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UAE’s Sweeping Responses Prove Effective as Covid-19 Pandemic Spreads

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The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), has impacted travel and shaken the global economy. For the first time in over a decade, the demand for air travel is expected to decrease internationally. This along with hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations has left many major carriers in a crunch as to how to weather the situation.  

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Governments have responded in similar draconian fashion scrambling to curtail the outbreak with knee-jerk responses like banning travel from/to certain areas and quarantining swathes of their citizens.

In the midst of all this, one country has stood out as an exception to the prevailing chaos.

Since the spread of the virus became an international concern, the UAE has shown an impressive level of professionalism and innovation in addressing the threat.

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The UAE has shown itself well equipped to take on COVID-19. In an interview with Dr Rakesh Suri, chief executive of Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi’s most prestigious hospital and one of the most state of the art medical facilities in the world, he assured residents that the Emirates’ medical infrastructure was ready to deal with the virus.

Indeed, UAE has for a long time been preparing for such emergencies given its international status. It has established contact with the world’s leading health providers and labs to ensure sufficient testing methods and will promptly receive vaccines once they are developed.

In response to the World Health Organization’s warning to prepare for a pandemic of COVID-19, Dr Suri tweeted “We are prepared, we are ready, we are with you and we will get past this.” In fact, the UAE has begun to construct a new medical facility to house quarantine patients, in the event that the virus spreads unexpectedly.

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Abdulrahman Al Owais, the Minister of Health and Prevention said in an official statement that the facility would be located away from residential areas to limit the risk of contagion. These refined quarantine procedures are the latest in a series of “firm procedures” implemented by authorities to ensure public safety explained Al Owais.

Officials are well-prepared for worst-case scenarios. From the early days of the outbreak, medical staff in UAE were all briefed on how to take care of coronavirus patients and handle large quantities of cases.

Stocks of equipment and medicines have also been readied. According to Health Ministry officials, stockpiles of medicines are sufficient to deal with any outbreak of the virus. Officials have also set up a response team with 500 staff already working around the clock to strategize and deal with any emergency situation.

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Health Minister Al Owais correctly pointed out that the UAE was among the first countries that stocked up sufficient quantities of materials required for state-of-the-art checkups to detect the novel coronavirus.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UAE remain relatively low at 570 cases as on Monday morning, IST, with one fatality. Doctors report that most of these patients recovered completely after two weeks of moderate symptoms.

This is an important statistic to consider: the rate of infection in the UAE is considerably lower than in other nations despite it being the largest hub of international travel in the world. Based on the most recent numbers, some 7 million people have entered the UAE over the past month through Dubai alone. Despite this massive influx of people from around the world, barely a dozen cases have been reported. It appears as though the UAE is doing something right.

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All things considered, the UAE has succeeded in keeping business as usual despite concerns over coronavirus. An official from the Emirati National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said the country has no plans to cancel public events or close schools, businesses, or institutions due to the virus.

But beyond maintaining safety and order in its own territory, the UAE has been playing an essential role in the global effort to mitigate the effects of the outbreak worldwide.

For several weeks now, an Abu Dhabi based tech firm has been sharing an artificial intelligence-powered platform developed to help combat the spread of the virus. The firm, Group 42 (G42), began by collaborating with local authorities and providing officials with access to portable advanced diagnostic kits that have assisted in detecting those infected with COVID-19 and preventing them from crossing the UAE’s border.

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The firm then began working with the Chinese government, giving them access to their solution powered by the company’s supercomputer, a machine ranked one of the most powerful in the world. The UAE is also working with undersupplied countries providing hundreds of thousands of units of vital goods such as surgical masks, medical gloves, goggles and protective clothing to nations running short on these essential items.

The country has also been conducting humanitarian missions assisting in the evacuation of foreign nationals from outbreak zones in China. This week, in coordination with Chinese authorities, the UAE air force airlifted some 215 foreigners from 11 different countries from Wuhan to Abu Dhabi at the request of those foreigners’ governments. Governments have publicly thanked the UAE for its airlift, treatment and repatriation efforts.

These humanitarian operations demonstrate two important points. First, the Emirates possesses a surplus of resources in their fight against the outbreak, which is why they are able to offer this aid, to begin with. Second, the UAE has the technological and logistical competency to handle the challenges posed by the coronavirus – both within and beyond its borders – to the point that it has become an integral part of the global effort.

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Since the start of the current crisis, the UAE has shown its ability to take on the outbreak’s challenges, maintaining a sense of normalcy at home all while assisting the effort internationally. Its well-balanced approach that accommodates the country’s status as an international and financial hub may be a lesson for the region and world.

Cindy Xi is a research analyst providing political and economic risk assessments for regional developments in Asia. Cindy is a regular contributor to Malaysia Reserve, Asean Post, and Manila Times.    

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Expert Reviews

Rafale Jets Dodge all Radars, Air Defence Systems; Bombs Turkish Facilities in Libya

The Dassault Rafale is a French multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions.

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Recently, the al-Watiya airbase in Libya was reportedly bombed by Rafale jets, which either belonged to France or Egypt, the two nations within the range of the base that possesses these (Rafale) aircraft, writes the Arab Weekly.  

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The report quoting its sources called the attack by Rafale jets as a response to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Libya.

The Turkish presence in Libya is highly undesirable to both Egypt and France and the former has even warned to intervene militarily in Libya if the Turkish-backed militias tried to head towards Sirte. France has also called the Turkish moves as “unacceptable,” emphasising that it would not permit this to continue.

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But this recent airstrike on al-Watiya airbase reportedly by 4++ generation Rafale jets displayed that the boundaries in airspace differ from the boundaries on land drawn by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Indeed, basing fighter jets and drones in al-Watiya pose a direct threat to any military deployed in the region.

Sisi has discussed the possibility of directly intervening in Libya, pointing out that Egypt “will not allow the conflict in Libya to cross the Sirte line.” He also emphasised that “with regard to Egypt’s security, al-Jufra is a red line that we will not allow any force to cross.”

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The Tripoli government accused “a foreign air force” of bombing al-Watiya base, without furnishing any information on the identity of the aircraft or the targets attacked. Even though Turkish and Qatari media rejected any casualties, the Libyan source, however, claimed that many Turkish soldiers were injured or dead in the airstrikes by Rafale jets.

A retired Libyan army officer revealed to Arab Weekly that a squadron of fighter planes launched a series of airstrikes on al-Watiya base, where Turkey had deployed F-16 aircraft, Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-S drones, backed by a MIM-23 Hawk air defence system with its radars.

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He further said that the air raids targeted the al-Nadab quarters at al-Watiya base, which the Turkish forces on the base had used as their headquarters since last May. Also targeted were Sungur air defence systems, fixed and mobile radar installations and Koral signal jamming system, which the Ankara had deployed at al-Watiya base.

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Libyan parliament member Ibrahim al-Darsi later acknowledged and “the airstrikes were launched by forces all too well-known to us,” and added that the targets of these attacks were “a clear message and constituted a strong and painful slap in the face of Turkish President Erdogan and his proxies in Libya, especially the militia government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.”

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Asia Pacific

India can ‘no longer’ choke China at the Strait Of Malacca as Beijing finds solution

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India. 

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Could the advantage that India enjoys over China due to the Strait of Malacca be coming to an end? Does China have a way to tackle the Indian plans of chocking Beijing at the Malacca Straits – the strategic waterway, in case of a war?

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India’s position at the mouth of the Malacca Strait has created panic amongst Chinese officials as they try to find an alternative route, writes the Forbes.

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India.

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India’s natural position in the Indian Ocean, with basing capabilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait, would allow its navy to cut it off in the event of a crisis or war with China.

Keeping in mind the recent flare-up between India and China, Larry Bond, renowned naval author and creator of the Harpoon war game series, says that if India wanted to block trade with China, all it has to do is its park ships at the mouth of the Malacca Strait.

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The vast majority of China’s oil imports, from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Angola, pass by this route. Due to the strategic importance of the waterway, there is fear amongst Chinese officials that India could block the Malacca Strait in case of war.

Experts at EurAsian Times believe that the strategic importance of the Malacca Strait and the advantage it gives to India will likely reduce over time as Beijing find alternative routes.

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The fact India enjoys a strategic advantage over China because of the Malacca Strait has forced Beijing to explore other options and find ways around the waterway.

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One such option is Gwadar Port in Pakistan. As part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing has developed the port in Gwadar so that goods unloaded there will be shipped overland to China.

On June 8 the Pakistani government approved a $7.2bn upgrade to a railway which will connect Gwadar to Kashgar, China. The port is not yet operating at capacity, but the direction seems clear.

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While Gwadar is still susceptible to an attack by the Indian Air Force (IAF), it adds political and military risks as it is in a third country’s territory. The Indian Navy could try and block this port but it would require ships to move away from the Malacca Strait.

The other option Beijing is exploring is Northern Sea Route in the Arctic which could create a ‘Polar Silk Road.’ The importance of this is underlined by China’s 2018 Arctic policy. It asserts, “Geographically, China is a “Near-Arctic State”, one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle.”

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The policy statement goes on to say, “China hopes to work with all parties to build a “Polar Silk Road” through developing the Arctic shipping routes.”

Due to accelerated global warming, ice sheets are receding, thus making it possible for ships to travel via this route. Having sent its first ship through the region in 2013, Beijing is now investing in port infrastructure in the Arctic which connects to Europe.

China is also investing in designing ice breakers, vessels that would ease navigation through the Arctic. With help from Finnish Aker Arctic, China launched its first locally built ice breaker the Xue Long 2 in 2018.

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Apart from exploring new waterways and developing strategic ports, Beijing is developing a land route directly to Europe, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), mainly as a way to export goods.

Thousands of trains are transversing across Asia in recent times, the modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road. Land routes are one way China can reduce the criticality of Chinese sea routes.

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The strategic importance of the Strait of Malacca to China will lessen over a period of time. India will still be in a position to throttle Chinese supply lines there, but it will not have the same impact that it once had.

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Americas

India Bets Big On Nikki Haley To Emerge As Vice Presidential Candidate Under Trump

Nikki Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.  

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India has pinned hopes on Nikki Haley to become the US Vice President (VP) should Donald Trump get re-elected this November. Haley, a first-generation Indian American, is expected to strengthen Indo-American relation and also attract a lot of voters including women and minorities.

According to the reports, there is speculation that Trump might switch out Vice-President Mike Pence for Nikki Haley as his running mate in the hopes of boosting his lagging approval numbers among the broader electorate.

Despite resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has been active in politics. She has been fundraising for Republican congressional candidates as well as in the Senate and gubernatorial arena.

She has set up a non-profit organization to boost her policy priorities and has continued to pen editorials on foreign policy. And Hailey has retained a small, tightly knit orbit of advisers.

The former governor of South Carolina, Haley is one of the people who left the Trump Administration on good terms. She has even promised to campaign for the President for his re-election bid.

Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, Haley’s recent moves can be seen as a carefully executed plan to stay involved in key Republican policy circles and the national discourse. Haley has fundraised for almost a dozen Republican Senate candidates, many of them in tough re-election races, and has been a special guest at Republican Governors Association (RGA) events.

While Haley has dismissed reports about her running for VP, her being an influential person of colour could help Trump win constituencies he is currently losing.

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The US Presidential elections are a spectacle observed globally and India would be hoping Trump wins and Haley gets elected as the VP. Haley enjoys nationwide popularity amongst Indian-Americans and her election as VP could lead to stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

She has natural links to India with her parents having emigrated to the US in the 1960s from Punjab. Haley has often pointed out that India is an example of a free government and recently even applauded New Delhi’s decision to ban 59 Chinese applications and for standing up to China.

With an Indian-American at the helm of affairs, New Delhi would see it as an opportunity to get closer to Washington. It could lead to India benefitting in the areas of trade, defence and investment and would be a huge blow to neighbours China and Pakistan.

US Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in November and will be contested between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. While Biden’s re-election does not mean that India and the United States will have weak relations, having Trump in the White House and Haley as VP would definitely lead to stronger Indo-American ties.

Armaan Srivastava. Views Personal

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