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China strengthens dual-use Nyingchi airbase close to India-Tibet border

Satellite images indicate that China has hastened the pace of upgradation of airports to include air defence and other specific requirements of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force. ina has been steadily upgrading its dual-use airports all along the India-Tibet border over the past decade. In the wake of the India-China standoff in eastern Ladakh, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has, however, increased the upgradation of airports to include air defence and other specific requirements of the air force, including accommodations.

Satellite images indicate that the speed of construction of these facilities has increased manifold after March 2020.

The Nyingchi airbase is among the seven Chinese military airbases which have shown increased activity in the past few months and Indian agencies are closely monitoring them.

India Today’s OSINT team, through the latest high-resolution satellite imagery, tracks the progress of construction at the dual-use airport of Nyingchi opposite India’s Tuting sector, barely 15 km from the Indian border.

Nyingchi, being largely a military town, attains importance as it is home to the two main – 52nd and 53rd – mountain brigades of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet. The Nyingchi airport can serve the two brigades for supply and reinforcements and can be used effectively for switching of forces by transport aircraft.

The satellite imagery parsed by India Today’s OSINT team over the past two decades indicates that construction of the Nyingchi airport started in 2004 and was complete by July 2006.

The small airport with a 3 km-long airstrip is located along the Brahmaputra River and is very close to the Indian border.

The airport saw expansion of the apron and a new larger reception and lounge building besides the previous structures from 2014 to 2017.

After the Doklam standoff, by the end of 2017, China had planned to upgrade this dual-use airport to a more air force-oriented airbase.

Airstrip expansion and new taxiway
In 2020, hectic activity was observed at the airbase. Levelling and grading work for possibly a taxiway that can be used as a second airstrip had begun.

The airstrip has been expanded on the south-western end of the runway by 150 m and has more space on the north-eastern side for expansion.

Once expanded on either side, the runway of 60m width will be 3,500m long and will be able to support any major transport aircraft of the PLAAF inventory.

The new taxiway constructed on the western side of the runway is 45m wide and 3,000m long. In case of emergencies, it can also be used as a runway.

Apron expansion
The apron constructed in 2006 was only 140 m long and 140 m wide. It was expanded by almost 200 m in 2014.
The airport got a larger terminal building constructed during the Doklam standoff capable of handling four additional large aircraft.

The recent construction seen in satellite images indicates another expansion of the apron in 2020.

The apron has been expanded by almost 370 m in width and can easily accommodate seven large transporters, with a total handling capacity of almost 12 aircraft at a time.

New surface-to-air missile battery
An area of 620 m x 320 m was cleared early this year by felling forest cover and levelling the area, as reported earlier by India Today.

The construction seen in high-resolution satellite imagery now indicates that this area was cleared for a surface-to-air missile (SAM) battery.

The area has three radar ramps and six launch pads with a circular layout. The size of 160 m diameter of the layout suggests that it could be an HQ-6 SAM battery that is likely to be located here.

Previous spotting of HQ-16 in this area could also be another possibility that needs to be verified once deployment takes place.

The PLA’s Red Banner-6 or Hongqi-6 or HQ-6 is an indigenous short-range air defence missile system with 18 km range flying at Mach 1 speed, whereas the Red Banner-16 or Hongqi-16 or HQ-16 is a medium-range SAM system with 40-70 km range flying at Mach 3 speed.

New assorted buildings
A large number of new buildings for accommodating troops and other equipment have been created to the eastern side of the airstrip.

The infrastructure facilities saw additions during the Doklam standoff in 2017 when China built possible vehicle parks for armoured vehicles and to accommodate more troops. The construction is now complete and new buildings have come up this year.

There are 15 new garages constructed this year with two of them having high bays, indicating that these two will be used by SAM battery.

A large shopping complex has been created outside the airbase possibly catering to the needs of this military township, suggesting that it would be manned by the PLA rather than civil agencies like Haifa Mall.

International

Beijing takes its South China Sea strategy to the Himalayas

The construction, recorded by satellite photos, followed a playbook China has used for years. It has brushed aside neighbours’ claims of sovereignty to cement its position in territorial disputes by unilaterally changing the facts on the ground.
By New York Times
,Just in time for its National Day in October, China completed construction of a new village high in the mountains where the Chinese region of Tibet meets the kingdom of Bhutan. A hundred people moved into two dozen new homes beside the Torsa River and celebrated the holiday by raising China’s flag and singing the national anthem.

“Each of us is a coordinate of the great motherland,” a border guard was quoted as saying by an official state news agency, China Tibetan News.

The problem is, these new “coordinates” are more than a mile inside what Bhutan considers its territory.
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The construction, documented in satellite photos, followed a playbook China has used for years. It has brushed aside neighbours’ claims of sovereignty to cement its position in territorial disputes by unilaterally changing the facts on the ground.

It used the same tactics in the South China Sea, where it fortified and armed shoals claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, despite promising the United States not to do so.

This year, China’s military built up forces in the Himalayas and crossed into territory that India claimed was on its side of the de facto border. That led to China’s bloodiest clash in decades, leaving at least 21 Indian soldiers dead, along with an unknown number of Chinese troops. The violence badly soured relations that had been steadily improving.

Even when challenged, China’s territorial grabs are difficult to reverse short of the use of force, as the Indian government has learned. Since the dispute at the border, Chinese troops have remained camped in areas that India once controlled.

“In the end, it reflects the consolidation of China’s control over the area it claims,” said M. Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on China’s military.

Over the past year, China has moved aggressively against many of its neighbours, seemingly with little regard for diplomatic or geopolitical fallout. Its actions reflect the ambition of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to assert the country’s territorial claims, economic interests and strategic needs around the world.

Xi often cites China’s historical grievances against foreign encroachment and colonisation, using its past to justify its aggressive strategic activities.

The construction of the Himalayan village suggests that China has extended a broader campaign to fortify its southern flanks to include Bhutan, a Buddhist nation of 800,000 people that popularised the concept of “gross national happiness.”

As the construction was underway on that long-disputed border, China added a new claim this summer to nearly 300 square miles of territory in the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a preserve on the other side of Bhutan from where the village was being built.

In pushing its boundaries, China appears to have brushed aside decades of quiet and ultimately fruitless talks to finalize the two countries’ border. A 25th round of talks this year was postponed because of the coronavirus.

“The Chinese obviously seem to be losing patience,” Tenzing Lamsang, editor of the newspaper The Bhutanese and president of the Media Association of Bhutan, wrote on Twitter.

The dispute stems from different interpretations of a treaty signed in 1890 by two now-defunct imperial powers, Britain as India’s colonial ruler and the Qing dynasty in China.

The new village is near the Doklam plateau, where the borders of China, India and Bhutan converge. The plateau was the site of a 73-day standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in 2017 that began over the construction of a road into Bhutanese territory. India, which is obliged to defend Bhutan under a long-standing security pact, pushed troops forward to halt the Chinese work.

Bhutan, which in recent years has felt squeezed between the two giants, poses no military threat to China. For China, control of the area would give its forces a strategic position near a narrow strip of land in India called the Siliguri Corridor. That area, which Indian military strategists also call the Chicken Neck, connects the bulk of India to its easternmost provinces bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.

Lamsang noted that Bhutan has long had to defer to India’s security interests. In its repeated talks with the Chinese, Bhutan has so far been unwilling to make any territorial concessions along the western and central borders. “Given Bhutan’s refusal to concede in the talks or even agree to compromises by China we are now paying a price,” Lamsang wrote.

Neither the Bhutanese nor the Chinese foreign ministry responded to requests for comment.

Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper that often echoes a hawkish view among Chinese officials, ridiculed the claims that the newly built village was in Bhutan, blaming India for stoking tensions with China’s southern neighbours. A day later, the newspaper warned against “looming foreign forces backing the China-bashing campaign across the Himalayas.”

The exact location of the new village, called Pangda, emerged in a series of satellite images published recently by Maxar Technologies, a company based in Colorado. They showed that construction began late last year and was completed, it seems, not long before Oct. 1 — China’s National Day. China’s version of the border lies south of the village.

The images also showed extensive new road-building and the construction of what seem to be military storage bunkers, according to a Maxar spokesman, Stephen Wood. The bunkers are in undisputed Chinese territory, though, indicating that China has sought to build up its military presence along much of the Himalayan border area. The images of China’s new construction were earlier reported by NDTV, a broadcaster in India.

China has made no secret of the construction, as evidenced by several state media reports on the village. One recounted an inauguration ceremony Oct. 18 that was attended by senior officials from Shanghai, including Yu Shaoliang, deputy secretary of the city’s Communist Party committee.

In China, richer provinces often sponsor development projects in poorer regions, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang. China absorbed Tibet beginning in 1950, with the new communist government seeking to reassert sovereignty over the Tibetan people and territory that had been lost after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Although the Chinese called its annexation the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet,” many Tibetans are unhappy with Chinese rule.

Fravel of MIT said that with its recent construction, China appeared to have backed away from potential compromises that it floated in earlier rounds of border talks with Bhutan, in which it offered to trade swathes of territory.

“Previous compromise ideas from the 1990s may no longer be on the table,” he said, “as China may be unwilling or unlikely to withdraw from territory where it has erected such infrastructure.”

International

Bhutan establishes formal ties with Germany

by Suhasini Haidar: Bhutan announced on Wednesday that it had established diplomatic relations with Germany, increasing the restricted number of capitals that Thimphu has formal ties with to 53 states and the EU. The move, which was announced at an “Exchange of Verbal Notes ceremony” in Delhi by Bhutan’s Ambassador to India Major General Vetsop Namgyel and Germany’s Ambassador Walter Lindner, was described by the German Foreign Office as a “special day” and a “rare” event.

“With the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two Ambassadors expressed the desire to further deepen the friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” said the Bhutanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In an article on its website, the German Federal Foreign office credited Bhutan’s current Prime Minister with the decision. “The government of Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering, in office since November 2018, has continued to cautiously open up the country — leading to the decision to establish diplomatic relations with Germany,” the release said, adding that Germany did not plan to set up an Embassy in Thimphu at present, and would conduct its relations through its Embassy in Delhi from “across the border”. Bhutan and Germany also maintain Honorary Consulates in each other’s capitals. Official sources in New Delhi said the government had “noted” the development. “We are aware that the two countries already established consular relations in July 2000. Germany is an important development partner of Bhutan. This is a further step on that path,” they said.

Germany, which has been pursuing full relations with Bhutan for several years now, is one of the biggest and most powerful countries outside of the UNSC to have established ties with Thimphu. Since 1949, when Bhutan first signed a friendship agreement with India, which kept the two countries closely engaged on all foreign policy issues, Bhutan has been historically cautious about establishing ties with other countries.

First election
Until 2007, when Bhutan conducted its first election, it had formal relations with just 22 countries in the world, mostly donor countries like Japan, Australia and several Nordic countries. It also made a firm decision not to open ties with any of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, despite many requests from them and in particular from the U.S. and neighbouring China.

After the election of Prime Minister Jigme Thinley in 2008, however, the Bhutanese government rapidly increased its diplomatic forays, signing agreements with 31 countries in five years, possibly with a view to winning the election for a non-permanent seat election at the UNSC in 2013-14, which it eventually lost. The ties with Germany mark the first new diplomatic agreement made by Bhutan since March 2013, when it had established ties with Oman.

“Even in the absence of diplomatic relations, Germany had been supporting Bhutan’s socio-economic development since the 1970s. More significantly, Bhutan continues to receive support from the European Union of which Germany is the largest contributor to the Union’s budget. People-to-people contacts between Bhutan and Germany have also increased over the years,” the Bhutanese MFA said in its statement. Germany has also supported a partnership with the National Library of Bhutan to preserve its collection of traditional and ancient Bhutanese manuscripts, since 2019.

International

Why Bhutan’s Sakteng wildlife sanctuary is disputed by China

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News——-Sandwiched between China and India, the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan is feeling the squeeze as its giant neighbours square up for supremacy.

A close ally of India, Bhutan got a shock when China made sudden new claims in the summer – over a wildlife sanctuary in the east of the country, on land that had not been considered disputed.

Most Bhutanese commentators don’t want to discuss this in detail, but many believe Beijing is trying to drag the Buddhist majority nation – population 750,000 – into the territorial stand-off with India.

Since April the world’s two most populous nations have deployed tens of thousands of troops further west along their border, with both accusing each other of trespassing into each other’s territory.

China shares land borders with 14 countries and says it has settled its frontiers with most of them. India and Bhutan are notable exceptions, with no progress made in years of talks over disputed areas.

Beijing views disputed territory in the two countries as part of Tibet, which it invaded and annexed in the 1950s.

‘Chinese attempt to irritate Bhutan’
Beijing’s surprise move came during a virtual conservation meeting in June, when it laid claim for the first time to Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary , which spans about 740 sq km (285 sq miles) in eastern Bhutan.

Image copyright CHOLING Sakteng sanctuary
Image caption Sakteng sanctuary has a diverse ecosystem and is home to rare wildlife species
The government in Thimphu had requested aid for projects in the park from the Global Environmental Facility, a US-based group which finances eco-friendly projects. Chinese representatives objected, saying the area was in dispute and funds should not be allocated.

Bhutan rejected the claim, pointing out the area had never featured in 24 previous rounds of boundary talks. A 25th round scheduled for earlier this year was delayed by the Covid crisis.

In July, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin left no doubt when he said “the boundary between China and Bhutan is yet to be demarcated, and the middle, eastern and western section of the border are disputed”.

Image copyright CHOLING Sakteng sanctuary
Image caption Until recently Chinese maps have shown Sakteng in Bhutan
Bhutanese historian Karma Phuntsho says: “Sakteng national park was never a disputed area and it was always under Bhutanese control. There is no evidence of any affiliation [of that region] to China.

“The recent claim by a Chinese official at the Global Environment Facility is perhaps a Chinese attempt to irritate Bhutan as there are border disputes to settle in other areas.”

‘A way to put pressure on India’
Border talks between Thimphu and Beijing have focused since 1984 mostly on around 269 sq km in the west and around 500 sq km in the north of Bhutan.

“All official Chinese maps have showed Sakteng as part of Bhutan. In 2014, China came out with its most ambitious map ever, with vast territorial claims, including India’s Arunachal Pradesh. But even in that map Sakteng park was shown as part of Bhutan,” said Tenzing Lamsang, the editor of weekly newspaper The Bhutanese .

Bhutan is no stranger to feeling caught between China and India. Border negotiations stalled following a crisis three years ago over a plateau known as Doklam in India, and Donglang in China.

Bhutan map
In June 2017 Indian forces confronted Chinese troops, who had started to expand an unpaved road in the crucial tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan. The area actually fell within Bhutan’s claims but India challenged Chinese troops on behalf of its tiny ally .

The plateau is of strategic importance to Delhi because it overlooks the Siliguri corridor, known as the “chicken’s neck”, a narrow strip of land that connects India’s north-eastern states with the rest of the country. India fears that in any future conflict, Chinese troops could seize the corridor.

Though both countries disengaged following talks, it showed how border disputes might escalate. Subsequent satellite pictures showed the Chinese army had built a vast network of military installations , including heliports, not far from the flash point in Doklam.

So China’s decision to claim the Sakteng sanctuary now is being seen in the context of the wider stand-off, as Asia’s giants jockey for advantage.

Image copyright AFP Indian soldiers walk at the foothills of a mountain range near Leh, the joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh, on June 25, 2020.
Image caption Indian soldiers on patrol near Leh, in the disputed frontier region of Ladakh
“It is a way to put pressure on India, not just Bhutan. The Sakteng sanctuary borders India’s Arunachal Pradesh, which is also claimed by China. Beijing’s view seems to be Sakteng is an extension of Arunachal Pradesh,” said Sangeeta Thapliyal, professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

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The Tibetans serving in ‘secretive’ Indian force
But Dr Lu Yang, a research fellow at the Institute of Belt and Road Initiative in Tsinghua University, Beijing has a different view.

“It is not that China is bullying Bhutan on the border issue. It is because the Bhutan-China border dispute could not be separated from the India-China one. This is the main challenge,” she told the BBC.

From Beijing’s perspective, she said, “the solution of China-India eastern border is the precondition for the solution of Bhutan-China border”.

The Bhutanese foreign ministry did not respond to BBC requests for comment.

‘We need to accept geographical reality’
But Bhutan’s options are limited

Tensions are at their worst for decades between India and China, and will be hard to defuse.

People walk in the street in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan (file photo)
Image caption With its tiny population, Bhutan has few options in the stand-off
In mid-June, a brawl on the frontier in Ladakh resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese army casualties – the first deadly clash on their border in at least 45 years.

Despite various rounds of talks, Beijing has refused to withdraw from the areas it occupied, Indian analysts say.

By putting pressure on Bhutan, Beijing may be testing Delhi’s resolve in coming to its tiny ally’s aid. India’s neighbours are closely watching how Delhi decides to tackle China’s growing military and economic might. India doesn’t want to lose face.

“Every country knows that China is a reality. We also need to accept that there is a geographical reality. Our access to the world is through India. The feeling is if Bhutan tries to neglect India to go with China, that’s going to be suicidal,” said a Bhutanese analyst, who did not want to be identified.

The way forward, he said, was to engage with China while respecting India’s security interests.

Historian Dr Phuntsho says he regrets that India and China use their power to cause instability, rather than to promote peace.

“Both China and India had expansionist and imperialistic outlooks in the past, and show a tendency to control other countries, even now.”

Smaller countries like Bhutan have no choice but to remain on edge.

International

Satellite Images Hint At Renewed China Threat In Doklam

By Vishnu Some, NDTV , Delhi: High resolution satellite imagery accessed by NDTV indicates that in addition to setting up a village more than two kilometres within Bhutanese territory on the eastern periphery of the contested Doklam plateau, China has built a road in the same area that stretches approximately 9 kilometres inside Bhutanese territory.
It is believed that this road could ultimately give the Chinese forces an alternate route to the Zompelri ridge, which the Indian Army had prevented Chinese forces from accessing in 2017 when the two sides faced off on the Doklam plateau.

On that occasion, Chinese construction workers had attempted to access the ridge by extending their existing track near the Indian Army’s post at Doka La which lies on the boundary between Sikkim and Dokala.

Soldiers of the Indian Army had then physically blocked Chinese road construction workers on grounds that access to the Zompelri ridgeline (which lies further south) was unacceptable since it would allow Chinese forces a clear sight of the “Chicken’s Neck”, the vulnerable sliver of land that links the northeast of India with the rest of the country.

Map showing China-Bhutan border region. Construction activity in Pangda village. Copyright: Maxar Technologies 2020. Click for high resolution image

Now, three years later, Chinese construction workers, working on a different axis, have built a new road along the banks of the Torsa river, which extends southwards from the border between China and Bhutan.

This lies less than 10 km from the site of the 2017 face-off between Indian and Chinese forces which lasted more than two months and was only resolved when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Xinping of China met in Wuhan in April 2018 where they agreed on de-escalating tensions.

“The Chinese have left untouched the 2017 stand-off site, which is located in one corner of Doklam,” says strategic affairs expert, Dr Brahma Chellaney. ”But, step by step, they have been changing the status quo in the rest of Doklam, including by building permanent structures and roads and even setting up villages on a plateau that was uninhabited until three years ago.”

Clear evidence of Chinese road and village construction on the eastern periphery of the Doklam plateau emerged on Thursday when Shen Shiwei, a senior producer with CGTN, China’s state-sponsored media, showcased several images of a village with several chalets by the side of a river.

He tweeted, ”Now, we have permanent residents living in the newly established Pangda village. It’s along the valley, 35 km south to Yadong country. Here is a map to show the location.”

The new images shown in this report are from Maxar which provides some of the most comprehensive satellite imagery commercially available. According to Maxar, ”There has clearly been significant construction activity this year all along the Torsa River valley area with extensive road-building/construction activity underway as well as new military storage bunkers being built in China near the Doklam area”.

The lead image in this report, contradicts a statement by the Bhutanese Ambassador to New Delhi, Major General Vetsop Namgyel.

In a statement to NDTV on November 19, Major General Namgyel said, ”There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan”.

Asked whether Bhutan and China had reached any understanding on realigning the border in the contested area, the Ambassador said he ”does not comment on border matters.” He did, however, confirm that Bhutan and China were involved in border talks.
Bhutan and China have been involved in border disputes for decades. According to Tenzing Lamsang, the Editor of The Bhutanese, ”Bhutan and China recognise the 269 sq km in the west and 495 sq km in north-central Bhutan as [being] disputed and so while there are maximalist claim lines from both sides, there is no mutually accepted international border there yet”.

What seems clear though is that Beijing’s policy, referred to in 2017 as “salami slicing” by General Bipin Rawat, now the Chief of Defence Staff, remains a reality, not just in Eastern Ladakh but in Doklam and in other parts of the Sino-Indian boundary as well.

Road construction along Torsa river, Bhutan. Copyright: Maxar Technologies 2020. Click for high resolution image

Contrary to rhetoric in 2017 that India forced China to ‘withdraw’ from the Doklam stand-off site, the new images seem to indicate that Beijing’s determination to make probes in the contested area continues with utter disregard to New Dehi and Thimpu’s sentiments.

For the Indian Army, any Chinese push southwards is bound to raise red-flags since Chinese forces will potentially have clear line-of-sight to sensitive areas in the “Chicken’s Neck” for the first time.

“It is past time for India to call China out on its expansionism in Doklam by pointing out how it is encroaching on the territories of one of the world’s smallest countries,” says Brahma Chellaney. “As Bhutan’s de facto security guarantor, India cannot turn a blind eye to China’s aggressive activities in Doklam,” he added

International

Indian-American groups laud historic selection of Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice presidential candidate

Leading Indian-American groups across the US have lauded the selection of Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential candidate by Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden, saying it was a moment of pride and celebration for the entire community in America.

Biden on Tuesday named Harris as his Vice-Presidential running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Harris, 55, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.

“What an electric moment for the Indian-American community! Indian-Americans are now truly a mainstream community in the national fabric,” M R Rangaswami, an eminent Indian-American and the founder of Indiaspora, told PTI.

“On a personal note, it’s great to have a woman on the ticket whose mother hails from my hometown of Chennai in India,” Rangaswami said.

Harris herself was a presidential aspirant until last year before she dropped out of the race because of lack of popular support.

Welcoming the decision, IMPACT, the leading Indian-American advocacy group and PAC, said that it will raise USD 10 million for the campaign.

“Kamala Harris’s story is the story of a changing, inclusive America. At a time of rapid change, she ties all our national threads together. The daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Kamala Harris represents the future and promise of this country. Her candidacy is historic and inspiring, not only for Black Americans, but for millions of Asian American voters, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country,” IMPACT’s executive director Neil Makhija said.

“An estimated 1.3 million Indian-Americans are expected to vote in this year’s election, including nearly 200,000 in Pennsylvania and 125,000 in Michigan, both must-win battleground states. IMPACT is gearing up to raise USD 10 million to fight for inclusive democracy and candidates who share our values like Senator Harris,” Makhija said. He said Harris knows both the Black American and South Asian-American experiences.

“Harris knows the Black American experience. She knows the South Asian American experience. She knows the immigrant experience. She knows the aspirational power of the American dream. She is the running mate for this moment,” Makhija had wrirtten in an op-ed titled Harris’ ability to mobilise voters and unite the country In 2016, 77 per cent of Indian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, according to stats by the same research firm. “But Democrat support in 2020 is not assured,” he wrote. A recent survey carried out by Trump supporter Al Mason claims that 50 per cent of Indian-American voters in key battle ground States are moving away from the opposition Democratic Party towards Trump.

Makhija argued that Harris’ vice-presidential candidacy would be historic and inspiring, not only for Black Americans, but for millions of voters of South Asian descent — like him. Asian Americans, more broadly, are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic voting bloc in the country, he said.

Indian-American entrepreneur from Silicon Valley Ajay Jain Bhutoria said its a great moment of pride and celebration for the Indo-American Community to have Harris as Vice Presidential Candidate with Joe Biden for President 2020. “Joe Biden is running to restore the soul of the nation and unite the country to move us forward. Joe knows more about the importance of the vice presidency than just about anyone and he is confident that Harris will be the best partner for him to finally get the country back on track,” he said.

International

Government Bans 47 More Chinese Apps in India After TikTok, 58 Others Banned in June: Report

The government has banned 47 Chinese apps in India. Near the end of June, 59 Chinese apps had been banned by the government to “protect national interest and security” — including the hugely popular TikTok app. Now, almost 50 more apps have been banned, for operating as clones of the previously banned apps — the list of particular apps banned in the fresh decision is yet to be announced. However, it has been reported that the announcement would take place officially shortly. The government earlier banned apps including CamScanner, SHAREit, and UC Browser, among others. That ban was announced under the provisions of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

The 47 apps that have been banned by the latest decision of the government were operating as the clones of the 59 apps that were banned last month, according to a tweet posted by DD News. A report by India Today TV, citing government sources, said that the government had also prepared a list of over 250 apps that would be examined for any user privacy or national security violations.

It is believed that some top gaming Chinese apps including PUBG Mobile would be a part of the new list of banned apps. However, the government is yet to release the details pertaining to the development.

International

Buddha statue that looks like former dictator to be ‘fixed’ or removed from pagoda in Myanmar

The jade Buddha statue resembling Than Shwe, near the southern entrance of Shwedagon pagoda (Photo- Sai Zaw/ Myanmar Now)
A seated Buddha statue that former dictator Than Shwe had carved in his image will be changed or removed as part of a government crackdown on depictions of the holy figure deemed inappropriate.

The statue, whose wide, stern facial features resemble the retired general’s, was erected in 1999 at Shwedagon pagoda, and is on a list of unorthodox statues drawn up by the religious affairs ministry.

“We will redo Buddha statues that go against the scriptures, and will remove them if they can’t be fixed,” the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary, Zarni Win, told Myanmar Now.

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping are among those who have paid respects at the statue during visits to Yangon.

It is sculpted out of white jade stone mined from Lone Khin township in Hpakant, weighs 324kg and is adorned with 91 rubies, nine diamonds and 2.5kg of gold, according to its descriptive plaque.

Shwedagon pagoda’s board of trustees said they were not aware of the decision about the statue.

“We have not received any letter from the ministry of religious affairs,” board member Aye Tun told Myanmar Now.

Zarni Win said the issue would need to be handled delicately and that he could not disclose all the details. “Since the ministry cannot act in haste, we would like to request the public to be patient and understanding,” he said.

Earlier this week dozens of Buddha statues donated by senior military figures were removed from a monastery in Naypyitaw and their bizarre behind-the-back hand gestures raised eyebrows.

The figures were apparently a superstitious bid to keep the military in power. Than Shwe often performed superstitious rituals to maintain his power and followed the advice of astrologers and shamans, according to the local writer Tin Nyunt.

International

Base in Gobi Desert shows Chinese Military capabilities like US Army

BY TYLER ROGOWAY:

As China’s military capabilities continue to rapidly expand and mature, so do the bases that support and test them. Case in point, the Dingxin Test and Training Base, a sprawling facility located Gansu Province, in the Gobi Desert, an area that has long been a military and weapons testing stronghold for the People’s Liberation Army. The base is one of the most unique in China as it supports the development of tactics and weaponry and advanced training of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) units in high-end, complex scenarios. Live fire drills are also a big part of what goes on there. The base hosts a fleet of aggressor fighters, as well as full-scale aerial target drones, the latter of which are converted largely from stocks of antique MiG clones. As such, Dingxin is roughly analogous to Nellis Air Force Base in the United States, with a bit of Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base mixed in.

With relative seclusion, wide-open airspace, expansive training range complexes, and good weather for year-round flying operations, Dingxin is home to the country’s highest-profile fighter and attack aircraft exercises, including the annual air-to-air focused Golden Helmet and air-to-ground focused Golden Dart competitions. Large force employment (LFE) exercises like Red Sword, roughly similar to the United States Air Force’s Red Flag, and Red and Golden Shield, which include advanced competitive training for Chinese surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft artillery, and electronic warfare units, also occur at and near the base

The installation is located next to Jiuquan City on the southern end of the expansive Shuangchengzi missile test range, an area full of unique facilities, some of which are quite intriguing, to say the least. In exclusive Planet Labs imagery from January 6th, 2020, we get a good look at this highly important installation and its many resident and visiting aircraft.

The base’s huge apron can facilitate well over 100 aircraft of all different types and does so regularly. Virtually every aircraft type in the PLA’s inventory has passed through the base and most do so regularly. The pink and beige-painted aggressors, which include Su-30s and J-10s, as well as less capable types, are a staple at Dingxin Test and Training Base and provide ‘red air’ support for the exercises and tests that occur there.

The installation’s training and tactics development activities are run by the Tactical Training Center’s 175th Air Brigade and the resident test unit that supports more cutting-edge flight test programs is the 176th Air Brigade, according to Scramble Magazine.