Thursday, July 23, 2020

India must speak against China's expansionism in Asia-Pacific region, report says

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Hong Kong, July 23 (ANI): The recent border stand-off with China has prompted India to rethink its policy with its neighbour and speak up for other Asia-Pacific nations while eschewing the trade protectionism that has curtailed New Delhi's influence in the region.

With elections this year and a battered economy following Covid-19, the United States' retreat from the region is likely to continue. "What Asia needs is a collective middle-power response as a balance against China. This is where India can play a role," Mohamed Zeeshan, editor-in-chief of Freedom Gazette and a writer for The Diplomat, has said in an analysis published in South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

India has long steered clear of the geopolitical concerns of other countries in the region and played cautiously. While New Delhi has stepped up bilateral military cooperation with countries like Vietnam, it has generally stayed silent on politically sensitive issues.

In 2016, for instance, when China refused to abide by an international tribunal ruling on its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines, India chose not to explicitly call out Beijing. But India must now speak out more vocally on the concerns of other countries in the Asia-Pacific - and back that with deeper cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, Australia, and others.

But now India must similarly speak up for Hong Kong and Taiwan - both of which are integral to economic activity and stability in the entire region, the analytic piece suggested.

"India should complement this shift in its foreign policy with a more open economic policy. Despite being among the largest economies in the world, India has had little leverage over China. While China is the largest source of imports to India, these imports account for less than 3 per cent of China's total exports. By contrast, Vietnam - whose economy is less than a tenth of India's - makes up a larger share of China's exports pie," Zeeshan said.

Much of this is due to years of trade protectionism in India, which has curtailed the country's influence in the region, as per Zeeshan, who has also previously served as an adviser to the Indian delegation to the United Nations in New York.

He said India's decision to sit out the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was a missed opportunity, adding that New Delhi's current unofficial boycott of economic ties with China in response to the recent tensions will also prove counterproductive.

"The Asia-Pacific does not want a confrontation between the world's two largest nations, but it does need a balance of power between competing alliances to deter mutual aggression. India should step up and fill the leadership vacuum in the region," he said further. (ANI)

US condemns deadly airstrikes in Afghanistan's Herat province

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Washington [United States], July 23 (ANI): The United States condemned the airstrikes conducted by the Afghan Air Force in the western province of Herat that left multiple civilians dead, said the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. "The last 24 hours have been very violent in Afghanistan with many losing their lives. In Herat, photos and eyewitness accounts suggest many civilians including children are among the victims of an Afghan airstrike. We condemn the attack and support an investigation," Khalilzad wrote on his Twitter page on late Wednesday, reported Sputnik.

Airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan killed 45 people, including civilians and Taliban fighters, local officials said on Wednesday. Ali Ahmad Faqir Yar, governor of Adraskan district in the eastern Afghan province of Herat, said, "Forty-five people had been killed so far in airstrikes by security forces in the Kham Ziarat area. Taliban were among those killed and at least eight civilians were among the dead".

The diplomat also slammed the Taliban Islamist movement for recent attacks that also resulted in many civilian deaths. "The Afghan people want an immediate start of peace negotiations and a settlement that is in their best interest. More graves will not bring negotiations forward. Rather than setting the process back, we urge all sides to contain the violence, protect civilians, and show necessary restraint as the start of intra-Afghan negotiations is so close," Khalilzad added.

Under the US-Taliban peace agreement which was signed in Doha on February 29, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by the Afghan government ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations. The process has not been completed yet.

Despite the February agreement, the situation in Afghanistan has remained volatile with sporadic attacks both by the Afghan forces and the Taliban, on each other.

'China engaged for years in massive illegal spying, infuence operations throughout US'

Washington D.C. [US], July 23 (ANI): As the relations between two countries worsen, US has said that China has been engaging in massive illegal spying and influencing operations against US government officials and American citizens.

"The People's Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens. These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years," US State Department Spokesperson told ANI.

"As detailed by Secretary of State Pompeo, FBI Director Wray, and Attorney General Barr in public remarks, PRC officials have interfered in our domestic politics, stolen U.S. intellectual property, coerced our business leaders, threatened families of Chinese Americans residing in China, and more," the State Department spokesperson said.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (local time) that his administration does not rule out closing additional Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States.
"As far as closing additional embassies, it's always possible. We thought there was a fire in the one we did close, I guess they were burning documents and papers. I wonder what that is all about," Trump said during a daily press briefing at the White House when asked if he planned to close more Chinese diplomatic missions in the country.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US State Department ordered China to close by Friday its consulate in Houston, Texas, over accusations that it engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations in the US.

Regarding the same, State Secretary Mike Pompeo said, "It's not just American intellectual property been stolen, it's been European intellectual property too, causing hundreds - costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, good jobs for hard-working people all across Europe and America stolen by the Chinese Communist Party."

"We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave, and when they do not, we are going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs. That's the actions that you're seeing taken by President Trump. We will continue to engage in those," Pompeo told reporters further.

The two countries have sparred over a range of issues in recent times -- China's move to impose national security law in Hong Kong, its human rights violation in Xinjiang and territorial aggression in the South China Sea have all drawn fierce criticism from Washington.

Accusing China of bullying smaller countries, US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper had on Tuesday vowed to deter against China's "coercive behaviour" in the South China Sea. (ANI)

PM Modi to lay foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply project today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(Photo:ANI)

New Delhi [India], July 23 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply Project through video conferencing today.
The Centre had provided funds under Jal Jeevan Mission to Manipur for freshwater household tap connections (FHTCs) to cover 1,185 habitations with 1, 42,749 households.

The Manipur Water Supply project, an externally funded project, was designed to provide FHTCs to remaining households in the Greater Imphal Planning area, 25 towns, and for 1,731 rural habitations covering 2,80,756 households in 16 districts of Manipur.

The project is an important component of the efforts of the state government to achieve the goal of 'Har Ghar Jal' by 2024. The project outlay is about Rs 3054.58 crores with a loan component funded by the New Development Bank.

Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, Chief Minister N Biren Singh, and his cabinet colleagues, MPs, and MLAs are expected to join the program from Imphal.

The Central government had initiated the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide safe and adequate quantity of drinking water to every rural household of the country by 2024 with the motto Har Ghar Jal.

The programme also implements source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting. (ANI)

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