China’s defense minister visits India

Updated 03 September 2012
0

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 tells rescue ship to take migrants to the Netherlands

Updated 9 min 1 sec ago
0

Italy tells rescue ship to take migrants to the Netherlands

  • Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini: “You have intentionally not listened to Italian or Libyan authorities. Good. Then take this load of human beings to the Netherlands.”
  • Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs: “They have a Dutch flag, but they are not registered in the Netherlands, and therefore are not under Dutch state flag responsibility.”

ROME: Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister accused a German charity on Thursday of ignoring coast guard orders when its Dutch-flagged ship picked up 226 migrants off Libya’s coast and he said they should be taken to the Netherlands not Italy.
Earlier this month Matteo Salvini pledged to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe haven.
On Thursday, Mission Lifeline, a charity based in Dresden, Germany, pulled migrants off two rubber boats in international waters even though it was told by Italy that Libya’s coast guard was coming to get them, a spokesman for the charity said. They would not have been safe if taken back to Libya, he said.
Salvini, also leader of the anti-immigrant League party, addressed the charity in a Facebook video: “You have intentionally not listened to Italian or Libyan authorities. Good. Then take this load of human beings to the Netherlands.”
International maritime guidelines say that people rescued at sea should be taken to the nearest “place of safety.”
The United Nations and other humanitarian agencies do not deem Libya “a place of safety” because they say migrants there are subject to indefinite detention, physical abuse, forced labor and extortion.
A Lifeline statement indicated its vessel was heading northwards with the 226 migrants and called on “the competent authorities to swiftly react according to their obligation to designate a place of safety.”
“They have a Dutch flag, but they are not registered in the Netherlands, and therefore are not under Dutch state flag responsibility,” Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs said in response, without elaborating.
Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said he had asked the coast guard to investigate state flag issue.
Lifeline spokesman Axel Steier said the migrants aboard its boat included 14 women and four small children. “We didn’t want to wait for the Libyan coast guard because people were in danger,” Steier told Reuters.
Waiting for the Libyans would have constituted allowing “an illegal pushback” of refugees to a country where they are not safe, he added.
With its hard line on rescue boats, Italy’s new populist government has thrust migration back onto the European Union agenda. Italy has seen more than 640,000 land on its shores since 2014 and is currently sheltering 170,000 asylum seekers.
Germany is also seeking to restrict asylum-seekers’ movement in the bloc. An emergency “mini-summit” has been called for Brussels on Sunday to discuss immigration ahead of a full, 28-state EU summit on June 28-29.
Toninelli, who oversees Italy’s ports and coast guard, had called last weekend on the Netherlands to recall Lifeline and another Dutch-flagged ship, Seefuchs. On Thursday, Toninelli said Lifeline was acting “outside of international law.”
“The transport minister is lying,” Steier shot back. “We always act in line with international law. Always.”
Salvini has denounced the charity ships as “deputy traffickers,” suggesting they profit from the rescues.
Earlier this week a tribunal in Palermo shelved an inquiry into whether German charity Sea Watch and Spain’s Proactiva Open Arms were in contact with smugglers, saying no evidence was found.