News Wrap


China has started sharing hydrological data with India on the Brahmaputra river for this year's monsoon season. It has also started sharing data on the Sutlej river, from 01 June 2019, the start of the monsoon season in India. China had stopped sharing the data on the Brahmaputra river in 2017, following the Dokalam stand off. They claimed that the hydrological data gathering sites were washed away due to floods. With relations thawing, the two sides again resumed, sharing of data in 2018. The Brahmaputra originates in China's Tibet and flows into Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. It later drains into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. Sutlej, a tributary of the Indus, also originates in Tibet, and flows into India, and then enters Pakistan. China provides data from three hydrological stations Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia located on the mainstream of the Brahmaputra, also known as Langquen Zambo. Data for the Sutlej, also known as the Langquen Zambo, is provided by the hydrological station at Tsada. When the rivers swell due to rains, the hydrological data is necessary for flood management downstream.

Demand for foreign brides has mounted in China, a legacy of the one child policy that skewed the country's gender balance towards males. Brides for China initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Pakistan seems to have come on to marriage brokers' radar late 2018. Since Oct 2018, an estimated 750 to 1000 girls have been married off. The small Christian community centered in Punjab province, makes a vulnerable target. Numbering around 2.5 million in Pakistan's overwhelmingly Muslim population of 200 million, Christians are among Pakistan's mostly deeply impoverished with little political or social support. In contrast to Pakistan's deeply patriarchial society, with demand for dowry and payment of cost of wedding, potential Chinese grooms offer parents several thousand dollars and pay all wedding expenses. Parents receive several thousand dollars, and are told that their new son-in-laws are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither. Once in China, the girls most often married against their will, can find themselves isolated in rural, remote regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate, and reliant on a translation app, even for a glass of water. There is increasing evidence that Pakistan's women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China. On 06 May 2019, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency arrested ten Chinese Nationals and four Pakistanis, inraids in Punjab province, in connection with trafficking. The process involves brokers and members of the clergy.

In response to alleged Iranian threats USA has already strengthened its military presence in the Emirates Gulf Region, by deploying a number of strategic B52 bombers. Four commercial vessels of various nationalities, had been targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujaimah, on 12 May 2019. Two Tankers of Saudi Arabia suffered significant damage, but there were no casualties on any oil spill. Fujairah port is the only Emirati Terminal, located on the Arabian Sea coast, by-passing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass. One of the two tankers that was attacked, was on its way to be loaded with crude oil from a Saudi Terminal, for customers in the United States. Almost all the oil exports of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran itself, at least 15 million barrels per day, are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait in case of a military confrontation with the United States. In 2018, Saudi Arabia had temporarily suspended oil shipments, through the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had intervened in the Yemen war to bolster the internationally recognized gov-ernment's efforts, against the Huthis, in March 2015. On 14 May 2019, drone attacks claimed by Iran aligned Yemen rebels shut down one of Saudi Arabia's main oil pipelines. Two pumping stations had been targeted, which lie on the 1200 kms East West Pipeline, able to pump five million barrels of oil a day from the oil rich eastern province to a Red Sea export terminal. Yemen's Huthi rebels targeted vital installations in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against them. The stations reportedly targeted lie west of Riyadh, at Dawadmi and Aleef. The sabotage of oil tankers and the Yemen rebels' drone attacks have come after the United States deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group, an amphibious assault vessel, a Patriot missile battery and B52 bombers. On 16 May 2019, the Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes on Houthi Targets, in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, killing at least six people, including four children, and wounding at least 40 other people. Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels on 21 May 2019, attacked a Saudi airport and military base in Najran with a Qasef 2 K drone, striking an arms depot. Najran, 840 kms south west of Riyadh, liss on the Saudi Yemen border, and has repeatedly been targeted by the Iran allied Houthis. For over a year, American intelligence analysts have been based in Najran assisting the Soudis. A US Army Green Berets is deployed on the border. Iran has announced it has quadrupled its uranium enrichment production capacity, a year after the US withdrew from its nuclear deal with would powers, though still a level far lower than needed for atomic bombs.

On 13 June 2019, twin attacks left two tankers ablaze in the Gulf of Oman. The two vessels were 10 Nautical miles apart, after passing through the Strait of Hormutz, some 25 Nautical miles off Iran's southern coast. The Norweigian vessel, carrying naptha, was hit by three explosions. A Japanese vessel, loaded with methanol, and heading towards the UAE port of Khor Fakkan, was also stuck by mines.

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Vol. 52, No. 4, Jul 28 -Aug 3, 2019