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China Developing One Of The World’s Highest Airport For Pakistan & CPEC?

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China’s decision to build an airport at Tashkargon has once again exacerbated India’s anxiety as the airport is situated in the Pamir plateau in Xinjiang province which is the last significant place on the Karakoram highway before it enters Pakistan-administered- Kashmir (PaK).

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Beijing has begun developing what is believed to be the highest airport in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to reports in China daily. The airport is scheduled to be operational by June 2022.

While China has built several high-altitude airports in the past, however according to Xinjiang Airport Group, the Tashkargon airport will be the first super-high plateau airport in Xinjiang. Super-high plateau airport is as an airport located at or above 2,438 meters above the sea level.

The Tashkargon Airport will be situated at 3,252 meters above sea level in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County which could be one of the world’s highest airport, if not the highest. The Communist regime has spent a total of 1.63 billion yuan or about USD 230 million on the construction of the airport.

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The Tashkargon airport, considered to be an important project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would be equipped with a 3,800-meter runway, a 3,000-square-meter terminal and four aprons that are expected to improve the local traffic conditions and boost the development of tourist resources in the region.

The airport is designed to handle more than 160,000 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo and mail annually. “It will create a new ‘air passage’ leading to Central Asia and South Asia,” said Zhou Xiang, deputy director of Xinjiang’s Civil Aviation Administration.

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The airport is expected to bring a lot more tourists to Taxkorgan which is a desirable tourist destination for its natural beauty and unique Tajik culture but is inaccessible currently. The construction of the airport is not as simple given that it is being built at a time of COVID-19 pandemic and the workers will also have a major obstacle in the form of high-altitude sickness.

However, the move has not gone down well with New Delhi as the construction of airport entails laying down permanent structures including highways, railway lines and energy projects in PaK which is considered as a violation by India of its sovereignty.

The airport is believed to serve a dual purpose which will mean that it will be used for civilian as well as military purposes.

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Earlier, China had also planned to build three airports close to Indian States of Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.  In the event of war, the airports can serve as launch bases for Chinese Air Force and for the deployment of troops and as well as for replenishment of supplies.

India is one of the few countries who has resisted and challenged the expansionist agenda of the communist regime and therefore worried about the grave threat that these airports pose to Indian security.

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Taliban rejects calls for cease-fire by the Afghan Government, International community

In line with a landmark US-Taliban peace agreement — which was only cautiously welcomed by the Afghan government — some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released months ago from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces.

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The Taliban on Sunday rejected mounting calls for a ceasefire by the Afghan government and the global community, saying they were yet to find “an alternative” to the ongoing insurgency.

The group’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, said on Twitter that the implementation of the Doha deal signed between the US and Taliban on Feb. 29 and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations would be necessary for the conflict to de-escalate and end. “If anyone seeks ceasefire before talks then such is illogical. War is raging precisely b/c we have yet to find an alternative,” he said.

Mujahed underlined that prisoner exchanges must be completed and intra-Afghan negotiations launched “immediately” for a resolution to the fighting.

Last week, Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani warned the peace process might face “serious challenges” if the Taliban continued with the war.

In a virtual conference with the representatives of some 20 regional countries and international organizations, Ghani underlined that though the Afghan government had the capacity and political will to end the war, it had offered the Taliban a political solution to move away from violence.

“The champions of peace will be people of Afghanistan and the region. Regional support for a democratic system in Afghanistan would further strengthen regional cooperation,” he said.

The rejuvenated yet fragile Afghan peace deal hinges on sluggish prison swaps testing the patience of the warring parties.

In line with a landmark US-Taliban peace agreement — which was only cautiously welcomed by the Afghan government — some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released months ago from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces.

The freeing of prisoners came to a halt less than halfway through in May amid bitter exchanges and allegations, as well as a spike in violence across the war-ravaged country.

According to official sources, there are 12,000-15,000 inmates in Afghan government prisons, including militants from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries. No figures are available on captives held by the insurgents.

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Four Pakistan Army soldiers killed in North Waziristan near Afghan Border

The clash occurred near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan, during a raid on a hideout and resulted in the death of four troops, the statement by Pakistan’s army said.

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Four Pakistan Army soldiers and as many militants were killed in a clash in Pakistan’s restive North Waziristan region on Sunday, the military said.

The clash occurred near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan, during a raid on a hideout and resulted in the death of four troops, the statement by Pakistan’s army said.

“As soon as the troops cordoned off the area, terrorist opened fire. All dug out terrorists were shot down by security forces, ” the statement said, adding: “In exchange of fire, four soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom).”

The killed soldiers included Sepoy Muhammad Ismail Khan, Sepoy Muhammad Shahbaz Yasin, Sepoy Raja Waheed Ahmed and Sepoy Muhammad Rizwan Khan.

North Waziristan – once dubbed the heartland of militancy – is one of seven former semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan where the army has conducted a series of operations since 2014 to eliminate Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Successive operations have pushed the TTP towards neighbouring Afghanistan, and Islamabad claims the terrorist network has now set up bases across the border to attack Pakistani security forces.

The military operations also displaced over a million people, but the government claims most of them have returned to their homes. The tribal agencies were recently given the status of districts and merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

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Hundreds protest in the UK againt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

The protest organized by the Stop the War Coalition took place days after the UK government’s decision to continue arming the Saudi-led coalition.

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Hundreds of people on Sunday (July 12) gathered in front of the Embassy of the UAE, in central London to call on the British government to end arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom and the UAE.

The protest organized by the Stop the War Coalition took place days after the UK government’s decision to continue arming the Saudi-led coalition.

A statement on Stop the War Coalition’s web site said: “Anti-war campaigners say Saudi-led intervention in Yemen will only compound existing tensions and violence in the crisis-ridden state.”

The anti-war group accuses the Saudi regime of playing a leading role in almost every “anti-democratic development in the Middle East.”

On July 7, Britain announced that it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia a year after the court of appeal declared the UK government acted unlawfully by selling arms to the kingdom without first assessing whether they were involved in breaches of international humanitarian law.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in a written statement to parliament that an official government review found that airstrikes in Yemen that breached international humanitarian law were only “isolated incidents.”

“The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year,” she said.

Britain is one of Saudi Arabia’s top arms suppliers. Over the past five years, the UK’s top arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, sold Saudi Arabia £15 billion ($18.8 million) worth of arms.

The government review, sparked by the court of appeal’s decisions in June 2019, assessed examples of Saudi airstrikes using British equipment that could have breached international humanitarian law and killed civilians.

The arms and equipment sold to the Saudi Kingdom by the U.K. include air-to-air missiles, aircraft components, sniper rifles, anti-riot gear, ballistic shields and body armour.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis, including civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as millions remain at risk of starvation.

Karim El-Bar, Sibel Uygun

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