India, China to resolve border dispute ‘peacefully’

China and India says they have agreed to “peacefully resolve” their border dispute. (Shutterstock image)
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Updated 08 June 2020

India, China to resolve border dispute ‘peacefully’

  • Current Standoff confined to 5 areas of traditional differences for years

NEW DELHI: In a significant attempt to defuse escalating tensions along the border, both New Delhi and Beijing have agreed to “peacefully resolve” the dispute between the world’s two most populous nations, India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements,” excerpts from the statement said.

The agreement comes a day after military officials from the two nations held high-level talks near the eastern part of the Himalayan region of Ladakh. This disputed border area was the center of the current escalation between the two neighbors.

The talks on Saturday, at the behest of India, were held at the Border Personnel Meeting Point in Maldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

“This year marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and both sides agreed that an early resolution would contribute to the further development of that relationship,” Indian officials said.

The issue began early last month when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering usual patrolling at the LAC, along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.

Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure at the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

Map showing the volatile borders of China, India and Pakistan. (Shutterstock image)

The present standoff, which began with border skirmishes, is confined to those five key areas where India and China have had traditional differences on the perception of the LAC in the Ladakh region.

Both sides adopted a firm approach and, according to media reports, China deployed nearly 2,500 extra troops in the region, in addition to enhancing its weaponry and military infrastructure.

On Tuesday, India’s Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh hinted at the build-up of Indian troops in the disputed area, too.

“It is true that people of China are on the border. They claim that it is their territory. We claim that it is ours. There has been a disagreement over it. A sizeable number of Chinese people have come there. India has done what it needed to do,” Singh said in a media interaction on Tuesday.

However, on Sunday, India said that the “two sides would continue military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.”

Foreign policy experts, for their part, said that the de-escalation and resolution of disputes were “important to maintain a good bilateral relationship.”

“If we don’t address the contentious issue it will spill over and impact other bilateral and multilateral relationships,” Professor Srikanth Kondapalli of the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal University told Arab News.

He reasoned that the stand-off in Ladakh is related to the “conflicting claims on sovereignty and each country’s distinct strategic vision.” 

“If China occupies the region, it can connect to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia and influence the future setup in Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding that “Ladakh holds geostrategic importance for India” also.

“This region is the highest region on earth, and those who control the peak control the valley. That is another strategic reason for the dispute.”

Manoj Kewalramani, a fellow at the Bangalore-based think-tank Takshashila Institution, added that Saturday’s agreement does not mean a “de-escalation or disengagement anytime soon” or the cessation of dispute.

“The nature of the boundary dispute, the ambiguity surrounding claims and the strategic dynamic of the India-China relationship imply that we should continue to expect incidents and volatility,” Kewalramani told Arab News.

He added that what was necessary at this juncture was for both sides “to recognize this.”

“They have been working on mechanisms of engagement to maintain stability. The current situation has tactical and strategic components to it. The tactical component is related to infrastructure development and force posturing. The strategic component is related to geopolitical shifts amid the pandemic, which entail worsening Sino-US ties and Beijing’s desire to shore up its periphery,” he said.

Other experts believe China escalated tensions along the border for other reasons.

“We have to understand the timing of the incident. The border infrastructure has been going on for some time. Judging by the way China reacted this time, it was clear that they wanted to divert the attention away from the mess of the pandemic, their stand on Hong Kong sovereignty and their military posturing in the South China Sea,” Jagannath P. Panda of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi-based think tank, told Arab News.

“The Chinese wanted to send a message to the whole world that they are a competent power and can handle multiple issues at one go,” he added.

Abrupt pivot to civility in post-Trump era after Biden inauguration

Updated 21 January 2021

Abrupt pivot to civility in post-Trump era after Biden inauguration

  • “Democracy has prevailed,” Biden said in his sober remarks, adding, “We must end this uncivil war.”

WASHINGTON: Washington couldn’t turn the page quickly enough from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.
Trump’s voice faded from the capital he had animated and antagonized since 2017 as he flew to private life in Florida, with his last trip on Air Force One tuned in to Biden’s inauguration on television.
And quite suddenly, at least for the moment, the old ways were back: reverence of custom, rituals dating back two centuries, scenes of grace, calls for unity.
Four years after Trump’s dark portrayal of “American carnage,” Biden set out his intent on the same platform of the flag-bedecked Capitol to write “an American story of hope.”
Masked in the Oval Office, as he’d been all day except when speaking, the new president began writing that story with his pen. As night fell, he signed executive orders chipping away at Trump’s legacy. One put the US on track to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

The ascension of the 46th president came with poetry, trumpets, Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Garth Brooks singing “Amazing Grace” and keen memories of the insurrection on these grounds by Trump supporters only two weeks earlier.
“Democracy has prevailed,” Biden said in his sober remarks, adding, “We must end this uncivil war.”
“Modest, austere, grave, calming, cleansing, inspiring,” historian Michael Beschloss said of Biden’s speech.
The bigger names may well have been upstaged by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, whose poem spoke of a country “Where a skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother, can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.” Trump didn’t summon a poet for his inauguration in 2017; not all presidents do.
Biden emerged from Blair House, the president’s official guesthouse, to open his day just as Trump vanished inside the big plane at Joint Base Andrews, as if their footsteps had been choreographed. But the outgoing president was not one to coordinate anything with the incoming one.
Trump never conceded the election, declined to attend the inauguration and upended the tradition of sending a government plane to bring the president-elect to Washington. Nor did he invite the

Bidens to the White House for morning coffee and tea, as the Obamas had done for the Trumps in 2017.
He hewed to one tradition, leaving a letter to his successor — a “very generous” one, Biden said without disclosing its contents right away.
Biden opened his presidency acknowledging former presidents on the platform, Republican and Democrat, and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, who attended the ceremony and acknowledged Biden’s victory in ways Trump never did. Biden did not offer a personal acknowledgment of the man he defeated, nor did Trump mention him.
Under threat of conviction from the Senate on an accusation of inciting insurrection, Trump departed with a perfunctory nod to those who have died from the coronavirus, an obligatory wish of “luck” to the next administration without mentioning Biden’s name, a premature claim on any success Biden might have reviving the economy, and the cloudy threat of a return.
“Have a nice life,” Trump said in remarks to well-wishers upon his departure. As Air Force One flew low along the coast, Biden’s inauguration played on Fox News on television aboard the flight. Trump’s family was on board. He spent some of the flight with flight staff who went up to him to say goodbye.

Rituals of the republic went on without him, though in a way never before seen. Washington got on with things, this time with masks on everyone (except Brooks), people taking care to distance from each other and some 25,000 National Guard troops and police deployed to keep the peace.
In a striking tableau at the Capitol, three former presidents and first ladies of different parties mingled as though at a cocktail party. And again, in hushed moments at Arlington National Cemetery, where Biden and Harris led a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and spouses watched.

It was among the inaugural events where a new president and his successor normally come together but Trump had decided to skip the day’s proceedings and Biden had said that was fine with him.
The inauguration crowds were sparse by design, with invitation-only guests at the immediate scene and 200,000 small flags standing in place of however many citizens would have come if the capital’s core hadn’t been under military lock and key and if no pandemic had been sweeping the country.
The parade to the White House in late afternoon had all of the usual pageantry and military pizazz but none of the crowds that would be normally lining the route. Biden, a famously tactile politician, had little to touch other than the hand of his wife, Jill, when he and his family walked the last leg to their new home.


He darted away a few times to the sidewalk approaching the White House, saying hello to Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, at one point and giving weatherman Al Roker a fist bump as they stood among the officials and journalists in the secure area.
Earlier more than 100 people waited in the cold waiting to get through a security checkpoint to reach Pennsylvania Avenue, where they hoped to catch a glimpse of the procession. Many had to watch on their phones.
“We’ve turned the page,” said Vernal Crooms, who attended Howard University when Harris studied there but didn’t know her. He was happy to see the Trump era end. “Light prevailed,” he said, “and the lie didn’t last.”
Raelyn Maxwell of Park City, Utah, came with an American flag, a poster board sign reading “Dear Women of Color, thank you” and a bouquet of roses she hoped to toss to Kamala Harris if she could somehow get close enough to the new vice president.
“I protested 45’s inauguration,” she said of Trump, the 45th president, “and I wanted to be here when he left. “And I wanted to celebrate the new president.” She also carried Champagne to toast the occasion with friends here from France.

Biden, the second Roman Catholic president, attended a morning mass at St. Matthews Church with at least three Baptists — Harris and Republican leaders Mitch McConnell from the Senate and Kevin McCarthy from the House — and the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish.
It was one of those bipartisan, not to mention multi-faith, events that Washington is known for, coexisting with searing political division.
St. Matthew, patron saint of civil servants, was a tax-collector and, on the brighter side, an apostle who spread the gospel exhorting people to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” according to the church’s teachings.
There were at least stirrings of that Wednesday.