The Durant Line is the new bone of contention between neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was a mutual settlement between the nations in order to create a sense of peace between two Pashtun tribal lands. Since its inception, Pakistan has had trouble with its neighbor Afghanistan.
Off late, Pakistan has been trying to build a fence and establish some kind of policing posts near the Durant Line. As both nations have never seen eye-to-eye on the existence of the line, their geopolitical chemistry is in the doldrums.
After the intervention of the British Empire in 1893, Afghanistan lost its control over Baluchistan and the Arabian Sea. But the former sent Sir Mortimer Durand who created an imaginary Durant Line to bring some bit of stability between the emerging nations. Since then, both Pashtun descendants have had trouble with each other.
Right now, Afghanistan’s security is in jeopardy. For one, the nation is already in a war spanning two decades. Wasteful use of energy and money, the internal conflict of the Taliban has resulted in nothingness. While Pakistan on its part is trying to establish its own stronghold, by demarcating chunks of land, Afghanistan is feeling insecure.
The line had started to be fenced in 2014, and now stands 90 percent complete despite the objections raised by Afghanistan. For one, the trespassing of guerilla fighters has stopped. Earlier, it was a freeway for families, traders, and guerilla fighters too. But this fictitious ‘de-facto’ line was of great use to all those families where members went to and fro for business and earn a living. Since 2017, gradual fencing has led to the well of the Afghani side grow dry.
Pakistan military systematically started erecting pairs of 3-meter-high metal fences topped with razor wire along the entire border. It closed scores of informal crossings and limited cross-border travel to 16 official posts.
While Afghanistan might have its reasons to feel the fencing is burning a hole in their pockets, Pakistan has had security reasons to ensure they do not erect the fence.
Tension remains high both sides, while Afghanistan is not confrontative.
It has suffered a lot under the attack of military forces and then extremists groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, functioning closer to the line.
On the flip side, Pakistan says it has clamped down on homegrown militants waging war in Pakistan. But in reality, Islamabad might have been backing other Pakistan-based Afghan and Kashmiri militants as proxy forces in Afghanistan and India.
Mass vaccination campaigns reinforce the hope that the exit from the pandemic nightmare is not far off. Vaccines are becoming a weapon of the geopolitical dispute, to the point that some observers have spoken of a health cold war. The scenario is complex and the strategies of the various countries are by no means homogeneous. Israel is proceeding very quickly with the vaccination of its population, thus finding itself in a very different position, for example, from the countries of the European Union, which are rather in difficulty. In this situation, while adolescents are also being vaccinated, Israel is offering vaccine quotas to some countries. There are about fifteen recipient nations of 100,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine.
According to numerous analysts, some countries on the list have been chosen because they are preparing to open their diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, a decision to which Israel attributes a high symbolic value. There have been other criticisms regarding the Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank, who, even during the pandemic, found themselves in difficulty and uncertainty as to who should deal with combating the virus in those territories.
The issue of vaccinations generally opens up ample room for maneuver to nations that have the tools and possibilities to play this game. To understand the global dimension of the problem, it is necessary to consider that the vaccination process will not be short and will proceed at completely different rates in specific geographical areas and especially between rich and poor countries. With approximately 216 million doses administered worldwide, 43,637,705 people have so far received the second dose, a large number that represents only 0.56% of the world population.
Also, about 65 million doses have been administered in the United States, thus almost a third of the total, while representing less than 5% of the world population. An even sharper disproportion considering the approximately 18 million in the United Kingdom, the 7 million in Israel, and the 5 million in the United Arab Emirates, especially when compared to data from countries such as India or many African countries. This disparity creates room for the possibility of new alliances.
In this scenario, China is the most active. The Asian giant strongly intent to reverse the damage image it suffered at the beginning of the pandemic. Beijing is using the vaccine tool to open or consolidate international relationships. The internal vaccination campaign proceeds with studied slowness. Forty million doses administered so far are little compared to the size of the Asian giant, but it would seem a choice, obviously allowed by the current low spread of infections. After the diplomacy of masks, Beijing inaugurated the vaccine diplomacy era, exporting more doses than are administered across the country.
According to statements released by Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of China, on Tuesday, February 23, the two vaccines produced by Sinopharm were sold to twenty-seven countries, including Serbia, Hungary, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, and exported as gift to fifty-three countries, most of them African or Asian, such as Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, Cambodia.
With its three vaccines, Russia is countering the Chinese reward strategy with a very competitive pricing policy appreciated by many countries in difficulty. On the other hand, the United States and the European Unionare too busy for now on the domestic front in an attempt to quickly vaccinate their populations to participate in this global health competition. Right now, it appears that Russia and China, and to a lesser extent Israel are benefiting. In any case, the pandemic will mark a new phase in geopolitics.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire global economy to its knees. Following the COVID-19 emergency, the key to the recovery seems to be that of sustainability and improving the healthiness of the spaces in which we live. The ability of countries to assume a front-runner role on these issues will be an important safeguard of international competitiveness as well as resilience towards future possible health emergencies. A challenge that is not only economic but can also translate into a geopolitical competition.
With $ 1.8 trillion invested around the world, 2018 was the busiest year in the global real estate market in decades. The figure includes cross-border capital flowing from one continent to another connecting not only investors but also different national economies. In 2009, the implosion of sub-prime mortgages that originated in the United States and the global financial crisis that followed allowed a better appreciation of the geopolitical impact and externalities of the real estate sector on the global economy. Investors have rediscovered that globalization in the real estate sector as in other sectors involves, in the face of mutual benefits, also interdependencies, and contagions of vulnerability between economies and states.
As stated in the document Globalization of a commercial property market: the case of Copenhagen, the globalization of the real estate sector is driven by various actors, private or public, who are involved “in the production, ownership, maintenance, use and reproduction of the built environment in the market at ever-increasing distances”. It means that there can be thousands of kilometers between those who live or work in a building, the bank that provides financing to those who buy the building, the asset management companies that manage the assets, and capital contributing investors.
The opening of the real estate market to foreign capital is fuelled mainly, but not exclusively, by profit and by the diversification of risk. However, the size of capital to be allocated in one country rather than another may vary according to other purposes (beyond the profit) that political economy should take into consideration. Recent research has investigated the implication that capital outbound invested in real estate has on geopolitics, suggesting that “geopolitics not only affects but is also conditioned by the production and circulation of real estate capital”. Given its international and cross-border characteristics as an investment product, Real Estate is considered a case of the geopolitics of the multiple – a theory according to which, in the era of globalization, geopolitical strategies are “assembled” by the continuous change of actors, motivations and heterogeneous materiality that influence the ways and purposes with which foreign relations are negotiated today.
In Russia, real estate emerged as a marketable commodity in the early 1990s, as a result of the transition from socialism to capitalism that allowed the privatization of the sector and the transfer of state-owned titles to tenants. This process allowed Russian investors to start investing in the domestic and foreign market by creating a network of economic relations that still influence international politics today. In 2019, Russia was still the second outbound direct foreign investor, after China, among emerging economies.
Since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, many cities have been subject to bombing. In 2019, the cost of rebuilding Syrian cities was estimated at between $ 260 and $ 400 billion. Syrian law currently does not allow foreign nationals to own or purchase real estate. However, the government has shown itself to be open to some exceptions, and even if the war is not over yet, domestic and foreign players are already looking for investment opportunities.
The Syrian government has issued many decrees to organize and benefit from the reconstruction that will follow the war, promoting large real estate projects that should attract foreign investors. Several property laws, including the infamous Law 10 that allows the government to designate redevelopment zones and force landlords to surrender the property in exchange for compensation, are designed to open up lucrative real estate opportunities. The reconstruction program appears to be an attempt to attract political support internationally, but for the regime, this process is driven by two main purposes: to stimulate an otherwise unsustainable reconstruction with private funding and to do so in a way that channels economic returns to men and women. industries affiliated with the Syrian regime.
The attempt to attract foreign capital and to create international consensus, however, blurs the reasons for the internal political stability of the reconstruction program. The latter prevents many residents and refugees from asserting their legitimate property rights and creates a significant obstacle to the return of regime opponents.
Due to the pervasive nature of the real estate market, globalization has paved the way for interests that go beyond the simple economic value of Real Estate. Foreign investments in the sector are emerging in an unprecedented political and public key. Unlike other financial instruments, real estate finance has a more direct link with the real economy and can therefore have a more impact on cities and communities’ life. Real estate flows are today more than ever important vehicles of political hegemony. That’s why these dynamics fully enter the arsenal of geopolitical strategies.
Japan reported on Sunday that two of the Chinese coast guard vesselswhich had entered the Japanese waters re-entered its territorial waters near the Senkaku islands. The repeated incursions by the Chinese vessels came in direct violation of the international maritime laws. As per the reports, the latest incursion occurred around 1:40 p.m on Sunday. It was the ninth time this year that the communist nation entered its neighboring nation’s territorial waters near uninhabited islets and claimed them as its.
Tokyo contested against repeated attempts of infiltration by Beijing. Things got tenser after China passed a law this month, which enabled its coastal forces to use arms against foreign ships, which entered the waters claimed by China. Of late, China used its newly acquired legal liberty to block a Japanese fishing boat in the moving in the area carrying three passengers.
Besides Japan, US also raised serious concerns over China’s recently adopted coast guard law, which it said could aggravate tensions, amid the ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the region. Washington fears that Beijing could use it to make unlawful claims over uninhabited islands in the region.
Condemning the move, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters, “The United States joins the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and other countries in expressing concern with China’s recently enacted coast guard law, which may escalate the ongoing territorial and maritime disputes.”
China has been making unlawful claims using its military and now legal might in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea, leading to various territorial disputes. Many countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan objected to Beijing’s territorial claims.
“We are specifically concerned by language in the law that expressly ties the potential use of force, including armed force by the China Coast Guard, to the enforcement of China’s claims in ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas,” Price said.
The United States has agreed to participate in the multilateral talks with Iran hosted by the European Union to negotiate a return by both countries to the nuclear agreement reached in July 2015 (JCPOA) and from which the former Trump administrationwithdrew in May 2018. The US State Department spokesman Ned Price announced yesterday, explaining that the United States will accept the invitation of EU High Representative Josep Borrell to talk with Iran and with the other countries that have agreed on Tehran’s nuclear program deal.
The White House explained that its delegation will be led by Special Envoy Rob Malley. “As long as we don’t sit down and talk, nothing will happen, but that doesn’t mean that when we sit and talk, we will be successful,” a senior State Department official quoted by The New York Times said. “We know that if we don’t take that step, the situation will go from bad to worse,” he added. An opening in this sense should come from the president himself, Joe Biden, who is speaking today at the conference on security in Munich.
For his part, Tehran returned today to ask the United States to lift the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration: a concession that Biden can hardly make before seeing concrete progress. The tangible sign of the difficulties with which the renewed dialogue starts. The confrontation between Iran and the United States on Tehran’s nuclear program and in particular on the “JCPOA” agreement of 2015 has entered a decisive phase.
In Paris, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met and had a video dialogue with the American secretary of state Antony Blinken. The message sent to Iran is this: it would be dangerous for Tehran to block AIEA inspections, as the Iranians have threatened to do in recent weeks. Iran calls for the US to make the first move, or to lift the economic sanctions previously triggered by the Donald.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian received his colleagues from Berlin and London, Heiko Maas and Dominic Raab, at the Quai d’Orsay; from Paris, they activated the connection with Blinken, a meeting entirely dedicated to the Iranian nuclear issue. At the end of the discussions, the 4 issued a joint note in which they ask Tehran to “consider the consequences of such a serious action, especially in this moment of renewed diplomatic opportunity”.
After the US exit from the JCPA, the Trump administration in 2018 reintroduced harsh economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Sanctions that effectively blocked the country’s oil exports and brought the economy to its knees. Since his presidential election campaign, Joe Biden had hinted that his administration would return to the JCPOA.
But in the meantime, one year after the new US sanctions, Iran has gradually begun to violate the treaty. It has increased the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. It has refined the metal in quantities and percentages outside the boundaries of the treaty and has also recently begun to produce metallic uranium, which is a form of material used primarily for military production.
On Wednesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Tokyo and Washington have agreed to keep Japan’s expenses attributed towards the maintenance of American troops stationed in the country to the exiting level only. He added that for fiscal 2021 Japan would assign $1.9 billion for the upkeep of US soldiers. It was about the same amount that the Asian nation has been bearing for the past five years. Generally, the cost-sharing agreement is reviewed every five years.
“We managed to come to an agreement in the early days of the Biden administration,” Motegi told reporters at the ministry. “It strengthens the trust within the alliance and sends out a message to the international community,” he said.
The decision brought much relief to the Japanese government as the former US President Donald Trump has been pushing its Asian ally to increase the cost budget and to accept a “fair share of the burden.” The two nations had been struggling to reach a middle ground to meet Trump’s open demand for Tokyo to quadruple its contribution. John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, mentioned in his book, published in 2019, that the US president has been pressing Japan to raise its annual expense bar for US troops from the current $1.9 billion to $8 billion.
Last year, Trump slammed the Asia Pacific nation for its financial contributions and called the alliance as one-sided. He said, “if Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III…but if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television.”
Japan kept the consultation talks regarding the cost-sharing agreement on hold and resumed full-fledged negotiations on a new treaty after observing the outcome of the US presidential election, in November. For now, both nations have agreed to a one-year deal, as per which the Japanese government has set 201.7 billion yen ($1.9 billion) as its host-nation support budget. The nations could not renew the five-year agreement due to paucity of time as newly appointed US President Joe Biden formally took charge in mid-January and the current deal expires in March.
The US has posted about 54,000 American soldiers in Japan as per a decade-old security treaty, in order to assist the latter’s forces in building a stronger defense against rampant Chinese militarization in the region.
Both nations have been working closely in multiple areas ranging from island defense, cybersecurity, and missile defense. It also helps the US to keep in check the rising power of Beijing, its biggest rival, and North Korea, a monarchy fervently developing nuclear ballistic missiles.
Once a leader in climate change policies and presenting its own climate action plan way before Paris Agreement was formulated, Mexico is now facing a sheer lack of interest and retrograde thought process of the current government. At the current time when countries across the world are moving away from non-renewable sources of energy like coal and fossil fuels due to the growing climate crisis, Mexico is going in exactly the opposite direction.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, has revealed plans of buying nearly 2 million tons of thermal coal from smaller producers like Rivera. Furthermore, he has plans of reactivating 2 coal-fired plants on the Texas border. These plants were in process of being cut down after Mexico’s economy went towards natural gas and other renewable sources of energy. Now AMLO is not only ignoring clean energy but is going with blazing guns towards non-renewable sources of energy like fossil fuels.
Under the new action plan in Mexico, AMLO has put private companies who had invested in renewable energy on the back foot and has promoted state-run-bodies, oil company Pemex and CFE (Federal Electricity Commission), to pump petroleum and produce electricity.
Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, director of Iniciativa Climática de México, an environmental organization said, “Instead of thinking of a transition from coal and fossil fuels, he’s thinking of using more coal and petroleum. No other G20 country has such abnormal or retrograde energy policies as this government. It’s not going to advance us toward our climate goals.”
Interestingly, Mexico’s president stands in a contrast to his neighboring counterpart, US President Joe Biden. Climate crisis and returning to Paris Agreement was a key agenda was Biden’s campaign, which he also delivered within the first week of his presidency. Biden has always considered climate crisis an ‘existential threat’ and has deployed policies that will separate the US economy from fossil fuels. AMLO, on the other hand, has chosen to stay silent on the climate crisis despite the country has had experience with powerful hurricanes, extreme weather conditions, and droughts.
Who knows if the deep blue will remain only a suggestion of fairy tales, animated films, and writers’ imagination. Unfortunately, the reality of the seabed is not as poetic as we might imagine it, quite the contrary. It seems that in the world the seabed is twice as dirty as the surface of the water. According tothe Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the Australian national science agency, the results of the first-ever global estimate of microplastics on the seabed “suggest that there are 14 million tons in the depths of the ocean. This is more than double the amount of plastic pollution estimated on the ocean surface “.
The restless study is titled “Microplastic Pollution in Deep-Sea Sediments from the Great Australian Bight” and was published in Frontiers in Marine Science. To summarize the results is one of its main authors, Justine Barret, a researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). “Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and decomposes, eventually becoming microplastics. Our research provides the first global estimate of the amount of microplastic present on the seabed. The deep ocean is also affected by the problem of plastic pollution. The results show that microplastics are sinking to the ocean floor.”
A really big problem, amplified by the evident difficulty of operating on deep waters. Just think that to collect the samples used in the study, the Australian research group relied on an underwater robot capable of diving up to 3000 meters deep, in sites even 380 kilometers away from the coast. Even more worrying is the trend highlighted by the CSIRO researchers: “The amount of microplastics recorded was 25 times higher than in previous deep-sea studies. Based on the results of the plastic densities in deep waters and bringing it back to the size of the ocean, we calculated a global estimate of microplastics on the seabed.”
Not having such refined means to act when the damage is done, the main weapon to defend the marine environment from plastics and microplastics is certainly prevention. One of the authors of the study, Denise Hardesty, recalls that “the plastic pollution of the world’s oceans is an internationally recognized environmental problem, with results indicating the urgent need to produce effective solutions against plastic pollution. Our research has found that the deep ocean is a well of microplastics.”
Generally, the number of microplastic fragments found on the seafloor was higher in areas where there was also more floating waste. Researchers were surprised to see microplastics’ high loads in such a remote area. By identifying where and how much microplastic is present, they get a better picture of the extent of the problem. That will help inform waste management strategies and create behavioural changes and opportunities to prevent plastics and other waste from entering our environment.
We can all help reduce the plastic that ends up in our oceans by avoiding single-use plastics, supporting recycling and waste industries, and disposing of our waste carefully so it doesn’t end up in our environment. The governments, industries and communities must work together to significantly reduce the amount of waste we see along our beaches and in our oceans.
After seven confirmed cases, including three deaths, the West African country Guinea has potentially entered the “epidemic situation”. Sakoba Keita, a top health official in Guinea said, “Very early this morning, the Conakry Laboratory confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus.”
Since the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic, this case surge is the first incidence of the resurgence of viral infection that had taken the lives of over 11,300 people across the region. The virus had first emerged in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1976.
The first death was recorded in January end in Gouecke in south-east Guinea near Liberian border, said Mr. Kieta, the head of National Agency for Health Security. After victims burial on February 1, many people who attended the funeral developed symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and bleeding a few days later.
The samples were sent to a laboratory for testing that showed positive for Ebola on Friday. Testing was done in EU funded laboratory set up in Gueckedou. Keita has thus confirmed that with total 7 cases and 3 deaths, Guinea is in an “Ebola epidemic situation”.
World Health Organization (WHO) is soon going to send support to tackle the rapidly emerging Ebola situation. WHO’s representative in the region, Alfred George Ki-Zerbo said in a press briefing, “We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience [treating the disease]. The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible.”
He added, “The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer [of a vaccine] to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back.”
In view of the rapidly escalating situation, neighboring country Liberia’s president George Weah has put the country’s health authorities on alert from Sunday. His office said that Weah has “has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country’s surveillance and preventative activities.” However, no Ebola cases have been detected in Liberia.
DRC, on the other hand, has had various incidents of virus resurgence three months after WHO declared the end of last year’s outbreak of six months. The end was declared in November. This was DRC’s sixth Ebola outbreak that claimed the lives of 55 out of 130 cases.
Shell will also have to answer for the pollution in Nigeria before the English courts. The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Niger Delta communities, ruling that the energy multinational can be sued for the ecological disaster in the area. Oil company pollution must not go unpunished: Her Majesty’s Supreme Court has ruled that affected Nigerian communities can sue the oil giant Shell in English courts.
The decision writes the BBC, overturns a ruling by the Court of Appeals and is a victory for the Delta communities after a five-year battle. The Delta population, over 40,000 people, claims that the decades of pollution linked to oil extraction have had a serious impact on life, health, and the local environment.
Royal Dutch Shell had argued that it did not have to answer the charges, while not disputing the causes of the pollution, but stressing that the central holding could not be legally responsible for its Nigerian subsidiary, a company that had to be tried under local law. Shell is responsible for approximately 50% of thedelta’soil production. The Supreme Court, the UK’s last option for civil cases, has instead ruled the opposite: the lawsuits brought by the community of Bille and the Ogale people of Ogoniland against Royal Dutch Shell can be heard in the English courts.
The communities, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, reiterated that Shell had a common law duty of assistance to those who had suffered severe damage due to the systemic health, safety, and environmental deficiencies of one of its foreign subsidiaries. Leigh Day’s partner Daniel Leader said the ruling is a “watershed” for “impoverished communities trying to stand up to powerful corporations.” Mark Dummett, director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Program, told the BBC that the dispute has not yet been won, but added: “This historic ruling could mean the end of a long chapter of impunity for Shell and other multinationals that they commit human rights violations abroad.” Shell described the proceeding as “disappointing”.
In areas where oil and gas development are prevalent, air, water, and soil resources can be contaminated with oil and gas wastes and by-products. Citizens commonly report that drilling and production activities pollute water wells, surface waters, and earth surrounding well sites. Scientists also showed that air emissions from oil companies’ sites, wellheads, compressor stations, pipelines, and oil and gas field infrastructure contribute to air quality concerns.
Oil and gas production losses, which may contain petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, naturally occurring radioactive elements, salts, and toxic chemicals, can cause soil pollution, and prevent the growth of plants. Produced water, which may contain high concentrations of salts and other contaminants, is often stored in pits or disposed of in evaporation ponds by oil companies. Spills of produced water can kill vegetation and sterilize soils.