Weekly Global Newscast | July 29 - August 4, 2019
India Orders Tourists to Leave Kashmir Over ‘Terror Threat’
Thousands of people, including tourists and Hindu pilgrims, are leaving Indian-administered Kashmir after local officials issued a security alert.
Indian authorities warned of a “terror threat” against Hindu pilgrims heading to the Amarnath shrine. Militants backed by Pakistan were planning an attack on the annual pilgrimage as believed by the officials. India accuses Pakistan of backing militant groups based in Kashmir, something denied by Pakistan .The 45-day pilgrimage began on 1 July and about 300,000 pilgrims have visited the cave shrine, located high in the Himalayan mountains, according to AP news agency .Kashmir’s government has advised them to leave the area “immediately”, causing panic as visitors scramble to organise transport .Around 20,000 Hindu pilgrims and Indian tourists, as well as more than 200,000 labourers, were in the process of leaving the region, a local government official told Reuters news agency. “In the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris [pilgrims], it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the [Kashmir] valley immediately,” Kashmir’s home secretary, Shaleen Kabra, said in a statement. Security measures, including the deployment of 10,000 extra troops, were implemented by the Indian government ahead of the Hindu pilgrimage. India has long accused Pakistan of funding armed militants in Kashmir, a disputed territory claimed by both countries. BBC
Fear and confusion have gripped residents in India-administered Kashmir after authorities issued an unprecedented order, cancelling a Hindu pilgrimage and asking tourists to leave the disputed region. For 45 days every year, thousands of devout Hindus from across India trek to the region’s holy Amarnath cave located among the Himalayan mountains in southern Kashmir. The order, which came days after India deployed 10,000 additional troops in the disputed region, triggered panic among the residents, who began to stockpile essential supplies, including food, medicines and fuel in anticipation that the situation may turn critical. In recent days, a series of official orders – including one issued by the Indian Railways warning of a “crisis situation” – has triggered rumours that the Indian government is planning to abrogate Kashmir’s special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Kashmiris worry the Hindu nationalist government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to remove Article 35A of the constitution, which prevents people from outside the state from buying property there or claiming government jobs. Article 35A has been challenged in the Supreme Court by several right-wing groups and leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Al Jazeera
US, Taliban Push For Peace Deal in New Round of Doha Talks
Eighth round of peace talks to put an end to conflict between the two sides is under way in Qatar’s capital.
The US and the Taliban will seek to iron out a peace agreement to end Afghanistan’s 18-year conflict during a fresh round of talks in Qatar’s capital, Doha. A Taliban source told AFP news agency that efforts were under way to organise a direct meeting between US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar, who heads the movement’s political wing. The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not become a haven for “terrorists”, while the Taliban is focused on ensuring the withdrawal of all US-led foreign forces from the country. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman for the organisation’s political office in Doha, said on Twitter on Saturday that if an agreement was finalised, “it will allow all foreign forces to exit Afghanistan within a certain time period and open the door for talks” with the Afghan government. Despite negotiations in past years, the fighting has not subsided, as the civilian casualty rates across Afghanistan jumped back to record levels last month, according to the United Nations. More than 1,500 civilians were killed or wounded in the conflict in July, the highest monthly toll so far in 2019 and the deadliest single month since May 2017. Al Jazeera
Asia Tech Stocks, Chinese Yuan Fall After Trump Renews US-China Trade War
Asian stocks and the Chinese yuan took a beating Friday after US President Donald Trump announced another round of tariffs on China.
Suppliers of the Chinese tech company Huawei were hit particularly hard after Trump reignited his country’s trade war with China by saying he would add a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese-made products in September — effectively taxing all goods from China that come into the United States. Smartphone component manufacturer Sunny Optical Technology plummeted 6%, while AAC Technologies also tumbled 5%. Q Technology lost 8%, and BYD Electronic sank 7.9%. All of those stocks are listed on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI), which fell 2.4% by noon on Friday. The Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP), meanwhile, declined 1.7%. The Chinese yuan tumbled against the dollar, both in Shanghai and in the offshore market where it moves more freely. In trading outside of China, one US dollar now buys about 6.9606 yuan. Earlier Friday, the yuan fell to as low as 6.9786 — the weakest this year. In mainland China, where the yuan fluctuates around a reference rate set daily by the People’s Bank of China, the currency stands at 6.9355 to the dollar. Trump’s announcement — made in a series of tweets overnight — came just after US trade representatives returned from a round of negotiations in Shanghai. While both sides agreed those talks were “constructive,” they announced no tangible progress. CNN
Middle East & North Africa
US Imposes Sanctions on Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif
The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, striking at the main diplomatic channel between Iran and the west.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Zarif had been targeted because he acted on behalf of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. “Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies throughout the region and around the world,” Pompeo said in a written statement. “The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality.” The administration had first threatened to sanction Zarif last month, but relented to allow him to visit New York, while strictly limiting his freedom of movement within the city. During his stay in New York, the Iranian foreign minister is reported to have met Senator Rand Paul, who Donald Trump had said was seeking to help negotiations between the two countries.
Zarif was the chief Iranian negotiator in the 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from which the US withdrew in May last year. In the face of mounting US efforts to kill the agreement, the Iranian diplomat continued to meet his counterparts from Europe, Russia and China, who have been anxious to keep the deal afloat. Tensions between the US and Iran escalated in May when Washington tightened sanctions, in effect barring all countries from buying Iranian oil. Last month Iran seized of the British-linked oil tanker MT Riah in the strait of Hormuz, apparently in retaliation for the UK seizing the Iranian tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar. Zarif accused London of “doing the bidding for the Trump administration.” The Guardian
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called a decision by the United States to sanction Iran’s foreign minister “childish” amid rising tensions between the two countries. In its latest move aimed at ratcheting up its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, Washington said it was imposing sanctions on Mohammad Javad Zarif for acting on behalf of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who is also subject to recently-imposed US sanctions. Al Jazeera
Sub Saharan Africa
Sudanese Military and Protesters Reach Full Agreement on Power-sharing Deal
Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders have reached an agreement to usher in a new period of transitional government, the African Union said.
The agreement came after prolonged negotiations between Sudan’s ruling military council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which has been leading the protest movement across Sudan for months. The document, which outlines the powers and the relationships between the branches of the transitional government, comes after weeks of protracted negotiations brokered by the African Union and neighbouring Ethiopia amid sporadic bouts of violence in the capital Khartoum and other cities. Sudan has been in a state of political turmoil since the army ousted veteran leader Omar al-Bashir in April, with dozens of demonstrators killed during street protests. As news of the agreement emerged, people began gathering on Nile Street, a main avenue in the capital Khartoum, honking car horns and ululating in celebration. The Guardian
Opposition leader Ahmed Rabie and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Daglo signed the deal. A governing body of six civilians and five generals will oversee a three-year transition period. Sudan has been in turmoil since the military ousted President Omar al-Bashir in April. A formal signing ceremony of the document will be held on 17 August with the prime minister and other key officials announced soon after. Both sides signed a power-sharing accord in July, but demonstrators have been waiting since then for more details. Protests first broke out in December after Mr Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures. He was then overthrown by the military in April after prolonged protests outside the defence ministry in Khartoum. The document outlines the terms of a three-year transitional period agreed last month by the military council and opposition leaders. The power-sharing deal envisages a governing body also known as the sovereign council of six civilians and five generals. The council will then appoint a prime minister and a civilian transitional government. A draft of the declaration seen by Reuters news agency said the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have been accused of killing protesters, will now fall under the general command of the armed forces, and the intelligence service will be co-supervised by the sovereign council and the cabinet. People in the room clapped and cheered as the civilian and military representatives held up signed copies of the constitutional declaration. Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir hailed the deal saying it would “end Sudan’s listing as a [state] sponsor of terrorism”. BBC
Doubts Rise Over Europe’s Readiness for a No-Deal Brexit
EU dusts off contingency plans for a messy split after Boris Johnson says the U.K. will leave with or without a pact by Oct. 31
The European Union says it is ready for Britain to leave the bloc without a deal to smooth the split. Growing evidence says otherwise. Until recently, few European officials believed a no-deal Brexit would happen, as their governments set in motion preparations. Now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s rising threats to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by the Oct. 31 deadline is prompting EU officials to dust off plans ranging from information campaigns to fast hirings of customs officers. European leaders aim to boost Brexit awareness among smaller and midsize enterprises, officials say. Big companies are preparing by hiring consultants, shifting headquarters, stockpiling merchandise, preparing alternate transport methods and determining tariff rates or customs procedures that would apply to products traded with Europe. The Wall Street Journal
The European parliament’s Brexit steering group met last week to discuss the new political order in London. We made it clear that Brexit is a British decision and that article 50 can be revoked at any time, as the European court of justice has determined. If an extension is needed, for example for an election, the commission president designates, Ursula von der Leyen, has been clear that this would be considered. But if Brexit does mean Brexit, we are determined that the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, which safeguards the Good Friday agreement, cannot be discarded as Johnson has requested. However, changes are still possible to make the declaration on the future relationship more ambitious, to ensure that the deployment of the Irish backstop is not necessary. The Guardian
US-China Trade Tensions Hit Global Markets
Stocks suffer sell-off while bonds rally on threat of fresh tariffs on $300 bn of Chinese imports.
Donald Trump’s sudden escalation of trade tensions with China rattled global markets, triggering a sell-off in equities and a flight to government debt, even as jobs data offered reassurance about the resilience of the US labour market. The swoon in leading financial indices was driven by the US president’s announcement on Thursday that he would slap 10 per cent tariffs on a further $300bn of Chinese goods in early September, in a pivotal week for the international economy. Financial Times
Trump warned China against waiting out his presidency before finalizing a trade deal, saying if he wins re-election in November 2020, the outcome could be no agreement or a harsher one. Traders are also bracing for the Federal Reserve‘s policy announcement on Wednesday, for which markets have already fully priced in a quarter of a percentage point rate cut. A 50 basis-point cut has a one-in-five chance, according to futures markets. “If not for trade policy, we would not be using monetary policy in the way we are using it now,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York. Al Jazeera