India has refuted China’s claim of sovereignty over the Galwan Valley. On Friday, China said the area is located on their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The unprecedented formal claim drew an almost immediate response from the Indian government, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stating that attempts by China to ‘advance exaggerated and untenable claims’ are unacceptable. “The position with regard to the Galwan Valley area has been historically clear…They are not in accordance with China’s own position in the past,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. India has also rejected China’s claim that India is attempting to unilaterally change the status quo.
With Sino-Indian ties at a new low, China is using economic diplomacy to entice Bangladesh, India’s neighbor and ally. Beijing has announced tariff exemptions for 97% of exports from Bangladesh. The move was evidently made as part of a larger effort by China to woo India’s neighbors away from potentially supporting New Delhi in the present border dispute. The effort is bringing about a moderate level of success that has caused the Indian government discomfort. Nepal has involved itself in the regional crisis for the first time by urging its ‘friendly neighbors’ to seek a peaceful resolution to their standoff. The statement was made today, less than forty-eight hours after the Nepalese parliament passed a controversial bill updating its political administrative map to include parts of Indian territory. The timing of the Nepalese vote is suspicious, to say the least. It likely came after heavy Chinese prodding behind the scenes and has the potential to complicate the border dispute for India.
Air activity over Ladakh is picking up, however there have been no cross-border incursions by Chinese aircraft. Indian Air Force (IAF) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighters are maintaining combat air patrols over the area, and keeping warplanes on alert at airbases in the region. Both sides have reinforced their air assets. Additional warplanes have been seen at Ngari Airbase in Tibet, and at Leh and Srinagar on the Indian side of the LAC.
Following her release from house arrest in 2010 Aung San Suu Kyi was a gold plated darling of the Western political world. Politicians from around the world journeyed to her home country of Myanmar to talk with Kyi, and of course, to be seen with her. Kyi’s name became synonymous with women’s rights, and pro-democracy movements. In April, 2016 she became the state counsellor of Myanmar, a position similar to a prime minister.
So imagine the irony when some of the same people who championed her cause in the past began accusing her of ethnic cleansing last week.
Kyi is under increasing pressure to halt the army offensive that has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and forced them to flee across the border to Bangladesh and beyond. The Rohingya people are a minority group in Myanmar, made up of roughly 1 million men, women, and children. The majority of Rohingya are Muslims and most live in the northern Rakhine State. They have been pushing for their own nation-state for decades without success. The government has cracked down on Rohingya civilians following the start of a renewed insurgency last year.
The current crisis was sparked by attacks on police stations in northern Rakhine by Rohingya militants, which killed twelve security personnel. Myanmar responded with a military offensive that has reportedly resulted in burned out Rohingya villages and attacks on civilians. The purpose of the offensive is to drive them out of Myanmar. So far, that is what has been happening. Bangladesh is feeling the pain from a surge of refugees across its border since late August. The nation is taking steps to limit the influx of Rohingya and has placed restrictions on their ability to travel around Bangladesh. The hope of the Bangladeshi government is that the Rohingya will be permitted to return home in the near future.
Judging by events over the last week or so that does not appear as if it will happen. Myanmar has shown no signs of letting up on its efforts to drive the Rohingya out. Even with international pressure increasing, Kyi is not backing down. She will not be attending the UN General Assembly session and has blamed the global media for working to increase tensions with biased news coverage that portrays Rohingya entirely as persecuted civilians. It will be interesting to see if any resolution comes out of New York this week and whether or not Kyi will bow to international pressure and stop the military offensive.
While the airport bombings in Turkey and today’s hostage standoff in Bangladesh have garnered high amounts of media scrutiny and public attention, the suicide attacks in Lebanon have not received much media attention. On Monday, suicide bombers launched two attacks against the town of Al Qaa, a primarily Christian town in eastern Lebanon, not far from the border with Syria. The attacks have stoked fears that violence from the civil war in Syria could soon spill over into Lebanon and destabilize the country even more so than it already is at current. Lebanon has very strong political and sectarian ties to Syria. To the surprise of many observers, Lebanon has so far avoided being drawn into the quagmire to its north and east. The nation has also taken in 1.5 million Syrian refugees, placing a major strain on government services and the economy.
Monday’s attacks have increased security concerns across the nation and there is growing pressure to marshal the Syrian refugees into camps or remove them from the country altogether. In the 24 hours following the attack, over 100 refugees were arrested for not having proper residency. On Wednesday, the Lebanese Army announced that it had foiled two terrorist plots by ISIS and arrested five suspects. The information released was very scant on details, however, and has not been updated at all.
Aside from terrorism, Lebanon has another significant issue to contend with. The country has been without a president for the past two years and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group closely allied with Iran, has stalled efforts to resolve the power vacuum. A strong central government in Beirut would be a challenge to Hezbollah’s influence and control over a large portion of Lebanon and Lebanese life. A challenge that Hezbollah’s backers in Tehran do not want to see flourish anytime soon.