Thailand went to polls amid widespread protests by anti-government protesters asking for postponement of elections. The protesters are backed by the Democrat party of Thailand and the government has responded by cracking down on the agitators. The incumbent Yingluck Shinawatra-led, Pheu Thai party, is expected to win but faces tough challenges.
Polls in Bangladesh were held amidst widespread political violence that saw the principal opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Khaleda Zia, walking out of the process. The Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League won the elections, though Khaleda Zia has termed the elections unfair and asked for a fresh mandate.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2014 in Davos, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emphasised on his country’s interest in improving ties with the west after a historic agreement was signed at Geneva with the P5+1 Group of nations.
The speech by Rouhani at Davos was the first by an Iranian President after 2004. Political experts feel that this signifies a major shift in Tehran’s policy of engaging with the West.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died at the age of 85 years after being incapacitated by a cerebral stroke. He was one of the most controversial figures in West Asian politics. He was dubbed the “Butcher of Beirut” by the Arab world when Israel invaded Beirut during the Lebanon War in 1982. He served as the Prime Minister of Israel till 2006. He was succeeded by Ehud Olmert of his own Kadima party which Sharon had formed in 2005.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is delaying the signing of the crucial Bilateral Security Agreement with the US, which will provide a future framework for the residual presence of US forces in Afghanistan. The Afghan President has asked Washington to halt drone strikes which have claimed many lives. This marks a new low in Afghan-US relations which have worsened over the last few years.
The direct relatives of Jang Song Thaek were reportedly executed on orders from Kim Jong-un in a bid to remove the last traces of the family. Thaek, uncle of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the man who groomed him to become the supreme leader, was executed in December 2013 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime. He was a close aide of Kim Jong-il.
The service sector growth figures in China are at a five-year low, according to an official survey conducted by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 53.4 in January from 54.6 in December last year. This has led to fears that growth in the second largest economy may be softening. The US Federal Reserve’s tapering has further accentuated the outflow of investments from emerging markets and created fears of a widespread slowdown.
The efforts to put an end to the long and intractable Syrian conflict started on a sombre note with the first round of peace talks held between the government and rebels proving to be inconclusive. However, the joint envoy of the United Nations and Arab League for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has expressed hope that the process of reconciliation will gather momentum in the second round of talks.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was this year’s chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade. This is significant in light of growing tensions between China and Japan over claims on a disputed island. India also has unresolved border disputes with China.
Satya Nadella has been appointed as the new CEO of global technology giant Microsoft. He will replace Steve Ballmer who served as CEO for 14 years. The news of Nadella heading Microsoft was greeted with excitement in India. Prior to his elevation as CEO, he used to head the cloud computing division at Microsoft.
The founder of banned terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed resurfaced after a long period of hibernation to address a rally in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir. The rally was addressed via telephone. Azhar was released in 1999 by the Indian government in exchange for the safe return of the passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC814. He founded Jaish-e-Mohammed soon after.
Federal Reserve policy makers have slowed down the bond buying programme by tapering the stimulus. For January, the Federal Open Market Commission has scaled it down by $10 billion which will affect the emerging market economies.
In a move to corner the Haqqani network, the US froze the assets of three suspected militants allegedly close to them. The Haqqanis have been blamed for high-profile attacks on US installations and assets in Afghanistan.
Karl Slym, managing director of Tata Motors, died after falling from the 22nd floor of a Bangkok hotel where he was staying with his wife. He fell on a balcony on the fourth floor. Preliminary investigations have hinted at suicide.
Iraq has seen a rise in violence in which around 1,000 people were killed, mainly in bomb blasts, in January, according to government sources. Anbar province has been the worst-hit with al-Qaeda linked extremists gaining a strong foothold there.
Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris visited India to gather support against the third and final resolution against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC for human rights violations during its crackdown on LTTE. Colombo hasn’t allowed any international probe into the allegations till date.
The Mt Sinabung volcano erupted in Indonesia, killing 16 people and displacing thousands of residents in its vicinity. Jakarta has braced itself for further evacuations in case of larger eruptions.