Uttara J Malhotra

Australia Green Energy Train hits roadblock with Covid commission recommendations
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia Green Energy Train hits roadblock with Covid commission recommendations

There are divided points of view between the Senate Covid Commission and the Australian government.  While the latter has been pushing and advocating for green energy transition for Australia, according to Nev Power, it would be better if the government concentrated on using the recovery from the pandemic to lock in low-emissions energy.

The main focus is on getting help from the Australian government on gas pipeline infrastructure. Power is advocating for the Senate Covid Commission not recommending “a green recovery per se”.

Power is the head of Scott Morrison’s Covid advisory commission who shies away from whether the committee is interested in making any recommendations of formidable projects. He has further said that his statement comes after he had been approached by business leaders with this specific request.

There is emphasis on underwriting of new gas pipeline projects and comes as a recommendation from the manufacturing taskforce itself. When it comes to focus on renewable, Power has sidestepped the movement towards that part of low emission energy source.  Instead, he has said that the Commission ‘has not seen energy from that perspective’.

A leaked report with similar recommendations a few months back was also sidestepped by Power. Now that the economy is trying to get back on its feet, Power has made a ‘U’ turn and come back on the same agenda.

According to various environmental groups in Australia, there are serious concerns about Power’s advocacy. Jolene Elberth, democracy campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, feels that the “push for the Australian public to subsidies more gas, a climate-heating fossil fuel, flies in the face of expert advice on our nation’s energy future”.

Before the bomb of the pandemic hit world over, Australia dealt with one of its worst environmental disasters in the form of bush fires.  According to experts and scientists, this incident and the post pandemic recover time is the ideal opportunity for Australia to fast track its commitment towards renewable energy. While the use of renewables is increasing in Australia year-on-year – last year 24% of all electricity generated came from renewable sources – the current Liberal-National government has been notoriously reluctant to phase out coal in favour of cleaner options.

Trump Contradicts Canada Trade Pact With New Tariffs In Aluminum
Americas

Trump Contradicts Canada Trade Pact With New Tariffs In Aluminum

As the US continues to go on trade war with trade partners one after another, Canada is the new one in its list, which has now decided to slap it with retaliatory tariffs to the tune of $2.7billion.

The Canadian move comes as Trump administration decided to slap a 10percent aluminum duty on the former. In response to America’s notoriety, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland has said “We intent to impose dollar-for-dollar counter retaliatory countermeasures in a most balanced manner.”

The tariff imposition had been lifted over Canada over a year ago. According to Trump, Canada was putting American manufacturers out of business and therefore the re-imposition is a justified move to save fellow Americans into Aluminum manufacturing.

“We intent to impose dollar-for-dollar counter retaliatory countermeasures in a most balanced manner.”

Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland

Mr. Donald Trump’s assertions do not come out as justified as Freeland could argue the re-imposition as an unnecessary move that would simply hurt American consumers already suffering from the economic devastation inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. Freeland has further said in the media that “Canadian aluminum is in no way a threat to U.S. national security, which remains the ostensible reason for these tariffs, and that is a ludicrous notion.” Strangely, the re-imposition and new tariffs come just over a month after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement came through. It was a trade pact entirely backed by Trump that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. But the latest move seems to be contradicting the assertions and commitments of the pact.

Will Ethiopia Reap Benefits Of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?
Middle East & Africa

Will Ethiopia Reap Benefits Of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?

The multi-dollar Blue Nile Dam project has hit a roadblock as the three countries involved in its construction voice out their individual concerns.  For starters, Egypt is doubtful about access to this Nile river tributary’s water supply that meets its primary fresh water needs.

On its part, Sudan is fearful of the dependency and safety of a huge dam that is supposed to stretch from the Ethiopian border to Sudan and Egypt. The Blue Nile is a major source of water to all the three countries and any disruption in its flow and supply could endanger the survival of millions of civilians.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is supposed to stretch across for almost 15 kilometer and would be built at an estimated budget of $ 4 billion. Currently, Egypt has retracted itself from the agreement to a tripartite partnership to build the dam; on the pretext that Addis Ababa did not include operating guidelines and a legal framework to settle disputes.

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia and feels the desperate need for the dam to be fully functioning.  The Sudanese Irrigation Ministry fears the safety of those living across the Nile. Therefore, they felt an urgent need to reach a comprehensive agreement covering both filling and operation of the dam.

For Ethiopia, it is a matter of pride that this is going to be a largest hydroelectric dam in Africa and is eventually expected to be able to generate more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity, which will provide power for about half of Ethiopia’s population and also allow the country to export electricity to neighboring nations. Ethiopia has argued it needs the dam’s electricity to modernize and grow. On its part, Ethiopian administration denies that it has purposefully filled in the reservoir- blame it on the rising levels of water due to the recent rains that the closed-in reservoir is filling up on its own. But both Sudan and Egypt have their apprehensions, something that looks like will delay the functioning of the dam. Scientists and engineers on their part have also voiced concerns over the dam’s structural integrity because of its location in a mountainous terrain in an active tectonic region.

Canada Readies For Huge Corona Virus Vaccine Supply In 2021
Americas

Canada Readies For Huge Corona Virus Vaccine Supply In 2021

In the race for the most effective Corona virus cure, Canada is also joining the bandwagon as it signs a deal with Pfizer, Moderna for a vaccine. The country intends to secure millions of doses by 2021. Pfizer is developing the vaccine in collaboration with the German biotech company Biontech.

According to company official statement Pfizer is currently working on four experimental coronavirus vaccines and Moderna is also working on what’s been described as among the leading candidates for a vaccine. Pfizer is also in deal with the United States for supply its firs t 100 million doses by December 2020. This could create a hiccup for Canada, owing to the fact that the US has far more numbers of contractions and a larger population that Canada and President Donald Trump could go to any lengths to ensure America gets special preference over everyone else.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand however has said in an official statement that Canada is in the front of the line to receive the vaccine in millions. The actual numbers have not been disclosed. This could possibly because Anand indicated that Health Canada would first need to access the authenticity and effectiveness of the vaccine before they are rolled out amongst the Canadian population.

While Canada is making arrangements for vaccines, there are indications that the fight against contractions will continue till the time the whole population can be immunized. For this, the Canadian Innovation and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains has confirmed that the government indeed will also be injecting more funding into both vaccine research as well as research into treatments in the form of a new task force. Indeed, Canada does not want to keep all its eggs in the same basket and will continue to sensitise Canadians to keep maintaining social distancing and hygiene protocols to keep the contraction numbers stable.

Australia Deploys Military To Enforce Quarantine Rules Amongst Citizens
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia Deploys Military To Enforce Quarantine Rules Amongst Citizens

Australia is facing a second wave of Covid-19 cases and it is making the government so restless that they have decided to employ military to enforce control over the movement of the citizens in various places.

Fresh increase in numbers is seeing the need to create a net of enforcement. In Victoria for example, military personnel is said to be deployed to enforce COVID-19 isolation orders, with anyone caught in breach of those rules facing tough new fines.

In addition to this, the city is already under night curfew with local business been asked to slow down to control the movement of people outside their homes.  A fine of nearly 5000 Australian dollars is now being imposed on all those who are found breaching the self quarantine rule. In a surprise check last week, nearly all those earmarked for self quarantine were found to be outside of their houses.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Australian cities to control the outbreak numbers as people are throwing caution to wind and continuing to move around without, despite repeated requests to control movement.

Victoria recently reported 439 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.  According to Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews, as many as 11 people have already died from the virus in this week. In total, Australia has recorded nearly 19,000 COVID-19 cases and 232 fatalities, far few than many other developed nations.

Media Might Be Excluded From Republican Convention In August
Americas

Media Might Be Excluded From Republican Convention In August

This year’s American Republican Party’s annual convention is not going to see any media presence. The Covid-19 situation and social distancing protocols have gone in Trump’s favour, who is now being re-nominated by the Republican Party to stand for the forthcoming US elections slated for November 2020.

However, not taking an official stand on exclusion of this valuable fourth estate in the free world, the Republican Party has refrained from making a formal statement.

The Covid-19 lockdown seems to be ruling the decision making for Trump as of now, who had earlier canceled the Florida Convention due to sudden increase in the numbers of corona virus cases. He later rescheduled it to a scaled down event in Charlotte and then part of it in North Carolina. A crucial state for Trump for his vote bank support, the four day event would see only two days of activity.

 Media run opinion polls are indicative of a fact that Trump is facing an uphill battle to get himself a successful second term at the oval office. This is due to evident criticism around bad disaster management and of handling the pandemic led deaths.

There is a silent approval amongst the Republic National Committee (RNC) members that press may not be invited in the convention proceedings. The event is suppose to be attended by 336 delegates, who are also suppose to cast proxy votes for some 2500 official delegates.

According to a New York Times White House correspondent, journalists might be banned from the early part of the convention. Similar instances have been reported between the years 2017-2019 when Trump administration had systematically stopped access to press on various occasions. Some have been protested about and some have not. In the current scenario, the convention may allow press to cover the main event, between 24 and 27 August.

Why Does China Want To Claim Taiwanese Oil Reserves?
Geopolitics

Why Does China Want To Claim Taiwanese Oil Reserves?

China seems to be making up its mind to take control of its dwindling power situation, by moving ahead to claim ownership of Taiwan’s oil island. While the People’s Republic of China has been claiming its ownership over this tiny island, the island itself has an autonomous democratic government and does not wish to be considered anywhere a part of China.

For that reason, it has been increasingly spreading its wings and initiating business with some of the biggest Western powers like the US. This has not gone well with China over the years; more so after the Covid-19 led slowdown in the economy and the US led sanctions has crippled its growth.

Taiwan has been readying itself with military power as it has spent almost $25 billion between the years 2007-2018, to purchase the necessary know how. All of its business has been done through the US itself. China now feels compelled to get back into the game and is now readying to claim control over Taiwan’s oil reserves.

In July, it was confirmed that Taiwan’s forces have had no choice but to ready themselves of a possible attack from China, as the latter had started to encircle the Republic of China aka Taiwan with ships and aircrafts. All this seems to be China’s attempt to capture Tungsha (or, in Western parlance, Pratas islands).  On the flip side, China is also trying to push India back of the Indian Ocean. But it did not anticipate the economic pressure that India could respond back with, now putting Beijing in a precarious position to do just about anything to continue to show its supremacy amongst the nations of the world.

The Tungsha comprises one island, two coral reefs and two banks. It’s a cluster of blessings for Taiwan. Of these is also the Pratas Island, the only part of the group constantly above water, has an airfield but is not significantly (and certainly not sufficiently) militarized by the ROC. China has had intentions of starting military exercises on this piece and eventually claims it as a base to keep control over Taiwan.

Once the control is established, Chinas believes it can arm twist other smaller nations to its will. On its agenda is Philippines and then other ASEAN states. According to Gregory R. Copley, a research scholar and writer, “It would serve as a continuation of a “salami strategy” — one slice at a time — of taking land and sea territory away and strategic maneuvering room from the ROC, and pushing the U.S./West away from the Chinese mainland. There are some 13 significant islands and island chains, including Taiwan itself, and D?ngsh?, which comprise the ROC.” Political analysts believe China is in a blind spot and will do something desperate to claim its fame back. Taiwan will have to be on red alert.

Iran shows frustration at sea on dummy U.S. aircraft carrier
Middle East & Africa

Iran shows frustration at sea on dummy U.S. aircraft carrier

The Strait of Hormuz saw action like as if in the children’s game come alive, as Iran decided to attack a dummy United States aircraft carrier at sea. It was a hilarious show of power, yet insulting to the American sensibilities who called the Iranian action as a poor show to “intimidate and coerce.”

The Iranian military fired away missiles leaving the American side to up their antennas and warn two US military bases in the region on high alert.  The so called mock drill was named as Prophet Mohammed 14th was strangely broadcasted on state television.

Terming it as show of Iranian preparedness at sea through air and naval attack, the mock-up was made to resemble a carrier the US routinely sails into the Gulf. All done up with dummy fighter jets on either side of its landing strip, missiles were launched from a variety of angles, including some aimed at the carrier.

Showing a sense of frustration getting to the Iranian side, the exercises have been taken as complete act of hostility from the American counterparts, which has said that “The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

Post the firing of the ballistic missiles, the US bases in Qatar and UAE were put on high alert.  The tension between the US and Iran has been at its peak, and might have gone on the backburner since the onset of the Covid-19 led lockdowns. But Iran has been trying to get back at the US for it having throttled the economy and Tehran having to manage an exasperated civilian population.

The suffocating number of sanctions has left Iran dry of its oil exports, leave alone chances of conducting trade with other countries. Moreover, its lack of preparedness and indulgence in religion driven politics has left its population with less to no faith in the current governance either. In November last year, the US had to intervene to ensure Iran did not cut access to internet for its civilian population, as a straight violation of human rights and right to free press and information.

Why do Greece and Turkey hold each other on dagger points over Kastellórizo?
Geopolitics

Why do Greece and Turkey hold each other on dagger points over Kastellórizo?

Greece and Turkey seemed to have literally gone on war, over an oil tanker. This has been confirmed by the local news channels from both countries. Strangely, a Turkish naval expedition to escort oil-drilling vessel Oruç Reis in the Aegean Sea off the Greek island of Kastellórizo did not go well with the NATO partner country Greece.

Turkey’s contingent comprised air and sea support, something that was not liked by Greece at all. From one side, as Turkey readied a group of 18 Turkish warships to escort the vessel into waters, air support was intercepted by Greek jets in Greek airspace near Kastellórizo.

According to Greece, Turkey was invading the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Additionally, Greek forces seemed to have also detected Turkish drones and Special Forces units operating in the area.  While Turkey might have been fully prepared to guard its oil exploration exercise to go on well, it did not anticipate that the move might threaten a NATO member.

Greece seems to have jumped the gun, by claiming that move of Turkish contingent towards its earmarked land, while the latter said that Greece has no bases to claim its ownership over the remote islands far from its own mainland, most notably Kastellórizo.  As 12 Turkish warships were reportedly set to sail with the Oruç Reis, the Greek government might have over-reacted by keeping its entire armed forces on full alert. It is said to have even recalled Greek Chief of Defense Staff General Konstantinos Floros from Cyprus, and preparing to dispatch a Greek flotilla against the Turkish vessels.

Map view Turkey Greece - Why do Greece and Turkey hold each other on dagger points over Kastellórizo?
Geographical view of Turkey-Greece-Kastelorizo

There is evident tension around the Mediterranean sea. The most obvious reason is the Kastellórizo is a part of the eastern Mediterranean where there have been recent discover of huge underwater gas reserves. Everyone wants a piece of this pie. But deployment of troops amounts to calling for war, which is not something the international fraternity has been happy about. Taking the Greek side is France and somewhat the US too, that has asked Turkey to take it easy and understand that indeed Kastellórizo is ‘disputed land’. Turkey on its part may have no intentions of crossing the line, but the general mistrust amongst the NATO partners goes back to its notorious moves in Libya and Yemen speak for itself.

China plans to arm-twist India over water sources
Geopolitics

China plans to arm-twist India over water sources

With China owning up the fresh river water access in Tibet, it has played the most important card in the deck. By controlling access to where India’s biggest reserve for fresh water lies, it has got the country by its throat. It is an invisible control but a real one.  Technically China is controlling the seven most important rivers for India and more than 7 countries around Tibet. These include Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Yangtze and Mekong. 

According to official statistics, an estimated 718 billion cubic meters of surface water flows out of the Tibetan plateau and the Chinese-administered regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia to neighbouring countries each year.

The prominent eight or more rivers also cater to the watering needs of countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

China has never been transparent in its communication with India. Even now, there is no clear indication from the administration over their retreat from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).  Political analysts have reasons to believe that China could use its control over the rivers to create a strong hold on India’s economy.

There have been several indicators for this. For one, it has been systematically making use of the water to up its hydropower projects. It has promised the same to Pakistan when it has plans to build supporting dams. The water resource remains the same.

China has already started claiming control over the Brahmaputra river. It has started building a dam which could also mean that they have access to the flow of the river. There are already indications of altering the route of the water flow even before it enters India through Arunachal Pradesh.

In May, after a stand-off between the forces India and China, the latter blocked the flow of the Galwan River, a tributary of the Indus which originates in Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin area. It conveniently altered the natural course of the river to prevent it from entering India.

Rivers of Tibetian Plateau - China plans to arm-twist India over water sources
Rivers Of Tibetian Plateau

It has done it now and it will not flinch at doing it again. Additionally, China is also known to have already blocked the flow of the Xiabuqu river, one of Brahmaputra’s Tibetan tributaries, for the Lalho hydel project.

China does not share very good business or manufacturing practices. Environmental protection has never been high on its agenda. There also lies the danger of the country wishing to leave most of the rivers polluted, rendering them unfit for consumption by the vast Indian population. As an agri-nation, India depends heavily on its natural water resources. An instance of such misuse of natural resources has happened in 2008 itself. Last but not the least; China has access to valuable data that can help manage floods and fluctuations downstream. India and China have signed two pacts since 2008 on data sharing for the Sutlej and Brahmaputra in order to better manage the shared watercourses. While these agreements have had a positive effect on water management, and helped pre-empt and control flooding, this dependence can also be exploited by withholding hydrological data accessible only to the upper riparian state.

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