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Destination Taipei: Reassessing India’s reliance on the One China Policy

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China’s showcase of aggression in Galwan has been a turning point in Sino-India relations. Since then, India has showcased an unprecedented political will to tackle China. Unlike in the past, India’s solution was not war, rather to level the playing field. Ironically, India’s inspiration derived from the teachings of ancient Chinese strategician Sun Tzu. In the ‘Art of War’, Sun Tzu says that “the skilful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting.”[1]Correspondingly, India’s policy marked a significant change.

Beginning with the economic boycott of Chinese products and investment, India tried to reduce its reliance on China in toto. On a tactical front, India’s policy primarily relied on reciprocity vis-à-vis bilateral obligations. India vowed to hold-off all commitments with China, including its allegiance to the One China Policy, a matter which is critical to the existence of China per se. By doing so, India was avoiding bloodshed as well as flexing China to honour its commitments.

The One China Policy: De-Facto versus De- Jure

One China Policy has been a paradoxical issue for China. The policy asserts that there is only one China, and it is the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), and not the Republic of China (ROC) situated in Taiwan. This has been the case since the Chinese Civil War in 1949, where the Kuomintang (ROC) was defeated by the Communists and forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan. China, irrespective of actual control, affirms that it also encompasses Taiwan, and maintains an official stance.[2]Whereas, ROC states that it is the legitimate government of the free-area of Taiwan and is independent of China.[3]

India was one of the first countries to recognise the One China Policy back in 1950.[4]Earlier, India-Taiwan relations were uncommon, and on many occasions, India had reiterated the PRC view of One China Principle. However, from 1995 onwards, India had affirmed the existence of ROC as a territorial entity, and exchanged semi-diplomatic representation through trade and cultural offices. Yet, post the Galwan debacle, the reasons for India to reconsider the One China policy speaks for itself.

Chinese Conundrums: Gung-Ho, Debt-Trap Diplomacy and Kashmir

China’s armed expansion has been a major concern for India. There are two versions of Chinese aggression; combat and intimidation. Combat is not a novice threat to India. Since the War of 1962, India has faced rough and vicious hostilities from China, both in the Northern and Eastern frontiers. Comparatively, India’s primary worry is the Chinese Gunboat tactics. Chinese Navy is frequent in the Indian Ocean (String of Pearls factor), and regular developments are being sponsored by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)along the Indian border. Instances like Doklam are just the tip of the iceberg. Upon such notions, India fears that it might fall prey to China’s very own Thucydides Trap[5]which might lead to economic and strategic fallouts.

Moreover, Chinese expansion in South Asia is critical to India’s sustenance in the region. Through attractive investments, China has swayed South Asian countries into its debt-trap and has captured its interests in the region. As speculated, China’s String of Pearls strategy, has surrounded and endangered India’s territorial integrity. Inter alia, by China making inroads in the subcontinent, India’s relevance is diminishing, which is again directly contributing to conflicts within the neighbourhood. An ideal example would be the recent border demarcation dispute with Nepal in Kalapani and Lipulekh.[6]So, while Chinese funds liquidate South Asia, India is losing its political and cultural foothold in the region.

Furthermore, China’s position on Kashmir has been divergent. On the one hand, it has been vocal against India’s claim on Kashmir.[7]On the other, China has backed Pakistan’s occupation of Kashmir, mainly to secure its marquee project- the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).Plus, China itself is in control of Aksai Chin, a territory which belonged to Ladakh (erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir). These instances led India to alter its perspectives on an ambivalent China and paved the way to target political predicaments that haunted Beijing’s power citadel.

India-Taiwan Relations: Turf-to-Turf Approach

As India deconstructs the One China policy, Taiwan emerges as a strong strategic partner in the East.Taiwan’s geopolitical importance coupled with its strong economy, provides India the perfect opportunity to further its strategic imperatives in the Indo-Pacific region. The Taiwanese government, through its ‘New Southbound Policy,’[8]has also welcomed India’s commitment and cooperation in various sectors, which is a positive sign for both the states. On that note, India has a two-fold agenda in developing better relations with Taiwan; strategic and economic.

India’s strategic narratives in Taiwan are based on its geographical proximity to the Chinese mainland through the Taiwan Straits. It plans to stimulate the strategy in two ways. One, India directly promoting its Act East Policy, and fostering strategic ties and promoting cooperation with Taipei. Two, the India- US factor. The US shares friendly relations with both Taiwan and India. India can utilise this triangular relationship to intimidate China in its backyard. In apropos, India’s participation in US-led capacity building initiatives like the Malabar Exercise would be more productive, with Taiwan acting as the intermediate point for military logistics in the South China Sea.

Over the years, India-Taiwan Economic and Trade relations have grown significantly. During the previous financial year(2019-20), India-Taiwan trade stood at $ 7 billion[9], a 30 per cent hike from a trade balance ofa mere$ 1 billion in 2000. Taiwanese investment in India has witnessed a significant growth in the past decade, with a cumulative inflow of over $ 700 million.[10]Besides, with the US-China tariff war intensifying due to the Coronavirus pandemic, India is set to welcome further inflow of FDI from Taiwan due to lesser costs and a better talent pool.

Technology is another aspect that goes hand-in-hand with India-Taiwan relations. Taiwan’s economy has been dominated by its vibrant electronics industry. It is the leader in semi-conductors and accounts for an annual export of $ 3.9 billion.[11] India buys more than 80 per cent of its semi-conductor chips from Taiwan.[12]Also, India, as a result of the‘Make in India’campaign, hosts around 55[13]Taiwanese electronic companies that produce various IT products. In addition, two of Apple’s largest contract manufacturers, Foxconn[14] and Pegatron[15], both of Taiwanese origin, have setup shop in India to cater to Indian and International Markets. Thanks to Taiwan, India now has a locally produced iPhone.

From this, it can be characterised that India and Taiwan share a quid pro quo approach; the latter gets the ideal market, while the former can successfully fulfil its strategy in the Orient.

Key Takeaways: Is India’s policy in Unchartered Waters?

Noticing the Covid-19 pandemic and the global animosity against the Chinese government, India can use this opportunity to amplify its One-China stance better than ever. Due to China’s bandwagon, Taiwan has been isolated for the past seven decades. If India gradually pitches on Taiwan’s position, particularly in multilateral institutions like the UN, it will be a positive factor for Taiwan and its people. India should bat for Taiwan’s cause, at least to affirm its priorities. Howbeit, India while pursuing this angle should take care of two issues- policy and partisan divides in Taiwan.

First, India should not revoke the One China policy completely, as grave repercussions tend to follow, including further aggression from China. Rather, India should partially abrogate the commitment like the US, by furthering active defence and cultural ties with Taiwan, sans diplomatic representation. This way India can actively beta-test its policy derivative, and can drive a hard bargain against China in its own turf. Second, the opinion divides between Taiwan’s major political parties- Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),has been a major roadblock for India’s interests in the region. KMT supports better relations with China over India. On the contrary, DPP (Ruling Party), backs for strengthenedties with India[16]. For the time being, India’s interests are stable, but if KMT secures power in Taiwan, India needs to be cognizant of the developments and should act accordingly.

Conclusion

Delhi’s determination matters the most. Importantly, India should inherently understand that China is an occupying force, and both the states are not in entente cordiale. On the same plane, India must move past its fait accompli moments with China. Instead, pragmatism should be the catharsis for India’s resurgence. In short, for India to execute its policy paradigms, its diplomatic psyche should be affirming than compromising. As Thucydides states in his accomplished work, ‘The History of the Peloponnesian War’:“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.”[17]Similarly, India, heedless of win or vain, should confront China by skewing the One China policy. After all, India only has two options- either face it or feel the brunt.


[1]Tzu, Sun. The Art of War. 1st ed., Rupa Publications, 2016, p. 20.

[2]“What’s Behind the China-Taiwan Divide?”. BBC News, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34729538.

[3]Ibid

[4]“Where Is India On the One China Policy?”. The Diplomat, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/03/where-is-india-on-the-one-china-policy/.

[5]Chattaraj, Abir. “Thucydides Trap in Asia: The Sino-Indian conflict” Modern Diplomacy, 2016, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2016/10/25/thucydides-trap-in-asia-the-sino-indian-conflict/

[6] Nepal is a beneficiary of China’s marquee project- Belt and Road Initiative, and it was dissuaded by China to snap relations with India on the account of the border dispute. See- Singh, Mansheetal, and Shreya Behal. “China’s Proxy Battle with India In Nepal”. Observer Research Foundation (ORF), 2020, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/chinas-proxy-battle-with-india-in-nepal-69016/.

[7]“India, China Clash Over Kashmir As It Loses Special Status and Is Divided”. Reuters, 2019, https://in.reuters.com/article/uk-india-kashmir/india-china-clash-over-kashmir-as-it-loses-special-status-and-is-divided-idINKBN1XA1BW.

[8]The New Southbound Policy is an initiative of the current Taiwanese Government to enhance cooperation and exchange between Taiwan and South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia. The key areas include- economic cooperation, regional linking, resource sharing etc. See- Marston, Hunter, and Richard C. Bush. “Taiwan’s Engagement with Southeast Asia Is Making Progress Under the New Southbound Policy”. Brookings, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/taiwans-engagement-with-southeast-asia-is-making-progress-under-the-new-southbound-policy/.

[9]“VALUE OF EXPORTS & IMPORTS BY COUNTRY”. Bureau Of Foreign Trade, Government Of The Republic Of China, 2020, https://cus93.trade.gov.tw/FSCE040F/FSCE040F.

[10]Dewan, Neha. “Taiwan Sets Eyes on India Amid China-US Trade War”. The Economic Times, 2019, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/trade/exports/insights/taiwan-sets-eyes-on-india-amid-china-us-trade-war/articleshow/69408405.cms?from=mdr.

[11]“Taiwan Regains Top Spot in Semiconductor Market”. Taipei Times, 2019, https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2019/12/09/2003727214.

[12]Supra. Note- 10.

[13]“2019 Taiwan-India Industrial Collaboration Summit Held in Taipei On October 17”. PR Newswire, 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/in/news-releases/2019-taiwan-india-industrial-collaboration-summit-held-in-taipei-on-october-17-863399392.html.

[14]“’Made in India’ iPhone 11 goes into production in Chennai”Nikkei Asian Review, 2020, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Made-in-India-iPhone-11-goes-into-production-in-Chennai

[15] “iPhone-maker Pegatron registers India subsidiary as Apple pushes to diversify supply” The Economic Times, 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/hardware/iphone-maker-pegatron-registers-indian-subsidiary-lays-foundation-for-apple-to-kick-china-habit/articleshow/77010035.cms

[16]Rich, Timothy et al. “Taiwan’s Relations with India: Partisan Divides”. The Diplomat, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/taiwans-relations-with-india-partisan-divides/.

[17]Winn Livingstone, Sir Richard. The History of The Peloponnesian War. Oxford University Press, 1961, p. 113.

K.A. Dhananjay is a Fourth Year Law Student at the Tamil Nadu National Law University (TNNLU), Trichy, India. He is interested in geopolitics, diplomacy and international law.

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East Asia

Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China

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image source: chinamission.be

There are multiple passages from Afghanistan to China, like Wakhan Corridor that is 92 km long, stretching to Xinjiang in China. It was formed in 1893 as a result of an agreement between the British Empire and Afghanistan. Another is Chalachigu valley that shares the border with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and Afghanistan to the west. It is referred to as the Chinese part of the Wakhan Corridor. However, the Chinese side of the valley is closed to the public and only local shepherds are allowed. Then there is Wakhjir Pass on the eastern side of the Wakhan corridor but is not accessible to the general public. The terrain is rough on the Afghan side. There are no roads along the Wakhjir Pass, most of the terrain is a dirt track. Like other passages, it can only be accessed via either animals or SUVs, and also due to extreme weather it is open for only seven months throughout the year. North Wakhjir Pass, also called Tegermansu Pass, is mountainous on the border of China and Afghanistan. It stretches from Tegermansu valley on the east and Chalachigu Valley in Xinjiang. All of these passages are extremely uncertain and rough which makes them too risky to be used for trade purposes. For example, the Chalagigu valley and Wakhjir Pass are an engineering nightmare to develop, let alone make them viable.

Similarly, the Pamir mountain range is also unstable and prone to landslides. Both of these routes also experience extreme weather conditions. Alternatives: Since most of the passages are risky for travel, alternatively, trade activities can be routed via Pakistan. For example, there is an access road at the North Wakhjir that connects to Karakoram Highway.

By expanding the road network from Taxkorgan in Xinjiang to Gilgit, using the Karakoram Highway is a probable option. Land routes in Pakistan are already being developed for better connectivity between Islamabad and Beijing as part of CPEC. These routes stretch from Gwadar up to the North.

The Motorway M-1, which runs from Islamabad to Peshawar can be used to link Afghanistan via Landi Kotal. Although the Karakoram highway also suffers from extreme weather and landslides, it is easier for engineers to handle as compared to those in Afghanistan.

China is the first door neighbor of Afghanistan having a common border. If anything happens in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on China. China has a declared policy of peaceful developments and has abandoned all disputes and adversaries for the time being and focused only on economic developments. For economic developments, social stability and security is a pre-requisite. So China emphasizes peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is China’s requirement that its border with Afghanistan should be secured, and restrict movements of any unwanted individuals or groups. China is compelled by any government in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of its borders in the region.

Taliban has ensured china that, its territory will not use against China and will never support any insurgency in China. Based on this confidence, China is cooperating with the Taliban in all possible manners. On the other hand, China is a responsible nation and obliged to extend humanitarian assistance to starving Afghans. While, the US is coercing and exerting pressures on the Taliban Government to collapse, by freezing their assets, and cutting all economic assistance, and lobbying with its Western allies, for exerting economic pressures on the Taliban, irrespective of human catastrophe in Afghanistan. China is generously assisting in saving human lives in Afghanistan. Whereas, the US is preferring politics over human lives in Afghanistan.

The US has destroyed Afghanistan during the last two decades, infrastructure was damaged completely, Agriculture was destroyed, Industry was destroyed, and the economy was a total disaster. While, China is assisting Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure, revive agriculture, industrialization is on its way. Chinese mega initiative, Belt and Road (BRI) is hope for Afghanistan.

A peaceful Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace and stability in China, especially in the bordering areas. The importance of Afghan peace is well conceived by China and practically, China is supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighboring countries, and regional countries, are agreed upon by consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a must and prerequisite for whole regions’ development and prosperity.

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Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question

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image credit: kremlin.ru

The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.

Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.

However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.

Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.

During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.

Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.

Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.

If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?

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Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.

One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.

In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.

To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.

The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.

Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.

Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.

From our partner RIAC

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