Modi denies any Indian territory was lost in China clash

Narendra Modi pays tribute to the Indian soldiers killed in clashes with Chinese soldiers in Ladakh, as he holds a video conference with his chief ministers, in New Delhi, India, June 17, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 19 June 2020

Modi denies any Indian territory was lost in China clash

  • Sonia Gandhi, the main opposition Congress party chief, questioned whether intelligence failures had allowed China to build up forces in the area
  • India and China accuse each other of instigating Monday’s fight in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region along the Himalayan frontier

NEW DELHI: India’s prime minister said Friday that the entire country is “hurt and angry” at the killing of 20 soldiers by Chinese forces in a disputed Himalayan border region, while denying assertions that any Indian territory had been lost.
Addressing a meeting of top opposition leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “the country today has such capability that no one can even dare look toward an inch of our land.”
Modi underscored that India wants peace and friendship, but upholding sovereignty is foremost.
Sonia Gandhi, the main opposition Congress party chief, had earlier questioned whether intelligence failures had allowed China to build up forces in the area and she called for tough government action in getting China to leave Indian territory.
“We are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis,” she said.
India and China accuse each other of instigating Monday’s fight in the Galwan Valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region along the Himalayan frontier. China has not said whether it suffered any casualties in what was the deadliest conflict between the sides in 45 years.
Both countries said they were communicating through military and diplomatic channels and stressed the importance of their broader relationship. Experts say the two nations are unlikely to head to war, but easing tensions quickly will be difficult.
China on Friday maintained its position that India is to blame for the clash.
“The right and wrong is very clear and the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.
Both India and China have denied media reports that Indian soldiers were in Chinese custody.
During Monday’s clash soldiers brawled with clubs, rocks and their fists in the thin air at 4,270 meters (14,000 feet) above sea level, but no shots were fired, Indian officials have said. The soldiers carry firearms but are not allowed to use them under a previous agreement in the border dispute.
Indian security officials have said the fatalities were caused by severe injuries and exposure to subfreezing temperatures.
The clash escalated a standoff that began in early May, when Indian officials said Chinese soldiers crossed the border in three places, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring warnings to leave. That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights between the opposing sides, much of it replayed on TV news programs and in social media.
The action has taken place along a remote stretch of the 3,380-kilometer (2,100-mile) Line of Actual Control — the border established following a war between India and China in 1962 that resulted in an uneasy truce.
The rules of engagement along the Line of Actual Control — which prohibit using live ammunition but also ban physical contact between soldiers — will have to be renegotiated, defense analyst Rahul Bedi said.
“There is a lot of pressure on the Indian side, the emotions are high among the public,” Bedi said.
“It remains to be seen whether India will sit down at the negotiating table with China and say it will like to change these agreements to make them a little more aggressive or offensive in nature,” he said.
In Friday’s meeting with Modi, Gandhi said the “entire country” would like assurances that China will move its forces back to the Line of Actual Control. Other opposition leaders echoed her call.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said there was no intelligence failure on the part of the army.
Modi maintained no Indian territory had been captured by China and praised the sacrifice of the soldiers killed, saying they “taught a lesson to those who had dared to look toward our motherland.”
“The nation will forever remember their valor and sacrifice,” he said.
The clash has fanned growing anti-Chinese sentiments in India, which were already high because of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China late last year. India’s caseload has climbed to fourth-highest in the world.
An Indian business confederation called for a boycott of 500 Chinese goods, including toys and textiles, to express “strong criticism” of China’s action in Ladakh.
Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said China was trying to put pressure on India, and he didn’t think Beijing wanted a violent clash between their armies.
From a strategic perspective, Fravel said, China should want to drive a wedge between India and the United States to prevent any kind of counter-balance coalition.
“The deaths and the clash on Monday night will probably very quickly and much more rapidly push India closer to the United States, which I think is probably not what China wants,” he said.
G. Parthasarthy, a retired Indian diplomat, said that both China and Pakistan — India’s archrival — were aiming at low-cost containment of India. “China has a hangup against India and its civilization. For us to expect China will be a friendly neighbor …. It will never be a friendly relationship.”
China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, a contiguous part of the Ladakh region.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory while separating it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019. China was among the countries to condemn the move, raising it at forums including the UN Security Council. India was elected to the council this week.


Amal Clooney quits UK envoy post over Brexit bill

Updated 44 min 52 sec ago

Amal Clooney quits UK envoy post over Brexit bill

  • The government argues it is needed to protect the country’s territorial integrity in case the EU seeks to unfairly impede trade with Northern Ireland
  • Clooney became the third lawyer to part ways with Johnson’s government after it introduced the legislation

LONDON: Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney on Friday resigned her post as a UK envoy for media freedom, in protest at the government’s “lamentable” decision to breach its EU divorce treaty.
Clooney became the third lawyer to part ways with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, after it introduced legislation that would rewrite its post-Brexit obligations to the European Union over Northern Ireland.
Undermining the rule of law “threatens to embolden autocratic regimes that violate international law with devastating consequences all over the world,” she wrote in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and seen by AFP.
“Although the government has suggested that the violation of international law would be ‘specific and limited’, it is lamentable for the UK to be speaking of its intention to violate an international treaty signed by the prime minister less than a year ago.”
On her appointment to the UK role in April 2019, Clooney had said she welcomed the opportunity to build on her legal defense of persecuted journalists by working with the government to champion a free press around the world.
“I accepted the role because I believe in the importance of the cause, and appreciate the significant role that the UK has played and can continue to play in promoting the international legal order,” she wrote.
“However, very sadly, it has now become untenable for me, as special envoy, to urge other states to respect and enforce international obligations while the UK declares that it does not intend to do so itself.”
While conceding the UK internal market bill violates the EU Withdrawal Agreement, the government argues it is needed to protect the country’s territorial integrity in case the EU seeks to unfairly impede trade with Northern Ireland.
The argument has failed to persuade two other jurists who have quit their government roles recently including its most senior law officer for Scotland, Richard Keen.
He said in his resignation letter to Johnson he had “found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a law officer with your policy intentions with respect to the UKIM bill.”
After quelling one backbench revolt over the legislation and under pressure to make its intent clearer, the government on Thursday issued a document spelling out various scenarios in which the bill’s provisions would be executed.
But in an apparent olive branch to Brussels, the document said the government would also seek to resolve post-Brexit disputes with the EU in “appropriate formal dispute settlement mechanisms,” not unilaterally.
The document was released as the chief negotiators for EU-UK trade talks met in Brussels, to try again to avoid a potentially ruinous breakdown when a post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of this year.