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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 17, 2014

Top of the Agenda

China's Xi Jinping Kicks Off India Visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping began his first official trip to India on Wednesday (BBC), marking the first by a Chinese head of state in eight years. Xi's three-day visit, which follows a short trip to Sri Lanka, falls on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sixty-fourth birthday and is expected to seal $100 billion of Chinese investment (TOI) over five years in various sectors, including infrastructure. Despite the bid to build closer relations, tensions hover over the talks, including a recent Himalayan border incursion, an Indian-Vietnamese pact to explore resources (Reuters) in the South China Sea, and disagreements over visa policies (ET).


"The reason the leaders of the two countries sound so eager to promote close ties appears mostly to be that third parties are watching. For Mr Modi the opportunity is obvious. A few months into office, he is courting a variety of big countries simultaneously, the better to leverage one against the other," writes the Economist.

"Mr Modi's energetic diplomacy in his first few months in office seems to have put China on notice that Delhi is not without options in a rapidly evolving global geostrategic context. It has increased India's strategic space which Mr Modi would now like to leverage in his engagement with Beijing," writes Harsh V. Pant for the BBC.

"Though India's foreign policy has a strong strain of continuity and a reassessment of China has been on for some time, it has picked up pace since Narendra Modi's rise to power in May. The reasons have as much to do with the new prime minister's economic priorities as much as his worldview," writes Debasish Roy Chowdhury for the South China Morning Post.



Fiji Holds First Vote Since Military Coup

Fijians wait for election results after the country's first vote since a 2006 military coup (WSJ). According to registration, nearly 500,000 voters were expected to turn out on Wednesday.

SOUTH KOREA: President Geun-hye Park opened the door for a high-level dialogue (Yonhap) between South Korea's foreign minister and his North Korean counterpart. This announcement comes before both top diplomats are set to attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week.



Top Islamic Leader's Death Sentence Commuted

Bangladesh's supreme court commuted the death sentence (AFP) of top Islamic leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee, who was sentenced last year by a war-crimes tribunal for acts committed against Hindus during Bangladesh's liberation war from Pakistan in 1971. The court's ruling led to clashes between police and secular demonstrators on Wednesday.



U.S. General Voices Possibility of Combat Troops Against ISIS

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he did not rule out the possibility of sending American combat troops to fight ISIS (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder provides an overview of ISIS.

GAZA: Israel, Palestine, and the United Nations reached an agreement that will enable reconstruction (BBC) in the Gaza Strip following the Israel-Gaza conflict in July and August. UN monitoring of materials and construction aims to keep the peace in the area.



Sierra Leone Economy Suffers Under Travel Ban

The travel ban imposed in Sierra Leone to contain Ebola is hurting the country's economy (Al Jazeera), as trade dwindles between farmers and traders at local markets.

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudanese government officials issued an appeal to business and NGOs operating in the country to fire certain foreign workers by October 15 (BBC) and replace them with South Sudanese nationals. The request, which excludes UN workers and consultants (Daily Nation), targets the hospitality industry, aid agencies, oil companies, banks, and telecoms, and was initially issued as a ban of foreign workers.



France Arrests Five for Jihadi Recruitment

French authorities arrested five women outside of Lyon for allegedly recruiting European jihadis to fight in Syria (France24). Nearly 2,000 Europeans are said to be fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

RUSSIA: Billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov, one of Russia's richest men, was placed under house arrest and is under investigation for money laundering (Guardian). Critics accuse the Kremlin of making the move in an attempt to seize Yevtushenkov's oil assets



Boeing and SpaceX Win Contracts for Space Taxis

Boeing and SpaceX will partner with NASA to manufacture and operate "space taxis" (Reuters) to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Officials say the partnership will end U.S. dependence on Russian space transport.

VENEZUELA: Standard & Poor's downgraded Venezuela's rating to CCC+ from B- (LAHT). The country's GDP is expected to contract by as much as 3.5 percent in 2014.

This CFR Backgrounder analyzes Venezuela's economic woes.



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