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UK High Commissioner presents credentials to Prez Kovind

NEW DELHI, July 8: The United Kingdom’s new high commissioner to India, Philip Barton, on Wednesday gave us a glimpse into how he prepared before presenting his credentials to President Ram Nath Kovind during a virtual ceremony.

In a short video which he posted on his Twitter handle, Barton begins speaking with a ‘Namaste’ and goes on to explain that it is an exciting day for him as he takes up his new assignment. Introducing himself as the new British high commissioner designate to India, he goes on to describe the process of presenting his credentials to the head of state and what it literally translates into.

Letters of credentials are the letters signed by the Queen of England – the head of state of the United Kingdom addressed to the President of India asking him and the state of India to give credence (comes from a French word) to what the new designate says while discharging his official duties. The letters also urge the President to believe that the diplomat speaks on behalf of the United Kingdom during his stay in the country.

Barton gives us a peep at the original copies of the letter duly signed by Queen Elizabeth-II and addressed to President Kovind. The ceremony, which had to be carried out virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was nevertheless an important one for Indo-British relations.

Barton’s connections with India go back a long way. His new assignment is definitely not his first brush with the country. “We often speak of the ‘living bridge’ of people, ideas and institutions that tie the UK and India together. I, too, am a part of that bridge,” he says.

He goes on to elaborate that his mother happened to be born in Shimla and Barton was posted in national capital Delhi in the 1990s. He met his wife, Amanda, when both of them lived and worked in the country. They named their daughter ‘India’ – “not knowing I would return one day as high commissioner”.

Barton’s arrival in the country and the presentation of his credentials was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out earlier this year. He succeeded Dominic Asquith, who served as high commissioner from April 2016 to January this year.

“The UK-India relationship is remarkable and we share an unparalleled breadth and depth of connection. There is a deep commitment across the British government, industry and civil society to develop that relationship even further,” Barton said in a statement.

He identified several key areas – developing the trade and economic partnership following the Britain’s exit from the European Union, tackling global challenges of climate change and green recovery, acting together as a force for good in the world, and working closely to keep both countries safe and secure.

Earlier, Barton also served as the UK’s high commissioner to Pakistan during 2014-16 and as acting chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee during 2016-17, acknowledged he had arrived in India at an “extraordinarily difficult time”.

Barton joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1986 and has previously served as the Director General (consular and security) in London and as deputy ambassador in Washington. Before arriving in New Delhi last month, he helped the UK government adapt its long-term planning to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Barton’s arrival, Jan Thompson, who served as acting high commissioner from February to June, has returned to her role as deputy high commissioner.

India-China ties in complex situation, says Beijing

BEIJING, July 6: China on Monday said the consensus reached with India to disengage troops at the border should be implemented as soon as possible, indicating cooling down of tension with India at the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). India and China clashed earlier last month along the disputed border in Galwan Valley, resulting in death of 20 Indian soldiers and purported casualties of Chinese troops.

Acknowledging that current bilateral ties were facing a “complex situation”, Beijing said both sides should adhere to the “to the strategic judgement that they do not pose a threat to each other…”.

A statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry on a conversation between foreign minister, Wang Yi and India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval on Sunday said both New Delhi and Beijing welcome recent military and diplomatic talks to resolve the last month’s crisis at the border.

Wang was referring to the June 30 meeting – and two previous ones in June -- between delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region.

“The two sides welcome the progress made in the recent military and diplomatic meetings between the two countries, and agree to continue the dialogue and consultation and emphasise that the consensus reached at the level of the two border defence forces’ commanders should be implemented as soon as possible to complete the process of disengagement of the front-line forces of the two sides as soon as possible," the statement in Mandarin released Monday evening read.

China’s statement comes on the same afternoon India released its statement agreeing that both sides “should complete the ongoing disengagement process along the LAC expeditiously” and also “ensure a phased and stepwise de-escalation” in the border areas.

India, in its statement, also said that Wang and Doval re-affirmed that both sides should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control, and that they should not take any unilateral action to alter the status quo and work together to avoid any incident in the future that could disturb peace and tranquillity in border areas.

This was the first contact between the Special Representatives since the border standoff between the two sides began in May. The two countries have held discussions through diplomatic and military channels, including the corps commanders and the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs.

However, China in its statement, also made it clear who Beijing thinks was responsible for the standoff in Galwan Valley and then the violence at the border.

“What happened recently in the western part of the border between China and India in the Galwan Valley is very clear. China will continue to effectively defend its territorial sovereignty and maintain peace and tranquility in the border area,” said Wang, who is also state councillor told Doval, according to the statement.

It referred to the existing mechanisms between the two countries to resolve the long-standing 3488 km boundary problem – currently the longest land border dispute in the world.

“The two sides agreed to strengthen communication through the special representative meeting mechanism, the working mechanism for consultations and coordination on Sino-Indian border affairs, and constantly improve and strengthen confidence-building measures in border areas to avoid the recurrence of incidents affecting peace and tranquility in border areas,” the Chinese statement said, quoting Wang.

The relationship between India and China is complex and both sides should work to reverse it, Wang said.

“The two sides should always adhere to the strategic judgement that they do not pose a threat to each other and provide each other opportunities for development, attach great importance to the complex situation facing the current relationship between the two countries, and work together to overcome and reverse them as soon as possible,” the Chinese statement said.

Wang’s statement emphasised the importance of guiding “public opinion and public will” on the ties between the two countries.

“It is hoped that India and China will act in the same direction, correctly guide public opinion and public will, maintain and promote normal exchanges and cooperation between the two countries, avoid adopting practices that expand disputes, and jointly safeguard the overall situation of China-India relations,” the statement said.

Unlike India, China is yet to release the PLA’s casualty figures it sustained during the June 15 brawl.

A senior Chinese official had told foreign diplomats last month that one of the reasons Beijing hadn’t released official figures was because it did not want to stir sentiments.

The other reason, the Chinese official said, was because the casualty numbers were low for the PLA.

Taiwan says Dalai Lama welcome to visit

TAIPEI, July 6: Taiwan would welcome a visit by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, its foreign ministry said on Monday, a trip that would infuriate Beijing which views him as a dangerous separatist.

The Dalai Lama has not visited the Chinese-claimed, democratic island under the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen, who first took office in 2016. He last came in 2009.

In a birthday message via video link to supporters in Taiwan on Sunday, the Dalai Lama said he would like to visit again.

“As the political scenario changes, it may be that I’ll be able to visit you in Taiwan again. I hope so. Whatever happens I’ll remain with you in spirit,” he said on his website.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the government had not yet received an application for him to travel to the island but would handle it under “relevant rules” if one came.

“We will, in accordance with the principle of mutual respect and at a time of convenience for both sides, welcome the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan again to propagate Buddhist teachings,” Ou added.

Beijing is deeply suspicious of Taiwan’s president, believing she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence. Tsai says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

Taipei-Beijing relations have worsened further since Taiwan offered to receive Hong Kong people who wish to leave the city after China passed a new national security law last week, an offer Beijing has condemned.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

China accuses him of being a “splittist”, but he says he only wants genuine autonomy for his remote Himalayan homeland.

China ‘welcomes’ military talks working towards de-escalation

BEIJING, July 1: China on Wednesday said it “welcomes” the latest military commander-level talks between India and China, which had made progress to “disengage” border troops and deescalate the ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Beijing “welcomes” the progress made in the third round of talks, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a late- night comment.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said the India and China were continuing to implement the consensus reached in earlier talks.

Zhao was referring to two meetings between the third meeting between delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region held earlier in June.

“The two sides continue working towards implementing the consensus reached at the two earlier rounds of commander-level talks and made progress in effective measures by frontline troops to disengage and deescalate the situation,” Zhao said in a comment published by the Chinese foreign ministry on its website.

“China welcomes that. We hope the Indian side will work with the Chinese side towards the same goal, keep up close communication through military and diplomatic channels, and ease the situation and reduce the temperature along the border,” the spokesperson said.

Separately, quoting anonymous sources, nationalistic tabloid Global Times reported that the “two sides had a frank and in-depth exchange of views, discussed effective ways to resolve current differences in border control, and studied concrete measures to enhance mutual trust and maintain stability.”

Quoting the source, the GT report said the military commander-level’s meeting showed the two sides’ willingness to ease tensions on the border, and avoid further escalating the situation.

The latest meeting took place at Chushul on the Indian side of the LAC, while the previous two meetings were held at Moldo on the Chinese side.


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