The Hindu – A day in Delhi for Ghani and Tillerson

The visits will provide India opportunity to hold talks on crucial regional and security-related issues

Special Correspondent

New Delhi. 20 October 2017. Continuing with close bilateral consultation, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani will visit India on October 24. The official confirmation about the visit came even as the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated India’s commitment to ‘rule-based international order’, setting the stage for the visit of USA Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the capital on the same day.

The visit by President Ghani comes within days of a visit to Kabul by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Thursday’s Taliban attack on the Afghan National Army base in Kandahar province that killed at least fifty-eight security personnel.

When asked about the details of the Afghan leader’s agenda, an MEA official source said that the visit was being “worked upon” and a statement on the agenda would be made soon.

Mr Ghani’s visit, which is likely to last for half-a-day, is significant as it comes two-months after USA President Donald Trump announced his government’s new Afghanistan policy for which he has urged India to do more.

Crucial talks

The visits of Mr Ghani and Mr Tillerson to Delhi indicate that they will provide all three, the USA, Afghanistan and India, the opportunity to hold talks on crucial regional and security-related issues.

Indicating at India’s stance to Mr Tillerson’s visit, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We appreciate his positive evaluation of the relationship and share his optimism about its future directions. We look forward to welcoming him in India next week for detailed discussions on further strengthening of our partnership.”

The Ministry’s statement was a response to Mr Tillerson’s October 18 comments at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC, where he highlighted his two decades-long personal ties with India and said:

Centre of gravity

“The world’s centre of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The USA and India, with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture, must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific.”

Mr Tillerson had also pointed out that China’s rise as an international power had been “less peaceful”. The Asia-Pacific component of the visit will unfold soon after the latest congress of the Communist Party of China which led to the consolidation of power of President Xi Jinping and his re-election for one more term.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-day-in-delhi-for-ghani-and-tillerson/article19891697.ece

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The Hindu – Doklam, Rohingya issue to be examined by parliamentary panel

New Delhi-India, 11 October 2017. The 73-day Doklam standoff and the Rohingya issue will be examined by the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The panel, which also includes Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, will deliberate on a number of key foreign policy issues next month, one of its members said.

Sino-Indian relations, including the border situation and the Doklam stand-off, relations with Myanmar and the Rohingya issue are among subjects selected by the panel for deliberations, according to the Lok Sabha bulletin.

Voting rights to NRIs, the crisis of the European Union in the wake of Brexit and its implications for India and performance of passport issuance system including issuance of e-passport are topics for discussions shortlisted by the panel for its year—long agenda.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had in July briefed the panel on the Doklam stand-off.

India and China had in August struck a deal to pull back from their most serious face-off in two decades. The development had come a week before the BRICS summit in China which was attended by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dokalam-rohingya-issue-to-be-examined-by-parliamentary-panel/article19835629.ece

The Hindu – Nirmala Sitharaman surveys Doklam, Nathula

Review comes amid reports of significant Chinese presence not far from Doklam standoff point

Special Correspondent

Gangtok-Sikkim-India, 8 October 2017. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday made an aerial survey of the Doklam-Nathula stretch and reviewed the situation along the India-China border. The review comes in the face of reports of significant Chinese presence not very far from the Doklam standoff point.

Army sources said Ms Sitharaman, accompanied by the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Sarath Chand, reviewed the operational situation during her first visit to the area as the Defence Minister.

The visit comes just a couple of days ahead of a week-long biannual Army Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi, where the dominant subject would be recent developments along the China border and the situation within Kashmir and along the Pakistan border.

High alert

Both India and China have been maintaining a higher number of troops than normal near the tri-junction with Bhutan. The two countries are on a higher state of alert ever since the Doklam standoff.

The Defence Minister was briefed on the situation at the Gangtok-based 17 Mountain Division, which has four brigades and is responsible for the security at the tri-junction.

She will interact with the Army Commanders when they assemble for the conference.

India and China had been engaged in a two-month standoff in Doklam from mid-June to August 28. While the troops disengaged, China continues to have a sizeable presence a few hundred metres away, with stores and new bunkers.

Sources have spoken about China carrying out the overlay of a road leading towards the Doklam area, but within their territory.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nirmala-sitharaman-makes-aerial-survey-of-doklam-nathula-area/article19820081.ece

The Hindu – Foreign Secretary in Bhutan amid reports of Bhutan-China tension

Jaishankar’s visit came in the backdrop of reports that China is amassing troops near Bhutan’s Doklam plateau and other areas

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 4 October 2017. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar met with Bhutan’s king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk on Tuesday and will hold several meetings on Wednesday with officials in Thumphu, officials have confirmed.

Mr Jaishankar’s visit came in the backdrop of reports that China is amassing troops near Bhutan’s Doklam plateau and other areas, barely a month after a standoff with India ended at the Doklam plateau.

Reports suggested that Chinese troops entered disputed zones of Bhutan-China border in a few places over the last week. During the Doklam crisis, Bhutan had maintained a cautious position indicating that it would allow diplomacy to take its course in the tricky border issue.

During the visit, Mr Jaishankar is likely to hold talks with Foreign Minister Damcho Dorjee and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

The visit is the first by the Indian Foreign Secretary following the resolution of the last round of tension between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam where a 72-day standoff ended on August 28.

Bilateral ties between India and China are not yet normal as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China did not invite representatives of the Indian army for the annual border personnel meeting (BPM) to mark the Chinese National Day on October 1.

China did not attend a similar meeting to mark the Independence Day celebrations on August 15 as it was overshadowed by the Doklam standoff.

A mechanism to discuss issues between China, Bhutan and India are also likely to be discussed during Mr Jaishankar’s visit.

Bhutan and China met for the 24th round of the bilateral border discussion in August 2016, but a similar meeting has not been held so far though Chinese diplomats based in Delhi have visited the kingdom on several occasions earlier this year.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/foreign-secretary-in-bhutan-amid-reports-of-bhutan-china-tension/article19795581.ece

The News – Pakistan will be defended, announces China

Beijing-China, 2 September 2017. China on Thursday sent out a signal that it would defend Pakistan and would object to any discussion about Pakistan’s role in sheltering terrorists during the upcoming BRICS summit, which would be attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, foreign media reported.

China is worried Modi may raise the issue at the meeting because he did so at the Goa summit of BRICS last year while describing Pakistan as the “mother-ship of terrorism”.

“We also noticed that India, when it comes to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism, has some concerns. I don’t think this is an appropriate topic to be discussed at BRICS summit,” Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said at a briefing.

She also indicated that raising the topic might affect the success of the summit because Chinese leaders may be forced to defend its close ally, Pakistan.

“The world is paying great attention to the BRICS summit. I hope relevant parties can work with China to ensure the success of the summit and make due contributions,” Hua said. She meant the five members of BRICS including India when she mentioned “relevant parties”.

This time the BRICS summit is taking place on 3 September in Xiamen in China, which regards Pakistan as an
“all-weather friend”.

India is in a stronger position to raise the issue because US President Donald Trump recently accused Pakistan of sheltering terrorists and threatened to withdraw financial aid if Islamabad refused to mend its ways. There are chances Chinese leaders might come to Pakistan’s defence at the summit.

One of the main objectives of BRICS is to enhance cooperation among the five member countries in fighting against terrorism. But it is difficult for India to join hands in any meaningful manner unless Beijing adopts a different attitude on this issue when it comes to the role of Pakistan.

Hua said, “Pakistan is at forefront of counter terror efforts and has made sacrifices for this. The international community should recognise their contributions and sacrifices made by Pakistan.”

She added, “China is willing to work with Pakistan and other countries to enhance our cooperation in counterterrorism. This serves the common interest of all parties.”

China routinely refers to “sacrifices” made by Pakistan in battling terrorism.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227606-Pakistan-will-be-defended-announces-China

The Times of India – Doklam row: China removes road-building equipment from face-off site

Indrani Bagchi

New Delhi, 29 August 2017. In a diplomatic victory, India and China have agreed to “disengage” from the stand-off in Doklam on Bhutanese territory.

After almost 10 weeks of sustained negotiations between top-level Indian and Chinese officials, the MEA on Monday said “expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going.”

By the end of the day, as Indian troops withdrew from their post at Doka La, Chinese troops and their road-building equipment too were removed from the face-off site.

The standoff has been on since June 16 when Indian troops physically stopped the PLA from building a road on Doklam plateau. In a second statement at the end of the day, MEA confirmed that both sides had moved out “under verification.”

The negotiations were conducted at various levels, first, during the visit by NSA Ajit Doval to China in July, where he held discussions with his counterpart Yang Jiechi.

Next, foreign secretary S Jaishankar led the diplomatic talks with the Chinese side, helped by India’s ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale, who worked ceaselessly with the Chinese government over the last couple of months to achieve an outcome that would be acceptable to both sides.

The MEA spokesperson said that in numerous meetings between the Indian and Chinese officials in the past couple of months, India has been successful in conveying its “concerns and interests.”

“In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests.”

Post-disengagement, China will continue to patrol the region as it had done earlier, but there will be no road construction activity. The resolution comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China for the BRICS summit.

It also comes before a crucial 19th party congress in China where Xi Jinping expects to be “cleared” for another five years and he will choose the core group of leaders who will rule China for the next five years.

The Indians went in with some demands:

– That China should not change the ground realities unilaterally.
– That China should respect the the 2012 understanding on tri-junctions.

This was detailed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in parliament where she said, “Point 13 of the common understanding states that “The tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.”

Since 2012, we have not held any discussion on the tri-junction with Bhutan. The Chinese action in the Doklam area is therefore of concern.”

While China was breathing fire in the public domain, during the negotiations, sources said, India held the line that bilateral relations would be affected if China did not ensure “peace and tranquillity” on the border.

This could happen only if there was a reversal to the status quo. The two sides only came to an understanding after continued conversations and a realisation in China that India would not move from the ground until they withdrew.

In addition, India also provided China with a face-saving exit. China’s initial response on Monday morning was to confine itself to saying that only Indian troops had withdrawn from the site, and that they would continue to “maintain sovereignty”on the Doklam plateau.

India did not contest this publicly until in the afternoon, when a second Indian statement clarified that both sides had withdrawn “under verification.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/doklam-row-china-removes-road-building-equipment-from-face-off-site/articleshow/60262735.cms

The Times of India – Doklam standoff: Chinese clip mocks Sikhs, called racist

I P Singh

Jalandhar, 19 August 2017. Amid the Doklam stand-off on the Bhutanese border, the state owned Chinese news agency Xinhua has put out a three-minute video in which an actor mocks India by dressing up as a Sikh soldier.

The actor in a Sikh turban and a shabby beard clowns around on screen while the anchor attacks India in the clip titled “7 sins of India”.

The video has been uploaded on Xinhua’s site and Twitter handle at a time when India has posted burly Sikh and Jat soldiers at the Doklam tri-junction in a bid to intimidate Chinese soldiers.

The anchor in the clip starts by saying that it has been two months since Indian troops illegally crossed into China.
“The whole world is trying to wake India up but China has realized that it is impossible to awaken a guy who is pretending to be asleep,” she says and shows a man with the ill-fitting turban saying in a mock Indian accent: “Nobody’s blaming me because I’m asleep.” He then snores amid canned laughter.

UK-based Sikh Press Association called the clip, “blatant mockery of the Sikh identity”. UK-based Sikh Press Association said, “It is sad to see just how low Chinese media have stooped in using the Sikh identity as a pawn in their state propaganda against India.

Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population, so to use a mocked-up image of a Sikh as the face of propaganda targeted against India shows just how ill-informed Xinhua is.” Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh said, “It is racist and reflects poorly on the Chinese state-owned media. Despite the stand-off India should raise the issue with China.”

The anchor in the clip also calls Doklam undisputed Chinese territory and alleges that India is trampling on international law. She mockingly asks, “Didn’t your mama tell you never break the law?”

The clown also says, “He is building a path in his garden, I am in danger,” which is followed by another bout of laughter.The clip claims that India is holding a small neighbour like Bhutan to ransom in the name of protecting it.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/doklam-standoff-chinese-clip-mocks-sikhs-called-racist/articleshow/60130823.cms

The Times of India – Doklam standoff fails to affect services at Shanghai gurdwara

Yudhvir Rana

19 August 2017. Amritsar: The Doklam standoff between India and China has failed to affect the only gurdwara in Shanghai, which continues to hold weekly darbar and perform other religious services as usual.

“There is no war mongering or even any such hype here among the locals. Whatever we hear is largely from the Indian media,” said Satbir Singh while speaking to TOI over phone from Shanghai on Friday.

Satbir has converted a portion of his house in Shanghai into a gurdwara, where saroop of Guru Granth Sahib is installed and a weekly darbar held. Devotees comprising Sikhs and Hindu, including Sindhis, come to the gurdwara frequently. According to Satbir, there are only eight Sikh families, besides Hindu and Sindhi, in Shanghai.

The other two gurdwaras in China are at Keqiao and Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

While denying that Indo-China standoff was a topic of discussion among locals, he said the Chinese locals had very cordial relations with the Indians in Shanghai. “Many a times, some of them even accompany their Hindu, Sikh or Sindhi friends to the gurdwara and feel blessed,” he said.

Satbir’s father had worked for about 30 years in China and shifted to Shanghai from Hong Kong about 12 years ago. On an average, the weekly gurdwara darbar has a gathering of around 60 people. “There are other people who visit the gurdwara daily,” he said.

Sushil Balani, who has business ties with China, said there was more of media hype than anything on ground. “Till now, business is as usual with China. All the transactions are normal, many businessmen are still in China and none of them have returned,” he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/doklam-standoff-fails-to-affect-services-at-shanghai-gurdwara/articleshow/60126778.cms

The Hindu – President Ram Nath Kovind to visit Leh on Monday

The President’s visit will come amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam

Sandeep Phukan

New Delhi, 17 August 2017. President Ram Nath Kovind will make a day-long trip to Leh next Monday to honour the 14 Corps of the Army headquartered in Ladakh, amid the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam and just days after they clashed in the Ladakh region.

Mr Kovind will present the Presidential Colours, a rare military honour, to the infantry unit of the 14 Corps in recognition of its exceptional service. But the importance of the Supreme Commander addressing the troops in the border region will not be lost. However, sources in the Rashtrapati Bhavan said the visit was a pre-scheduled one.

Ladakh shares an open border with both Pakistan and China. In recent times, the relations between Indian and Chinese troops have hit a rough patch here too, because of the stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Senior officers of the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army met at Chushul (Leh) met on Wednesday to ease the tensions after the troops were engaged in a scuffle and stone-throwing.

On August 15, Indian troops claimed that the Chinese troops along the Pangong Lake tried to cross over twice. They were stopped by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police before a skirmish started. One-third of the 135-km-long Pangong Lake is on the Indian side and the rest on the Chinese side.

Against this backdrop, a presidential visit assumes significance, though the Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told The Hindu that “too much” should not be read into it.

The last time a President visited Ladakh was in September 2010, when Pratibha Patil travelled to the strategic region after a cloudburst caused large-scale devastation.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kovind-to-visit-leh-on-monday/article19511225.ece

The Hindustan Times – India deploys more troops along China border in Sikkim, Arunachal, ‘caution level’ raised

India-China ties are currently under strain after New Delhi, along with Bhutan, raised concerns over Beijing’s attempts to build a road in the disputed Doklam area in the Sikkim sector.

New Delhi, 11 Aug 2017. In a strategically key move, India has poured in more troops along the entire stretch of its border with China in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the face of heightened rhetoric by Beijing over the Doklam standoff, senior government officials said on Friday.

The “caution level” among the troops has also been raised, the officials told PTI.

The decision to increase the deployment along the nearly 1,400 km Sino-India border from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh was taken after carrying out a detailed analysis of the situation and considering China’s aggressive posturing against India on Doklam, the officials said.

“The troop level along the border with China in the Sikkim and Arunachal sectors has been increased,” said the officials on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The Army’s Sukna-based 33 Corps as well as 3 and 4 corps based in Arunachal and Assam are tasked to protect the sensitive Sino-India border in the eastern theatre.

The officials declined to give any figure or percentage of increased deployment, saying they cannot disclose “operational details.”

According to defence experts, roughly 45,000 troops including personnel having completed the weather acclimatisation process are normally kept ready along the border at any given time, but not all are necessarily deployed.

The soldiers, deployed over 9,000 feet, have to go through a 14-day-long acclimatisation process.

The officials, however, said there is no enhancement of troops at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in Doklam where around 350 army personnel are holding on to their position for nearly eight weeks after stopping Chinese troops from constructing a road on June 16.

Bhutan and China have competing claims over Doklam, and are negotiating a resolution.

China has been ramping up rhetoric against India over the last few weeks, demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Dokalam. The Chinese state media, particularly, has carried a barrage of critical articles on the Dokalam stand-off slamming India.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj recently said both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, and favoured a peaceful resolution of the border standoff.

India also conveyed to the Chinese government that the road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for it.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-deploys-more-troops-along-china-border-in-sikkim-arunachal/story-TJj9nVPn776GqzymgHZScI.html