Also: France, Africa, China, the US, the Korean Peninsula, Ukraine, Russia and the Caucasus.
Narendra Modi tests a national rebrand.
Prime Minister Modi has asked his ministers not to comment on a controversy surrounding India's name, local media reported Thursday. On Monday, India invited G20 leaders to an official dinner headlined by the 'President of Bharat'.
INTELLIGENCE. ‘Bharat’, the Hindi term for India, has long been co-official, but this week’s hint of a full renaming has potentially backfired on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, many of whose members have long supported the move. India has a history of renaming places to reflect a majority language or view (e.g., Bombay to Mumbai), but few changes have been without controversy. Calling India ‘Bharat’ is seen as an affront to many non-Hindi speakers.
FOR BUSINESS. ‘Bharat’ has also been seen as an affront by the opposition, which recently coalesced under the acronym ‘INDIA’ (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) and is popular in non-Hindi states like Tamil Nadu. Whether or not Modi was, or is, serious about a renaming, cultural issues are centre stage in Indian politics. Despite blistering growth (7.8%), moon landings and global pomp, many feel alienated in modern, polarised India.
FRANCE. AFRICA. Adieu.
Emmanuel Macron reappraises his strategy.
France on Wednesday said it was in talks with Niger about the possible withdrawal of troops. Gabon's junta said ousted president Ali Bongo was free to leave. Bongo, married to a French citizen, is believed to own dozens of homes in France.
INTELLIGENCE. Macron had earlier refused to withdraw from Niger, but rallies and threats against his ambassador have led to a climbdown. France has long prized its role in West and Central Africa, but coups in Niger and Gabon, plus tensions within France's Muslim population, are making ‘Françafrique’ policies less popular. It’s opening a void for others. In Burkina Faso, which French troops left in February, 53 soldiers were killed this week by Jihadists.
FOR BUSINESS. A drawdown of France’s military or diplomatic presence in Africa could harm its firms, which have enjoyed the patronage of Francophile host governments. Yet omens for a continuing French presence at current levels aren't good. On Wednesday, protests began in Chad after a French military medic shot a local soldier. Rallies are planned in Senegal on Friday against the government of President Macky Sall, who has close relations with Paris.
Written by former diplomats and industry specialists, Geopolitical Dispatch gives you the global intelligence for business and investing you won’t find anywhere else.
CHINA. UNITED STATES. Phone a friend.
Huawei’s breakthrough sparks a call to arms.
The Chair of the House committee on China said Wednesday the US should end all technology exports to Huawei after its latest smartphone was found to have 7-nanometre chips. On Tuesday, The White House promised an investigation.
INTELLIGENCE. Peace efforts by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have been overtaken by fears of the US losing its technological lead. China is reportedly planning a $40 billion semiconductor fund to continue recent progress in chip design and production. A similar race is underway in quantum computing and AI. Raimondo said on Tuesday she does not expect any near-term revisions to US tariffs on China introduced by the Trump administration.
FOR BUSINESS. Before next year's election, Republicans and Democrats want to act tough on China, regardless of what might be good for US firms. Beijing is also acting tough. Apple shares fell 3.6% on Wednesday on reports China had banned government officials from using foreign devices. Huawei on Tuesday filed a suit against Portugal's effective ban on its 5G equipment. Huawei is allegedly building a covert production network to evade US sanctions.
KOREAN PENINSULA. Tri again.
Regional ties are being remade.
South Korean media on Wednesday said President Yoon Suk Yeol would propose trilateral talks with China and Japan when he attends regional meetings. North Korean media on Thursday said China's Vice Premier would visit Pyongyang.
INTELLIGENCE. Beijing and Pyongyang have sought to undermine the budding cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo since Joe Biden hosted Yoon and Fumio Kishida at Camp David last month. Beijing is using Fukushima water scare tactics to great effect among South Koreans. Pyongyang is testing missiles with increased regularity. Now rumours of trilateral China-DPRK-Russia military drills will make peaceniks in Seoul all the keener to reset ties with Beijing.
FOR BUSINESS. Biden’s trilateral was a breakthrough, but Korean and Japanese publics remain sceptical of one another, and Beijing is working hard to ensure it can hold a trilateral of its own this year. South Korean and Japanese firms are also keen to retain China as a vital technology market irrespective of a hardening US position. Russia and North Korea are wildcards. They don’t want to see US allies unified but nor do they want China to have other options.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Keeping score.
Antony Blinken visits Kyiv.
US Secretary of State Blinken on Wednesday announced $1 billion in additional aid to Ukraine during his first visit since Kyiv's counter-offensive began. Russian strikes killed at least 16 in the Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivk on Wednesday.
INTELLIGENCE. Blinken welcomed recent Ukrainian advances in the Zaporizhzhia region, but Moscow is now claiming it tactically withdrew and some analysts believe a trap has been laid for Ukrainian troops, who still have little air cover. New US aid will Abrams tanks, HIMARS missile systems, and Javelin weapons, but these will unlikely shift the dial. Washington’s confirmed supply of depleted uranium shells will meanwhile only invite further controversy.
FOR BUSINESS. Only a miracle will see Russian defences substantially breached before winter. Many now expect a pivot to a settlement or ceasefire. Signs are emerging that more US allies want to deal pragmatically with Russia. Moscow on Wednesday said Ankara had agreed to handle 1 million tons of grain to Africa with support from Qatar. Senior figures from Finland and France have recently said pressure was needed to get the two sides to negotiate.
THE CAUCASUS. RUSSIA. Over the hills.
Tensions mount in Russia’s southern periphery.
On Wednesday, Armenia said it would host drills with the US. On Sunday, Armenia's Prime Minister said his country's dependence on Russia was a "strategic mistake" as neighbouring Azerbaijan continued aggressions against it.
INTELLIGENCE. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mostly governed by the breakaway ethnic Armenian Republic of Artsakh with support from Yerevan. In 2020, Russia brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have periodically fought over the territory since the Soviet Union’s collapse. Russia's distractions in Ukraine, and Turkey's support for its ethnic Azeri kin, have recently seen fighting resume.
FOR BUSINESS. The US and EU have sought to intervene diplomatically in what is traditionally Russia’s sphere of influence. The announcement of military exercises steps this up. In the meantime, Georgia – normally closest to the West – is pivoting to Russia. The ruling pro-Moscow Georgian Dream party began steps on Friday to impeach Georgia's pro-Western president. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s trade with Georgia has grown at least 50%.
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