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

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 finalised, 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 outmanoeuvred 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

Supreme Court clears way for Trump admin to use Defense funds for border wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Supreme Court clears way for Trump admin to use Defense funds for border wall construction

(CNN)The Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for the Trump administration to use $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense to construct parts of a wall along the southwestern border that the government argues is necessary to protect national security.

The decision allows the Defense Department money to be spent now while a court battle plays out over whether the government had the authority to divert funds that were not appropriated for the wall. The Supreme Court voted 5-4, along ideological lines, to allow the funds to be used while the court appeals proceed.
In a brief order, the court said that it was ruling in favor of the Trump administration before the litigation has played out because the government had made a “sufficient showing” that the challengers did not have the legal right to bring the case.
Three members of the liberal wing of the court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — wrote they would have blocked the funds for now. The fourth member, Justice Stephen Breyer, wrote separately to say that he would have allowed the government to use the funds to finalize the terms for contractors but block the funds from being used for the actual construction.
The Supreme Court’s order is a significant win for Trump, who is likely to use the construction of a wall as a major talking point on the campaign trail. The President celebrated the decision in a tweet Friday evening.
“The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed,” the President tweeted. “Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”
The decision overrules a lower court decision that had blocked the transfer of funds while appeals played out. A panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow the use of the funds earlier in the month, holding that the challengers were likely to prevail in their case because the use of the funds “violates the constitutional requirement that the Executive Branch not spend money absent an appropriation from Congress.”
The order comes after Trump ended a 35-day government shutdown in February when Congress gave him $1.4 billion in wall funding, far less than he had sought. He subsequently declared a national emergency to get money from other government accounts to construct sections of the wall.
The $2.5 billion had been shifted from various programs including personnel and recruiting, Minuteman III and air launch cruise missiles, E-3 aircraft upgrades and the Afghan security forces training fund. The Pentagon said it was able to move that money due to uncovered cost savings as part of a process known as “reprogramming.” The money was moved into a Defense Department counter-drug account that is authorized to spend money on the construction of border barriers.
Many lawmakers slammed the decision to move the money away from those national security priorities, threatening to strip the Pentagon of its ability to move money around, something the Defense Department has acknowledged would be detrimental.
Lawyers for the government had asked the Supreme Court to step in on an emergency basis and unblock the use of the funds while legal challenges proceed in the lower courts.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco noted in court papers that the projects needed to start because the funds at issue “will no longer remain available for obligation after the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2019.” He said that the funds are necessary to permit the construction of more than 100 miles of fencing in areas the government has identified as “drug-smuggling corridors” where it has seized “thousands of pounds of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine” in recent years.
“Respondents’ interests in hiking, birdwatching, and fishing in designated drug-smuggling corridors do not outweigh the harm to the public from halting the government’s efforts to construct barriers to stanch the flow of illegal narcotics across the southern border,” Francisco argued in the papers, regarding the challenge from environmental groups.
It is a loss for critics, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition that argued the administration had illegally transferred the funds after Congress denied requests for more money to construct the wall. The groups argued the wall — in areas in Arizona, California and New Mexico — would harm the environment.
The ACLU, representing the groups, argued in court papers against a stay of the lower court ruling fearful of the wall’s impact on border communities.
“Issuance of a stay that would permit Defendants to immediately spend this money is not consistent with Congress’s power over the purse or with the tacit assessment by Congress that the spending would not be in the public interest,”ACLU lawyers told the court.
The ACLU slammed the decision after it was released Friday evening.
“This is not over. We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall. Border communities, the environment, and our Constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed should Trump get away with pillaging military funds for a xenophobic border wall Congress denied,” said Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.

Trump administration’s near-total asylum ban blocked by judge

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

Trump administration’s near-total asylum ban blocked by judge

Delivering a painful defeat to the Trump administration’s most sweeping effort to single-handedly overhaul the asylum system without Congress, a federal judge on Wednesday blocked a rule that made most migrants from Central America and other countries ineligible for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to issue a temporary injunction halting the policy while he reviews the merits of a legal challenge spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In his order, Tigar seemed to agree with the concerns raised by the plaintiffs that policy could result in the U.S. government sending asylum seekers back to dangerous circumstances just because they did not seek protection in countries like Mexico. The judge noted Mexico does not have as robust of an asylum system as the U.S. to guarantee people safe haven.

“An injunction would vindicate the public’s interest — which our existing immigration laws clearly articulate — in ensuring that we do not deliver aliens into the hands of their persecutors,” Tigar wrote in his 45-page order.

Central American asylum seekers turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol after illegally crossing the Rio Grande in Los Ebanos
Central American asylum seekers who illegally crossed the Rio Grande nearby wait to be transported to a processing facility after turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol in Los Ebanos, Texas, U.S., June 28, 2019.LOREN ELLIOTT / REUTERS

Earlier on Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington declined to block the policy as requested by plaintiffs in a second court challenge to the controversial policy.

The rule facing this court challenge restricts access to the U.S. asylum system for non-Mexican migrants who traveled through Mexico and other countries to reach the southwestern border, but did not seek protection in those nations. Although designed to stem the flow of Central American migrants journeying north, the regulation also affected people from other parts of the world trying to reach the U.S. through Mexico — including Cubans, Venezuelans, Brazilians and central Africans, who have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in higher numbers this year.

The joint regulation represented a drastic change in the asylum system for migrants seeking refuge at the southern border. Before the rule, migrants who crossed into the U.S. illegally were allowed to claim asylum after being apprehended by Border Patrol officers. Most asylum-seeking families were typically released from immigration custody after less than 20 days in detention and allowed to remain in the U.S. while their cases were adjudicated.

Late last year, Tigar blocked a similar effort by the administration to prohibit migrants who cross the border illegally from being able to seek asylum.

Melissa Crow, a senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, one of the groups that joined the ACLU in the San Francisco court challenge to the new rule, praised Tigar’s ruling on Wednesday.

“Today’s ruling is an important victory for incredibly vulnerable individuals and families from besieged Central American countries seeking refuge in our country,” Crow said in a statement. “We will continue to fight this draconian policy as well as the myriad of others through which the Trump administration continues to wage war on asylum-seekers and our nation’s asylum system.”

Soon after the regulation took effect last week, two lawsuits — including the one spearheaded by the ACLU — were filed to block the policy. The plaintiffs argued that the regulation was devised contrary to federal rule-making procedures and violated the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows most who set foot on American soil to seek asylum if they fear persecution in their homeland.

The complaint filed by the ACLU and other groups in San Francisco said the new rule violated that core provision in U.S. law. The plaintiffs also noted that Congress, under the the INA, stipulated that the government could deport asylum seekers to a third country to seek safe haven only if the U.S. and said nation were part of a bilateral or multilateral agreement.

“The Rule is a part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the U.S. asylum system at the southern border, and cruelly closes our doors to refugees fleeing persecution, forcing them to return to harm,” the petition read.

In a rare public rebuke of domestic U.S. policy, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — which receives U.S. funds — denounced the regulation as a “severe” effort that was not “in line” with international obligations for refugees.

“It will put vulnerable families at risk,” High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said earlier in the week, noting that many migrants do find “effective international protection” in the countries they travel through to get to the U.S.-Mexico border. “It will undermine efforts by countries across the region to devise the coherent, collective responses that are needed.”

However, administration officials, who have often railed against “loopholes” in the U.S. asylum system, have strongly defended the rule, casting it as a much-needed move for the government to deal with the months-long surge of Central America families heading toward the southern border.

Attorney General William Barr — who oversees the country’s immigration courts — said the rule was also designed to crack down on “forum shopping by economic migrants,” referring to a term used by immigration hardliners to describe the decision-making that they believe migrants engage in. They accuse migrants of preferring to seek asylum in the U.S., rather than in the countries along their journey that might be able to offer them safe haven.