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India, China to step up border military meets

Agencies

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Beijing: A year after the Doklam standoff, top defence officials of India and China have agreed on the importance of maintaining peace in the border areas while implementing the consensus reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan.

The ninth annual defence and security dialogue on November 13 was held over a year after the 73-day military standoff in the Sikkim sector.

The talks were held between the two defence delegations headed by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra and China’s Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission Lt. General Shao Yuanming, a press release by the Indian Embassy here said on Thursday.

 

Asked about the outcome of the defence and security dialogue, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the two sides have exchanged ideas on the management of border affairs and upholding peace and tranquillity.

“We believe the two sides will try to follow the consensus between the two leaders to ensure peace and tranquillity at our border areas and ensure stability of our bilateral ties,” she said.

At the talks, both sides agreed on enhancing defence exchanges and interactions at different levels between the two militaries, the press release said.

After the talks, Mitra called on Chinese State Councillor and defence minister General Wei Fenghe on Wednesday, the release said.

Mitra was accompanied by senior officials of the ministry of defence and Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

The annual dialogue did not take place last year following the tense standoff between the two militaries at Doklam, which was triggered by the Chinese PLA’s plan to build a road close to the narrow Chicken’s Neck corridor connecting India’s northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan besides China.

The standoff ended when Chinese troops stopped the road construction after which both countries stepped up efforts to normalise relations leading to the informal summit between Modi and Xi at Wuhan in April this year.

The defence dialogue was also held ahead of the 21st round of border talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries in the Chinese city of Dujiangyan on November 23-24.

National security adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi are the designated Special Representatives for the border talks.
Besides efforts to work out a solution to resolve the dispute on the border spanning 3,488 kms, the border talks also focussed on discussions on other aspects of India-China relations.

The two militaries are due to hold the annual ‘Hand-in-Hand’ drills next month in China after gap of one year.

During the dialogue, both sides also agreed on specific defence exchanges for 2019.

“Both sides agreed to enhance exchanges and interactions through reciprocal high-level visits between the two ministries of defence as well as between military commands, joint training exercises, mutual visits by defence personnel including mid-level and cadet officers were also agreed upon,” the Indian embassy release said.

They reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas, implementing the consensus reached between Mr Modi and Mr Xi and specific additional confidence building measures at the operational level, it said.

The two nations also had an exchange of views on regional and global issues.

“Both sides underlined the importance of this dialogue as an important mechanism between the two countries for consultations on defence and security matters. They emphasised the need to further strengthen military-to-military ties in order to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries,” it said.

Both sides agreed to hold the next round of the dialogue at a mutually convenient time in India in 2019.


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International

US confirms Taliban talks in Qatar

Press Trust of India

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Washington:The United States confirmed Wednesday that its envoy is meeting in Qatar with the Taliban, seeking to negotiate an end to the Afghanistan war despite a new major attack claimed by the insurgents.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative on Afghan reconciliation, met Tuesday in the Qatari capital Doha with Taliban representatives, the State Department said.

“We can confirm that Special Representative Khalilzad and an interagency team are in Doha today talking with representatives of the Taliban,” a State Department spokeswoman said, adding that the talks were taking place over two days.

 

Khalilzad has sat down several times with the Taliban but it marks the first time that the United States has confirmed his meetings so directly.

The meeting came even though the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack Tuesday against an Afghan intelligence base in central Wardak province.

A local official said that at least 65 people were killed, in the latest high-casualty attack in Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman announced the meeting with Khalilzad on Monday, saying that the United States accepted an agenda of “ending the occupation of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future.”

President Donald Trump has ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he voices eagerness to end America’s longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

The Afghan-born Khalilzad, a key US policymaker under former president George W Bush, met the Taliban after talks in Afghanistan as well as stops in key regional players China, India and Pakistan.

In Kabul, Khalilzad spoke with President Ashraf Ghani and vowed that the United States would maintain security support to Afghan forces.

“We agreed military pressure is essential while we prepare to engage in negotiations for peace,” he tweeted.

 

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China to pick Afghan Taliban as political force: envoy

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PESHAWAR: Chinese Ambas­sador in Islamabad Yao Jing has said that his country will “pick Afghan Taliban as a political force” in the backdrop of their participation in the ongoing peace talks with the US and at other forums.

Speaking at a roundtable conference at the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, , he said that Beijing supported Pakistan’s fresh initiatives for facilitating efforts for political settlement of the Afghan conflict and confidence-building measures in relations with Kabul.

Asked about apparent lack of eagerness on the part of China in the ongoing talks for political settlement of the Afghan issue, the envoy said that his country had contacts with both the Taliban and the Afghan government. China had deputed a special envoy who was visiting the Taliban’s political office in Doha, he added.

 

“China will pick them (Taliban) as a political force because they are now part of the Afghan political process and they have some political concerns. They have to be allowed to play a legitimate role in the future political settlement,” he further elaborated his government’s policy on the Afghan peace process being discussed at different forums.

“If possible, China can exert pressure on the Taliban to join the peace process,” said the ambassador who had served in Kabul and New Delhi before taking over his new assignment in Pakistan. He urged all external stakeholders, including Afghanistan’s neighbours, to play their role for peace in the war-ravaged country.

“Afghans have been suffering for the last 40 years and they deserve peace and stability,” he said.

Supporting Pakistan’s fresh initiatives for facilitating talks between the Taliban and US administration, he said that China backed this ongoing process and had also played its role in the Moscow meeting and at other forums.

Mr Yao said that Afghans were very friendly towards China which had close relations with their country. “When we look towards west, the immediate challenge for us is Afghanistan having many international terrorist organisations.”

He said that Central Asian states had their own version and vision about Afghanistan and the same was the case of Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

“We are very much hopeful about a peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue, but this is a very complicated issue, which requires a lot of patience,” the envoy said. The US might announce withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan where elections were around the corner, he added.

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International

Four held in New York state for ‘plotting’ against Muslims

Agencies

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New York:Three men and a teenage boy have been arrested and charged for an alleged plot against a small Islamic community in New York state, police said.

The suspects have been accused of possessing homemade bombs and firearms, and planning to attack Islamberg, founded by a Pakistani cleric in the 1980s.

The three men — Andrew Crysel, 18, Vincent Vetromile, 19, and Brian Colaneri, 20 — were due to appear in court on Wednesday.

 

All were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. A 16-year-old boy is also facing charges, the police said, adding that at least three of them served together as boy scouts.

Investigators say the group, based in the city of Greece in the northwest of the state, made at least three improvised explosive devices using duct tape and large jars and cylinders containing nails and other projectiles.

They were found in the 16-year-old’s home, a police officer added. Some 23 firearms were also found at various locations. The alleged plot was revealed following a tip-off from a school student, the BBC reported.

Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said the investigation was launched after comments made by the 16-year-old at school on Friday were overheard by a fellow student.

The Islamberg community, located west of the Catskill mountains near the city of Binghamton, has become a target for conspiracy theorists.

The mainly African American group settled there to escape crime and overcrowding in New York City. The community has been described as peaceful and friendly, but right-wing conspiracy-led media outlets keep suggesting that it was a training camp for Islamist militants, the BBC said.

In 2017 Robert Doggart, from Tennessee, was jailed for plotting to burn down the community’s mosque. In 2015, Arizona man John Ritzheimer threatened the community with an armed confrontation.

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