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Myanmar military seizes power, detains Aung San Suu Kyi

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2021)

Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids, Reuters reported.

According to a statement on a military-owned television station, the army said it had carried out the detentions in response to “election fraud”, handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year.

Reuters reported that phone lines to the capital Naypyitaw and the main commercial centre of Yangon were not reachable, and state TV went off air hours before parliament had been due to sit for the first time since the NLD’s landslide election win in November.

Soldiers took up positions at city hall in Yangon and mobile internet data and phone services in the NLD stronghold were disrupted, residents said. Internet connectivity also had fallen dramatically, monitoring service NetBlocks said.

Suu Kyi, Myanmar President Win Myint and other NLD leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone.

“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding that he expected to be arrested himself. Reuters was subsequently unable to contact him.

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the arrest of Suu Kyi.

“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

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Indian farmers block highway outside Delhi to mark 100th day of protest

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

Indian farmers began gathering on Saturday to block a six-lane highway outside New Delhi to mark the 100th day of protests against deregulation of agriculture markets.

According to Reuters, farmers headed in cars, trucks and tractors to the highway for a five-hour roadblock to oppose three farm laws enacted in September 2020 that they say hurt them by opening up the agriculture sector to private players.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has called the laws much-needed reforms for the country’s vast and antiquated agriculture sector, and painted the protests as politically motivated, Reuters reported.

“The Modi government has turned this protest movement into an ego issue. They are unable to see the pain of the farmers,” said Amarjeet Singh, a 68-year-old farmer from Punjab state.

“They have left us no option but to protest.”

Tens of thousands of farmers from several north Indian states have been camped out on the outskirts of the capital in bitter cold since December demanding that the laws be repealed.

According to Reuters, their movement has gained international attention and support, including from celebrities such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. singer Rihanna, but several rounds of negotiations between farmer leaders and the government have failed.

Modi’s government has lashed out at supporters of the protests and stands accused by rights activists of using heavy-handed tactics to curb the protests.

Reuters reported that while the protests have been mostly peaceful, a brief spate of violence on Jan. 26 led to the death of a protestor, and the police have filed criminal charges against eight journalists over alleged misreporting on the events of the day.

“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement last month.

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Iran rejects EU offer to host direct nuclear talks with US

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(Last Updated On: March 1, 2021)

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Sunday evening that “given the recent stances and measures taken by the US and three European countries, Iran does not consider the time appropriate for an informal meeting proposed by the European Coordinator of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),” Iran’s state media outlet IRNA reported.

Khatibzadeh said no changes are visible in the US stance and behavior and that US President Joe Biden’s administration is still following the same “failed maximum pressure policy of the former president Donald Trump”.

The implementation of the commitments of all parties to the JCPOA is not a matter of negotiations and all negotiations were conducted five years ago, IRNA quoted him as saying.

According to IRNA, he said: “Iran will respond with action and react to hostile actions and behavior in the same way as it returns to its JCPOA obligations in accordance with the lifting of sanctions.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Washington had said it would attend the talks, which the EU had hoped to host in the coming days.

However, the Biden administration had refused to provide sanctions relief before face-to-face negotiations with Iran had taken place, the report read.

Diplomats reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that Iran’s rejection didn’t kill off all hopes of direct negotiations in coming months and that Tehran’s move might be an attempt to gain leverage in future talks.

The US patience with Iran on returning to discussions over the 2015 nuclear deal is “not unlimited,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.

“Our patience is not unlimited, but we do believe, and the president has been clear on this … that the most effective way to ensure Iran could never acquire a nuclear weapon was through diplomacy,” Price said.

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Arrival of ‘sticky bombs’ in Indian Kashmir sets off alarm bells

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir have raised concerns about the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan.

“Sticky bombs”, which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters.

“These are small IEDs and quite powerful,” said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

“It will certainly impact the present security scenario as volume and frequency of vehicular movements of police and security forces are high in Kashmir Valley,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

The Indian government flooded Kashmir, already one of the world’s most militarised regions, with more troops in August 2019, when it split the country’s only Muslim-majority state into two federally administered territories.

According to Reuters, the arrival of the sticky bombs in India-controlled Kashmir – including 15 seized in a February raid – raises concerns that an unnerving tactic attributed to the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan could be spreading to the India-Pakistan conflict.

Afghanistan in recent months has seen a series of sticky-bomb attacks targeting security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists. The attacks – some as victims sat in traffic – have sown fear, while avoiding substantial civilian casualties.

Reuters reported that none of the devices seized in Kashmir was produced there, a senior security official said, suggesting they were being smuggled from Pakistan. “All of them have come via drone drops and tunnels,” he said.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan, which each claim all of the Himalayan region but rule only parts of it.

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