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Did Modi Government Reject India-China-Pakistan Trilateral Pact Proposed By Xi Jinping?

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With heightened border disputes between India and China, Pakistan’s role cannot be overlooked. With the changing regional geopolitical landscape in South Asia, India and China are in the midst of a fierce standoff that Islamabad is quietly watching. 

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Beijing could have raised the Aksai Chin dispute probably due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir, a region claimed by India and administered by Pakistan. Experts believe that CPEC and Pakistan could be the cause for the standoff between India and China.

“There appears to have been a strategic shift in Chinese thinking after India abrogated Article 370 last year and created the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. India has always claimed Aksai Chin as part of its territory, but the issue appears to have been re-interpreted in China after the special status of J&K was revoked,” said P. Stobdan, former ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, who specialises in trans-Himalayan studies.

The CPEC program was launched under the Border Road Initiative (BRI) in 2015 with an intention to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Afric and Europe with a network of land and sea routes in China.

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According to Stobdan, Pakistan has become exceptionally important to China as CPEC — which gives access to Gwadar port and helps Beijing reduce its vulnerability on the Americans who dominate Malacca Strait — is the gateway governing China’s international trade. The CPEC has allowed game-changing strategic advantage to the Sino-Pak relationship.

Last year on August 5, the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was scrapped by an amendment in the Indian constitution. “Kashmir is an integral part of India, there is no doubt over it. When I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are included in it,” said Home Minister Amit Shah. This also meant that the CPEC plan was strongly questioned by the Home Minister because the corridor passes through Pakistan controlled Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan.

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On the contrary, China has claimed Aksai Chin as an important territory of the country. “Aksai Chin is the essential link between Xinjiang and Tibet, and China’s national highway 219 passes through this passage. Aksai Chin is, therefore, central to China’s territorial unity and the one-China principle,” a Chinese academic, who did not wish to be named, told The Hindu.

Islamabad also furiously objected to India’s August 5 decision on J&K special status. Beijing supported Islamabad, citing the UN resolutions and the UN charter as the basis for resolving the Kashmir issue.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that the decision regarding J&K “did not impact the Line of Control (LoC)”. “There was no implication for the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. India was not raising any additional territorial claims. The Chinese concerns in this regard were misplaced,” he had stated.

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Furthermore, India’s decision to issue weather bulletins for Pakistan controlled Kashmir regions may have infuriated Islamabad who could have sought Chinese assistance in battling and protecting the CPEC initiative from New Delhi, experts talking to the EurAsian Times stated.

Bejing reinforced the trust in CPEC when it announced the construction of a new high-altitude airport at Taxkorgan that falls within the Shaksgam valley, in Gilgit-Baltistan, which Pakistan had surrendered to China in 1963.

Another factor that has flared up India China ties, is the growing beneficial ties between India and the US. On the other hand, the US-China diplomatic ties have worsened to a point where US President Donald Trump has threatened to cut ‘all ties‘ with China.

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India-Pakistan-China Trilateral Pact

Last year, during a summit in Chennai between Indian PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mr Wang Yi, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that President Xi had proposed to Mr Modi, a trilateral partnership among China, Pakistan and India, free from the influence of “third parties” — a veiled reference to Washington.

“President Xi Jinping stressed that the Chinese side sincerely expects sound China-India relations, China-Pakistan relations and India-Pakistan relations and expects to see all sides work together to promote regional peace and stability and achieve development and prosperity,” he added.

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“Chinese actions during the current stand-off are strategic in that they regard the DSDBO road with some suspicion, given the advantage and access we would gain to the Karakoram pass,” said Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary. He was referring to the 255-km Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) section of the road between Leh and Karakoram Pass to Demchok.

According to experts, the India-China standoff in Ladakh can further deteriorate relations. “Faceoffs between Indian and Chinese troops does occur from time to time, and in recent years they have been more frequent as both sides have increased patrolling,” said Ashok Kantha, Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies.

He further explained that even so, the current standoff and recent incursions appear to be different from the past, as Chinese troops have shown more aggression, engaged in physical skirmishes and disregarded agreed protocols.

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Another expert talking to the EurAsian Times, who did not wish to be named said that India-China border clash could actually be a blessing in disguise. Both nuclear-capable nations cannot go to war and the only way forward is to settle the border dispute and sign a pact. And if Pakistan can join in too, as President Xi had proposed, this will be a new beginning for Asia.

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Asia Pacific

India-China Economic Romance Cannot End With A Mere Border Clash – Chinese Experts

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India and China have been at each other’s throat for more than a month now. Aside from the military confrontation in Ladakh, India has also moved to disengage from China economically.

While the move has got the support from the majority of Indians, Cui Hui’ao of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) writes that disengaging from China might not be a choice for India and that economic de-coupling is driven politically by Narendra Modi.

As reported by Eurasian Times consistently during last month, the feud between India and China has been a rollercoaster ride. From military buildup, deadly clashes to de-escalation and eventual withdrawal, the clash of the two Asiatic giants has seen it all.

Cui writes that apart from the military confrontation, India has retaliated in the economic sphere, referring to the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese application including TikTok, WeChat and ShareIt and the call to boycott Chinese products.

The journalist at CGTN writes that decoupling from China may be easier said than done for India. He says that India is not a manufacturing powerhouse, so in terms of bilateral trade, it actually buys much more from China than the other way around.

Cui analyses trade data to support the fact that New Delhi will find it difficult to reduce its dependence on Chinese imports. Between April 2019 and March 2020, India imported over 65 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods from China.

Cui is of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the Indian economy hard and in fact, the disengagement is driven by politics rather than economics. He finds it difficult to accept that India’s disengagement from China would take place at a time when the Indian economy is projected to contract by 4.5% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic Disengagement Driven Politically 

Speaking to Cui, Cheng Xizhong, a visiting professor from Southwest University of Political Science and Law, says that the decision to de-couple from China economically is because of the domestic pressure on Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

‘’Since his second term began yet Indian economy is a mess. He has to find a way to shift the public attention elsewhere,” he said.

The author agrees with the point made by Cheng Xizhong and writes that pressure on the Indian PM Modi comes from multiple fronts, including his own supporters, businesses, and farmers union. But this time, the nationalistic voice is even louder.

Other experts interviewed by Chui agree that New Delhi would benefit more if it partnered with Beijing. Professor Cheng, a former Chinese military diplomat in South Asia, said that since India started its opening-up in the 1990s, its economic growth has been crippled by lack of high-quality infrastructure and it would wiser if India and China work together.

Similar views are shared by Indian economist Biswajit Dhar, who says that India’s decision to start producing domestically has to be strategic and it cannot take the decision to produce everything.”

While India and China disengage at the battlefront in Ladakh, the Indian government is looking for solutions to reduce its dependency on Chinese imports. PM Modi has encouraged all Indians to become self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) by producing and purchasing indigenous goods and boost the Indian economy.

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US-China ties to worsen as Trump set to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea

Ties between US and China could dramatically worsen over the South China Sea after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. 

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Ties between the US and China are set to further deteriorate over the South China Sea as the Trump administration is set to outrightly reject almost all of Chinese maritime claims in the contentious waterbody.

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The Trump government presented the decision as an endeavour to restrain China’s increasing belligerence in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. This move in the South China Sea will further enrage the Chinese, who are already countering against various US sanctions and other penalties.

Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime spats between China and its smaller neighbours be settled peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.

But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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Although the US will continue to remain impartial in territorial conflicts, the announcement means Washington is now directly supporting Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese declarations of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding disputed islands, reefs and shoals.

“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.

The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that discarded Chinese maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

China has declined to recognise that ruling, rejected it as a “sham” and withdrew from the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.

However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

In addition to reemphasising support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legitimately claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, Washington said it would regard any Chinese intimidation of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

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Asia Pacific

US-China tensions: China slaps counter sanctions on US officials over Uighur rights

Earlier, US sanctioned member of Chinese Communist Party, 3 other officials over human rights abuses of Uighurs in Xinjiang

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Tensions between the US and China continue to rise after China, in a tit-for-tat move, announced sanctions on US lawmakers and an envoy over the issue of Uighur rights in Xinjiang.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing sanctioned officials at US’ China Commission; Sam Brownback, Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, daily Global Times reported.

China said on Friday it would take reciprocal measures against the US for sanctioning a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party and three other officials over human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, home to Uighur Muslims.

“China has decided to take reciprocal measures against relevant US institutions and individuals that have behaved badly over Xinjiang,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had said.

The US’ China Commission is a congressional-executive commission that was created to monitor human rights and rule of law in China which submits an annual report to the US president and the Congress.

The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Chen was appointed to the region in 2016, according to the US statement, with a “notorious history of intensifying security operations” in the Tibetan autonomous region to tighten control over the Tibetan ethnic minorities.

The senior government official is also known as the “architect” of mass detention camps in Xinjiang. The sanctions designations are under the Global Magnitsky Act passed by the US Congress in 2016.

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