South China Sea conflict; Bangladesh-India ties; Tigray crisis.

In today's episode, we discuss escalating tensions between China and neighbouring countries in and around the South China Sea, examine what led to violent protests in Bangladesh last week, and discuss the easing of tensions in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.
Today on The Leaders' Brief -
  • The Philippines ordered the deployment of more navy ships to the South China Sea last week as tensions escalated over the presence of a fleet of Chinese boats parked near the disputed reef. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed “concern” over the threatening presence of 220 Chinese ships. The boats have been parked at the Whitsun Reef that falls under the jurisdiction of Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

  • The climax to Bangladesh’s golden jubilee celebrations of independence was marked with large scale clashes between security forces and a group of protestors who were against the welcoming of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as chief guest. Notably, India has remained a close ally of Bangladesh and had played a key role in its independence movement against Pakistan in 1971. Speaking at Dhaka's parade ground, Mr Modi said that the two countries should move together in progress and expressed satisfaction in being able to aid Dhaka in its COVID fight by supplying vaccines.

  • Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed said last week that Eritrea has agreed to withdraw troops from Ethiopian territory along their common border after a nearly five-month long war. Tensions flared up between the two countries last year after Tigray forces fired rockets into their long-standing rival Eritrea claiming that the Ethiopian government was trying to use the Eritrean airport to attack Tigray. In the November clash, which saw thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, the Ethiopian government had maintained that there was no presence of Eritrean troops in the region. However, the Ethiopian Prime Minister confirmed for the first time last week that troops from Eritrea had entered Tigray. 

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