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India says China ‘inventing’ names in disputed Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh

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India hit out at China for giving “invented” names to several places in a disputed Himalayan region on their border as Beijing looks to assert sovereignty over the territory.

Several stretches of the lengthy frontier are disputed and relations have soured dramatically since 20 Indian soldiers died in a brawl in June 2020 on one section between Ladakh and Tibet.

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Since then, both sides have reinforced the region with thousands of extra soldiers and military hardware as multiple rounds of talks have failed to de-escalate tensions.

This week the Ministry of Civil Affairs said it had “standardized” the names of 15 places in Zangnan (“South Tibet”) — Beijing’s title for the region India calls Arunachal Pradesh — and gave them all formal Chinese names.

The renaming of residential areas, rivers, and mountains followed a similar move in 2017 involving six other locations in the same area.

“Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and will always be an integral part of India,” India’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“Assigning invented names to places in Arunachal Pradesh does not alter this fact,” spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “Southern Tibet is in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, and has historically been Chinese territory,” adding the renaming came within “the scope of China’s sovereignty.”

Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control by China, which says it “peacefully liberated” the rugged plateau in 1951. It fiercely defends and militarizes the Tibetan border and brushes aside any debate about Chinese historical ownership of the region.

India meanwhile sees China’s new Land Borders Law, approved in October and set to come into force on January 1, as a hardening of Beijing’s position.

The law calls China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “sacred and inviolable” and enables Beijing to “take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries.”

India said in October that it expected that “China will avoid undertaking action under the pretext of this law which could unilaterally alter the situation in the India-China border areas.”

Read more: India deploys US weapons to fortify disputed border with China

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Russian and UK defense ministers to meet over Ukraine

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has accepted an invitation to meet his British counterpart Ben Wallace to discuss the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine border, a senior UK defense source said Saturday.

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“The Defense Secretary is glad that Russia has accepted the invitation to talk with his counterpart,” the source said.

“Given the last defense bilateral between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has offered to meet in Moscow instead,” added the source.

“The Secretary of State has been clear that he will explore all avenues to achieve stability and a resolution to the Ukraine crisis.”

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s border, along with an arsenal of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery and missiles.

Russia has denied it plans to invade but the White House believes an attack could now come “at any point.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Friday that Moscow risks becoming embroiled in a “terrible quagmire” if it invades.

In a speech in Australia, the UK’s top diplomat issued a blunt and personal warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is on the brink of making a major strategic blunder.

He “has not learned the lessons of history,” Truss told Sydney’s Lowy Institute.

“The Ukrainians will fight this, it could be a quagmire” she said.

Britain is among a handful of Western nations rushing weapons such as anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

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At least six killed in blast in western Afghan city of Herat

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A blast ripped through a minivan in the western Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, killing at least six people, according to officials.

Herat commander Mawlawi Ansari told Reuters that nine people had been injured. The cause of the blast was not clear.

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A health official in Herat, who asked not to be named, said an explosion hit a small van used for public transport just after 1800 local time and that three of the injured were in serious condition.

Since the Taliban took over in August, a series of blasts and attacks, some claimed by Islamic State, have taken place across Afghanistan.

The attacks have heightened the new administration’s security challenges as the country spirals into an economic crisis.

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Arab League delays annual summit as COVID-19 bites again

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The Arab League has announced it is delaying its annual summit scheduled for March 22 in Algiers because of COVID-19 after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic.

“Every year, the summit is held in March, but this year, there has been a delay,” the pan-Arab organization’s assistant secretary general, Hossam Zaki, said in televised remarks Friday, a week after returning to Cairo from a visit to Algiers.

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The last Arab League summit was held in Tunis in March 2019. The past two years’ gatherings have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Zaki added that Algeria “preferred the option” of delaying the summit, noting that the critical mass of Arab leaders and high-ranking officials needed for the summit could not be guaranteed due to the public health situation.

Arab foreign ministers are expected to announce a new date for the summit during their scheduled meeting on March 9, Zaki said.

Zaki said that there were “no political reasons” behind the delay, but the time could be used to “improve political climates” in the region.

The summit is important for Algeria, which has been seeking to expand its political sphere of influence, against the backdrop of heightened tensions with Morocco.

No agenda has been announced for this year’s summit, but the Arab world remains plagued with multiple conflicts and crises.

These extend from the war in Yemen, which has killed nearly 400,000 people since 2015, to the 2021 coup in Sudan that resulted in its suspension from the African Union, as well as protracted crises in Libya, Lebanon and beyond.

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US commits to helping Saudi Arabia, Gulf partners defend against threats from Yemen

Libyan eastern parliament speaker calls for new government

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