What We're Watching: Pakistan's COVID surge, high drama in the Himalayas, the UK's 5G problem

What We're Watching: Pakistan's COVID surge, high drama in the Himalayas, the UK's 5G problem

Pakistan's coronavirus surge: The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to reimpose strict lockdowns, citing a surge in recent coronavirus cases in the country. Earlier this spring, the Pakistani government mandated lockdowns in some parts of the country, but opted not to order the closure of mosques, bowing to pressure from religious groups in the majority-Muslim nation. Most lockdown measures were then lifted ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr two weeks ago. Since then, the daily increase in confirmed cases has shot up from an average of about 1,700 before Eid to a record of nearly 5,400 on Tuesday, according to Al-Jazeera. The WHO says Pakistan has met none of the criteria for easing restrictions and needs to do much more testing. But Prime Minister Khan is in a tough spot. Lockdowns are not only hard to enforce, but in a country where up to three quarters of all non-farm jobs are in the informal sector and 24 percent of the population lives in poverty, shuttering businesses can have a catastrophic effect on society. To date, Pakistan has recorded more than 113,000 cases and about 2,200 deaths.


High-altitude tensions in the Himalayas: Nepal's government has just issued a new official map of the country which its neighbors in India are not going to like. In dispute is an area of about 140 square miles in the Himalayas that includes a mountain pass that India's military says is vitally important to the country's security. For the past sixty years, India has de facto controlled it, and the people who live there are Indian citizens. But last November, India published a new map that formally included the territory as a part of India, provoking fury in Nepal. In part the dispute goes back to an unclear map in a 200-year old treaty. But tensions over the area are intensifying now as Nepal has deepened economic ties with China, which Indian officials say has an interest in stoking tensions up in the mountains. Beijing is withholding comment, but the issue is drawing international attention in light of a recent uptick in high altitude border tensions between India and China directly. Keep an eye on this one: the air is thin up there, but the geopolitical drama is thick.

Can the UK do 5G without China? British telecoms giant Vodaphone has warned that if the UK government bans the use of equipment made by China's Huawei, Britain could fall behind in the global race to develop 5G technologies. The warning highlights a challenge that a number of countries around the world are facing. Blazing fast new 5G networks will massively boost technological innovation and data capabilities, underpinning a whole new generation of technologies like advanced manufacturing, the internet-of-things, and even self-driving cars. But to get there, most countries will need to rely heavily on components made by Huawei, the world's leading supplier. That's a problem for countries — especially the US and Europe — that have become more suspicious of Chinese technology. The US has already banned certain Huawei-made 5G components over fears that Beijing could use them to snoop on Americans or cripple critical infrastructure in a time of crisis. Vodafone says it can build 5G without Huawei components if it absolutely has to, but it's a lot more expensive and time-consuming to switch suppliers now. The warning comes as the UK explores ways to decrease its reliance on Chinese exports and technologies more broadly.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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