Weekly Global Newscast |04 November – 10 November, 2019
Pakistan Opens Visa-Free Border Crossing for Indian Sikhs
The prime ministers of India and Pakistan inaugurated on Saturday a visa-free border crossing for Sikh pilgrims from India, allowing thousands of pilgrims to easily visit a Sikh shrine just inside Pakistan each day. Imran Khan and Narendra Modi held separate opening ceremonies on their respective sides of the new border crossing. It’s a rare sign of cooperation between the two nuclear-armed nations amid heightened tensions over the disputed Kashmir region.
‘The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border, and Sikhs would often gather on bluffs to view the site from the Indian side. The new arrangement allows pilgrims to apply online for special permits to visit the shrine. Visas to travel between Pakistan and India are normally difficult to obtain’ said Gulf News.
‘Over the past year in 2018, Pakistan constructed a huge complex around the shrine with facilities to accommodate 5,000 pilgrims daily, including a vast dining hall, a library and rooms for performing rituals. Pakistani authorities have called it the biggest Sikh shrine in the world. The religious group makes up only a tiny minority in Muslim-majority Pakistan. Many Sikh holy sites were left in Pakistan after the British partitioned the subcontinent into separate nations in 1947 following two centuries of colonial rule’ said AP News.
Purported IS Attack Killed More Tajik Border Guards Than Dushanbe Admits
The number of Tajikistan security officers have been killed in a November 6, 2019 attack by Islamic State (IS) extremists is seven – five higher than the authorities in Dushanbe have officially admitted. The State Committee for National Security previously said that police officer Bahrom Qosimzoda and border guard Izatullo Latifiov were killed when 20 IS militants attacked a border post near Uzbekistan, located in Tajikistan’s Rudaki district, about 60 kilometers southwest of Dushanbe. Officials initially said that the attackers came from neighboring Afghanistan. They said 15 militants were killed and five were captured.
‘Meanwhile, an online statement purportedly issued by the IS group on November 8, 2019 claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the IS militants had killed 10 Tajik border guards. Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry said that the attack was carried out by IS fighters, “mostly citizens of Tajikistan” who had crossed into the country from Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry has said that it did not believe there was any connection between the attack and Afghanistan’ said Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
‘Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry has said that it did not believe there was any connection between the attack and Afghanistan’ said AKI Press.
Middle East & North Africa
Iran’s New Oil Fields with 53bn Barrels Found
A new oil field that would increase Iran’s proven reserves by about a third has been discovered, President Hassan Rouhani has Stated that the field is in the south-western province of Khuzestan and about 2,400 sq km (926 sq miles) in area, contains 53 billion barrels of crude., he said. Iran has been struggling to sell oil abroad because of tough US sanctions. They were imposed after the US pulled out of a nuclear deal with world powers last year.
‘Iran is one of the world’s largest oil producers, with exports worth billions of dollars each year. Its existing proven reserves are of some 150 billion barrels. It has the world’s fourth-biggest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves, and shares a massive offshore field in the Persian Gulf with Qatar’ said BBC.
‘Tensions between the United States and Iran spiked last year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord between Iran and world powers. The deal imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions’ said Al-Jazeera.
Sub Saharan Africa
Pope Francis Hopes to Visit South Sudan Next Year
Pope Francis has urged the leaders of South Sudan to overcome their divisions and to find consensus for the good of the country. Speaking at his weekly blessing in the Vatican, the Pope said he hoped to visit South Sudan next year. South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been crippled by conflict ever since.
‘President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018. There are fears the breakdown of the deal could lead to the return of large-scale violence in the predominantly Christian country. Pope Francis, who didn’t detail his travel plans to South Sudan, hosted the two rivals in the Vatican in April. He knelt to kiss their feet as he urged them not to return to civil war’ said BBC.
‘Following its independence in 2011, South Sudan erupted into civil war in 2013. The President Salva Kiir accused his Vice-President Rieck Machar of orchestrating a coup against him. Up to 400,000 people have been killed and more than 4 million displaced in the conflict’ said Vatican News.
Spanish Election Deadlock Remains between Centre Left and Far Right
Spain’s ruling socialist party has won the country’s fourth general election in as many years but once again failed to secure a majority vote, whereas, the far-right Vox party vaulted into third place and the center-right Citizens party suffered a humiliating collapse. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE), led by the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, won 120 seats, three fewer than in April’s inconclusive election. The conservative People’s party (PP) rallied after its dismal showing last time, winning 87 seats, while Vox finished third as its seat count more than doubled from 24 to 52.
‘The result suggests Spain is no closer to ending its impasse and is again bound for months of negotiations and horse-trading to try to assemble a government at a time of unprecedented political fragmentation’ said The Guardian.
‘The poll was based on the voting intentions of about 14,000 people collated in the days leading up to the election. The repeat election comes amid renewed tensions between the central government and the separatist regional government of Catalonia. In the middle of October, Spain’s supreme court jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders for sedition over their roles in the failed push for independence two years ago’ said The Irish Times.
New Zealand Passes Law Aimed at Combating Climate Change
New Zealand lawmakers joined forces across the aisle to pass a bill aimed at combating climate change. The Zero Carbon bill aims to make New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the point the country becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050. It gives some leeway to farmers, however, who bring in much of the country’s foreign income. The bill was spearheaded by the liberal government but in the end was supported by the main conservative opposition party, which nevertheless promised changes if it won the next election.
‘The bill would require all greenhouse gases except methane from animals to be reduced to net-zero by 2050. Methane emissions would be reduced by 10 percent by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and one-half by 2050’ said TRT World.
‘The bill establishes a Climate Change Commission, which will advise the government on how to reach its targets. The government has also promised to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years and ensure that the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy by 2035’ said AP News.
Trump Hits Out at Republicans Trying to Form New Impeachment Defense
Donald Trump has hit out at Republicans trying to formulate a new defense for him ahead of the impeachment inquiry ramping up this week with televised public hearings.
‘The president tweeted: “The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT. Read the Transcript! There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!” The message appeared to be aimed at supporters including the Kentucky senator Rand Paul who have been putting forward an alternative defense to his own’ said The Independent.
‘He has been insistent that the call did not contain a “quid pro quo”, namely that he was withholding military aid and a White House visit until the Ukrainians announced an investigation into Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. The call prompted an anonymous whistleblower complaint which in turn led to an impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump has said that the aid was being withheld because he was concerned at corruption in Ukraine and because he thought the European Union should be contributing more to defend the former Soviet nation against Russian-backed separatists’ said Yahoo News.