It was only a matter of time before growing anxiety over food supplies and prices across the globe induced action by nation-states and citizens alike. As 2022 motors along, concerns about the health of the global economy, the lingering hangover of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its recent return to China, and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine have come together to create a perfect storm. Food prices are going through the roof in a number of nations, and it was only a matter of time before citizens took to the streets and protested.
Over the weekend Iran saw a wave of protests break out across the country over cuts in state subsidies on food. To be fair, Iranians already have a laundry list of grievances with their government and economic conditions always serve as a barometer of the population’s feelings. It comes as no surprise to see Iranian citizens come out in large numbers to protest the subsidy cuts, as well as other issues. The swift and brutal response by the Iranian government, however, has raised some eyebrows around the world. Tehran’s readiness to clampdown on and make an example of anti-government protesters is an indication the government expects prices to rise even more in the coming weeks. With the cut of subsidies last week, prices on a number of flour-based food staples rose in excess of 300%
There are also protests and street violence over rising food prices and inflation going on in Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. Those situations will be discussed in more detail later in the week.
Then there is the increasing worry over food supplies. India is moving to take pre-emptive action by restricting exports of wheat to create a safety cushion of sorts for its own population. The Indian government seeks to control rising prices and diminishing output due to global economic conditions and the extreme heat wave that has affected Indian wheat production. Predictably, India’s move has sent global prices skyrocketing and prompted the US and European Union to begin searching for solutions to improve food supply chains. Given the current conditions, Washington and Brussels need to hurry. At the present time, the situation worldwide appears fated to become significantly worse unless measures are taken within weeks.
Pakistan’s new prime minister is inheriting a turbulent situation that will only grow worse in the coming months. Along with a morose economic picture and the fallout generated from Pakistan’s latest constitutional crisis, Shehbaz Sharif is now facing the prospect of a mass resignation in parliament. Over 100 lawmakers who remain loyal to ousted prime minister Imran Khan quit today. If the resignations are accepted by the parliament speaker, 100 new elections will have to take place within two months. This will almost certainly be a major distraction for Sharif early on. It also provides an opportunity for Khan to mobilize his support and set the stage for deeper political turmoil in Pakistan down the line.
Sharif took the oath of office at Pakistan’s presidential residence late on Monday at a ceremony packed with lawmakers and leaders. Unlike his predecessor, Sharif enjoys good relations with Pakistan’s military. Pakistan’s military has traditionally controlled the country’s foreign and defense policies, leaving the prime minister to deal with domestic issues largely unfettered. He is looking to repair ties with the United States and improve relations with both India and China down the line. With regards to India, however, Sharif said warmer ties will not be possible until the Kashmir situation being resolved.
Sharif’s election as prime minister marks the return of political dynasties to the center of power and influence in Pakistan. He is the brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was removed from power by the supreme court in 2017 because of undeclared financial assets. The Sharifs and Bhuttos, normally rival political clans, came together to unseat Khan. In essence, the establishment has won out and is now back in power for the moment.
Yet Khan will probably not fade into the background quietly. As mentioned above, this resignation of lawmakers may be the start of Khan’s counteroffensive. It remains unclear if the end result will be his return to power, but at the very least, Pakistan’s political landscape will face some boisterous times in the near future
Earlier today, India announced it will be joining the US-led diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing after China included a soldier involved in the 2020 Galwan valley clash between Indian and Chinese troops. Qi Fabao, will be one of the torchbearers at the Opening Ceremonies. He is a PLA officer and back in 2020 served as a regimental commander in the Xinjiang Military Command. He suffered a considerable head injury in the Galwan skirmish. After learning of Qi’s inclusion, the Indian Foreign Ministry announced that its senior envoy to Beijing will not attend the Olympic ceremonies.
The US, Britain, Australia, and Canada are the core members of the diplomatic boycott with a number of other countries such as Denmark and Japan also refusing to send diplomats, ostensibly due to COVID-19 fears. Beijing has accused the US of politicizing sports with the boycott and vowed Washington “will pay a price for its erroneous actions.”
India’s decision to join the boycott, as well as China’s decision to include Qi Fabao in the Opening Ceremonies, threatens to shove the still-simmering border standoff and subsequent military buildup to the front burner. Chinese officials have not yet responded to India’s announcement, but this will change at some point soon, most likely. With China now on the center stage, Beijing will remain on guarded behavior, yet once the games end, it will react to India’s slight.
With the world’s attention focused on Taiwan lately, Sunday’s talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders slipped beneath the radar of many newsreaders across the globe. The discussions were the latest in a series of corps and army-level talks aimed at defusing a standoff at the border which has gone on for over a year. Since the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along their disputed border, both nations have claimed they desire a resolution to the standoff. Their actions, however, tell another story as the military presence on both sides of the border continues to increase.
Sunday’s talks failed to make progress and on the following day India and China pointed fingers at each other. The Indian Defense Ministry placed blame on “unilateral attempts by the Chinese side to alter the status quo.” Indian commanders put forward reasonable suggestions at the latest round of talks but China’s representatives were not in agreement and resisted them. A spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army placed responsibility for the lack of progress on India, claiming Indian demands are unreasonable and unrealistic.
Both nations have raised the number of troops stationed in the border region and are actively building up infrastructure intended to keep large forces stationed there during the dangerous winter seasons. Current Chinese troop levels are estimated at 50,000 near the border with tens of thousands more men, and their equipment, within a day’s travel. India has kept pace with the buildup, deploying tens of thousands of its own troops, and weaponry to the border.
Things have been a little hectic on my end for the last few weeks and I want to apologize. My book deadline was looming and there were some other issues that also crept into my blog time. As a result, I have not been posting as often as I would like. I apologize for that.
On the bright side, I’m happy to say that I met the deadline, submitted the manuscript and now have considerably more free time on my hands. Therefore, as of Saturday I plan to go back to the every-other-day schedule for postings. Or every third day at the very most.
Outside of regular updates on present situations and posts about potential upcoming hot spots, I want to get back to the North Korean Collapse project. I should’ve known that I’d jinx myself when I promised in late July to post entries every weekend or so, provided no major event or war came into the picture. A week or so later Afghanistan started to crumble, I devoted my DIRT time to monitoring and writing about that, and the NK Collapse project went by the wayside. I intend to brush it off and resume towards the end of September, war or peace.
Short term, I think we’re going to stay in the Western Pacific region. There’s been considerable activity in that area with regards to China’s diplomatic moves and military posturing. Also, when the time allows for it I want to discuss the present crisis in confidence that is looming for the US military. Some folks are starting to recognize it, but it has not been discussed much up to the recent revelations about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff contacting his Chinese counterpart and discussing potentially secretive subject matters in January, 2021. There’s a lot more happening underneath the surface. Definitely worth talking about more.