US, Taiwan: Flights of fancy.
Also: Canada, China, India, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Libya, Italy and Sudan.
TAIWAN. UNITED STATES. Flights of fancy.
F-16 upgrades are delayed as Taipei awaits shipments.
Taiwan's defence minister said on Thursday that supply chain disruptions had delayed delivery of 66 upgraded fighter jets, purchased in 2019. Chiu Kuo-cheng said Taiwan had asked the US for spare parts to make up the deficiency.
INTELLIGENCE. Minister Chiu’s statement to parliament will also anger US lawmakers, many of whom have voiced concerns that the Biden Administration’s focus on Ukraine is coming at the expense of the Pacific. The delays, common even in peacetime, are likely more prosaic. Post-COVID technology supply chains are still being ironed out. Yet the news also comes after 250 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles were delayed last year due to priorities in Europe. Taiwan has a limited window to implement its “porcupine” deterrence strategy, which would make it too difficult for China to swallow. Beijing’s military modernisation has continued apace as warning shots have been fired. This week, Taiwan’s military detected a second Chinese reconnaissance drone circling the island.
FOR BUSINESS. Interstate wars are as much about industrial capacity as battlefield performance.
CANADA. CHINA. Non grata.
Ottawa mulls diplomatic expulsions.
Canada’s foreign minister summoned China’s ambassador on Thursday to discuss reports that the family of her opposition counterpart had been targeted in Hong Kong in order to pressure him over a 2021 motion on Xinjiang.
INTELLIGENCE. With a vocal human rights constituency and multicultural parliament, Canada is used to ructions over diaspora politics, safe in the knowledge that its US trade and security ties protect it from real harm. China’s alleged attempt at coercion, however, could have a chilling effect and the expulsion of Chinese diplomats remains possible, despite the risk of economic ramifications. Ottawa has been in China’s doghouse since 2017, when a journalist was detained in Xinjiang and a free trade agreement stalled. The arrest of Huawei’s CFO in 2018 exacerbated tensions and today only 12% of Canadians view Beijing favourably. Safety in numbers remains Ottawa’s best bet. Beijing continues to be just as annoyed with the US, Australia, Britain, Europe and Japan.
FOR BUSINESS. Thought tempted to retaliate, Beijing won’t want unnecessary trade wars until its economy is stabler.
INDIA. Wild east.
Violence in a border region escalates.
Officials in Manipur gave "shoot-at-sight" orders as violence broke out between tribal groups. Ethnic Meiteis, the state's majority, have sought inclusion in India's Scheduled Tribes list, which would provide access to stipends and quotas.
INTELLIGENCE. Communal violence is commonplace in India, but Delhi will worry about the potential for insurgencies to develop across the porous border with Myanmar. On the day that China’s foreign minister is visiting Goa for bilateral talks and a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Indian security services will also worry about the potential for foreign actors to interfere. India’s seven north-eastern states have long eluded Delhi’s writ and with marked linguistic and cultural differences, they are seen as strategically vulnerable. Another of the “seven sisters”, Arunachal Pradesh, is claimed by China as “South Tibet” and was fought over in the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Recent skirmishes elsewhere on the Line of Actual Control, India’s notional border with China, have kept memories fresh.
FOR BUSINESS. Despite a noisy democracy, India will wield an authoritarian hand if it believes its security is at risk.
PAKISTAN. Frayed edges.
The spectre of a nuclear-armed failed state re-emerges.
Six soldiers were killed in a battle with the Pakistani Taliban, the military said on Thursday. Eight people were killed elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bordering Afghanistan, as violence erupted between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
INTELLIGENCE. Like India, Pakistan is no stranger to ethnic tension, but yesterday’s attacks come as Islamabad’s institutional grip weakens amid a worsening economy and political discord. Elections are due in October, but since the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party dissolved the state parliaments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in January, a date has not been agreed. The PTI, led by former cricketer turned populist Imran Khan, has been in talks with the beleaguered government of wealthy dynast Shehbaz Sharif, which attempted to arrest Khan in March, only to be stopped by protests and the courts. The army, whose lower ranks are increasingly attracted to Khan’s blend of religious nationalism, is for now inside its barracks. But the potential for a coup – Pakistan’s fifth – looms large.
FOR BUSINESS. With political, economic and security threats, Pakistan has re-entered a period of danger.
BURKINA FASO. Joining the bad boys.
A West African country pushing to become a pariah.
Burkina Faso's military leader said on Thursday Russia was a strategic ally, but denied its mercenaries were operating there. He also said Pyongyang could provide more weapons. A North Korean ambassador was agreed in March.
INTELLIGENCE. Burkina’s 34-year-old dictator, who came to power in a September 2022 coup (toppling the leader of a January 2022 coup), is known for erratic statements, but the destabilising actions of his soldiers and their Russian patrons are genuine, having the potential to cause harm far beyond the Sahel. Last week, the UN accused Burkinabè authorities of executing 156 civilians amid an escalating conflict with Islamist groups, which French forces had assisted with until they were expelled in January. Earlier this week, militants believed to be from Burkina killed 15 civilians in neighbouring Benin. Like Sudan, Burkina threatens to become a source of refugees and extremism. Astride a major smuggling route from South America to Europe, conflict also threatens to exacerbate trade in narcotics.
FOR BUSINESS. A rogue state in a fragile region could pose an outsized threat, particularly with US focus elsewhere.
LIBYA. ITALY. SUDAN. The devil you know.
A North African warlord proves an awkward interlocutor.
Italy's prime minister met with the head of the Libyan National Army on Thursday to discuss the conflict in Sudan and refugee flows. Khalifa Haftar, who governs the eastern half of Libya, is a backer of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces.
INTELLIGENCE. The self-styled Field Marshal’s reception speaks to the intransigence of Sudan’s warring factions and the realities of irregular migration in the Mediterranean, a headache for Rome. Not averse to controversy, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will brush off criticism over meeting Haftar, including from the opposition. The previous government backed Haftar’s rivals in Tripoli, raising the ire of France, which hosted the Field Marshal in 2020. Yet the meeting prompts real questions over NATO solidarity. Turkey in particular will be unimpressed. Supporting Tripoli’s Government of National Unity, Ankara almost came to blows with Paris over Libya and related issues involving gas, borders, Greece and Cyprus. NATO disunity is particularly sensitive in 2023, with the Hafta quite cozy with Putin.
FOR BUSINESS. Russia has galvanised the alliance, but North Africa could easily destabilise it.
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