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India hints won’t attend April’s Belt and Road forum

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Image Credit : China- India Flag

Beijing, March 20 : India cannot be a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as it ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity, Indian envoy to Beijing has said.

Beijing is set to hold the second Belt and Road forum in April and the tone of Vikram Misri, India’s envoy to China, in an interview to state media suggests that New Delhi will skip the event for the second time, marking its protest.

China’s Belt and Road aims to connect Europe, Asia, and Africa through a wide network of roads, highways, sea lanes and ports. Its jewel project, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cuts through Jammu and Kashmir.

New Delhi did not attend the launch of the Belt and Road forum in 2017, saying CPEC violates its territorial sovereignty.

Talking to China’s Global Times Misri made India’s view clear when asked why New Delhi has a complicated perception of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“To be honest, we have made no secret of our views and our position on BRI is clear and consistent and one that we have conveyed to the authorities concerned.

“India shares the global aspiration to strengthen connectivity and it is an integral part of our economic and diplomatic initiatives,” Misri said.

“We are ourselves working with many countries and international institutions in our region and beyond on a range of connectivity initiatives.

“However, it is also our belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance and rule of law.

“They must emphasise social stability and environmental protection and preservation, promote skill and technology transfers and follow principles of openness, transparency and financial sustainability,” Misri added.

“Above all, connectivity initiatives must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of nations.

“No country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the envoy said in an oblique reference to the CPEC.

He also lamented the widening trade deficit in favour of China and demanded more market access for Indian firms.

“The growth in bilateral investments has not kept pace with the expanding trade volume between the two countries. While both countries have emerged as the top investment destinations for the rest of the world, mutual investment growth is yet to catch up.

“Bilateral trade will cross the $100 billion mark this year. However, this figure includes a deficit of $58 billion for India and this deficit has been increasing over the years.

“India has been working with the Chinese side for export of a greater number of Indian goods and services to China. There has been some progress in this regard and market access has been granted to some Indian agricultural products, even though we still need to translate this market access into actual exports so as to expand India’s export basket to China and bring down the deficit.

“In addition, we also need to address the barriers for greater access to Indian pharmaceuticals and IT products and services in the Chinese market,” Misri added.

(IANS)

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US hardens stance against China’s South China Sea resource claims

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

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WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday hardened its rejection of China’s disputed claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, calling it “unlawful,” a move that will further sour the already-fraught ties between the world’s largest two economies.

China has offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other South Asian coastal states, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo, a prominent China hawk within the Trump administration, said in a statement.

The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, even sending U.S. warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year. Beijing has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.

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Global coronavirus infections top 13 million

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RUSSIA CORONAVIRUS

Worldwide coronavirus infections passed 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease which has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

The first case was reported in China in early January and it took three months to reach one million cases. It has taken just five days to climb to 13 million cases from 12 million recorded on July 8.

The number of cases is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been more than 568,500 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, within the same range as the number of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide. The first death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities surged in Europe and then later in the United States.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Other places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in Latin America. The Americas account for more than half the world’s infections and half the deaths.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third-highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 26,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect only a proportion of total infections. Experts say official data likely under-represents both infections and deaths.

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India created fake Ayodhya, Ram was from Nepal: Nepali PM Oli

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli, on Monday, said that ‘real Ayodhya’ is in Nepal and ‘Lord Ram is Nepali not Indian’.

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Kathmandu, July 13 : Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has claimed that India has created a ‘fake’ Ayodhya, and Lord Ram was originally from Nepal — a shocking statement that has come at a time when India’s diplomatic ties with the Himalayan nation is going through certain upheavals.

“We have been oppressed a bit culturally. Facts have encroached. We still believe that we gave Sita to Indian Prince Ram. But we gave to the prince from Ayodhya, not India. Ayodhya is a village a little west to Birgunj, not the Ayodhya created now (sic),” Oli said at an event at his official residence in Baluwatar.

Oli was addressing a program to mark the birth anniversary of Bhanubhakta Acharya.

The stunning claim comes on the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic tussle between Kathmandu and New Delhi over the newly published Nepal map which claims Indian territory as its own.

Bilateral ties between India-Nepal were stressed after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long road connecting Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Kathmandu reacted sharply to the development and claimed that the road was built on Nepalese land.

Nepal also updated its political map which included Indian territories. India condemned the move and handed over a diplomatic note to Nepal over the map issue.

The ties worsened further when Oli blamed India for demands by his party colleagues who sought his resignation over multiple ‘failures’. During a rally, Oli alleged that the leaders of his Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who were making attempts to ‘topple his government’, were doing so at the behest of India.

His remarks have invited severe criticism from senior leadership in that country. Former prime minister ‘Prachanda’, who was among leaders who demanded Oli’s resignation, said that Oli’s anti-India remarks were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.”

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