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China Announces India Investment, But Border Dispute Dogs Ties

By Siddhartha Kumar, dpa

NEW DELHI — China on Thursday said it would invest 20 billion dollars in India even as the Asian giants stressed the resolution of a decades-old boundary dispute that has led to a new standoff between troops.

At least 12 pacts including a 5-year-economic and trade plan as well as cooperation in areas of space, railways, and culture were signed after talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The summit in New Delhi was overshadowed by tensions over an alleged incursion by Chinese soldiers into the Ladakh region in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

A thousand soldiers from each side faced off in the region, making it the worst confrontation between the two sides in years, Indian media reported.

“I raised our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border,” Modi said after the meeting, calling for a joint exercise to verify the boundary.

Xi also underlined the importance of settling the boundary dispute quickly.

“China has the determination to work with India through friendly consultations to settle the boundary question at an early date,” he said.

Parts of the 3,500-kilometer border between the Asian neighbors have never been clearly demarcated and accusations of border violations by both countries have been routine. China and India have several frontier disputes, mainly left over from a brief border war fought in the Himalayas in 1962.

Despite the border tensions, Beijing announced an investment of 20 billion dollars in India’s infrastructure and manufacturing sectors over the next five years.

The new investment represents a huge jump in Chinese investments in India. Between 2000 and 2014, the Chinese have invested a total of 411 million dollars in India, according to government data.

Under the plans, China will help modernize India’s railway system with high-speed links and set up two industrial parks in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

China also committed itself to address the trade imbalance by providing more access for India pharmaceuticals and farm produce. China is one of India’s largest trading partners but with a balance of trade overwhelming tipped in China’s favor.

“China and India are countries with major influence in the world. When China and India speak with one voice the whole world will take notice,” Xi said.

“China and India will act as twin engines in spearheading economic growth and adding to the development and prosperity of our region,” he added.

Earlier Thursday, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama urged Xi to peacefully resolve the Tibet crisis as scores of Tibetans held demonstrations outside the talks venue against China’s “human rights violations and occupation of Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama told reporters in Mumbai that Xi was more realistic and open-minded than his predecessor Hu Jintao.

“Sooner or later you have to solve the (Tibetan) problem, not by force but by talks and understanding,” he said.

Tibetan leaders have for years been calling for Beijing to accept the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” policy, which seeks “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet under Chinese rule rather than outright independence.

India is the last stop of Xi’s four-nation tour in Central and South Asia that has already taken him to Tajikistan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. He is to conclude his three-day visit to India Friday with a meeting with opposition leader Sonia Gandhi.

AFP Photo

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Troops Working To Rescue Stranded People In Kashmir

By Siddhartha Kumar, dpa

NEW DELHI — Indian troops stepped up rescue work Tuesday as the rain held off in Jammu and Kashmir state, but thousands were stranded in the worst floods in the region for 60 years.

State capital Srinagar was flooded by the Jhelum river and an estimated 400,000 people were stranded in the city and surrounding regions, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Disaster management agencies data showed that about 200 people had died since last week.

The toll included 27 killed in a landslide in Udhampur district.

“Only my husband and I have been rescued. Both my sons are left behind. My house was destroyed. I was stuck on the terrace for three days,” one Srinagar resident told CNN-IBN network.

“I am 60 years old and I have never seen such a situation here. This is really scary,” another resident added.

Thousands more were awaiting rescue teams and searching for their relatives.

By Tuesday evening, officials said the army and relief workers had rescued more than 42,000 people. Many teams were using boats in Srinagar, rescuing people from rooftops and terraces.

The army deployed 20,000 soldiers, while 61 helicopters and other aircraft were dropping relief supplies and transporting people.

“The Indian Army will not move back to the barracks until the last man is brought to safety,” army chief General Dalbir Singh said Monday.

Officials said the Jhelum River was receding in some areas, but water in the city’s Dal Lake was rising.

Road and communication links were cut off, making it difficult to reach stranded people.

The main highway linking the Kashmir valley to the rest of India was closed because of landslides, and could take about five days to be reopened, officials said.

Srinagar resident Sheikh Tariq, whose house was swept away in the floods, said his family was incommunicado.

“I have no idea how and where they are. The last call from them came three days ago. I am totally helpless,” he told NDTV from a university campus in Srinagar that has become an emergency refugee center.

AFP Photo/Punit Paranjpe

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Al-Qaida Sets Up New Branch In Indian Subcontinent

By Siddhartha Kumar, dpa

NEW DELHI — Terrorist group al-Qaida has set up a branch in South Asia, prompting Indian authorities to issue a nationwide alert Thursday, media reports and officials said.

Al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the plan in a 55-minute video message posted on the internet Wednesday that Indian officials said appeared to be authentic.

Al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to “wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty, and to revive its caliphate.”

“Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent” will be led by Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaida’s Sharia Committee in Pakistan, it said.

Al-Zawahiri said the new outfit would be good for Muslims suffering injustice and oppression in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and parts of India with large Muslim populations, including Kashmir, Gujarat, and Assam.

Predominantly Hindu India has a substantial Muslim minority.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh met with top security officials to discuss the threat, a spokesman said.

Police in all states were on high alert and were stepping up intelligence-gathering on possible targets or recruitment drives, broadcaster CNN-IBN reported.

Gujarat, the home-state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is considered a target for Islamist militants because of the sectarian clashes with Hindus during his term as a chief minister of the state in 2002. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

In the video, the al-Qaida leader also reaffirmed his loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Anti-terrorism specialists said that al-Qaida may be competing for followers with the extremist group Islamic State that controls northern swathes of Syria and Iraq.

“There is despair in al-Qaida ranks that they have gotten increasingly marginalized due to the rise of the Islamic State,” said Sandeep Patil of the Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House.

The government said it was adequately prepared to meet the security threat.

“Islamic militants have been reorganizing and consolidating in the region over past years and we have experienced several attacks including the Mumbai 2008 strike,” said P Chandra Shekhar Rao, convenor of the security cell of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“If their (al Qaida’s) intention is to spread disorder and violence in India, then they should know that they will get a befitting reply,” BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters.

A total of 166 people were killed when gunmen attacked several public buildings in Mumbai in 2008, in an attack attributed to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

But analysts warned that little has been done to improve security since the Mumbai attacks, despite promises by the new government to improve policing and intelligence.

“Al-Qaida presents a significant threat as because of its linkages with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and other groups that already operate in India,” Patil said.

AFP Photo

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10 Killed, 150 Feared Buried In India Landslide

By Siddhartha Kumar, dpa

NEW DELHI — At least 10 people were killed and more than 150 trapped when a landslide hit a remote village in western India on Wednesday amid heavy monsoon rains, officials said.

Five-meter high piles of mud had buried parts of Malin village in Maharashtra state’s Pune district.

“Rescue teams have extricated 10 bodies from the debris and two injured have been taken to hospital,” Pune’s local commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said by phone.

A total of 167 people were trapped after a section of a hill crashed down on 44 houses in the village early Wednesday.

Local authorities had begun rescue work but poor roads and incessant rains had delayed teams from the National Disaster Response Force from reaching the site in time.

“Rescue work is now in full swing. But it’s a formidable challenge since there is a whole lot of mud and debris to clear. The death toll is expected to go up markedly higher,” Deshmukh said.

Villagers sleeping in their homes were caught unaware and many were feared trapped under the mud, boulders and debris, local legislator Dilip Walse-Patil told the IANS news agency.

Police officials said the landslide was caused by the heavy downpours loosening earth and dislodging rocks and boulders.

At least 50 ambulances had been rushed from nearby towns and a ward had been kept ready to receive victims at a nearby hospitals.

People in half a dozen villages in the hilly neighborhood were also evacuated as a precautionary measure, the report said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences for the loss of lives in the landslide and said the federal home minister Rajnath Singh would be visiting Pune to take stock of the rescue work.

India’s monsoon usually lasts from June to September and torrential rains routinely exact a heavy toll, causing floods, landslides, house collapses, and crop destruction.

The northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have seen large monsoon-triggered landslides that have blocked national highways. Last year, more than 5,700 people were buried after floods in Uttarakhand.

AFP Photo

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