India - China tensions in Himalayas | Daily News


 

India - China tensions in Himalayas

Troop movements in Galwan Valley.
Troop movements in Galwan Valley.

After months of efforts to defuse the tensions in the Himalayan Region, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called a high-level meeting this week to discuss the ongoing situation and future strategy for the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

The meeting comes a day after 500 Chinese troops had reportedly attempted to intrude in the Indian Territory near the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake. Its agenda was to discuss the way forward and further negotiations with the Chinese in the wake of the latest developments.

Earlier this week, the Indian Army had said the Chinese troops carried out “provocative military movements” to “unilaterally” change the status quo near Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh on the intervening night of August 29-30. However, China has denied provoking any conflict between the two nations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops “never crossed” the Line of Actual Control and never occupied any territory.

Reports from foreign media personnel and defence analysts said despite the efforts to defuse the tensions in the region, soldiers from both countries had rushed to shout in each other’s faces again. Though the confrontation wasn’t bloody, where it happened was significant.

Indian and Chinese troops have locked horns again along their disputed border, Indian officials said Monday, in a sign that the deadly tensions that erupted in June between the world’s two most populous countries are not going away.

India’s defense ministry said the Chinese Army had “violated the previous consensus” and “carried out provocative military movements” near Pangong Tso Lake, in the remote Ladakh region.

Indian Army officers and security analysts said Chinese troops landed a few days ago on the southern side of the lake, which traditionally has been considered Indian Territory — a move the Indians saw as the latest example of Chinese aggression in a long string of provocations.

The New York Times reported that troops from both sides yelled at each other and surged to within a yard or two before commanding officers from both sides pulled them apart. No punches were thrown and no one was injured, the analysts said, and the incident was much less severe than the situation that exploded in June in roughly the same area, when 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed.

But China was emphatic that it had done nothing wrong. Chinese troops respect the border, known as the Line of Actual Control, said Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, and Chinese troops “never crossed the line.”

Senior Col. Zhang Shuili, a spokesman for the Western Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, went further, accusing the Indian military of “blatant provocation” and ruining the agreement the two sides had reached over the area by making illegal incursions.

“This action by the Indian side has seriously violated Chinese territorial sovereignty, and seriously damaged the peace and stability of the Chinese-Indian border region,” Colonel Zhang said, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. He demanded that India immediately withdraw its forces and “strictly control and constrain frontline troops.”

“Chinese troops are taking necessary measures in response and will closely monitor developments,” he said.

The latest situation shows that despite all the diplomatic activity between the two countries, ongoing meetings between Chinese and Indian generals, the border remains a raw flash point in an increasingly nationalistic era in both major Asian countries.

Both countries are led by dominant, nationalistic leaders — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping.

The two countries are locked in a tense, deadly struggle for advantage on their disputed mountain border. Each nation has sent in thousands of reinforcements, supported with tanks, artillery, helicopters and fighter jets.

In June this year, the worst clash between the two nations in decades erupted. High up in the mountains, in the rocky and isolated Galwan Valley, hundreds of troops raged at each other with rocks, sticks, clubs and their bare fists. Indian officials said Chinese soldiers even used specially made iron clubs, with spikes welded to their tips, to inflict maximum damage.

For more than half a century, this border has been a sore spot. In 1962, the two Asian giants fought a brief war over this same region. China wrested away a chunk that India still claims.

Though the border has never been demarcated, the two sides eventually worked out protocols on how to patrol it, advising their soldiers not to shoot at each other. This kept the occasional border confrontation or dispute from turning deadly, up until the enormous brawl in June.

On Monday, the Indian media swung into action, running wall-to-wall television coverage and raising jingoistic feelings. Maps broadcast by Indian channels showed two lines cutting through Pangong Tso Lake — one to the east, which India believes is the border, and one that lies several miles to the west, which is what China claims.

“The Chinese are playing their usual game of surprise and deception,” said Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research. “They have opened a new front.”

Residents in Ladakh, which is a mountainous region historically connected to Tibet, said that Indian soldiers had shut down one of the area’s main highways — again — and that troop convoys were chugging up the windy roads on their way to the border.

Indian analysts said the Chinese were stepping up their campaign to change the facts on the ground around Pangong Tso Lake, with fortified bunkers and two new marinas.

Bharat Karnad, an Indian national security expert, called China’s latest move “a probing action” that the Indians had successfully stalled.

Indian economy drops

India’s economy has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 crisis and continuing weakening of the economic status in the past year.

India’s GDP contracted 23.9% on a yearly basis in the first quarter (April-June 2020) of the financial year ‘21, which captured the full effect of the pandemic-triggered national lockdown. It grew at 5.2 percent during the same quarter last year. Quarterly (gross value added (GVA) showed a contraction of 22.8 percent year-on-year (YoY).

This is the sharpest decline in the economy since the nation started publishing the quarterly figures in 1996, and reportedly the worst among all Covid-hit G20 economies.

As per the National Statistical Office (NSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) which released the estimates of GDP for Q1 of FY21 on Monday this week, the economy (at constant prices) during the quarter under review was pegged at Rs 26.90 lakh crore, as against Rs 35.35 lakh crore in Q1 of 2019-20.

As largely expected, agriculture was the only silver lining among all sectors as it grew by 3.4% in the April-June quarter.

Manufacturing, construction and trade (hotels, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting) shrank by 39.3%, 50.3% and 47% during the quarter. Government expenditure during the quarter also contracted by 10.3% as per NSO figures.

US Polls - new collisions

With just a little more than eight weeks for the US Presidential Election on November 3, and after conventions of the Republican and Democratic Parties that chose the Donald Trump and Joe Biden candidates, the campaigns are getting more intense with increasing protests on Black Lives Matter, and the new Trump policy of Law and Order, moving away from the negative effect of his failures on Covid19 spread.

President Donald Trump took his tough Law and Order message to Kenosha city, in Wisconsin state, the latest US city roiled by the police shooting of a black man. President Trump has branded recent anti-racism protests there as “domestic terror” by violent mobs.

Trump has been hoping for months to shift the election battle against Democrat Joe Biden from a verdict on his widely panned handling of the coronavirus pandemic, to what he sees as far more comfortable territory of Law and Order.

“These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror,” Trump said after touring damage in the city, describing multiple nights of angry demonstrations last week that left two people dead. Crowds lined the barricaded streets where the president’s motorcade passed, with Trump supporters on one side and Black Lives Matter protesters on the other, yelling at one another from a distance and in sometimes tense face-to-face encounters.

“These gentlemen did a fantastic job,” he said, in reference to law enforcement units that quelled the violent protests.

Kenosha is where the shooting of Jacob Blake, with seven shots fired by a policeman on an unarmed man, had paralysed him, and Black Lives Matter protests, riots, and also the arrival of armed, white vigilantes - culminating in an incident in which a 17-year-old militia enthusiast, Kyle Rittenhouse, allegedly shot dead two people and badly injured another.

Democrats and police reform advocates view Kenosha as a symbol of institutional racism. They see Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, as emblematic of right-wing militias increasingly brazen about brandishing weaponry in political settings.

Trump, however, came with a different priority: countering what he has repeatedly described as the “anarchy” in Democratic-led cities. He has refused to condemn the growing presence of armed vigilantes on the streets, calling the alleged killings by Rittenhouse “an interesting situation.”

Trump for his part accuses Biden of weakness in addressing violent protests in cities like Kenosha and Portland, seeking to paint the Democrat as incapable of controlling the party’s left wing.

The US now faces more Black Lives Matter protests in Los Angeles, California, following the fatal shooting by sheriff’s deputies of a black man, identified as 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, after a violent altercation, but carrying no weapon. Last week’s unrest in Kenosha rekindled a months-long surge of protest against police violence and racism, unleashed by the death of an unarmed African American, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

President Trump and the Republicans show some gains with the new slogan on Law and Order, with opinion polls giving Trump a rise in some states where Joe Biden has been in the lead. The Republicans are also attacking Joe Biden as being senile, and a fall in the economy if Democrat Joe Biden in elected. The US voters will get a better chance to compare and contrast the two candidates with the debates due to begin on September 29.

Navalny poisoning

There is a widening international call for Russia to probe the medical reports that Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, has been poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny was a victim of attempted murder and the world would look to Russia for answers. He is being treated in a German hospital, and is reportedly in a serious condition.

A Novichok nerve agent was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018. While they survived, a British woman later died in hospital, due to accidental contact with the nerve agent. The UK accused Russia’s military intelligence of carrying out that attack.

Russia’s Kremlin spokesman called on Germany for a full exchange of information on Navalny’s condition, and foreign ministry spokeswoman complained the Novichok allegations were not backed up by evidence. “Where are the facts, where are the formulas, at least some kind of information?” she asked.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the latest attack as “outrageous”. “The Russian government must now explain what happened to Navalny - we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done,” he tweeted.

“Someone tried to silence (Navalny) and in the name of the whole German government I condemn that in the strongest terms,” Chancellor Merkel said, adding that Germany’s NATO and EU partners had been informed of the results of the investigation and they would decide on a common and appropriate response based on Russia’s reaction.

The European Union has demanded a “transparent” investigation by the Russian government. “Those responsible must be brought to justice,” a statement read.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also called for an inquiry in a tweet, while the US National Security Council (NSC) said the suspected poisoning was “completely reprehensible”. “We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities,” an NSC spokesman said.

Lebanon

Lebanese leaders have promised to form a new government within two weeks, visiting French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday after talks with political blocs who designated a new prime minister a day earlier.

“What I have asked for, what all political parties without exception have committed to this evening right here, is that the formation of this government will not take more than a fortnight,” Macron said in a speech in Beirut.

He said the cabinet would be composed of “competent personalities” and would be an “independent” entity with the backing of political parties.

Mustapha Adib, who had been Lebanon’s ambassador to Berlin since 2013, was named on Monday as the country’s second new prime minister since Saad Hariri resigned in the face of mass protests in October. He will now have to form a reform-oriented government in record time in a crisis-hit country where the process usually takes months.

Adib “can only obtain legitimacy by quickly forming a mission government made up of professionals, the strongest possible team”, Macron said.

Macron toured the Beirut area two days after the warehouse explosion on August 4 that killed at least 190 people. He arrived in Beirut on Monday to follow up on reconstruction efforts and hammer home the need for urgent reform in the Middle East nation that is collapsing under the weight of a crippling economic crisis, and to mark the centenary of the modern Lebanese state.

Belarus

Three Baltic States Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have imposed travel bans on President Alexander Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials, signalling impatience with the West’s cautious approach, by announcing sanctions without waiting for the rest of the EU.

The three small Baltic States have led calls for firm measures against Lukashenko, who is accused by opponents and the West of rigging an August 9 election to prolong his 26-year rule. The sanctions target officials they accuse of having a role in vote-rigging and in violence against protesters since the election. The inclusion of Lukashenko was a prod to other European countries, so far reluctant to back measures against him personally.

This comes as Belarusian authorities resumed arresting protesters in the capital, Minsk, where students have taken to the streets against President Lukashenko. Belarusian media reported that at least 18 students were arrested as police moved to break up the demonstration.

Lukashenko, who turned 66 on Sunday, is struggling to contain weeks of protests and strikes since winning an August 9 election his opponents say was rigged.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a birthday phone call to invite Lukashenko to visit Moscow, a sign of the Kremlin’s willingness to back Lukashenko as he grapples with the unrest and the threat of new Western sanctions.

Belarus is Russia’s closest ex-Soviet ally and its territory is an integral part of Moscow’s European defence strategy. Nevertheless, Lukashenko is seen in Moscow as a prickly partner. In the biggest sign yet of Russia’s willingness to intervene to prop up Lukashenko, Putin has said the Kremlin had set up a “reserve police force” at Lukashenko’s request, although it would be deployed only if necessary.

As the European Union is gearing up to impose new sanctions on Belarus, Lukashenko has threatened to cut off European transit routes across his country in retaliation.

Israel-UAE flight

The historic flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took place this week. It was the first commercial flight of an Israeli aircraft direct to the UAE across Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday’s historic first commercial flight of an Israeli aircraft direct to the UAE across Saudi Arabia will not be the last. “Now there is another tremendous breakthrough,” he wrote shortly after Saudi Arabia said it would allow UAE flights to “all countries” to overfly the kingdom.

“Flights will be cheaper and shorter, and it will lead to robust tourism and develop our economy,” he said.

Monday’s groundbreaking flight on an aircraft of Israeli national carrier El Al carried a US-Israeli delegation headed by White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. The visit was aimed at charting the relationship between the Emirates and the Jewish state after their landmark deal to normalize relations.


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