World & Canada News - Aug. 10, 2017 issue

In The World

Diplomacy fails to defuse India, China border crisis: sources
Reuters/Aug. 8, 2017

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's diplomatic efforts to end a seven-week military standoff with China have hit a roadblock, people briefed on the talks said, prompting Chinese state-run media to trumpet rhetoric of "unavoidable countermeasures" on the unmarked border.

China has insisted that India unilaterally withdraw its troops from the remote Doklam plateau claimed by both Beijing and Indian ally Bhutan.

But China did not respond to India's suggestion in the talks that it move its troops back 250 meters (820 ft) in return, said one source with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

In the low-key diplomatic maneuvers that took place outside the public eye, the Chinese countered with an offer to move back 100 meters (328 ft), so long as they received clearance from top government officials.

But there has been no comeback since, except for China's mounting warnings of an escalation in the region, which it calls Donglang.

"It is a logjam, there is no movement at all now," said a second source with knowledge of the talks.

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry said the country would never give up any territory.

"Under no circumstances will China make its own territorial sovereignty a term of exchange," it said in a statement sent to Reuters when asked about the talks, reiterating that India had to unconditionally withdraw its forces.

Indian troops went into Doklam in mid-June to stop a Chinese construction crew from extending a road India's military says will bring China's army too close for comfort in the northeast.

Their faceoff since, military experts say, is the most serious since going toe-to-toe in the 1980s, with thousands of soldiers each, elsewhere along the 3,500-km (2,175-mile) border.

China has held off going to war in the hope New Delhi would see reason, the state-run Global Times, which has kept up a barrage of hostile commentary, said on Tuesday.

"If the Narendra Modi government continues ignoring the warning coming from a situation spiraling out of control, countermeasures from China will be unavoidable," it said.

The border crisis caps a year of souring diplomatic ties between the Asian giants, even though trade between the fast growing economies is rising rapidly.

India has grown concerned at China's ties to its arch rival Pakistan, viewing their trade corridor across Kashmir as an infringement of its claim to the whole of the region.

Modi refused to join President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road initiative to knit together Asia and beyond, making India the lone country to boycott a summit in May.

China has warned New Delhi not to be drawn into a Western military alliance led by the United States and including Japan. Modi has sought closer ties with both.

"There will be no happy ending for this confrontation," Indian foreign policy expert C. Raja Mohan wrote in the Indian Express newspaper, adding that India was unlikely to give in.

The second source said the worry was the standoff could drag on into a summit of BRICs nations China is hosting next month.

 

LIVE MANEUVERS

Indian military officials say there is no troop buildup on either side, nearly two months into a standoff that involved about 300 soldiers just 100 meters (328 ft) apart on a plateau 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above sea level.

China has accused India of massing troops, however, and state media have warned against a fate worse than its defeat in a brief border war in 1962.

"We will keep engaging with China to resolve the dispute. War cannot solve problems," Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament, sticking to a conciliatory stance.

Still, both have flexed their muscles.

Last month, China held live-fire drills on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau near the site of the standoff, state media said.

India's army ran low-key exercises in the Ladakh sector of the western Himalayas, where previous disputes have flared, though it is thousands of miles distant from Doklam.

"The chance of a conflict is low, nobody is expecting Xi Jinping to go to war before the Communist Party's congress," said Srikanth Kondapalli, a China specialist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, referring to an Oct-Nov meeting expected to confirm a second five-year term as party general secretary for the Chinese leader.


And In Canada

Americans crossing into Canada carrying guns with 'alarming frequency'
The Canadian Press/Aug. 8, 2017 

SAINT JOHN, N.B.  Six Americans have been charged with bringing handguns across the New Brunswick border so far this summer, as a Canadian prosecutor says it's proving difficult to let otherwise law-abiding people know they can't bring firearms on vacation.

"The offences continue to occur with alarming frequency during the summer months," federal prosecutor Peter Thorn said from Hampton, N.B.

Five men - three from Florida, two from New England - pleaded guilty and were fined between $1,500 and $2,000, he said.

Thorn, who has prosecuted these cases for years, said most of the people caught are "respectful and law abiding citizens of the U.S.A." who are unaware handguns are either restricted or prohibited in Canada.

He said many don't realize they can legally declare firearms and leave them behind as they enter the country. Many of the tourists are 60 and older, and from the South.

The Canadian government has issued travel advisories, and there is signage at the border, but some Americans keep bringing their guns and lying about it, he said.

Thorn said each time he handles a case, he asks the judge for a sentence that will deter others from travelling armed, but word doesn't seem to filter back to the U.S.

"Unfortunately, whereas the offenders reside in the U.S.A., it is highly unlikely that the sentencing message will ever reach those who could take heed or notice of the message," Thorn said in an email to The Canadian Press.

The first case at St. Stephen, N.B., this summer came May 20. A 69-year-old New Hampshire man admitted he had a .357 Magnum in his glove compartment as border guards inspected his SUV. He was fined $1,500.

Two days later, a 27-year-old Maine woman was charged with failing to declare a prohibited handgun at St. Stephen. She has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in Saint John, N.B., on March 23, 2018, Thorn said.

On June 9, a 66-year-old Tavernier, Fla., man denied having a gun in his motor home - until border officers found a Smith & Wesson 9 mm in a locked safe. He was fined $1,500.

On June 23, a Hampton, Fla., man arrived with two undeclared guns, including a prohibited .25 calibre Raven Arms handgun. He was fined $2,000.

On July 11, there were two cases within hours.

A 59-year-old New Hampshire man heading for Roosevelt Campobello International Park denied having guns while entering Campobello, N.B. from Lubec, Maine, and was targeted for a search.

He told officers he wanted to return to the U.S. but it was too late. Officers found a .38 in a storage case in his motor home, as well as undeclared alcohol and two grams of suspected marijuana. He was fined $2,000.

That same day, a handgun was seized from a 64-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., couple at St. Stephen. It was found, undeclared, in the woman's suitcase, where her husband had hid it without telling her, Thorn said.

"(The woman) stated that she specifically told her husband not to bring his handgun into Canada," said Thorn.

The man pleaded guilty, telling Judge Andrew LeMesurier of the New Brunswick provincial court they were coming to Canada to escape the heat.

The judge joked the "heat" found him - and that he should know by now to listen to his wife. The Jacksonville man was fined $2,000.

The Canadian Border Services Agency said such seizures are common.

In 2015, the agency seized seven guns in St. Stephen, up from five the previous year, it said. Nationally, it seized 671 firearms in 2015, 313 of which were prohibited in Canada, mostly in Ontario and B.C.

Last summer, Thorn said border agents seized a gun about once a week at St. Stephen.

On one weekend in August last year, two Texas men separately tried to bring hidden guns across at St. Stephen. On one October weekend, two retirees in their mid-60s from southern states arrived hours apart, both carrying weapons and both denying it.