Asian Insider, Jan 26: Indian farmers storm Delhi; Anwar files lawsuit against Muhyiddin

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

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In today's bulletin: India's protesting farmers storm capital city on country's Republic Day; China announces military drills in South China Sea; Taiwan air force flexes muscle after Chinese incursion; Japan to pass budget focusing on travel campaign; Anwar files suit against Muhyiddin; and more.

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Indian police fire tear gas as protesting farmers march into capital city on India's Republic Day

India's Republic Day celebrations today saw thousands of protesting farmers march into the capital city, removing roadblocks to make their way to the historic Red Fort used every year by the country's Prime Minister to address the country, forcing police to fire tear gas to disperse them.

While there was no confirmation of casualties, domestic television showed images of several bloodied protesters.

Protests, led by farmers from northern India, have been going on for more than two months now over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agricultural reform measures. These overhaul food grain procurement and pricing rules to allow private companies direct access to the vast agrarian sector. Farmers, however, fear it will impact their livelihood while benefiting businesses.

At least nine rounds of talks have taken place. The government has offered to delay the laws for 18 months but farmers want a repeal instead.

Watch this:

ST Asian Insider video: Why India's farmer protests are unlike any demonstrations PM Modi has seen

Delve deeper:

Indian farmers vow to continue protest until new laws are repealed

China announces military drills a day after President Xi's WEF address

China said on Tuesday it will conduct military exercises in the South China Sea this week in the Gulf of Tonkin, just east of Vietnam, although full details of the drills were not immediately available.

The announcement comes just a day after Chinese President addressed delegates attending this year's virtual World Economic Forum where he stressed the importance of global cooperation to fight the pandemic and save the world economy.

At the same meeting, he also called for a rejection of isolationism and "ideological prejudice". And Tan Dawn Wei, our China Bureau Chief, writes there were veiled warnings for the US and its democratic allies which have openly sanctioned or criticised China over Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China still has to specify the exact dates and the scale of the drills but it comes soon after a US carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea on Saturday to promote "freedom of the seas."

Tensions between the two increased during former US President Donald Trump and foreign policy observers are keenly waiting to see how relations between the two countries will shape up under President Joe Biden, who was sworn in on Jan 20th.

Further reading:

China says US military in South China Sea not good for peace

'Arrogant isolation' will always fail, says Xi Jinping at WEF virtual event

Taiwan air force flexes muscles after latest Chinese incursion

Taiwan's air force jets took to the skies in a drill simulating a war scenario to show its readiness just days after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend.

The large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers took place into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone, which coincided with the US carrier group entering the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, another report said Taiwan had expelled nearly 4,000 Chinese vessels illegally dredging sand from its waters in 2020, which was a more than six-fold increase on the year before. Up to November last year, Taiwan's coastguard said it had expelled 3,969 vessels, compared to 600 in 2019 and 71 in 2018.

Don't miss

Power Play: US, China test the line on Taiwan

Japan to pass controversial budget focusing on travel campaign

Japan's Lower House of Parliament was set to pass this year's third extra budget that includes spending on a travel campaign that was postponed late last year after coronavirus infections increased in the country.

The domestic tourism campaign called Go To Travel gives travellers subsidies of as much as 20,000 yen (S$255) a night. It has been postponed till Feb 7 after the government imposed a state of emergency in 11 prefectures.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, however, has supported the campaign as part of his efforts to get the economy back on track. The opposition, however, has asked for part of the extra budget to be redirected to other medical needs. Political observers fear that if the budget is passed, it may impact the Prime Minister's rating further.

Read more:

Fate of Go To Travel unclear as Japan mulls over emergency extension

Will Suga still be Japan's PM at the end of the year?

Anwar files suit against Muhyiddin over Malaysia Parliament suspension

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the government, over the suspension of Parliament, as the country declared an emergency on Jan 12 to battle the pandemic that has killed 700 people so far.

Mr Anwar is seeking a court declaration that Tan Sri Muhyiddin gave unlawful advice to the King to suspend Parliament during the state of emergency, says Hazlin Hassan, ST's Malaysia Correspondent.

In other news …

India retains a ban on 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok: India has decided to retain its ban on video app TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps after reviewing responses from the companies on issues such as compliance and privacy. The companies, which include ByteDance's popular video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent Holdings' WeChat and Alibaba's UC Browser, were asked in July to respond to 77 questions amid rising tensions between India and China following a border clash between the two nations.

Five charged in Johor following Malaysia's biggest drug bust: Five individuals were charged today at the Magistrate's Court in Johor Baru with trafficking drugs amounting to more than RM340 million (S$112 million). The drug bust last week was described by police as the biggest haul in Malaysia's history.

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