Tag Archives: National Security

VIF News Digest: National Security – Defence Studies & Terrorism, 16-31 December 2021

DEFENCE

  • Third Annual Defence Dialogue between India and France.
  • New generation ballistic missile successfully test-fired.
  • India beyond 75.
  • Controlled Aerial Delivery System.
  • Defence Agreement with Russia on Assault Rifles.
  • Violation of LoC by Pakistan.
  • LCA Tejas.
  • Maiden launch surface-to-surface missile ‘Pralay’.
  • High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) Abhyas.
  • Mission SAGAR.
  • Chief of the Air Staff is on a four day official visit to the Republic of Korea.
  • Indian Army Establishes Quantum Laboratory.
  • Year End Review – 2021 of Ministry of Defence.

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Africa
Nigeria
  • Boko Haram fired rockets targeting Maiduguri airport as Buhari’s plane arrived.
  • Nigerian Army foiled an attack and killed seven ISWAP terrorists in Yobe town.
Afghanistan
  • “Terrorists being legalised, as Taliban granting passports to al-Qa’ida and IS terrorists”: said an Afghan diplomat.
  • “Al-Qa’ida aims to benefit from Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan”: said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Pakistan
  • Pakistan’s cabinet approved its first National Security Policy.

DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
  • NIA filed charge-sheet against LeT terrorists in ‘Darbhanga Railway Station blast’ case.
  • NIA filed charge-sheet against TRF terrorists in ‘Recovery of IED at Bhatindi’ case.
  • Security forces eliminated five terrorists in three separate CT operations in Pulwama, Shopian, and Anantnag.
  • J&K police arrested four JeM terrorists from Pulwama.
  • Security forces killed four LeT and JeM terrorists in two separate CT operations in Shopian and Awantipora.
  • HM terrorist eliminated in a joint CT operation in Anantnag.
Left-Wing Extremism
  • Two Maoists killed in gun-battle with security forces in Chhattisgarh.
  • Security forces eliminated six Maoists in Telangana-Chhattisgarh border area.
Khalistan-inspired Extremism
  • ‘Targeted killing by KTF terrorists’ case: NIA filed charge-sheet against four KTF terrorists.
  • ‘Killing of Comrade Balwinder Singh Sandhu, SC awardee’ case: NIA filed supplementary charge-sheet against three KLF terrorists.
  • Pakistan-based pro-Khalistan terror group conspired the Ludhiana Court complex blast.
  • ‘Ludhiana Court Complex Blast’: pro-Khalistan terrorist Jaswinder Singh Multani arrested from Germany.
  • Police arrested three pro-Khalistan operatives from Patiala.
Islamic Extremism
  • ‘Recovery & Explosion of IED at Bodh Gaya case’: NIA Special Court (Patna) convicted eight JMB terrorists.
Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) Cases
  • ‘Baishnabnagar FICN case’: NIA Special Court (Kolkata) sentenced two accused.

CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

  • China regulators suspended Cyber Security deal with Alibaba cloud.
  • Ukraine accused Russia of Information Warfare after the arrests of 106 ‘neo-Nazi’ supporters.

DEFENCE

Third Annual Defence Dialogue between India and France.

The third Annual Defence Dialogue between India and France took place between Raksha Mantri(RM) and French Minister for Armed Forces Ms Florence Parly in New Delhi on December 17, 2021. A wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the annual meeting.

The Ministers reviewed the existing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased in spite of pandemic challenges. They discussed ways to increase defence cooperation in all domains. Defence industrial cooperation was discussed with focus on future collaborations and co-production between the two countries. They expressed commitment to work together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and shall take over the Presidency of European Union from January 01, 2022. The two Ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues during the French Presidency. Click here to read…

New generation ballistic missile successfully test-fired.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully tested the new generation nuclear capable ballistic missile ‘Agni P’ on December 18, 2021. The Agni P is a two-stage canisterised solid propellant ballistic missile with dual redundant navigation and guidance system. Click here to read…

India beyond 75.

The RM addressed the 94th Annual General Meeting of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), on the theme ‘India Beyond 75’, in New Delhi on December 18, 2021. He voiced the Government’s vision to make India a global defence manufacturing hub in the coming times, stressing that the focus is to modernise the Armed Forces and create a strong & ‘Aatmanirbhar’ defence industry which can help in safeguarding the country from conventional and non-conventional, present and future security threats. He also stated that he saw the “defence and aerospace manufacturing market in India to be Rs five lakh crore by 2047. The present contribution of private companies is Rs 18,000 crore in the market of Rs 85,000 crore. According to the current situation, more than Rs one lakh crore will be the contribution of the private sector in the market Rs five lakh crore in the future”. Click here to read…

Controlled Aerial Delivery System.

Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), Agra conducted a flight demonstration of Controlled Aerial Delivery System of 500 kg capacity (CADS-500) on December 18, 2021. The CADS-500 is used for precise delivery of payload upto 500 kgs at predetermined location by making use of manoeuvrable capabilities of Ram Air Parachute (RAP). It uses Global Positioning System for the coordinates, altitude and heading sensors for the heading information during its flight. The CADS, with its onboard electronics unit, autonomously steers its flight path using waypoint navigation towards target location by operating controls. System performance was demonstrated at Drop Zone, Malpura from an altitude of 5000m. The system was para-dropped from AN32 aircraft and then steered to the pre-designated landing point in autonomous mode. Click here to read…

Defence Agreement with Russia on Assault Rifles.

A contract for procurement of quantity 6,01,427 Assault Rifles AK-203 was signed on December 06, 2021 between Ministry of Defence and M/s Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL)- a Joint Venture established between India, represented by the Defence PSUs-Advanced Weapons & Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) & Munitions India Limited (MIL) and Russia, represented by Rosoboronexport (RoE) & Concern Kalashnikov (CK), in the share holding of 50.5% and 49.5% respectively. These rifles will be produced by M/s IRRPL at Korwa, Uttar Pradesh. Click here to read…

Violation of LoC by Pakistan.

A total 5,601 instances of Cease Fire Violations (CFVs) were reported along the LoC under operational control of Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir from 30 November 2019 to 29 November 2021. Click here to read…

LCA Tejas.

Tejas LCA is not being inducted as a replacement of MIG-21 fighter aircraft, but as a part of modernisation of IAF. Amount spent so far on the manufacture of 24 LCA Tejas delivered till 30.09.2021 is Rs 6,653 crore. Considering the contract with HAL by IAF, a total of 123 Tejas fighter aircraft are to be manufactured. Click here to read…

Maiden launch surface-to-surface missile ‘Pralay’.

(DRDO) successfully conducted maiden flight test of indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile ‘Pralay’, from Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha on December 22, 2021. The Missile is powered with solid propellant rocket motor and many new technologies. The missile has a range of 150-500 kilometre and can be launched from a mobile launcher. The missile guidance system includes state-of-the-art navigation system and integrated avionics. Click here to read…

High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) Abhyas.

DRDO successfully conducted the flight test of indigenously developed High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) Abhyas. During the flight trial, High subsonic speed trajectory at a very low altitude with high endurance was demonstrated. Two boosters provided initial acceleration during launch and a small turbo jet engine is used to sustain high subsonic speed with long endurance. The indigenous data link designed by Bengaluru based Industry partner has been successfully flown and tested during the flight. Click here to read…

Mission SAGAR.

As part of a deployment undertaken by Indian Navy under Mission SAGAR, Indian Naval Ship Kesari entered Port of Maputo, Mozambique on 25 December 2021. About 500 Tons of food aid has been shipped by INS Kesari to support the efforts of Government of Mozambique to cope with ongoing drought and concurrent challenges of pandemic. India also remains committed to supporting the capacity building efforts of the Armed Forces of Mozambique. To this end INS Kesari is carrying two Fast Interceptor Craft and self defence equipment to be handed over to the Armed Forces of Mozambique. Click here to read…

Chief of the Air Staff is on a four day official visit to the Republic of Korea.

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari PVSM AVSM VM ADC, Chief of the Air Staff is on a four day official visit to the Republic of Korea till 30 Dec 21. The CAS will be calling on the Minister of National Defence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Air Force and visiting important defence establishments. The visit of CAS is expected to bolster ties with the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea.

Indian Army Establishes Quantum Laboratory.

The Army, with support from the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has recently established the Quantum Lab at Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow (MP) MCTE to spearhead research and training in this key developing field. Indian Army has also established an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centre at the same institution. Training on cyber warfare is being imparted through a state of art cyber range, and cyber security labs. Click here to read…

Year End Review – 2021 of Ministry of Defence.

The key highlights of the defence forces and the ministry of defence was released in a yearend review paper. Some areas besides the three services contributions were Atmanirbhar Bharat, Swarnim Vijay Varsh, Strengthening border infrastructure, Contribution of MoD in fight against COVID-19, contribution by the Department of Defence, Department of Military affairs, Department of Defence Production and other key stake holders were set out. Click here to read…

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Africa
Nigeria
Boko Haram fired rockets targeting Maiduguri airport as Buhari’s plane arrived.

On 23 December 2021, Boko Haram terrorists fired several rockets at Maiduguri airport, as President Muhammadu Buhari’s plane arrived in the Borno capital during a State visit to Governor Babagana Zulum. No fatalities or injuries were reported. Click here to read…

Nigerian Army foiled an attack and killed seven ISWAP terrorists in Yobe town.

On 26 December 2021, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists carried out an attack in Buni Yadi, Gujba LGA of Yobe state, but the attack was deterred by the Nigerian Army. “The terrorists used cows as their shield in order to gain easy access without being noticed, but their evil plan and strategy were unravelled by the troops, who quickly engaged them in a gun battle. Seven of the ISWAP terrorists were killed, while five others were arrested,” said a Nigerian intelligence official on the basis of anonymity. Click here to read…

Afghanistan
“Terrorists being legalised, as Taliban granting passports to al-Qa’ida and IS terrorists”: said an Afghan diplomat.

The Taliban is legalising terrorism by granting Afghan passports to al-Qa’ida and Islamic State (IS) terrorists. “The whole world should know that all terrorists from al-Qa’ida and IS in Afghanistan are given Afghan passports by the Taliban. This is a serious signal to all mankind that terrorists are being legalised,” said the Afghan Ambassador to Tajikistan— Muhammad Zahir Agbar.

“…the Taliban leadership has not yet brought their families to Afghanistan, who are residing in Qatar, Dubai, and Pakistan. They [Taliban] have not paid their military personnel for several months. Disagreements have emerged among the Taliban…and women hold protests against this regime almost every day,” said the Ambassador Agbar. Click here to read…

“Al-Qa’ida aims to benefit from Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan”: said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

In an international conference on the fight against terrorism, on 22 December 2021, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister— Oleg Syromolotov informed that terrorist organisations, including al-Qa’ida, consider Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan as a victory of radicalism.

“Unfortunately, the actions of the United States and its partners only undermine the situation. Instead of admitting mistakes and refusing to dictate, they took the financial leverage to push their demands on the Taliban movement,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Syromolotov. On 15 August 2021, the Taliban captured Kabul, and following this Afghanistan has been suffering with deep economic, humanitarian, and security crises. Click here to read…

Pakistan
Pakistan’s cabinet approved its first National Security Policy.

On 28 December 2021, Pakistan’s cabinet approved a security plan as country’s first National Security Policy (NSP), which aims at guiding economic, foreign, and defence policies. “It is truly historic achievement; a citizen-centric comprehensive national security policy with economic security at the core will now be pursued in earnest,” tweeted Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA)—Moeed Yusuf.

“The policy was an important milestone in strengthening Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan’s armed forces will play their due part in achieving the vision laid out in the policy,” said Major General Babar Iftikhar. Click here to read…

DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
NIA filed charge-sheet against LeT terrorists in ‘Darbhanga Railway Station blast’ case.

On 23 December 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a charge-sheet against five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists— i) Mohammad Nasir Khan, ii) Imran Malik, iii) Saleem Ahmed aka Haji Saleem, iv) Kafil Ahmad aka Kafil, and v) Iqbal Mohammad, in ‘Darbhanga Railway Station blast’ case— RC-13/2021/NIA/DLI.

Investigation revealed that LeT terrorists conspired to set ablaze a moving long-distance train by placing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the train. For executing the attack, Mohammad Nasir Khan and Imran Malik received instructions from Pakistan-based LeT terrorist— Hafeez Iqbal. Both terrorists placed the IED bomb in a parcel of clothes and booked the same in Secundrabad-Darbhanga Express. Earlier, Nasir Khan had travelled to Pakistan and received training in espionage and fabricating IEDs. Click here to read…

NIA filed charge-sheet against TRF terrorists in ‘Recovery of IED at Bhatindi’ case.

On 22 December 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed charge-sheet against three The Resistance Front (TRF) terrorists— i) Nadeemul-Haq, ii) NadeemAyoub Rather, and iii) Talibur-Rehman, in ‘Recovery of IED at Bhatindi’ case, before NIA Special Court (Jammu).

The charge-sheet in the case— RC-04/2021/NIA/JMU, filed under Sections 120B, 121A, and 122 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 18, 18B, 19, 20, and 23 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UA(P)A], Section 4 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act (ESA). During the investigation, it was found that the three TRF terrorists were receiving instructions from Pakistan-based TRF handlers via WhatsApp application. Click here to read…

Security forces eliminated five terrorists in three separate CT operations in Pulwama, Shopian, and Anantnag.

In three separate counter-terrorism (CT) operations on 25-26 December 2021, security forces eliminated five terrorists, including an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) expert, linked with al-Qa’ida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (IS-JK)— an Islamic State affiliated terror group, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in Pulwama, Shopian, and Anantnag districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). “The IS-JK terrorist— Faheem Bhat, has recently joined the terror group and was involved in killing of Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Mohammad Ashraf on 22 December 2021; ASI Ashraf was posted at Police Station (Bijbehara),” said Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kashmir— Vijay Kumar. Click here to read…

J&K police arrested four JeM OGWs from Pulwama.

On 21 December 2021, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police cracked a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)’s terror cell and arrested four Over-Ground Workers (OGWs)— i) Zubair Gul, ii) Adil Fayaz Ganie, iii) Basit Ali, and iv) Shahid Nabi Pandit, from Pampore area in Pulwama district of J&K. The preliminary interrogation revealed that all four OGWs were in contact with JeM commanders and were providing logistic support to them. Click here to read…

Security forces killed four LeT and JeM terrorists in two separate CT operations in Shopian and Awantipora.

In two separate counter-terrorism (CT) operations on 25 December 2021, security forces killed four terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), in Shopian and Pulwama districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). According to the statements released by police, Two LeT terrorists— i) Sajad Ahmad Chak, and ii) Raja Basit Yaqoob, were killed in Chowgam area of Shopian, whereas, other two terrorists of JeM were killed in a separate CT operation in Hardumir in Tral area of Awantipora in Pulwama district. Click here to read…

HM terrorist eliminated in a joint CT operation in Anantnag.

In a joint counter-terrorism (CT) operation on 24 December 2021, security forces killed a Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorist— Shahzad Ahmad Shah, in Mominhall village of Arwani in Bijbehara in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Shahzad was given several calls to surrender, but instead he fired upon security forces personnel; he was involved in the killing three BhartiyaJanta Party (BJP) workers in October 2020, and a BJP Sarpanch & his wife in August 2021. Click here to read…

Left-Wing Extremism
Two Maoists killed in gun-battle with security forces in Chhattisgarh.

On 18 December 2021, security forces eliminated two women Maoists— i) Hidme Kohrame, and ii) Pojje, in a gun-battle in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. “Acting upon inputs, a team of Dantewada’s District Reserve Guards (DRG) carried out search operation in Gonderas near Aranpur. The Maoists opened fire which led to gun-battle. Later, security forces recovered bodies of two female Maoists from the operation site,” said Dantewada Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhishek Pallava. Dantewada is among the seven Maoist-affected districts in Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. Click here to read…

Security forces eliminated six Maoists in Telangana-Chhattisgarh border area.

On 27 December 2021, security forces killed six Maoists during an operation in Telangana-Chhattisgarh border area. Acting upon intelligence input, Greyhounds (elite anti-Maoist force of Telangana police), District Reserve Guards (DRGs) in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, and 141st Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), launched a joint search operation at Pesallapadu forest. Six Maoists, including four women, fired upon security forces which led to exchange of fire. All six Maoists were killed. Later, security forces recovered five weapons, two .303 rifles, four rocket launchers, and three double barrel guns from the operation site,” said Sunil Dutt, Superintendent of Police (SP)-BhadradriKothagudem district in Telangana. Click here to read…

Khalistan-inspired Extremism
‘Targeted killing by KTF terrorists’ case: NIA filed charge-sheet against four KTF terrorists.

On 23 December 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a charge-sheet against four terrorists of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF)— i) Kamaljeet Sharma, ii) Ram Singh aka Sona, iii) Arshdeep Singh aka Arsh, and iv) Hardeep Singh Nijjar (presently in Canada), before the NIA Special Court in Mohali, Punjab. The case— RC-28/2021/NIA/DLI, related to the killing of Manohar Lal (follower of Dera Saccha Sauda) by the KTF terrorists.

The investigation revealed that Hardeep Singh Nijjar— ‘self-claimed’ chief of KTF, along with Arshdeep Singh, had recruited Kamaljeet Sharma, Ram Singh and others in Punjab in order to threat and exhort money from Punjab-based businessmen, and conspired targeted killings to disturb the communal peace and harmony in the state. Click here to read…

‘Killing of Comrade Balwinder Singh Sandhu, SC awardee’ case: NIA filed supplementary charge-sheet against three KLF terrorists.

On 16 December 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed supplementary charge-sheet against three Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorists— i) Navpreet Singh, ii) Harbhinder Singh, and iii) Gurwinder Singh, in the case— RC-01/2020/NIA/DLI, related to the killing of Comrade Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Shaurya Chakra awardee, by KLF terrorists on 16 October 2020 at his residence in Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran district in Punjab.

Investigation revealed that all three charge-sheet KLF terrorists were involved in conducting reconnaissance of the target and organising logistics for the assassins. Click here to read…

Pakistan-based pro-Khalistan terror group conspired the Ludhiana Court complex blast.

According to an intelligence input, a pro-Khalistan terror group based in Lahore, Pakistan, masterminded the explosion in Ludhiana Court Complex in Ludhiana, Punjab. On 23 December 2021, a blast took place in the Ludhiana Court complex, in which a person was killed and at least five others were injured. The Central agencies have been sending inputs to the State government on daily basis. The recent intel emphasised on possible interference by radicalised groups before the assembly elections scheduled in early 2022. Click here to read…

Ludhiana Court Complex Blast: pro-Khalistan terrorist Jaswinder Singh Multani arrested from Germany.

On 28 December 2021, Germany’s Federal Police arrested a pro-Khalistan terrorist— Jaswinder Singh Multani, for his alleged involvement in the Ludhiana Court complex blast on 23 December. The Indian government had requested German government to arrest Jaswinder, as he was under scanner for conspiring the India’s financial capital— Mumbai and the national capital— Delhi.

According to preliminary investigation, Jaswinder is a key link in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI)’s plan to orchestrated terror attacks in Punjab as well as Mumbai. Click here to read…

Police arrested three pro-Khalistan operatives from Patiala.

Punjab police, on 28 December 2021, arrested three pro-Khalistan operatives, including a woman, for allegedly distributing pro-Khalistan material nearby Banur area in Patiala district in Punjab. “Out of three, two operatives— i) Jagmeet Singh, and ii) Ravinder Singh, were arrested for ‘preaching in favour of Khalistan’. Both were visiting various religious and public places in the area and distributing some registration forms to people to vote for a ‘Khalistan Referendum 2020’,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP)— Harcharan Singh Bhullar.

The initial interrogation revealed that the third operative— Jasveer Kaur, and her husband— Kuldeep Singh (works as Superintendent at Punjab Roadways), are the kingpin the network. “Jasveer Kaur’s brother-in-law— Manjit Singh was the area commander of the terrorist organisation— BabbarKhalsa International (BKI)’s SukhdevBabbar Group. Click here to read…

Islamic Extremism
‘Recovery & Explosion of IED at Bodh Gaya case’: NIA Special Court (Patna) convicted eight JMB terrorists.

On 17 December 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court (Patna) convicted eight Jamaatul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists— i) Paigambar Sheikh, ii) Ahmad Ali, iii) NurAlamMomin, iv) Adil Sheikh, v) Dilwar Hossain, vi) Abdul Karim, vii) Mustafizur Rahman, and viii) ArifHussain, in ‘Recovery and Explosion of IED at Bodh Gaya’ case— RC-04/2018/NIA/DLI.

The case is related to the planting of three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in and around the premises of Bodh Gaya Temple complex. Click here to read…

Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) Cases
‘Baishnabnagar FICN case’: NIA Special Court (Kolkata) sentenced two accused.

In Baishnabnagar Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) case— RC-08/2018/NIA/DLI, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court, Kolkata, on 22 December 2021, sentenced two accused— i) Santosh Mondal (25 years-old), and ii) Pintu Mondal (20 years-old), to rigorous imprisonment of five years and six months, and also imposed ₹ 40,000 fine for commission of offences under Sections 120B, 489B, and 489C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The case is related to the seizure of FICNs with face value of ₹ 4,62,000, in the denomination of ₹ 2,000, from the possession of Santosh Mondal. The NIA had filed charge-sheet against both accused on 03 April 2018. Click here to read…

CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

China’s telecom regulators suspended Cyber Security deal with Alibaba cloud.

On 22 December 2021, China’s telecom regulators suspended an information-sharing partnership with Alibaba’s Cloud Computing— a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, considering accusations it failed to report and address cyber security vulnerability. “Alibaba Cloud did not immediately report vulnerabilities in popular, open-source logging framework—Apache Log4j2 to China’s telecommunications regulator,” stated a notice released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The suspension will be reassessed in six months and revived depending on the Alibaba’s internal reforms. Click here to read…

Ukraine accused Russia of Information Warfare after the arrests of 106 ‘neo-Nazi’ supporters.

The Security Service of Ukraine— Sluzhba Bezpeky Unkrayiny or SBU, accused its Russian counterpart— Federal Security Service (Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) of waging Information Warfare (IW) after Russian law-enforcement agencies arrested 106 supporters of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi youth group for planning attacks and mass murders. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) made arrests in 37 of more than 80 regions of Russia. According to the statement released by the FSB, the alleged group— MKU, was set up by a Ukrainian under the patronage of Ukraine’s intelligence services.

“The current statements of the FSB are part of a coordinated information operation which should only be viewed through the prism of hybrid warfare,” read the statement released by the Ukraine’s SBU. Click here to read…

VIF News Digest: National Security – Defence Studies & Terrorism, 16-31 October 2021

DEFENCE

  • Exercise Yudh Abhyas 21.
  • Inaugural India – UK Maritime Dialogue.
  • Indian Army at Cambrian Patrol Exercise.
  • UK Joint Tri-Service exercise Ex KONKAN SHAKTI.
  • Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy on a visit to India from.
  • Ambassadors’ Round Table for Def Expo 2022.
  • Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy visit to India.
  • Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD).
  • Agni-5, successfully launched.
  • Test of indigenously developed Long-Range Bomb (LRB) successful.
  • India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on bilateral defence cooperation.
  • Meeting of the India-Nepal Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues.

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

West Asia
  • Iraq: Islamic State terrorists killed at least 11 people in an attack in Diyala province.
Africa
Somalia
  • Army killed four al-Shabaab terrorists in Bakool region.
Afghanistan
  • IS-KP could be able to attack US in six months, claimed Pentagon official.

DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
  • NIA arrested 12 OGWs in ‘J&K terrorism conspiracy’ case.
  • Security forces killed four LeT terrorists in Shopian and Kulgam districts.
  • NIA searched seven districts of J&K in ‘JeI terror funding’ case.
  • NIA Special Court sentenced four HM terrorists in ‘JAKART case’.
Left-Wing Extremism
  • STF killed a Maoist in Bihar.
  • Police eliminated three Maoists in Telangana.
  • NIA conducted searches at four locations in Bihar in ‘Arms Recovery’ case.
Islamic Extremism
  • NIA filed supplementary chargesheet against an al-Qa’ida terrorist in AQIS module case.
  • NIA court convicted 9 SIMI terrorists in Patna Serial Blast cases.
  • NIA filed a charge sheet against IS terrorist in ‘ISIS Delhi Amroha module’ case.
  • NIA officials arrested an IS terrorist from IGI Airport in Delhi.

CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

  • Indian Army & Amity University to jointly set up a CoE in Engineering, Innovation, and Technology.

DEFENCE

Exercise Yudh Abhyas 21.

The 17th Edition of Indo – US joint training exercise “EX YUDH ABHYAS 21” commenced at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska (USA) on 15 October 2021 with an opening ceremony that saw the unfurling of the National Flags of both countries amidst playing of the National anthems, “Jana Gana Mana” and “The Star Spangled Banner”. 300 US Army soldiers belonging to First Squadron (Airborne) of the 40th Cavalry Regiment and 350 soldiers of 7 MADRAS Infantry Battalion Group of Indian Army are participating in the exercise. The 14 days training schedule includes activities on joint training in a Counter Insurgency / Counter Terrorism environment under United Nations mandate. Click here to read…

Inaugural India – UK Maritime Dialogue

India and UK held their inaugural maritime dialogue in a virtual format on 18 October 2021, as agreed in the India-UK Roadmap 2030 for future relations adopted at the Virtual Summit between the two Prime Ministers in May 2021. The consultations, which were led by the two Foreign Ministries, involved exchanges on cooperation in the maritime domain, Indo-Pacific and regional/ multilateral cooperation. Click here to read…

Indian Army at Cambrian Patrol Exercise

A team from 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) which represented the Indian Army at the prestigious Cambrian Patrol Exercise at Brecon, Wales, UK from 13th to 15th October 2021 has been awarded Gold medal. Ex Cambrian Patrol organised by the UK Army is considered the ultimate test of human endurance, team spirit and is sometimes referred as the Olympics of Military Patrolling among militaries in the world. The Indian Army team participated in the event and competed against a total of 96 teams which included 17 international teams representing Special Forces and prestigious Regiments from around the world. Click here to read…

UK Joint Tri-Service exercise Konkan Shakti.

The maiden India – UK Joint Tri-Service exercise Ex KONKAN SHAKTI is scheduled in India from 21 – 27 Oct 21. The maritime component of the exercise, to be conducted off the west coast of India, is scheduled to be held in two phases. The harbour phase is planned at Mumbai from 21 – 23 Oct 21, while at sea, the exercises will be conducted from 24 – 27 Oct 21. The naval linkages between India and the United Kingdom is one of antiquity and, over a period, it has grown substantially in terms of interoperability and synergy. The exercise will also see participation by IAF aircraft that include Jaguars, SU-30 MKI fighters, AWACS, AEW&C and Flight Refuelling Aircraft. The land phase of the exercise is being conducted between Indian Army and UK Army at Chaubatia Click here to read…

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy on a visit to India from.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of Naval Staff, Royal Navy is on a three day official visit to India from 22-24 Oct 21. Adm Radakin interacted with Adm Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff on 22 Oct 21. Amongst other naval bilateral cooperation issues, the Chiefs emphasised on collaborative mechanisms towards ensuring peace and security in the region. He is also scheduled to visit Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command (at Mumbai) wherein he would interact with VAdm R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command. Adm Radakin would also embark HMS Queen Elizabeth, Flagship of UK CSG 21. Click here to read…

Ambassadors’ Round Table for Def Expo 2022

In a major outreach to the friendly foreign countries as also to the defence manufacturing industries of the world, Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh chaired the Ambassadors’ Round Table for Def Expo 2022, in New Delhi on October 25, 2021. The Round Table was aimed to brief the Ambassadors of foreign missions about the planning, arrangements and other details of Def Expo 2022, which will be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat between March 10 and 13, 2022. More than 200 delegates, including Ambassadors, Heads of Missions and Defence Attaches attended the Round Table, reflecting the growing global interest in the Indian Defence space. Click here to read…

Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy visit to India

Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy, is on an official visit to India, from 23 – 29 Oct 21. At New Delhi, Admiral Shaheen Iqbal will interact with the Chief of Naval Staff, in addition to the Chief of Defence Staff and other high ranking Gol officials. During the bilateral interactions, issues relating to joint cooperative efforts like Coordinated Patrol along International Maritime Boundary Line, bilateral exercise BONGOSAGAR, conduct of naval training and reciprocal visits of delegations would be discussed. Click here to read…

Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD).

First conducted in 2018, the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) is the apex international annual conference of the Indian Navy. The aim of each successive edition of the IPRD is to review both opportunities and challenges that arise within the Indo-Pacific. IPRD 2021 is being held as a three-day online event from 27to 29 October 2021. This year’s IPRD will focus on eight specific sub-themes under the broad theme of “Evolution in Maritime Strategy during the 21st Century: Imperatives, Challenges, and, Way Ahead”. Click here to read…

Agni-5, successfully launched

A successful launch of the Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile, Agni-5, was carried out on October 27, 2021 at approximately 1950 hrs from APJ Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha. The missile, which uses a three-stage solid fuelled engine, is capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 kilometres with a very high degree of accuracy. The successful test of Agni-5 is in line with India’s stated policy to have ‘credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’. Click here to read…

Test of indigenously developed Long-Range Bomb (LRB) successful.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Air Force (IAF) team jointly flight tested indigenously developed Long-Range Bomb (LRB) successfully from an aerial platform on October 29, 2021. The LR Bomb, after release from the IAF fighter aircraft, guided to a land-based target at a long range with accuracy within specified limits. Click here to read…

India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on bilateral defence cooperation

India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) on Bilateral Defence Cooperation has agreed to form a Task Force to formulate a comprehensive Ten-Year Roadmap to identify new areas of cooperation. This was decided at the 15th JWG meeting held on October 27, 2021 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The meeting was co-chaired by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and the Director General of the Israel’s Ministry of Defence, Maj Gen (Retd) Amir Eshel.

The JWG is the apex body between the Ministry of Defence of India and Israel’s Ministry of Defence to comprehensively review and guide all aspects of Bilateral Defence Cooperation.
The two sides reviewed the progress made in Military to Military engagements including exercises and industry cooperation. The Co-chairs were also appraised on the progress made by the Sub Working Groups (SWG) on Defence Procurement & Production and Research & Development. Click here to read…

Meeting of the India-Nepal Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues

The Fourteenth Meeting of the India-Nepal Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues (BCGSI) was held in Bengaluru on 28 October 2021. The delegations comprised officials from respective Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Directorates of the Indian Army and the Nepal Army and from the National Disaster Management Authority.

Discussions covered issues relating to mutual security concerns, training and capacity building requirements of defence forces of Nepal, cooperation in disaster management, requirements of Nepal Army for various defence stores, exchange of experts/instructors, exchange of high level and functional level visits, joint expeditions and adventure sports activities and information sharing. Click here to read…

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

West Asia
Iraq
Islamic State terrorists killed at least 11 people in an attack in Diyala province

On 26 October 2021, Islamic State (IS) terrorists attacked and killed at least 11 people in the predominantly Shiite village of al-Rashad in northeast of Baqouba in Diyala province in Iraq. According to officials, IS terrorists had kidnapped two villagers earlier and later raided the village when their demands for ransom were not met. Several other villagers were injured in the attack. Attacks on civilians have become a rare situation in Iraq since IS was largely defeated in 2017, but the group remained active through sleeper cells in many areas. Click here to read…

Africa
Somalia
Army killed four al-Shabaab terrorists in Bakool region

On 20 October 2021, Somali National Army (SNA)’s 60th Division killed four al-Shabaab terrorists and injured several others in a gun-battle near the town of Wajid in Bakool region. “SNA carried out a counter-terrorism (CT) operation based on an input that al-Shabaab terrorists are punishing the local residents,” said Wajid’s District Commissioner—Mohamed Moallim Yusuf. Click here to read…

Afghanistan
IS-KP could be able to attack US in six months, claimed Pentagon official

In an assessment, the United States’ Intelligence Community and Pentagon claimed that Islamic State in Afghanistan or Islamic State-Khurasan Province (IS-KP) in six months. On 26 October 2021, Colin Kahl— Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, informed that “Afghanistan could still pose serious National Security concern for the US even after it ended its two decade-old war in defeat in August 2021.”

In a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Kahl said that “it was unclear if the Taliban has the ability to fight IS-KP effectively following the US withdrawal. Islamic State (IS-KP) could have the capability to attack the US in six months or has the intention to do so.” Click here to read…

DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
NIA arrested 12 OGWs in ‘J&K terrorism conspiracy’ case.

On 30 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials arrested two Over-Ground Workers (OGWs)—Ishfaq Ahmed Wani, and Umar Bhat, in ‘Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) terrorism conspiracy’ case. The case is related to a conspiracy to carry-out terrorist activities in J&K, and other major cities in India, by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM), Al-Badr, and affiliated groups, including The Resistance Front (TRF), and People Against Fascist Forces (PAFF).

Earlier, on 29 October 2021, NIA officials raided 08 locations in Srinagar, Sopore, and Baramulla districts, and arrested two OGWs— Amir Ahmad Gojri, and Saddat Amin. Till now, 23 OGWs/sympathisers have been arrested in this case.

In another search operation on 22 October 2021, NIA searched 10 locations in Srinagar, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag, and Baramulla districts in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and arrested eight OGWs— i) Adil Ahmad War, ii) Manan Gulzar, iii) Hilal Ahmad Dar, iv) Sobhia, v) Rouf Bhatt, vi) Shaqib Bashir, vii) Zamin Adil, and viii) Haris Nisar Langoo. All OGWs have been instrumental in providing logistical and material support to terrorists. Click here to read…

Security forces killed four LeT terrorists in Shopian and Kulgam districts

In two separate counter-terrorism (CT) operations on 20 October 2021, security forces eliminated four Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including two commanders, in Shopian and Kulgam districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Earlier in the day, security forces acted upon an input and carried out Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in Dragad area of Shopian district.

The CASO turned into gun-battle after terrorists opened fire on the security forces personnel. In other joint operation on the same day, security forces eliminated two terrorists, including a LeT district commander—Gulzar Ahmad Reshi, in Kulgam district. Reshi was involved in recent killings of labourers from Bihar at Wanpoh. Click here to read…

NIA searched seven districts of J&K in ‘JeI terror funding’ case

On 27 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) searched 17 locations in seven districts—Anantnag, Kulgam, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Budgam, Kishtwar, and Jammu, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in connection with Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) terror funding case.

The case was registered in February 2021, in connection with separatist activities of JeI, where the JeI operatives have been collecting funds domestically and abroad in furtherance to be used for terrorist activities. Click here to read…

NIA Special Court sentenced four HM terrorists in ‘JAKART case’

In ‘JAKART’ case, on 25 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court (Delhi) sentenced four Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorists— i) Mohammad Shafi Shah aka Doctor aka Dawood aka Nisar (12 years Rigorous Imprisonment [RI] and fine ₹ 15,000), ii) Talib Ali aka Waseem aka Abu Umer (10 years RI and fine ₹ 10,000), iii) Muzaffar Ahmad Dar aka Gaznavi aka Mohammad Ali (12 years RI and fine ₹ 15,000), and iv) Mushtaq Ahmad Lone aka Mushtaq Aalam (10 years RI and fine ₹ 10,000).

The case was registered in 2011 against Mohammad Yusuf Shah, and other HM terrorists for carrying out terrorist activities in India and constantly receiving funds from Pakistan. Through Jammu and Kashmir Affecters Relief Trust (JAKART)—an NGO and frontal organisation of HM, funds were provided to active terrorists and families of slain terrorists of HM in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Click here to read…

Left-Wing Extremism
STF killed a Maoist in Bihar

On 23 October 2021, the Special Task Force (STF) eliminated a Maoist—Pramod Koda, in a gun-battle in Lathia Pahari in Lakhisaari district in Bihar. “Lakhisaari police launched a search and rescue operation based on an input that some Maoists were hiding in the forest area of Bhagatpur after abducting son of a Public Distribution System (PDS) dealer. The STF team encountered Maoists followed by the exchange of fire, in which a Maoist was killed, and rest of the Maoists managed to escape into the forest,” said Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP)- Operation— Sushil M Khopde. An AK-47 rifle was recovered along with the body of slain Maoist. Click here to read…

Police eliminated three Maoists in Telangana

In an exchange of fire with the Maoists, district police, along with ‘Greyhounds’ (elite anti-Maoist special police force) eliminated three Maoists at Venkatapur village in Mulugu district bordering Chhattisgarh. Post-operation, “police recovered multiple arms and ammunition, including a SLR (Self-Loading Rifle), an AK-47 rifle, a machine gun, gadgets, and explosive materials,” said Mulugu Superintendent of Police (SP) G Sangram Singh Patil. Click here to read…

NIA conducted searches at four locations in Bihar in ‘Arms Recovery’ case.

On 28 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) searched four locations in Danapur and Chainpur in Patna district, in connection with ‘Arms and Ammunition Recovery’ case in which a Maoist— Parshu Ram Singh had linkages with top Maoist leaders and was providing hand grenades, explosives, and other arms and ammunition for furtherance of terrorist activities in Bihar, Jharkhand, and other States. Click here to read…

Islamic Extremism
NIA filed supplementary charge-sheet against an al-Qa’ida terrorist in AQIS module case

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On 29 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a supplementary charge-sheet in the NIA Special Court, Delhi against an al-Qa’ida terrorist— Abu Sufiyan, under Sections 4 & 5 of the Explosives Substance Act, 1908. Earlier, the Charge-sheet was filed against 11 al-Qa’ida terrorists, including Abu Sufiyan, under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UA(P)A], and the Arms Act on 26 February 2021. Click here to read…

NIA court convicted 9 SIMI terrorists in Patna Serial Blast cases

On 27 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court (Patna) convicted nine terrorists of Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), in Patna Serial Bomb blast cases. The nine convicted SIMI terrorists are— i) Imtiaz Ansari, ii) Haider Ali, iii) Numan Ansari, iv) Mujibullah Ansari, v) Umer Siddique, vi) Azharuddin Qureshi, vii) Ahmad Hussain, viii) Mohammad Firoz Aslam, and ix) Mohammad Ifteqaar Alam.

The cases ‘RC-10&11/2013/NIA-DLI and RC-12/2013/NIA-DLI’ related to a series of bomb blasts which took place at Patna Railway Junction and Gandhi Maidaan on 27 October 2013. Click here to read…

NIA filed a charge-sheet against IS terrorist in ‘ISIS Delhi Amroha module’ case.

On 26 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a charge-sheet in the Special NIA Court (Patiala House, Delhi) against an Islamic State (IS) terrorist— Mohammad Shahzad Kamal, under Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 17, 18, 39, and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UA(P)A].
The case was registered in 2018 against Mohammad Mufti Suhail and other operatives of Harkatul-Harb-e-Islam (HuHeI) — an Islamist organisation affiliated with IS. Click here to read…

NIA officials arrested an IS terrorist from IGI Airport in Delhi

On 23 October 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials arrested Muhammad Tauqir Mahmood (33 years-old) upon his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in Delhi from Dammam in Saudi Arabia. Muhammad Tauqir was involved in sending few youths from Bengaluru to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) during 2013-2014. As a dentist by profession, Tauqir was resident in Saudi Arabia in recent years.

Further investigation has revealed that Tauqir, in association with other IS operatives, had raised funds, radicalised, and recruited Muslim youth of a ‘Quran Circle Group’ and allegedly sent them to Syria. Click here to read…

CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

Indian Army & Amity University to jointly set up a CoE in Engineering, Innovation, and Technology

The Army Training Command (ARTRAC) of Indian Army and the Amity University (Uttar Pradesh) inked the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly set up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for studies in Engineering, Innovation, and Technology, at the premises of the Amity University in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The CoE will focus on emerging areas of science and technology, including Information Warfare (IW), Wireless Communication, Robotics and Automation, Tracking and Surveillance, Supply Chain Management, and many other research areas in the larger domain of defence technology and management. Click here to read…

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 11 October- 17 October

Economic

China’s Xi calls for progress on property tax in drive for prosperity

In an essay in the ruling Communist Party journal Qiushi, published by the official Xinhua news agency on Oct 15, Xi called for China to “vigorously and steadily advance” legislation for a property tax. China has mulled such a tax for over a decade but faced resistance from stakeholders including local governments themselves, who fear it would erode property values or trigger a market sell-off. Such a tax could curb rampant speculation in the housing market, which is currently under intense global scrutiny as developer China Evergrande Group struggles with a debt crisis. Xi also warned against government over-promising on social welfare amid a push to achieve what he called “common prosperity” by mid-century.”Common prosperity” is a broad policy drive to narrow the gap between rich and poor. It has involved a wave of regulatory crackdowns on excesses in industries including technology and private tuition. The gap between people’s income and consumption should be narrowed to a “reasonable range” by mid-century, Xi said. But Xi also said that the government should not make promises it could not deliver on and avoid the “trap” of “welfarism” and helping the lazy. “The government cannot take care of everything,” he said. Click here to read…

China’s Li Keqiang acknowledges slowing economic growth, but says Beijing has the ‘tools’ to cope with headwinds

China has “adequate tools” to tackle the economic challenges facing the country, including the nation’s current power crisis and high commodity prices, Premier Li Keqiang said on Oct 14. Though economic growth has slowed in the third quarter due to a number of factors, the government was confident China could meet its growth target of “above 6 per cent” for 2021, Li said at the opening of the Canton Fair in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou. “We have adequate tools in our toolbox to cope with such challenges, including the energy and electricity supply strains,” he said, adding policymakers would also strive to keep inflation in check. China would promote innovation in cross-border e-commerce and logistics and boost international cooperation in trade digitisation, including by building a number of related enterprises in the Greater Bay Area. The provincial secretary for Guangdong read out a letter from President Xi Jinping in which he said China is willing to join hands with the rest of the world to uphold true multilateralism and build an open international economy. Before Covid-19, the 2019 spring session of the trade expo attracted 195,454 foreign buyers from 213 countries and regions across the world. The top five sources of buyers were from Hong Kong, India, the United States, South Korea and Thailand. Click here to read…

Kishida launches flagship panel to look into wealth redistribution

Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida launched a flagship council on Oct 15 to work out a strategy to tackle wealth disparities and redistribute wealth to households, in what he describes as a “new form of capitalism.” The move is a crucial part of Kishida’s economic policy that combines the pro-growth policies of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” stimulus measures and efforts to more directly shift wealth from companies to households. It also came in the wake of Kishida’s decision on Oct 14 to dissolve parliament and set the stage for an election where fixing the pandemic-hit economy will be the focus. “In order to achieve strong economic growth, it’s not enough to rely just on market competition. That won’t deliver the fruits of growth to the broader population,” Kishida told a news conference on Thursday, calling for the need for stronger government-driven steps to distribute more wealth to households. The panel will hold its first meeting later this month and aim to come up with interim proposals by year-end so they can be reflected in tax reform discussions for next fiscal year, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa told reporters on Oct 15. Click here to read…

Gas Crisis Prompts Fresh Proposals From EU

The European Union is considering new measures, including joint purchases of gas to build up the bloc’s strategic reserves, to help alleviate future energy crises like one the continent now faces. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, laid out various actions on Oct 13 that could be taken at EU or national level to prevent energy price shocks. The measures include emergency income support for families who can’t afford their energy needs, tax and levy cuts, industry-wide support for companies and efforts to work with international partners on gas supplies to ease price pressures. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said the bloc was tightening its surveillance work alongside member states to clamp down on any possible gas market “manipulation or speculation”. The Commission is also tabling ideas for steps the EU might implement in the coming months to help cushion future supply shocks. Ms. Simson said the EU would also look at voluntary joint procurement of gas to build up storage reserves, which currently cover around 20% of the EU’s annual demand. She ruled out for now setting minimum storage requirements for gas—as there currently are for oil reserves. Click here to read…

Inflation Surges Worldwide as Covid-19 Lockdowns End and Supply Chains Can’t Cope

Rising inflation is triggering anxiety around the world as a surge in demand following the easing of Covid-19 lockdowns has been confronted by supply bottlenecks and rising prices of energy and raw materials. The sharpest consumer-price increases in years in many countries have evoked different responses from central banks. More than a dozen have raised interest rates but two that haven’t are those that loom largest over the global economy: the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Their differing responses reflect differences in views about whether the pickup in prices will feed further cycles of inflation or will instead peter out. Which view is right will do much to shape the trajectory of the global economy over the next few years. The large central banks are relying on households showing faith in their track records of keeping inflation low, and the expectation that there are enough under-utilized workers available to keep wage rises in check. Other monetary authorities aren’t sure that they have yet earned that kind of credibility as inflation. In poorer countries, a larger share of spending usually also goes to essentials such as food and energy that have seen the largest price rises, so policy makers are quicker to tamp down on inflation. Click here to read…

G-20 pledges help for Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit

The Group of 20 major economies is determined to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, even if it means having to coordinate efforts with the Taliban, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Oct 12 after hosting an emergency summit. U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many European leaders took part, but Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not dial in, suggesting differing international positions on the emergency. Draghi said the absence of the latter two leaders did not undercut the importance of the meeting organized by Italy, the current G-20 chair. “This was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis … multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back,” Draghi said. There was unanimous agreement among the participants about the need to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan, where banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared, leaving millions at risk of severe hunger. Much of the aid effort will be channelled through the United Nations, but there will also be direct country-to-country assistance, despite a refusal by most states to officially recognize the hard-line Taliban government. Click here to read…

G7 finance officials say CBDCs should support, ‘do no harm’ to monetary and financial stability

G7 finance officials on Oct 13 endorsed 13 public policy principles for retail central bank digital currencies, saying they should be grounded in transparency, the rule of law and sound economic governance, the US Treasury Department said. “Innovation in digital money and payments has the potential to bring significant benefits but also raises considerable public policy and regulatory issues,” Group of 7 (G7) finance ministers and central bankers said in a joint statement. “Strong international coordination and cooperation on these issues helps to ensure that public and private sector innovation will deliver domestic and cross-border benefits while being safe for users and the wider financial system.” The finance officials met in person, with some joining by video, in Washington on Oct 13 during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank under the leadership of British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak. Any CBDC must support, and ‘do no harm’ to, the ability of central banks to fulfil their mandates for monetary and financial stability. In their joint statement, the G7 officials said central bank money in the form of central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, would complement cash and could act as a liquid, safe settlement asset and an anchor for the payments system. Click here to read…

‘Made in China’ chip drive falls far short of 70% self-sufficiency

The Chinese government’s goal of meeting 70% of its semiconductor needs through domestic supply remains a long way off, private-sector research shows, with an estimated self-sufficiency rate of 16% last year despite an all-out government push to boost production. The government has laid out a slew of measures to achieve one of President Xi Jinping’s policy priorities, including stepping up investment by state-backed funds focused specifically on the industry. The largest of these is the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, dubbed the “Big Fund,” set up in the fall of 2014 and tasked with supporting Made in China 2025. The Big Fund has boosted the profile of NAND flash-memory maker Yangtze Memory Technologies. It has also invested heavily in material and equipment supply chains for Semiconductor Manufacturing International, or SMIC, helping to grow the company into a leading Chinese chip foundry. The government also rolled out tax and other incentives for chipmakers last year. Yet China sourced only 16% of its semiconductors domestically last year, data from market research firm IC Insights shows. The figure is even lower, at 6%, after excluding foreign companies with facilities in China, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. Click here to read…

Indonesia turns to state coffers as China-led rail project’s costs soar

When Indonesia awarded the contract for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway to a Chinese consortium six years ago, the project was supposed to be completed by 2018 with no financial contributions or guarantees required from the Indonesian government. But with construction years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued a decree Sept. 6 that lets the government put state funds into the project — negating one of the biggest perks that had led Indonesia to choose the Chinese proposal over a Japanese alternative. Much of the rail link’s woes stem from poor initial planning, which failed to identify all the ways the project could go wrong. Indonesia originally expected construction to cost $5.5 billion but had increased its projection to $6.07 billion as of January, five years since the project broke ground. A more recent review by Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, a joint venture among Indonesian state-owned enterprises, Chinese rail companies and the operator of the project, pegged the cost at no less than $7.97 billion. Before China secured the project, Japan had proposed building a shinkansen-style rail link from Jakarta to Bandung costing $5.29 billion at current rates, via 40-year official development assistance (ODA) loans. Click here to read…

Japan needs secret patents to guard national security: LDP’s Amari

Japan needs a way to keep patents with national security implications from being made public, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s new secretary-general told Nikkei on Oct 12, bringing intellectual property into Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s economic security push. This should be included in economic security legislation set to be submitted to parliament in 2022, Akira Amari said, warning that current law could “become an obstacle to securing a technological advantage.” While patent filings in Japan are generally made public after 18 months, other countries can block the release of applications involving technology with potential military uses, to keep them out of the hands of foreign countries or terrorist groups. In certain cases, the authorities provide compensation for forgone revenue from licensing, for example. Amari also advocated replacing nuclear power facilities nearing the end of their 40-year life span with small modular reactors, which are reputed to be safer and to take less time to build. The latest draft of the government’s basic energy plan calls for nuclear to be 20% to 22% of the power generation mix in fiscal 2030 but provides no details on the number of facilities needed for that goal. Click here to read…

Nuclear hawks under Kishida threaten Suga’s renewables push

Pro-nuclear lawmakers now hold key positions under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, sparking concern that he will stray from the prior administration’s focus on renewables to help achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. New ministers in charge of Japan’s efforts to fight climate change and energy issues under the Kishida administration have vowed to stick with the net zero targets. In October 2020, then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to achieve the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 amid fanfare. He upped the ante in April by announcing that Japan would aim for a 46-percent reduction by 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels in the run-up to a session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Japan had previously targeted a 26-percent reduction. The Suga administration also spelled out the principle of prioritizing renewables such as solar and wind power over all other energy sources in government programs. The new Basic Energy Plan drafted by the Suga administration made no mention of nuclear power-related projects despite pressure from pro-nuclear lawmakers within the LDP and the nuclear industry. LDP lawmakers who support nuclear energy are unhappy about the Basic Energy Plan, which said Japan will “reduce its dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible.” Click here to read…

Strategic

US accuses China of deviating from ‘minimal nuclear deterrence’ strategy

China is deviating from its minimal nuclear deterrence strategy, the US State Department charged on Oct 18, after a report that Beijing had recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. “We are deeply concerned about the rapid expansion of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China’s] nuclear capabilities, including its development of novel delivery systems,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing about a Financial Times report on Oct 16 that China had launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August. Denying the FT report earlier on Oct 18, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called the launch “a routine test of a space vehicle to verify the technology of their reusability” and said that the launched object “was not a missile” with a military purpose. Price declined to comment on what information the US government had concerning the test but appeared to dismiss any attempts to play down its significance. He cited a US count of “at least” 250 ballistic missile launches by China in the nine months through September. “This is especially concerning … given the PRC’s lack of transparency into its evolving nuclear posture. Click here to read…

Time for a harder defence line on China’s borders amid ‘challenges on almost every side’

China faces increasingly serious challenges at its land and sea borders on almost every side and must urgently reinforce its defences in these regions, according to a Chinese military researcher. The assessment from Ouyang Wei, a retired professor with the PLA National Defence University, comes as the US steps up its military presence in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and uncertainties grow on China’s land borders with India, Afghanistan, Myanmar and North Korea. In a report published by Beijing-based think tank the Grandview Institution, Ouyang said the country was facing encroachment, secession and terrorism in some border areas. “The struggle to safeguard national unity and territorial integrity, to fight against secession and terrorism in border areas, tends to be a long game, and will be even more so now with a new period of instability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said. Ouyang said that to address the challenges, China could upgrade defence infrastructure along the coast, including its air defence identification systems and underwater warning facilities. Click here to read…

Israel claims ‘right’ to strike Iran ‘at any moment’ to prevent it from obtaining nukes, FM Lapid says after meeting with Blinken

Israel reserves the right to attack Iran at any time of its choosing, under the pretext of stopping it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Tel Aviv’s FM Yair Lapid said after meeting with his American and Emirati counterparts. Addressing reporters after a sit-down with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Washington on Oct 13, Lapid insisted that Tehran must not be allowed to obtain the bomb, saying the issue was at the “center” of his visit. Though Iran has long maintained it has no interest in developing nukes, Lapid vowed that Israel would stop its supposed “race to the bomb” by any means necessary. “Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment and in any way. That is not only our right, but also our responsibility,” he said. “Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out. We have no intention of letting this happen.” While the FM also spoke of improved ties with Arab neighbours through a series of normalization deals struck last year and noted that Israel had “turned the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan into a warm peace,” much of his prepared remarks focused on Iran. Click here to read…

Israel greenlights deal to double freshwater supply to Jordan in major new sales agreement between the two states

Israel’s minister of infrastructure, energy and water, Karine Elharrar has announced that Tel Aviv has formally signed off on a deal to double its freshwater supply to Jordan, in a bid to bolster “good neighbourly relations.” The deal comes months after Israel announced plans to sell 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan, as part of renewed efforts to build cooperation between the neighbouring states by addressing a major area of disagreement which has persisted since the 1994 peace deal. Having travelled to Jordan for a signing ceremony, Elharrar said in a tweet that the deal was “an unequivocal statement” that Tel Aviv wants to secure “good neighbourly relations” with Amman. Landlocked Jordan, much of whose lands are desert, is believed to be the second-most water-insecure country in the world, according to the US-based think tank Century Foundation. The country has relied on water-supply cooperation with Israel and its antecedents dating back over a hundred years. Under the 1994 peace deal agreed between them, Israel agreed to sell Jordan 45 million cubic meters of water a year at a reduced price, with more available at 65 cents per cubic meter for one year, and then at a higher price again for a further two years. Click here to read…

Iran, Venezuela to sign 20-year cooperation accord

Iran will sign a 20-year cooperation accord with Venezuela when President Nicolas Maduro visits Tehran “in the next few months”. In a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart Felix Plasencia in Tehran on Oct 18, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian announced the news and added that a joint economic cooperation commission, which will be formed in Iran’s capital before the end of the year which, will finalise the details of the agreement.“All of this confirms that relations between the two countries are on the rise,” Amirabdollahian said, adding that some of the agreements made earlier on cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy, are currently being implemented. Plasencia’s visit to Iran came shortly after Reuters news agency reported on Oct 16 that an Iran-flagged super tanker, carrying two million barrels of heavy crude provided by the Venezuelan state-run oil firm, was about to set sail for Iran. The vessel had reportedly arrived in Venezuela last month carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate. Click here to read…

Syrian government, opposition to start drafting constitution

The Syrian government and opposition groups have agreed to start drafting new constitutional provisions during renewed United Nations-mandated negotiations in Geneva this week. “The two co-chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting the constitutional reform,” UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said at a brief news conference on Oct 17. The drafting committee is comprised of 45 members from the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society. They have not met since last January. “We concluded that we were not making sufficient progress, and that we could not continue the way we have been working,” Pedersen said. “Since then, close to nine months, I’ve been negotiating between the parties, trying to establish a consensus on how we are going to move forward.”In January 2018 at the Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution until September 2019, equally represented by the Syrian government, political opposition, and civil society. A smaller committee of 45 individuals of that same proportion is tasked with negotiating and drafting the new constitutional provisions. Click here to read…

Analysis: How Judge Bitar’s probe shook Lebanon leaders

When the Lebanese government announced more than a year ago that the probe into the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port would be conducted domestically, few expected that senior officials would be charged. But even fewer expected that the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, could rattle the country’s entrenched leadership, which for decades has reigned with impunity and routinely quashed legal investigations that may hold it accountable. More than 200 people were killed and some 6,500 wounded when hundreds of tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertiliser stored in the port for years ignited on August 4, 2020. The explosion wrecked large parts of Beirut and continues to haunt Lebanon, as the country struggles with an economic meltdown that plunged three-quarters of its population into poverty. No officials have been convicted yet. Bitar’s persistence to pursue senior political and security officials, despite their attempts to de-legitimise and remove him, has put the country on notice. On Oct 14, a protest in Beirut by Hezbollah and Amal supporters calling for Bitar’s removal turned into a bloodbath when unidentified snipers fired at the crowd from rooftops, triggering a gun battle that last for more than four hours. Seven civilians and combatants died. Click here to read…

Saudi Arabia ‘at the top’ of China’s Middle Eastern diplomacy

Relations with Saudi Arabia are at the top of China’s Middle Eastern diplomacy efforts, the Chinese foreign minister told his Saudi Arabian counterpart in a call on Oct 17. Wang Yi said China had always given priority to its relations with Saudi Arabia and was willing to be a long-term and reliable partner, according to a readout issued by the Chinese foreign ministry soon after his conversation with Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Wang said China was ready to work with Saudi Arabia to deepen connections between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030”. He added that China would continue to play a constructive role in promoting the resumption of negotiations on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. “China has always maintained an objective and fair position on the Iran nuclear issue and committed itself to maintaining the international nuclear non-proliferation system and safeguarding the security and stability of the Gulf region in the Middle East, without any self-interest or geopolitical considerations.”At a meeting in Tashkent in July, Wang told his Saudi Arabian counterpart that China opposed external forces pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia under the banner of human rights and democracy. Click here to read…

Russia suspends NATO mission after staff expelled

Russia will suspend the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO and close the alliance’s offices in Moscow in response to its expulsion of eight Russians in a row over spying. The moves, announced on Oct 18 by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, are set to plunge relations between Moscow and the transatlantic security body to new depths when they take effect at the start of next month. Lavrov also announced that NATO’s military liaison and information offices in Moscow would be closed, saying accreditations would be recalled at the beginning of November. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said the expulsions were not linked to a particular event but claimed the eight individuals’ activities were not in line with their accreditations. He said NATO needed to be vigilant in the face of “malign” Russian activity and described relations with Moscow as at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Stoltenberg cited Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border and what he said were violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as evidence of “aggressive actions”. However, the council has been largely non-functioning since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Click here to read…

U.S. calls Cambodia opaque over Chinese activity at navy base

The United States on Oct 13 accused Cambodia of lacking transparency about Chinese construction activities at its biggest naval base and urged the government to disclose to its people the full scope of Beijing’s military involvement. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Oct 13 made public what it said were satellite images showing construction in August and September of three new buildings and the start of a new road. U.S. embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier in a statement said that any foreign military presence at Ream would violate Cambodia’s constitution and undermine regional security. “The Cambodian people deserve to know more about the project at Ream and to have a say in this type of military agreement, which has long term implications for their country.”Cambodia’s ties with the United States have frayed in recent years over U.S. allegations its ruling party is persecuting its opponents, and concerns about China’s growing influence. A year ago, Cambodia said it had razed a U.S.-funded facility at the Ream naval base to allow for further expansion. The United States said Cambodia had a year earlier turned down its offer to repair the base. Click here to read…

China’s top leaders set date for key meeting next month

The Politburo on Oct 18 decided to hold the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee from November 8 to 11, state news agency Xinhua reported. It said the leadership had sought feedback on the resolution on the party’s “major achievements and historical experience” and it would be reviewed during the plenum. The leaders concluded that while much progress had been made over the past 100 years since the party was founded, it must stay vigilant to achieve the goal of “national rejuvenation” by the middle of this century, according to the report, which called it an “irreversible process”. The November meeting will be important for President Xi Jinping to reinforce the official narrative of the party’s rule and his leadership status ahead of next year’s twice-a-decade national congress, when a major reshuffle is expected. According to observers, the resolution will become an important political document that could chart the direction of China’s ruling party for the next few decades – it has previously adopted just two similar resolutions, both at critical junctures in its history. Click here to read…

Analysis: The man who knew too much of Xi’s power plays is out

On Oct. 2, a major heavyweight with direct knowledge of President Xi Jinping’s long power struggle abruptly fell from grace. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s top anti-graft body, announced that former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua has been placed under investigation on suspicion of “serious disciplinary violations.” Fu, 66, is an incumbent member of the party’s elite Central Committee. The crackdown on an influential figure who has overseen the judiciary and police has sent immeasurable shock waves through China’s political world. Fu was behind the investigations that put countless people behind bars. Now that Fu himself has been placed under investigation, doubts could also arise about the legitimacy of his past investigations. It is a momentous development. “My impression was that he was a technocrat who started with case investigations and rose through the ranks,” said one party source. “But this is a case of a man who knew too much. He was forced to leave, in quite a ruthless manner. Now, anything could happen.” One example of Fu’s work was the investigation into Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Click here to read…

U.S. carrier hosts 12 senior Indian officers at Malabar ‘Quad’ drill

Members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — the U.S., Japan, Australia and India — wrapped up joint defence drills in the Indian Ocean on Oct 14, further strengthening their security partnership amid China’s growing military clout in the region. The second phase of the annual Malabar exercise, which included all four Quad members for the second straight year, had begun Oct 11, according to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. On the final day, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. Navy’s top commander, hosted 12 senior Indian Navy officers aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. Those visiting included Indian Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Karambir Singh and Vice Adm. A.B. Singh, commander in chief of the Eastern Naval Command. “This visit to Carl Vinson during Malabar was an important opportunity to see firsthand the integration between our two navies at-sea,” Gilday said in a U.S. Navy news release. “By our navies continuing to exercise together, as we are doing right now alongside Japanese and Australian naval forces, there is no doubt our partnership will only continue to grow. Cooperation, when applied with naval power, promotes freedom and peace, and prevents coercion, intimidation and aggression,” he said. Click here to read…

Kishida includes Quad, China in first calls; South Korea on hold

The Quad security alliance took center stage in new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s first phone calls with foreign leaders, leaving South Korea in the cold. Kishida spoke first with U.S. President Joe Biden, followed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, both on Oct. 5. He talked with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Oct 08 before participating later that day in a teleconference with all three of them, bringing together the leaders of the Quad nations. Biden is the first leader Kishida would like to meet face to face, the prime minister said on a TV Tokyo program Oct 11. Kishida also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Oct 07 and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Oct 08. The Xi call occurred prior to the conversation with Modi, avoiding the appearance of Kishida consulting with the entire Quad before speaking to the Chinese leader. But the Japanese prime minister has yet to call South Korean President Moon Jae-in, underscoring the deep deterioration in relations between the two countries. Kishida will speak with leaders of more than 10 countries over roughly a month. Click here to read…

Countries call for urgent action on biodiversity with ‘Kunming Declaration’

More than 100 countries pledged on Oct 13 to put the protection of habitats at the heart of their government decision-making, but they stopped short of committing to specific targets to curb mass extinctions. Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates to a U.N. Biodiversity Conference in the city of Kunming that the declaration they adopted was a document of political will not a binding international agreement. The Kunming Declaration calls for “urgent and integrated action” to reflect biodiversity considerations in all sectors of the global economy but crucial issues – like funding conservation in poorer countries and committing to biodiversity-friendly supply chains – have been left to discuss later. With plant and animal species loss now at the fastest rate in 10 million years, politicians, scientists and experts have been trying to lay the groundwork for a new pact on saving biodiversity. In a previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed on 20 targets to try to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of those targets was met. At the heart of efforts to save nature is a call by the United Nations for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territory by 2030 – a target known as ’30 by 30,’ which the conference acknowledged though it was not clear to what extent host China backed it. Click here to read…

Kishida says Fukushima wastewater release can’t be delayed

Japan’s new prime minister on Oct 17 said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant cannot be delayed, despite concerns from local residents. Speaking at his first visit to the facility since taking office, Fumio Kishida said his government would work to reassure residents nearby the plant about the technical safety of the wastewater disposal project. “I felt strongly that the water issue is a crucial one that should not be pushed back,” Kishida told reporters after the tour. The government and TEPCO announced plans in April to start releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2023 over the span of decades. The plan has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, residents and Japan’s neighbours, including China and South Korea. Contaminated cooling water has continued to leak from the damaged reactors since the disaster. The water has been pumped up from basements and stored in about 1,000 tanks which the operator says will reach their capacity late next year. Japanese officials say disposal of the water is indispensable for the plant cleanup, and that its release into the ocean is the most realistic option. Click here to read…

ASEAN downgrades Myanmar presence in summit in major rebuke

Southeast Asian foreign ministers have agreed to downgrade Myanmar’s participation in an upcoming summit in their sharpest rebuke yet of its leaders following a Feb. 1 military takeover. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations will invite a non-political representative instead of Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the grouping’s chair Brunei said Oct 16. ASEAN foreign ministers held an emergency meeting late Oct 15 after Myanmar refused to cooperate with the bloc’s crisis envoy, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof. He was appointed in August to mediate in the crisis but abruptly cancelled a trip to Myanmar this week after he was told he would not be able to meet with Suu Kyi and others as he wanted. Myanmar contended Erywan could not meet with people facing legal proceedings such as Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint or with entities that have been declared illegal, Brunei said in a statement. The statement from the ASEAN ministers said they were concerned about the impact of the Myanmar crisis on regional security and about the “unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN as a rules-based organization.” Click here to read…

Air strikes target capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray; 3 civilians dead

Ethiopian military air strikes hit the capital of the Tigray region and killed at least three people, witnesses said on Oct 18, returning the war abruptly to Mekelle after several months of peace. Ethiopia’s government, however, dismissed the reports.The raids, confirmed by two humanitarian workers, came days after a new military offensive was launched against the Tigray forces who have fought Ethiopian and allied forces for nearly a year. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities who lives in Mekelle, told The Associated Press a market was bombed on a busy shopping day and many people were wounded. Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the first air strike occurred just outside the city and three children from the same family were killed. The resident said at least seven people were wounded in the second attack, which also badly damaged a hotel. Mekelle has not seen fighting since late June, when the Tigray forces retook much of the region and Ethiopian troops withdrew. Since then, Ethiopia’s federal government has called all able citizens to crush the Tigray fighters who dominated the national government for 27 years before being sidelined by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Click here to read…

Nigeria’s Gangs Raised Millions by Kidnapping Children. Now the Government Can’t Stop Them

In the forests of northwest Nigeria, loosely organized criminal gangs that raised funds kidnapping schoolchildren are now flush with arms and operating beyond the reach of an increasingly fragile state. In some instances, government officials in Africa’s most populous nation have been paying the gangs to return stolen weapons and kidnapped personnel, according to confidential documents and interviews with senior military officials, soldiers and independent mediators, and one of the gang leaders. Nigeria’s government—still battling Islamic State militants in the northeast—refers to the lesser-known criminal groups in its northwest as “bandits.” But soldiers, intelligence officers and mediators who have visited their camps describe a surfeit of munitions. “Criminal factions appear to be better equipped with larger-capacity advanced weaponry than national security agencies,” said a confidential internal report presented to the president in July. Nigeria’s Air Force said in a statement that allegations it had made payments to armed bandits were “fake news.” Several senior security officials described mass kidnapping for ransom as Nigeria’s primary new security crisis. Click here to read…

Medical

G20 officials back fairer vaccine distribution

G20 trade ministers on Oct 12 promised to work towards a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by lifting export restrictions and making the trade system more transparent. Their final statement, adopted after a meeting in southern Italy, was a sign of the return of multilateralism, said Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio.”We have to ensure that there is greater circulation of vaccines and that there are production factories in the developing countries,” French trade minister Franck Riester said. While more than 6 billion vaccine doses have been produced and administered worldwide, only 1.4 percent of people in poor countries have been fully vaccinated, compared to 58 percent in rich countries, World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said earlier in October. Ahead of the WTO’s ministerial conference set for November 30 to December 3 in Geneva, she called on members to agree on a strong response to the pandemic based on a fairer sharing of the vaccines. Riester said another issue was getting vaccine-makers to waive intellectual property rights to allow production around the world. Click here to read…

EU becomes largest Covid vaccine exporter, shipping ‘over one billion’ doses worldwide

Having shipped at least a billion jabs since the global rollout began in December 2020, the bloc has been the biggest exporter of Covid vaccines, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen has announced. Delivering a statement on Oct 18, von der Leyen outlined the scale of the EU’s Covid vaccine distribution scheme. It has so far shipped doses to more than 150 countries. “Very clearly, the European Union is the largest exporter of Covid-19 vaccines,” she stated, marking the bloc’s “important milestone” of having delivered “over one billion” doses in the past 10 months. The EU has been working to send Covid vaccines around the globe since December 2020, primarily to larger nations, but also to smaller, poorer ones that are vulnerable to the virus. The milestone has been passed despite the EU having introduced a mechanism that monitors and potentially limits vaccine exports, with the measure being extended from an initial September deadline to the end of 2021. According to the EC, the EU is currently sending at least every second dose produced in the EU abroad. Last month, the bloc agreed to send a further 200 million doses to Africa and to low-income countries. Click here to read…