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India, China to step up border military meets

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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

Threats to US would mean Iran’s end, warns Trump

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Washington: US President Donald Trump has asked Iran “never to threaten” the US and warned Tehran that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end” of the Islamic nation.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted.

His tweets appeared to be a considerable shift in tone from the President’s brief remarks at the White House on May 16, when he responded “I hope not” after being asked whether the US and Iran were headed toward war, The Washington Post reported.

 

The White House has not officially responded to Trump’s tweets.

Trump issued his threat a few hours after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Sunday that Iran does not fear a war but the US does, reports Efe news.

Salami said in a speech at a military ceremony broadcast on state-run Iranian TV that Tehran was not seeking war but did not fear it either, in contrast to the US, which is afraid of war and does not have the willpower to engage in one.

He also warned that the entire Middle East could become “a powder keg” for Washington.

Last week, the US decided to deploy to the Persian Gulf the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington, Patriot missiles, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and assorted warplanes, including bombers, after claiming that it had detected unspecified “indications” of Iranian plans to attack US forces in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, concern has been increasing that National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time hawk on Iran who was instrumental in instigating the invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush, might be working to edge the administration closer to some kind of military action against Tehran.

Last year, prior to bringing Bolton into the administration as one of his top advisers, Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal. More recently, Trump has tightened economic sanctions against the Tehran regime and his administration says it has built up the US military presence in the region.

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White House unveils 1st part of Middle East peace plan

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Washington: The White House has unveiled the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, which is being deemed as an economic “workshop” to encourage investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region, a senior administration official told CNN.

The White House announced on Sunday that the workshop will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, bringing together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders.

The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who have spent years developing the proposal along with the much stickier political component, which officials said would be announced later in the year.

 

Kushner told CNN that “people are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist”.

The senior administration official said that the plan will discuss four major components: infrastructure; industry; empowering and investing in people; and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible”.

The economic plan will also include a “combination of grant money, low interest loans and then also private capital”, the official said.

The workshop however, will avoid political issues such as whether the Palestinians will get their own state; the status of Jerusalem; measures Israel takes in the name of security; and what should happen with Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Israel around the time of the state’s creation in 1948, he added.

Finance ministers, but not foreign ministers, will be invited along with delegations of business leaders.

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told CNN that the plan was “futile”.

“Any economic plan without political horizons will lead nowhere… Palestinians will not accept any proposals which do not include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The decision on whether or not Palestinians would attend the workshop would be made by the leadership of Abbas, Abu Rudeineh said, adding that when a similar meeting was held in Washington in March 2018 to discuss ways of improving the economic and humanitarian situation facing Gazans, the Palestinians had chosen to stay away.

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Tourist bus near Egypt’s Gaza pyramids hit with bomb; injures 17

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Cairo: A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists.

The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.

The officials said security forces cordoned off the site of the explosion and the wounded were taken to a nearby hospital. The explosion damaged a windshield of another car, they said. Footage circulated online shows shattered windows of the bus.

 

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media. Atif Moftah, general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum, said the explosion did not cause any damage to the museum, in a statement issued by the antiquities ministry.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the second to target foreign tourists near the famed pyramids in less than six months.

In December, a bus carrying 15 Vietnamese tourists was hit by a roadside bomb, killing at least three of them.

Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. The insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s first freely elected president, an Islamist whose brief rule sparked mass protests.

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