November 2023

MONTH IN BRIEF

Beijing lures Taliban

The Taliban’s invitation to, and attendance of, China’s October 18th Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which marked the BRI’s tenth anniversary, has underscored Beijing’s growing official ties with the administration, despite its lack of formal recognition by any world government. Taliban officials and ministers have at times travelled to regional meetings, mostly those focused on Afghanistan, but this is the highest profile multilateral meeting since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.

US-Oz crucial cooperation

Australia and the United States announced plans to cooperate on critical minerals and bolster Pacific Islands infrastructure during an October 24/5 visit to Washington by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese’s White House schedule focused on how Canberra’s security alliance with the US is broadening into an economic and technology partnership. The two leaders also fleshed out details of further cyber-security cooperation, in addition to a US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) Microsoft investment in Australia. A centrepiece of Mr Albanese’s visit was a critical minerals task force to boost private investment in Australia’s rare earths industry and reduce global reliance on China.

Muizzu warning to India

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Maldives President-elect Mohamed Muizzu’s call for India to remove its troops from his country seems to have unsettled Indo-Maldives relations and opened a new chapter in the jostling for influence between India and China in the island nation. Still, Dr Muizzu, who headed an ‘India Out’ campaign during the September election, which saw him defeat incumbent Ibrahim Solih, cannot entirely cut off ties with New Delhi or exclusively cosy up to Beijing, noted foreign policy analysts.

Referendum rejection

Australia’s Indigenous leaders called for a week of silence and reflection after a referendum to recognise First Peoples in the Constitution was decisively rejected.

More than 60 per cent of Australians voted ‘No’ in the landmark October 14 referendum, which asked whether to alter the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people with an Indigenous advisory body called the Voice to Parliament.

Gen. Li ousted

China has removed Defence Minister Li Shangfu, reported state media CCTV, a month after multiple reports said that he had been placed under investigation. He has been absent from public view without explanation for two months.In an announcement during the evening news broadcast, it was announced that General Li had been removed from his position as State Councillor and Defence Minister following a decision by the country’s top lawmaking body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.No replacement for Gen Li was announced and no reason was given for the changes.

Train tragedy

At least 15 people have been killed and 100 others injured in Bangladesh after two trains collided, with officials saying they fear the death toll will rise.The crash in the eastern city of Bhairab saw a freight train smash into a passenger train travelling in the opposite direction, derailing two passenger carriages.Train accidents are common in Bangladesh and are often caused by poor signalling, negligence, old tracks or other rundown infrastructure.

 

Boost for Sri Lankan tourism

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved issuing free tourist visas to visitors from seven countries, including China, India and Russia, according to a statement issued by the Media Ministry. The move is aimed at boosting tourism and reviving the country’s crisis-hit economy.Tourists from China, India, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia will be issued free visas till March 31, 2024, under a pilot programme, the statement detailing Cabinet decisions said.The scheme hopes to hit a target of five million arrivals by 2026, the statement added.

Cats off the menu

Police in China have hauled in a truck loaded with abducted cats, not only rescuing more than a thousand of the animals, but also saving restaurant diners from being served the feline flesh passed off as pork or mutton by rogue businessmen. The action came after animal lovers alerted police to a ‘cat car’ – dealers in trucks who hunt cats and sell the meat as food – in Zhangjiagang, a county in Jiangsu province’s Suzhou city.