China holds live-fire drills in disputed Himalayan territory, tells India to withdraw

A Chinese soldier, left, talks to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 July 2017
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China holds live-fire drills in disputed Himalayan territory, tells India to withdraw

BEIJING: China renewed a call for India to immediately withdraw its troops from disputed territory high in the Himalayan mountains, following a report that Chinese forces recently held live firing drills in the region.
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Indian forces had to leave the area to avoid an “escalation of the situation.”
“We have stated many times that we hope the Indian side will get a clear understanding of the situation (and) immediately take measures to withdraw the troops that illegally crossed the border back to the Indian side of the border,” Lu said at a regular news briefing Tuesday.
Beijing and New Delhi have engaged in more than a month of saber-rattling as officials from both sides talk of a potential clash even bloodier than their 1962 war that left thousands dead.
Lu’s comments came after Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported late last week that an army brigade equipped with rocket launchers, heavy machine guns and mortars recently practiced a simulated live-firing assault on an enemy position in Tibet. The drills also involved tracking and targeting enemy aircraft, the report said.
The current standoff is in the southernmost part of Tibet in an area also claimed by Indian ally Bhutan, although the report did not say exactly when or where the drills took place.
The slow-motion crisis is expected to be discussed when Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visits Beijing on July 27-28 to take part in a security forum under the BRICS group of large developing nations that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
However, with nationalist sentiments among the public running high in both nations, neither side is expected to back down before the bitter Himalayan winter arrives in a few months, according to experts.
China insists Indian troops withdraw before talks can take place to settle what has become the longest protracted standoff in recent years between nuclear-armed neighbors who share a 3,500-kilometer (2,174-mile) border, much of it contested.
The most recent dispute flared in June after Chinese teams began building a road onto the Doklam, or Donglang in Chinese, Plateau that is claimed by both China and Bhutan, which cooperates closely with India on security matters.
Although China and Bhutan have been negotiating the precise border for decades without serious incident, the tiny Himalayan kingdom turned this time to help from New Delhi, which sent troops across the border from the northeastern state of Sikkim.
China retaliated by closing a nearby mountain pass that Indian pilgrims use to reach Mount Kailash, a sacred Hindu and Buddhist site in Tibet. China’s foreign ministry has also presented to reporters historical documents that it says prove China’s claims to the plateau.
Although the Doklam Plateau is not part of Indian territory, New Delhi has been particularly sensitive to Chinese building activity in a region with strategic significance.


Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 21 May 2019
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Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.