China appears to have added new structures near the site of a deadly border clash with India in the western Himalayas, fresh satellite pictures show, heightening concerns about further flare-ups between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Indian and Chinese military commanders agreed on Monday to step back from a weeks-old standoff at several locations along their disputed border following the June 15 clash in the Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, the deadliest clash between the two countries in 45 years.
The satellite images showing new construction activity in the week following the brutal hand-to-hand combat underline the challenge of disengagement and the risk of the accord still falling apart because of overlapping claims in the arid territory.
The Galwan Valley, where the clash occurred, falls within a remote stretch of the 3,380-km (2,100-mile) Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto border established following a war between India and China in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.
The pictures shot on Monday by US-based space technology firm Maxar Technologies show what appear to be extensive Chinese structures on a raised river terrace overlooking the Galwan River.
India says the area where the structures have sprung up are on its side of the poorly defined, undemarcated LAC between the two Asian nuclear powers.
China says the whole of Galwan Valley, located at about 14,000ft (4,300m), is its territory and blames Indian troops for triggering the clashes.
The new activity includes camouflaged tents or covered structures against the base of a cliff, and a short distance away, a potential new camp under construction with walls or barricades. The camp was not seen in pictures made available to Reuters news agency the previous week.
Nathan Ruser, a satellite data expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the build-up suggested there was little sign of de-escalation.
“Satellite imagery from the Galwan Valley on June 22nd shows that ‘disengagement’ really isn’t the word that the [Indian] government should be using,” he said in a post on Twitter.
On the Indian side, defensive barriers can be seen in the latest images which were not visible in pictures taken in May. An Indian forward post appears to be scaled back compared with images a month ago.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the apparent activity.
India’s defence ministry also did not respond to a request for a comment.
Indian military officials have previously said they will be closely monitoring the planned disengagement process and verify it on the ground.
“There is a trust deficit so far as the Chinese are concerned,” said former Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor.
“So if they are telling us verbally they are ready to pull back, we will wait to see it on the ground. Until then the armed forces will be on alert.”
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Meanwhile, India’s army chief on Wednesday visited Galwan Valley to review his troops’ preparedness amid tensions with China. He also visited injured soldiers in a hospital in Leh, Ladakh’s region largest city.
An Indian army tweet said General Manoj Mukund Naravane visited “forward areas in eastern Ladakh and reviewed operation situation on the ground”.
The trip comes amid news reports that the Chinese army had crossed the disputed border in another strategic area in the Depsang Plains. There was no immediate comment by the Indian army.
The Indian Express newspaper reported that the intrusion was seen as another attempt by the Chinese to shift the Line of Actual Control farther west on the disputed border.
Rahul Bedi, a defence analyst, said that despite claims of mutual disengagement, the tensions between Indian and China forces were still high along the LAC.
“India is trying to match China’s military assets in the region. The Chinese have ingressed disputed areas where both sides are trying to manoeuver the situation to their advantage,” Bedi said, adding that he did not see a quick end to the crisis.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
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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