Fortnightly Review and Analysis: Iran, West Asia, Eurasia, Central Asian Republics (CAR) & Africa (Vol 2 Issue XVI)

Aug 16-31, 2017

West Asia

Qatar Crisis

Bahrain has recently threatened to take Qatar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the allegation of Qatar involving itself in subversive interference in Bahraini affairs by supporting radical groups since 2011. Bahraini law makers are also prepared to claim compensation for the damages caused by Qatar. The Arab Parliament MP Rahman Boumjeed has urged citizens affected to come forth with documents proving violations by Qatar against Bahrain. Meanwhile, Qatar has announced the return of its Ambassador to Tehran, 20 months after he was recalled in the protest over the ransacking of Saudi Arabian mission by protestors in Tehran over the execution of Sheikh Nimr al- Nimr.

On the other hand, Hamas and Egypt are moving forward quickly on projects to aid the Gaza Strip. A delegation from the National Islamic Committee for Social Solidarity, along with officials from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will work with experts from both countries to oversee funding. Egypt and Hamas in the last few months have developed a close understanding under which they plan to build a security buffer on Gaza border. Hamas also has been open to overtures from dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who is close to Egypt and the UAE.

This move could either be to block Qatar funding to Hamas given that Qatar has not acquiesced to the terms and conditions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, the lack of trust amongst the GCC members had led to the failure of diplomatic channels and negotiation. While it seems apparent that the move to isolate Qatar was Saudi Arabia punching above its weight, the likely consequence will be the weakening of the GCC, to the detriment of all its member states.

Qatar Foreign Minister’s Visit to India

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al- Thani visited India on 25- 26 August 2017. The Qatari delegation was hosted by External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. The two sides discussed matters of mutual concern and interest pertaining to bilateral, regional and international affairs along with follow-ups. The Qatari Minister also handed over a letter for PM Modi from Emir of Qatar. He also met the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.

Among other discussions the Qatari side acknowledged the contribution of 6,30,000 Indian community and assured their continued safety and security. It also welcomed the participation of Indian companies through project exports in Qatar’s infrastructure development, including FIFA 2020. From the Indian side, it was conveyed that peace, security and stability were important for continued progress in the region while touching upon the threat emanating from terrorism and extremism. It also urged parties involved in conflict to resolve their difference peacefully through constructive dialogue and negotiations.

Iraqi Forces Retake Tal Afar from ISIS

Iraqi forces have retaken almost all of Tal Afar, Islamic State’s stronghold in the country’s northwest, the Iraqi military said on 27 August 2017. Tal Afar was the latest objective in the US-backed war on the jihadist group following the recapture in July of Mosul, where it declared its self-proclaimed caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The offensive on Tal Afar, which lies on the supply route between Syria and the former Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, started on Aug. 20. Up to 2,000 militants were believed to be defending the city against around 50,000 attackers, according to Iraqi and western military sources.

Iranian Envoy Condemns poor living conditions of Shias in Chittoor, India

India representative of Ayatollah Hazrat Syed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayotollah Mahdi Mahdavipur visited Chittoor on 27 August 2017 and held a conclave with the Shia community. About 500 families from Chittoor and surrounding areas attended the meet. Mr. Mahdavipur said a majority of the families were suffering in poverty, basic education and healthcare. The envoy said that they will take steps to construct new buildings to strengthen educational facilities for the children of Shias since they found Urdu schools and madarsas in the area wanting. The envoy also inaugurated a dormitory meant for the poor and downtrodden students among the Shia families. Hazrats of various mosques welcomed Mr. Mahdavipur and urged him to initiate steps for extending financial assistance to the poor families intending to undertake holy pilgrimage to Mecca.

Iran Denied Inspection of its Military Sites

Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht has denied the inspection of its sites, and "especially our military sites" as was demanded by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Haley met International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Vienna for what she described as a fact-finding mission, which is part of President Donald Trump’s review of the deal Iran made with world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most sanctions.

On 15 August 2017, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told in the parliament that Iran will quit the deal if the US continued to impose further sanctions.

CAR

Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Visits New Delhi

Foreign Minister (FM) of the Republic of Uzbekistan Mr Abdulaziz Kamilov led a high-level delgation to India on 20-23 August 2017. He was accompanied by Mr Elyor Ganiyev, the Minister for Trade and Commerce of Uzbekistan, and representatives from government and business. During visit, Mr Kamilov held wide-ranging talks with the External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj. He called on the Vice President Mr. Venkaiyya Naidu, and met the Commerce Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, and Minister of State for External Affairs Mr M J Akbar.

Current visit of the Uzbek FM followed the recent bilateral meeting between Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and the President of Uzbekistan Mr Shavkat Mirziyoyev on 8 June in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit. Mr Kamilov and Smt Swaraj decided to further strengthen and expand the bilateral cooperation in all areas, especially trade and economic.

Foreign and Trade Ministers of Uzbekistan held detailed discussions with Commerce Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, regarding deepening trade and economic ties between the two countries. Smt. Sitharaman appealed to the Uzbek FM to consider joining the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which will enhance the international transit cargo traffic through Iran. She further requested Mr. Kamilov to consider reducing import duties on leather goods, textiles, and engineering exports from India. She also appealed for simplification of the visa norms and the procedures for registration, which would provide impetus to business and tourism.

During visit, the Uzbek FM held discussions with the members from academia, think tanks, cultural circles and business forums. The two sides exchanged views on the issues of expanding and strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties, and establishing direct contacts between scientific and educational institutions of Uzbekistan and India.

This year, India and Uzbekistan are celebrating the 25th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations. Ties between the two countries were elevated to the level of strategic partnership in 2011 during the India visit by the first Uzbek President Mr. Islam Karimov. PM Modi visited Uzbekistan twice, during a State Visit in July 2015 and for attending the SCO Tashkent Summit in June 2016. This underlines the importance of this centrally located Central Asian country, which is home to almost half of the Central Asian population.

Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh Attends SCO Disaster Relief Meeting in Kyrgyzstan

Home Minister of India Mr Rajnath Singh led the India delegation for the 9th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Disaster Prevention and Relief, held on 23-25 August in Choplan Ata in the Kyrgyz Republic. This meeting was attended by the respective Ministers assigned to deal with the emergency situations from SCO member-states. The delegates discussed and approved the draft action plan for 2018-2019 for the implementation of the agreement between the governments of the SCO member states on cooperation in providing assistance in the elimination of emergency situations.

SCO was created in 2001 by Russia, China and the four Central Asian Republics. In the Astana Summit of June 2017, India and Pakistan have assumed the full membership of the SCO. The current meeting on Disaster Relief was the first full-fledged engagement from the Indian side, after becoming the SCO members. Membership of the SCO has opened additional opportunities for India to engage and cooperate with the Eurasian countries, in the fields of trade, commerce, connectivity, defence, counter-terrorism and humanitarian cooperation.

Africa

To Help Fight Boko Haram in Nigeria – The United Kingdom Government Unveils £200m in Aid

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, displaced 1.7 million and left 8.5 million in desperate need of urgent support. Boko Haram is trying to create an Islamic state in the Lake Chad region, which encompasses parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Several military personal have been deployed and around 28,000 Nigerian soldiers are trained by the Unite Kingdom (UK) so far. The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and international development secretary Priti Patel traveled to Nigeria few days back to show solidarity with the fight to bring the jihadists under control. They also announced an extended five-year package of help, costing an extra £200m, to prevent 1.5 million people lapsing into famine and help keep a 100,000 boys and girls in education. The aid also includes the restoration of key infrastructure and services in the north-east of the country.

India and Tanzania Agreed to Enhance Sectoral Cooperation

The India-Tanzania Joint Trade Committee meeting was held in New Delhi to enhance sectoral cooperation between Indian and Tanzania. The cooperation was based on the needs of the respective sides and comparative advantage for mutual benefit. Tanzania is a beneficiary of the Indian Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme which has considerably boosted the exports from Tanzania to India in past few years. Both the sides discussed cooperation in many sectors such as gems and jewelry, mining, oil and natural gas, energy (hydro, thermal, gas, diesel, solar power plants), transport, water supply projects, agriculture, capacity building, human resource development and trade promotion.

Tanzania is one of the most significant countries for India in African continent, with regards to bilateral cooperation in several sectors. Thus, during the meet the Indian side asked Tanzania to consider providing long-term visas for reputed Indian business firms with multi-entry facility in order to boost investments between the two nations. It is also noticed that the east African country is among the top five destinations of investment for India, with an investment of about $2.2 billion. Moreover the Indian side conveyed that the potential sectors for Tanzania include motor cars and vehicles, light oils and petroleum, bituminous minerals, medicaments etc. Likewise, dried cashew nuts in shells, metals and minerals, etc. from Tanzania are required in India. On the other hand, Tanzania encouraged cooperation in the areas of fisheries, information, communication and technology (ICT), labour and employment, industrial development including industrial research and development and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) development, arts, culture and sports.

Egypt and Kenya Invited To 2017 BRICS Summit by China

Kenya and Egypt are the two African countries among the other five countries including Tajikistan, Mexico and Thailand which are invited as guests to the Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa (BRICS) summit. The summit will be held from September 3 to 5 in Xiamen city China. The invitation is not an attempt to expand the group, but to broaden their discussions and local media report. Last year the summit was hosted by India and they agreed to fast-track the setting up of their own credit-rating agency to better cater to developing economies. The five member countries also vowed to forge closer trade ties at the end of their annual summit last year.

Mozambique hosts Tokyo International Conference on African Development

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) was held in Maputo, Mozambique to assess commitments to advance African development. The summit was co-organised by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Union Commission and the World Bank. The Nairobi Declaration and the Nairobi Implementation Plan that was adopted on 29 August 2016, outlined actions to be taken by Africa and its partners to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and African Union’s Agenda 2063. Building on the forum’s twin principle of African ownership and international cooperation, TICAD stakeholders discussed the state and prospect of the continent’s development, including achievements, opportunities, risks and challenges in realising the outcomes of TICAD VI. The summit also ensured that the implementation of the Nairobi Implementation Plan keeps Africa on a firm path to achieving sustainable inclusive growth.