India, China to resolve border dispute ‘peacefully’

China and India says they have agreed to “peacefully resolve” their border dispute. (Shutterstock image)
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Updated 08 June 2020

India, China to resolve border dispute ‘peacefully’

  • Current Standoff confined to 5 areas of traditional differences for years

NEW DELHI: In a significant attempt to defuse escalating tensions along the border, both New Delhi and Beijing have agreed to “peacefully resolve” the dispute between the world’s two most populous nations, India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements,” excerpts from the statement said.

The agreement comes a day after military officials from the two nations held high-level talks near the eastern part of the Himalayan region of Ladakh. This disputed border area was the center of the current escalation between the two neighbors.

The talks on Saturday, at the behest of India, were held at the Border Personnel Meeting Point in Maldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

“This year marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and both sides agreed that an early resolution would contribute to the further development of that relationship,” Indian officials said.

The issue began early last month when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering usual patrolling at the LAC, along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.

Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure at the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

Map showing the volatile borders of China, India and Pakistan. (Shutterstock image)

The present standoff, which began with border skirmishes, is confined to those five key areas where India and China have had traditional differences on the perception of the LAC in the Ladakh region.

Both sides adopted a firm approach and, according to media reports, China deployed nearly 2,500 extra troops in the region, in addition to enhancing its weaponry and military infrastructure.

On Tuesday, India’s Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh hinted at the build-up of Indian troops in the disputed area, too.

“It is true that people of China are on the border. They claim that it is their territory. We claim that it is ours. There has been a disagreement over it. A sizeable number of Chinese people have come there. India has done what it needed to do,” Singh said in a media interaction on Tuesday.

However, on Sunday, India said that the “two sides would continue military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.”

Foreign policy experts, for their part, said that the de-escalation and resolution of disputes were “important to maintain a good bilateral relationship.”

“If we don’t address the contentious issue it will spill over and impact other bilateral and multilateral relationships,” Professor Srikanth Kondapalli of the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal University told Arab News.

He reasoned that the stand-off in Ladakh is related to the “conflicting claims on sovereignty and each country’s distinct strategic vision.” 

“If China occupies the region, it can connect to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia and influence the future setup in Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding that “Ladakh holds geostrategic importance for India” also.

“This region is the highest region on earth, and those who control the peak control the valley. That is another strategic reason for the dispute.”

Manoj Kewalramani, a fellow at the Bangalore-based think-tank Takshashila Institution, added that Saturday’s agreement does not mean a “de-escalation or disengagement anytime soon” or the cessation of dispute.

“The nature of the boundary dispute, the ambiguity surrounding claims and the strategic dynamic of the India-China relationship imply that we should continue to expect incidents and volatility,” Kewalramani told Arab News.

He added that what was necessary at this juncture was for both sides “to recognize this.”

“They have been working on mechanisms of engagement to maintain stability. The current situation has tactical and strategic components to it. The tactical component is related to infrastructure development and force posturing. The strategic component is related to geopolitical shifts amid the pandemic, which entail worsening Sino-US ties and Beijing’s desire to shore up its periphery,” he said.

Other experts believe China escalated tensions along the border for other reasons.

“We have to understand the timing of the incident. The border infrastructure has been going on for some time. Judging by the way China reacted this time, it was clear that they wanted to divert the attention away from the mess of the pandemic, their stand on Hong Kong sovereignty and their military posturing in the South China Sea,” Jagannath P. Panda of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi-based think tank, told Arab News.

“The Chinese wanted to send a message to the whole world that they are a competent power and can handle multiple issues at one go,” he added.

US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

Updated 18 September 2020

US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

  • The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said
  • Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages

KABUL, Afghanistan: The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women.
The warning issued late Thursday doesn’t specify the organizations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.
The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday.
Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages with participants still hammering out what items on the agenda will be negotiated and when.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said at the start of negotiations last weekend that spoilers existed on both sides. He said that some among Afghanistan’s many leaders would be content to continue with the status quo rather than find a peaceful end to the war that might involve power sharing.
According to the embassy warning, “extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan, including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”
The embassy did not provide specifics, including how imminent is the threat.
The Taliban have been harshly criticized for their treatment of women and girls during their five-year rule when the insurgent group denied girls access to school and women to work outside their home. The Taliban rule ended in 2001 when a US-led coalition ousted the hard-line regime for its part in sheltering Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
One of the government-appointed peace negotiators, Fawzia Koofi, a strong, outspoken proponent of women’s rights, was shot last month in Afghanistan, but escaped serious injuries and attended the opening of negotiations last weekend. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility and Khalilzad again warned of the dangers to the process.
The United States has said that perhaps one of the most dangerous extremist groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in the country’s east and held responsible for some of the most recent attacks. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them.
The United Nations as well as Afghanistan’s many international allies have stressed the need for any peace deal to protect the rights of women and minorities. Negotiations are expected to be difficult and protracted and will also include constitutional changes, disarming the tens of thousands of the Taliban as well as militias loyal to warlords, some of whom are allied with the government.
The advances for women made since 2001 have been important. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. Women are also seen on television, playing sports and winning science fairs.
But the gains are fragile, and their implementation has been erratic, largely unseen in rural areas where most Afghans still live.
The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria. Only 16% of the labor force are women, one of the lowest rates in the world, and half of Afghanistan’s women have had four years or less of education, according to the report, which was compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Only around half of school-aged girls go to school, and only 19% of girls under 15 are literate, according to the UN children’s agency.
Nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 19, on average between 15 and 16 years old, to spouses selected by their parents, according to UNICEF.
Until now, parliament has been unable to ratify a bill on the protection of women.
There are also Islamic hard-liners among the politically powerful in Kabul, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is the inspiration behind the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US-designated militant who made peace with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in 2016.