China’s defense minister visits India

Updated 03 September 2012
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China’s defense minister visits India

NEW DELHI: Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie started a four-day visit to India yesterday with concerns over competing influence across South Asia likely to be high on the agenda.
General Liang was expected to arrive in Mumbai from Sri Lanka, and would hold talks with his counterpart A.K. Antony in New Delhi on Wednesday, a leading Indian newspaper reported.
The visit is the first by a Chinese defense minister in eight years, and comes amid India’s fears about Chinese activity in nations such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that India sees as within its sphere of influence. India and China also have territorial disputes along their shared border, particularly in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, where the two countries fought a brief but brutal war in 1962.
The presence of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala is another cause of prickly relations between the two emerging nations. Yesterday, Tibetan exiles held a small demonstration close to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi to protest against Liang’s visit, burning a Chinese flag and shouting slogans demanding freedom for Tibetans living in China.
While in Sri Lanka, Liang stressed China sought only “harmonious co-existence” with other countries. “The Chinese army’s efforts in conducting friendly exchanges and cooperation with its counterparts in South Asian nations are intended for maintaining regional security and stability and not targeted at any third party,” Liang said. Indian government officials confirmed Liang’s trip but declined to give further details.
The newspaper said Liang would be travelling with a 23-member delegation and that renewed joint military training exercises would be discussed during talks. “With China itself requesting the visit, it’s a significant step towards repairing the cracks in bilateral defense ties,” an unnamed official told the newspaper. China claims all of Arunachal Pradesh as well as other areas in the northwestern province of Kashmir in disputes that have been the subject of 15 rounds of fruitless talks. A build-up of Chinese military infrastructure along the border has been a major source of concern for India, which increasingly sees Beijing as a longer-term threat to its security to traditional rival Pakistan.


Italy confirms seizure of German NGO migrant rescue ship

Updated 25 sec ago
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Italy confirms seizure of German NGO migrant rescue ship

ROME: Italy’s highest court of appeal on Tuesday rejected a request by the German NGO Jugend Rettet to release its migrant rescue boat, impounded eight months ago on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.
The Italian Court of Cassation did not say why it had turned down the NGO’s request for the release of the Iuventa, a 33-meter (110-foot) motorboat seized off the island of Lampedusa on August 2.
At the time, the state police force had said that circumstantial evidence had come to light in a probe dating back to October 2016 which suggested the boat was being used for “activities facilitating illegal immigration.”
Two security officers employed on another rescue boat presented images that they alleged showed Jugend Rettet members conversing with suspected smugglers. They had also allegedly been seen sending back a wooden boat to Libya that was then used to transport more migrants.
But Jugend Rettet denies the allegations, saying the officers had misinterpreted particularly complicated rescue operations carried out on two days in June 2017 when many boats were in distress.
A detailed study by the Forensic Oceanography collective of all available images and radio exchanges in the area over those two days also cast doubt on the allegations.
At a news conference in Berlin, Jugend Rettet spokesman, Philipp Kuelker, said the Iuventa case “sets a precedent.”
The court was making it possible to “criminalize rescue at sea and showing solidarity with other human beings on the run. But as long as people continue to die at sea, we will continue our fight,” Kuelker said.
By contrast, an Italian judge last week ordered the release of another migrant rescue ship, belonging to the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms.
That boat had been seized in mid-March after NGO workers refused to hand over migrants saved during a rescue mission off the Libyan coast to the Libyan coast guard, instead delivering them to the Italian island of Sicily.
The judge argued that Libya “was not yet in a position to take in rescued migrants while ensuring their fundamental rights were respected” and considered that the NGO had acted “out of necessity.”
In recent days, more than 1,500 migrants were rescued off Libya and at least 11 people have died after boats capsized.