Uttara J Malhotra

Macron Nibs The Bud, Directs Muslim Leadership To Adhere To ‘Republic Values’
Europe

Macron Nibs The Bud, Directs Muslim Leadership To Adhere To ‘Republic Values’

Macron Nibs The Bud: The French President Emmanuel Macron has finally issued an ultimatum to the Muslim leaders over ‘republic values’. He is one of the few leaders of the free world who has taken a bold stand against all the confusion that has been doing rounds around Islamophobia. 

Coming down heavily on radicalization of Islam, Macron has made it clear that the Islamic leaders will have to adhere to a ‘charter of republican values.’

Towards this, Mr. Macron has given the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) a period of 15 days to work with the interior ministry. 

Showing their solidarity and respect for the leader of the nation, the CFCM has indeed agreed to create a National Council of Imams. They will reportedly issue imams with official accreditation. However, this official title can be withdrawn, if need be. An imam within the Islamic clergy is an Islamic leadership position of responsibility and honour. The title is commonly used as the title of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community among Sunni Muslims. The move has come after three suspected terrorist attacks that have been attributed to Islamist radical groups. They rocked France in the month of October. 

A courageous move by Macron, the charter puts to rest any kind of misinterpretation of Islam, something that has been used as ammunition to fuel distrust amongst communities in the Europe. The charter will state that Islam is a religion and not a political movement, while also prohibiting “foreign interference” in Muslim groups.

This will put to rest (hopefully) interference from nations like Qatar and Iran that have been financing terrorist activity in various forms across Europe. 

The decision towards the charter and the formation of National Council of Imams. Both decisions were taken by the French president and his interior minister Gérald Darmanin jointly in a meeting presided over by eight CFCM leaders at the Élysée palace.

Macron also has plans to announce new measures to tackle “Islamist separatism” in France, for which he has a wide-ranging bill that seeks to prevent radicalization.

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
Middle East & Africa

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Industrial Push: Africa has been clearly giving out signals that it is interested in developing its economy. Infrastructural development is close on heels. The message has been getting mixed responses from across the world. 

Marking the African Industrialization Day recently, UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres said that, “Technology and innovation were being embraced across the continent, and progress had been made in unity and economic integration.” 

Today, nothing can be achieved without use of technology. Africa has seen some heavy investment being made in the continent in that context. In order to manage the loss that the continent has borne due to the pandemic led slowdown, Guterres has suggested a more sustainable growth model to be adopted in the continent to facilitate inclusive industrialization. 

Speaking in a virtual meeting Guterres touched upon the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa that runs from 2016 to 2025. He also stressed upon the 2030 Roadmap for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. 

His focus was more on usage of new equipment and techniques that can benefit various domestic economies across the continent.  Africa has been primarily an agri-economy that has not seen too much industrial development in three decades. It is only now that the continent is looking at growing and has a lot to offer to the world in terms of natural resources. The main focus in his suggestions was also on farmers who need the help of digitalization to transform agri-food systems and achieve rural development. 

Many political analysts believe that the continent first needs to concentrate on industrialization and Free Trade Area can come thereafter. The agreement came into action in May2019. It covered trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. Of the 55 African Union member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign it.

The immediate objective of the free trade area is principally to boost trade within Africa by eliminating up to 90% of the tariffs on goods and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. While the UN Conference on Trade And Development claimed that intra-country trade would help everyone increase their domestic earnings by 33%, it would not matter even if industrial growth had not happened in the meantime. That could follow. 

But a general consensus is that industrial revolution is important even before intra-country trade can start. 

EU Bloc Delays Recovery Fund Under Veto From Hungary Poland
Europe

EU Bloc Delays Recovery Fund Under Veto From Hungary Poland

EU Bloc Delays Fund: The big budget fight has got out of hands as EU leaders find it difficult to solve the fistfight between the bloc and two nations in particular. This includes Hungary and Poland that are refusing to give a go ahead to the funding support that EU bloc is trying to pump into the European Union, as a post-pandemic recovery effort. 

A 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and recovery package is at stake.  The European Council President, Charles Michel is now waiting for a solution to come by, by the next summit meeting that falls now in December.

The virtual session ended quickly without any results coming through. Mr. Michel believes in magic as he concluded by saying that, “The European Union’s magic is its ability to find solutions even when one believes it’s impossible.” Right now, there seems to be a stalemate and no solution in sight.  The best one at solving problems has been Germany, and Berlin has not come up with any solutions either. 

According to new rules set down by the bloc, the bloc could prevent extending funds to those countries that do not follow the democratic norms set down by the bloc. These points have vehemently been opposed by Hungary and Poland. Up and arms against this development the nations are being backed by Slovenian PM Janez Jansa and feel that the ‘rule-of-law’ mechanism could be used against them as a ‘ideological weapon’ to punish them. 

In Poland, a resolution has been already passed to veto the financial aid and the new rules that come with it. But this is simply looking like tactic to delay the much needed financial impetus. In France, the European affairs minister Clement Beaune has warned that the EU bloc will have to decide quickly. They might also have to move ahead leaving Hungry and Poland on the wayside. 

General consensus is that the rest of the countries could move ahead and when Poland and Hungry fulfill the criteria, they can join in. But if the countries don’t decide anything soon, they might have to depend on their own funds and be tight strapped after all. 

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines With Poor Nations
Americas

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines With Poor Nations

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines: Despite its own challenges with acquiring doses for Covid-19 virus, Canada is reaching out to help donating doses to some lower income nations. Canada had a bad experience dealing with China that backed out at the last minute to deliver doses it had promised. 

It is one of the few countries that has been struggling to control the escalating number of infection cases. It is therefore probably forced to make deals to buy more doses per capita than any other nation, according to researchers at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in North Carolina.

Post the experience with China, Canada is putting its wealth to good use. It has gone out of its way to reserve billions of doses between them before late-stage trial data came in, ensuring they would get access even if only one or two vaccines worked.

Canada will be planning to donate extra doses through the World Health Organization (WHO)-backed COVAX facility, which would distribute them among recipient countries, according to a trusted Canadian government source.

WHO organized COVAX is a facility created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and will be extremely helpful for needy foreign countries. Undeniably, the demand is exceeding supply across the world. With only Pfizer and Moderna having released late-stage trial data, Canada already has deals in place to buy at least 20 million doses from each of the two companies.

But there is a feeling that the doses might not reach low income nations in the right form. Organized by GAVI vaccine group, the COVAX initiative was created to buy vaccines and share them among countries, not to distribute donated leftovers. Quality is of paramount importance here. 

Through the initiative, as many as 2 billion Covid vaccine doses will be made available by the end of 2021. GAVI has already raised more than $2 billion in funding, but needs $5 billion more to meet its goal.

Rich countries are being expected to close the funding gap. They are also expected to get their own residents vaccinated before sharing doses, where millions of frontline workers and vulnerable people in poorer countries could be serviced after that. To avoid this, funding is the best way to buy vaccines for such needy nations. 

Russia Expands Power Portfolio Into African Continent
Middle East & Africa

Russia Expands Power Portfolio Into African Continent

Russia Expands Power Portfolio: If Vladimir Putin is losing his grip on Azerbaijan and Algeria situation, he is trying to garner more control elsewhere. Continuing to increase his footprint in Sudan, he now has plans to establish a naval base with nuclear powered military equipment. This is Kremlin’s official foothold into the African continent since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The new facility is earmarked to be built near the Port of Sudan. Confirmed reports state that it will be capable of accommodating upto 300 military and civilian personnel. This strategic move will not only give Russia access to Africa’s huge untapped fossil fuel resources but also improves Kremlin’s ability to operate in the Indian Ocean.

While Africa had been keenly looking for developmental support and collaboration with the world, its desire to strengthen its military prowess through external support is going to be double-edged sword. 

Plans are to use this as a repair and rest facility. However, with such free space given away by Sudan, Russia tends to have found a free passage into the continent that comprises 54 United Nation members. Sudan has been the bedrock of civil war and has only recently started to find itself assemble into a democracy. 

Nevertheless, its mineral rich status makes it a virgin land to be blundered. There are many takers for the wrong reasons. Political analysts are also forecasting that Russia might actually fortify its new African outpost with advanced surface-to-air missile systems, allowing it to create a no-fly zone for miles around. 

Hungary Poland Might Delay Post Pandemic Recovery Aid
Europe

Hungary Poland Might Delay Post Pandemic Recovery Aid

Hungary Poland Might Delay Post Pandemic Recovery: Hungary and Poland are jointly vetoing the accord of the jointly financed economic recovery package for the European Union.  Strangely, they are the biggest beneficiaries of the post Covid package. 

Both the nations have never seen eye-to-eye with the EU on anything. Earlier, there was a tiff over abortion ban that was strongly opposed by the EU bloc on the condition that it amounts to violation of human rights. 

A seven-year budget support was decided upon in July this year.  EU leaders also agreed to support the more needing nations with a robust stimulus program funded by joint debt. However, parts of this accord does need unanimous backing by member states.  Therefore, with Hungry and Poland raising up some kind of red flags, this is only going to hurt other needing nations like Italy or Spain for example. 

The pandemic situation had hit the economy of many EU member countries in bad ways. Most have lost their economic standing and are now finding ways to ensure their people can keep their jobs. Unemployment is a direct result of lack of trade in these countries. Italy and Spain for example, who depend heavily on their tourism related trade have been adversely affected due to second and third wave of the Covid-19 virus infection. 

This week, the EU member state leaders went ahead to sign off on a deal linking funds to the rule of law. Hungary and Poland have opposed the rule of the law from the very beginning. However, this part of the accord only needs an enhanced majority of member states. Further, debt issuance needs unanimity. This necessary money push to fund EU’s budget payments is being curtailed by Hungry and Poland’s resistance. Therefore, this sure shot chance to block the entire package remains a big possibility.

Polish economists feel this kind of resistance could mean investors would look for greener pastures elsewhere in Europe. The so-called ‘rule of the law’ principle is what has been the bone of contention for Hungary and Poland, which feel they are being pulled into autocratic function. But this political mishmash is a dangerous one to be in, because it will only delay the economic recovery help that most of the EU nations are in desperate need of. The result could be catastrophic- with only bureaucrats receiving salaries, some farm subsidies and humanitarian aid flowing into the various economies by the end of 2020. 

How China Is Spreading Its Energy Portfolio In Africa
Geopolitics

How China Is Spreading Its Energy Portfolio In Africa

Energy Portfolio In Africa: As the pandemic redefined the energy consumption levels of the world, geopolitics around natural gas and oil demand and supply is also being redefined. What was essentially a US stronghold seems to have been taken over by China.

After it’s almost certain war footing with China and Iran, the US had decided to move towards more production that is domestic. It might have been a stupid and immature strategy put in place by the Trump led administration. But the damage was already done; and Beijing has all the reasons to move into the oil rich lands of Africa. 

Blame it on the country’s Belt and Road initiative that has led it into energy rich lands. Under the ambitious leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, global infrastructure development program entails hefty Chinese-led investment in as many as 70 countries and international organizations around the world.

It has a varied energy portfolio. What has become most interesting is its interest in Africa, a market that has remained comparatively untapped. Sources confirm that Beijing is battling it out with Russia in Africa, over nuclear energy. Beijing has however shown huge interest in the oil and gas segment of Africa too. 

Varied sources have confirmed that in fact, China’s national oil companies indeed are investing heavily in the exploration and production of oil and gas supplies in Africa. Undeniably, the continent is the “second largest region in supplying oil and gas to China, after the Middle East, with over 25% of its total imported oil and gas.” China’s appetite for oil is nearly insatiable, and the nation has quickly risen through the ranks to become the largest importer of black gold in the world for two years in a row. 

Currently, China has a whopping USD$15 billion worth of investments planned in Africa’s oil sector. Three major players are a party to this chunky investment. These include China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) and China National Offshore Oil (CNOOC). 

Africa has not seen infrastructure development due to many socio-political reasons. For Beijing it’s a win-win situation. Whether it will use this to create an infrastructure for Africa, is a far-fetched hope. However, recent messaging from the various corners of Africa is speaking of their desire to collaborate with nations that can help them expand their horizons of infrastructural growth.  

The flipside of all this investment by China is that the tide is actually flowing in the other direction. Sooner, the interest of the other power hungry nations like Turkey, Russia and Iran will move away from the oil rich nations like Syria, Yemen and Libya. The world is moving towards clean energy sources and fossil fuels are not looking that attractive to the powerful nations anymore. 

European Commission Finds It Tough To Get Poland and Hungary To Toe The Line Over LGBTQ Equal Rights
Europe

European Commission Finds It Tough To Get Poland and Hungary To Toe The Line Over LGBTQ Equal Rights

LGBTQ Equal Rights: Hungary and Poland seems to be hell bent to create an environment of exploitation and discrimination of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Nevertheless, the European Union bloc is trying to curb this kind of behavior. 

It has now released certain policies to safeguard the fundamental human rights of LGBTQ community. It has been an initiative taken by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. As its first initiative, it has listed hate crime, including homophobic speech, on a list of “E.U. crimes”. The same list also contains offenses such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

Through this initiative, the bloc now has more powers to crack down on member nations. The proposal forwarded by the European Commission would also protect same-sex families in all 27 of the bloc’s members, and promises more funding for organizations promoting equality.

The move comes after a month long demonstration in favour of women’s rights has rocked Poland. The country has now put a ban nearly on all abortions. The protests have now extended to bring into the human rights of the LGBTQ community as well. 

Hungry on its part is also trying to muzzle people of the LGBTQ community by pushed its laws to target them, by including a bill that ties an individual’s gender to their sex and chromosomes at birth, restricting later modifications on official documents.

 The commission might find it difficult for compliance to fall through as two of the strong headed nations continue to be in loggerheads with the EU Commission. Hungry and Poland. For them, equality of the LGBTQ community is a foreign issue when for the rest of the member nations, it is a matter of respecting the fundamental rights of everyone irrespective of their sexual orientations.

Hungry is out on its way to alter its Constitutional Bill that will only recognize marriage between a man and woman and expects children to be raised in a Christian culture. 

There is no legal recourse available to the EU Commission. Its hands is tied to be able to impose itself on Poland and Hungary both. Both nations have revolted against the blocs centralized judicial system and stand on the rights of minorities. 

How Trump Exit Has Saved America From Self-Policing Mind Games
Americas

How Trump Exit Has Saved America From Self-Policing Mind Games

Trump Exit Has Saved America From Self-Policing: If Trump had been re-elected, American would have seen a new era of terrorism enter the streets. As the scene was heating up for the election day, self-styled military groups had started to gather support amongst a pro-Trump supporting gang.  A ‘tactical apparel’ was becoming the norm on the streets of America up until October 2020. 

Since Trump had been brainwashing his vote bank, many people blinded with his aura and charisma had started to choose self-policing. According to Bloomberg report, since 2019, online purchases had driven a 20-fold jump in sales of goods like the $220 CM-6M gas mask — resistant to bean-bag rounds — for Mira Safety of Austin, Texas.

The new kids on the block were selling personalized safety equipment. The industry has been booming exponentially since the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign rocked the streets of America, making the civilian feel a compelling need to protect themselves.

According to Roman Zrazhevskiy who runs one of the most popular personalized self defense equipment business, “It doesn’t matter who gets elected. No matter who wins, Biden or Trump, there are going to be people who are upset about the result.” He was focusing more on his new customers. 

As the CEO of Ready To Go Survival, Roman Zrazhevskiy works on the fear and misrepresented viewpoints of the American people. All such buyers of his have been victims to Trump’s manipulative mind games. It is a simple disaster of a democracy gone down the drain. 

As a retail brand, Mira Safety specializes in personalized emergency preparedness. Zrazhevskiy has encashed on his expertise in self combat and provided personal protective equipment to the world at large. Other such players in the market were well known to the Trump family and continued to feed on this misunderstanding led frenzy. 

Another company runs a retail chain called 5.11 Tactical. It could hugely benefit from this mayhem too. According to a former employee with the Department of Homeland Security, holding onto tactical gear and protective devices was becoming a kind of patriotism. Another California based company could claim that half of its orders at Gladiator Solutions were coming more from civilians, a big change from years than law enforcement.

There was an air of ‘preparedness’ building up amongst Americans. It was fueled by sense of desperation in pandemic led poverty, lack of funds, and government aid. However, someone, the American could not see bad governance was doing the damage. With Trump being replaced with Biden and Harris led leadership, there is hope for return of democracy, freedom of speech, dignity of life, and equal representation of all ethnicities that make for the American fabric of life.

Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Might Bring Great Advantage To Turkey Over Russia
Geopolitics

Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Might Bring Great Advantage To Turkey Over Russia

Armenia Azerbaijan Conflict: The war like conditions that have broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan could just become another Syrian tragedy. The geopolitics surrounding both these countries is complicated for those who may be indirectly or directly involved in the upheaval. 

The previously Soviet republics have come to a temporary ceasefire over humanitarian concerns, but the conflict has not disappeared. Violent uprising after a disputed election led to loss of innocent lives. It became difficult for Moscow to intervene and control the breakout. Since 2015, Moscow had maintained outposts in these nation states. But the pandemic led economic slowdowns has forced Russia to prioritize its money spending for its dwindling economy, unless Putin wants to lose his power amongst the people. 

Indeed, Putin’s position is looking increasingly challenged according to many political analysts. Meanwhile, the war like conditions over three decades have seen the use of some dangerous warfare, attracting human rights organizations to raise their concerns. The most notably has been the use of cluster bombs that has led to loss of innocent lives and livelihoods. 

The two initially Soviet territories have remained confused over the ownership of the controversial Nagorno-Karabakh region. It remains to be a disputed territory; the bedrock of conflict for many emotional reasons, but could pull others into the picture at a later stage.  Turkey is already a part of the game. 

While Russia has been trying to supply military power to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, its larger strategy has been to continue to maintain control in this Caucasus region. But Turkey has shown more solidarity towards Azerbaijan that claims that Nagorno-Karabakh should be a part of its territory. 

While Russia and Turkey have been vying for influence here, Russia is not in a position to support a full-blown civil war. Even then, Kremlin has been instrumental in calling the truce. 

Like in the case of Libya, Yemen and Syria, internal strife could tempt external parties to take advantage. The reasons for control would remain the same- rich fossil fuels and other resources. 

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