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No Resolution After Top-Level Talks Between Indian and Chinese Military Commanders

With significant gaps remaining between their positions, a prolonged standoff along the disputed Line of Actual Control is likely to continue.

An Indian army convoy drives along a highway in Gagangir, India, near the border with China, on June 19.
An Indian army convoy drives along a highway in Gagangir, India, near the border with China, on June 19.
An Indian army convoy drives along a highway in Gagangir, India, near the border with China, on June 19. Yawar Nazir/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Indian and Chinese military commanders meet for talks over the Line of Actual Control, the EU agrees to impose sanctions on Russia over the Alexei Navalny poisoning, and Tanzanian officials crack down on the opposition ahead of elections.

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U.S. Officials Are Skeptical of India's Talks With China 

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Indian and Chinese military commanders meet for talks over the Line of Actual Control, the EU agrees to impose sanctions on Russia over the Alexei Navalny poisoning, and Tanzanian officials crack down on the opposition ahead of elections.

If you would like receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


U.S. Officials Are Skeptical of India’s Talks With China 

China’s and India’s top military brass met for their seventh round of talks on Monday aimed at defusing tensions along their contested border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where violence has erupted several times this year.

Intractable positions. Officials did not immediately make details of the talks publicly available, but sources told the Times of India that the Indian delegation asked the Chinese for a “complete de-escalation” at troop interface areas, including the entire frontier in eastern Ladakh, where deadly clashes occurred in June; Indian commanders insisted that China needed to make the first move and revert to the positions it held in April. The Chinese delegation demanded that Indian forces vacate a series of tactical heights they occupied in late August before a resolution could be reached.

No end in sight. Similar to the first six rounds of negotiations, a breakthrough looks unlikely. There are still major gaps between the two sides, and neither India nor China has shown any willingness to reduce their significant military presences along the LAC. Although a resolution probably won’t be forthcoming, both sides have already agreed to refrain from needlessly escalating the standoff. After the last round of talks in September, they agreed to “stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation.”

Skepticism in Washington. But New Delhi is under some pressure from Washington. U.S. officials are skeptical that dialogue can resolve the dispute and have blamed China’s activity in the region as the source of the issue. “The Chinese Communist Party’s territorial aggression is apparent on its Indian border where China has attempted to seize control of the line of actual control by force,” U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Sunday. “The time has come to accept that dialogue and agreements will not persuade or compel the People’s Republic of China to change.”

The enemy of my enemy. But regardless of how the United States reacts to the latest round of talks, India’s tensions with China have brought Washington and New Delhi closer together. As Foreign Policy’s Sumit Ganguly wrote in August, “India has no choice but to turn to what scholars of international relations refer to as external balancing—seeking the support of a more powerful state to secure one’s national security interests.”


What We’re Following Today 

EU to sanction Russia. The European Union has agreed to impose a new round of sanctions on Russian individuals over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny last month. Germany and France proposed the measures at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, which the EU duly voted to back. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans on several Russian military intelligence officials. However, they will not take immediate effect and must be further reviewed by legal experts.

EU leaders have urged Moscow to provide transparency into the circumstances surrounding the attack. While Navalny was being treated at a hospital in Berlin, German experts determined that he had been poisoned by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, a substance that has been implicated in the poisonings of other Kremlin critics. Since his release from hospital, Navalny has publicly pinned the blame for his attack on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tensions reignite in eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has again dispatched the research vessel Oruc Reis to the contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean, stoking tensions with Greece. The Greek foreign ministry called the move a “major escalation” of the dispute and a “direct threat to peace in the region.” The Turkish defense minister said the vessel will be accompanied by a naval contingent “as needed.”

The Oruc Reis was previously sent to the region in August to survey possible oil and gas reserves in the area, immediately sparking the standoff with Greece which resulted in both countries sending military personnel to the region. The EU has been reluctant to sanction Turkey over its activities, but at an emergency session of the bloc earlier this month, it warned Ankara that it could impose sanctions as early as December.

Belarus authorizes lethal force. Belarusian authorities have threatened to use live ammunition on protesters in their most explicit threat of force since protests against President Aleksandr Lukashenko broke out in August. “Law enforcement officers and internal troops will not leave the streets and will use riot control equipment and lethal weapons if need be,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

The threat followed the ninth consecutive Sunday of major demonstrations in the capital of Minsk. Police used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse protesters, arresting 700 people across the country in the process. Also on Sunday, Lukashenko met with opposition leaders in jail to discuss constitutional reform as a way of defusing the crisis.


Keep an Eye On

Repression in Tanzania. Amnesty International published a report on Monday concluding that Tanzanian authorities have taken steps to repress the opposition ahead of elections on Oct. 28. Most of these efforts have been directed at the media. In June, the government banned the Tanzania Daima newspaper, a major outlet headed by opposition leader Freeman Mbowe. Authorities also passed laws severely limiting international coverage of the elections, and opposition figures have said that hundreds of candidates have been unfairly disqualified from standing in the elections.

President John Magufuli is seeking a second five-year term in office, but his presidency has been marred by a regressive slide toward authoritarianism. Since first taking office in 2015, Magufuli’s government has passed several laws increasing central control over Tanzania’s politics and society.

U.S. strikes Taliban targets. U.S. forces conducted a series of airstrikes on Taliban targets in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province as violence in the country continues despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Col. Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said the airstrikes did not violate February’s peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. “The Taliban need to immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country. It is not consistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan Peace Talks,” he said in a tweet.

The airstrikes followed a fresh wave of violence in the region. Taliban militants recently attacked several security checkpoints around the southern city of Lashkar Gah, part of a wider uptick in violence across much of the country.


Odds and Ends 

Imagine going into a coma in January and waking up to the state of the world today? Although former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig wasn’t actually in a coma, he has been held arbitrarily by the Chinese government for nearly two years along with fellow Canadian Michael Spavor. Canada and other western countries regard their detention as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

Kovrig had been held in extreme isolation in China beginning in January and made his first contact with the outside world on Saturday. “He was astonished to learn about the details of the Covid-19 pandemic and remarked that it all sounded like some ‘zombie apocalypse movie,’” his wife said in a statement.


That’s it for today. 

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Dan Haverty is a former editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @dan_haverty

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