Pakistan set to release Indian pilot at the Wagah border

  The captured Indian pilot who has become the face of one of the gravest military crises to engulf South Asia in two decades is expected to be released from Pakistani custody on Friday.

  A man identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan

has been held in Pakistan after his MiG-21 jet was downed during a dogfight between Pak

istani and Indian warplanes over the ceasefire line in the disputed Kashmir region on Wednesday.

  Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a joint session of parliamen

t that the pilot would be released at the Wagah border crossing on the demarcation line dividing the two countries on Friday afternoon, local time.

  Crowds of people were seen gathering at the border crossing on Friday, ahead of the pilot’s expected return.

  Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Abhinandan would be release

d Friday as a “gesture for peace,” offering a potential means of defusing tensions between the two nuclear powers.

  Despite the gesture, Indian officials have so far remained guarded, On Thursday, Indian

Army Major General Surinder Singh Bahal told a joint news conference that India remains on “high ale

rt” and that it was “fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation by Pakistan.”

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In what has become a hallmark of the crisis, the two sides

  have stood by differing accounts of what occurred in the skies over Kashmir.

  On Wednesday, Pakistan said its air force shot down two Indian fighter jets. India confir

med the loss of one plane and said it shot down a Pakistani jet as it responded to the incident.

  Indian military officials accused Pakistan of “factually inco

rrect statements” on its plane shootings and intentionally targeting military insta

llations. Pakistan said they dropped weapons in open space where there was no human presence or military posts.

  The Wagah border crossing where the pilot is expected to be hand

ed over is known for its daily parade known as the “beating retreat” ceremony.

  Every evening there for 60 years, Pakistan’s Rangers and India’s B

order Security Force take part in a lowering-of-the-flags ceremony before sunset.

  The ceremony, which ends with soldiers folding their countries’ flags and shaking ha

nds, draws attendees from both sides of the border, as well as international tourists.

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The long-standing tensions that existed in the region were

  not a big problem for Beijing, according to China expert Tsang, as they served to remind Islamabad of China’s importance as an ally.

  But the escalation this week has put Beijing in an awkward position.

  ”They have to do something to show that they are helping to keep thi

ngs under control, while not appearing unreliable as Pakistan’s ally,” Tsang said.

  But Beijing doesn’t want to overplay its support of Pakistan and push India into the arms of US President Donald Trump.

  Compounding China’s problems is the fact India claims it was striking back against terrorists in Kashmir.

  The mass detention of Muslim majority Uyghurs in China’s north western provinc

e of Xinjiang by the Chinese government is one of Beijing’s most controversial international policies — and

justified by China’s government on the grounds that it is an essential measure in combating terrorism.

  ”They don’t want to be too hard on India, because they’re acting in response to terrorism,” Tsang said.

  China experts said the country’s best option was to join the US in working to defuse tensions between Pakistan and India.

  Han Hua, professor and South Asia studies expert at Peking University, said given China h

as greater influence in Pakistan, while the US holds more sway in India, it made sense for the two to cooperate.

  ”China’s message is clear to both sides: exercise restraint,” she said. “China’s interest lies in the stability of South Asia.”

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China has been pulling off a delicate diplomatic balanc

  ing act in South Asia in the past year, after easing some regional tensions.

  In July 2017, for example, there was a heated month-long territorial standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in Doklam, near the borders of India, China and Bhutan.

  The two powers nearly came to blows over accusations the Chinese gov

ernment was building a road inside the territory of close Indian ally Bhutan.

  Nearby, China also conducted live-fire drills with combat troops.

  But a warm, informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Pri

me Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018 helped put relations back on a positive track.

  ”The common interests of China and India far outweigh

their differences,” state-run newspaper China Daily said in an editorial at the time.

  The situation is much clearer for China across the border. Pakistan is a longtime f

riend and trading partner of Beijing, described by Chin

ese diplomats as enjoying an “all-weather friendship” with the country.

  Pakistan is also one of the largest buyers of Beijing’s weapons. Between 2008 and

2017, Islamabad purchased more than $6 billion of Chinese arms, according to think tank CSIS.

  It hasn’t all been easy sailing, however. Questions have been raised about the

large debts Pakistan has accrued as a result of Chinese government loans and infrastructure.

  But Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been determined to keep the special rela

tionship with Beijing strong. “We need to use China as an inspiration to lift our people out of poverty,” he said.

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Wang Junsheng, an international relations expert with

the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expressed his optimism about the second summit and said that given the DPRK’s announcement that it would shift its strate

gic focus to economic development, the country will likely make concessions on giving up its nuclear weapons during th

is summit in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and the declaration of the end of the war.

Wang said denuclearization is an irreversible trend.

But Jenny Town, a research analyst at the Stimson Center in Washington, worried that it will be difficul

t for the two leaders to generate a specific road map and schedule for denuclearization at a single summit.

Also on Wednesday, the Republic of Korea’s presidential Blue House spokesman sa

id, “Whatever concessions Trump and Kim may make at their upcoming summit will be significant as th

ey will mean further progress toward the complete denuclearization of Pyongyang.”

Trump met separately with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Tro

ng and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier on We

dnesday. Kim is likely to meet the Vietnamese leaders during his two-day “official goodwill” visit after the summit w

ith Trump, given the local media reports saying Kim would leave the country on Saturday.

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The country will also push for high-quality developmen

of the sector with a focus on improving financial services and forestalling financial risks.

Opening-up of China’s financial factor has sped up, as the country re

moved foreign ownership caps of banks and financial asset management firms last year.

Richard Turnill, global chief investment strategist of BlackRock, an American global investment man

agement corporation, is also positive on China’s stocks market, according to the Barron’s report.

Turnill said stronger inflows into Chinese A-shares, and China’s efforts to boost credit growth and sti

mulate its economy are also helpful to a bullish stock market.

However, selectivity of stocks is needed, Turnill said, adding that BlackRock favors b

rokers and companies related to the domestic consumer that can benefit from the efforts to stimulate growth locally.

Major securities traders in China, such as the Merchants Securities, CITIC Securities, and Fo

under Securities are all optimistic about China’s stocks market this year, according to a report from finance.sina.com.

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i said preventing and defusing financial risks, especially

  systemic financial risks, are the fundamental tasks of financial work, calling for accelerated construction of the fina

ncial market infrastructure and advanced efforts to nationalize key information infrastructure in the sector.

  He also urged solid statistics in the financial sector and improvement in the warning system and rules on information disclosure and management.

  Education and supervision of senior officials of financial institutions and regulators sh

ould be enhanced, and more should be done to fight corruption in the financial sector, Xi said.

  He called for dynamic supervision of domestic and cross-border capital flow to enable financial watchdogs to fully monitor all flows.

  Xi said tasks for the reform and opening-up of the financial sector should be well implem

ented, calling for the preparation and the rolling-out of new reform and opening-up measures based on

the latest development of global economy and finance as well as the strategic needs of China.

  Reforms including revamps on market access system and trading regulations should be deepened, and regulators should take a two-pronged appr

oach of enforcing both macro-prudential management and micromanagement of behaviors, he said.

  He said those causing major financial risks due to their breaches such as lax regula

tion, cover-ups or decision-making failures must be held accountable and face serious punishment.

  Efforts should be made to address the current situation where the costs of legal and

regulatory breaches in the financial sector, especially capital markets, are too low, Xi said.

  Xi urged enhancing the global competitiveness of China’s financial sector, elevating the two-way opening-up to a highe

r level and beefing up capabilities of financial management and risk prevention and control amid greater opening-up.

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So the fact that the to-and-fro is still in progress this far

down the line highlight that there is a shared desire to secure an accord that delivers on the rapport that has been established — also perhaps beyond both side’s expectations.

But it would be getting ahead of the situation to consider the final push tow

ard a consensus on principled, mutually beneficial cooperation all done and

dusted. That consensus, which President Xi identified as the objectiv

e of the talks when he met with the US negotiators after the previous round of neg

otiations in Beijing, has still not been completed, and probably will not be until the two leaders meet to agree on the final det

ails. But there is no doubt that both sides are aware of how momentous such a consensus would be, beyond the tangible rewards it would offer both cou

ntries. For if the two sides can iron out their core differences by abiding by the principles of mutual respect and m

utual benefit, it would reset their relationship in a way that would bode well for the future.

History in the past four decades shows that the two countries benefit in an all-around wa

y from harmonious trade and economic relations, as they provide the ballast for their relationship.

There is obviously still more work to be done. However, if neither side puts a foot wrong, a deal will finally be signed sooner or later.

aaart.org.cn

In their article, the Conservative ministers warned that econom

  national security, and peace in Northern Ireland would be compromised in the case of a no-d

eal Brexit, and added the scenario would risk inflaming the nationalist sentiment in Scotland.

  ”Far from Brexit resulting in a newly independent United Kingdom, stepping boldly into t

he wider world, crashing out on March 29 would see us poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up,” they write.

  Rudd, Clark and Gauke also cautioned members of the European Research Gro

up (ERG), a Parliamentary alliance whose members advocate for a no-deal Brexit and have previously voted do

wn May’s deal, that their lack of cooperation would be responsible for a postponement in the Brexit process.

  ”It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognized that Parliament will stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit on Mar

ch 29. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit,” they wrote.

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However, a one-hour extension is less time than many

  voters have spent in line to cast their ballots in the crucial election.

  The incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is running against 71 other ca

ndidates, but his main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, a 72-year-old business tycoo

n and former vice president. They are both Muslim candidates from the north of the country.

  When Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015, it wa

s the first peaceful transition of power in Nigeria. He promised to offer a clean sweep of the old

routine, but many have been left disillusioned and angry at the rising levels of inequality and extreme poverty.

  More than 84 million people registered for the vote in Africa’s largest economic p

ower, according to data from the Independent National Electoral Commission.

  Videos have surfaced on social media reportedly showing the burni

ng of ballot papers and disruption of the electoral process in various parts of the country.

www.shlfec.com