The World This Week

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The World This Week
India-China military-level talks, Russia-West negotiations on Ukraine, Russian and Chinese approaches to Kazakhstan, and Tensions in Mali

  GP Team

The World This Week #153, Vol. 4, No. 02

Teshu Singh, Joeana Cera Matthews, Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar

India, China 14th round of military talks in Ladakh
What happened
On 12 January 2022, the 14th round of military-level talks was held between India and China at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. The meeting lasted for 13 hours.

The Indian delegation was led by Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta, and the Chinese side was led by Major Gen Yang Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military district (SXMD). Both the officers were leading their respective delegation for the first time. 

Both sides agreed that they "should follow the guidance provided by the State Leaders and work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest." "The two sides also agreed to consolidate on the previous outcomes and take effective efforts to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector including during winter." 

What is the background
First, the progress and the lack of it. The 13th round of meeting was held on 10 October 2021. There was no joint press release after the meeting. China released a statement about the meeting and blamed India for "unreasonable and unrealistic demands." However, on 13 January 2022, unlike the previous meeting, the two sides issued a joint statement. It stated: "the two sides agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue via military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest".

What does it mean?
The joint statement acknowledges the need to resolve the border issue. There are still three disputed points - Hot Spring, Demchok and Depsang. Both sides have already disengaged from Pangong Tso in February 2021 and from Patrolling Point 17 in the Gogra Post in August. Prior to the meeting, the Indian side was hopeful of resolving the issues related to disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 -  Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh. Some momentum was built between the soldiers of the two sides on the occasion of the New Year, wherein the soldiers from both sides exchanged greetings and sweets to defuse the 20 month long tensions. 

The 14th round of talks can be termed as optimistic; unlike the 13th round of talks, there was no deadlock. Both sides agreed to release a joint statement. This indicates an intention to maintain the momentum of the talks. Earlier, Gen Naravane has reiterated that it was a good thing the talks are going on, which shows that we can resolve our differences through dialogue. 

During the regular Press Conference held on 13 January 2022, Chinese Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, said: "At present, China and India are in dialogue and communication through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation at the border."

Russia and the West: Diplomatic efforts fail to make a breakthrough on Ukraine and other issues
What happened?
On 10 January, the US Deputy Secretary of State (Wendy Sherman) and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (Sergei Ryabkov) met in Geneva under the Strategic Security Dialogue initiative. Sherman said following the meeting: "We were firm in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters for the United States… We will not allow anyone to slam close Nato's open door policy."

On 12 January, the Russian delegation led by Ryabkov met with NATO in Brussels. The alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commented on the talks: "Our differences will not be easy to bridge but it is a positive sign that all Nato allies and Russia sat down around the same table and engaged on substantive topics… There is a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe."

On 13 January, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened a meeting in Vienna to discuss the escalation along the Ukrainian border. Poland holds the 2022 chairmanship of the organization; its Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau warned: "It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years." On the same day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister (Dmytro Kuleba) released a statement, that read: "Despite the unsatisfactory week of great diplomacy for Russia, I believe that the only way for the Russians to confirm their lack of intention to solve problems by force is to continue the discussion in the established formats, in particular in the OSCE."

Following the three meetings held during the week, Ryabkov stated: "Russia is a peace-loving country. But we do not need peace at any cost. The need to obtain these legally formalized security guarantees for us is unconditional." Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich expressed: "At this stage it is really disappointing."

What is the background?
First, the Geneva Talks. The seven hour-long discussions saw the US propose prospective reciprocal agreements on missile deployments while putting a cap on the size and range of military exercises. The US' potential return to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after its withdrawal from the same in August 2019 was also discussed. The two superpowers engaging directly held hopes of a substantial change in the Ukrainian status quo favouring de-escalation. However, the "frank and forthright" talks, as Sherman put it, were disappointing given their inconclusiveness.

Second, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). Meeting for the first time since 2019, Russia accepting to sit down and negotiate with NATO was a surprise. The Russian demands of ceasing NATO's eastward expansion and denying membership to Ukraine were rejected on the grounds of the alliance's "open-door policy". Meanwhile, Stoltenberg voiced his concern of a "new armed conflict in Europe" while maintaining that NATO would never compromise on its core principles. 

Third, the OSCE meeting. Rau, following up on Stoltenberg's concerns, reiterated the imminent war in store for the OSCE region. The meeting of the world's largest security body, the only format of talks that saw a Ukrainian representation, was again a cry into the dark.

Fourth, the Russian response. The most notable point in all the three formats of talks is that the Russian response remained the same. The Kremlin had prepared not to concede, come what may. The Kremlin chose diplomacy yet maintained their disinterest in the "endless dragging out of this process." 

What does it mean?
First, the open channel of communication. The promise to continue talks essentially indicates a delay in escalation. The longer diplomacy is in play, the farther away is the possibility of war. This can be considered a positive outcome of the talks. 

Second, the escalation threats. Despite the efforts at diplomacy, one stands to see whether the Kremlin would engage and escalate tensions along the Ukrainian periphery. The contradictory statements emerging from the Putin administration are confusing — threats have been issued alongside reassurances of "no intent to invade". However, Kremlin wants the West out of its "sphere of influence". 

Kazakhstan: Russia, China and the protests 
What happened?
On 11 January, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that the troops he requested from Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) would begin leaving Kazakhstan in two days, with the withdrawal to take no more than ten days. Previously, on 10 January, President Vladimir Putin stated that the "peacekeepers" would leave only once their mission was complete but would remain "for a limited time period." He added that the CSTO would not allow any "colour revolutions" in the region.

On 7 January, President Xi Jinping praised Tokayev for "taking decisive and effective actions at a critical moment" and "quickly calming the situation," adding that China was "ready to provide necessary support to help it overcome the difficulties."

On 13 January, the CSTO began withdrawing troops from Kazakhstan. The country's Deputy Defence Minister said, "Thanks to your arrival, Kazakh military and security forces were able to carry out their immediate task of locating and detaining bandits."

What is the background?
First, Russia's interests in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is one of Russia's crucial allies in the region. The two share a trade union and other strategic partnerships. The unrest along Russia's southern border comes as Putin tries to fight against what he has labelled as the West's encroachment on Moscow's traditional sphere of influence. Both Tokayev and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev have had the backing of Putin. 

Second, China's interests in Kazakhstan. In recent years, Kazakhstan has seen the expansion of Chinese interest in the region with the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative first launched in the country. China's interest in Kazakhstan mainly revolves around economic; however, the recent statements reflect Beijing aim of extending into security interests.

Third, the CSTO and Kazakhstan. The deployment of troops in Kazakhstan came after Tokayev requested the CSTO for troops on 6 January. The deployment is the first time the CSTO has deployed troops under Article 4 of its charter, which allows for the deployment of troops to help a member state whose external force threatens territory or sovereignty. The CSTO in the recent past has not been active except for conducting a few joint military exercises and facilitating arms sales between its members.

What does it mean?
First, Russia and China are pushing asserting their influence. The response to the unrest in Kazakhstan reveals that Russia and China are both trying to exert their influence in the region and particularly in Kazakhstan, a key ally for the two. For Russia, the move reflects Moscow move to exert in the region both politically and economically. For China, there are both economic and security issues at stake. Thus, both countries would want a stable Kazakhstan.

Second, Kazakhstan to continue its multi-vector policy. Wedged between China and Russia, Kazakhstan would continue its multi-vector approach when it comes to its foreign policy. Although it may seem that Kazakhstan is leaning towards Russia by calling on the CSTO rather than the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it would maintain relations between the two for economic purposes. 

Third, the role of regional organizations. The response for the CSTO reveals that regional organizations such as the CSTO and SCO are being used by major powers, who use these organizations for their interest. 

Mali: Tensions escalate as ECOWAS imposes sanctions
What happened?
On 13 January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Mali's military government to outline an "acceptable election timetable." Al Jazeera quoted Guterres: "I am working with the ECOWAS and the African Union to create conditions which can allow the government of Mali to adopt a reasonable and acceptable position to accelerate a transition which has already been under way for a long time."

On 9 January, the Economic Community of West African States imposed sanctions on Mali, ordering for the closure of land and air borders, a trade embargo, freeze over Mali's assets in ECOWAS banks, and suspending non-essential financial transactions. 

On 10 January, the military spokesperson announced Mali's decision to recall its ambassadors to the ECOWAS countries and close its borders in response to the sanctions. On the same day, coup leader and head of Mali's transitional government Colonel Assimi Goita termed the sanctions "illegitimate, illegal and inhumane." However, he said, Mali was open to dialogue to reach a consensus with the ECOWAS. On the same day, France backed the ECOWAS decision at the UN Security Council; however, Russia and China blocked the French endorsement. 

What is the background?
First, the immediate background. The sanctions signify the ECOWAS's rejection of the junta's revised timeline for the transition period. On 30 December, citing deepening insecurity in Mali, the military government proposed that the presidential and legislative polls scheduled for February 2022 be delayed by six months to five years. With this, the transition to civilian rule would be completed by 2026. The ECOWAS, however, insisted on the polls being held in February. 

Second, Mali's suspension from the ECOWAS. In May 2021, following the second coup by Goita, in less than nine months, Mali was suspended from the ECOWAS. The coup had taken place despite the threat of sanctions looming since the first coup in August 2020. The August coup was briefly met with sanctions which were lifted after Goita assured the ECOWAS of a return of civilian governance. 

Third, internal responses in Mali. Mali's response to the revised timeline and sanctions has been mixed. A 10-party coalition rejected the proposed extension of the timeline, maintaining that the decision had not been discussed and was unreasonable. Some civilians, too, called for the re-establishment of democracy. On the other hand, the junta also enjoys popularity in Mali as it acknowledges the anti-French sentiment among the population. Following the announcement of sanctions, the junta called on protesters to demonstrate against the ECOWAS decision. 

Fourth, the role of foreign powers. The junta believes the sanctions were influenced by external powers, hinting at France with a strong external presence in Mali since 2013. In recent times, France and other Western powers have expressed concern over reports speculating the presence of Russian mercenaries, from the Wagner Group, in Mali. Mali has denied the presence of Russian mercenaries. Meanwhile, Russia termed the Western apprehensions double standards and maintained that Mali has the right to have ties with other partners.

What does it mean?
First, the imposition of sanctions shows that ECOWAS can put its foot down, contrary to previous notions of the regional organization being weak. The decision could also send a message to other countries in the region, like Guinea, which witnessed a coup in September. Meanwhile, the willingness to hold dialogue with the ECOWAS indicates that Mali understands the impact the sanctions are likely to have on the country. 

Second, the junta's stance that external interests drive the sanctions could work in its favour. Since Goita came to power in May 2021, the transitional government has been looking for justification for the coup to the population, which is increasingly wary of the French presence in the country.
Third, the West's apprehensions over the alleged Russian involvement and the latter's denial could lead to increased complexities within Mali, making it a hotspot soon. 

Also, in the news...
By Ashwin Dhanabalan, Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Washington and Beijing trade arguments on the recent report by the US on the South China Sea.
On 13 January, a report by the US State Department mentioned Beijing's comprehensive territorial claims in the South China Sea. The report stated: "These claims, especially considering their expansive geographic and substantive scope, gravely undermine the rule of law in the oceans and numerous universally recognized provisions of international law reflected in the convention." In retaliation, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin commented that the report "distorts international law, misleads the public, sows discord and disrupts the regional situation." He further stated, "the United States frequently creates disputes in the South China Sea and sows discord among countries in the region, this is completely unpopular. The international community sees this very clearly."

China: Proactive diplomacy with the GCC
On 13 January, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and discussed strengthening coordination between the two countries while upholding true multilateralism. On 12 January, as reported by Global Times, the Gulf Cooperation Council and China issued a joint statement for "...the establishment of a strategic partnership, promotion of the free trade agreement negotiations, and implementation of a free trade area". Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute's researcher Yin Gang said: "At the beginning of the New Year, China was engaged in diplomatic exchanges with the Gulf, indicating that China will attach great importance to political, economic, scientific and technological cooperation with countries in the Middle East."

North Korea: Pyongyang tests two ballistic missiles
On 14 January, North Korea tested two ballistic missiles hours after the US discussed sanctions on Pyongyang for its previous missile tests. The recent test is the third launch since 01 January; the previous two were hypersonic missiles, while this was a ballistic missile test. The Strait Times reported: "South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched eastward from North Pyongan province on the west coast of North Korea". 

Japan and Singapore: To uphold high standards of market access
On 13 January, the Japanese trade minister  Koichi Hagiuda and his Singaporean counterpart Gan Kim Yong committed to upholding the rules of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal and maintaining high standards of market access. In addition, the ministers released a joint statement showing their commitment to the agreement and the high standards by declaring to work towards "building a free and fair rules-based trading system including through maintaining". Singapore chairs the TPP Commission, and both are a part of the 11 members TPP which was earlier known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Japan and Thailand: To engage in a decarbonization initiative
On 13 January, Japan and Thailand announced to start an energy policy dialogue and work towards executing projects that would focus on decarbonization. The discussion comes at a point when both countries are aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. As per the report in Japan Today, which stated: "Under the dialogue framework, a comprehensive long-term program will be launched along with joint projects to be carried out through cooperation in green technology and human resources to help promote investment in the energy sector." The energy dialogue is in line with the global energy transition as both countries look for energy trade and investment opportunities. 

Malaysia: Concerns about Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar without consulting ASEAN
On 14 January, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah expressed concerns about Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar. He said: "(Hun Sen) has the right to visit Myanmar as head of government of Cambodia...However, we also feel that as he has already assumed the chair of Asean, he could have probably consulted the other Asean leaders and seek their views as to what he should do if he were to go to Myanmar."

Myanmar: Teak exports continue to the US, indirectly funding the military junta
On 11 January, Justice for Myanmar, an advocacy group, released a report highlighting how timber companies in the US were undercutting sanctions and importing timber from Myanmar. The report noted: "The evidence shows that the sanctions have not stopped the flow of teak to the US, and therefore have not stopped the flow of funds from the timber trade to the illegal military junta." The US had placed sanctions on the military-controlled Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) in April 2021. Still, the MTE had found ways to circumvent the sanctions by brokering and exporting them via third countries like China.

Myanmar: UN envoy suggests a more 'inclusive' ASEAN to the country
On 13 January, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, engaged in a virtual talk with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who serves as the current chairman of ASEAN. They discussed possible humanitarian aid and spoke on the stalled five-point peace plan that ASEAN had put forward to Myanmar in April 2021. 
Heyser Also mentioned about: "the special envoy advocated for confidence-building measures involving all stakeholders, in addition to ethnic armed organizations." The talk happened after Sen met the junta boss, Min Aung Hlaing, on 08 January amidst a deepening discord between the ASEAN member states concerning the approach with the junta. 

South Asia This Week 
Afghanistan: Taliban seeks good relations with the world
On 11 January, the acting Foreign Minister Amir Kahn Muttaqi assured the world that the Taliban government was not a threat and wanted the world to remove the political isolation of Afghanistan. He stated: "We seek positive and constructive relations with our neighbors, region and the world. We want positive interaction based on mutual respect with all nations." Kahn also stated the Doha agreement: " a good framework for relations between Afghanistan and the world, specifically with the United States of America...complete implementation of the Doha agreement can remove existing impediments in relations between the us and the United States of America along with its allies, therefore, it is needed that all sides remain committed to contents of the Doha agreement."

India: Negotiations with the UK on FTA agreements
On 13 January, India and the UK announced the launch of official negotiations on the free trade agreement. UK's International Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with India's commerce and industry minister, Piyush Goyal, in New Delhi. The formal negotiations will start next week and have created much anticipation as this agreement comes after the UK's exit from the EU. The new agreement would benefit both countries by increasing market access, leading to various goods and services and increased job opportunities. 

Pakistan: First National Security Policy released
On 14 January, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the country's first National Security Policy. The policy keeps economic security at its core with a citizen-centric framework. Khan stated: "For the first time, the National Security Division has developed a consensus document which defines national security in a proper way." The policy is a first in Pakistan as the security policy focuses on the economy rather than the military. Khan also mentioned: "The policy puts economic security at the core. A stronger economy would create additional resources which would then be distributed to further bolster military and human security."

Pakistan: Foreign Minister meets with Spanish and Romanian delegates 
On 11 January, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met President of Spain's Congress of Deputies Meritxell Batet and discussed the Financial Action Task Force and Afghanistan's situation. On 10 January, Qureshi met with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca and discussed bilateral issues, the situation in Afghanistan, and the human rights violations in India-held Kashmir. As reported by Dawn, "An MoU was signed between the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry".

On 13 January, Pakistan Foreign Minister for External Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi was invited by Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares to visit the country. As cited in Dawn, Qureshi also discussed, "... bilateral ties, multifaceted cooperation in trade, investment and tourism besides the regional and global matters." The two also discussed the absence of dual citizenship between Pakistan and Spain, because of which many Pakistani nationals had to give up on their citizenship. Furthermore, the two addressed the 125,000 strong expatriate communities in Spain, strengthening the bilateral ties.

Sri Lanka: India grants USD 900 million aid 
On 13 January, India granted Sri Lanka a total aid of USD 900 million. The assistance included a USD 400 million currency swap and a deferred payment of USD 500 million, which was due to the Asian Clearing Union. Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Ajith Nivard Cabral tweeted: "Had an excellent discussion with the Indian High Commissioner to #SriLanka HE Gopal Baglay at my office this morning where he confirmed the #SAARC #SWAP by RBI and other forms of bilateral cooperation." The decision to grant aid came after Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksha's visited New Delhi on 01 December 2021. The minister raised a request to provide financial help to Sri Lanka in terms of essential services and currency swaps to ease the economic crisis.

Sri Lanka: New loan sought from China to ease the economic crisis
On 12 January, Sri Lanka declared its plan to seek a new loan from China to mitigate the economic crisis the country has been facing. Central Bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal rejected most of the lending requests it received from other international lending institutions, including the International Monetary Fund. Mr Cabraal openly made a statement about the country's new borrowing: "The IMF is not a magic wand…At this point, the other alternatives are better." Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Sri Lanka on 10 January to discuss the debt, during which Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksha put forward a request for rescheduling the loan repayments. However, no conclusive decisions were made in the discussion, which prompted the Sri Lankan government to acquire a new loan from Beijing.

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Turkey and Armenia: To reverse decades of resentment
On 14 January, envoys from Turkey and Armenia met in Moscow to revive communications since it closed in 1993 due to hostility between the two countries. The neighbours have been at odds over various issues, most notably the Armenian Genocide, which Ankara has constantly denied. In two identical statements released by the respective Foreign Ministries, based on the talks between the Armenian Envoy Ruben Rubinyan and his Turkish counterpart, Serdar Kilic stated: "they met in a positive and constructive atmosphere." The ministries added: "parties agreed to continue negotiations without preconditions aiming at full normalization (of relations)."

Syria: Germany sentence a former Syrian Colonel for crimes against humanity
On 13 January, a court in Koblenz, Germany, sentenced former Syrian Colonel Anwar Raslan to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. The Syrian Colonel was charged for atrocities committed against prisoners in Al-Khatib prison in Damascus in the initial phase of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 and 2012. Prosecutors claimed he supervised interrogations including "electric shocks," beatings with "fists, wires and whips," rape,  sexual abuse, and sleep deprivation. United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights Michelle Bachelet commented on the verdict, saying: "This trial cast a much-needed, renewed spotlight on the kinds of sickening torture, cruel and truly inhuman treatment — including abject sexual violence — that countless Syrians were subjected to in detention facilities." The ruling is considered a landmark judgment as an international court under universal jurisdiction has ruled that crimes against humanity did happen under the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Iran: Parliament sanctions 51 American individuals
On 08 January, Iran's Parliament placed symbolic sanctions on 51 American individuals in retaliation to the assassination of Gen Qassim Suleimani. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan responded by saying Iran would have to "face severe consequences" if it attacked any Americans. 

Iran: Blinken concerned about saving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran 
On 14 January, the United States Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) released a statement saying "a few weeks left" about saving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. As reported by Al Jazeera, "Blinken spoke on Thursday as negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and the other signatories of the 2015 deal, from which former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018, continued". Blinken is concerned that if the US and Iran do not act now, it will become complicated to reverse Tehran's advancements later.  

Ethiopia: Nobel Prize committee asks the head of state to end the Tigray conflict
On 13 January, the Nobel Peace Prize committee called on Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to cease the conflict in Tigray. The Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, commented on the issue, saying: "As prime minister and winner of the Peace Prize, Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end the conflict and contribute to peace." The strife in Tigray started in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops against the Tigray People's Liberation Front for the attacks against federal army camps. The conflict has led to the displacement of thousands of people and has left many homeless.

Somalia: UN urges Somalia to uphold election schedule
On 11 January, the United Nations urged Somali leaders to uphold their agreement on creating a new election timetable as the delays were sparking a political crisis. The UN stated: "The UN encourages Somalia's political leaders to continue in a spirit of cooperation, avoid provocations that risk new tensions or conflict and stay focused on delivering a credible electoral process quickly for the benefit of all Somalis." The delay in the elections was caused by a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. The polls are to conclude by 25 February.

Europe and the Americas This Week
Ukraine: Cyberattacks on Government websites 
On 14 January, a massive cyberattack hit essential websites of the Ukrainian government. In a statement after the attacks, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Joseph Borell stated: "the bloc was mobilizing all its resources to aid its ally." Nonetheless, reports from Kyiv said that the harm was limited, and it has held back from blaming Russia for the attack. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in a statement, mentioned: "As a result of a massive cyberattack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down." 

Russia: Clampdown on Navalny's key aides 
On 14 January, Russia added Alexei Navalny's key aides Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov to the 'Terrorist and Extremist' list, which the Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service maintains. The Moscow Times reported: "Their inclusion on the register effectively locks them out of the Russian banking system, since the country's financial institutions are prohibited from providing services to individuals and organizations on the list ." Zhdanov later even tweeted about his Russian banking smartphone apps being blocked. Since 2019, Volkov and Zhdanov have already lived in exile as they ran Navalny's operations from outside Russia. 

Europe: Satellite data reveals the last septennium to be the hottest
On 10 January, the EU's satellite system revealed new data that the last seven years had been the hottest since the beginning of its record-keeping. The Program Director of the EU's Earth observation program Copernicus Climate Change Service, Carlo Buontempo, said: "These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society, and work towards reducing net carbon emissions." The increase in warming gases is another contributing factor to climate change. In addition, scientists have also warned of the rise in methane levels which is more harmful to the Earth's atmosphere.

Haiti: Senate leader to continue holding sessions
On 11 January, Haiti's Senate leader Joseph Lambert announced to continue holding sessions in the Senate even though his tenure in office was coming to an end. Lambert has been actively supporting an election in Haiti since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021. He also mentioned: "We are living in a vacuum, with no constituted power, everything has become illegal...In any case, 2022 will be an election year." Unfortunately, even after the assassination of the President, Haiti was not able to hold elections due to the earthquake that had hit the country in August 2021. 

The US: Senate fails to pass Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill
On 13 January, The US Senate could not pass a bill to implement sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. As reported by Reuters: "The tally was 55 in favour and 44 against the bill that needed 60 votes to pass, a major hurdle in the 50-50 Senate. The vote spanned nearly seven hours as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer considered options on voting rights legislation." On the failure of not being able to pass the sanctions, Republican Senator Ted Cruz said: "Only immediately imposing sanctions can change Putin's calculation, stop a Ukrainian invasion, and lift the existential threat posed by Nord Stream 2." 

El Salvador: Report on the use of Pegasus spyware
On 13 January, a report by a Canadian research institute, The Citizen Lab, said phones of nearly three dozen journalists and activists in the country had been hacked since mid-2020. Citizen Lab mentioned that it was not sure who implanted the spyware called Pegasus but hinted towards a local customer interested in monitoring the activities of journalists and activists. 

About the Authors
Dr Teshu Singh is a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi. Joeana Cera Matthews is a Postgraduate scholar at the University of Mysore. Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar are Project Associates at the School of Conflict and Security Studies in NIAS. 
Ashwin Dhanabalan is a Research Associate at NIAS. Angkuran Dey, and Meghna Manoj are postgraduate scholars at  Pondicherry University. 

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