Current Affairs – March, 2019

Italy joins China’s Belt Road Initiative

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Rome, endorsing the global infrastructure-building scheme of China. Despite the warnings and pressure from the US and the Europen Union, Italy has joined the china’s mega connectivity scheme and has become the first G7 country to do so. Italy is the thirteenth European Union country and also the first from Western Europe to join China’s Belt Road Initiative.

Why did Italy join the initiative?

Italy has stated that its participation in the initiative through a non-binding agreement was aimed to “rebalance an imbalance” in Sino-Italian trade. There are a lot of ‘Made in China’ coming into Italy and too little ‘Made in Italy’ that goes into China. Italy hopes for a substantial and gradual increase in exports to balance out the trade imbalances.

The decision of Italy is seen as an attempt to address its financial woes which has onerous public debt. Italy fell into recession at the end of last year. The agreement is seen as a trade off wherein Italy needs investment and  China has those to provide. The agreement will aid Italy to underpin and strengthen its business ties with China.

The paper released by the EU’s diplomatic arm referred to Belt Road Initiative as a “systemic rival” and has threatened to tighten regulations on Chinese investment in Europe.

Syrian Democratic Forces defeats Islamic State group

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the US has defeated the Daesh [ISIS] by capturing the final shred of the territory of Baghouz in Syria. The forces have declared the end of the self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.

Even though the U.S.-backed forces have retaken nearly all the small pockets in Syria that were still under ISIS control, it doesn’t mean the end of ISIS. Reports suggest that many ISIS fighters have blended in with the local population and moreover the ISIS’ ideology remains potent and continues to inspire attacks in Europe and Afghanistan. Even though it is unlikely that there is a command structure directing terrorist attacks around the globe there are local groups which identify themselves as ISIS.

Timeline of ISIS

  • The chaos which followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, an al Qaeda offshoot established there and changed its name in 2006 to Islamic State in Iraq.
  • As the Syrian Crisis began to unfold the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent operatives to Syria for setting up a Syrian subsidiary. Baghdadi follows in 2013 and renamed the group as “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”.
  • The group captured important cities like Fallujah, Tikrit and Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi renamed the group as Islamic State (IS) and declares a caliphate at Mosul in 2014.
  • In 2014 United States started building a coalition against ISIS and started air strikes to stop its momentum. It also started to extend support to the Kurdish militia to fight against the ISIS.
  • By 2016 the forces started recovering the territory captured by ISIS and the ISIS started facing catastrophic defeats.

The capture of Baghouz and declaration of elimination of caliphate has come as a final nail in the coffin of ISIS.