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International relations

India blocks Chinese highway deals as military talks enter third round

Modi quits Weibo in new sign of souring economic ties after Himalayan clash

Traffic in Mumbai: India's highways minister said the country "will not give permission to joint ventures that have Chinese partners for road construction."   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- Indian and Chinese military commanders have held a third round of talks on disengagement along a contested border, Indian government sources said Wednesday, even as New Delhi takes a firmer stand against business and investment from China.

As the Himalayan region of Ladakh simmers two weeks after a June 15 clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, both sides stressed the need for an "expeditious, phased and stepwise de-escalation" during Tuesday's meeting, the sources said.

But one of the sources cautioned against expectations of a quick resolution.

"The process of dis-engagement along the [Line of Actual Control] is complex and in such a context, speculative and unsubstantiated reports need to be avoided," this person said, referring to the two countries' 3,500 km de facto border.

"More meetings are expected both at the military and at the diplomatic level," the source added.

Meanwhile, economic ties have become strained. Nitin Gadkari, India's road transport and highways minister, said Wednesday that Chinese companies will not be allowed to take part in the country's highway projects, including through joint ventures.

"We will not give permission to joint ventures that have Chinese partners for road construction. We have taken a firm stand that if they [Chinese companies] come via joint venture in our country, we will not allow it," the minister told local PTI news agency. "Even if we have to go for a foreign joint venture in the areas of technology, consultancy or design, we will not allow Chinese."

India's Narendra Modi takes a selfie in 2014, before becoming prime minister. India's leader has now reportedly quit Chinese social media platform Weibo.   © Reuters

Gadkari, who also holds the portfolio of minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, said the government will ensure that Chinese investors are not welcomed in these sectors as well.

His remarks follow New Delhi on Monday banning TikTok, WeChat and dozens of other Chinese apps, citing concerns over national security and data privacy.

Ji Rong, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, said on Tuesday that China firmly opposed the software ban.

"It runs against fair & transparent procedure requirements & abuses nation security exceptions," Ji said in a tweet. "We urge India to change discriminatory practices."

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's account on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, which he had joined in 2015, went blank on Wednesday, with his profile picture and posts taken down. Indian media reported that Modi has decided to quit Weibo.

The June 15 clash in eastern Ladakh -- which each country has blamed on the other side -- saw 20 Indian soldiers killed and was the first deadly clash between the two Asian giants in 45 years. New Delhi said there were casualties on the Chinese side, but Beijing has not released any figures.

The two nuclear-armed countries have long been fractious neighbors and fought a war in 1962 over their de facto border.

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