India vows to handle China’s ‘assertiveness’

Indian Army soldiers participate in a war exercise in this file photo. India has stepped up patrols on the disputed India - China border to head off more standoffs. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2018
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India vows to handle China’s ‘assertiveness’

NEW DELHI: India will handle China’s growing assertiveness and has stepped up patrols on their disputed border to head off more standoffs, the country’s top army officer declared Friday.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have in the past gone to war over their border and last year were involved in a showdown over a Himalayan plateau claimed by China and Bhutan which is an ally of India.
Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat said a military hotline was being set up between the two sides but insisted his troops are ready for new tensions.
“We understand China is a powerful country but we are not a weak nation,” Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat told a press conference when asked about the border dispute.
“We have increased our troop levels... we have increased our patrolling intensity. We are capable of handling China’s assertiveness.
“We will not allow our territory to be invaded upon. Whenever intrusions take place we will defend because that’s there in our charter.”
Hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops faced off last year on the Doklam plateau, a small strip close to the intersection between China, India and Bhutan.
Rawat said Indian soldiers crossed into foreign territory during the standoff but only because Chinese forces had “big equipment and they meant business.”
“We knew they will try and claim the whole of Doklam. We felt a change in the status quo..(but) all effort was made by us to ensure it does not lead to a conflict.
“Even if it would have escalated we were prepared (as) the terrain usually favors us.”
The border dispute began in mid-June after Chinese troops started building a road on the Himalayan plateau.
India has an army base nearby and moved soldiers into the flashpoint zone to halt the work, prompting Beijing to accuse it of trespassing on Chinese territory.
The two nations finally pulled back their troops in mid-August, averting a full-blown crisis.
India and China fought a 1962 war over Arunachal Pradesh state and have a history of mistrust as they jostle for regional supremacy.
China has fostered closer ties with India’s arch-rival Pakistan in recent years. It has also invested in other countries in the region in a bid to win friends.
India is revamping its military and bolstering its partnership with the United States and Japan.
Both nations say they are committed to solving their border disagreements through dialogue, but progress has been glacial.
Rawat said a military hotline with China was in the works to help defuse future border tensions.
“We are moving very fast, very soon we will have a hotline with the Chinese.
“As we are seeing increased activity along the LAC (Line of Actual Control), this can be deescalated through one-to-one talk at the highest level at the borders.”


Somali militant-turned-politician arrested before regional vote

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago
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Somali militant-turned-politician arrested before regional vote

MOGADISHU: A former senior Somali militant leader was arrested on Thursday, the government said, less than a week before he was scheduled to run for a regional presidency.
The government accused Muktar Robow, who defected from the extremist Al-Shabab movement last year, of “organizing a militia” in Baidoa, the capital of the southwestern Bay region, and seeking to “undermine stability.”
“These actions indicate that he never relinquished his extremist ideologies and is ready to harm the Somali people again,” the government said in a statement.
Authorities had been attempting to prevent Robow from standing in the December 19 election because he remains subject to US sanctions for his time as deputy leader of Shabab.
The Al-Qaeda affiliate Shabab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government for more than a decade.
Police sources speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that Robow had been arrested in Baidoa and taken to the capital Mogadishu.
Baidoa residents told AFP that hundreds of supporters took to the streets in protest of the detention of Robow, who enjoys the support of several clans and is regarded as a serious candidate for the region’s leader.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in the city, the residents said.
“This is a violation of democracy, Robow was standing in his region and his people wanted him. The government has no right to arrest him, this will lead to violence,” said Mohamed Sheik Ali, a Baidoa resident told AFP.
“The people are burning tires and the police are firing gunshots to disperse them. There is gunfire and there are casualties as well,” said Osman Adan, another witness.
“Armed militia and supporters of Robow have reportedly clashed with the police and the situation in town is tense as we speak,” he added.
Robow’s run for office has exposed the tensions between Somalia’s federal states, which want greater autonomy from a national administration keen to safeguard its central powers.
Robow defected from the Shabab in August last year. For a time the US government had offered a $5 million (4.4 million euro) bounty for his capture.
In 2013 Robow split from former Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and sought refuge in the nearby region of Bakool, without completely breaking off links to the group.
Forced out of Mogadishu in 2011, the Shabab have since lost the bulk of their strongholds though they still control vast swathes of mainly rural zones from where they launch guerilla operations on government, security and civilian targets.