In what is possibly the biggest crisis since the Cold War, an impending face-off between Russia and the West, especially the US, seems imminent over the peninsula of Crimea in southern Ukraine. Despite US warnings, pro-Russia armed men have gained control and a referendum saw 97 per cent of Crimeans wanting to join Russia. Crimea has already shifted to Moscow Time Zone and is effectively now a part of Russia.
A judge in the US earlier this week dropped charges against Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest on grounds of visa fraud had spiked tension between India and US over the last few months. New Delhi had been outraged at the arrest of Khobragade and the manner in which she was strip searched in December 2013.
The mystery around the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, MH-370, which vanished an hour after take off from Kuala Lumpur, with more than 200 passengers and crew on board, was put to rest last week when Malaysia announced that it had crashed south of the Indian Ocean off the Ausralian coast. The search for debris is still on.
In Hong Kong, the stabbing of veteran journalist Kevin Lau has raised questions on press freedom and sparked massive protests all over the city. Lau, the former chief editor of Ming Pao, a Chinese-language paper known for its investigative reporting, was attacked with a cleaver two weeks ago, allegedly for his investigative reports. Lau was critically injured in the attack. The police later arrested nine men for the assault on the journalist.
North Korea went to polls to send representatives to the country’s rubberstamp Parliament. Kim Jong-un, who runs the totalitarian state, won unanimously from his district. This is the first election since his controversial ascent to power in 2011, after the death of his father Kim Jong-il.
US secretary of state John Kerry rushed to Israel on March 31 to salvage the fledgling Israel-Palestine peace talks. The negotiations, brokered by US, faced a roadblock when Israel delayed the release of a prisoner it had agreed to in July 2013.
Bangladesh’s $22 billion garment industry – second largest in the world – is still a safety hazard for its workers, international inspectors found out last week. The inspections were organised by the Bangladesh Accord Foundation, a group of 150 clothing brands and retailers from more than 20 countries, after the collapse of Rana Plaza which killed more than 1,000 workers in 2013. The inspectors will inspect 1,500 Bangladesh garment factories by early September this year.
Japan has been under a self-imposed weapons ban for many decades ever since the end of the World War II. However, this may change soon as Tokyo gears up to strengthen its defence industry. The move, which has been debated for long in the country is all set to be approved by Shinzo Abe’s cabinet this month.
Iran and Oman sealed an agreement to export 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year and to build a $1-billion pipeline across the ocean. The agreement was signed during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s first visit to Muscat since he came to power last year.
It was a huge setback for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, when a court termed a legislation aimed at raising billions of dollars for investment in ambitious infrastructure projects as unconstitutional. The court’s ruling, experts say, will strengthen the anti-Yingluck street protests which have rocked the country over the last few months. It may also lower confidence in its economy.
A UNICEF report painted a bleak picture of the number of Syrian children in distress. It says there are 5.5 million Syrian children in need while up to a million are living under siege and in inaccessible areas. More than 10,000, the UN says, might have been killed in the three-year-long conflict.
Four persons were sent to prison for violating election guidelines set by the Maldives Supreme Court. It suspended them for three years and awarded them six-month jail sentences. The head of the country’s election commission, Fuwad Thowfeek, was also sacked.
General Joseph Dunford, the top most American commander in Afghanistan, has warned that a total pullout of international forces from the country could make it a soft target for the al-Qaeda who could plan another attack on the West. International forces are due to withdraw by the end of this year as announced by US President Barack Obama.
Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a $1.5-billion loan which will help the latter to hike up its foreign exchange reserves as well as take care of debt obligations and energy and infrastructure projects. The loan also bailed out the Pakistani rupee .
Saudi Arabia launched a new housing scheme for its people, aiming to end shortage of homes in the country. Experts says about 60 per cent of Saudis do not own their own homes. King Abdullah had announced in 2011 plans to build 5,00,000 homes in Saudi Arabia at a cost of $67 billion over several years.
Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif recently met Opposition leader Imran Khan to chalk out a plan to carry on the peace dialogue with the Taliban. The talks have already led to a month-long unilateral cease-fire by the fundamentalist group.
Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou recently pointed out that Taiwan is far behind South Korea and Singapore as far as signing free trade agreements (FTAs) goes. To catch up, he said, Taiwan needs to execute agreements on cross-strait trade in services and goods.