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Modi takes veiled dig at China on visit to disputed border area | News

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the “age of expansionism” is over, as he paid tribute to soldiers killed in last month’s border skirmish with China on a surprise visit to the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh amid escalating tension between the Asian giants.

“Age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” Modi said without naming China during his first trip to the disputed region since June 15 deadly border clash, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

Modi, who has been under pressure to respond to what India deems Chinese incursions, met troops at a base in Ladakh’s Nimu area, pictures from Reuters partner ANI showed.

“Your courage is higher than the heights where you are posted today,” he said in his address to soldiers in Ladakh.

“The bravery that you and your compatriots showed, a message has gone to the world about India’s strength.”

Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

India and China have traded blame for triggering the high-altitude brawl in the Galwan Valley on June 15, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and at least 76 were injured.

The border clash saw soldiers engaged in brutal hand-to-hand fighting with clubs and staves about 4,270 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level amid sub-zero temperatures. It was the worst border skirmish in nearly 50 years.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Ladakh

Officials said Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane [Reuters]

China has not disclosed how many casualties its troops suffered.

On Friday, it warned India against making a “strategic miscalculation”, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian calling on New Delhi to “work with China to safeguard the overall situation of bilateral relations”.

He also criticised Indian officials for making what he called irresponsible remarks.

“India should not make a strategic miscalculation on China,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have amassed troops along the 3,500km (2,200 mile) long border, most of which is not demarcated, and military and diplomatic talks are going on to de-escalate the confrontation.

India claims 38,000sq km (15,000sq miles) of land currently under Chinese control while Beijing stakes claim to 90,000sq km (34,700sq miles) area within Indian territory.

Analysts say the current standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a result of Chinese pushback against India’s building of military infrastructure at the de facto border in recent years.

Another reason, according to some experts, is linked to India’s unilateral move last year to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had guaranteed a measure of autonomy to Indian-administered Kashmir, which also included the disputed areas of Ladakh region.

China, which, like Pakistan, saw India’s move as unilaterally affecting its territory, strongly denounced the move at the United Nations Security Council last year.

India buys fighter jets

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft costing $2.43bn to augment its air force in the wake of the border standoff with China.

India is also awaiting the arrival of the first batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered as part of a $8.78bn deal signed with France in 2016.

Last week, India banned 59, mostly Chinese, mobile phone applications in retaliation to the killing of its soldiers that has caused an anti-Chinese backlash.

China said on Friday that artificial blocks to bilateral cooperation would harm India’s interests and that the two countries should work together to uphold peace in their border region.

Beijing will take necessary measures to uphold the rights of Chinese businesses in India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing.

India-China annual bilateral trade stands at $92bn.



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Pirates kill 1, kidnap 15 crew on Turkish ship off West Africa | Asia News

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Vessel was sailing from Lagos to Cape Town when it was attacked northwest of Sao Tome and Principe.

Pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the West African coast, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one, and Turkey’s military was planning a rescue operation on Sunday.

Turkey’s Maritime Directorate said the crew initially locked themselves in a safe area but the pirates forced entry after six hours. During the struggle, one crew member on board the M/V Mozart died.

Turkish media identified the victim as engineer Farman Ismayilov of Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish crew member.

After taking most of the crew on Saturday, the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors on board, state-run Anadolu news agency said. The vessel is currently heading to Gabon’s Port-Gentil.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke twice to the senior officer remaining on the ship, Furkan Yaren, the Turkish presidency said in a tweet. It added Erdogan issued orders for the recovery of the kidnapped crew.

Yaren was cited as saying the pirates beat crew members, and left him with an injured leg while another still aboard the ship had shrapnel wounds.

“The owners and operators of the M/V Mozart, which was hijacked at gunpoint in the Gulf of Guinea, have regretfully confirmed that one of its crew has been killed and others abducted,” Istanbul-based Boden Maritime said in a statement.

Most dangerous sea

The Liberian-flagged Mozart was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked 100 nautical miles (185km) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe on Saturday morning.

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said the body of the crew member would be transferred when the Mozart reaches port.

According to reports, the pirates disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to port.

The Gulf of Guinea – off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon – is the most dangerous sea in the world because of piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

In July 2019, 10 Turkish seamen were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.



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