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Saturday,24-October-2020

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China wants India to vacate key heights before de-escalation on LAC

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China is insisting that India vacates strategic heights on the south bank of Pangong Lake ahead of talks on disengagement on the LAC, top Indian Army sources said.

During the Corps Commander-level talks, China told India that will not discuss disengagement in eastern Ladakh, where the build-up by both sides has triggered a war- like situation over the last four months, till the time India vacates the strategic positions.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops are adamant on resolving the situation first on the south bank where the Indian troops are in position of strength tactically, but India wants a roadmap for de-escalation all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh to be drawn out.

India stated, during the talks, that all friction areas, including Depsang, should be discussed for disengagement all along the LAC.

“Why should discussions be restricted to one or two places when there is a massive build-up all across the LAC,” a top Indian Army officer said.

India has occupied critical mountain heights on the south bank of the Pangong Lake, including Rechin La, Rezang La, and Mukpari that were unmanned till now.

This step, along with some others peaks it holds, allows India to dominate the Spangur Gap under Chinese control and also the Moldo garrison on the Chinese side.

This has irked the PLA which has made multiple attempts to dislodge Indian troops, leading to instances of warning gunshots being fired.

India had changed the rules of engagement after the Galwan Valley clash of June 15 where 20 Indian soldiers and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.

Chinese had attacked Indian troops with medieval barbaric weapons like iron-studded clubs.

After that, the Indian Army had empowered its commanders on the ground to take a decision whether to use firearms if their troops face a life-threatening situation and this has been communicated to China as well, sources said.

The Indian Army has also put barbed wire obstacles near the heights under its control at the LAC, signalling to the Chinese not to enter its territory.

Three days ago, the Indian and Chinese sides, in a joint statement, after the 14-hour-long diplomatic-military talks in Moldo said that both have agreed to implement the consensus reached by their leaders over the border issue.

On September 21, senior Indian and Chinese commanders held the 6th round of Military Commander-Level Meeting.

“The two sides had candid and in-depth exchanges of views on stabilising the situation along the LAC in the India-China border areas,” Indian Army had stated.

“They agreed to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, strengthen communication on the ground, avoid misunderstandings and misjudgements, stop sending more troops to the front line, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation.”

The two sides also agreed to hold the 7th round of the Military Commander-Level Meeting as soon as possible, take practical measures to properly solve problems on the ground, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border area.

It was for the first time that the Indian delegation had two Lt Generals, two Major Generals and a Joint Secretary from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Headed by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, the Indian delegation also had Lt Gen P.G.K. Menon from the Army headquarters in Delhi.

Menon will eventually take over Commander of the 14 Corps in November.

Joint Secretary, East Asia, Navin Srivastava was there to ensure that deliberation with China takes place on an agreed five-point roadmap, including quick disengagement of troops, between both the countries.

The countries reached he five-point roadmap during the talks between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10.

India and China are engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

International News

India releases Chinese soldier who strayed at LAC

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India in a goodwill gesture ensured the release of a Chinese soldier who had strayed inside Indian territory across the disputed zone of the Line of Actual Control.

The astray Chinese soldier was detained two days back in the Demchok sector in the disputed border in Eastern Ladakh.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) corporal had told Indian agencies that he had crossed the disputed border to retrieve a yak that had strayed into India.

He was handed over at Chushul Moldo meeting point on Tuesday night.

Earlier, the Indian Army in a statement said: “A PLA soldier identified as Corporal Wang Ya Long was apprehended in the Demchok sector of Eastern Ladakh on October 19, 2020 after he had strayed across the LAC.”

India had said that the PLA soldier has been provided medical assistance, including oxygen, food and warm clothes to protect him from the vagaries of extreme altitude and harsh climatic conditions.

“A request has also been received from the PLA about the whereabouts of the missing soldier,” Indian Army said.

It said that as per established protocols, he will be returned back to Chinese officials at the Chushul – Moldo meeting point after completion of formalities.

India and China have amassed thousands of soldiers, tanks and missiles in the worst-ever border crisis in four decades. Multiple rounds of talks between senior military commanders and diplomats and ministers have failed to resolve the crisis.

Winters are harsh in the Himalayas and soldiers face the prospect of braving sub-zero temperatures even upto minus 30 degrees Celsius.

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International News

Trump to hold 1st WH event after Covid-19 diagnosis

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US President Donald Trump has planned to hold an event at the White House on Saturday, the first time since his October 2 announcement that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to media reports.

A White House official told The Hill news website on Friday that the President will address attendants of the event on the South Lawn from the Blue Room Balcony, suggesting that he will not be in close proximity to any one.

According to an invite obtained by ABC News, the event will feature “remarks to peaceful protesters for law and order” by the President.

Informed sources have said that the gathering is in conjunction with a previously planned event organized by controversial conservative activist Candace Owens’ group Blexit, a campaign to urge Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party.

“All attendees must bring a mask with them and will be instructed to wear it on the White House Complex,” one of the informed sources told ABC News.

“All attendees must submit to a Covid-19 screening tomorrow morning. This will consist of a temperature check and a brief questionnaire.

“The health and safety of all attendees is our priority and following CDC guidelines is strongly encouraged,” the source added.

Also on Friday, the Trump campaign announced that the President will hold a rally in Florida on October 12.

It was confirmed by the President in a tweet, saying: “Will be in Sanford, Florida on Monday for a very big rally.”

Reacting to the announcements of the White House event and also the Florida rally, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s deputy direct response coordinator Mike Gwin said that “Trump seems to be living in an alternate reality where he isn’t sick and contagious with Covid-19”.

“This decision is stunningly reckless and irresponsible, and it’s only the latest evidence that Trump has waved the white flag of defeat against this virus even as it kills thousands of Americans each week and batters our economy,” ABC News quoted Gwin as saying.

On Thursday, White House physician Sean Conley had said that Trump would be able to make a “safe return” to public events by Saturday, which marks 10 days since his Covid-19 diagnosis, and that he has responded “extremely well” to his treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that patients self-isolate for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus.

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International News

Donald Trump, wife Melania test Covid-19 positive

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US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that he and his wife Melania have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for Covid-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this together,” he said in a tweet.

The next course of action for the President and the First Lady was not immediately clear as he has events scheduled for Friday in Florida and Saturday in Wisconsin.

The announcement came after White House adviser Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest aide, was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus on Thursday.

She had travelled with the President on Air Force One earlier this week, an informed source told The Hill news website.

After the revelation, Trump had tweeted: “Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible.

“The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process.”

Also in a statement, a White House official said contact tracing has been done, “and the appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made”, The Hill news website reported.

Hicks is the latest White House aide to test positive for the virus which has so far infected 7,277,352 people in the US and killed 207,791 others, making it the worst-hit country in the world.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had tested positive, as well as a White House valet who serves the President.

Katie Miller, the Vice President’s communications director and the wife of Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, were also infected.

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