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China warns India not to harbour illusions in border stand-off

BEIJING (AFP): China’s defense ministry on Monday warned India not to harbor any illusions about the Chinese military’s ability to defend its territory, amid a festering border dispute.

The stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbors, who share a 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.

“Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China’s territory and sovereignty had “constantly strengthened”.

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China’s Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

The two sides’ troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote northeastern regions.

India has said it warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

The withdrawal of Indian border guards was a precondition for resolving the situation, Wu reiterated.

“India should not leave things to luck and not harbor any unrealistic illusions,” Wu said, adding that the military had taken emergency measures in the region and would continue to increase focused deployments and drills.

“We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region’s peace and tranquillity,” he said.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.

They have told Reuters that both sides’ diplomats have quietly engaged to try to ensure the stand-off does not escalate, and that India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down from confrontation without losing face.

Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than the defeat it suffered in their brief border war in 1962.

This month, state media said China’s military had carried out live fire drills close to the disputed area.

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US urges India and China to reduce tension through direct dialogue

WASHINGTON (INP): The Pentagon has encouraged India and China to engage in a direct dialogue free of any “coercive aspects”.

“We encourage India and China to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions and free of any coercive aspects,” Gary Ross, a defence department spokesman said Saturday Over the past week, the US state department too have been making similar statements, but Pentagon has sought direct dialogue between India and China on reducing tension “free of any coercive aspects”.

According to Indian media, theNational security advisor Ajit Doval will head to Beijing to attend a meeting of BRICS later this month. During his visit, Doval is expected to talk with his Chinese counterpart on this issue. Responding to questions, the Pentagon refused to take sides on the issue.

“We refer you to the governments of India and China for further information. We encourage India and China to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions. We are not going to speculate on such matters,” Ross said when asked if the Pentagon fears escalation of tension between India and China.

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Indian army thrash, injure seven cops in IHK

SRINAGAR (INP): Seven policemen were injured in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district Saturday when they were thrashed by Indian Army personnel at a check post, police said.

Police have filed a case against the Army personnel, an official said, adding that records kept at a police station were also damaged.

The incident took place when private vehicles, carrying Army personnel in civvies, were returning from the Baltal base camp of the Amarnath Yatra and were signalled to stop at the Sonamarg check post, he said. The vehicles did not stop and kept proceeding towards Ganderbal.

Policemen at Sonamarg sent a message to the next check post at Gund to stop the vehicles, said the official, recapping what had happened. As the vehicles reached Gund, policemen manning the check post stopped them and did not let them proceed further as the cut-off time for yatra vehicles had already passed.

Police told the army men that there were strict directions not to allow any movement of yatra vehicles as that could put them at risk. However, the army men called their colleagues from the 24 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit, who reached the spot and allegedly thrashed the policemen, said the official.

He added that the army men then barged into the Gund police station, ransacked it, damaging the records kept there, and assaulted the on-duty policemen. Seven policemen, including an assistant sub-inspector, were injured and taken to the hospital, the official said. The police have registered a case against the personnel attached to 24 RR, he said.

 

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Trump warns Iran over detained Americans: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuterts): US President Donald Trump warned that Iran would face “new and serious consequences” unless all unjustly detained American citizens were released and returned, the White House said in a statement on Friday.

Trump urged Iran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared more than 10 years ago in Iran, and demanded that Tehran release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer.

The statement capped a week of rhetoric against Tehran. On Tuesday, Washington slapped new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any “positive contributions” coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.

Those measures signaled that the Trump administration was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place an agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

Friday’s statement said Trump and his administration were “redoubling efforts” to bring back all Americans unjustly detained abroad.

An Iranian court sentenced 46-year-old Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer Namazi to 10 years in prison each on charges of spying and cooperating with the United States.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained Siamak in October 2015 while he was visiting family in Tehran, relatives said.

The IRGC arrested the father, a former Iranian provincial governor and former UNICEF official in February last year, family members said.

Levinson, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and for the Drug Enforcement Administration, disappeared in Iran in 2007 and the US government has a $5 million reward for information leading to his safe return.

An Iranian court sentenced Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born US citizen graduate student from Princeton University, to 10 years in jail on spying charges, Iran’s judiciary spokesman said on Sunday.

“Iran is responsible for the care and wellbeing of every United States citizen in its custody,” the White House said in the statement.

Separately, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Oman’s foreign affairs minister, Yusuf bin Alawi on Friday.

Washington has in the past sought Oman’s mediation to help in securing the release of detained Americans abroad. Last year American prisoners held captive by Yemen Houthi rebels were released after Omani mediation.

Oman also paid bail that ultimately helped in the release of three American hikers in 2010 and 2011.

 

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Six dead in worst Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed for years

JERUSALEM (AFP): Six people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence for years, prompted by new security Israeli measures at Jerusalem’s holiest site.

Three Israelis were stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, hours after three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel until it removed the metal detectors. He gave no details, but current contacts are largely limited to security cooperation.

“I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at al Aqsa mosque and preserves the status quo,” Abbas said in a brief televised speech.

The three Israelis stabbed to death and a fourth who was wounded were from the fenced-in West Bank settlement of Neve Tsuf. Israeli media said the three dead were all members of the same family, two men aged 60 and 40 and a woman of 40.

The wounded woman, 68, was hospitalised with stab wounds to her back, Israeli media said.

A still photo carried by Israeli television showed a kitchen floor completely red with blood. The family had sat down to a traditional Friday evening meal when the attack occurred, according to Israel Radio.

The Israeli army and media said the assailant slipped into the settlement under cover of darkness to carry out his attack.

Israel Radio identified him as a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Khobar near Ramallah. It said he was shot, but his condition was not initially known.

Palestinian-Israeli Clashes Near Shrine

Earlier, Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli security forces. Tensions had mounted for days as Palestinians hurled rocks and Israeli police used stun grenades after the detectors were placed outside the sacred venue, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Mohammed Sharaf, 17, and Mohammad Hassan Abu Ghannam, age unknown, died of gunshot wounds in two neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem somewhat away from the epicentre of tension in the walled Old City. It reported a third Palestinian fatality, Mohammed Lafi, 18, later.

It was not immediately clear who fired the shots, with unconfirmed media reports that an Israeli settler was responsible in Sharaf’s death.

Israel decided to install the metal detectors at the entry point to the shrine in Jerusalem’s walled Old City on Sunday, after the killing of two Israeli policemen on July 14.

The shrine includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

Despite international pressure to remove the metal detectors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet decided in Friday’s early hours to keep them in place, saying they were needed to prevent arms being smuggled into the shrine.

In protest, thousands of worshippers gathered for Friday prayers at various entrances to the sacred compound, which sits on a marble and stone plateau in the Old City. They refused to enter, preferring to pray outside, in some cases filling the narrow alleyways of the Old City’s Muslim quarter.

“We reject Israeli restrictions at the Aqsa Mosque,” said Jerusalem’s senior Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein.

Muslim leaders and Palestinian political factions had urged the faithful to gather for a “day of rage” on Friday against the new security policies, which they see as changing delicate agreements that have governed the holy site for decades.

Israeli police mobilised extra units and erected barriers to carry out checks at entrances to the Old City. Access to the shrine for Muslims was limited to men over 50 but open to women of all ages. Roadblocks were in place on approach roads to Jerusalem to stop buses carrying Muslims to the site.

At one location near the Old City, stone throwers did try to break through a police line, and police used stun grenades to drive them back.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said four officers were injured in the sporadic clashes and the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said at least 377 protesters had been hurt, some suffering from tear gas inhalation.

The hilltop compound has long been a source of religious friction. Since Israel captured and annexed the Old City, including the compound, in the 1967 Middle East war, it has also become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. “This is our place of prayer, we have sovereignty here,” Salaam said.

On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to press for the removal of the metal detectors. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East, appealed for calm and the White House called for a resolution. Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, has also been involved in mediation efforts.

But Netanyahu’s 11-member security cabinet opted in a late-night meeting to retain the metal detectors to ensure no weapons were smuggled in, a week after three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen in the vicinity of the complex.

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Modi govt’s Hindu policy behind present situation in Kashmir

NEW DELHI (AFP): The Socialist Party of India has said that Modi Government’s Hindu aggressive policy on Kashmir is the main reason for the present volatile situation in occupied Kashmir.

Socialist Party President, Dr Prem Singh, in an interview in New Delhi also blamed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and pro- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) media for spreading hatred against Kashmiri people inside India.

Making a scathing attack on Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, he said, “The Modi Government, rooted in RSS ideology based on narrow communal considerations, follows a Hindu policy. The government is engaged in spreading communal hatred rather than paying attention to serious issues like Kashmir.”

He also held the ruling party’s parent organization RSS and pro-RSS media for creating hatred against the people of Kashmir. “RSS campaigners and the media inspired by them are creating hatred against the people of Kashmir. They have linked the agitation of boycotting Chinese goods to the Kashmir problem. It has long been clear that China supports Pakistan but for the first time, RSS campaigners and the media have started a campaign in the country by linking China to the Kashmir issue,” the socialist leader said.

Singh, who recently sat on week-long hunger strike against the mob-lynching of innocent Muslims in India said, “The level of RSS’s hatred was such that they were not tolerant even about the show of goodwill expressed by Mehbooba Mufti and Rajnath Singh on Kashmir issue.”

“The RSS and the media perceive it as a false show and refuse to see the condemnation of killings of pilgrims of Amarnath Yatra by Hurriyat leaders and human rights groups of Kashmir as an expression of Kashmiri sentiment,” he said. Dr Singh also criticized Indian Army Chief, General Vipin Rawat, for his statement that the army is tackling the challenge on two and a half war fronts.

“By saying this, the Army Chief, has made it clear that he is treating Kashmir as half-war front,” he said, adding that, “Opening several war fronts at one time is neither strategically nor practically beneficial for any country.”

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Bus crash kills 28 in northern India: police

SHIMLA (AFP): At least 28 people were killed Thursday after a bus plunged into a deep gorge in a Himalayan region of northern India popular with tourists, police said.

The accident occurred around 100 kilometres [62 miles] from the hill resort of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh state, said police superintendent Soumiya Sambasivan. “28 people have died and seven are injured. All the bodies have been identified,” she said.

The bus was taking around 40 people from Kinnaur district towards Solan when it rolled roughly 200 metres down a gorge to the banks of a river river. Images from the scene showed emergency workers conducting a rescue operation with the help of local volunteers.

Last week, 16 pilgrims died in a bus crash in neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir state, while in April 44 people were killed in Himachal Pradesh in a similar accident. India has some of the world’s highest traffic fatalities with more than 150,000 deaths annually due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

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US Senate icon John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer

WASHINGTON (AFP): US Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war and the maverick 2008 Republican presidential nominee, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, his office announced Wednesday.

The 80-year-old lawmaker from Arizona underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye last week and tests “revealed that a primary brain tumour known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot”, the Mayo Clinic, whose doctors performed the surgery in Phoenix, said in a statement released by McCain’s office.

“The senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options,” the statement added, noting they may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour affecting adults. It is of the same category of cancer that led to the death of another icon of the US Senate, Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009 at age 77.

This is not McCain’s first bout with cancer. Doctors removed several malignant melanomas on McCain’s skin in the 1990s and 2000s, including an invasive melanoma in 2000.
Experts had said this week that McCain’s latest operation suggested the possibility of a return of cancer. McCain’s office said the senator “is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona”, and that he will consult with his care team about when he might be able to return to work in Washington.

The news triggered a flood of messages of support from across the political spectrum for McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and is in his sixth term in the upper chamber of Congress.

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Get well soon.”

‘American hero’
Trump was accused of crossing the line with his criticism of McCain shortly after the billionaire businessman announced his presidential bid in 2015, disparaging the senator as “not a war hero”.

“I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said, in remarks that foretold the nastiness of the 2016 race.

But Trump is well aware of the importance of McCain’s vote on health care, with the latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act hanging by a thread.

“Plus, we need his vote,” Trump said Monday after wishing McCain well after his blood clot surgery.

“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known,” former president Barack Obama, who defeated McCain after a hard-fought 2008 race, wrote on Twitter. “Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly issued a statement saying the entire chamber was praying for their colleague and hoped to see him back soon.

“He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterised his life.”

McCain, a former US Navy aviator, was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 as he conducted a bombing mission during the Vietnam War.

He was badly injured when he parachuted out, and was tortured during his five and a half years as a POW. Released in 1973, McCain won a US House seat in 1982 before winning election to the Senate four years later.

He emerged as a national security hawk, traveling the world on congressional missions to the Middle East, Asia and Europe where he reassured American allies and pricked its adversaries.

He also stood accused of heedlessly backing wars or military interventions, and once suggested US forces should remain in Iraq for 100 years.

Early this year, the octogenarian who has advocated for more aggressive US military involvement in Syria made a secret trip to the war-ravaged nation to meet with US forces and discuss the campaign against the militant Islamic State group.

Despite his hawkish positions, McCain has served the peacemaker role, too.

His scars from the Vietnam torture are visible, and yet he is the lawmaker who perhaps more than any other has guided the rapprochement between Washington and its former foe in Asia.

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China has installed nuclear weapons in Pakistan, claims Indian politician

NEW DELHI (AFP): The chief of a major party in India has claimed that China has installed nuclear arsenal in Pakistan and that “China has made full preparation to attack India”, Indian media reported.

Samajwadi Party leader and former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav also said that China and not Pakistan is the enemy of India.

“India is today facing a big danger from China. I have been cautioning Central governments for many years. None of them paid adequate attention. China has joined hands with Pakistan. It has made full preparation to attack India. China is India’s biggest opponent. What has the government done?,” Indian news agency quoted Yadav as saying.
The agency also says that Yadav is known for his tough stance on China.

The politician also expressed concerns over the influx of Chinese goods flooding the Indian market. The comments come amid heightening tensions between the two countries about the dispute that concerns the land near where the boundaries of China, India and Bhutan intersect.

China on the other hand warned India that the stand-off could escalate into a full-blown conflict and asked India not to “trespass” into the Doklam area as a “policy tool” to achieve its “political targets,” Indian media reported.
AFP reports: Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China and is closely allied to India, which says its troops approached a Chinese army unit that entered the zone on June 16 to build a road.

China has said it will hold talks with India only after Indian troops are withdrawn from the disputed territory. China and India have a number of border disputes, although the section currently in question is generally regarded as stable. The two fought a border war in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2014, hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops faced off on the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control that runs along the northwest Indian region of Ladakh.

On Tuesday, an Indian junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told parliament that 73 new roads with “operational significance” were being constructed by India along the border, with 30 completed so far.

The latest dispute has triggered international concern, with the visiting Australian foreign minister urging the neighbours to resolve the row amicably.

“We don´t want to see any escalation of tensions that could lead to miscalculation and misjudgement,” Julie Bishop said Wednesday. The US State Department has flagged concern while calling on the two nations to come up with “some sort of arrangement” for peace.

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White House confirms Trump-Putin secret meeting in Germany

WASHINGTON (AFP): Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had an additional, previously undisclosed chat at this month s G20 summit in Hamburg, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday.

After a brief greeting at the start of the two-day summit and a two-hour bilateral meeting with their foreign ministers on July 7, Trump and Putin also chatted over dinner on the final night of the summit, an official said.

“There was a couples-only social dinner at the G20,” a White House official told AFP. “Toward the end, the president spoke to Putin at the dinner.”

The disclosure has raised questions about what the pair talked about, who was present and why the meeting was not previously mentioned.

The Trump administration has been besieged by allegations that the president s closest advisors colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

Trump s eldest son Donald junior recently released emails showing he held a meeting during the campaign with Kremlin-connected figures, hoping to get dirt on his dad s election rival Hillary Clinton.

A second White House official denied there was a “second meeting” between Trump and Putin, describing a “brief conversation at the end of a dinner.”

“The insinuation that the White House has tried to hide a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd,” the official said.

“At the dinner, President Trump was seated between Mrs. Abe, wife of the Prime Minister of Japan, and Mrs. Macri, wife of the President of Argentina. Mrs. Trump was seated next to President Putin.”

“During the course of the dinner, all the leaders circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely. President Trump spoke with many leaders during the course of the evening. As the dinner was concluding, President Trump went over to Mrs. Trump, where he spoke briefly with President Putin.”

The White House also rejected concerns that Trump was not with any other US officials and used Putin s translator.

“Each couple was allowed one translator. The American translator accompanying President Trump spoke Japanese. When President Trump spoke to President Putin, the two leaders used the Russian translator, since the American translator did not speak Russian.”