- On Monday, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a violent confrontation along a disputed border that left at least 20 Indian troops dead. Chinese officials have confirmed that there were casualties on their side but refused to say how many.
- The incident is the most serious military confrontation between the two nuclear powers in nearly 40 years.
- India and China have been fighting over the disputed boundary for decades.
- Both countries claim to control huge sections of each other’s territories, and the border has never been formalized despite more than a dozen negotiations.
Indian and Chinese Troops Face-Off
The Indian government has said that at least 20 of its soldiers died in a violent altercation with Chinese military forces after fighting broke out Monday along a disputed border between the two countries, marking the most serious military confrontation between the two nuclear powers in decades.
It is unclear exactly what happened as both sides have given different accounts. Most of the details currently being reported have come from the Indian side. Chinese officials have largely remained tight-lipped and Chinese media has downplayed the incident.
However, according to most accounts, the two sides engaged in hand-to-hand combat using rocks, iron rods, and their fists to fight for several hours. Several people fell to their deaths, but neither side fired shots or used guns at any point.
Indian officials said that three of their soldiers were killed during the standoff, and 17 others died after succumbing to injuries in the sub-zero temperatures.
Indian officials also said that there had been casualties on the Chinese side, a fact that Chinese officials did eventually confirm Wednesday after skirting the question, though they did not say how many people died.
As for what started the stand-off, both sides blame each other for instigating. Indian officials say that Chinese forces crossed into the area under their control where they set up tents and guard posts and ignored verbal warnings to leave, which set off shouting matches, stones being thrown, and fist-fights.
Chinese officials say that Indian soldiers crossed the border into the area they control and “provoked and attacked Chinese personnel.”
While Monday’s events represent a serious escalation, these kinds of confrontations are not a new occurrence.
Just since last month, there have been a number of similar conflicts along the border, though no deaths have been reported. After those initial brawls, which reportedly started after both countries moved thousands of additional troops to the border, senior leaders from the Indian and Chinese militaries held meetings and agreed to disengage.
But the situation goes a lot deeper than that. In fact, India and China have been fighting over this disputed border for decades and decades.
In 1962, the two fought a full-scale war over the border which ended with a truce and the creation of a sort of de facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), aroughly 2,000-mile boundary that runs along the Himalayas and the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.
However, the LAC is and always has been a very rough boundary. Over the years, there have been more than a dozen rounds of talks and negotiations, but an actual border has never been formally decided.
As a result, India and China have competing views of where the line is, and both claim significant chunks of the other’s territory. Both sides patrol up to where they believe the border is, but because it is contested, that has led to frequent accusations of one side crossing the LAC which has resulted in numerous clashes.
Despite the frequency of these skirmishes, Monday’s incident has been described as the most violent and serious confrontation since a series of battles in 1967, as well as the first altercation that resulted in reported fatalities since 1975.
Notably, the two sides have worked together to try and keep the peace. In the early 1990s, they agreed to a set of protocols to contain the disputes and prevent escalation.
Those procedures included agreements for where troops would patrol, what weapons they could carry, where military installation would be built, and how close weapons and airplanes could be to the disputed areas.
But tensions have grown over the last few years. Many recent standoffs have been the result of both countries building infrastructure including roads, airstrips, and arms installations, which has resulted in the area becoming much more militarized.
China, in general, has been more assertive in building up its infrastructure, but in recent years, India has been strengthening its border infrastructure and upgrading its military installations— a move that experts say has angered China.
There is also a broader geopolitical element too. China has additionally been upset by India’s growing political and military relationship with the United States. Last year, China strongly condemned India for revoking the autonomous status of Kashmir— the disputed area claimed by both India and Pakistan— and placing it under the direct control of the central government.
On the other side, India is also worried that China is trying to slowly take over more of the disputed territory along the LAC, a concern that has grown as China continues to push forward with more bold, expansionist actions.
“China has pressed other controversial territorial disputes in recent years, stoking anxiety among its neighbors by building military installations in the South China Sea, extending control over Hong Kong and moving to deny Taiwan, which it sees as part of China, legitimacy and participation in international forums,” journalist Rajesh Roy explained in the Wall Street Journal.
As for the current situation, both India and China have said they want peace. In a short televised speech Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that call, while also warning China that India will retaliate if provoked.
“The sacrifice of our soldiers will not be in vain,” he said. “The sovereignty and integrity of India is supreme, and nobody can stop us in defending that. India wants peace, but if provoked India is capable of giving a befitting reply.”
China’s Foreign Ministry has also said it does not want more clashes, and in a call today, both the foreign ministers of both agreed to “cool down” and said they favor peaceful diplomacy and dialogue.
It has also been reported that military leaders in the region are “talking to diffuse the tension.”
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian) (Al Jazeera)
E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention
- The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
- More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
- Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
- Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.
Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.
The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.
- Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
- Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
- First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
- Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
- Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.
Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.
First Step For Biden
These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.
One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”
“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.
The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.
He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.
Biden Faces Criticism Over U.S. Airstrike in Syria
- On Friday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike against an Iranian-back militia in Syria after it shot rockets into northern Iraq and injured U.S. service personnel.
- The airstrike marks the first in Biden’s presidency, and while normally a routine response, it caused particular backlash against the president, who campaigned on getting out of “forever wars” in the region.
- Many felt like Biden was more concerned with bombing people in the Middle-East than he was with passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which was being debated by Congress at the time.
- The targeting of an Iranian-backed militia likely didn’t help efforts to start informal talks with Iran on Sunday in an effort to reignite the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Striking Back Against Militias
The U.S. military conducted an airstrike on an Iranian-backed militia in Syria on Friday, marking it as the first such airstrike under President Joe Biden’s term.
The airstrike was conducted as retaliation after the militia launched rockets into northern Iraq; killing civilians, contractors, and injuring a U.S. service member as well as other coalition troops.
Despite airstrikes being a routine response for such situations over the last 20 years, the decision caused Biden to face intense backlash in the U.S.
For many, it set the tone and seemed to contradict some of his earlier stances when running for office. In 2019, for instance, Biden made it clear that he wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, as well as speed up the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, such airstrikes are often blamed for further entrenching the U.S. in the region.
Biden received criticism across the political spectrum, with only a few conservatives praising the airstrike as a necessary move to protect U.S. troops.
In Congress, many Democrats called the move unconstitutional, a stance the party has had since at least 2018 when Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said a similar airstrike conducted by President Trump required the approval of Congress. The Biden administration pushed back against this, sending a letter to Congress on Sunday saying the president had the power to use limited force without the body’s approval via the War Power Act.
Public Perception in a Downward Spiral
Many Americans have mocked Biden for seemingly feeling comfortable enough to use his executive power to bomb militias while also expressing apprehension toward using that same power to forgive student loans.
Others pushed back against the idea that the airstrike was a form of defensive retaliation
“This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as “defensive” and “retaliatory” despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq),” wrote one user on Twitter, “You can’t invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.”
Some of the biggest criticism the president received came from those who said it seemed like his priorities were off-base. Because while the airstrike was conducted, Congress was debating his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
Civil Rights activist Ja’Mal Green, for instance, tweeted, “We didn’t flip Georgia Blue for Biden to air strike Syria. We flipped Georgia Blue for our $2,000 Stimulus Checks.”
However, it’s worth noting that there’s not much Biden can do right now to push his stimulus package through Congress, other than attempt to convince some on-the-fence senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV). Still, the perception of confused priorities was enough to anger many.
All of this likely didn’t help when the E.U. foreign policy chief, on behalf of all the countries who signed the Iran Nuclear deal, attempted to convince Iran to engage in informal talks to try and restart the deal on Sunday. A proposal was shot down by Iran.
“Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh
Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap Over 300 Students From Boarding School
- Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a Nigerian boarding school early Friday morning, making it the second major abduction in the northwest area of the country in over a week.
- Militants loaded some girls on trucks while others were walked into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of miles and is spread over three states.
- Authorities believe these abductions are being carried out by armed bandit groups seeking random rather than the jihadist groups in the region.
- According to terror analysts, kidnapping is quickly becoming one of the most thriving industries in Nigeria and has led to 10.5 million Nigerian children being out of school – the most of any nation.
Abductions Before Dawn
Gunmen abducted 317 students early Friday morning from the Nigerian Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state.
They entered the building shooting, although it’s clear if anyone was hurt, and forced many girls onto trucks while others into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of square miles and crosses multiple states. Some girls escaped, but by morning it was clear to the local community that hundreds were taken.
Zamfara police and security forces, backed by Nigerian army reinforcements, said they are in pursuit of the abductors.
This abduction is the second in a little over a week in the northwest area of the country. At the Kagara Government Science College in Niger state, dozens of schoolboys were abducted on February 17.
In December, 344 boys in Katsina state were also abducted before being freed a week later. At the time, the kidnappers claimed a ransom had been paid, a common motivation for such abductions, but security forces say the children were freed after they had surrounded the group.
Was the Kidnapping for Ransom?
Many abductions have a monetary aspect, with ransoms quickly being demanded; however, it’s currently unclear if Friday’s events were carried out by local bandits looking for a payout or one of the nation’s myriad of jihadist groups that occasionally take hostages.
Most are leaning towards believing this was a kidnapping for ransom due to it quickly becoming the nation’s most thriving industry, according to Bulama Bukarti, a terror analyst and columnist of northern Nigeria’s largest paper.
Unfortunately, the constant kidnapping in less-stable parts of the country, along with economic hardships, have caused parents to pull their children out of schools. Currently, there are more than 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school, the most of any nation. The issue is so prevalent that 1 in 5 of the world’s unschooled children are in Nigeria.
The government has struggled to respond to the rise of kidnappings, with officials both on the civilian side and within the military unsure of how to proceed. On one hand, there are those who want to deal with the issue head-on and attack kidnappers, but others want to try and resolve the issue with dialogue.