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China, India agree on border peace as Modi wraps up visit with Xi

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India and China have agreed to improve communication between their militaries to maintain peace at the border, India’s foreign secretary said on Saturday at the end of an ice-breaking trip to China by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi has spent the past 24 hours in the central Chinese city of Wuhan for informal meetings with President Xi Jinping, months after a dispute over a stretch of their high-altitude Himalayan
border rekindled fears of war between the Asian nations.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters after Modi and Xi wrapped up their talks that both leaders had agreed their two countries had the maturity and wisdom to handle all their differences peacefully through talks.

“On the issue of the India-China boundary question, the two leaders endorsed the work of the special representatives in their efforts to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement,” he said.

“And the two leaders also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border region,” Gokhale said.

Billed by both sides as an informal meeting rather than a summit, with none of the pomp and ceremony of a state visit such as 21-gun salutes, the two men held talks on Friday that lasted far longer than expected. It also included a personal tour of a major museum by Xi.

Chinese state media has praised the tone of the trip.

The overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a front page commentary on Saturday “two great countries ought to have great cooperation,” and showed a large picture of the two leaders shaking hands.

“There is reason to believe that this Wuhan meeting will increase mutual trust, manage and control disputes, deepen cooperation and lead to a new phase in China-India relations,” it said.

“It is quite clear that strategic agreement between the two countries far exceeds the specific differences, and the need for cooperation far exceeds local friction,” it said.

The official China Daily said in an editorial there was no denying mutual suspicion was keeping the two countries from working together.

“Yet neither Beijing nor New Delhi calls the other an enemy, which means both expect bilateral ties to improve. Indeed, China and India are natural partners,” it said.

Despite the upbeat statements, which on Friday included Modi inviting Xi to India for a similar informal summit next year, the nations’ differences are significant.

As well as disputes over stretches of a 3,500 km (2,200 miles) border, they are bumping up against each other in the Indian Ocean and squabbling over Xi’s signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

India signaled as recently as Tuesday its opposition to the grand trade and transport plan because one of its branches runs through Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which India claims.

India has long been suspicious of China’s traditionally close ties with Pakistan.

For its part, China has been concerned about U.S. efforts to draw India into a maritime “quad” of democracies, including Japan and Australia.

China is also suspicious of India’s hosting of the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetans.

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Armin Laschet picked as new leader of Germany’s ruling CDU party 

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Candidate for the chairmanship of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party, Armin Laschet, gestures as he takes part in a discussion at the party’s headquarters in Berlin on Jan. 8, 2021.

CHRISTIAN MANG / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTIAN MANG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany’s ruling CDU party picked Armin Laschet to be its new chairman on Saturday, possibly paving the way for him to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor at elections later this year. 

Laschet is currently the prime minister of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region, the most populous federal state in the country. He beat rival Friedrich Merz by 521 to 466 in a vote that was forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Born in 1961, he was first elected to the Bundestag (German Parliament) in 1994 and his election is seen as a continuation of Merkel’s policies, as he has pledged to keep the CDU firmly in the “middle of society.” 

With him as chairman, the CDU will likely stay on message and focus on more climate change policies and environmental topics. He has a strong Catholic background which brings him support from Christian circles within the party. 

He is a trained lawyer and also worked as a journalist at the time of German reunification between 1986 and 1991. He is seen as being very liberal and is popular with the immigrant community in his home state.

If he becomes the CDU’s candidate for chancellor at September’s elections, he could be open to various coalitions — power sharing is somewhat of a recent tradition in German politics.

He has floated the idea of a government alongside the liberals, the FDP, in a bid to win over parts of the business camp inside the CDU. But he is also seen as a natural fit for a coalition with the Greens too, as he is on good speaking terms with the party and favors environmental issues.

But the CDU’s candidate for chancellor will only be determined in the spring. And it’s not certain that the newly-elected chairman will automatically move into Merkel’s role. Markus Söder, the very popular Bavarian prime minister, and also Jens Spahn, the current health minister, may also join the race to lead Europe’s largest economy.

Merkel stepped down as leader of the CDU in 2018, and her replacement Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer quit in February 2020 after a series of communication mishaps exposed her as being too weak to lead the chancellery.

This is a breaking news story, please check back later for more.

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Biden heads into inauguration with a stock market tailwind

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Biden heads into inauguration with a stock market tailwind

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