Taiwan leader says island secure ahead of China drills

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (Sam Yeh/AFP)
Updated 17 April 2018
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Taiwan leader says island secure ahead of China drills

  • Chinese officials have suggested Wednesday’s military exercise is a warning to pro-independence advocates in Taiwan
  • Although a fully fledged democracy, Taiwan has never formally announced independence from the mainland and Beijing has warned of military action if it ever did

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen reassured residents that the island was secure Tuesday, a day before China is set to hold live-fire drills in the narrow strait that separates the two.
Tsai spoke to reporters as she left for Swaziland, one of Taiwan’s few remaining international allies that has not been wooed away by an ascendant Beijing as cross-strait relations deteriorate.
Chinese officials have suggested Wednesday’s military exercise is a warning to pro-independence advocates in Taiwan as Beijing steps up its rhetoric against any challenges to its sovereignty.
China sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force.
Tsai said Monday she had told national security officials to closely monitor the “surrounding situation.”
“Please rest assured that we have the confidence and determination to safeguard the country’s security,” she said at Taoyuan International Airport.
Tsai added that maintaining a peaceful “status quo” across the strait was her government’s mission.
Although a fully fledged democracy, Taiwan has never formally announced independence from the mainland and Beijing has warned of military action if it ever did.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence and her newly appointed premier William Lai is a long-standing independence advocate.
When asked if the upcoming military exercise was directed at Lai, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office director Liu Jieyi said on Monday it was “an action to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our motherland.”
Beijing has stepped up military patrols around the island and used diplomatic pressure to isolate Taiwan internationally since Tsai took office in May 2016, as she refuses to accept both sides are part of “one China.”
China has chipped away at Taiwan’s dwindling number of allies, with Swaziland one of the few not to have been convinced to give up official recognition of the island as a country.
On her four-day trip to Africa, Tsai will take part in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Observers say Wednesday’s planned drills also serve as a signal to Washington, which sent aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt through the disputed South China Sea last week.
The region has become a potential flashpoint, with the United States saying China’s aggressive activities in the area pose a threat to freedom of navigation.
Washington is also Taiwan’s most powerful — thought unofficial — ally and its biggest arms supplier.
Relations have warmed between Washington and Taipei in recent months, including the passage of a bill last month that promotes visits by officials at all levels.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.