The recent unveiling of the RAISE Act, an attempt to reform America’s immigration system to make it skill-based and reduce legal immigration to half, created much brouhaha and media frenzy. The Left went ballistic and called the Act racist, xenophobic, anti-American, and anti-immigrant. The Right praised the Act in that it makes America’s immigration process less counterproductive to American economic interests.
While the Act hasn’t been signed into law yet, I was surprised that it didn’t address two key issues. The RAISE Act does very little, if any, to rein in the H1B visa program, used extensively by tech companies to hire cheap overseas labor and replace American workers. Not only do these imported workers end up renewing their visas several times, their employers, over time, sponsor them for green cards, an upgrade that is not a part of the H1B scheme. The foreign hires aren’t especially high-skilled and don’t necessarily assimilate in the work environment, but they end up undertaking the journey to American citizenship. Cheap overseas labor also puts a downward pressure on wages in the tech industry. The upshot of all this is that the H1B scheme countervails the central objective of the RAISE Act. Further explanation on this can be found here and here.
The other issue is that of a subliminal sort; one that can’t be easily measured or monitored and the effects of which take a long time to manifest. A country is a sum total of its cultural values and principles that it holds dear. Other attributes like quality of life, standard of living, wealth, opportunities, political stability, and economic growth all flow from culture.
Immigration affects not only the economy, but also the culture. The degree of and type of effect depends upon the extent of assimilation, which in turn boils down to the native culture of the immigrants. Immigrants entering European or North American nations find it easier to assimilate if they are from similar cultures. This is evidenced by an article assessing assimilation into American culture during the Age of Mass Migration, where immigrants were predominantly from Europe.
It is very plain that people sharing common cultural threads like social mores, dietary practices, religion, folklore, and heritage will find it easy to socialize with one another and enter the melting pot. Asian, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants on the whole, have radically different cultures, histories and heritage, dietary practices, and religious affiliations – all of which raises deep concerns about assimilation. And the concerns escalate, when the West has been besieged by the ideology of multiculturalism, where in, immigrants are encouraged not to assimilate and where all cultures and societies are considered equal.
The past few decades have seen the mushrooming of ethnic enclaves across European and North American nations, where immigrants, older and recent arrivals, huddle together to create societies that resemble the ones they left behind. The UK is a great example of ‘enclavi-fication,’ where Muslims immigrants, predominantly, from Pakistan and Bangladesh have turned, what used to be quaint English towns, into mini-South Asia.
These self-styled Islamic settlements that dot the landscape of many western countries, are not only cosmetically abstracted from the host norms, but they also function differently from host societies. Many of these culturally insular settlements, popularized as ‘no-go zones,’ enforce Sharia law. Some of the extreme elements organize Sharia patrol, in which members of the groups go around policing people on matters of propriety.
Honor killings, not an exclusive hallmark of Muslim societies, have started cropping up in Europe and North America. In Germany, honor killings seem to be prevalent among the Turkish community, while in the UK, they cluster around the South Asian diaspora. While the US is better at assimilating immigrants, it too has been grappling with honor killings with an estimated 23 – 27 occurrences per year, 91% of which are due the victim becoming ‘too westernized.’ Stephanie Baric, who served as executive director for AHA Foundation in 2015, attested that the rising incidence in honor killings is due to a massive influx from South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, where this practice is the norm. AHA Foundation was founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an FGM survivor and women’s rights activist, to shed light on honor violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages.
Some immigrants and second-generation native-born individuals from these radically different cultures seem unfit to live in western societies, where values like free speech, religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and equality are the norm. The Charlie-Hebdo attacks and the Copenhagen café shootings are evidence of intolerance to the free speech clause – a corner stone of western civilization. 2016 was an especially bloody year for Europe, with several terror attacks committed either by immigrants and asylum seekers from the MENA region or by second- and subsequent generation native-born members of middle-eastern origin. The motives for the attacks are a testament of incompatible values, lack of tolerance to criticism and differences over opinions, and an unquenchable thirst for martyrdom.
Britain has its own strain of homegrown terrorism in the form of Anjem Choudary, a native-born, well-educated, British, Islamic hate preacher. He has a growing support of not just people of Middle-Eastern, North African, and South-Asian ancestry, but also some white British converts, who clamor for the replacement of the British common law system with Sharia and converting Britain into an Islamic state.
In 2016, Mr. Choudary and one of his accomplices were sentenced to prison for supporting ISIS and encouraging their followers to be in lockstep with the militant group and its ideology, if they are ‘true’ Muslims.
Self-segregation and lack of assimilation can also affect economic opportunities, employment, upward social mobility, and prosperity – some of the reasons why so many third-worlders want to make western countries their home. Unemployment data from the UK between July 2013 and June 2017 reports higher total unemployment rates (roughly twice or thrice) for peoples of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black/African/Caribbean descent as compared to whites. One may impute this to racial or ethnic discrimination, but this argument is made feeble by the fact that people of Indian descent report an unemployment rate that trails the white unemployment rate by just a few percentage points.
While it’s difficult to obtain similar data broken down by ethnicity and religion for the EU, a 2010 discussion article provides some insights. It presents data (table 1.4) highlighting labor market situation in France broken down by ethnicity. The unemployment rates for 1st, 2nd, and 1.5 generation immigrants are significantly higher as compared to the French natives. The only data fields, where the unemployment rates plummet and come close to those of the French natives, are ‘Southeast Asians’ and ‘2nd generation mixed populations.’ France is notorious for its ethnically segregated enclaves and it’s escapades with multiculturalism.
Interestingly, Hungary that took a hard line on multiculturalism shows a completely different picture of unemployment data (table 1.5), with the Arab minority population recording some of the lowest rates. The Chinese minority performs incredibly well with a rate of just 0.68%.
Another set of data (table 1.6) that points the needle of blame to self-segregation than to discrimination is on the unemployment rate of the Roma minorities of Romania and Hungary. The national governments’ effort to assimilate the self-segregated Gypsy settlements having gone to vain, this population has experienced skyrocketing unemployment.
2016 unemployment data from the US bureau of labor statistics broken down by race for foreign-born individuals reveals that foreign-born Asians experience the lowest rate of unemployment followed by whites and Hispanics. Foreign-born Blacks are the worst hit with an unemployment rate of 6.1%. The economic correlation between segregation and unemployment is further fleshed out by findings of a report from the Lewis Mumford Center that suggests that Asians are far less likely to self-segregate than are Hispanics and Blacks.
Another piece of information making the economic case against ‘enclavi-fication’ is a scientific journal article measuring effects of ethnic-owned and run workplaces on the earnings of the ethnic workers they hire. The findings reveal that, on average, an immigrant gets paid lesser in a self-segregated, co-ethnic business enclave than an immigrant working in the mainstream economy.
Clustering together in ethnic enclaves – residential or business – cuts off immigrants from the mainstream culture and the experiential learning that socializing with natives over time leads to. The resultant exchanges not only acquaint and gently break the immigrant into accepting his or her new cultural identity, but they also unearth a wealth of economic opportunities, thus, staving off the need to get on welfare.
A lack of assimilation and allegiance to the new culture can lead to resentment in the minds of the natives. This in turn can lead to a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, which on the backdrop of a schismatic society seems justified. The downside of this turn of events is the portrayal of immigrants as a monolith and the commandeering of the sentiment by fringe groups to push through a hateful and divisive narrative.
Immigration is a very decisive and game changing tool in the culture, politics, and economy of a country. A prudent immigration policy will make sure that the host country benefits economically from immigration, without undermining its cultural and social values and norms. A need to integrate and assimilate should not be a preferable outcome, but an imperative of the immigration process.
Following are some recommendations in designing an immigration system that puts weight on cultural assimilation.
- Immigrants should not only be able to support themselves and their dependents, they should also show willingness and capability to assimilate culturally.
- A review of immigrant’s native culture and societal values should be brought into the vetting process while assessing ability to assimilate.
- Mass immigration and chain immigration should be summarily discontinued forever.
- A careful review for cultural compatibility of different societies from around the world should be carried out and immigration from incompatible countries should be banned all together. However, immigrants from these countries, who wish to immigrate, should be able to demonstrate themselves as outliers from the mainstream culture of their countries.
Latin America – Russia: An Agenda for Constructive Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era
On Tuesday, August 4, the outstanding video-conference “Latin America – Russia: an Agenda for Constructive Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era” was held organized by the Valdai Club , the Russian Embassy in Guatemala, the American Chamber of commerce (AmCham), the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) the SIECA(Central American Secretariat for Economic Integration), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the CRIES of Argentina (Regional Coordination of Economic and Social Research).
The video conference was attended by Alexis Rodzianko as moderator (president of AmCham Russia). And an outstanding panel of speakers with:
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov; Nadia de León (chairman of PARLACEN) Melvin Redondo (general secretary of the SIECA); Yaroslav Lissovolik (programme director at Valdai Club); Richard Kozul Wright (director of division on globalization and development strategies UNCTAD); Daniel Russell (Ceo of USRBC) and Lila Roldan Vásquez (head of the CARI –Argentina- Eurasian studies group)
After a brief presentation and comments by the moderator Alexis Rodzianko (president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce) on the nature of the video-conference and the panelists in it, Russian Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov started the dialogue expressing his satisfaction with the existence of this kind of spaces for reflection in such difficult global times. We quote some of his more outstanding phrases:
” Russia and the United States continue their dialogue on joint efforts to combat the pandemic, and this is good news”.
“Washington, however, does not abandon its claims for global hegemony. This poses a threat to international stability and security.”.
He stated the need to increase channels of cooperation when the coronavirus is ravaging the entire planet, for the first time in humanity, it faces a threat that affects the entire planet, this poses a dramatic challenge, the frustrating statistics of Covid- 19 have the same effects as a war, this era requires the consolidation of international efforts together and that Russia hopes that large-scale cooperation can act as a vector for a more multipolar world.
He also denounced international actors, the countries that privilege self-interest over those of the international community in times of crisis due to the pandemic. He cataloged irresponsible and short-sighted countries that ignoring the UN declarations, mainly the western powers, continue with sanctions measures to other countries, sanctions that hinder the acquisition of medical supplies and assistance, including Latin American countries, without even foreseeing the lifting of sanctions even for the time of the pandemic.
He was also very critical of the attitude of the United States in various multilateral fields such as its withdrawal from the Open Skies treaties; missile weapons treaties such as INF and START II; the North-American withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
On the cooperation agenda of Latin America – Russia, he highlighted the negative factors that Latin America faces in its current situation:
“Latin America continues to face dramatic social inequalities and political de-stabilizations: The US continues its efforts to redraw the political map of Latin America to serve its interests.”
He stressed that:
“From Russia with much disappointment and concern some time ago we observed how the Monroe Doctrine and all the ideology linked to it was officially reintroduced by the United States.”.
As positive factors he pondered that for Russia, Latin America has always been a region of political tolerance, economic opportunities and cultural affinity:
- “For Russia, the relationship with Latin America is a value in itself of its foreign policy and bases its cooperation agenda in the region based on a pragmatic and de-ideological vision, Russia does not seek to engage its partners in geopolitical dilemmas where they must choose between friends and enemies”.
- “And these links have always had a positive dynamic in energy, communications, technology, medicine, logistics and transportation. We seek technological and commercial alliances, diversifying their bases”.
- “A paramount of Russian cooperation with Latin America was the activation in 2019 of the Latin American Institute of Biotechnology (in Managua, Nicaragua) that produces, insulin and interferon and vaccines for Latin American consumption”.
Despite the delicate situation worldwide, the deputy-minister remained optimistic that crises improve prospects for international cooperation, and that Russia-Latin America cooperation will continue to consolidate.
“During this pandemic, Russian assistance has been received by: Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, in testing teams and personal health protection, in addition to humanitarian aid.”
The possibility of assistance to other countries in the region such as Paraguay, Colombia, and Peru has been addressed.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund announced the signing of an agreement under which 150,000 Avifavir packages will be sent to seven Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay and Uruguay. In addition, Russia will also send supplies of the antiviral drug to South Africa and transfer the technology to Bolivian firm Sigma Corp SRL in order for it to be produced locally.
Closing of the presentation
The deputy-minister Ryabkov cerró su presentación marcando que en las difíciles circunstancias actuales es fundamental evitar la politización de la situación de la pandemia, un verdadero desafío global, que requiere esfuerzos conjuntos entre todos los Estados, y que Rusia está preparada para hacer su aporte y que lo está haciendo.
The deputy-minister Ryabkov closed his presentation by stating that in the current difficult circumstances it is essential to avoid politicizing the situation of the pandemic, a true global challenge, which requires joint efforts between all States, and that Russia is ready to make its contribution, and it’s doing it.
Questions and Answers Section
In the questions and answers section of the dialogue, he answered a question about the role of Russia in the binomial-dilemma that would appear to present itself to Latin America in the strategic competition between the US and China:
“Russia won’t be part of that geopolitical game”
He made it clear that Russia will surely not be part of a possible geopolitical triangular game with the US and China in Latin America, since it does not have the same capabilities as the other two actors (US-China) and that from the strategic vision of Russia relations with Latin America should be characterized by a cooperative logic of mutual benefit (win-win) and pragmatism, the relationship with this region should not emulate previous models of relations between center and periphery and he highlighted the Russian-Argentine relationship as an example of a link of mutual benefit.
Russia will not act for Latin America as an actor to support itself in a counterbalance, to offset the competition between Beijing and Washington in the region, but it will continue to maintain cooperative relations with Latin America, although he clarified that trilateral cooperation, as in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic should not be ruled out.
“Those practices go against the core elements and principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.”
It was his answer to the question about Russia’s position on the persistent US policies of imposing economic sanctions unilaterally (such as in the blockades against Cuba and Venezuela) that impede the fluidity of international cooperation (in times of pandemic, necessary international aid) and that Russia has also been suffering the same extortionary measures since the referendums that consecrated the return of the Crimean territories to Russia in 2014, and in which in this aspect Russia has not found a “common ground” with the United States for dialogue.
“We have to find ways to ensure relief to the countries most in need and with the fewest resources”
He argued that it is the responsibility of institutions such as those of the Breton Woods system, the G20, the Club de Paris, the economic powerhouses to find coherent strategies to achieve this objective. Macroeconomic policies of expansion, not austerity, should be promoted globally.
My own questions
As an observer-participant of the digital event, I was able to ask the Deputy-Minister two questions:
“is there any prospect from Russia to collaborate with South American efforts to “catch up” with the latest technology?”
In this response, he expressed his wish that such cooperation be carried out, since Russia has a lot to contribute, he said regarding the digitization of public services, of special interest today in public health services, other axes of technological cooperation could include biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and he stated that Russia is not exaggerating by claiming that it has made important advances in the development of drugs that help combat Covid-19 in the near future. Regarding this, he highlighted the observations of his presentation, where he mentioned that Russia has significantly promoted the installation of technology in Central America (the Latin American Institute of Biotechnology).Other areas of cooperation of interest mentioned were telecommunications and the peaceful use of nuclear power, agricultural technology.
These cooperation dynamics, he argued, will always be guided by pragmatic visions; Russia will not subject its partners to geopolitical dilemmas.
is there any interest from Russia to improve Argentina’s naval capabilities in fishing, hydrocarbons, naval surveillance, etc?
In this regard, he pointed out that initial contacts had taken place in the Macri administration and that he is sure that under the administration of President Alberto Fernández these contacts would continue.
He quoted the slogan: “it is the economy, stupid” when explaining the interest that exists between both governments and their respective businessmen to associate in relation to the naval field, but the contacts are still distant.
Regarding fishing exploitation, he acknowledged his lack of knowledge about any Russian-Argentine association project on the subject, but he stressed that this doesn’t mean that it is not an interesting area of cooperation to continue advancing the in the bilateral agenda.
For the last, he emphasized that when travel and contacts will be reestablished, all those axes of cooperation can be discussed further, without major impediments.
From our partner International Affairs
Hiroshima and the Peace of the Bomb
Seventy five years ago this week, the world witnessed a cataclysm that was to change the nature of war forever: The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and worse — while the Japanese argued among themselves about whether and how to surrender — a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later on August 9th. Now there was no other rational choice, and the Japanese gave up.
If anything good ever came out of a war, it was the generous peace. The US helped in the reconstruction of the defeated nations. As a teenaged student in London, I remember visiting Germany a dozen years after the war ended. Major centers had been flattened by the bombing. In Hamburg, one would see a few residential buildings and then ruins as far as the eye could see as if a massive earthquake had hit. A never ending horror across all major cities and a shortage of labor. So the Turks came … and stayed. Welcome then, not so much now.
The Germans were humble — a humility that would gradually diminish with the country’s resurgence as one observed over succeeding decades. Cleanliness and order are part of the national psyche, particularly the latter. Everything in order — ‘Alles in ordnung‘. It even applies on a personal level as someone might ask exactly that if you appear disturbed. It then means, ‘Everything okay?’
A grease spot on the otherwise fresh tablecloth at breakfast, my fastidious six-year old daughter complained. It was whisked away with apologies and immediately replaced. Order restored. Ordnung muss sein says the German proverb.
In dollar terms, Germany is now the world’s fourth largest economy, Japan the third. The world has not ended despite economic interests being often cited as a cause of war. In fact, we are grateful for their products judging by the numbers of their automobile names in the US. Japan appears to have eclipsed the famed auto giants of the past, GM, Ford and Chrysler and UK icons long forgotten. And Donald J. Trump has a beef with both countries and is busy pulling out troops from Germany. Of course the giant dragon of exporters to the US, namely China, is for President Trump our public enemy number one.
The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the end, merely the beginning, and at the back of our minds remains the terrifying hope that it is not the beginning of the end.
Following the US, there soon were other nuclear powers: the UK and the Soviet Union followed by France, then China. After China, India was not to be left behind, and after India the same logic applied to Pakistan. Then there is Israel seeking external security while like diseased fruit, it rots from the inside. And let us not forget nutty North Korea.
When the US and the Soviet Union faced off with thousands of nuclear weapons, the strategists produced the theory of mutually assured destruction. Its acronym MAD was closer to the truth than its Pentagon proponents could ever have imagined for they would have destroyed not just each other but the world.
Even India and Pakistan with 100-plus weapons each could cause a nuclear winter from the fall-out and the dust covered skies. The subsequent crop losses and famines would kill many more across the world than the devastation wrought by the bombs. It is just one more reason why nation states could eventually become obsolete.
Fortunately, for the human race, nuclear war is more potent in the threat than in the execution; the latter would certainly certify MAD. The response to a military threat carrying the phrase ‘by all means necessary’ is enough to cool things down quickly. It was Pakistan’s reply to India’s threat to expand an incident in the disputed Kashmir region with an attack on mainland Pakistan. In that sense, nuclear weapons have become a sort of insurance policy. Pakistan and India have fought several major wars but none since both sides acquired nuclear weapons. The cost is unthinkable, and one hopes will remain so in the minds of strategists.
Such is the world my generation is leaving to you: flawed but holding together all the same.
China Replacing Russia as the Boogeyman in the U.S. Presidential Campaign
During the 2016 U.S. Presidential bid, Russia was picked as a scapegoat to justify the loss endured by the Democratic party candidate. Moscow was vilified for interfering in the election via the dissemination of false information. After the election, a judicial investigation was launched, ending with no evidence of the collusion.
Despite that fact, in 2017 and 2018, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Russian entities. This led to the further aggravation of already sour ties undermined by the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. As an act of reprisal for Moscow’s alleged meddling into the conflict, U.S. Congress initiated new economic sanctions.
Russia became what can be regarded as a boogeyman to be reprimanded for whatever misfortune happens — be it ex-spy Sergei Skripal’s poisoning in 2018 or Russia’s alleged bombings of peaceful residents in eastern Aleppo. Russia got blamed for everything, even though the evidence was missing.
In 2017 the U.S. and Russia crossed swords in a diplomatic row by cutting staff numbers and closing each other’s consulates. Since then, both countries have been experiencing alienation from one another, culminating in the recent cancellation of several arms control agreements (i.e., INF, Open Skies).
By the same token, the U.S. has recently upped the ante in handling thorny issues with China, which came under the spotlight during the American presidential campaign. Both candidates — J. Biden and D. Trump — appeal to their supporters using China, competing for the reputation of leaders with the toughest stance towards Beijing.
China is an obvious target of criticism for the U.S. President, who is adamant about securing his second term in office. It is hard to find any other positive agenda as soon as he failed to deliver an efficacious response to the pandemic, which has already put the country’s economy at risk of recession with a gloomy long-term economic outlook.
Russia can no longer alone serve as a scapegoat for misdoings of U.S. politicians. Such rhetoric has been present in American media for such a long time that it has eventually lost some of its appeal to the U.S. audience.
Following a blueprint tailored for Russia, the U.S. has resorted to a maximum pressure campaign against China. In 2018 a full-scale trade war erupted and was followed by sanctions introduced against the most vital industry for China’s global rise — the hi-tech sector. Huawei and ZTE were swiped from the U.S. market. The U.S. also has been widely applying its longer-used instrument of sanctions not solemnly limited to hi-tech giants. Chinese officials in Xinjiang and foreigners doing business in Hong Kong also fell under various restrictions.
As for now, the pendulum has swung from economic agenda to geopolitics and ideology — with the latter being a novelty for U.S. policy towards China. Despite that, China and Russia were already labelled “rival powers … that seek to challenge American values” in 2017, Trump’s national strategy.
In January 2020, Secretary of State M. Pompeo called the Communist Party of China (CPC) the “central threat of our times.” As for Russian ideology, the country was already eloquently described as an “evil state” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. In July 2020, Mr. Pompeo called on the Chinese people to help “change the behavior” of their government. Thus, he designated CPC as an ideological and independent entity separate from Chinese citizens.
In order to sharpen the rhetoric, U.S. politicians stopped addressing Xi Jinping as “president,” calling him “general secretary” instead — an act which deprives Mr. Xi of political legitimacy usually bestowed upon the elected leader. Another menacing sign is that the U.S. is reportedly reviewing a proposal to ban CPC members from traveling to the U.S., which would basically mean the start of an active phase of ideological confrontation.
Similar to the 2017 Russian-American diplomatic row, today the U.S. and China are also exchanging attacks on each other’s diplomatic missions. For example, from geostrategic perception, in mid-July, the U.S. officially recognized China’s claims in the South China Sea as “unlawful” and made it clear that its strengthening of the policy with regard to SCS is aimed at halting China’s use of coercion.
Both countries do not want to play alone in a tit-for-tat game. The U.S. has already summoned its allies to form a group of democratic countries to oppose the CPC. France and Britain have recently bowed to long-term U.S. pressure to convince allies to steer clear of the Chinese 5G technology.
China is also gearing up by upholding contacts with its tried and tested partners — namely Russia. Despite a minuscule slide in bilateral trade (a 4% decline compared to 2019) amid COVID-19, political cooperation has been developing. In early July, both countries demonstrated close coordination in high-level international organizations by vetoing extension of cross-border aid in Syria. During a telephone call to Vladimir Putin on July 8, President Xi vowed to intensify coordination with Russia internationally, including in the UN.
Russia and China currently maintain close and regular cooperation. According to the Russian ambassador to China A. Denisov, up to now, both presidents have held four telephone conversations and are currently working on preparation for a state visit of the Russian President to China, as well as on the participation of Xi Jinping in SCO and BRICS forums in Russia with open dates.
A new trend in China-Russia cooperation can be noted in the sphere of coordination of bilateral actions to oppose Western ideological pressure in the media. On July 24, spokespeople of the Ministries of foreign affairs held a video-conference on the information agenda. The parties recognized Western powers’ attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of China and Russia by disseminating fake news and placing restrictions on journalists’ work.
U.S. attempts to alienate and isolate China provide Beijing with no other choice but to seek further expansion of cooperation with like-minded states, be it Russia or any other country open for cooperation.
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