🌍 US drone downed after encounter with Russian fighter jets
Plus: India puts its newfound lithium to use
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Today’s edition is a 4.6 min read:
- ✈️ A US drone downed over the Black Sea during Russian intercept.
- 🇮🇳 India discovers lithium in a contested region.
- ➕ Plus: Honduras gets cosy with China, how the papers are covering protests in Senegal, and is the Silicon Valley Bank contagion just beginning?
Also... ¿hablas español? ¡Check out our weekly Spanish edition!
- Valentina, Ethan and Jeremy
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇵🇰 Pakistan: A court has ordered police to suspend efforts to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan. Protestors and police clashed violently this week when authorities attempted to detain him ahead of his scheduled court appearance on 18 March.
- 🇫🇮 Finland: Turkish President Erdoğan suggested on Wednesday that Turkey would “fulfill the promise” it made to Finland and approve its bid to join NATO. Sweden’s bid is still in limbo after activists burned a Quran outside Turkey’s Stockholm embassy.
- 🇫🇯 Fiji: Australian Prime Minister Albanese met his Fijian counterpart en route home from San Diego on Wednesday. Fijian Prime Minister Rabuka reportedly said he supports the AUKUS submarines deal, which bolsters the Australian Navy’s capabilities in the Pacific.
- 🇪🇨 Ecuador: A former Ecuadorian cabinet minister, living in Argentina’s embassy in Quito after her 2020 bribery conviction, has escaped to Venezuela. Angry Ecuadorian officials expelled Argentina’s ambassador, who won’t disclose how the ex-minister escaped.
- 🇿🇲 Zambia: Finance Minister Musokotwane expects Zambia to soon finalise its long-delayed debt restructuring plans. Zambia defaulted back in 2020, and China holds nearly half of its debt.
✈️ US & RUSSIA | DRONE INCIDENT
US drone downed over the Black Sea after encounter with Russian fighter jets
Briefly: A US reconnaissance drone crashed into the Black Sea after it was intercepted by two Russian fighter jets early on Tuesday morning. While the incident is not quite Top Gun material, it's the first known contact between the Russian and US militaries since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War.
Finger (pistol) pointing: Unsurprisingly, we were treated to two contradictory accounts of the downing. The US accused Russia of conducting “reckless” aerial manoeuvres, including dumping oil on the drone, before colliding with it over international waters.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin insists the US aircraft was conducting “unacceptable” activity near occupied Crimea, and simply fell after attempting a sharp manoeuvre.
There could be consensus on one point: that the Russian jet didn't deliberately down the US drone. One former US military leader said it was likely “just an overanxious pilot”. A current US official concurred, describing the incident as "amateur hour".
Intrigue’s take: Two things come to mind here.
First, these US drone flights aren’t new. Nor are they unlawful. But Russia increasingly objects to their role in supplying Ukraine with intelligence. And we now have a window into Russia's answer: limit the drones' effectiveness (eg, by spraying them with oil) without provoking US escalation.
Second, the post-incident response on both sides offers some hope: the two defence ministers quickly spoke on the phone to de-escalate, and both the US and Russia emphasised they weren't seeking confrontation.
Still, it was all a little close for comfort. And we doubt this'll be the last encounter.
Also worth noting:
- There are reports the Russian Navy has already reached the crash site to try and recover the drone. The US was also reportedly exploring its retrieval options, though says it's already remotely wiped the drone clean.
- The US State Department summoned the Russian ambassador on Tuesday to discuss the incident.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: Ongoing anti-government protests in Senegal.
Links: WalfNet, The Indypendent, AfricaNews.
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🇮🇳 INDIA | MINING
Lithium deposits in Jammu and Kashmir raise the stakes
Briefly: India will auction off mining rights for newly-discovered lithium deposits in the northern territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The 5.9 million tonne deposits are India’s first significant discovery, and place India seventh globally for total lithium reserves.
Here’s the catch: Not everyone agrees the deposits should be India’s. In 1954, Kashmir (to which India, Pakistan, and China each lay partial claim) was granted substantial autonomy as part of India’s Constitution.
But in 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status and placed the majority-Muslim territory under India's federal control. With so much lithium at play, the stakes in Kashmir somehow just got higher.
Intrigue’s take: Our good, green earth has an amazing ability to reveal precious resources in contested regions. And precious resources have an amazing ability to remind adversaries why they’re fighting in the first place.
While Pakistan (with whom India has fought three wars over Kashmir) has yet to comment, Kashmiri militants have promised to prevent India from “stealing” the deposits.
Also worth noting:
- In 2020-21, India imported 70% of its lithium and 96% of its lithium-ion batteries from China and Hong Kong.
- While Modi promised that revoking Kashmir’s status would help end the conflict, inter-communal and insurgent violence has risen since 2019.
🐦 TWEET OF THE DAY
Taiwan is losing friends...
... and according to Xiomara Castro, Honduras is next. That would leave only 13 countries recognising Taiwan rather than China. Taiwanese diplomats have a tough gig.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
Here’s what we’re reading about the tech world today.
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Do you think there's still value in Russia recovering the wreckage of the US drone?
Yesterday's question: Which country has the largest number of submarines in the world?
🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇨🇳 China (21%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🇺🇸 USA (56%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇰🇵 North Korea (4%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇷🇺 Russia (17%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🇬🇧 UK (1%)
The answer: With 78 submarines, China comes out on top as reported by Global Fire Power's 2023 ranking. Russia and the US have the second and third biggest submarine fleet, with 70 and 68 vessels respectively.