India: The Sikkim government on Thursday announced that it was closing the Nathu La (pass) trade route with China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Nathu La (pas) connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet autonomous region.
Nathu La (pas) connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet autonomous region. (AP)

The Sikkim government on Thursday announced that it was closing the Nathu La (pass) trade route with China and the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra through the pass this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The state government is also likely to continue the ban on entry of even domestic tourists till October.

“Our government has decided to close the China-India trade route through Nathu La pass. The Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra through Nathu La will remain closed this year, ”B S Panth, Sikkim’s tourism and civil aviation minister, said.

Under the Nathu La trade protocol, traders from Sikkim are allowed limited access to the Tibet autonomous region while Chinese traders are allowed a few kilometres into Indian territory.

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“Very soon we will adopt a proposal and inform the Centre. Since China is the epicentre of the outbreak we will close the Nathu La trade route which is supposed to open on May 1,” the minister said. “The Kailash- Mansarovar Yatra is also not happening this year.”

The much-hyped international trade route was reopened on July 6, 2006 after remaining closed since 1962. The Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, organised annually by the ministry of external affairs from June to September through Nathu La was reopened in June 2015. Another route for the yatra is through Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand. The international trade through Nathu La continues till end of November.

Sikkim has not reported any Covid-19 case so far. The state was among the first to ban the entry of domestic and foreign tourists and migrant labourers. It sealed the international borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan and two of the four border check posts with West Bengal.

The Nathu La trade pass and Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra are two major revenue earners for Sikkim. The state drew more than 12 lakh domestic tourists and 1,33,388 foreign visitors in 2019.

Panth said Sikkim is unlikely to allow even domestic tourists till October. “If the situation improves we may rethink the issue,” he said. However the minister indicated that the ban on the entry of foreign tourists will continue. The state government gets an annual revenue of around Rs 10 crore from the tourism industry.

On June 16, 2015, the then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj flagged off the first batch of 40 pilgrims from New Delhi who headed for Kailash-Mansarovar thought Nathu La. The announcement from the Chinese side was made by President Xi Jinping during his India visit in September 2014.

In 2015, the Sikkim government sponsored two Sikkimese who took part in the yatra.

More than 6,000 pilgrims from India take part in the pilgrimage every year. Most of them make their way through the Nepal-China border town of Khasa (Tatopani).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted the second route for Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra to be reopened in view of the difficult terrain through Uttarakhand and Nepal.

Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

A quixotic overture by a courageous prince lay hidden in files at the UK Colonial Office for 90 years, where this author discovered it. Now it can proudly take its place in history

On August 29, 1929, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha, the uncle and future regent to King Farouk of Egypt, walked into the British Embassy in Istanbul and hand-delivered a letter to British Ambassador Sir George Clerk. The letter was addressed to the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir John Chancellor. The prince asked Ambassador Clerk to forward the letter to Chancellor in Jerusalem.

The prince had written and signed the letter less than one week after the shocking August 24, 1929, massacres in Hebron, following months of rising tensions at the Western (Wailing) Wall. The letter began by deploring the violence, with the prince expressing hope the Arabs and Jews could settle their differences peacefully. The prince then offered a stunning suggestion:

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties. Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved… Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.

This is the story of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s surprise proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews, revealed here for the first time.

***

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall today represent the defining religious symbols of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The same was true during the 1920’s, following the British conquest of Palestine. Muslims and Jews clashed repeatedly over the Wall throughout the 1920’s.

The Jews claimed rights of prayer at the Wall, the only surviving remnant of the ancient Temples and the holiest and most sacred site for Jews to pray. Jews had been praying at or near the Wall nearly continuously since the Roman conquest.

‘The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it’

The Muslims, for their part, also regarded the Wall (or the Buraq, named for Mohammed’s steed whom the Angel Gabriel, according to Muslim legend, tethered to the Wall at the end of Mohammed’s celestial journey from Mecca) as an Islamic Holy site that had been dedicated as Wakf property nearly a millennium ago. The Muslims asserted absolute ownership of both the Wall and the narrow strip of pavement facing the Wall. Prior to 1967, as shown in the following photograph, the pavement was sandwiched between the Wall on one side and an area of small dwellings, known as the “Moghrabi Quarter,” on the other side:

The Western Wall and narrow strip of pavement, late 19th Century (Library of Congress).

The Muslims refused to accord the Jews any rights to pray at the Wall, for fear the Jews would use that as a wedge to encroach further on Muslim property and eventually seize control of the entire Temple Mount area. During Ottoman times the Jews would pay small bribes to bring chairs and benches to the Wall, even as the Ottoman authorities issued formal rulings banning such practices as late as 1911.

After the British captured Jerusalem in December 1917, General Allenby immediately pledged to honor the so-called Status Quo prevailing at the Holy Sites. Allenby’s pledge became embedded as a legal concept five years later in Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, requiring the British to “preserve existing rights” at the Holy Sites.

The British soon found themselves caught in the middle between conflicting Jewish and Muslim assertions of rights and claims to the Western Wall and the pavement facing the Wall. The Mandatory authorities struggled to enforce the shaky Status Quo that had prevailed during Ottoman times, when Jews were allowed to utter individual prayers at the Wall, but not allowed to take any steps which could be viewed as asserting symbolic ownership of the Wall. Thus, the British enforced the Turkish ban on the Jews bringing chairs and benches to the Wall, as well as most other accoutrements of congregational prayer.

Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest of Jerusalem, 1917 (Public Domain)

The tensions led to controversy at the Wall during Passover 1922, Yom Kippur 1923 and Yom Kippur 1925. The most notable confrontation occurred on Yom Kippur 1928, when the British Deputy District Commissioner for Jerusalem, E. Keith-Roach, ordered the forcible removal of a screen (mehitza) the Jews had placed on the pavement in front of the Wall to divide men from women, causing the Jews to file an angry protest with the League of Nations. Tensions continued escalating during 1929 as the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, launched the so-called Buraq Campaign to galvanize Muslim and Arab Nationalist sentiment around the Wall dispute. The Jews likewise formed groups to “defend” their asserted rights to the Wall.

The tensions reached boiling point and exploded into violence in August 1929. On Tisha b’Av (August 15) 1929, a group of Jewish youth marched to the Wall, where they raised the blue and white flag, listened to a brief speech from one of their leaders, and sang the Hatikvah. The Muslims held a counter-demonstration the following day, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Muslim demonstration quickly turned violent, resulting in the murders of several Jews outside the Old City. The violence continued throughout the following week, culminating in the Hebron massacre of August 24, 1929, where approximately 60 Jews were butchered.

Jews flee the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1929. (US Library of Congress / Public Domain)

While the history of the violent clashes at the Wall during the 1920s has been told many times, less-known were various attempts by the Jews and British to strike a deal with the Muslims to buy the area in front of the Wall and the Wall itself.

Sir Ronald Storrs (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

In the spring of 1918, for example, Chaim Weizmann approached the British military government about buying the Wall and pavement area, along with the Moghrabi dwellings. The Military Governor, Sir Ronald Storrs, floated the idea with the Muslim community. Storrs reported the Muslims were offended, and “it would be a grave error of policy for the Military Government to raise the question at all.”

In August 1918, another British Official, Brigadier General Sir Gilbert Clayton, told the Muslims they might be able to secure “a large sum of money for a property which is to-day of little value.” The Muslims, however, opposed any such initiative, fearing it would be the first step toward Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount.

In October 1918, Clayton notified London of an unauthorized Jewish attempt to buy the Wall, interfering with Clayton’s ongoing, quiet efforts to persuade the Arabs to consider selling the Wall:

“Up to quite recently signs were not wanting that the Moslem Dignitaries and notables were beginning to be impressed with the arguments explained to them at great length in favour of the scheme [for the Jews to buy the Wall]. The hopelessness … of obtaining the funds to put into effect … the restoration of the Haram es Sharif, the possibility of replenishing the Wakf coffers and so promoting Moslem education of a liberal scale, the comparative unimportance and squalor of the buildings and their [Moroccan] inhabitants in the precinct, the lurking fear that they might have one day to yield for nothing (as a City improvement scheme or otherwise) that for which they would now receive a very large sum of money – these and a variety of other considerations appeared to be modifying a ‘non possumus’ attitude into one of critical apprehension and fear of the effect on the local and general Islamic world. From the moment, however, that an attempt was apparently made by a Jerusalem Jew (doubtless without the knowledge of the Zionist Commission) to get into direct pecuniary contact with the Moslems concerned something approaching a panic set in, and from that day things have gone from bad to worse in so far as concerns the Zionist hopes in this respect.”

In 1926, a Jewish effort was launched to buy properties in front of the Wall as a first step toward acquiring the entire Moghrabi area and eventually the Wall itself. In early October 1928, Frederick Kisch, a Jerusalem-based Zionist official proposed, in a confidential letter to the Zionist Executive in London, that the Muslims be compelled to sell the pavement and the Moghrabi area to the Jews for £100,000, “in exchange for another suitable area in the Old City, with the inevitable addition of a cash payment for the benefit of the Wakf authorities.”

But these efforts, like those preceding them, went nowhere.

Three unique initiatives

Suddenly, however, in the days immediately following the Hebron massacre, three new initiatives appeared. While none of these new initiatives succeeded, their close proximity to each other and the dramatic nature of their presentation make them, especially Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s proposal, unique in the history of Mandate Palestine.

The first initiative came from a prominent Egyptian Jew, the Baron Felix de Menasce, the President of the Israelite Community in Alexandria. On August 26, 1929, only two days after the Hebron Massacre, Menasce walked into the British Embassy in Paris and met with Adrian Holman, the Second Secretary at the Embassy. Later that day Holman cabled the Foreign Office in London and reported as follows:

“[Menasce] explained to me at some length that the frequent cases of rioting at the Wailing Wall were due to the fact that the buildings surrounding the Wall were in the hands of the Moslems and had always been looked upon by the British Government as bearing a religious character. It had consequently always proved impossible for the Jews to buy the buildings in question and thus prevent troubles in the future. He maintained that the buildings were purely civil as opposed to religious and that the present moment might be an opportune one for the British Government to reconsider the possibility of arranging for the Jewish community to buy the buildings for demolition or other purposes. He was sure that if this were done, the Jewish community throughout the world would easily be able to find the necessary sum of money.”

George W. Rendell of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Division responded to Holman’s cable on September 7, noting the Muslims viewed the Wall as a religious site and would not be willing to sell the nearby dwellings to the Jews. Rendell poured more cold water on the idea, adding, “[t]he Colonial Office are, I think, familiar with the advantages and difficulties of a solution on the lines of the Baron de Menasce’s proposal, and seeing how overworked they are at the moment with a variety of Middle Eastern crises, I am not adding to their correspondence by passing the suggestion on to them.”

Dr. Chaim Weizmann. (AP Photo 1938)

Menasce sent a handwritten letter in French to Weizmann reporting on his meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris. Menasce wrote, “J’ai la conviction c’est le moment psychologique de transfer tout l’argent necessaire, si jamais les Juifs deraint acheter ce Wakf …” (“I am convinced that if the Jews are ever going to buy this Wakf, this is, psychologically, the right time to find all the necessary money …”) No record has been found indicating whether Menasce had been acting on Weizmann’s behalf, or whether Weizmann ever responded to Menasce.

The second initiative came from Pinchas Rutenberg, the Managing Director of the Palestine Electric Corporation. On August 29, 1929, three days after Menasce’s meeting at the British Embassy in Paris, Rutenberg sent a letter to Lord Reading (previously known as Rufus Isaacs, a Jew and Chairman of the Palestine Electric Corporation), urging the British government to expropriate the entire area in front of the Wailing Wall to create “a suitable and dignified Jewish praying place.”

This was not the first time expropriation had been floated, but never at such a high level. Rutenberg was the preeminent Jewish businessman in Palestine and the future Chair of the Va’ad Leumi. Lord Reading took matters to the very highest level of the British Government, forwarding Rutenberg’s letter to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald the next day, with a cover letter of endorsement:

“I would therefore earnestly represent that the necessary measures should be adopted as soon as practicable to make a complete end of this cause of dispute by expropriating the more extended area, as suggested by Mr. Rutenberg in his letter to me. I understand that this could be accomplished without interfering with any part of Moslem ‘Holy Ground.’”

But nothing came of Rutenberg’s expropriation proposal. The Colonial Office reacted negatively, noting “the present time is not opportune for considering the question of compulsory expropriation… Quite apart from the legal aspect, such action would be intensely resented by the Moslems and we have taken the line hitherto that expropriation is out of the question.”

In addition, High Commissioner Chancellor had already told the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC) of the League of Nations in July 1929 that the first conclusion he came to after arriving in Palestine as High Commissioner and studying the Western Wall issue was that “there must not … be any attempt to expropriate, in favour of the Jews, the area of the pavement in front of the Wall.”

Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

However, at that same PMC meeting, Chancellor disclosed he personally had asked the Mufti to consider selling the Moghrabi dwellings (“mean hovels,” as he described them) to the Jews, assuming the Jews would pay to relocate the Moghrabi inhabitants to superior accommodations elsewhere. Chancellor explained the Jews would be able “to make there a courtyard surrounded by a loggia where they could say their prayers in peace and in dignified surroundings.”

Weizmann embraced the idea and had £70,000 at the ready. But the Mufti rejected the plan, even after Chancellor suggested the Mufti consider an indirect sale, whereby the Mufti would transfer the property to the Mandatory Government as middleman, which would then complete the sale to the Jews, thereby allowing the Mufti to avoid looking as if he had sold Muslim property to the Jews.

An unprecedented proposal

The third initiative involved Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha of Egypt. Ali Pasha had built the famous Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile River in Cairo. The prince was the uncle of and future Regent to Farouk, the future King of Egypt. Those who knew Ali Pasha regarded him as a “very liberal-minded man,” with a “courtly bearing.” Storrs described Ali Pasha in his memoirs as “Prince Muhammad, afterwards Regent, with his great “lucky” emerald ring, the revived Oriental splendours of his Manial Palace, his courtly bearing and graceful entertainment; his fine devotion to his mother.” The Jewish, Alexandria-based lawyer Alec Alexander once described Ali Pasha as “the one person who could use his good offices to bring about peace between Muslims and Jews.”

Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha (Public Domain)

In an amazing coincidence of history, Ali Pasha entered the stage on August 29, 1929, the same day Rutenberg had sent his letter to Lord Reading, and only three days after Menasce’s meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris.
On that fateful day of August 29, 1929, Ali Pasha, while on a visit to Istanbul, hand-delivered to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, a letter addressed to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. The letter contained a stunning proposal from Ali Pasha for settling the Muslim-Jewish dispute over the Western Wall:

“Having heard about the troubles going on in Palestine between Jews and Mohametans, and having a certain knowledge of the Arab and Mohametan aspirations, I thought I might be of service outlining a proposal by which this quarrel might perhaps be ended peacefully.

The Mohametans and Arabs having been masters in Palestine for over one thousand years, they are fighting for their honour and do not want to lose anything which they have acquired as a possession. They fear that either through administrative channels or by force they will be compelled ultimately to relinquish rights they have held for so long.

Every one knows that in every country in law after the lapse of a certain period proprietary rights are established. In this case the rights of the Mohametans go back one thousand years.

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties.

Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved. In Zurich the Zionists have collected £240,000 for Palestine. Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.”

Although the letter does not specifically mention a “sale” of the Wall, Ali Pasha made clear in his meeting with Ambassador Clerk that selling the Wall was precisely his intention. According to Clerk’s contemporaneous recollection of their conversation, Ali Pasha “submit a suggestion which would, he thought, provide a solution to the question of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem;” specifically, “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall.”

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades

But Ambassador Clerk never forwarded Ali Pasha’s letter to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. Instead, Clerk sent Ali Pasha’s letter directly to the Foreign Office in London, along with a cover note adding his own observation that “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall has long been considered and rejected, and recent events seem scarcely favorable to the idea of the Muslims accepting even as fancy a price as £100,000, supposing the Jews were prepared to offer that sum.”

The Foreign Office kept Clerk’s original cover letter in its files, together with a copy of Ali Pasha’s letter. The Foreign Office made the following file notation regarding the prince’s letter:

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 3, 1929; photo by the author).

W. L. Knight of the Foreign Office made a sarcastic handwritten file entry several days later:

“It would appear from the last para. of the prince’s letter that while the Jerusalem Arabs would scorn to sell their honour cheap, they would probably be prepared to do so for £100,000!”

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 10, 1929; photo by the author).

The Foreign Office later recorded the prince’s letter in its official index for 1929 as, “Suggested sale of wall to Jews by Moslems: proposal of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha:”

Foreign Office Index, 1929 (photo by the author).

The Foreign Office sent the original of Ali Pasha’s letter, along with the calling card Ali Pasha had given to Ambassador Clerk, to the Colonial Office, where both items were tucked inside an envelope and filed away for the next 90 years.

The prince’s calling card, given to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, on August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades. Nor is there any evidence he had any authority from the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem to make the offer. But his letter nevertheless represents an extraordinary and courageous – if not somewhat Quixotic – step for a highly prominent Arab and future Regent to the King of Egypt to have taken so soon after the August 1929 violence.

The letter also seriously undermines Muslim claims regarding the holiness of the Buraq. Surely Ali Pasha would never have dreamed of proposing to sell any truly sacred Muslim shrines, such as the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque, to the Jews. Clearly he did not regard the Western Wall as even a minor Muslim religious site. Indeed, no evidence exists of any Muslim prayer or veneration at the Buraq since the 7th Century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

Moreover, during a 1930 courtroom trial presided over by three League of Nations-approved judges, pitting Muslims against Jews regarding their respective rights and claims to the Wall, the Jewish side offered evidence that the Muslims had repeatedly defiled the Wall and the pavement. Dr. Mordechai Eliash, the Jerusalem-based lawyer representing the Jewish side, said the following in his opening statement (pages 53-54 of the transcript, the only surviving copy of which is located at King’s College, London):

“Evidence will be brought before you that time and again the Wall was desecrated by actually smearing human excreta on its stones. Filth and rubbish were always allowed by the Mughrabis to accumulate there, while time and again have Jewish individuals and organized communities paid for the sweeping and cleaning of the area in front of the Wall, and it will be shown to you that it was through Jewish intervention that a sewage drain was not laid close to the Wall …”

In any event, no record was found of any further action by Ali Pasha or the British Government regarding Ali Pasha’s proposal, nor is there any evidence in Chancellor’s files or his diary proving or even hinting he ever learned of the letter’s existence.

The original Ali Pasha letter, containing the only Arab offer ever to sell the Wall to the Jews, remained buried in the Colonial Office files for the next 90 years.

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Two of Israel’s leading historians of the Mandate era, Professor Motti Golani of Tel Aviv University and Professor Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined Ali Pasha’s letter and the related documents at the author’s request last year. Both professors said they were unaware of Ali Pasha’s letter or of any prior publication mentioning it. Golani called it a “major discovery.” Cohen initially noted the absence of any specific reference to “selling” the Wall in the text of Ali Pasha’s letter, but after reading Clerk’s cover letter to the Foreign Office, Cohen acknowledged Ali Pasha’s letter indeed conveyed an implicit offer to sell the Wall.

One lingering question remains: is it possible Ali Pasha and Menasce knew of each other’s initiatives? Two very prominent Egyptians, one Muslim and one Jewish, within three days of each other separately approached the British Embassies in Istanbul and Paris to float the idea of the Jews buying the Western Wall and the surrounding area. Perhaps they had coordinated their efforts and stage-managed them as carefully as possible to avoid detection. Or perhaps neither had any idea of the other’s activity, and their visits to the British Embassies in Paris (Monday) and Istanbul (Thursday) of the same week were purely coincidental. We will leave that mystery for others to solve.

In any event, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s letter stands as a remarkable testament to the bravery and creativity of this urbane and worldly Egyptian prince, who at great personal risk launched an initiative to bring peace to the Muslims and Jews of Mandate Palestine.

Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Steven E. Zipperstein

The prince’s letter, concealed in the files of the Colonial Office for the past 90 years, can now proudly take its rightful place in history.

********

Steven E. Zipperstein is the author of the forthcoming book “Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge, March 2020), from which this article is derived. Zipperstein, a former United States federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at UCLA. He also teaches in UCLA’s Global Studies program and School of Public Affairs, and as a visiting professor at the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University.

(Copyright Steven E. Zipperstein, 2020)

Tens of thousands pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in Selichot (forgiveness) prayers, early on September 27, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
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Canada/U.S. Border stops for people of Iranian descent spark outrage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

Border stops for people of Iranian descent spark outrage

The reaction to the detentions at a Canadian crossing and a New York airport came after the U.S. killing of an Iranian military commander.

CBP agents

Reports of Iranians and Iranian-Americans being detained for questioning upon entering the U.S. kicked off a furor on Sunday from Washington state to Washington, D.C., marking a new domestic blow back to the Trump administration’s targeted killing of a key Iranian leader.

The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim civil liberties group, said on Sunday that more than 60 people of Iranian descent, including American citizens, were held for hours long periods of questioning over the weekend at the Peace Arch checkpoint in Blaine, Wash., along the border with Canada. CAIR noted that many Iranian-Americans would continue to approach the port of entry over the weekend as some return to the U.S. after attending an Iranian pop concert Saturday in Vancouver.

The initial reports and the backlash they triggered — with references to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II — highlighted the potential risks inside the U.S. even before the fierce retaliation promised by the Iranian government for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite paramilitary forces, by a U.S. military drone on Thursday.

CAIR said in its statement that a source at U.S. Customs and Border Protection had reported that the agency received a national directive from the Department of Homeland Security to “‘report’ and detain anyone with Iranian heritage entering the country who is deemed potentially suspicious or ‘adversarial,’ regardless of citizenship status.”

“We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance,” Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR’s Washington chapter, said in a statement.

Len Saunders, an immigration attorney in Blaine, said his contacts through CBP indicated that headquarters in Washington had ordered new vetting procedures, which appear to be directed toward people born in Iran, that require port directors to sign off on admitting anyone held for questioning.

A CBP spokesperson denied that DHS or the agency had issued any such directive.

“Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false,” the spokesperson said.

The agency says it often adjusts operations and staffing to balance security needs with lawful travel and trade. Processing times at the Blaine port of entry reached an average of two hours Saturday evening, though CBP said some travelers waited up to four hours to cross.

Sam Sadr, who lives in North Vancouver, said he was held for nearly nine hours at the Peace Arch border crossing on Saturday after the birthplace printed on his Canadian passport caught the attention of the U.S. customs officer.

Sadr, who was born in Tehran, told POLITICO he was on his way to Seattle for the day with his family. The officer, he said, asked him to pull over and go into the border office to provide more information.

Sadr recalled arriving at the border at 11:07 a.m. Pacific time. He and his family were finally allowed to enter the U.S. around 7:45 p.m.

In between those times, the officers took their passports and asked lots of questions, he said. After a couple of hours, the officers asked the same questions again.

They wanted to know where they were coming from, where they went to school, whether they had military backgrounds and whether they had firearms licences, Sadr said.

“Why me? Why my parents? Why my sisters, brothers? I don’t know,” said Sadr, a professional photographer who received his Canadian citizenship two years ago.

“We are innocent. … This completely discriminates.”

While he was waiting, he said, he saw many other people of Iranian descent also held up at the border crossing. He said some people, including officers, appeared to be frustrated with the situation.

Sadr, who left Iran more than 12 years ago, said he and his family stayed in the U.S. for only about an hour since it was so late and the stores had closed.

Asked for comment on Sadr’s story and to explain the discrepancy between the “four hours” figure in CBP’s statement and Sadr’s nearly nine hour ordeal, a CBP spokesperson said the agency stood by their earlier statement.

Attorneys monitoring the situation at the border in Washington state said they had not seen any evidence that American citizens with Iranian ties were denied entry to the U.S. Those being held for questioning are now being processed more quickly — within 30 to 60 minutes, rather than upwards of 10 hours as some experienced on Saturday, said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s Seattle office.

“It doesn’t make any sense, because these are individuals who are U.S. citizens and don’t have any individualized suspicion associated with them, other than the fact that they’re Iranian or of Iranian heritage,” he said. “What’s clear is that they are being targeted for the secondary inspection because of their Iranian background, and there must be some kind of directive” to CBP officers to pull them over, he added.

Attorneys in Washington state said CBP officers’ questions focused on travelers’ family members and where they went to school or worked, as well as whether they or a relative had any ties to the Iranian military.

The questioning of Iranians and Iranian-Americans wasn’t unique to Washington state.

John Ghazvinian, an Iranian-American historian and U.S. citizen, said he was subject to additional questioning on Sunday when he flew back on Air France from a trip to Egypt.

“Well, just landed at JFK and — no surprise — got taken to the special side room and got asked (among other things) how I feel about the situation with Iran,” he wrote in a tweet that went viral. “I wanted to be like: my book comes out in September, preorder now on amazon.”

In an interview, he said that the first CBP officer flipped through his passport and asked him, “When was the last time you were in Libya?”, to which he replied, “I’ve never been to Libya.” The officer quickly corrected himself to say “Iran,” to which Ghazvinian told him that he had last been there in 2009. He then was asked more questions in a private secondary screening, he said, the first time he’s ever been held up when returning to the U.S.

Asked whether he felt he was pulled aside because he was Iranian-American, he said he didn’t “want to speculate on another person’s private thoughts or motivations, but [the officer’s] first question was about the last time I had been to Iran.”

Ghazvinian, the interim director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the officers told him they had flagged him for extra scrutiny because it looked as though he had bought a one-way ticket to the U.S., when in fact he hadn’t. The female CBP officer, whom he described as “very friendly,” also asked him in the secondary screening whether he had family members in Iran and what they thought of what is going on. He told them he hadn’t talked to them about the situation.

Then she asked him what he thought of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran, to which he responded by saying he didn’t think the question was relevant. “She said, ‘We are just curious about what people think about these things,’ and I said, ‘It feels a little political,’ and then she dropped it,” he recalled.

The events, which he called “inherently a stressful experience” and “nerve-wracking,” involved a five- to 10-minute wait and around three minutes of questioning, he said.

Soon after he cleared immigration and customs, he sent out the tweet and said he was “surprised by the attention it got. … It was not my intention to paint myself as some type of victim here. I don’t feel that way.”

“To be honest, I thought it was just funny and so I just sent out what I thought was a lighthearted tweet,” he said.

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the accounts made public thus far were “very disturbing” and were stoking fear among a population already sensitive to border issues, given the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on Iranian nationals.

“The government has a legitimate interest in verifying identity, citizenship or legal status at the border, but it has no business infringing on the constitutional rights of citizens and legal permanent residents by detaining and invasively questioning them about their associations, religious or political beliefs or practices,” Shamsi said.

Reps. Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal, both Seattle-area Democrats, tweeted Sunday that they were trying to gather more information on the detentions at the border with British Columbia.

“Let me be clear: Instituting xenophobic, shameful and unconstitutional policies that discriminate against innocent people, trample over basic civil rights, and put fear in the hearts of millions do not make us safer,” Jayapal said in a statement.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat whose district includes Blaine, said she was also investigating the reports.

Parmida Esmaeilpour, a director with the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians in Vancouver, said concerns related to crossing the U.S. border had been building in her community for several days.

“It’s my understanding that [authorities] said that they would be detaining or questioning people who may have some sort of suspicious ties to the [Iranian] government,” said Esmaeilpour, whose association works to encourage Iranian-Canadians to engage more in Canada’s political process. “But in practice we’re seeing that it’s actually being applied much more indiscriminately to anyone of Iranian background who’s trying to cross the border.”

A Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson directed inquiries to DHS.

One former DHS official said he was worried that in the future, as part of a tit-for-tat with Iran, CBP could tighten its screening of potential visitors to the U.S. even more “to take a harder look and a longer view of somebody‘s travel history,” which would lead CBP port-of-entry directors and officers to “err on the side of caution absent any formal guidance.“

Saunders, the immigration lawyer, said two of his clients, both Persian-Canadians and one of whom is an American citizen, encountered hours of questioning at two different ports of entry in Washington state on Saturday.

“Why were 50 to 100 Persians sitting inside the Peace Arch port of entry yesterday for hours upon hours?” he said Sunday. “They were being singled out. I saw it myself.”

Andy Blatchford reported from Ottawa. Nahal Toosi and Connor O’Brien contributed reporting from Washington.

India: Tension along LAC has reduced

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Tension along LAC has reduced, Rajnath Singh says in Arunachal Pradesh

The minister, who is on a two-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh, made the remark after visiting an Indian Army forward post at Bumla near the border with China and interacting with soldiers and officers there.

INDIA Updated: Nov 15, 2019 14:25 IST

Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Defence minister Rajnath Singh visited the Indian Army’s forward post at Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday
Defence minister Rajnath Singh visited the Indian Army’s forward post at Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday(twitter/@rajnathsingh)

Defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday that both the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have reduced tension on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) “despite perceptional differences”.

The minister, who is on a two-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh, made the remark after visiting an Indian Army forward post at Bumla near the border with China and interacting with soldiers and officers there.

“Despite perceptional differences on the boundary issue both the Indian Army and PLA have been sensible enough to reduce tensions on LAC. I congratulate the Indian Army for showing great maturity in all situations,” tweeted Singh.

Watch: Rajnath Singh visits Bum La pass, says no tension with Chinese Army at LAC

During his visit, the Union minister is taking stock of security preparations along the border with China. Beijing claims most of Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls South Tibet, to be part of its territory.

In September this year, Tapir Gao, a Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh had claimed that Chinese army personnel had entered India and built a temporary bridge over a stream.

The Indian Army denied there was any such thing in an official statement.

“Had a wonderful interaction with brave jawans and officers of the Indian Army. The army is securing India’s frontiers even in the most challenging environment,” Singh tweeted.

The defence minister would also inaugurate on Friday a 200-metre bridge on the Sisseri River connecting Pasighat and Roing in the northeastern state, which would reduce travel time between both places by nearly five hours.

Singh also visited the memorial of Subedar Joginder Singh, a Param Vir Chakra awardee who fought valiantly during the 1962 war with China before laying down his life, at Bumla.

India, China coordinate patrolling of disputed area 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India, China coordinate patrolling of disputed area

Fish Tail-I and II are in the easternmost corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Fish Tail -I is largely glaciated terrain, and patrols from either side are few and far between.

INDIA Updated: Oct 26, 2019 08:57 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen

New Delhi
India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II,  one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh. (Representative Image)
India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II, one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh. (Representative Image)(PTI)

India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II, one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh, in coordination with each other in an attempt to build mutual confidence and maintain peace along the border, a senior official in the security establishment said on condition of anonymity.

Fish Tail-I and II are in the easternmost corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Fish Tail -I is largely glaciated terrain, and patrols from either side are few and far between.

The proposal for “coordinated patrolling” was made by India at a high-level meeting between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Indian army in June in the run-up to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mamallapuram,Tamil Nadu, earlier this month.

The two sides met in Arunachal’s Kibuthu, one of the seven designated border personnel meeting points. The Indian side was led by the commander of theDinjang (Assam)-based 2 Mountain Division of the III Corps of the Indian Army, the senior official cited above said.

China agreed to the Indian proposal, leading to structured “coordinated patrolling” along Fish-Tail II, the first time that such an exercise has been undertaken by the two countries, the official said.

“One of the key takeaways of the 2018 Wuhan summit, which followed the 73-day-long standoff between the Chinese People’s Army and the Indian army at Doklam, was to give strategic guidance to both armies to reduce border tensions. The coordinated patrolling is a step in that direction,” a senior ministry of defence official said.

The standoff at Doklam, in the India-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction, began on June 16, 2017, when the PLA entered the area in a bid to alter the status quo in violation of Beijing’s existing understanding with both India and Bhutan. The issue was eventually resolved with the disengagement of border personnel on August 28 that year. India had suggested “coordinated patrolling” of the border earlier too, but found no takers in Beijing. “Coordinated patrolling would mean both sides would inform the other about their outgoing foot patrols, and the areas that the patrol is likely to go and the duration of the patrol,” a second senior official who did not want to be named said.

Patrols from either side go up the designated “claim-line” and mark their presence before returning. “When patrols come face to face, each have to challenge the other,” the third official said. Recently, Indian and Chinese troops came face to face on the disputed Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, leading to a scuffle, according to some reports, the defence ministry official said.

Fish-Tail -I &II are among the most remote areas along the LAC and India’s road infrastructure is extremely poor in this area. India, however, regularly sends patrols, some of which take up to a month to reach their destination. The PLA undertakes sporadic patrols in the region.

“Given the terrain, connectivity and security implications, it’s basically a low hanging fruit where coordinated patrolling can be done. And it may be a good idea and place to experiment with coordinated patrolling and used in other areas too,” the first senior official cited above said, explaining the move.

In response to a detailed questionnaire, the Indian army did not comment on “coordinated patrolling” of Fish Tail -II or on the road through Bisa to the LAC being constructed by the Chinese PLA. But it did underline that borders have not been “demarcated,” leading to “differing perceptions” of the border. Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd), who handled several India-China standoffs in the past, said, “If handled maturely and with respect for each other’s security concerns; it is a good concept.” The arrangement holds the promise to negate incidences witnessed at the Pangong Tso Lake between the two armies.”

First Published: Oct 26, 2019 03:52 IST

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

David Andelman

The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist forcewhich continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
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In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.

Differences Between Iraq, Kuwait over Border Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Differences Between Iraq, Kuwait over Border Issues

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 – 11:15
Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf (MOFA)
Baghdad – Fadhel al-Nashmi
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged Tuesday sending two identical letters to the UN secretary-general and president of the UN security council on controversial border issues with Kuwait. It also referred to a similar letter sent earlier by Kuwait in this regard.

Contrary to the convulsive statements made by Kuwaiti and Iraqi deputies in light of the complaint submitted, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, through its spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf, appeared to have sought to “calmly” deal with the issue.

In a statement, of which Asharq Al-Awsat has received a copy, Sahhaf said that there is a “legal dispute with Kuwait over dealing with a maritime border issue between the two countries.”

“It is in dealing with a border site which we refer to as (base) while the Kuwaiti side refers to it as (island) as the baseline adopted in drawing the maritime border between the two countries at a certain point after sign 162,” he explained.

He also pointed to the ongoing negotiations on the specific point of view.

It is noteworthy that Iraq has already expressed its objection over Kuwait’s unilateral construction projects in the disputed area.

“Kuwait has sent letters to the UN on its position in this regard, prompting Iraq to send identical letters to both the UN secretary-general and president of the UN security council,” Sahhaf explained.

Iraq’s goal is to indicate the legal interpretation of the situation, which would most probably serve Iraq’s favor, Sahhaf added.

Press reports in Kuwait quoted Monday UN diplomatic sources as saying that the Iraqi Permanent Representative to the UN, Mohammed Bahr al-Uloom, delivered a letter to the president of the Security Council requesting it to be circulated as an official document.

Reports added that the Iraqi government has called on the UN to document its official complaint against Kuwait’s’ geographical changes carried out in the maritime area after the sign 162 in Khor Abdullah by installing a port structure over Fisht Al-Eij area unilaterally without taking Iraq’s consent.

Latest developments between Iraq and Kuwait take place after years of calm and communication, which followed a long rivalry as a result of Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait in 1990.

Saudi’s: Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 – 11:45
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he arrives to review an honor guard with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed during their meeting in Jerusalem September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Tel Aviv – Ramallah- Nazir Magally and Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure by settlers to announce an expansion of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, political sources have revealed.

The Palestinian Authority warned of an expected visit by Netanyahu to Hebron, describing this visit as a “colonial” move.

The sources said that Netanyahu is likely to yield to pressure despite the international criticism and strong Palestinian condemnation he would be subjected to.

Netanyahu’s planned visit is “racial and colonial,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said, noting that it comes at a time he is seeking to secure more votes from the right-wing.

It pointed out that the visit comes also in line with “Israeli plans to Judaize the old city of Hebron, including the Ibrahimi Mosque.”

The Ministry further deplored policies on settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, along with the crimes of destroying houses, mosques and institutions.

It also warned of the risks and consequences of the Israeli PM’s visit, especially after the occupation authorities took discriminatory measures against the residents of Tel Rumeida, the Old City and its vicinity in preparation for the visit.

The Ministry called on the international community and international organizations to “assume legal and moral responsibility towards the suffering of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Hebron was a prosperous commercial city, until a settler doctor carried out a massacre in 1994 when he entered the Ibrahimi Mosque during fajr prayers and shot the worshipers, killing 29 Palestinians, while the Israeli army killed 20 others.

Yitzhak Rabin’s government was offered the chance to evict settlers from Hebron, but he failed to do so and he protected them militarily with a fence, which was later used to tighten the noose on the city mainly under Netanyahu’s rule.

India-China boundary talks could be delayed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India-China boundary talks could be delayed

The reasons for the likely change in the schedule for the talks between the Special Representatives, and the change in the top Indian general’s visit to China, could not immediately be ascertained.

INDIA Updated: Sep 04, 2019 08:16 IST

Rezaul H Laskar and Rahul Singh
Rezaul H Laskar and Rahul Singh

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).(HT FILE)

Talks between India and China on the boundary issue under the framework of the Special Representatives (SR) mechanism are likely to be delayed, four people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.

To be sure, the two sides had not formally announced any dates for the talks under the SR mechanism. But the people cited above said that China’s foreign minister Wang Yi was expected to visit New Delhi next week for talks with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval.

The Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, is also not going for a visit to China as scheduled, the people said. The visit was expected to take place this month, but the exact dates could not be immediately ascertained. The Northern Army command is the nerve-centre for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and is also responsible for guarding the Line of Control (LoC).

Also watch| Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move

 

Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move
India’s External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, is in China.
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The reasons for the likely change in the schedule for the talks between the Special Representatives, and the change in the top Indian general’s visit to China, could not immediately be ascertained.

HT has learnt, however, that the SR talks would be held in the near future.

India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The countries are also continuing with preparations for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, expected to be held during October 11-12.

The people cited above said the two sides were looking at four possible venues – Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Varanasi – for the informal summit. The first informal summit between Modi and Xi was held in Wuhan last year and helped put bilateral ties on an even keel after the 73-day military standoff at Doklam in 2017.

Wang Yi, who is also a state councillor, is set to visit Islamabad on September 7 for a trilateral Afghanistan-China-Pakistan meeting, people aware of the matter in China said. He will then travel to Kathmandu on September 8 to prepare for President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit to Nepal in October.

Meanwhile, China’s new envoy to India, Sun Weidong, said on Tuesday that the two countries should work to reduce their differences and settle their disputes through talks. “For neighbors and major countries, differences are hard to avoid. The key is to properly handle them,” he told a welcome reception hosted by the Chinese embassy.

First Published: Sep 04, 2019 00:46 IST

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalized, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and out maneuvered in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST