Top Chinese and Indian generals are holding high-level talks in a Himalayan outpost in a bid to end the latest border standoff between the world’s two most populous nations that has seen thousands of troops sent to both sides of the disputed border.
The talks are being held in the border outpost of Maldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto border between the two countries, India-based NDTV channel reported.
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The talks come after multiple local military level meetings failed to defuse the tension, which arose after troops from both sides were involved in scuffles in early May followed by Chinese intrusion in several border areas that New Delhi claims as its own.
Most of 3,488km-long (2,167 miles) border between the two countries is disputed and non-demarcated.
Retired Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda described the high-level talks as “unprecedented”.
“I have not seen Corps Commander level officers carrying out military talks,” Lt Gen DS Hooda was quoted as saying by theprint.in website.
As the talks take place, here are the key points that have led to the dispute and the pitfalls as the two nations, who fought a 1962 border war and have clashed many times since, over the solution:
Fist-fights and handshakes at the frontier
The face-off in eastern Ladakh region, which was carved out of Indian-administered Kashmir last August, started on May 5 and May 6 when soldiers of both sides were involved in a skirmish.
On May 9, several Indian and Chinese troops were injured in fights with fists, stones and wooden batons in Sikkim state – about 1,200km east the Ladakh region.
Indian officials say that within days, Chinese troops had encroached on the Indian side of their demarcation line in the Ladakh region further to the west.
India has moved extra troops to positions opposite.
INTERACTIVE: India-China border dispute [Al Jazeera]
A line out of control
Experts say that new roads on the Indian side of the line may have rankled China.
But the dividing line between India and China is more like a scar – that includes a ceasefire LAC – than a border.
The countries cannot even agree on how long it is. India gives a figure of 3,488 kilometres (2,167 miles). China does not give a number, but state media says the border should be just 2,000km (1,250 miles) when China’s claims in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and other regions are taken into account.
Each side uses different frontier proposals made by Britain to China in the 19th century to back their claims. Increasingly tense border talks and a series of skirmishes led to the 1962 war, mainly fought above 4,000 metres (14,000 feet), in which China took territory from India in Arunachal Pradesh. Regular clashes have followed and the rival sides staged a 73-day showdown in the Doklam plateau in 2017.
High altitude face-offs have become more frequent in recent years. There have been four since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
The US administration has said this is a new sign of China’s growing military assertiveness.
India has also taken a tougher line on security since nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.
“India does not want to hurt any country’s pride, neither can it tolerate if a country wants to hurt ours,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week.
Tamanna Salikuddin, a South Asia expert at the US Institute of Peace think-tank, linked the tensions to India’s fierce rivalry with Pakistan, an ally of China.
“From the Indian perspective, China’s aggression is seen as supportive of Pakistan’s efforts to contest the borders with India in this highly inflammable region,” Salikuddin said.
However, according to Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Beijing’s concerns “appear to have grown since the August 2019 Indian decision to make Ladakh” a federally-administered territory.
India’s Hindu nationalist government stripped the Muslim-majority Himalayan region’s limited autonomy on August 5, 2019, heightening tensions with its nuclear-armed neighbours China and Pakistan.
Carnegie’s Tellis believes the latest Chinese advancement in the Ladakh region leave India only with “painful” choices.
“Beijing has moved into disputed territories that did not host a continual Chinese presence as recently as January 2020,” Tellis wrote.
“China’s first-mover advantage has now locked India into the awkward position of trying to negotiate a Chinese withdrawal from these new occupations, which is an unlikely prospect especially in areas like Pangong Tso, where China is aggressively completing a motorable road, and in the Galwan Valley, where it is reportedly building bunkers and barracks.”
The senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that even if China were to withdraw as a result of negotiations with India, “the new infrastructure it has created would likely survive as a ready asset to be utilised in some future contingency”.
Could China-India border dispute trigger a military conflict? I Inside Story
No shots since 1975
While India and China are better armed and more stubborn, no shots have been fired across the disputed border since 1975. Diplomats say this is part of an unofficial “de-escalation pact”.
And while they blame each other for the latest flare-up and both countries are looking for diversions from the global pandemic crisis, both insist negotiating avenues such as the Chusho-Moldo talks can act as a safety valve for their frustrations.
Salikuddin said there is a risk of escalation because of the high number of “troops and heavy weaponry” in the zone but the two sides have a “robust conflict management arrangement”.
And ultimately there is growing recognition that India and China cannot live without each other.
India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told WION TV this week that once the pandemic is over “if there are two engines of growth for the global economies … it is only two countries and they are India and China”.
China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress
Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts. Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties…
Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts.
Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties back to Chinese actors.”
“They’re trying to essentially jump to the front of the line by stealing information from others,” Mr. Wray said.
He declared China the largest counterterrorism focus of the FBI, and pointed to thousands of open investigations into Chinese attempts to penetrate American institutions.
Mr. Wray first warned in early summer that China was attempting to compromise U.S. coronavirus efforts.
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China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report
China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded. The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts…
China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded.
The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts to cover up the severity of the initial spread of the virus and that the government harassed and detained journalists, scientists and health care professionals who were voicing concerns about its handling of the outbreak.
“It is beyond doubt that the [Chinese Communist Party] actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” the report said. “Research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95 percent had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices.”
The report also said that the Chinese government was “legally obliged” on Dec. 27 to inform the World Health Organization that the outbreak in Wuhan may constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30.
The report’s conclusions take aim at the WHO, from which President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal in May, and said that the United Nations-backed organization was “heavily influenced by the Chinese Communist Party” in its messaging of the outbreak.
“The WHO has been complicit in the spread and normalization of CCP propaganda and disinformation,” the report stated, citing outside experts. “By repeating as truth statements that were misleading, if not lies, the WHO negatively impacted the global response.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the Democrat-led committee, said in a statement Monday that “it is crystal-clear that had the CCP been transparent, and had the head of the WHO cared more about global health than appeasing the CCP, lives could have been spared and widespread economic devastation could have been mitigated.”
There have been over 31 million reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 961,000 people have died from the virus, with 199,525 deaths in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The global population currently stands at 7.8 billion.
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China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com
China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat. “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,”…
China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat.
“China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Saturday.
“If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The United States Commerce Department announced the bans on Friday, citing national security grounds although China and the companies have denied US user data is collected for spying
Under Friday’s order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday onwards. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through November 12.
The timeframe gives TikTok’s parent group ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
“We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12,” ByteDance said in a statement.
“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”
START HERE | Should TikTok be banned? (10:50)
TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million globally.
‘Very very popular’
Friday’s order follows weeks of deal-making over TikTok, with US President Donald Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy Washington’s concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy.
Trump said on Friday said he was open to a deal, noting that “we have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok bid had been rejected, might continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we have to have the total security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of both”.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks amid escalating tensions with Beijing on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Commerce Department’s order “violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms”.
INSIDE STORY | Why does Trump want to ban Tiktok? (24:11)
The action against WeChat, used by over 1 billion people worldwide, bars the transfer of funds or processing of payments to or from people in the US through it. Users could also start to experience significantly slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday night.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings’ called the order “unfortunate” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution”.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
The order does not ban US companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the US, which will be welcome news to US firms such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.
The order will not bar transactions with Tencent’s other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the US.
WeChat users have sued to stop the ban, and a federal judge in California on Friday set an emergency hearing for Saturday at 1:30 pm Pacific time.
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