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India, China hold crucial meet to resolve issues along LAC

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New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) The 29th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs was held in Beijing to discuss and resolve the remaining issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

From the New Delhi side, the Joint Secretary (East Asia) from the Ministry of External Affairs led the delegation, and Beijing was represented by the Director General of the Boundary and Oceanic Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In Wednesday’s meeting, the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on how to achieve complete disengagement and resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas, a Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Thursday.

In the interim, both sides agreed to maintain regular contact through diplomatic and military channels and on the need to uphold peace and tranquility on the ground in the border areas in accordance with existing bilateral agreements and protocols, the statement read.

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The meeting comes as the two sides have been locked in a war of words over the territory of Arunachal Pradesh with India saying that the northeastern state will always remain an “integral and inalienable part” of India.

Following the June 2020 clash of troops in Galwan Valley, India and China have held several rounds of military talks, seeking complete disengagement in the areas along the LAC as a basis for restoring peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

Army Chief General Manoj Pande has called the situation along the LAC “stable” but “sensitive,” adding that the Indian troops have been maintaining a “very high state” of operational preparedness to deal with eventualities.

As a counter-deployment, India has amassed a large number of troops along the LAC to guard the strategically important border.

Speaking at a gathering in Malaysia on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar stressed on normalising troop deployment at the India-China border.

He lashed out at China for failing to uphold long-standing agreements with India, leading to violence and bloodshed in 2020.

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–IANS

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India among 12 countries that avoid signing final communique of Ukraine Peace Summit

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) India on Sunday said that it has decided to “avoid association with the joint communique or any other document” emerging from the two-day ‘Summit on Peace in Ukraine’ being held at Burgenstock near Lucerne in Switzerland.

“Our participation in this summit and continued engagement with all stakeholders is with a view to understanding different perspectives, approaches and options to find a way forward for a sustainable resolution of the conflict,” said Pavan Kapoor, Secretary, West, at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) who led the Indian delegation at the event.

“In our view, only those options acceptable to both parties can lead to abiding peace,” Kapoor, India’s former Ambassador to Russia, added.

Around 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and government, attended the summit which aimed at initiating the process for a lasting and just peace in Ukraine. Eighty countries and four European institutions signed the final joint communique.

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Besides India, several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Armenia, Libya, Indonesia, Bahrain, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates, have also refrained from signing the final communique of the Peace Summit.

In his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held on the sidelines of the 50th G7 Summit in Italy’s Apulia on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated that New Delhi continues to encourage peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

“Had a very productive meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky. India is eager to further cement bilateral relations with Ukraine. Regarding the ongoing hostilities, reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy,” PM Modi posted on X after meeting Zelensky.

Last year, India had abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on a resolution titled ‘Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine’, citing that it “lacked basic concepts” for achieving a sustainable peace in the region.

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PM Modi has also consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives and that escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest. “India shares the global concerns over the situation in Ukraine and supports any collective desire to facilitate peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the MEA Secretary said in Switzerland on Sunday.

The countries and organisations which supported the joint communique include Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, the Council of Europe, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor Leste, Turkiye, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.

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–IANS

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Jordan says 14 pilgrims dead, 17 missing during Haj in Saudi Arabia

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Amman, June 16 (IANS) Jordan on Sunday confirmed the deaths of 14 citizens and the missing of 17 others who were performing Haj rituals in Saudi Arabia.

Sufian Qudah, the spokesperson for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the Jordanian side is following up with concerned Saudi authorities on burials or home returns of the deceased at their families’ request, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Saudi authorities were also continuing the search for the 17 missing pilgrims, according to the statement.

The statement did not detail further nor disclose the cause of the tragedy, but the Jordanian Foreign Ministry reported a day earlier that six Jordanians had died of heat stroke during the Haj pilgrimage.

–IANS

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Iran, UAE urge effective measures to stop Israeli attacks in Gaza

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Tehran, June 16 (IANS) Iran and the UAE on Sunday highlighted the necessity of effective measures to stop the ongoing Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

In a phone call, Iranian Caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed the latest developments in Gaza and issues of common interest, according to a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Bagheri Kani pointed to Israel’s “brutal crimes” against Palestinians, stressing the need for Muslim states to “use all available tools” to stop the Israeli attacks in Gaza as soon as possible and deliver sufficient aid to its long-suffering people, Xinhua news agency reported.

The UAE Foreign Minister, for his part, stressed the urgency to send humanitarian aid to Gazans and implement effective measures to stop the Israeli offensive, adding that the UAE was making all-out efforts to those ends.

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The Israeli army has been conducting a large-scale offensive on Gaza since October 7, 2023, after Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on the Israeli towns adjacent to the strip, killing nearly 1,200 people.

The Palestinian death toll from the ongoing Israeli attacks in the enclave has surpassed 37,000, with more than 85,000 people injured, according to the health authorities in Gaza.

–IANS

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IANS Analysis: Will South Africa's new coalition government herald a change in the country's orientation?

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in the post-apartheid era, South Africa’s African National Congress is back in power under President Cyril Ramaphosa – but with the support of several coalition partners, including those whose stands in key policy areas are different. What will this portend for the continent’s powerhouse?

The ANC, which saw its vote share slump to 40 per cent and seats to 159 in the 400-member Assembly, was likely to return to power as any coalition without it, as the single largest party, was theoretically possible but practically impossible given the different political outlooks of the next five parties, spanning from far-right to far-left.

The present coalition is now largely centrist, given the centre-left and centre-right orientations of its two largest parties.

For the business community and inventors, there will be relief at the make-up of the new ruling dispensation as the crucial partner is the centre-right, pro-business Democratic Alliance, which secured 22 per cent in the May 29 polls, giving it 87 seats, propelling the coalition to well above the majority mark.

The leftist alternatives – uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), led by former President Jacob Zuma, which garnered 15 per cent (58 seats) to dethrone the old number three, the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which only got 10 per cent (39) – would have been more natural partners for the left-leaning ANC, but not in the present circumstances.

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The acrimony between Zuma and Ramaphosa, whom the former blames for his ouster from power and subsequent travails, ruled out any chance of their coming together, as the MK and Zuma repeatedly announced. On the other hand, the EFF’s plan of nationalisation and repossessing of land, seemed a little too far-fetched for the ANC to countenance, given that the prevailing economic malaise had led the voters to turn their faces away from it to bring it to this state.

Things could be tense with the DA too.

An amalgam of various groups emerging out of the apartheid-era National Party, it is largely deemed a party representing the country’s white minority. Under John Steenhuisen, its vote share in the May 29 election rose just a percentage point over 2019, indicating it has not capitalised on the ANC’s decline to gain much support among the black voters, but seems to have drawn the white voters it lost in 2019 when it was headed by Mmusi Maimane.

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The key point of contention between the two biggest partners could be over the ANC’s national healthcare policy, and its black economic empowerment programme, which the DA opposes as ineffective and the few benefits flowing in snapped by ANC leaders and their acolytes rather than the targeted population.

However, there might be some give or take on it as the ruling coalition proceeds with governance.

Foreign affairs could be another issue of tension, especially over the case of the Gaza conflict in which South Africa had taken a strident anti-Israel stand, snapping diplomatic links and espousing the Palestinian conflict in international forums including the International Court of Justice.

However, it remains to be seen how all these issues will play out.

The coalition alliance, which represents a broad social spectrum, seems a positive sign, given the two largest parties are joined by the fifth largest party, the Zulu-supported Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), with 17 seats from its around 4 per cent of the vote, as well as the far-rightish Patriotic Alliance, which brings another 9 seats.

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The ANC and the IFP, earlier headed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, also had their own set of problems, especially the frequent incidents of violence between supporters of the ANC and the IFP, leading to scores of deaths. The IFP, however, remained an ally of the ANC till 2004.

Returning to a coalition with the ANC, the party now headed by Velenkosini Hlabisa since September 2023, looks to advance beyond its Zulu base, and strive for its chance in the sun, given the results of the present elections.

The ANC, which swept the 1994 polls – the first multi-racial after the end of the apartheid regime – under Nelson Mandela, had entered into a coalition then too, but the motive then was inclusivity, not necessity like the present. Under it, South Africa had greatly transformed. The performance of the coalition now will be key not only for the country, but also for the region, the continent, and the Global South.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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India's Siddhesh Sakore named Land Hero by UN agency

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Bonn/New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Siddhesh Sakore, a farmer and the founder of AGRO RANGERS, from Maharashtra, has been named Land Hero by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

On the occasion of World Desertification and Drought Day, the UNCCD announced the names of 10 Land Heroes in a programme in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday.

Apart from Sakore, other Land Heroes are from Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, Mali, Moldova, Morocco, the Philippines, the US, and Zimbabwe.

Belonging to a farmer family, Sakore has a graduation degree in mechanical engineering.

“I am passionate about natural farming and have technical expertise in waste management. In Vigyan Ashram, I developed several cost-effective mechanical devices to convert organic waste into compost. I have innovated several social innovations about solving real-life problems of society by using eco-friendly and cost-effective technology,” his website at WordPress reads.

“He is passionate about solving the problems of soil degradation on agricultural land. He is committed to empowering small and marginal farmers from his community through innovative agroforestry models,” UNCCD said in its citation.

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“Growing up in the farmer’s community, I witnessed the misery and poverty which seemed to be the inevitable fate of a farmer in Maharashtra,” Sakore said, adding that the combination of economic crisis and the use of toxic chemicals that lead to unsustainable farming methods, as well as the effects of climate change, form a heavy burden on farmers.

Addressing the programme, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: “As the focus of this year’s World Day reminds us, we must be “United for Land”. Governments, businesses, academics, communities, and more must come together, and act. We know what we need to do: it’s set out clearly in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention, the world must dramatically pick up the pace of implementation; Build momentum towards UNCCD COP16 in Riyadh; And ensure young people are heard in the negotiations. Together, let’s sow the seeds for a thriving future — for nature and humanity.”

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Land degradation affects up to 40 per cent of the world’s land and nearly half the world’s population, UNCCD said, with the highest costs borne by those who can least afford it: indigenous communities, rural households, smallholder farmers, and especially youth and women. More than a billion young people who live in developing countries depend on land and natural resources.

Engaging youth in land restoration can create the estimated 600 million jobs needed in the next 15 years, contributing to both economic growth and environmental sustainability, it added.

President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: “There is nothing more important, more basic, than good soil, safe food, and clean water. So let’s work together! And let’s bring in young people to make sure that our decisions today ensure their good future tomorrow.”

“The future of our land is the future of our planet. By 2050, 10 billion people will depend on this vital resource. Yet we are losing the equivalent of four football fields to land degradation every second,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD.

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–IANS

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