In this week's news from outside the world, Sri Lanka pulled out of the tripartite agreement to develop the East Container Terminal. The first call between the two leaders of India and America after Joe Biden’s inauguration as the President of the United States of America took place this week. The Ministry of External Affairs Press release said – “Prime Minister welcomed President Biden’s initiative to organise the Climate Leaders Summit in April this year and looked forward to participating in the same.”
1) Sri Lanka-India East Container Terminal controversy
- In a surprise move, Sri Lanka pulled out of the tripartite agreement to develop the East Container Terminal.
- India, Sri Lanka and Japan had signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in May 2019 to develop and operate the East Container Terminal of Colombo Port in a trilateral framework.
- A week before this development cleared a Chinese energy project off the Jaffna peninsula, barely 50 km from India’s Tamil Nadu coast.
- An upset New Delhi stressed on the need to adhere to international commitments. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said – “Our High Commissioner in Colombo is in discussion with the Government of Sri Lanka, including on the importance of adhering to international commitments.”
- Listen to our weekly podcast on what to expect in the India-Sri Lanka relations from here on under the Rajapakshas with N Sathiya Moorthy a Distinguished Fellow and Head of ORF’s Chennai Initiative. He says India should be more concerned about the Chinese energy projects due to the strategic location more than the ECt project.
2) Joe Biden Modi conversation
- This was the first call between the two leaders after Joe Biden’s inauguration as the President of the United States of America
- The issues broadly discussed were – 1) Climate change 2) Indo-Pacific/Quad 3) Regional issues 4) Safeguarding democratic values which the White House Press release referred to as “bedrock for the U.S.-India relationship.”
- The Ministry of External Affairs Press release said – “Prime Minister welcomed President Biden’s initiative to organise the Climate Leaders Summit in April this year and looked forward to participating in the same.”
3) Rihanna controversy and India’s statement
- In a rather unusual move the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement to the celebrities tweeting on the issue of farmers protests in India and related internet clampdown.
- The celebrities were led by American singer Rihanna who has an over 100 million following on Twitter alone. She is the 4th most followed person globally, after former US president Barak Obama, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Followed by her Retweet with a quote was, environmental activists Greta Thunberg with approx 4.7 million followers sho expressed solidarirty with Indian farmers. US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris also took to twitter on the issue and has since then been focusing on the matter linking it to human rights.
- US embassy spokesperson when asked to comment, in sharp contrast said – “These are private citizens expressing their points of view. I don’t have comment on remarks from private citizens.
- The MEA statement can roughly be broken down in two parts – 1) That gives a lowdown on what the India govt is doing to resolve the crisis. The statement said – “The Parliament of India, after a full debate and discussion, passed reformist legislation.”The opposition has contested the point about full debate and discussion. 2) The statement came down heavily on the celebrities indicating they were acting at the behest of “vested interest” and did not have full knowledge of the facts. The Indian side is now investigating whether there was a planned social media campaign pushed by groups that espouse separatism.
4) India and Afghanistan sign MoU for Shahtoot Dam
- Indian PM and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed an MoU to develop the Shatoot Dam on the Kabul River.
- The discussions have been on for a few years and is culminating in an agreement now.
- External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had made an announcement in November, 2020 during the Geneva Donors Conference that it would construct this dam that will provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul.
- Pakistan is a lower riparian state of the Kabul river and has objected to the project as it believes that the water supply on its side will be hampered. Regions of Pakistan are also water stressed.
5) Trump Senate Trial
- Former US President Donald Trump’s Senate Trial will start on 9th February.
- His legal team has rejected that the request by house impeachment managers to testify during the trial.
- Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said since Trump has rejected all the charges he should testify under oath during the Senate trial.
- Here’s basically what Trump’s defence team has said – Trump cannot be tried as he is no longer the President. Constitutional experts say there is no such bar. They have also said that his alleged incitement should be viewed as free speech protected under the first amendment.
- For the first time in American history, a former president will stand trial in the senate for a second impeachment.
- Chances of his impeachment are slim as it requires a sizeable Republicans to vote with the democrats which is unlikely to happen.