In this week's news from outside the world, the foreign ministers of US, India, Japan and Australia met, virtually. Rajiv Sikri, former Indian diplomat, Secretary (East) with the Ministry of External Affairs talks about the significance of the Quad in this week's podcast.
1) Foreign ministers of Quad meet virtually
· The foreign ministers of US, India, Japan and Australia met virtually on 18th February.
· This meeting though virtually came within 4 months after the meeting of the ministers of the four countries in Tokyo.
· The Indian Press release said – “The Ministers emphasized their commitment to upholding a rules-based international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
· The Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi tweeted to highlight the issues that were discussed - "...realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific, regional conditions including Myanmar, the East China Sea / South China Sea, and North Korea, global issues..."
· The US read out said - "...countering disinformation, counterterrorism, maritime security, the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma, and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region."
· Australian press statement said – “We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting an open, inclusive and resilient region where the rights of all countries are respected and disputes are resolved peacefully, free from coercion, and in accordance with international law.”
- Listen to our podcast with Rajiv Sikri, former Indian diplomat, Secretary (East) with the ministry of External Affairs on the significance of the Quad.
2) China reveals its casualties in Galwan Valley clashes
- China finally released the number of casualties it suffered in the Galwan Valley clashes on the 15th of June, 2020.
- The Chinese media reported to say that there were 4 soldiers martyred and a Colonel was injured in the clashes.
- To a question in the media briefing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokesperson Hua Chunying said – "The Galwan Valley conflict in June last year resulted in casualties on both sides. The responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side. Bearing in mind the overall interests of relations between the two countries and the two militaries, China has exercised a high degree of restraint to cool down and ease the situation, which shows its magnanimity and high sense of responsibility as a major country. However, the Indian side has repeatedly sensationalized and hyped up this incident with the casualties and distorted the truth to mislead the international public opinion."
- India has already stated that China was responsible for the clashes. In the conversation with his counterpart Wang Yi on 17th June, 2020, S Jaishankar had said as per the press statement by India – “Ground commanders were meeting regularly to implement this consensus throughout the last week. While there was some progress, the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan valley on our side of the LAC. While this became a source of dispute, the Chinese side took pre-meditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties.”
- Meanwhile, as the disengagement on the Pangong Tso on the Line of Actual Contol finished the Indian and Chinese side held the 10th Corps Commander level talks. The joint press release said – “he two sides positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area noting that it was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in Western Sector. “
3) Indian Foreign Secretary visits Russia
- Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He handed over a letter of invitation from the External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar to Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit India at a mutually convenient date.
- In his meeting with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, “the two sides reviewed important aspects of bilateral relations and also exchanged views on regional and international issues. Both sides agreed on a roadmap for high-level exchanges this year, including the Annual Bilateral Summit,” as per the press release by India.
- They also had an in-depth exchange of views on multilateral issues “focused particularly on disarmament and non-proliferation matters.”
4) US President Biden unveils Covid 19 relief plan
- The $1.9 trillion stimulus package will be put to vote later this week in the House of Representatives. The main test of the package though will be in the Senate.
- Some of the points of stimulus package - direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person, will extend two key pandemic unemployment programs till August, lengthening the duration of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to up to 74 weeks, from 50 weeks, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to 48 weeks, from 24 weeks.
- Some have raised a concern over this point of the stimulus - raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
- Meanwhile, President Biden has said all Americans will be vaccinated by July. So far more than 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States.
5) FATF Plenary
- The Financial Action Task Force’s plenary started on 22st February.
- This is the second Plenary under the two-year German FATF Presidency of Dr Marcus Pleyer
- Delegates representing 205 members of the Global Network, and observer organisations including the IMF, the United Nations and the World Bank will take part in this meeting.
-Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will take place virtually.
- The outcomes of the FATF Plenary will be published on Thursday 25 February, at the close of the meeting.
- Pakistan, that has been trying to get out of the grey list, is unlikely to be able to do so. Till the last meeting it had completed 21 out of the 27 agenda items it had promised to fulfill almost two years ago.