What We’re Watching

What our analysts are watching and key events they are keeping an eye on
25th October 20217 min

NATO to counter China’s growing clout. Countering the security threat from the rise of China will be an important part of NATO’s future rationale, the NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with the Financial Times. The Washington Post also said: “China’s rise is exactly the kind of threat NATO exists to stop.” NATO has been struggling to determine its purpose since the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The pivotal alliance of the 20th century seems adrift. It is expected that the US will attempt to reorient NATO to face a rising China but there seems little appetite from the European nations to expend the required resources both financially and politically to face such a challenge. Europe doesn’t see China like it saw the communist threat from Moscow. With the COVID-19 pandemic European nations are more than willing to allow the US to spend scant resources maintaining the status quo which in fact China is in no hurry to change.

Military makes its move in Sudan. Thousands of Sudanese set out in several cities on Thursday 21st October to demand the restoration of civilian power. With relations between the military and the transitional civilian leadership tense on Monday 25th October Sudan’s military dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, In a televised address, said infighting between politicians, ambition and incitement to violence had forced him to act to protect the safety of the nation and to “rectify the revolution’s course.” Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has been put under house arrest, along with members of his cabinet and other civilian leaders.

US Commitment to Taiwan. It is no secret that containing China is the backbone of the US alliance with Taiwan. China recently staged military exercises that have sent shivers down Taiwan’s spine. However, despite its machismo China knows the US will be watching to protect its ally, which the superpower re-emphasized. “The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” said a White House spokesman. Like Japan and South Korea, Taiwan is one another nation the US uses to reassert the justification of its presence in the region. After leaving Afghanistan, the US has turned all its firepower towards facing China’s rapid rise, which is why China-related events have been making headlines. We will be watching to see how the Sino-American struggle will unfold.

Bangladesh to remove Islam from its constitution. The Bangladeshi State Minister for Information, Murad Hassan, has said Islam is not the state religion and the country will soon go back to its original secular constitution of 1972 envisioned by founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. If the move comes into effect, Islam will no longer be the state religion of the Muslim majority country. The original secular constitution of Bangladesh was amended during the rule of General HM Ershad in the late 1980s and Islam was instituted as the state religion. A close ally of India & US, the ruling Awami League party enjoys an absolute majority in Parliament hence the passage of a fresh amendment may not be difficult. The move is likely to provoke opposition from the Islamist parties who have been campaigning for further Islamisation of the Country. The country is going through the worst phase of communal violence in years leaving several dead and hundreds injured.

India signs first investment deal in Kashmir with UAE. Dubai has signed an accord to build infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, at a time when the Himalayan region is seeing a resurgence in violence. The MoU covers real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, multipurpose towers, logistics, medical colleges, super speciality hospitals and more. The deal was hailed “as a major success for India” by a former Pakistan high commissioner Dr Abdul Basit, while the pact triggered outrage in Pakistan. According to Dr Basit one aspect of India’s Kashmir strategy has been how to persuade some Muslim nations to open their missions or consulates in Kashmir and invest in the region to negate the influence of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries). Commentators also noted that this is Dubai’s message to the world that Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir. The deal angered Pakistan since it’s claims on Kashmir and attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue depends heavily on OIC support.

North Korea launches Submarine missile. North Korea appears to have successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off its east coast on 19 October 2021. Initial assessments suggest the missile may have been launched from a North Korean submarine, as opposed to the submerged barge used in previous tests. If confirmed, this test would mark a major step in Pyongyang’s long journey to develop an SLBM capability, a key component of its national defense and specifically its nuclear deterrence strategy. North Korea now adds submarines to its road-mobile ballistic missiles and makes it more difficult for the US and South Korea to destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear missiles in a first strike. All this makes a preemptive strike more unlikely now.

Taliban won’t be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves. Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Tuesday 19 October said he sees no situation where the Taliban, who regained power in Afghanistan in August, would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States. The Taliban have called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis. “We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee. 

Financial Watchdog ‘grey lists’ Turkey. Finance watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has grey listed Turkey over its failure to make sufficient efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing, in a decision severely criticized by Turkey’s Ministry of Treasury and Finance in a written statement. FATF Chair Marcus Pleyer has made a statement after 3-day plenary in Paris and announced that Turkey, Jordan and Mali have been greylisted while Botswana and Mauritius have been dropped off the list. Referring to the Law No. 7262 on the Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which has been recently introduced in Turkey, the FATF head has indicated that they are aware of the concerns of the human rights organizations. Greylisted countries have difficulty in attracting foreign investment and in Turkey’s case it will place pressure on the EU to reconsider Turkey’s bid to join the union.

COP26 and G20 Summits. The COP conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, UK and G20 conference in Rome are scheduled to begin on Friday 29 October. COP26 will bring together more than 190 world leaders to discuss climate change. Britain’s Boris Johnson will be trying to reach an agreement with the other nations on how to tackle climate change. The absence of China and Russia and with previous meetings being more about geopolitical struggles than about helping solving global pollution it remains to be seen if much will be achieved. The G20 meetings are usually where talks on the sidelines take place between  rivals and enemies and we will be watching for talks between Russia and the US and China and the US.

Egypt-Russia military drills. The joint Egyptian-Russian military exercise ‘Protectors of Friendship 5’ kicked off with the participation of joint paratroopers from Egypt and Russia. The drills lasting a week until 20 October 2021 encompassed many activities, topped by the implementation of landing operations for personnel, their equipment and vehicles. The “Protectors of Friendship 5” exercise include exchanges of training experiences and training on special forces combat and on battling terrorism. The exercise is one of the holdovers from Egypt’s purchase of Soviet equipment during the Cold war. Egypt still has numerous Russian military platforms which Russia provides maintenance and training for. For Russia Egypt presents export opportunities, something Russia’s defence industry desperately needs.


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