2019, April, Newsletter

World Newsletter Apr 29, 2019

World News April 29


India’s decision to skip the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) may have led to the
exclusion of the Bangladesh- China- India- Myanmar (BCIM) Economic corridor
from the list of projects covered by the China-led Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI) umbrella.
In an annex tagged with the Joint Communiqué of the Leaders’ Roundtable of
the BRF, which concluded in Beijing on Saturday, the Chinese foreign
ministry website has not listed the BCIM as a project covered by the BRI—the
giant connectivity initiative speared by China to revive the ancient Silk
Road across Eurasia and Africa.
Instead, South Asia is covered by three major undertakings—the China-Myanmar
Economic Corridor (CMEC), the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional
Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway, as well as
the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Citing “sovereignty” concerns, India, for the second time, has not
officially participated in the BRF, as CPEC—a flagship of the BRI—passes
through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The 2800 km BCIM corridor proposes to link Kunming in China’s Yunnan
province with Kolkata, passing though nodes such as Mandalay in Myanmar and
Dhaka in Bangladesh before heading to Kolkata.
Significantly, a report titled, “The Belt and Road Initiative Progress,
Contributions and Prospects,” released by the Leading Group for Promoting
the Belt and Road Initiative of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on April
22 does list the BCIM as a BRI project.


Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov, commenting on a media report that U.S. President
Donald Trump wants a new arms control deal with Moscow and Beijing, said
Russia was open to the possibility of new arms control deals, but that there
were no ongoing talks.
Citing administration officials, The Washington Post reported on Thursday
that Mr. Trump has ordered his administration to prepare a push for a new
arms control agreement with Russia and China due to the mounting cost of the
21st-century nuclear arms race.
Ushakov, in remarks to Russian state TV released on Sunday, said Moscow was
ready to hold talks about the subject.
“Firstly, what exists already (by way of arms control agreements) needs to
be honoured,” said Mr. Ushakov, speaking to Russian state TV.
“We are also ready for new ones, but for that serious negotiations are
needed and unfortunately so far nobody has embarked on any.”
Ushakov’s words were more upbeat than those of a Kremlin spokesman who on
Saturday dismissed Trump’s proposals on nuclear arms disarmament as “not


Ten days after Indonesia held the world’s biggest single-day elections, more
than 270 election staff have died, mostly of fatigue-related illnesses
caused by long hours of work counting millions of ballot papers by hand, an
official said on Sunday.
The April 17 elections were the first time the country of 260 million people
combined the presidential vote with national and regional parliamentary
ones, with an aim to cut costs.
Voting was largely peaceful and was estimated to have drawn 80 per cent of
the total 193 million voters, who each had to punch up to five ballot papers
in over 800,000 polling stations.
But conducting the eight-hour vote in a country that stretches more than
5,000 km (3,000 miles) from its western to eastern tips proven to be both a
Herculean logistical feat and deadly for officials, who had to count ballot
papers by hand.
As of Saturday night, 272 election officials had died, mostly from
overwork-related illnesses, while 1,878 others had fallen ill, said Arief
Priyo Susanto, spokesman of the General Elections Commission (KPU).
The Health Ministry issued a circular letter on April 23 urging health
facilities to give utmost care for sick election staff, while the Finance
Ministry is working on compensation for families of the deceased, Susanto
The KPU has come under fire due to the rising death toll.


A statement from the President’s Media Division on Sunday said covering of
the face with veils, in a manner that prevents identification of a person,
will be banned from Monday under emergency regulations.
Meanwhile, the father and two brothers of Zahran Hashim, who is believed to
have led the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, were killed in Friday’s overnight
gun battle between troops and suspects in the eastern Ampara district, the
police said on Sunday.
Hashim was earlier identified as one of the two suicide bombers who blew
themselves up at Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
Further, a woman and a four-year-old child, rescued from a safe house
stormed in the search operation on Saturday, have been identified as the
wife and daughter of Hashim, police sources told The Hindu.
Sri Lanka is mulling stringent laws to tackle the relatively new, unexpected
threat of local radical Islamist forces with apparent links with
international groups.
“Terrorism should be ended immediately. For that we will bring new and
tougher laws,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.


Sri Lankan police raided the headquarters of National Thawheedh Jamaath
(NTJ), the hard-line Islamist group suspected to be behind the Easter
attacks, a Reuters witness said, as Sunday Mass was cancelled due to fears
of further attacks.
Armed police in the town of Kattankudy searched the headquarters of the
National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and detained one man at the premises, a
Reuters reporter at the scene said. Police did not comment.
On Saturday, the government banned the NTJ under new emergency laws.
Police suspect the bombings were carried out by two local Islamist groups,
including the NTJ. Around 10,000 soldiers have been deployed around the
island as the authorities hunt for more suspects.


China and Pakistan firmed up their cooperation under the USD 60 billion CPEC
by signing a host of agreements on Sunday, including upgradation of a
Karachi-Peshawar railway line, launching of second phase of the Free Trade
Agreement and establishment of a dry port.
The agreements were stated to be part of the next phase of the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who came here to attend China’s second
Belt and Road Forum (BRF) on April 25 met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on
Sunday during which they signed an agreement to build a double railway track
from Karachi and Peshawar, Pakistan’s state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
The railway agreement is titled “Declaration for Completion of Preliminary
Design of Phase-I for Upgradation of ML-1”.
Rashid said Main Line-1 (ML-I) from Peshawar to Karachi via Lahore would be
upgraded under the CPEC which includes upgradation of the entire railway
line and would be completed in next five years.
The two sides also signed an agreement to establish a dry port at Havelian
city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It is located in the Karakoram highway
connecting China and Pakistan.
The other agreements signed on Sunday included an MoU on cooperation in the
field of marine sciences between the China Geological Survey (CGS), Ministry
of Natural Resources of China, the Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of
Science and Technology.


Spain’s governing Socialists have claimed victory in the country’s third
election in four years, but have fallen short of a majority.
PM Pedro Sánchez’s party polled 29% and will need the help of either
left-wing Podemos and regional parties, or the centre right, to form a
For the first time since military rule ended in the 1970s, a far-right party
is set to enter parliament.
Vox opposes multiculturalism, feminism and unrestricted migration.
The other big story of the election was the collapse in support for the
Popular Party (PP), which governed Spain until it was dumped from power in
May 2018 in a no-confidence vote.
In its worst election ever, the PP won just 66 seats, down from 137 in the
previous parliament.
In his victory speech, Mr Sánchez said the party’s big challenges were to
fight inequality, advance co-existence and halt corruption.
“The future has won and the past has lost,” he told cheering supporters.
During his time in office he has raised the minimum wage, appointed a
female-dominated cabinet and promised to bring in laws defining rape as sex
without clear consent.
The Socialists won 123 seats while their former coalition partner, Podemos,
won 42.
The result is a personal success for the prime minister, who increased his
party’s share from 23% of the vote in 2016.
But it still leaves the Socialists and Podemos 11 seats short of the
necessary 176 for a majority.
Mr Sánchez could make up the numbers with smaller regional parties.


At least 10 people are dead and eight missing after days of heavy
rain-triggered floods and landslides on the Indonesian island of Sumatra,
authorities said on Sunday.
Some 12,000 people have been evacuated while hundreds of buildings, bridges
and roads have been damaged by the severe weather which affected nine
districts or towns across Bengkulu province, officials said.
The waters have receded in some places but officials warned the full extent
of the damage was not yet known and some areas were still cut off. “The
impact of this disaster may increase,” national disaster agency spokesman
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, adding several people were also injured in the

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