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Escalation of military-political confrontation, trade wars likely in 2019: Eurasia Report

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New Delhi: Increased geo-political competition between Russia, the US and China, escalation of military-political confrontation and trade wars between these three nations and the possibility of a “Great War” in the Middle East are concerns for 2019, an international study has pointed out.

“The world faces major crises in 2019 with escalation of military-political confrontation and trade wars, humanitarian tragedies and environmental disasters,” according to the study ‘Global Risks for Eurasia in 2019’, conducted by 30 top global experts.

Highlighting the top 10 global risks for Eurasia in 2019, the study pointed out to escalation of the confrontation between China and the US; full-scale expansion of trade wars; the Great War in the Middle East; further degradation of relations between Russia and the West; “defrosting” of hotspots in Eurasia; growth of separatism and ethno-confessional conflicts; intensification of environmental and water challenges; strengthening and evolution of cyber threats; the beginning of a new arms race; and risk of major nuclear and technological disasters.

The study was prepared by the team of experts of the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) headed by its Director Yerzhan Saltybayev.

It was based on the opinions expressed by over 30 global experts and politicians, including several former heads of states and Nobel laureates. Additionally, more than 1,000 experts from 60 countries also provided inputs.

The study was presented recently as part of the fourth annual meeting of the Astana Club, an international discussion forum, held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

“The aggravation of geopolitical competition between Russia, the US and China is taking place not only in the global context, but also within the perimeter of the Greater Eurasia. It is necessary to realize: misunderstanding, miscalculations in crisis situations can potentially lead to military confrontation,” President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said in his address at the meeting (November 12-13) of the Astana Club.

“We haven’t observed such confrontation in a long time. The so-called post-bipolar world order is being finally left in the past. We are now witnessing the formation of the ‘Greater Eurasia’ outlines.

“This process has been affected by the changing balance between global players as well as by the growing competition between regional powers. The fundamental disagreements in the main issue – the future format of the world order – cannot yet be overcome by all of them,” Nazarbayev said.

Notable authors of the study are geopolitical and strategic forecasting gurus and Nobel laureates, including Robert Kaplan, senior advisor at Eurasia group; Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); Mathew Burrows, director of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative; Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation; Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre; Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and president of the World Forum on Sustainable Development and Mohamed El Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1997-2009) and Nobel peace prize winner in 2005.

The study has pointed out that the two most serious risks are associated with two areas of confrontation between the US and China.

“The first is in the military-political environment – involving mutual distrust and growing competition for dominance in Asia. The US will strengthen its policy of containing China, strengthening the anti-Chinese consensus in the Asia-Pacific region. This will provoke a response from China, which will seek to counteract the pressure.”

The second area relates to the trade war between the two giants which started in mid-2018.

“Tariff restrictions are sure to be extended, resulting in a slowdown in both countries’ economies. The effect of protective measures overflowing to other markets may be seen as a result also. A slowdown in global trade and investment will be caused by trade restrictions around the world.”

The consequences of the US withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran could trigger a largescale war in the Middle East, it added.


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China hopes resumption of Sino-India military drills will provide impetus to bilateral ties

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Beijing: China expressed hope that the resumption of military exercises between the Indian and Chinese armies that will begin on Tuesday would inject impetus and yield good results for the improvement of bilateral ties.

An Indian military team headed by Col Puneet Tomar has arrived in China’s southwestern Chengdu city to take part in the ‘Hand-in-Hand’ military drills between the two armies starting there from Tuesday, the Indian Embassy here said.

Officials earlier said both sides would field 100 personnel to take part in the seventh edition of the exercises. The inaugural ceremony would be held on Tuesday and the drills would be concluded on December 23.

The drills are being held after a gap of one year as they could not be held last year because both armies were locked in a 73-day standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Asked about how China viewed the exercises being resumed after Doklam, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said “we hope this can have a good results”.

He referred to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year and the “important consensus” reached between the two leaders to improve relations.

He noted that the two leaders had met four times this year.

The two countries should implement the consensus between the two leaders including the exchanges between the two militaries, Lu said.

“Under the guidance of the consensus between the two leaders and through the concerted efforts of the two sides, I hope the exchanges between the two militaries can achieve positive outcomes, injecting impetus to the bilateral ties,” he said.

The Chinese military earlier said the subject of the exercises will include adoptive and basic training, and live shooting.

“The drills will promote understanding between the two militaries and improving their capabilities in fighting terrorism,” Chinese defence ministry spokesman Col Ren Guoqiang had said last month.

“True to its name which is ‘Hand-in-Hand’, we believe China and India’s militaries should work hand-in-hand to bring benefits to our people,” he said.

After the Doklam standoff, the two militaries made efforts to improve relations following the Wuhan summit.

Besides resuming the defence dialogue after the standoff, the two countries also held the 21st round of border talks.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who are the Special Representatives for the border talks, held the discussions on November 24 in Chengdu during which they called for intensifying efforts to find a solution to the vexed border dispute.

The two sides also held the ninth defence dialogue on November 13 led by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Lt General Shao Yuanming, Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of Central Military Commission of China.

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135 hurt in ‘yellow vest’ protests in France, PM calls for ‘dialogue’

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Paris: A total of 135 people have been injured after violence broke out between police and groups of masked youth in several French cities during protests against high living costs, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Besides, 1,385 people have also been detained.

Created on social media, the “yellow vest” movement which got its name from the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, has lured people of all ages and backgrounds.

With no leader, it had turned into a bigger movement denouncing a squeeze on household spending, high living costs caused by Macron`s fiscal and economic policy which they say favours the rich. Some even demanded Macron to step down.

In a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday, the Minister added that 974 individuals remained in police custody and that the figure could rise.

At least 10,000 demonstrators participated in the Paris march, while 125,000 protesters turned out across the country.

Among the injured were 17 police officers who were hurt in the scuffles mainly in the French capital and Bordeaux city, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The situation is under control,” Castaner said, adding “…but totally unacceptable.”

“Time for dialogue. This dialogue has begun, it must continue. The French nation must find itself. No tax can threaten national unity,” said Prime Minister Philippe, noting that President Emmanuel Macron would propose further measures to abate the social anger.

After a calm start, tension flared in Les Grands Boulevards and streets near the Champs Elysees and the Republic Square where a group of hooded men joined the protest and hassled police by setting barricades and setting afire garbage bins and trees.

Scores of vehicles were burnt and shops damaged, forcing the police to fire tear gas and use water cannon to push back the rioters.

Armoured vehicles were also deployed for the first time in the capital since Paris suburbs riot in 2005 amid intensified security measures that the government implemented to avoid the chaos two weeks ahead of the peak of Christmas holidays.

As part of an “exceptional” security plan, the government has deployed 89,000 officers in the French cities.

In Paris, 8,000 officers have been put in place to maintain law and order to avoid any incident similar to last Saturday`s rioting that plunged the French capital into chaos, its worst unrest in decades.

Earlier this week, the French government dropped a plan to increase fuel tax next year, bowing to the force of the streets.

However, the protest movement shows no sign of abating. Protesters still demand concrete moves, notably a rise in minimum wage and lower taxes.

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Decision to assassinate Arafat approved by Saudis: Former senior advisor

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Washington : A former senior adviser to Yasser Arafat, the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has said that Arafat’s death was not natural and he was actually assassinated, with Saudi Arabia approving the decision to assassinate him.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Palestine’s Arabic-language Shehab news agency, Bassam Abu Sharif said former US president, George W. Bush, had contacted Saudi officials after a meeting with former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, during which Arafat’s liquidation was discussed, and Saudi authorities consented.

Abu Sharif went on to say that the Riyadh regime approved of Arafat’s assassination, because it viewed him as an obstacle to the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisioned a so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Sharon met with Bush at the White House and told him that he could no longer keep his promise of not physically attacking Yasser Arafat, because he was a leading terror figure and collaborating with Hamas, and that Hamas operations were carried out with the approval and blessing of Arafat,” the senior member of the PLO pointed out.

Abu Sharif highlighted that Bush contacted Saudi officials the following day and informed them of the matter, and the Al Saud regime agreed to the decision to assassinate Arafat.

The late Palestinian leader’s adviser noted that his new book, titled Salty Fish, contains many secrets about the assassination of Arafat; Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the former leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004; as well as senior Hamas figure, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, back in 2010.

Arafat, who led an armed struggle against Israel in the late 1960s, died of unknown causes at a hospital near the French capital, Paris, on November 11, 2004. He was 75.

Israeli forces have attacked a group of Palestinian students, who planned to hold a ceremony to mark the death anniversary of Yasser Arafat,In 2012, Arafat’s widow, Suha, filed a legal complaint in France, claiming that her husband had been assassinated while staying at the Mercy military hospital near Paris in 2004. He had been moved to the hospital the previous month for diarrhea and vomiting.

According to French doctors, he died of a massive stroke, although the origin of his illness was unknown.

Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened the same year, so that three teams of French, Swiss, and Russian investigators could collect samples for investigation.

A subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning. However, separate probes from Swiss and Russian experts found that Arafat had been poisoned to death with polonium.

An investigation has proved Israel assassinated the former leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat.

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