The World Today for March 16, 2022

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A Wobbly Fence

INDIA

Most United Nations members rallied to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month. India, the world’s largest democracy, however, chose to sit on the fence, abstaining from the two votes. The reason was longstanding ties with Russia that some believe are now becoming strangling in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It behooves India to stop investing in a relationship that has largely outlived its utility,” Indiana University Professor Sumit Ganguly wrote in Foreign Policy.

In other words, India is now caught in the middle.

The key to this equation is China. Over the past few years, the two countries have come to blows over China’s incursions into what India considers its territory on their disputed northern border, the BBC explained. Now, because of Russia’s increasing isolation – and the increasing dependence on China that goes with it – Russia might not be the ally India needs anymore in this dispute.

Still, if India chooses to break with Russia, it will have to tread carefully, analysts say. That’s because its long diplomatic and military alliance with Russia means it still depends on Moscow for at least half of its tanks, fighter jets and even a nuclear submarine – all while Russia helps India to build its own, noted Al Jazeera. “India’s military is still dominated by Russian equipment, though in recent years, India has sought to diversify,” Akhil Bery, the director of South Asia Initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told NBC News.

And despite a tighter-than-ever relationship with the United States that has seen India’s US weapons purchases soar from zero to around $20 billion in a little more than a decade, according to CNN, the list of items supplied by Russia runs the gamut from basic armaments to cutting-edge hardware that Washington might be reluctant to share.

Meanwhile, regional rivalries and history add to India’s dilemma.

During the Cold War, India remained “non-aligned” with either the US or the erstwhile Soviet Union. However, it was Moscow that supported India against America-backed Pakistan, going so far as to deploy its navy to the Indian Ocean after then-US President Richard Nixon sent a warship to intimidate India during its 1971 war with Pakistan, Time magazine noted.

New Delhi also believes Russia has more “diplomatic heft” with China than the US, a former commander of India’s northern army told Al-Jazeera. Case in point: The first talks to resolve tensions after a June 2020 border skirmish between Indian and Chinese soldiers were held in Moscow – despite Washington’s restyling of the “Asia-Pacific” region as the “Indo-Pacific” and New Delhi’s move to join the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), as a hedge against Beijing’s growing power.

The longer victory eludes Russia in Ukraine, however, and the deeper US sanctions bite, the less heft Moscow may have with China. Locked out of the world’s financial system, facing a US oil and gas embargo and the looming threat of similar moves from Europe, Russia could become too dependent on China for Moscow to push back much against Beijing – and it might even flip-flop.

“India must walk a dangerous diplomatic tightrope in managing its close partnership with Russia with its growing relations with the US and the West,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington DC-based think-tank, the Wilson Center, told CBS News.

He noted how India insists on sitting on the fence. But he added, that fence could collapse.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Hello, Goodbye

PERU

Peruvian lawmakers approved the initiation of impeachment proceedings against leftist President Pedro Castillo this week, the second attempt to oust him since he was elected in July, Bloomberg reported.

The vote came amid an investigation against a businesswoman, Karelim Lopez, over alleged money laundering. Lopez expressed a willingness to work with prosecutors and said that she had damaging information on individuals close to Castillo: She said they are involved in irregularities in the bidding process for a bridge construction contract.

Castillo has denied the allegations and said the accusations are politically motivated. He is expected to defend himself before congress later this month.

More than 87 out of 130 lawmakers will have to vote to impeach the president for Castillo to be ousted. Meanwhile, analysts noted that three leftist parties could potentially block the impeachment.

The vote marks the second effort by lawmakers to remove Castillo: In December, he survived a first attempt to impeach him.

Even so, congress has also initiated a process of “constitutional accusation” against the former educator, which could suspend his presidential functions if successful.

Laws in Peru make it easy to remove the head of state: Nearly every president in recent history has been impeached, imprisoned or the subject of criminal investigations.

Questions as Weapons

BANGLADESH

Bangladesh will ban questions regarding the “immoral character” of rape victims after a landmark decision that follows years of campaigning by women’s rights groups against the humiliating and traumatizing interrogations of survivors, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.

Officials said that the government plans to amend the Evidence Act – a 19th-century relic from the British colonial era – and that lawmakers are expected to formalize the decision by June.

The government’s move comes after a decades-long fight by advocates to repeal the controversial law. Last year, a coalition of human rights organizations petitioned Bangladesh’s top court to strike it down.

Legal analysts explained that the legislation has been routinely used to discredit the court testimony of rape victims during cross-examinations. Many activists warned that the law has made it difficult to secure guilty verdicts and made survivors hesitant to press charges.

Government officials and women’s rights groups hailed the move as “another step toward the empowerment of women.”

Still, advocates cautioned that the number of rapes has increased in recent years, partly because of legal loopholes and a culture of impunity for violence against women.

Following Up

RUSSIA

Australia and the Netherlands initiated new legal proceedings against Russia for its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, a case that comes amid the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kyiv, NPR reported.

The two countries filed a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization this week over the incident that killed all 298 people on board the aircraft which was flying from the Netherlands to Malaysia in July 2014.

International investigations concluded that a Russian Buk missile had shot down the plane. The missile had been transferred to rebel-held eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement but experts say it would be impossible for the rebels to operate the missile without Russian help.

Since 2018, Australia and the Netherlands have formally held Russia responsible for the aircraft’s downing. On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized Moscow for withdrawing from negotiations over the downed plane in October 2020.

In the meantime, Dutch authorities are trying four suspects in absentia and the government has also sued Russia at the European Court of Justice. Dutch officials also said that they have notified the United Nations Security Council of their latest move.

The Netherlands maintains that the recent developments are unrelated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Morrison, however, described the recent case as directly related to the conflict, saying that Russia needs to be held “account(able) for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace.”

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • As Russia continued to pummel Ukrainian cities overnight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address American lawmakers Wednesday morning in a speech expected to push for more military assistance including a “no-fly zone,” the Associated Press reported. Most Western governments oppose such a measure because of worries it will ignite World War III. Still, US President Biden is expected to announce $800 million in military aid for Ukraine Wednesday.
  • The EU and the United Kingdom imposed further sanctions against Russia and Belarus on Tuesday, prohibiting the export of high-end luxury items, raising taxes on Russian commodities and targeting more Kremlin-connected billionaires, according to the Moscow Times. And in a tit-for-tat move, Russia enacted sanctions and travel bans on a number of US and Canadian officials, including US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Newsweek noted. White House officials mocked the measures saying they don’t hold money in Russian banks. The amount of Russian wealth stashed overseas is about the same as the amount held by the Russian population in Russian banks, the Washington Post noted.
  • The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia visited Kyiv on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and convey the European Union’s “unequivocal support” for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, Axios reported. The visit came as Russia continued its bombardment of the capital, amid heightened fighting in Kyiv’s outskirts, the Wall Street Journal added. Kyiv’s mayor, meanwhile, imposed a 36-hour curfew late Tuesday, saying that the capital faced a “difficult and dangerous moment.”
  • Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe Tuesday, claiming that NATO and the European Union are turning the leading human rights organization “into an instrument of anti-Russian policy,” according to CNN. The continent’s main institution governing human rights had already suspended Russia in late February. At the same time, Russian authorities are seeking a 13-year jail term for opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a trial that Kremlin opponents regard as an attempt to lock away President Vladimir Putin’s most fervent rival for as long as possible, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, a Russian state television employee who blurted out her opposition to the Ukraine conflict on primetime television was fined more than $250 on Tuesday and could face jail time, Politico noted. Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Kremlin-backed Channel One, momentarily jumped behind a broadcaster on Monday, holding a banner that read: “No war. Stop war, don’t believe in propaganda, they’re lying to you here. Russians against war.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said negotiations with Ukraine are at an impasse, telling Kyiv “is not showing a serious commitment to finding mutually acceptable solutions.” Zelenskyy, meanwhile, said negotiations with the Kremlin are “more realistic.” Talks continue Wednesday.

DISCOVERIES

I, Grieve

When losing a loved one, humans grieve – so do birds, apes, elephants and dolphins.

Recently, scientists discovered that dogs, too, mourn the loss of a canine friend, the Guardian reported.

In a study in Italy, researcher Federica Pirrone and her team analyzed the responses of more than 400 adults who completed a “mourning dog questionnaire” online to understand how pooches experience grief.

All the participants had experienced the loss of one of their dogs while at least one other dog was still alive. The results showed that 86 percent of the respondents said their surviving canines had displayed changes in behavior after the death of their canine companion.

These changes included sleeping more, less eating and seeking more of the owner’s attention. The research team noted that these changes were not connected to the amount of time the dogs lived together or whether the surviving animal saw the other’s corpse.

They noted, however, that the changes were more noticeable when the late dog was a friend of the surviving animal, their parent or offspring.

The authors suggested that a number of factors were at play, including disrupted shared behaviors between the animals.

Pirrone added that the findings cannot necessarily be described as grief in dogs but said they reveal an aspect of canine behavior that has been somewhat overlooked.

“Dogs are highly emotional animals who develop very close bonds with the members of the familiar group,” she said. “This means that they may be highly distressed if one of them dies and efforts should be made to help them cope with this distress.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 461,680,824

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,051,521

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,716,216,102

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 79,586,939 (+0.03%)
  2. India: 42,998,938 (+0.01%)
  3. Brazil: 29,441,039 (+0.17%)
  4. France: 23,834,924 (+0.50%)
  5. UK: 19,877,450 (+0.16%)
  6. Germany: 17,732,946 (+1.50%)
  7. Russia: 17,160,872 (+0.21%)
  8. Turkey: 14,600,683 (+0.17%)
  9. Italy: 13,489,319 (+0.64%)
  10. Spain: 11,260,040 (+0.32%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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