How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide

How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide

Personal interactions have a way with relationship building in the diplomatic circuits. The walks, the tea sessions, the dining and meeting with spouses- there are many examples which help build bonds of trusts amongst the leaders of great nations.

But with the pandemic having restricted much of social meetings, virtual meetings are ruling the roost. But is virtual diplomacy really working out its way into the hearts of the leaders?

Indeed, there are consequences of social distancing and then virtual diplomacy. You have to depend on the earlier effect you might have left on the other person. It is difficult to give the same kind of impression and feeling again. According to Sven Jurgenson, Estonia’s ambassador to the U.N., “Face-to-face interactions are a key aspect of building diplomatic relations.

Right now, diplomacy seems to have been put on halt due to the pandemic and social distancing protocols which have to be adhered to. We will have to learn to adapt to this.”

Social distancing requirements and restrictions on movement have been seen to have effect on decision making processes at many levels. While virtual meetings are doing their work, the effectiveness maybe put to question.

For example, the functioning of the 15-member Security Council and the 193-member General Assembly, the two most important bodies in the multilateral system isn’t as effective as they would want it to be. The council has indeed, made a number of important procedural decisions, such as the prolongation of mandates for peacekeeping missions.

But what has been affected is strategic actions like inability to remotely cast and verify votes. Currently, the remote voting process takes up to three days. Xavier Sticker, the French ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna for example feels that sensitive issues are difficult to be addressed without in person interactions. “Diplomats have to be careful about discussing sensitive topics over phone or in a videoconference,” he explains.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again found it difficult to get Iran on the same page, virtually. They are intending to be able to start atleast some partial personal meetings by June end.

The pandemic seemed to have hit the diplomatic channels in EU the worst. As a bloc, they are accustomed to many meetings. Many ministers admitted to a particular news agency that first few weeks were paralyzing. Videoconferences only started becoming functional when there was no other option to be seen. But that also, among European ministers was seen to be not that efficient as face-to-face meetings in Brussels are most popular to get things done. During in-person meetings, representatives of the bloc’s member states sit around a table and are able to get up and make progress on other issues while statements are made that do not concern them directly.

There is a lot of simultaneous and informal work which is also done over the personal meetings. That has been stopped and many EU ministers feel less efficient on virtual set ups.

Indeed multilateral negotiations have become slow and painful for many nations. But many leaders and governments are also forced to accept that evolution is the only way to move ahead in such times of restrictions and safe keeping.

US Congress votes overwhelmingly against Chinese abuse in Xinjiang

US Congress votes overwhelmingly against Chinese abuse in Xinjiang

The House of Representatives in the US passed legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese oppression of Uighur Muslims. The bill is now with the White House for signing by the President.

The bill got overwhelming support in the house, with only one member opposing it. At the Senate too, the bill got unanimous support.

Now all eyes are on President Donald Trump to hold China responsible for human rights violations of Uighurs by the Chinese government.

The bill demands sanctions against those repressing Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

According to the UN, more than a million Muslim Uighurs are detained in camps.

The legislation goes on to name Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party’s Secretary in the Xinjiang region, and a member of Politburo responsible for “gross violations” against the minorities in China.

The bill also calls for action by US companies and US national operating in Xinjiang to ensure that forced labourers are not used to manufacture products.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said that Congress’ overwhelming support to the bill would counter Chinese human rights abuses against the Muslim minorities.

China has maintained a stand that there are no violations of Uighurs’ rights and are not detained. They work in vocational training centres.

The bill allows the US President to compile a list of human rights violators within 180 days. The officials named in the list will be subject to sanctions.

The latest measure highlights the sharp decline in bilateral ties between the US and China, especially after the COVID pandemic broke out. The US has accused China of spreading novel coronavirus across the world.

Recently the US government also expressed concern over China’s overture to contain dissent in Hong Kong.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extending support to anti-government protests in Hong Kong said the US no longer views the former British colony as autonomous.

People from the Xinjiang region have protested against Beijing’s harsh measures. Beijing has reacted to these protests by using heavy-handed tactics.

In late 2019, the Congress had voted against the crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities like Uighurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz.

NASA & SpaceX historic launch scrubbed due to bad weather, Next attempt scheduled for Saturday

NASA & SpaceX historic launch scrubbed due to bad weather, Next attempt scheduled for Saturday

As the whole world awaited for the historic launch of astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken on a mission to the International Space Station, bad weather slashed the launch with rescheduling of mission to Saturday.

This was the first time that Elon Musk’s California based company SpaceX would have launched people instead of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), that it has done several times in the past.

In the first ever collaborative mission of NASA and privately held SpaceX, NASA astronauts would be launched in company’s new Dragon capsule to ISS, the first time in last nine years from U.S.

The launch that was supposed to be at 4:33 pm ET on Wednesday from Florida’s Kennedy Space Station, was scrubbed off due to bad weather conditions just 17 minutes before the lift off.

This mission held its importance historically as this would have been the first time that a privately developed spacecraft would have launched bearing astronauts.

Post the cancellation of supposed liftoff, NASA and SpaceX have scheduled the next attempt on Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 pm ET. Till then the astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, one of the most experienced astronauts at NASA, have been sent back to quarantine.

Poor weather conditions prompted calling off the launch and reschedule it for Saturday. According to the weather rules set for liftoff, there were three violations – natural lightning, electric fields in the atmosphere and attached anvil clouds, which are associated with thunderstorms.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “It was a great day for NASA, it was a great day for SpaceX. I think our teams worked together in a really impressive way making good decisions all along. We had the parameters set ahead of time and in the end, the right decision was made.”

Ahead of the launch, President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, accompanied by senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump took a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX – All you need to know!

SpaceX is an American company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002. The goal of SpaceX was to reduce space transportation costs and thus enabling colonization of Mars.

SpaceX till date provides commercial and government sourced launch services on its Falcon 9 and Falcon heavy rockets.

SpaceX worked routinely to return the stages of rocket to Earth using propulsive power for their re-use rather than discarding them.

Why the launch cannot be done the next day?

The ISS is travelling in its orbit at a speed of over 17,000 mph. This means that only at certain times of certain days the launch can be made to reach space station most efficiently.

Saturday, as calculated by the experts at NASA, offers best option to reach station when launched from Florida at a particular time with specific amount of fuel required. The approximate journey time being 19 hours to reach ISS on Saturday.

As China closes in on Hong Kong, US threatens sanctions

As China closes in on Hong Kong, US threatens sanctions

With Hong Kong getting ready to pass a crucial national security law on behest of China, pro-democracy protests return.

Last week China announced a new national security law that will crack down on perceived secessionist, treasonous or terrorist activities, subversion of Chinese power and foreign interference. The law, which will considerably erode the freedoms and rights of Hong Kong’s citizens, is expected to be cleared without debate by Hong Kong’s National People Congress. There is a fear that these measures could effectively spell the end of the “one country, two systems” model.

This has triggered a return of the massive anti-government protests that have been a mainstay in Hong Kong for the past year. Thousands of armed police in riot geared have taken over the streets of Hong Kong as a new law on criminalising the ridicule of Chinese national anthem is expected to be passed.

This despite mounting pressure from the US which has threatened to revoke Hong Kong’s special status as a trading partner if it no longer functions as an autonomous entity. In addition to this, the US is considering passing a bill that would allow for sanctions against anyone who violates Hong Kong’s autonomy. President Donald Trump has also hinted at “doing something” which will be heard “very powerfully”, “before the end of the week”.

The White House had been rather quiet about the tensions in Hong Kong until recently and even President Trump was seen to have been somewhat restrained in any rhetoric or action in defense of Hong Kong. But this seems to be coming at an end with the legislative developments happening in both the countries. The US hopes to pass its bill on sanctions fast enough to effectively deter China from continuing on its current course in Hong Kong.

But with China looking to consolidate its power in its spheres of influence while the world is busy staving off the pandemic, analysts don’t expect it to back off based on these threats by the US. After all, its actions in Hong Kong and the response to it would set a precedent for others in the region that are currently battling to keep China out of their affairs.

AstraZeneca Funded By America For Mass Production Of Covid-19 Vaccine

AstraZeneca Funded By America For Mass Production Of Covid-19 Vaccine

An Anglo-Swedish company has received a whopping order of 400 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine that is still in the testing phase. The testing has been supported by a US vaccine agency. The drug maker is AstraZeneca that has confirmed having received $1 billion from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for the development, production and delivery of the vaccine.

The vaccine has been developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, working with the Oxford Vaccine Group that. AstraZeneca has now joint hands with the British government and is also roping in potential partners to roll out mass production of the vaccine.

Known as the AZD1222, the company has now finalized this vaccines license agreement with Oxford University too. Currently, the company is in the position of manufacturing almost 1 billion doses. This vaccine has already been tested in England over a 1000 patients in the age group of 18-55 years. However, it is still under trial and does not guarantee that it would work on humans, as it even could not control the virus when tested on monkeys.

The delivery of the vaccine once tested and results positive will start by September 2020. Earlier this month, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said that if Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate proves successful, up to 30 million doses could be available by September for the most vulnerable in the UK.

Previously, private biotechnological companies in Israel and Germany have also been contacted by the US for first doses of a potential corona virus vaccine they were developing. It is worth noting that the German company had been willing to share the formula for the greater good of humanity. However, those vaccines are also in testing phase.

Speaking over the public spending of funds from the US, Margarida Jorge, the campaign director of the pressure group, Lower Drug Prices Now has said that the U.S. Congress should insist that any drugs developed with taxpayer investments be provided at no additional cost. Also, putting in money into a vaccine that has not yet been proven successful is complete misuse of tax payers’ money.

Hydroxychloroquine – A preventive drug for Coronavirus? Fact Check!

Hydroxychloroquine – A preventive drug for Coronavirus? Fact Check!

Hydroxychloroquine Coronavirus treatment is give by the doctors in USA since the President Donald Trump is Taking Hydroxychloroquine to prevent Coronavirus

Hydroxychloroquine has been long under discussion since the global COVID-19 pandemic commenced. But recently, various debates and discussions have started afresh as U.S. President Donald Trump voluntarily announced that he is taking the drug to prevent coronavirus infection.

President Trump has long touted hydroxychloroquine as preventive measure for the virus and this has been the latest addition to his weeks-long advocacy for the drug as being the “game changer” for coronavirus infection.

Background and Facts First

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug which is also commonly used for treatment of various auto-immune diseases like Lupus.

President Trump made headlines on Monday when he announced that he is taking drug for prevention of coronavirus, which he claimed all the frontline workers are also taking. He said, “You look at doctors and nurses. A lot of them are taking it as a preventative.”

Presently various trials are under process in U.S. to determine whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent the infection in frontline health workers when used prophylactically.

However, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has still not approved the drug as a prophylactic measure to prevent coronavirus infection or to be used as a treatment measure in those infected, outside the hospitals.

FDA has further warned of using hydroxychloroquine outside the hospital setting away from doctor’s supervision due to the heart rhythm variations it causes.

Studies currently in motion

There are two major studies under progression in U.S.

In April, Henry Ford Health System in Michigan started an 8-week large scale study to determine the effect of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or impeding the spread of coronavirus infection in health care workers and first responders.

A group of selected 3000 healthcare workers were given unmarked vials of either hydroxychloroquine or placebo, to be taken once a week. The effects of study and preliminary results are expected to be released in August.

Duke Clinical Research Institute is predominantly studying the prevention of infection with use of hydroxychloroquine. The second phase of study, clinical trial started last month with almost 600 healthcare workers included. This study can stretch into fall.

What is the stand of FDA?

FDA granted emergency authorization to doctors in March to use hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug, chloroquine in hospitals for limited number of COVID-19 patients.

Under the Emergency Use Authorization, the drugs can be used in hospitals where there is strict monitoring of heart.

Since then many studies have tested the preventive and treatment efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

In April end, FDA issued a caution against the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus “outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”

The most recently issued guidelines of FDA conclude that “hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.”

Amidst climbing coronavirus cases, Mexico prepares to open the economy

Amidst climbing coronavirus cases, Mexico prepares to open the economy

Even as local government and activists pushed back against the decision, the federal government announced the opening of certain industries.

Guidelines issued overnight by the federal government of Mexico called for the restarting of operations of certain sectors like automotive, mining and construction. Companies would be required to submit health protocols for exiting the virus lockdown which will be approved within 72 hours. The lockdown will remain in place but these sectors have been reclassified as “essential services” by the General Health Council, the country’s top advisory body on the pandemic.

It is believed that the move comes after growing pressure from the neighbouring US to reopen factories that are critical to the supply chains of US-based business, especially in the automotive sector. The sector in the US has started coming back online after a long hiatus, with vehicle assembly plants reopening and suppliers gearing for a ramp-up in production.

But plans to reopen in Mexico have not been met with approval by some politicians and activists who continue to be concerned about the growing pandemic in Latin America, rising national toll and uncertainty about the work conditions waiting for those being sent back to work.

Local governments in the country pushed back against President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador’s call to slowly being online the economy in some 300 townships with no active cases of the coronavirus – called “municipalities of hope. Many states are deciding to not allow any relaxation yet, preferring to wait until June to consider resuming activities.

A newspaper poll showed that 67% of Mexicans believed the pandemic hasn’t peaked yet and the worst was yet to come. Only 20% thought it was over. Meanwhile, Mexico’s coronavirus death toll has crossed 5,300 with over 51,000 cases. Last week, the country reported a record number of 353 COVID-19-related fatalities in a single day and 2,437 new infections in another single day in the same week.

Taiwan’s Successful Fight Against COVID-19 Infuriates China, Strengthens Its Global Standing

Taiwan’s Successful Fight Against COVID-19 Infuriates China, Strengthens Its Global Standing

As the countries grapple towards containing the coronavirus infection, Taiwan is one nation that has a fair control on infection spread and has managed to largely contain the COVID-19.

Back in January when the infection of coronavirus was largely limited to China mainland, Taiwan proactively banned the incoming travel from China. Cruise ships were soon barred to dock in Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island with a population of 23 million people. By March Taiwan had increased the local face mask production.

As on the morning of May 16, Taiwan has reported 440 total cases of COVID-19 with 7 deaths and 383 recovered patients. In contrast, Australia which has a population of 25 million has already crossed the tally of 7000 cases of coronavirus.

This successful fight against tackling the COVID-19 infection has made Taiwan stand strong globally and bolstered its position. Taiwan is now eager to share its strategy of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on a global setting. U.S., Japan and New Zealand have supported the joining of Taiwan in World Health Assembly, an annual meeting of WHO members scheduled for next week.

This development has infuriated Beijing. For years now, China regards Taiwan as a part of its terrain and has prevented it to participate in any global setting. Moreover, China also refuses to have any diplomatic relations with nations having ties with Taiwan.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen took to Twitter on Thursday and said, “With more access to the WHO, Taiwan would be able to offer more help in the global fight against #COVID-19.”

Though Taiwan is not a WHO member, it joined the WHA as an observer from 2009-2016. This was during the time when Taiwan was governed by Beijing friendly Kuomintang (KMT). When in 2016, pro independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office, the relations with Beijing frayed. Since then Taiwan has not joined WHA.

Though WHO maintains that who speaks at the assembly is decided by the member nations, it hasn’t supported the rumors of Taiwan not joining the World Health Assembly next week.

The present success against virus has put Taiwan to an advantage of strengthening its international profile, China is opposing this move. Accusing Taiwan’s President of seeking formal independence, Beijing has started military drills on the island. Certain fringe statements in China indicate that it might take the pandemic as an opportunity to invade Taiwan.

Tension brewing between India, Nepal over road construction

Tension brewing between India, Nepal over road construction

There is growing discomfort between India and Nepal over road construction in a small patch of land. The Indian ambassador to Nepal was summoned by the Nepali government recently to launch a formal protest over the inauguration of the road in a disputed area.

Lipulekh, where India has constructed the road, lies on the north-western side of Nepal, at a tri-junction with India and China border. India claims Lipulekh, which sits at an altitude of 5,200 metres high as Indian territory.

The Indian government has maintained that patch of land as part of Uttarakhand. For Nepal, the road is a “violation of sovereignty.”

The Nepalese authorities claim that “the link road to Lipulekh of Nepal goes via Nepali territory.”

The Indian government inaugurated the road on 8 May 2020, via video conferencing. The 80 km long route is meant to facilitate the movement of pilgrims to Mount Kailash in Tibet. After the construction of this linking road, the travel time is reduced to one week to reach Kailash. Other routes to reach Mount Kailash it used to take two to three weeks.

This link road via Lipulekh Himalayan Pass is also one of the shortest routes to connect India and China and facilitate trade.

The response from Indian authorities has been the construction is completely within Indian territory.

The two sides are unlikely to meet and hold talks immediately due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Ministry of External Affairs, India, a mutually agreeable date for formal negotiations will be set up soon.

Nepal has recently set up an armed outpost along the western border with India.

Relations of India with the Himalayan nation has been anything warm in recent years. India was reservations about Nepal’s new constitution. The imposition of the “unofficial” economic blockade of Nepal has also strained the ties.

The Nepalese government, in recent years, has reached out to China to reduce its economic dependence on India.

Bilateral ties between India and Nepal have been defined by past treaties, border alignment, ideology of the governments, geopolitical factors in the region and economy.

Tension over Lipulekh has been brewing since November 2019 when the government of India released a new map highlighting Lipulekh as Indian territory.

The covid-19 is changing modern geopolitics, from oil to the future

The covid-19 is changing modern geopolitics, from oil to the future

The real competition of the future is polarizing around the search for the Covid-19 vaccine. It will revolve around biotechnology, quantum calculators, artificial intelligence, increasingly efficient communication networks, and the ability to collect and analyze massive data. The new coronavirus is profoundly changing the current geopolitics. This is evident from the position of the United States and its allies in the Asian Pacific region towards China. The vaccine discovery will mark a point in favor of one or the other field in this geo-pandemic challenge. This war does not see two armies lined up on one side and the other, but also parts of the same array that spread across each other.

The USA, in this scenario, is certainly an example: Trump with his political choices, in particular duties, representing an attempt to close the world, or at least redesign it for economically and culturally homogeneous sectors, and on the other hand, the lords of silicon, who are all arrayed on the globalist front, with their politically correct cultural matrix. Those are closer to China and Germany. The situation does not change within the European Union, among the Member States divided not only among them, but also within them on the main geopolitical challenges to protect their interests. Some align with Russia, some with China, some with the United States, while trying to maintain a balance.

Another important figure of the change of our geopolitics is the price of oil, which jumps almost 14% in Asia, in the wake of the rise lower than the forecasts of the US weekly stocks. Light West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI, a benchmark used in North America) futures grew 13.8% to $ 17.14 and Brent futures nearly 10% to $ 24.75 a barrel. On 20 April, the price of a barrel of oil curved negative for the first time, falling to -$37.63.

The new coronavirus is completely changing how the world economy works. Supply chains are compressing as firms understand the benefit of producing closer to customers. Remote working is growing and will probably remain lastingly higher. The health emergency is also serving as a sort of preview of the sort of turmoil that climate change might bring, confirming the cause of renewable energy. Countries are also exploring different forms of providing energy to most of the world, new modes of transport, and new ways of collecting and conveying electricity. All this indicates a comprehensive transformation, and some experts are already speaking about the end of the oil age.

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