The World this Week

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The World this Week
US ban on Myanmar Generals, Kulbhushan Yadav Verdict, Trump's Saudi Arms Deal, Sudan Power Sharing, US-Turkey tensions and Pakistan's reopening of its Airspace

  GP Team

This week focuses on six issues: The US sanctions Myanmar leaders in Myanmar over human rights abuses; the ICJ judgement on the Kulbhushan Jadav;  the US House of Representatives resolution in response to Trump's plan to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia; power-sharing agreement between Sudan's pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council; US decision to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program; and Pakistan reopening its airspace for Civilian aircraft after five months. 

Aparupa Bhattacherjee, Sourina Bej, Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh, Abigail Fernandez, Mahath Mangal and Harini Madhusudan

Myanmar: US-led  sanctions will not go far

What happened?

This week, the United States of America has imposed sanctions on four senior leaders of Myanmar's military, including their Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing over the atrocities and human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims. Apart from the Commander in Chief his deputy Soe Win and Brigadier Generals Than Oo and Aung Aung's names are also in the list. The sanction bans these Myanmarese military leaders and their families from entering the US territory. This is the first strict measure taken against them on behalf of the US. The sanction may be extended soon to include the names of two more military leaders identified in UN investigators report in 2018. This report has been compiled by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and have blamed six Myanmarese military leaders including of those mentioned above, for genocide against the Rohingyas.

What is the background?

The riots and attacks against the Rohingya in Arakan province, an ethnic community, has been a significant cause of conflict since 2012. The Rohingya, who are Muslims do not figure in the list of 135 ethnic communities in Myanmar and hence are stateless since 2008. In 2012 the rise of radical monks and organisations like 969 and Ma Ba Tha acted as a catalyst for this conflict. This has forced many Rohingya to migrate to Bangladesh over the years. But in 2017 a military crackdown drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to UN figures. UN investigators have stated that the atrocities included mass killings, gang rapes, and arson and was executed with "genocidal intent." This issue has also led to Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Councilor, loss of the Noble Peace Prize awarded to her, due to her inaction against the military. Both the army and the State have denied the charges of attack and genocide. Since 2018, Myanmar has agreed for repatriation of the refugees from Bangladesh; however, not even one Rohingyas are repatriated yet.  

What does it mean?

The US measure has been appreciated by many especially by Bangladesh, as a right move against Myanmar. Both the US and Bangladesh have called upon other countries to follow the same. But as rightly pointed out by the UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee that this sanction will "do not go far enough." Most of these leaders may not even need to travel to the US. If other countries follow suit, that will not have any significant impact on these leaders neither will it assist to reduce any misery for the Rohingya refugees. As insisted by Yanghee Lee the properties of these leaders in the US or in different countries must be frozen. However, until China who is the biggest investor in Myanmar, supports the military not much could be done through sanctions on the military. Even ASEAN is yet to take steps against its member although this issue has been discussed in several committees and annual meetings. It seems although appreciated the US-led sanction will not be of much help. 


ICJ verdict: Kulbhushan Jadhav gets consular rights 

What happened? 

On 17 July, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stayed the death sentence by Pakistan's military court on Kulbhushan Jadhav. Jadhav was convicted of espionage and placed on death row, but India has described him as a retired naval officer-turned-businessman. As a result of the verdict in Hague, not only the death warrant was stalled, the court recognising the right to counsel has asked Pakistan to grant Jadhav his right to defend himself in front of the law. Following this verdict, Pakistan on 18 July has granted consular rights to Jadhav.  

What is the background? 

Pakistan announced Jadhav's arrest on 29 March 2016, following a video confession he reportedly made was broadcast that day in which he was heard saying that he was an Indian spy and had carried out terrorist acts on Pakistani soil. Following the arrest, India and Pakistan relation worsened. Pakistan for the first blamed India for instigating proxies and indulging in cross border terrorism the same that Islamabad is accused off. Upon his arrest and death sentence, India decided to move to the ICJ on the ground of Jadhav's right to consular access under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) of 1963. 

At the ICJ, both the countries vigorously argued their case, and at the end, Pakistan's contention that Article 36 of the VCCR did not apply on the grounds of espionage was rejected. It also overruled the argument that a 2008 India-Pakistan bilateral agreement on consular access allowed it to deny consular access on 'security' grounds. Instead, the court concluded that Pakistan had indeed violated international law when it deprived India of the right to communicate with and have access to Jadhav. 

What does it mean? 

The ICJ judgement is balanced that offered both the countries space to drive the outcome. Thus it wasn't a surprise that ICJ didn't ask for the release of Jadhav and asked Pakistan to grant consular access to Jadhav.  

But it is also important to note that this is how far international law can go. How long the stay lasts and what sort of outcome emerges from the review process will likely be determined by political considerations – both within Pakistan and at the bilateral level with India. Thus what next after the verdict?

First, the ICJ left the choice of the review process to Pakistan. The latter will decide to go with the military courts or civilian courts. If the civilian courts get into the act and display an independent judgement, then it is possible for relief.  Second, what Pakistan does next will determine how it wants to maintain its relation with India as well as its global image. Thus while Pakistan is obliged to review and reconsider the conviction and sentence, it will also be wary of the adverse impact it causes.  Lastly, the possible outcome could happen that Jadhav is put on trial before the military court once again, and he is found guilty one more time. But this time India will also be witnessing the process. 

But all said and done, the Jadhav case is the product of the central position that terrorism and allegations of state sponsorship of terrorism have come to occupy in the discourse of India-Pakistan relations. The case should remind one that while New Delhi's case against Islamabad may have strong support worldwide, but the Pakistani military has also made rhetoric through Jadhav's confession video that it too is a victim of "cross-border terrorism".


US House blocks Trump's Saudi arms deal

What happened?

On 17 July 2019, the US House of Representatives has reportedly passed a resolution to block Trump's plan to sell weapons and guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan. Given the mounting rift between the White House and the Congress, the latest blockade could be read as an expression of political displeasure of Trump's involvement with Saudi in the human rights abuses and the increasing causalities in the Yemen war. 

What is the background?

Initially, in May 2019, the Trump administration had pushed for an $ 8.1 billion worth of arms deal with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan by issuing an emergency declaration available within the Presidential powers. The "emergency powers" from the US Arms Export Control Act under the arms control law was tweaked to complete the deal by circumventing the Congress. As per US law, Congress holds the right to review significant weapons sales. 

According to the White House, the fast-track decision came as a measure to tackle new military tensions with Iran that has been threatening the stability of the region while putting a strain on major international trade routes. Most significantly, it has been putting US security and national interests at risk.

What does it mean?

The primary reason for this move is the increasing divide within the system. 

Firstly, the latest blow on the President's decision could be viewed as an extension of ongoing efforts to put restraints over the American President's war-time powers and restructure current defence policies. It could also be read as an effort by Congress to exert its importance as a constitutional authority. According to US Arms sales law, the Congress review "stands to be the only instance that allows the open scrutiny of major arms sales to foreign countries."

Second, concerns over the message that USA's deepening relations with Saudi would send at a time when the former has to be seen holding the kingdom accountable for the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It is imperative to note that Trump had earlier dismissed UN requests over investigations into the Khashoggi murder claiming that it could affect the existing weapon transactions and sales with Saudi. 

Finally, the move shows mounting discomfort over American involvement in the Yemen war. The weapon deal has come at a time when Yemen is trying to push for a peace process. In April this year, Trump had vetoed a Congress decision to end US involvement in the Yemen crisis through Saudi. Widespread reports suggest that the latest weapon-transfer is to be used for the Yemeni war by the Saud as they have used up their weaponry and are looking for supplies. This is on par with Trump's idea that Saudi supported coalition in Yemen would help in differentiating targets better and thereby reduce civilian causalities. 

Sudan: Civilians and Military Leaders Sign Power-Sharing Deal

What happened?

On 17 July 2019 Sudan's pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council signed a power-sharing agreement. The ceremony was held in the capital, Khartoum. This marks the end of protests and negotiations that have been going on for more than three months. Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan was a signatory for the military to the power-sharing deal.
The deal lays down that there would be joint civilian-military sovereign council which would govern Sudan during the three- year transition period. The council will be made up of 11 members, five civilians, five from the military, and one person will be chosen by the council. The military will head the council for the first 21 months after which the civilian leader will lead for the remaining 18 months. They have also agreed for a cabinet in which the civilians will choose the prime minister and two other posts of defence, and the military will nominate interior minister. Further, the deal also promises an investigation into all the violence that has taken place. 

What is the background?

Sudan has gone through several struggles to reach this deal. The unrest can be traced back to when President Al Bashir's government imposed emergency austerity measures which cause the beginning of the uprising, leading to him being ousted by the military. However, the demonstrators demanded that power be transferred to the civilians. Since then, the military and civilians have clashed many times, causing many deaths and turbulence in the country. The military and civilian representative met to discuss in June. However, no consensus was reached, which is when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew to Sudan to help mediate a new agreement between the two sides. It was only after a few days of talks that his special envoy, Mahmoud Dirir stated that protest leaders had agreed to suspend their strikes and return to the negotiating with the military, after which two sides reached a new power-sharing agreement on 5 July 2019. 

What does it mean? 
This deal is a step towards civilian rule for Sudan. After months of disrupted talks, the coming together of the two sides to sign such an agreement is noteworthy by itself. On paper, this means that in three years, there will be a fully established civilian administration in Sudan. Even though the agreement fails to mention finer details of how the power is to be shared and various other elements, it is a well enough foundation for the two sides to build upon. Sudan is a country that is familiar with transitions; they have witnessed three transitions in the last six decades. Thus this is a process they are familiar with, and the only difference now is that if things go as planned, Sudan will see democracy at the end of this. 


US excludes Turkey from the F-35 program

What happened?

The US authorities have begun the process to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program. The move comes after several rounds of negotiations. Turkey had called for reconsideration, but the US chose the harsher response. Donald Trump on Thursday said that imposing sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the Russian made S-400 Triumf missile defence system is still under consideration in the US administration. This comes after the US ended Turkey's involvement in the development of the F-35 fighter jet. 

By March 2020, the withdrawal of Turkey's industrial participation in the development of the fighter jet will be completed.

What is the background?

The tensions between the two countries have been on for several years. Sharing a long history of alliance from the Cold War era where they found a common enemy in the Soviets. The interests of the two nations diverged in the case of Syria. The US support to Kurd rebels made Ankara dubious of its real interests. 

Though a NATO partner, Ankara has grown sceptical of how important Turkey's security to Washington is. The watershed moment could be the 2016 coup attempt on Erdogan. While the cleric who ordered the coup was located in the American soil and a lukewarm response by the US annoyed Turkey, Vladimir Putin was one of the first international leaders to phone Erdogan. 

The S-400s are the best anti-aircraft defence system in the world, quintessential for Erdogan to defend his palace against the NATO jets flown by rogue pilots that are proving to be a security risk. Hence the alliance seems to be also out of necessity.

What does it mean?

While Turkey is diverging from its earlier position in the world stage as a NATO partner, as a staunch ally of the US against the Russians in this radical pivot move, the one that would benefit the most would be Russia. Russia has been looking to increase its global footprint somewhat slyly by signing agreements and deals with several nations facing sanctions from the US. 
About Turkey, the case is no different. An offer for Su-35 fighter jets as a replacement for the F-35s is already on the table from the Russian Rostec corporation. 
With the Congress calling for enacting sanctions on Turkey through CAATSA, the US is dismayed with the developments. While the US sanctions are undesirable for the nations, it is also becoming a tool for Russia to find common ground to engage more with the affected countries. 


Pakistan Airspace Reopens after five months

What happened?

After fully closing their airspace on 26 February 2019, Pakistan partially opened its airspace in March 2019. On 16 July 2019, Normal air traffic operations between India and Pakistan resumed, and Islamabad opened its airspace for all civilian flights. The earlier open sky policy has now been switched over to fair sky policy which offers equal opportunities to domestic air operators to expand their businesses. Previously, domestic airlines did not have space to expand their operations because of open sky policies. 

What is the background?

Five months after closing the airspace due to escalating tensions between Pakistan and India; Pakistan reopened its airspace, with a NOTAMS, "With immediate effect, Pakistan airspace is open for all types of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes." Indian Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, stated to India's upper house of parliament that the airspace closure had cost the Indian airlines more than $80.1m loss. The bulk of the losses affected Air India, the national flag carrier, which lost more than $71.65m; other carriers affected include Indian airlines SpiceJet ($4.48m), IndiGo ($3.66m) and GoAir ($0.3m). Pakistan is reported to have lost $50 billion by closing its airspace. 

Additionally, this situation led to carriers having to fly around Pakistan rather than over it. This diversion resulted in flight times to India (especially Delhi) and SouthEast Asia to increase significantly. After it was reopened, fares to the US, Europe dropped by 15-20%. Immediately, aviation minister H S Puri tweeted that India would resume its tri-weekly Delhi- Amritsar- Birmingham service.

What does it mean?

It took five strong months for Pakistan airspace to remain closed, despite requests from India. Eventually, the logistics and economics of the issue made the upper hand. This period was necessary to understand the level of economic and geographical interdependence that the two nations have. Pakistan chose to forego their condition to have India remove its fighter jets from the vicinity, this speaks for itself. 

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