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Indian soldiers deployed in the Ladakh region bordering China.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The hedge edge: India’s savvy but selfish non-aligned diplomacy

After facing off in the western Himalayas for over two years, with more than 100,000 troops deployed in what is considered the world’s highest battlefield, the Chinese and Indian militaries are finally disengaging.

The latest breakthrough, announced Thursday, comes after 16 rounds of negotiations conducted since June 2020, when some 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops were killed in a rare bloody skirmish. This was the worst fighting between the two sides there since a 1962 border war won by China and strained ties between Beijing and Delhi.

But while the Indians continue to negotiate with the Chinese, what does this mean for India’s perceived position as a natural “counterweight” to China? Indeed, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Delhi has bolstered its relationship with Moscow, Beijing’s new partner “without limits.” Are the Indians in fact trying to play all sides by moving closer to the China-Russia axis while staying a US strategic partner?

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What We're Watching: Few Iraqis vote, Czech Republic in crisis, China-India talks crash again

Iraq's dud of an election: Just 41 percent of eligible Iraqi voters showed up at the polls this weekend, the lowest turnout in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Lack of enthusiasm for the vote – the first since mass protests in 2019 over political corruption and economic stagnation prompted a fierce crackdown – shows the depths of popular dissatisfaction with the political elite. The election came as Iraq grapples with crumbling infrastructure, a moribund economy, and ongoing sectarian strife among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish players, with Iran meddling on behalf of the Shia groups. Preliminary results show that no candidate is on a path to win a clear majority, meaning that negotiations to choose a PM tasked with forming a government could take weeks or even months. Gulf countries and the US are hoping for a moderate who can ensure the stability of Iraq and challenge Iran's clout in the region. Iraq's current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in some ways fits the bill, having played a key role in mediating negotiations between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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What’s going on between India and China?

This week's skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in a disputed Himalayan border area represent the deadliest flare up between the two regional powers in many decades.

The two foes have been locked in a bitter border dispute for years, yet recurrent flare-ups have tended to be resolved through diplomacy. The spark that ignited the clashes this time seems to be a recent Indian infrastructure development, including a road to a remote Indian army base which New Delhi argues falls on its side of the Line of Control.

Though details remain murky, after the last rock was thrown Tuesday, at least 20 Indian troops were dead, while the People's Liberation Army also reported some "casualties" on its side, but stayed mum on the numbers.

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