minister referred to the police opening fire at the protestors and claimed that the conduct within the law. 

The US: Spike in unaccompanied children at the Mexican border
On 2 May, the Homeland Security Secretary revealed that in 2021 itself, the Border Patrol agents caught more than 2,100 unaccompanied children trying to cross the border without their families. In accordance with Biden's new laws, the children have been handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent the trafficking of minors. In comparison to the Trump era, where most migrants were rejected under Title 42 during the pandemic, the US government, under Biden attempts to provide a friendlier option to the migrant children. 

The US: SpaceX successfully lands Starship SN15
On 5 May, SpaceX successfully landed its Starship SN15 for the first time, becoming the first model not to get destroyed during the tests. The previous models SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11 had exploded in the test flights. The successful landing of SN15 brings SpaceX closer to the aim of transporting cargo and launching manned space mission to the Moon and Mars.

About the Authors
Joeana Cera Matthews is a Masters student at the University of Mysore, Sourina Bej is a PhD scholar at the University of Bonn. Dincy Adlakha is a Masters student at Christ University. Harini Madhusudan is a PhD Scholar at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates at NIAS. 

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