India and China, two nuclear-armed Asian neighbours, are in a tense diplomatic and military standoff following their first deadly border clash in more than 40 years.
The June 15 incident in the disputed Galwan Valley, an arid Himalayan area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two nations, left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China has yet to officially declare its casualties.
Modi denies Chinese incursion into India before deadly clash
India says 20 soldiers killed in border clash with China
India-China border tension: A new flashpoint in South Asia
Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in the standoff since early May at several points along the 3,500km (2,200-mile) LAC, most of which remains undemarcated.
The heightened tensions between the world’s two most populous countries have drawn international concerns, with the United Nations urging both sides “to exercise maximum restraint”.
Here are five things you need to know about the dispute:
What happened on June 15?
The fighting on June 15 was triggered by a disagreement over two Chinese tents and observation towers that Indian officials said had been built on its side of the LAC.
Chinese troops breached the Line to set up temporary “structures” in the Galwan Valley even after military officials had reached an agreement on June 6 to de-escalate, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told China’s senior diplomat, Wang Yi, in a phone call.
The problem arose when an Indian patrol visited the area near a ridge to verify a Chinese assertion that its troops had moved back from the LAC, two government sources told Reuters news agency.
The Chinese troops had thinned out, leaving behind two tents and small observation posts, which the Indian party demolished, the sources said.
A large group of Chinese soldiers arrived and confronted the Indian troops. It was not clear what happened next, but the two sides soon clashed, the Chinese soldiers reportedly using iron rods and batons with spikes, killing 20 Indian soldiers and wounding dozens of others.
China has not said anything about any losses in the hand-to-hand combat.
On Sunday, V K Singh, Indian federal minister for roads and transport and a former army chief, claimed China lost at least 40 soldiers in the clash, without providing any evidence.
China’s state-controlled Global Times said there had been Chinese casualties, but did not elaborate.
Indian army convoy moves along the Srinagar-Leh National highway towards Ladakh [Faisal Khan/Anadolu]
Why did the clash happen?
Experts mainly cite two reasons for the deadliest clash since 1975.
A major reason, according to some experts, is linked to India’s unilateral move last year to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had guaranteed a measure of autonomy to the former Jammu and Kashmir state, which also included the disputed areas in Ladakh region.
China, which, like Pakistan, saw India’s move as unilaterally affecting its territory, strongly denounced the move at the UN Security Council last year.
Analysts also believe the current standoff is also a result of China’s pushback against India’s recent construction of infrastructure in border areas.
India inaugurated the 255km (158-mile) Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, built along the LAC, last year. China objected, seeing the move as a threat to its interests in the region.
China’s economic corridor to Pakistan and Central Asia passes through Karakoram, which is close to Galwan Valley, the site of the June 15 clash. Galwan Valley is close to Aksai Chin Plateau, which is under Chinese control but claimed by India.
According to Happymon Jacob, professor of international relations at New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, China considers the Ladakh region crucial for its “access to Central Asia and CPEC project with Pakistan in which they [China] have invested billions of dollars [about $60bn].”
Indian Border Security Force soldiers guard a highway leading towards Leh, bordering China, in Gagangir [Tauseef Mustafa/AFP]
What is each side claiming?
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was unaware of the specifics but that the Indian army had crossed into Chinese territory in several places in recent days – violating the agreement reached on June 6 – and that they should withdraw.
Calling it a “deliberate provocation” on New Delhi’s part, Zhao said: “The rights and wrongs… are very clear and the responsibility rests entirely with the Indian side.”
In response, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava cautioned China against making “exaggerated and untenable claims” on the sovereignty of the Galwan Valley area.
India says China occupies 38,000 sq km (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, with 12,000 Chinese soldiers reportedly pushing across the border.
Last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi categorically refuted claims of China’s takeover of any Indian territory – his statement contrasting with the government’s earlier claims.
Modi’s denial of a Chinese incursion triggered a controversy, with opposition leaders accusing the government of intelligence failures and asking why the clash happened in the first place.
“Modi’s remarks will be very helpful to ease the tensions because as the Prime Minister of India, he has removed the moral basis for hardliners to further accuse China” : Global Times https://t.co/2jOOuR53M1
— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) June 22, 2020
Who holds the advantage?
Ashley Tellis, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes the latest Chinese advances in the Ladakh region leaves India with “painful” choices.
“Beijing has moved into disputed territories that did not host a continual Chinese presence as recently as January 2020,” Tellis wrote on June 4, days before the brawl.
Satellite pictures taken by Earth-imaging company, Planet Labs, in the days leading up to the clash, also suggest increased Chinese activity at the Galwan Valley.
“Looking at it in Planet, it looks like China is constructing roads in the valley and possibly damming the river,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Reuters.
“There are a tonne of vehicles on both sides [of the LAC] – although there appear to be vastly more on the Chinese side. I count 30-40 Indian vehicles and well over 100 vehicles on the Chinese side.”
In addition to its dispute with China, India has found itself at loggerheads with two other neighbours – long-standing rival Pakistan, and Nepal.
Nepal and India have historically enjoyed good ties, but now find themselves engaged in what experts have called a cartographic war over border regions.
Last week, Nepal’s Parliament approved a new map for the country, which includes land controlled by India.
“On the one hand, the major power in the region, China, is against India and on the other hand, smaller neighbours, which have been traditionally very friendly to India, are also negatively disposed to India. I think that is a major policy failure,” Jacob told Al Jazeera.
The reaction in India to Chinese advances has been one of outrage, with citizens and trade associations calling for the Modi-led government to boycott Chinese goods.
Protesters across the country were seen burning Chinese flags and products, while videos on social media showed teenagers destroying their Chinese-made mobile phones.
Beijing is India’s biggest trading partner, with annual bilateral trade worth $92bn. The trade imbalance between the two is significant, and favours China heavily.
In an interview to The Economic Times, Shyam Saran, former Indian foreign secretary, said India should avoid any “knee-jerk reactions” against China, claiming that it would be impossible for New Delhi to find alternative suppliers in the near future.
Jacob believes India should reach out to Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as Quad – an informal strategic forum that includes India, Japan, Australia and the United States – to take on China.
“If the USA makes noises in favour of India and strengthens the Quad, it will send a message to China that we will take aggressive steps and will defend our interest,” he said.
A trilateral summit between India, China and Russia is scheduled on Tuesday. The virtual meeting, to be attended by India’s foreign minister, is likely to address the border standoff.
Meanwhile, the Indian and Chinese armies are also talking on the LAC to defuse the tensions.
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Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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