In this week's news from outside the country, there has been a growing alarm across the globe after scientists in the UK described a newly identified variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious than, and genetically distinct from, more established variants. This new development has forced many countries to close their borders with the UK. There was a Quad meeting where India, US, Japan and Australia interacted-- discussing a range of issues including counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and the Covid-19 pandemic.
1) The Quad meeting
- Senior Officials of the Quad countries – India, US, Japan and Australia interacted this week via video conferencing
- The press release by India said, "They also reviewed ongoing and proposed practical cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development, and security issues, including counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, maritime security, humanitarian and disaster relief, with the objective of promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region."
- India also added that looking at the COVID-19 pandemic, "they also highlighted the need to ensure safe, effective and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines."
- The US said, "The officials reviewed recent strategic developments throughout the Indo-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mekong sub-region.”
- Australia said, "Quad partners are focused on strengthening the resilience of regional supply chains, countering disinformation, and promoting quality infrastructure investment, including in the Mekong sub-region."
2) Nepal Parliament Dissolved
- President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the Parliament after beleaguered PM KP Sharma Oli held a cabinet meeting on Sunday and sought the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
- Oli has been under tremendous pressure from within the party, both the Prachanda and Madhav Nepal factions, to quit as PM and leader of the party.
- The move has been termed unconstitutional by the rival factions as the Nepal constitution has no clear provisions on dissolving the Parliament.
- Currently, KP Sharma Oli is looking at splitting the party.
- What’s next for Nepal politics as it continues to see turmoil even as there is open Chinese interference in its internal politics? (More on that in our podcast with Former Indian ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae)
3) India China WMCC meeting
- India and China held another round of talks under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (on Border Affairs) to diffuse the current situation on the LAC.
- India’s press release said, "The two sides reviewed the developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China border areas since the last round of the WMCC held on 30 September 2020."
- The Chinese press release said, "The two sides had candid and in-depth exchange of views on the situation along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India border areas, and agreed to earnestly implement the five-point consensus reached by the foreign ministers of both countries in Moscow, focus on disengagement of front-line troops, and take effective measures to deal with the issues on the ground, so as to further de-escalate the border situation."
4) CAATSA sanctions on Turkey on purchase of Russian S 400
- US imposed sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s adversaries through sanctions act) against the purchase of the Russian S-400 defence system
- The Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin in an interaction with the media in India said, "We don't have much expectation from new US admin but are open to dialogue. Like India, even Russia doesn't recognise any sanctions apart from those by UN. These unilateral sanctions by the US are unfair."
- It is significant to note that India also has a deal with Russia for the S400 air defense system for approximately $ 5.4 billion.
5) Boris Johnson to be India’s R-Day chief guest
- The announcement was made by foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on his India visit last week.
- But Johnson is under fire in his own country for the handling of the COVID crisis after UK reported a new strain of coronavirus that is 70% more infectious.
- Flights from UK have been temporarily halted till 31st December.
- However, preparations for his visit are on track as learned from sources.