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Newsline: In India, top US diplomat calls China ‘elephant in the room’

A top U.S. envoy speaking in New Delhi has called China “an elephant in the room” and said Washington is keen to advance India’s interests across the Indo-Pacific region. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said the U.S. was exploring ways to empower India without altering what he called New Delhi’s “strong and proud tradition of strategic autonomy.” (https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/top-us-diplomat-india-calls-china-elephant-room-73570392) Biegun spoke in New Delhi at the opening session of the India-U.S. Forum as his three-day visit to India kicked off. Biegun’s visit follows a meeting last week between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia in Tokyo, who together make up the four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad. The Quad is seen as a counterweight to China, who critics say is flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Strait and along its northern border with India. Beijing also faces criticism over its handling of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus as well as its human rights. Pompeo, whose nation is locked in a trade war with Beijing, had said China’s increasingly assertive actions across the region make it more critical than ever for the Quad to cooperate and protect their partners and people from Chinese “exploitation, corruption and coercion.” Biegun’s New Delhi visit follows a recent flareup in military tensions between China and India over their disputed mountainous border in the Ladakh region. China routinely denies criticism of its human rights record as well as its handling of the virus. It says concern over its military is unfounded and counters by saying the U.S. is the biggest impediment to peace in places like the South China Sea.

Newsline: Indian embassy in Madagascar becomes first to go fully solar

The Indian embassy in Madagascar went solar to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, becoming the first Indian embassy to embrace renewable energy. An 8 KW solar power plant was inaugurated at the embassy premises in the capital Antananarivo in the presence of the Malagasy Prime Minister Christian Ntsay and environment minister Rahanirina B. Vahinala. (https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/indian-embassy-in-madagascar-becomes-first-to-go-fully-solar/) “Our violence towards nature has led to biodiversity loss, environmental pollution, and climate change,” Abhay Kumar, India’s ambassador to Madagascar, said on the occasion, drawing a link between Gandhi’s message of non -violence and the ongoing biodiversity loss and climate change crisis facing the world.

Newsline: Pakistan summons Indian diplomat to lodge protest

Pakistan on Saturday summoned a senior Indian diplomat to register strong protest over ceasefire violation by India along the Line of Control (LoC) on August 14 resulting in serious injuries to a civilian. “Due to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing by the Indian occupation forces in Dhudhnial Sector along the LoC, three-year-old Zulekha, resident of Village Tejian, sustained serious injuries,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said. (https://tribune.com.pk/story/2259639/pakistan-summons-indian-diplomat-to-lodge-protest-over-cfv) Pakistan has accused Indian forces of committing 1,980 ceasefire violations in 2020.

Newsline: India selects key diplomat as new Taiwan envoy

India has selected a senior diplomat as its new envoy to Taiwan following recent border tensions with China. Gourangalal Das, currently joint secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), has been tipped as the next Indian representative to Taiwan, according to The Indian Express Sunday-version, the Sunday Express. An official government announcement is expected soon, according to the paper. India and Taiwan do not enjoy formal diplomatic ties as New Delhi recognizes the “one-China” policy, although it does have a Taipei office to carry out diplomatic functions. Named the India-Taipei Association, Das is slated to be its new director general, replacing career diplomat Sridharan Madhusudhanan, the paper reported. (https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3965470) In India’s MEA, a joint secretary who handles New Delhi’s U.S. relations is considered a key official, along with those dealing with China and Pakistan, the paper cited. Das, who is fluent in Mandarin, entered the Indian Foreign Service in 1999, and was stationed in Beijing between 2001 and 2004. During Manmohan Singh’s tenure, Das also served as a deputy secretary handling external affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office. He was kept on for the transition in 2014. As Counsellor (Political) at the Indian Embassy in Washington, Das played an important role during Prime Minister Modi’s 2017 U.S. meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. After returning to New Delhi, he was asked by then Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to set up the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, a think tank studying China.

Newsline: UAE embassy condemns misuse of diplomatic channels to smuggle gold to India

The UAE has condemned the misuse of diplomatic channels to smuggle gold to India and denied having any role after customs authorities in Kerala on Sunday seized 30kg of the precious metal that was marked to the UAE consulate in the south Indian state. Indian media reported on Sunday that customs officials at the Thiruvanathapuram international airport had foiled a gold smuggling attempt after they seized a parcel that was sent as air cargo from Dubai to the UAE consulate. “The Embassy of the UAE in India condemns the attempted misuse of diplomatic channels by an individual engaged in smuggling activity. The embassy firmly rejects such acts and unequivocally affirms that the mission and its diplomatic staff had no role in this matter,” the mission said in a statement. (https://www.khaleejtimes.com/news/general/uae-embassy-condemns-misuse-of-diplomatic-channels-to-smuggle-gold-to-india-) Diplomatic packages are swiftly cleared at airports. But customs officials got suspicious and checked the packet. The officials are investigating the case. “Initial inquiries conducted by the mission revealed that a former locally hired employee of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram was responsible for this act. The employee in question was fired for misconduct long preceding this incident,” read the embassy statement. The mission said the employee in question must have exploited his knowledge of the mission’s channels to commit the crime.

Newsline: 38 Indian embassy officials in Pakistan reach border to return home

After India asked Pakistan to reduce its diplomatic staff in India by half following the detention of two Pakistani spies this month, Pakistan sent back over three dozen Indian officials to India in a clear tit-for-tat response. As many as 38 Indian High Commission officials, including six diplomats, reached the Wagah border to return home. The officials reached the border in two buses and a truck. Among them were a first secretary, two second secretaries and three attaches. (https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/38-indian-embassy-officials-in-pakistan-reach-attari-wagah-border-to-return-home/614170) Meanwhile, around 143 officials of Pakistan High Commission in India also reached the Attari-Wagah border to return to their own country. While speaking to media, Protocol Officer Arun Pal Singh said, “As per our information, 143 people have reached Wagah Border to go to Pakistan. They are Pakistani citizens, who used to work at the Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi.”

Newsline: India, Pakistan to expel embassy staff in tit-for-tat spy row

India said it would expel half the staff in Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi over alleged spying by officials there, prompting Islamabad to say it would respond in kind. Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals are strained and tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, often on charges of espionage, are common. Neither country has a permanent ambassador in place and in the last month each country has accused the other of illegally detaining and torturing its diplomats. “They (Pakistan) have been engaged in acts of espionage and maintained dealings with terrorist organisations,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-pakistan/india-pakistan-to-expel-embassy-staff-in-tit-for-tat-spy-row-idUSKBN23U1XR) In response, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said its staff had acted lawfully, and that it would expel half of India’s embassy in Islamabad “as a reciprocal measure”. India earlier said it intended to voluntarily cut staff at its embassy in Islamabad by the same amount. Both countries said the affected officials had been asked to leave within a week.

Newsline: Chinese Apps Censors Post By Indian Embassy

Amid increased differences between India and China, Chinese social media app WeChat removed updates by the Embassy of India (EoI) on the current border conflict including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on the clash that left 20 Indian Army soldiers dead. (https://inc42.com/buzz/chinese-apps-censors-post-by-indian-embassy-raises-red-flags/) The company has reportedly reasoned this removal for divulging state secrets and endangering national security. The reports further said that the updates published on WeChat include Modi’s remarks on the India-China border situation, the phone call between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers held on Thursday and a statement by the external affairs ministry’s (MEA) spokesperson. Later, the Indian Embassy issued a clarification on its Weibo account after the same statement by the MEA spokesperson was deleted. The reports added that Embassy’s posts were deleted multiple times under several allegations. The list of regulations being violated includes “endangering national security, divulging state secrets, subverting state power, or undermining national unity, inciting hatred, disseminating false information, inciting illegal assembly, demonstration or gathering of people to disturb public order”. The censorship on Chinese apps has been widely known and has been seen repeatedly on popular platforms like TikTok, which have time and again removed the posts which are critical of the Chinese government.

Newsline: Pakistan summons Indian diplomat to condemn truce violations

Pakistan on Sunday summoned Indian top diplomat and registered a strong protest over ceasefire violations by the Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC), leaving one civilian martyred and two others critically injured. According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Indian Charge d’Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned by Director General (South Asia and Saarc) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri to protest the “indiscriminate and unprovoked” firing by the Indian forces in in Hajipir and Bedori sectors of the LoC. (https://tribune.com.pk/story/2247490/1-pakistan-summons-indian-diplomat-condemn-truce-violations/) The Indian forces along the LoC and the Working Boundary (WB) have been continuously targeting civilian populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-caliber mortars and automatic weapons, the FO said, adding that India has committed 1,440 ceasefire violations to date, resulting in 13 shahadats and serious injuries to 104 innocent civilians.

Newsline: Pakistan releases Indian diplomats but claims they had fake currency

In a day-long drama, two Indian High Commission staffers who had gone missing while on official duties on Monday morning in the Pakistani Capital Islamabad in what is believed to be retaliatory action by the Pakistani establishment were released late in the evening and handed back to the Indian High Commission after claims by the Pakistani police that they were involved in a road accident or hit-and-run case. The Pakistani Police claimed that they caused injuries to a person and were also in possession of fake currency to the tune of Rs 10,000. The fake currency charge against them is being seen as the “serious” one that will make it untenable for them to stay in that country further. There were also some reports that the two staffers may have sustained some injuries while being in the custody. Hours before their release, India in the evening had summoned Pakistani Charge d’Affaires Syed Haidar Shah and issued a demarche, demanding their immediate return along with the car of the Indian High Commission, with Government sources saying the demarche “made clear that there should be no interrogation or harassment of the Indian officials” and that “the responsibility for the safety and security of the concerned diplomatic personnel lay squarely with the Pakistani authorities”. (https://www.deccanchronicle.com/world/neighbours/160620/pakistan-releases-two-missing-indian-staffers.html) The Pakistani action is being seen as retaliation by Islamabad after two Pakistan High Commission officials were asked to leave India late last month after being caught carrying out espionage activities. According to some reports, the two Indian High Commission staffers belonged to the paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and were on deputation.