Developments in Kashmir. According to a Pakistani armed forces spokesman, Pakistan launched six airstrikes in Indian-occupied Kashmir in response to India’s airstrike on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan on Tuesday, the first ever by a nuclear power on the territory of another nuclear power. No one appears to have been injured in the Pakistani airstrikes, which the spokesman said was deliberate – the response was merely a demonstration of capability, he said. An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, however, told reporters that the Pakistani operation targeted Indian military installations and that a Pakistani plane had been shot down over Indian territory but had made it back across the border. Pakistani authorities said two Indian aircraft were also shot down and released a video of a bloodied man whom they identified as a captured Indian pilot from the downed aircraft. India has confirmed that one Indian MiG-21 was shot down. At the time of publication, there are reports of exchanges of mortar fire along the line of control in Kashmir. The U.S., China, the European Union and others have called for restraint. Even Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the two sides should “sit down and talk.” But as former Indian Chief of Air Staff Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy pointed out, if India’s account is true and Pakistan’s jets were attempting to strike Indian military installations, then this would mark an escalation.
The Trump-Kim summit. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kicked off their second meeting Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam. Their first such meeting was eight and a half months ago in Singapore. Ahead of the talks, Vox reported some leaked details of a preliminary agreement, which included an end-of-war declaration, the opening of U.S.-North Korea liaison offices, and the easing of some U.S. sanctions in exchange for North Korea’s agreement in principle to close its Yongbyon nuclear facility. Earlier this week, we outlined expectations for the meeting and what’s changed since the first round of talks.
Macron’s reform agenda. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday that the government would commence with welfare reforms as early as this summer, despite failure to get labor unions on board. The overhaul will reduce unemployment benefits and steer companies away from using short-term contracts. It’s the third and final phase in President Emmanuel Macron’s labor reform agenda, which was interrupted in recent months by the “yellow vest” protests. Since he offered some concessions in December and launched town hall-style meetings around the country, Macron’s approval ratings have recovered a bit, while support for the protests, which are still happening every weekend, has fallen. (In an Odoxa poll last week, 55 percent of respondents said the protests should stop.) The return of reform, especially without labor support, could reignite the demonstrations.
- Following his failed resignation attempt, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signed two agreements with Armenia on Wednesday in Tehran.
- The European Commission sounded the alarm about “excessive imbalances” in Italy but said it would take no action before Rome submits reform plans in April.
- Venezuela’s foreign minister said the U.S. was trying to overthrow the government in Caracas, then suggested that Trump and President Nicolas Maduro should meet in search of common ground.
- France is nervously watching the upcoming Algerian presidential election, set for April 18, in which ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika intends to defy protests and seek a fifth term.
- In a joint statement, Russia and Syria called for U.S. troops to leave Syria and allow Russian and Syrian troops to evacuate a refugee camp near the Jordanian border.
- Thousands of workers at Ford Motor Co.’s joint venture in China have “quietly” been dismissed as a result of weak auto sales in the country, The New York Times said Wednesday.