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India, China working on Ladakh peace formula: Alternate week patrolling after disengagement

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, September 29:

India and China are working on a formula wherein their troops will patrol forward locations every alternate week so as to avoid violent face-offs between soldiers on the ground.

Top government sources said this has been the established practice on the countries’ border in Northeast India, and has worked well barring the occasional face-off. However, the border infrastructure development along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, as planned by India, will continue since the activities are well within territory it controls.

“In the Northeast, both sides patrol every week to their patrolling points. We know when the Chinese are coming, and they know when we are coming. This ensures that the troops don’t come face-to-face. This is something that can be done in the forward areas of Ladakh too,” ThePrint news portal quoted an Indian source as saying.

Local commanders in the Northeast speak to each other regularly — a practice that has continued even during the Ladakh stand-off, with the Chinese even saying that both sides must ensure that what happened in the northern sector (Ladakh) should not be allowed to develop there.

“However, we are not leaving anything to chance. Our strict vigil continues all along the LAC. There has not been any kind of aggressive deployment by the Chinese in the Northeast,” the source said.

However, the sources underlined that the formula being worked out will come into effect only when disengagement at the LAC is completed.

India insists that China needs to take steps for disengagement first, since it was the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that moved in.

According to previous India-China agreements, each side is supposed to have a patrol strength of 15-20 troopers.

However, since the 2017 Doklam stand-off, when India stepped into Bhutanese territory and blocked China’s illegal road construction activity, the PLA started bringing in bigger patrols along the LAC.

“From 15-20, the number increased to 30 and so on. It has been happening over a period of time. It came to such a point that they started coming en masse and surrounding our troops.

This resulted in scuffles, and that led to stone-throwing. Then, the Chinese started bringing in clubs and sharp weapons like machetes,” a source said.

This is what happened on 15 June in the Galwan Valley. “It was a melee. We could not open fire because the bullets could have hit our own,” the source said.

India has made it clear to China that its soldiers will open fire to defend themselves, and Chinese tactics of “using mass” will not be tolerated.

China has more than doubled its air bases, air defence positions, and heliports near the LAC since the Doklam crisis.

“The 2017 Doklam crisis appears to have shifted China’s strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of air bases, air defence positions, and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years,” a report by leading global geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor had said.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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