The World This Week

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The World This Week
The One Ocean summit in France, and the Quad meeting in Australia

  GP Team

The World This Week #157, Vol. 4, No. 06 

Padmashree Anandhan, and Avishka Ashok 



The One Ocean Summit: A framework toward conservation 

What happened?
On 11 February, leaders and representatives from 100 countries took part in the One Ocean summit hosted by the French President, Emmanuel Macron in Brest, France. The summit brought out ways to deal with the threats to the ocean, such as overfishing, plastic pollution, use of carbon-intensive fuels, and how countries can commit to the measures to preserve the ocean. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: "a decisive year, and we should take here, in Brest, clear and firm commitments."

On the same day, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay stated:" Only 20 per cent of the seabed is mapped. We need to go further and mobilize the international community so that at least 80 per cent of the seabed is mapped by 2030.The international community must make education one of the pillars of its action for the ocean. Because if we want to protect it better, we must teach it better. On the occasion of the One Ocean Summit, I am setting a common objective for our 193 Member States: to include ocean education in school curricula by 2025."

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighted three critical areas of cooperation to conserve the oceans: "a new international coalition to protect biodiversity on high seas, which constitute 95 per cent of the ocean; a major computing project allowing researchers to digitally simulate the world's oceans; and the EU's research mission to restore our ocean and waters by 2030." 

What is the background?
First, the focus on ocean health. The ocean forms an important component from facilitating global trade to meeting climate change. It helps boost the shipping industry, and serve as a marine ecosystem in absorbing and storing enormous tons of carbon. However, with the increased human activities in the expanded horizons, 45 per cent of the ocean surface does not come under marine protected area status. It is severely affected by shipping, fishing, and plastic pollution. 
 
Second, threats to marine life. It comes from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The excessive presence of plastic and marine litter challenges the existence of marine species and biodiversity. It also affects the global fish stock and pushes the fishers to opt for poor working conditions. The EU, which is at the forefront of dealing with unregulated fishing practices and 14 countries, promised to fight against illegal fishing practices through increased surveillance, control measures at ports, and fixing standards for fishing boats.

Third, the larger issue of conservation. Other threats to the ocean and marine include underwater noise, pollutant air emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, aggressive aquatic species, residues, oily discharge, and ship recycling. The summit guidelines state the threats can be countered by maintaining the atmospheric pollution at lower levels in trafficked port cities, creating a low sulphur emissions zone, and restoring marine ecosystems such as seagrass beds and mangroves.

Fourth, the need for sea bed mapping. It is critical to know about the ocean faults, ocean currents and to track the passage of sediments; this would help in detecting and responding to disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis. It also helps to identify marine resources and climate change effects to plan a sustainable future. Still, the mapping has been done to only 20 per cent of the ocean surface, which is a setback for humanity. The UNESCO has recommended: "mobilization of a fleet of 50 vessels specially dedicated to seabed mapping, intensifying the use of sonar on autonomous vessels, and transmission by governments and corporations of cartographic data they have already archived."

What does it mean?
First, approaching the ocean as a global common. Ursula launched the high-ambition coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), an international legally binding treaty under the UNCLOS urging the states to sign an agreement by the end of 2022. The treaty targets the global protection of ocean and biodiversity beyond one's jurisdiction. It is necessary to safeguard the area beyond as the activities threatening the ocean carried out in the national jurisdiction by default affect the remote oceans. 
 
Second, the role of the EU. The initiative taken by France under the EU Presidency in providing a deeper analysis of the problems in the oceans and laying out a framework to address them from the national to international level shows the seriousness and capability of the EU as the global climate leader.
 
Finally, a united push. With the EU setting an example to make its member countries commit to the measures towards protecting the ocean and marine life, it acts as a booster for other countries to unite in pledging toward ocean safety. This is a need of the hour.


Quad summit in Australia: Focus on the Indo-Pacific 

What happened?
On 11 February, the Quad countries comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India met in Melbourne and discussed their strategy to deepen the cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting resulted in a joint statement that pledged to cooperate on humanitarian relief, ensuring a free Indo-Pacific, providing disaster assistance and also condemned the “destabilizing ballistic missile launches” in North Korea. 

The joint statement discretely referred to China’s hostile responses to Australia and Lithuania and said: “The Quad partners oppose coercive economic policies that run counter to the World Trade Organization system, and will work collectively to foster global economic resilience against such actions.”

The Foreign Minister of Australia Marise Payne said: “We agreed to boost maritime security support for Indo Pacific partners to strengthen their maritime domain awareness and ability to develop their offshore resources, to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight and to combat challenges such as illegal fishing.” On the question of an inevitable confrontation in the Indo-Pacific region. the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken replied that “Nothing is inevitable. Having said that, I think we share concerns that in recent years China has been acting more aggressively at home and more aggressively in the region.” 

On the same day, Wang Yi responded to the US accusation of China coercing Australia via economic restrictions and said “No one has a better claim to the title of master of coercion than the US.”

What is the background?
First, the constantly evolving idea of Quad. It originated as a disaster response to the 2004 Tsunami when India was helped by the US, Japan and Australia in conducting rescue operations and providing relief. Although the Quad does not qualify as an organization, the group of countries have evolved in recent decades. The Quad was revived by US President Joe Biden after coming to power. He, along with the other countries have repeatedly raised concern over China’s aggression in the South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific region. However, the aim of securing the Indo-Pacific and the threat of Chinese aggression in the region are relatively new additions. Resolving these issues have, now, become the core aim for the Quad. 

Second, the focus on the Indo-Pacific. The members of the Quad view the Indo-Pacific region as a significant part of their national interests due to the geographic proximity to the region and the vital role it plays in the trade and transport industry. Japan, which shares a border with the South China Sea, and has constantly objected China’s interference near the Senkaku Islands and urged China to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US, Australia and India have been in a state of continual disagreement with China in the past few years over numerous issues. The emphasis on democracy and human rights has increased in the past few years as the countries constantly take up these issues at bilateral and multilateral meetings. 

Third, China and the Quad. Beijing has continually objected the Quad’s tone of hostility towards the country and its policies in the South China Sea. The country has repeatedly shot down the Quad’s concerns regarding the Taiwan Strait and pointedly demanded the countries to abstain from involving themselves with the country’s internal affairs. The Japanese Diet recently passed a resolution that raised its voice against the injustices in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Quad has also tried to involve more countries in their aim of protesting and resisting China. The group primarily targets the Southeast Asian and ASEAN countries as they are more directly involved in the region and with China.

What does it mean?
First, tensions in the Indo-Pacific is bound to rise in 2022 as the Quad countries continue to unite and cooperate with each other while countering China’s growing economic and political influence in the region. The Quad, which was created with a different agenda in 2004 and currently existing with a completely different set of agendas, is bound to shore up their defenses in the region. Second, the Chinese influence binds the group together and brings them closer. The group may present itself as a resistance to China’s threats but it is uncertain if China can be contained for long; considering its recent responses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. 



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

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: BBC and Global Times report on Nepal-China border issues
On 10 February, a BBC news report referring to the government report of Nepal, talked about China’s encroachment into the Humla district of Nepal. However, the Chinese media Global Times said similar claims had been raised since 2020, and the Nepalese government has refuted them since then. Accusations arose against the BBC for raising anti-China sentiment during the Winter Olympics, while it did not report the border issues between India and Nepal. 
 
China: Beijing requests the removal of US sanctions and tariffs 
On 10 February, Beijing urged the US to remove additional tariffs, sanctions, and measures inflicted on it. China states that it had worked hard to promote the joint implementation of its phase-one economic and trade agreement with the US. Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng called on the US to create a conducive environment for expanding trade between the two countries. Gao also mentioned China fulfilling its commitments after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). 
 
South Korea: The US discusses North Korea’s missile tests
On 9 February, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with the Defense Ministers of South Korea and Japan concerning the seven missile launches by North Korea. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said: “The leaders emphasised that the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches are destabilizing to regional security and a clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.” South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook said the launches were a severe and direct threat to Seoul and assured to boost its response capabilities to be in line with the US alliance. 
 
North Korea: UNSC report reveals Pyongyang profiting from cyber attacks 
On 5 February, a UN report revealed how North Korea funded its nuclear and ballistic missile programs by launching cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges. The report said: “According to a member state, DPRK cyber actors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia.” Pyongyang had launched multiple attacks and extracted USD 400 million worth of digital currency in 2021. The report analyzed North Korea’s illicit trade imports and exports, concluding that only cyber-attacks on Crypto exchanges could have helped Pyongyang fund its tests. 
 
Japan: Tokyo to extend humanitarian aid to Myanmar
On 10 February, the Japanese government decided to extend USD 18.5 million of humanitarian aid to Myanmar. It will be delivered through international organizations and the ASEAN Secretariat. Addressing a press conference, the Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stated: “The Japanese government will continue to proactively provide humanitarian assistance that reaches the people of Myanmar in need.” This decision comes in the wake of the UN appealing to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance amounting to USD 826 million to Myanmar over the next year. 
 
Myanmar: Interpol declines Naypyidaw’s request to intervene 
On 10 February, Interpol stated that it would not provide help to Myanmar after its government had approached the global police body to fight terrorism. Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry requested its intervention to act against its de facto government of the National Unity Government (NUG). Interpol declined the request and said: “Interpol will not  assist with any requests which might draw the organization into matters involving domestic politics such as notices requested for political opponents, critics of a government, or in the context of a coup d’etat, etc.”
 
Thailand: Second oil spill in three weeks 
On 11 February, Thai authorities announced a second oil spill near the coast of the eastern province of Rayong, which was estimated to have leaked five tons. The oil spill happened in the same region where it had happened earlier. This time it was caused by the underwater pipeline that was undergoing repairs. Thai Navy Spokesperson mentioned that the situation was being assessed, and chemicals were being applied to disperse the oil. 

South Asia This Week
Pakistan: Imran Khan's four-day visit to China
On 6 February, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded his China visit. Khan said: "We agreed to further enhance our strategic and economic relations and to fast track the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)." He also congratulated China on successfully hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and lauded its effort to assist Pakistan's socio-economic development. 
 
Afghanistan: The UK delegates visit Kabul
On 11 February, delegates from the UK met with the acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi. They conveyed the UK's concerns on human rights violations, issues with women's rights, protection of minorities, and aggression toward woman activists. A UK government spokesperson said: "UK representatives returned to Afghanistan today for talks on how to respond to the country's deepening humanitarian crisis." The delegation discussed issues mentioned above and said the trend was a deep concern to the UK and the international community. 
 
Sri Lanka: Foreign minister visits New Delhi
On 7 February, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka G L Peiris met with Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi. The two leaders discussed the Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi's Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative and the Neighbourhood First policy. National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval said: "There is a proposal for the purchase of two Dornier aircraft. However, there is no finality, nothing has been agreed upon." Peiris reiterated that India and Sri Lanka relations were high and waved off Delhi's concerns about Beijing's presence in Colombo. 
 
The Maldives: Australia to open a High Commission in Male
On 11 February, Australia announced to provide USD 36.5 million over the next five years to enhance its engagement across the Indian Ocean region. A part of the investments would establish a permanent Australian diplomatic presence in the Maldives. The move would further its aspirations and bilateral cooperation with Male and help to strengthen its Indo-Pacific strategy. In addition, its existence would enhance cooperation with regional and multilateral organizations and promote maritime security, climate change, and the blue economy.  
 
Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week 
Saudi Arabia: Biden pledges support against the Houthi attacks 
On 9 February, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his support for Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in a telephonic conversation. His assurances came as the Houthis had intensified drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. White House said in a statement: “The president underscored the US commitment to support Saudi Arabia in defense of its people and territory from these attacks and full support for UN-led efforts to end the war in Yemen.” In addition, Saudi King Salman lauded the US’ support and efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  
 
Iran: JCPOA talks continue amidst opposition in the US
On 9 February, US Senator Bob Menendez spoke against the revival of the Iran nuclear deal in the Senate. His declaration comes as Iran and the US enter the final stretch of atomic deal negotiations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Opposition members have been voicing their concerns against the deal and questioned the rationale behind reviving the agreement. 

Israel: UAE National Council visits the Knesset
On 7 February, three members of the UAE’s Federal National Council visited the Israeli Parliament for the first time since the US-brokered Abraham Accords. Chairman of the Council’s Defence Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi said: “When we talk about Abraham Accords agreements, we want you to look at the big picture.” On the other hand, the Head of the Israeli Foreign and Defence Committee, Ram Ben Barak, who hosted the National Council members, stated: “I want everyone to know there is no way back, we are moving forward, we are not repeating history, we are writing history.” 

Libya: A new political crisis 
On 10 February, the current Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeiba rejected the Parliament’s decision to install a new interim government. The dispute seems to set the country back to the previous set of affairs with two rival leaders and the country’s support divided in half. The decision by the Parliament comes after the government failed to hold elections on time, and the Parliament unanimously voted for Fathi Bashagha to lead the interim government. UN’s envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, mentioned that the elections should solve the crisis of legitimacy and fill the power vacuum which is already generating violent attacks in the region.   

Madagascar: Hit by a cyclone, Island nation in a humanitarian crisis
On 9 February, Cyclone Batsirai hit Madagascar and left behind a trail of destruction. This led to the displacement of 75,000 people as the island reels under a humanitarian crisis. UNICEF has called for swift action and the need for relief aid to reach the areas impacted by the cyclone to prevent disease outbreaks. The death toll as of 8 February stood at 30; this is expected to increase as some areas remain inaccessible. A statement by UNICEF pointed: “among the most pressing needs are for safe water and adequate sanitation to avoid outbreaks of waterborne diseases, and the provision of medicine, food, cooking equipment, and other basic household items for survival.”

Africa: Senegal defeats Egypt to lift its first AFCON trophy
On 6 February, Senegal lifted the Africa Cup of Nations Championship by beating Egypt in the finals. However, neither Senegal nor Egypt could break the deadlock as the goalkeepers played a crucial role in leading the match into a tense penalty shootout. Finally, Senegal won the shootout 4-2, as Liverpool teammate of Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, drilled the decisive penalty into the bottom left corner. Senegal’s goalkeeper, who was overjoyed after the decisive victory, stated: “We never won before. We worked really hard to win this trophy, and today we won as a group, as a country.”


Europe and the Americas This Week 
Belarus: Minsk and Moscow engage in military drills
On 10 February, Russian and Belarusian troops started a ten-day-long military drill. The exercise, named Allied Resolve 2022, is close to the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. There have been no troop estimates from Russia or Belarus. However, the US estimates that some 30,000 Russian troops are expected to participate in the exercise. Regarding the deployment of the soldiers, the Russian Defense Ministry stated: “The objective of the war games is to practice “repelling external aggression with a defensive operation.” 

Germany: Chancellor Scholz hosts Presidents Macron and Duda
On 8 February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda in Berlin. The leaders discussed the rising tensions in Ukraine, with Russia amassing more military hardware and increasing its troop build-up on the border with Kyiv. The statement by the German government said: “The leaders call on Russia to de-escalate the situation at the Ukrainian border and engage in a meaningful dialogue on security on the European continent.” Scholz also mentioned that a Russian attack on Ukraine would have massive consequences and costs to Moscow. 

The Baltic: Leaders call for an increase in NATO troops 
On 10 February, during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, the Baltic leaders called for bolstering troop presence in the region, citing the Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian border. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins stated: “I think it’s very important to strengthen NATO’s presence along the eastern flank-that is from the Baltic down to the Black Sea.” The Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas emphasized Estonian support for Ukraine and that de-escalation cannot come at the expense of Ukraine.  

Ukraine: the UK and the US send advisories, asking citizens to leave Kyiv
On 11 February, The US and UK sent warnings to their citizens in Ukraine to evacuate within 48 hours due to an imminent threat from Ukraine. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time should Vladimir Putin decide to order it.” However, the European Commission has decided not to evacuate its staff from Kyiv. 

The UK: OneWeb satellite launched on a Russian rocket 
On 10 February, a batch of 34 internet satellites for the British operator OneWeb, was launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Centre. These satellites will form a part of the low-Earth orbit satellites providing internet access to the world’s remotest corners. OneWeb, during the launch, stated: “We currently have 394 satellites in our constellation-this launch will take us to 428 OneWeb satellites in low Earth orbit.” OneWeb hopes to start operations of its global commercial internet service by 2023, as it competes with Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites for providing high-speed internet access globally. 

The UK: Energy scientists make a significant breakthrough in nuclear fusion
On 10 February, the UK- based JET laboratory reached a breakthrough as it achieved an energy output double that the previous tests conducted in 1997 by fusing two forms of Hydrogen. This is a significant development, as nuclear fusion holds the key to unlimited low-carbon energy supplies with minimal radiation. Dr Joe Milnes, the Head of Operations at the reactor lab, stated: “We’ve demonstrated that we can create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds and get high performance, which really takes us into a new realm.”  

The US: Washington adds Beijing entities to red-flag export list 
On 7 February, the US Commerce Department added 33 Chinese entities to the ‘unverified list.’ This would require the US exporters to undergo more stringent procedures before the goods are shipped to Chinese entities. This comes after the Commerce Department was unable to verify the legitimacy and reliability of these entities concerning American exports. The Chinese Commerce Ministry hit out at the decision, calling Washington to correct its “wrongdoings” and how the US needs to return to the cooperation track and contribute to reviving the global economy. 

The US: Washington to help UAE in replenishing its missile interceptors 
On 10 February, the US declared to assist the UAE in replenishing the existing missile interceptors. This comes after the Pentagon announced the delivery of a guided-missile destroyer and advanced fighter jets to the UAE. Head of the US Central Command, Frank McKenzie, who oversees the Middle East, stated: “We will help with replenishment of interceptors. And we’ll do everything we can to assist the UAE in defending themselves.” His remarks come at a critical time, as the Houthis intensify their attacks against the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  
 
Canada: Freedom convoy blocks the Ambassador Bridge
On 11 February, a court in Ontario ordered protestors to end the blockage of the Ambassador Bridge. The Freedom Convoy demonstrations had paralyzed the capital and have caused disruptions in trade and manufacturing for both the US and Canada. Ontario’s Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz gave a few hours’ notices to send the blockade of the bridge and said he would seek to impose fines and prison time for those who violated the orders and obstructed the bridge. However, the protestors continued to hold demonstrations even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more severe consequences if the blockades continued. 

Argentina: Buenos Aires joins the BRI
On 6 February, Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez met with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics. An MoU was signed by the two leaders, that officiated Argentina to become a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Argentinian government mentioned in a statement: “This strategic decision will allow the national government to sign different agreements that guarantee to finance for investments and works for more than USD 23.7 billion.” The MoU would bolster the Chinese pursuit of strengthening relations with countries in Latin America.  


About the Authors
Avishka Ashok is a Research Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan are Research Assistants at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Angkuran Dey, and Meghna Manoj are postgraduate scholars at the Center for South Asian Studies at Pondicherry University. 

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