Myanmar: Triangle offensive.
Also: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Spain, Kenya and Haiti.
MYANMAR. Triangle offensive.
Conflict in the north-east threatens the regime.
Myanmar's military leader on Thursday said a major offensive by ethnic militias in Shan state was fuelled by drug smuggling. Myanmar's president the same day said the country risked break-up if the fighting could not be contained.
INTELLIGENCE. Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, has been fighting insurgencies since independence. Yet conflict intensified after a brief period of semi-democracy ended in 2021 and has worsened since a group of rebel militias, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, launched an offensive in Shan’s Golden Triangle region on 27 October. The Tatmadaw is now thought to control just 40% of Myanmar, with desertions and mass surrender increasingly common.
FOR BUSINESS. Warnings of drugs and secession are designed to make the Bamar majority rally around the Tatmadaw, which sees itself as guardian of Burmese sovereignty. In a way, they’re right – a surging opium and meth trade is fuelling the rebels, particularly with poppy production in Afghanistan down 95% – but the Tatmadaw also makes illicit profits, particularly from casinos and mines near the Chinese border, an area of growing alarm for Beijing.
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BANGLADESH. Cloth and ashes.
Dhaka’s textile workers join anti-government protests.
Bangladesh announced a 56% hike in the minimum wage for garment workers after a week of strikes shut production. A woman was killed on Wednesday as police used force to disperse protests that have coincided with opposition riots.
INTELLIGENCE. As more groups take to the streets to protest living costs, democratic backsliding and worker rights, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina may face her biggest threat since the 2013 collapse of Dhaka’s Rana Plaza factory complex, which killed 1,134 and led to consumer boycotts. Bangladesh's supply chains have since improved, but issues can always be uncovered for the many brands still sourcing there, including H&M, Gap, Levi’s, and Puma.
FOR BUSINESS. Human rights controversies in Bangladesh aren’t just a risk for the apparel sector, but they threaten strategic interests too. India’s Narendra Modi, who backs Hasina – and perceives the opposition as in hock to China and Pakistan – is especially worried ahead of Bangladesh’s January elections. Last week, he announced three major infrastructure projects with Hasina, including a rail link to the Port of Mongla, which Beijing has invested in.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
INDIA. PAKISTAN. Smog of war.
Transboundary issues continue to plague South Asia.
Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire along the Kashmir frontier into early Thursday, killing an Indian guard. Schools shut in Delhi and Lahore as pollution from crop burning exceeded WHO safety guidelines by several multiples.
INTELLIGENCE. India and Pakistan share language, culture, and air quality. A disputed boundary and neuralgic history have led to multiple conflicts between the nuclear-armed neighbours, but the latest incident is more likely to be an irritant, not an incitement, that can be exploited on both sides. Rajasthan, which has a 1,000km border with Pakistan, will go to state elections on 25 November. Polls are also due in Kashmir, but its statehood remains suspended.
FOR BUSINESS. Kashmir is an awkward reality for India, but has had minimal impact on investment and trade, most of which is located far to the south. For Pakistan, it is a major cause of the military’s political dominance. The militant groups Pakistan supports in Kashmir have furthermore been a major cause of the country’s perennial instability, though increasingly nearby Afghanistan has been to blame (and why Pakistan is expelling over one million Afghans).
SPAIN. Mad in Madrid.
Anger builds over a secessionist compromise.
Spain’s acting prime minister on Thursday secured a coalition deal with the Catalan Junts party in exchange for granting amnesty to separatist leaders. Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca, a pro-Madrid politician from Catalonia, was shot on Thursday.
INTELLIGENCE. The attempt on Vidal-Quadras may have been linked to his work with Iran’s opposition, but police have not ruled out other motivations amid a febrile atmosphere in Madrid and Barcelona. Protests against Pedro Sanchez continued for a seventh night on Thursday. Businesses have asked for meetings with the caretaker leader. The deal won't necessarily lead to Catalan independence, but it has already damaged what remained of Spanish unity.
FOR BUSINESS. Sanchez needs one more partner to get to a majority. That will likely be the Basque Nationalists, who have offered support pending details of the Junts deal. Legal challenges may get in the way. Several judges' bodies released a statement calling out parts of the agreement. Spain has also been newly polarised by Gaza. The leader of the Podemos party, which lost most of its seats but will also join the coalition, has called for sanctions on Israel.
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KENYA. HAITI. Cops and dollars.
A UN-backed mission stalls over funding and domestic politics.
Kenya on Thursday said its police would not deploy to Haiti until the UN had secured funds for the anti-gang mission. Troops from the Dominican Republic clashed with Haitian authorities on Tuesday, amid a long-running border dispute.
INTELLIGENCE. Haiti has plunged into anarchy since its president’s 2021 assassination, for which court proceedings in Miami are ongoing. A new mission has been long in the works, but few are willing to pay or deploy after previous peacekeeping attempts have failed. Kenya volunteered with several Caribbean states last month, but it is neither popular in Nairobi, nor Port-au-Prince. Kenya now appears to be slow walking its offer amid domestic wranglings.
FOR BUSINESS. As currently envisaged, the Haiti mission will have minimum positive impact. And for Kenya, it’s all downside beyond gratitude from the US and UN. Security in Africa, meanwhile, is worsening. Ethiopia is engaged in a new conflict. The drawdown of African Union troops in Somalia has been halted due to renewed fighting. Further afield, violence has risen in Mali and the Congo as UN missions withdraw and prepare to withdraw respectively.