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Address support to terror from outside Afghanistan: India to United Nations

United Nations: In a clear reference to Pakistan providing safe havens to terror groups, India has told the UN that the international community must urgently address the issue of backing to outfits like LeT, JeM and the Haqqani Network by “shadowy supporters” outside Afghanistan.

“Experience, as well as academic research, provides ample support for the assertion that conflicts in which foreign assistance is available to shadowy entities that fight legitimate state authorities tend to be more severe and last longer than other types of conflict,” India’s Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said in a Security Council session on the situation in Afghanistan.

Without naming Pakistan, Akbaruddin said sustainable peace in Afghanistan is contingent upon terror groups and individuals being denied safe havens in the country’s neighbourhood and the international community must address the issue of the support that terror outfits like the Taliban and al-Qaeda get from their supporters outside Afghanistan.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“If we are to bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan, groups and individuals that perpetrate violence against the people and the government of Afghanistan must be denied safe havens and sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood,” he said.

“We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organisations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, al-Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan,” Akbaruddin said at the United Nations on Monday.

He pointed out to the meeting in the 15-nation Council that it is apparent that efforts by nations for rebuilding institutions, infrastructure and networks in Afghanistan are being “undermined, schools are being destroyed, mosques bombarded and religious gatherings targeted”.

“It is also evident that those who perpetrate these heinous crimes have survived and thrived only with support and sanctuaries on the outside,” he said, in a veiled but strong reference to Pakistan.

Akbaruddin noted with concern that while the international community recommits to standing by the Afghan people each time the UN members discuss the situation in the war-torn country, the number of Afghan civilian and security forces casualties keeps rising.

“While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory. Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism,” he said.

The Indian envoy emphasised that the international community must introspect about the way it is approaching the situation in Afghanistan and whether there is need for course correction.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 13:11 IST

Russia’s Taliban outreach alarms Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Russia’s open admission that it was maintaining “limited political” contacts with the Taliban has set alarm bells both in Kabul and New Delhi. Russian ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy’s revelation comes just two days after the first-ever Pakistan-Russia consultations on regional issues.Reacting cautiously to the development, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “We do not see any downward trend in our bilateral relationship. However, in so far as the Taliban is concerned, they have to respect the internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with Al Qaeda, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years. Ultimately, it is for the Government of Afghanistan to decide whom to talk to and how.”In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammed Nafees Zakaria welcomed the Russia move, saying Pakistan has repeatedly emphasised the need for a politically negotiated settlement between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.“Pakistan believes that Afghan conflict has to be resolved through peaceful and political means. The most apt way to move forward in this regard is serious talks between Afghan Government and the Taliban. For this, Afghan government needs to send positive signals to the Taliban inviting them to join the peace process along with necessary incentives. In our view, an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process is the best way and not the military option,” he added.It appears that Russia and Iran of late have been seeking Taliban help to prevent Daesh or ISIS taking roots in the war torn country. Taliban control the south western part of Afghanistan, while the ISIS has shown its presence in the north eastern part of country. Earlier this month, Russian special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov at the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference at Amritsar had taken a stand at variance from India and Afghanistan, by extending support to support to Pakistan.The most severe reaction to Russia’s Taliban move on Thursday came from Kabul, where the legislative lower house, or Wolasi Jirga, passed a resolution, urging President Ashraf Ghani’s national unity government not to allow neighbouring and regional countries to interfere in internal Afghan matters “on the pretext of supporting the Taliban to fight Islamic State.” Afghan foreign ministry also warned that maintaining “any kind of support or contacts” with groups destabilising Afghanistan would undermine regional stability as well.Russian officials allege the US military and its NATO allies have failed to achieve their security objectives in Afghanistan and contain IS activities there. He said the number of terrorist groups had increased in Afghanistan compared to the past. “We are concerned about Daesh but we don’t know who sponsor them, we want the Afghan intelligence to clear the issue,” Mantytskiy said.

India’s bid to ‘spoil’ Pak-Afghan ties will not succeed: Sartaj Aziz

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s efforts to “spoil” Pak-Afghan ties will not succeed, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said as he downplayed Afghan President’s criticism of Pakistan’s support to terrorism, saying it was meant to “please” India.”Ashraf Ghani’s (Afghan President) statement is regrettable. It shows anxiety in Kabul and is understandable due to deteriorating law and order situation,” Aziz said, adding that Ghani’s “statements were meant to please India”.He said India’s efforts to divide Afghanistan and Pakistan will not go far as “we are next-door neighbours”.”Indian efforts will not succeed to spoil Pakistan ties with Afghanistan, as our ties are religious and cultural. That is why we want that terrorism should end in Afghanistan,” he said on returning home after attending the Heart of Asia meeting in Amritsar.”But our ties with Afghanistan are independent and we need to cooperate on several issues,” Aziz said.He claimed that India was trying to use Afghanistan for its own advantage “but it will not succeed”.Aziz also accused India of not treating the Pakistani media properly at the Heart of Asia meeting and said he was not allowed to have a press conference.”The attitude towards media was not good. I wanted to have press interaction with our own media. But we were not allowed,” he alleged.Afghan President Ghani had accused Pakistan of launching an “undeclared war” against his country by covertly supporting terror networks including the Taliban, and asked it to use its US $500 million aid to check extremism on its soil.He had also demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pakistan-sponsored terror operations.Aziz said Pakistan had reassured Ghani that its territory will not be used against Kabul.”I reassured Ghani that we will not allow out territory to be used against Afghanistan. But also emphasised better border management,” said Aziz.Aziz said the Afghan leader had a different idea about US $500 million assistance pledged by Pakistan and proposed a trilateral commission with China to utilise the amount for welfare of Afghanistan.

Heart of Asia conference: Pakistan ’embarrassed’ on terrorism, but policy will continue

Rarely in a multilateral meeting or conference does a participating country become the principal target of attack by a country that is the “chair” or “co-chair”. But this was precisely what happened on Sunday at Amritsar during the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process (HoA-IP), attended by 14 partner countries and more than 30 supporting countries and international organisations. The ‘hapless’ country happened to be Pakistan — the target of a hard-hitting attack by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, whose country was the co-chair along with India of this edition of HoA-IP.

In fact, Afghanistan was just simply not the co-chair. It is the heart of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference. This is because the principal goal of the HoA-IP, which was launched in November 2011 in Turkey, is to galvanise regional cooperation for peace, security and development in Afghanistan. That in the process it will also contribute to the stability and prosperity to Afghanistan’s extended neighbourhood in South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia is equally important, but Afghanistan remains the heart of the Istanbul process. And in this process of promoting peace and prosperity, the previous five Ministerial Conferences in Istanbul (2011), Kabul (2012), Almaty (2013), Beijing (2014), and Islamabad (2015) have facilitated both bilaterally and multilateral aid and developmental assistance worth billions of dollars.

However, peace and stability of Afghanistan remain elusive; the nascent Afghan democracy continues to be attacked by the religious extremists of various hues, Afghan soldiers continue to die on the battlefields and the Afghan people continue to be victims of terror attacks. And as long as this remains the state of affairs, there cannot be any secure development in Afghanistan. In other words, true realisation of the aid and economic assistance to Afghanistan depends most critically on the security of the Afghan people and the stability of the Afghan government. And that is not possible until and unless terrorists and sources of terror in Afghanistan are not taken care of.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh and other delegates, poses for a group photo before the inauguration of the 6th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh and other delegates, poses for a group photo before the inauguration of the 6th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

It is understandable therefore why the menace of terrorism dominated the Amritsar meet. While deliberating on this theme, various dimensions of terrorism came under discussion — identification of its source, base, networks, training and support. Terrorism is a multifaceted phenomenon; therefore, to tackle it requires a multifaceted approach. And in this endeavour, the Afghan president took the initiative in his inaugural speech at the Amritsar meet. He was at his candid best by saying that terrorism in this part of the world is a regional creation, the nerve centre being Pakistan.

Ghani was absolutely clear Pakistan has launched an “undeclared war” on his country by covertly supporting several terror networks including the Taliban. Pakistan is supporting the terror infrastructure and encouraging cross border terror attacks. In fact, he called for setting up of international mechanism to verify reality of such increasing attacks of late. “There should be an Asian or international regime, whatever is acceptable to Pakistan, in place to verify frontier activities and terrorist operations. We do not want blame games, we want verification,” he said.

But that was not all. He literally embarrassed Pakistan’s foreign policy advisor Sartaz Aziz, who was in the audience and who, as the representative of his country had already pledged $500 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

“We thank Pakistan for their pledges. This fund could very well be used to contain extremists because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” Ghani said, asserting that no amount of money can assist Afghanistan if there is support to terrorists by Pakistan.

In fact, 4 December must be considered a bad day for Pakistan’s diplomacy as its diplomats could not prevent the Amritsar Declaration from naming the terrorist organisations jeoparadising the security situation in Afghanistan. The declarations named Taliban, Islamic State/Daesh and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters. Almost all of them are based in Pakistan. And the whole world knows that organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are the creations of the Pakistani Army.

We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism. In this regard, we call upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006,” the declaration said.

Importantly, the declaration has spoken of the dangers emanating from “the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond”. And here too, it is a common knowledge that the southern Afghanistan region bordering Pakistan is the main area where poppy is cultivated under the control of the Pakistan-based terrorists. When harvested, most of it is sent via Pakistan’s Balochistan province to the rest of the world (through land route to Iran and beyond) and water routes through Pakistan’s ports. In fact, poppy happens to be an important source of finance to the Pakistan-based terrorists, the other source being Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two countries in lead to promote Wahhabism (fundamentalist Islam) all over the world.

The sixth Ministerial Conference of the HoA-IP has wisely suggested that “a regional approach” to eliminate terrorism, a manifestation of radicalisation of the societies in the region, must:

“(U)tilise the capacities of men and women throughout the cross section of society of the region that includes political figures, religious leaders, educational institutions, opinion makers, youth, civil society, mass media and social networks. We undertake to develop such a regional approach to counter radicalisation by tasking our relevant experts from the fields of security, education and local governance to meet in the first half of 2017 to identify key areas to be addressed for developing this regional approach and provide recommendations to be presented to the Senior Officials Meeting of the HoA-IP in the first half of 2017 for further action on this critical issue.”

However, the key question is – will Pakistan listen? It is true that terrorism is also afflicting Pakistan, but then Pakistan cannot afford to do away with terror as an instrument of foreign policy against India and Afghanistan. Because, peace and stability in India and Afghanistan can never be the foreign policy goals of Pakistan in foreseeable future. We all know about India. But why so in the case of Afghanistan? There are many reasons for this, including the so-called strategic depth that Afghanistan provides to Pakistan in its war against India. But most important is the fact that once Afghanistan becomes strong, secure and stable, it will demand the return of its territories, particularly Waziristan (even Peshawar region). And this is something Pakistan will not easily allow.

Waziristan covers an area of 11,585 square kilometres (4,473 square miles) and is divided into what are defined as North and South Waziristan agencies. The total population today is estimated to be around a million. The region is one of the most inaccessible, has an extremely rugged terrain and has remained outside the direct control of the Pakistani government. The Wazir tribes, along with the Mehsuds and Dawars, inhabit the region and are fiercely independent. They did not bother the Pakistani government till the fall of the Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan, when the region became a sanctuary for fleeing Al Qaeda and Taliban elements. In fact, they do not realise that the Durand Line, which marks the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, has made them Pakistanis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani shake hands at 6th Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani shake hands at 6th Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

For them, the Durand Line is artificial in every sense of the term. The other side of the line, which is Afghan territory, is as much their land as the Pakistani side. They have never seen or accepted any restrictions on their movements or those of their “guests” across the Durand Line, nor are they in a mood to accept such restrictions.

In fact, going by history and ethnicity, they have more affinity with the people of present-day Afghanistan than those in Pakistan. And most importantly, no government in Afghanistan has formally accepted Waziristan as part of Pakistan. Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, who was foreign secretary in the colonial government of British India, signed a document with the king of Afghanistan Abdur Rahman Khan on 12 November, 1893, relating to the borders between Afghanistan and modern-day Pakistan, which was then India. The International Boundary was named the Durand Line. However, no legislative body in Afghanistan has ever ratified the document and the border issue is an ongoing contention between the two countries.

The Durand Line, which runs though areas inhabited by the Pashtuns, was never accepted by either the Afghan government — which signed it under duress — or the Pashtuns that sought to create their own homeland called Pashtunistan. In fact, in April 1919 during the Anglo-Afghan war, Afghan General Nadir Khan advanced to Thal in southern Waziristan to reclaim Afghan rights over the region. The area was recovered after a long fight where many were killed by the British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer.

Besides, Afghanistan’s loya jirga or political meetings of 1949 had declared the Durand Line invalid as they saw it as ex parte on their side, since British India had ceased to exist in 1947. It proclaimed that the Afghan government did not recognise the Durand Line as a legal boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This being the situation, every government in Islamabad, military and non-military, has desperately tried to reach a bilateral agreement with successive regimes in Kabul to convert the Durand Line into an international border, but without success. Even when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Pakistan, which aided and abetted the Taliban during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and was one of the few countries to have recognised the Taliban government in Kabul and allowed it to have an embassy in Islamabad, expected, in vain, a favourable response.

This explains why Pakistan will always want a dependent government in Kabul, which is more likely to ensure the de facto preservation of the lapsed and abrogated Durand Line even if it cannot be converted into an international border. But this is something no Afghan government can afford to agree with.

So, Pakistan will continue to perpetuate instability and chaos in Afghanistan.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 09:03 IST

Sartaj Aziz lashes out at Afghan Prez, says exchanged pleasantries with PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said he “exchanged pleasantries” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and NSA Ajit Doval in Amritsar, hours after India said there was no Indo-Pak bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia meet.Aziz addressed a hurriedly called press conference here soon after his return from India. He did not give any details of his interaction with top Indian leaders but said that no breakthrough was achieved.”I met and exchanged pleasantries with Prime Minister Modi, Arun Jaitley and Ajit Doval and others on the sidelines,” Aziz said. “We had no expectation of breakthrough. Who had such an expectation from the conference? At least, I had no such expectation,” Aziz asserted.While Indian sources said Aziz and Doval “had a stroll for about 100 feet” at the venue of the dinner ‘Sada Pind’, a heritage village, Pakistani officials maintained that they had a “meeting”. However, it is not known what transpired during their conversation. When asked, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “There was no meeting”. Aziz, after returning to Pakistan, said his country was ready for talks with India to discuss all issues including Kashmir and rejected the notion that Kashmir was not a problem “Kashmir is a reality. If it is not a problem then why they are keeping 700,000 troops there? Why Kashmir was shut down for over four months?” he said. Aziz also accused India of not treating the Pakistani media properly at the Heart of Asia meeting and said he was not allowed to have a press conference. “The attitude towards media was not good. I wanted to have press interaction with our own media. But we were not allowed,” he alleged.Aziz also criticised Afghan president Ashraf Ghani for remarks against of Pakistan at the conference.”Ashraf Ghani’s statement is regrettable. It shows anxiety in Kabul and is understandable due to deteriorating law and order situation,” he said. Afghan President Ghani directly blamed Pakistan for “launching an undeclared war” against his country and demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pakistan- sponsored terror operations. Aziz, who also met Ghani, said the Afghan leader had a different idea about USD 500 million assistance pledged by Pakistan and proposed a trilateral commission with China to utilise the amount for welfare of Afghanistan.He said Pakistan had reassured Ghani that its territory will not be used against Kabul. “I reassured Ghani that we will not allow out territory to be used against Afghanistan. But also emphasised better border management,” said Aziz. Aziz asserted that Ghani said what India wanted to hear. “But our ties with Afghanistan are independent and we need to cooperate on several issues,” Aziz said. He claimed that India was trying to use Afghanistan for its own advantage “but it will not succeed”. “Indian efforts will not succeed to spoil Pakistan ties with Afghanistan, as our ties are religious and cultural. That is why we want that terrorism should end in Afghanistan,” he said

Heart of Asia: Amritsar Declaration calls for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Combating terrorism was at the centre-stage of Heart of Asia (HoA) conference which sent a clear message to Pakistan,holding terror and violent extremism as the biggest threat to peace, but could not firm up a regional framework proposed by Afghanistan to effectively deal with the menace.After the two-day deliberations, attended by 40 countries including major regional and global powers and blocs, the HoA, a platform to help Afghanistan in its transition, issued the Amritsar Declaration which called for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks. Held in the backdrop of number of cross-border terror attacks on India and elsewhere, the HoA expressed serious concern over gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan and in many parts of the region, holding that united efforts are required to contain terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, IS and its affiliates, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist groups.Addressing a press conference, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who headed the Indian delegation, said the declaration recognises terrorism as the biggest threat to peace and stability and demands immediate end to all forms of terrorism and all support, financing, safe havens and sanctuaries to it. “For the first time, a Heart of Asia Declaration expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, LeT and JeM etc,” Jaitley said. Incidentally, HOA’s Islamabad declaration had mentioned Al Qaeda and Daesh.Apart from calling for concerted cooperation to combat the terror groups, the declaration sought early finalization of the a draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. It also favoured an early meeting of experts to discuss a draft Regional Counter-Terrorism Framework, recently prepared by Afghanistan, for its early finalization. Afghanistan had pushed hard for adoption of the framework but as many countries had not given their inputs, it could not be firmed up.Afghan President Ashraf Ghani slammed Pakistan for providing support and safe sanctuaries to terror groups including Taliban, accusing it of engaging in an “undeclared war” while many other leaders sought firm and decisive action to deal with the challenge. Jaitley said three major issues deliberated upon at the conference were countering terrorism to create stability and security in Afghanistan, providing it with connectivity and ensure the war-ravaged country s development.”We recognize that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region. We encourage the international community to continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan.”We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism,” said the declaration. In this regard, “we call upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006.”Furthermore, we encourage early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus,” said the declaration. In an indirect reference to Pakistan, the declaration said the HoA acknowledged the support that terrorism derives in the region and demands an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism.The declaration, which also mentioned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and East Turkistan Islamic Movement, said it was “recognising once again that terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, separatism, and sectarianism and linkages among them are the gravest challenges that the Heart of Asia region and the rest of the international community face” These problems would continue to pose a severe threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, economic development and bilateral and regional cooperation. “We renew our strong commitment to strengthening comprehensive cooperation among the Heart of Asia countries and intensify our efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations through solidarity and collective action,” the declaration said.It said the countries recognised the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youths to extremist and terrorist networks and underlined the need for effective de-radicalization and counter-radicalization strategies. The HoA felt combating terror will not succeed without a concerted and coherent regional approach and decided to develop such a regional approach by tasking experts to meet in the first half of 2017 to identify key areas for such initiative.The experts will give recommendation to the HoA in the first half of 2017 for further action. Calling for dismantling nexus between revenue and its financial support for terrorist entities in the region, it said dialogue between relevant ministries and agencies of the HoA countries were necessary to tackle the menace. The Conference was attended by delegations from practically every participating country, supporting countries and international organizations 45 in all.The delegations of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan, and of the European Union were led by the respective Ministers. The Conference also saw the presence and participation of guest countries Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia and Uzbekistan.Jaitley said the discussions and the declaration reiterated the strong support from the Heart of Asia countries for Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation. Specific initiatives in this regard including the India-Iran-Afghanistan Trilateral Agreement on developing Chabahar were acknowledged. He said during the Conference various delegations expressed appreciation for the constructive role that India has been playing in supporting Afghanistan and its people in the past decade and a half. In the press conference, Jaitley said terrorism was at the “core” of the deliberations and that it took the centre-stage with tone being set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Stressing on the connectivity projects, he said India was considering a number of road and rail projects to establish direct link between the two countries. Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai termed the deliberations “extremely productive” and said his country was looking to enhance connectivity with India via land routes.In the declaration, the HoA also commended the Afghan government for successfully pursuing peace talks with Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resulting in the “signature of a peace agreement that sets a good precedent for future peace talks with all other armed groups”. It also appreciated Iran and Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over three decades.The HoA countries also urged all Afghan Taliban groups and other armed groups to enter into peace talks with the Afghanistan government. “We acknowledge the crucial role of Afghanistan as a natural land bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration in the Heart of Asia region, and we reiterate our strong support for Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation.”We further stress that economic development will contribute to achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region, and enhance regional economic integration. “In this regard, we welcome the practical implementation of TAPI and completion of the first stage of the Asian International Railway Corridor between Imamnazar, Turkmenistan, and Aqina, Afghanistan — the initial stages of TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” the declaration read.It also welcomed the MoU on jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between the China and Afghanistan. “All these will lay the foundations for a successful Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) planned for November 2017 in Ashgabat,” it said. Next year, the Heart of Asia conference will be held in Azerbaijan.

Heart of Asia: Full text of Amritsar Declaration

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Combating terrorism was at the centre-stage of Heart of Asia (HoA) conference which sent a clear message to Pakistan, holding terror and violent extremism as the biggest threat to peace, but could not firm up a regional framework proposed by Afghanistan to effectively deal with the menace.After the two-day deliberations, attended by 40 countries including major regional and global powers and blocs, the HoA, a platform to help Afghanistan in its transition, issued the Amritsar Declaration which called for dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.Held in the backdrop of number of cross-border terror attacks on India and elsewhere, the HoA expressed serious concern over gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan and in many parts of the region, holding that united efforts are required to contain terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, IS and its affiliates, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist groups.Here is the full text of the Amritsar Declaration:December 04, 20161. We, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and high-level representatives of the participating and supporting countries, joined by high level representatives of the international and regional organizations, have met in Amritsar, the Republic of India, on 4 December 2016 at our Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP). The Conference was co-chaired by HE Shri Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of the Republic of India and HE Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.2. We express our gratitude to HE Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and H.E. Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India for inaugurating the Sixth Ministerial Conference.3. We recall the five Ministerial Conferences in Istanbul (2011), Kabul (2012), Almaty (2013), Beijing (2014), and Islamabad (2015) and we reaffirm our commitment to the principles, objectives, and outcomes enshrined in the Declarations of these Conferences that have defined the ideals for the working of the HoA-IP aimed at promoting regional peace and prosperity.4. We reaffirm the importance of the HoA-IP as an important regional platform for political dialogue and close regional cooperation aimed at promoting stability, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the entire Heart of Asia region, and for enhancing Afghanistan’s connectivity with the entire Heart of Asia region. We recognize the role of cultural heritage as a catalyst for social and economic development of the Heart of Asia region.5. We reaffirm our commitment to the United Nations Charter and its enshrined principles of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, sovereign equality of nations and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states as well as universally recognized principles and norms of international law. Further, we reaffirm our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We reiterate the importance of increased political dialogue and consultations between countries of the Heart of Asia region for a stable, peaceful and prosperous region.6. We remain committed to resolving our differences peacefully, and refraining from threat or use of force against the political independence, territorial integrity, or sovereignty of any state. We will also work towards regional consensus on non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, which is critically important for good neighborliness between countries of the region, and for peaceful co-existence as independent and sovereign nations, and re-affirm our commitment to these principles.7. We stress the need for advancing regional cooperation as an effective means to address common challenges and to promote security, stability and socio-economic development in the Heart of Asia region. We, therefore, renew our commitment to strengthening enhanced cooperation among Member States in a sincere and effective manner.8. We reaffirm our appreciation and express strong and unequivocal support for the ongoing constructive efforts of the Government of Afghanistan towards regional engagement and its commitment to building an increasing environment of trust and confidence throughout the region.9. We appreciate the commitment of the international community for supporting the Government and people of Afghanistan and stress the crucial need for continuation of such support for achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.10. We welcome the assumption of full responsibility for security by the ANDSF and for their role in fighting terrorism andviolent extremism in Afghanistan. We welcome the agreements between the International Community and the Government of Afghanistan, and relevant decisions, which allow for continued financial support to the ANDSF until 2020 and assistance to them by the Post-ISAF Mission, in support of long-term security and stability in Afghanistan. We also pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the ANDSF and international forces.11. We commend the European Union and Afghanistan for convening the October 4-5 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, and recognize the importance of the development assistance commitments made by over 100 countries and international organizations, and of the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) and its deliverables. We call on the international community to further strengthen international and regional cooperation towards sustained efforts for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.12. We appreciate the continued efforts by the OIC and Afghanistan to convene the International Ulema Conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia with inclusive representation of the Islamic countries and hope a positive outcome would contribute to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.13. We recognize the significance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and its subsequent resolutions on the role of women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and post-conflict processes in the Heart of Asia region.14. We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL / DAISHand its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters. Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in our region, we demand an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism. We recognize that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region. We encourage the international community to continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan. We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism. In this regard, we call upon all states to take action against these terroristentities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligationsand the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006.Furthermore, we encourage early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus.15. We commend the government of Afghanistan in successfully pursuing peace talks with Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar resulting in the signature of a peace agreement that sets a good precedent for future peace talks with all other armed groups.16. We commend countries in the region and beyond, particularly Iran and Pakistan, for their hospitality in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over three decades. We call on all these countries to continue hosting the Afghan refugees until their sustainable repatriation and reintegration in Afghanistan can take place in a voluntary, safe, gradual and dignified fashion, in accordance with the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Communities. We are concerned by the recent spike of Afghan refugee returns and the challenges that this sudden influx presents for returnee re-integration programmes. We therefore urge the international community to provide generous support and targeted assistance for Afghan refugees, returnees and host communities in the region, with emphasis on youth, education and livelihoods. We welcome the Afghanistan-Pakistan-UNHCR and Afghanistan-Iran-UNHCR Tripartite Commissions on Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan Refugees from Iran and Pakistan, as vital steps in the Solutions Strategy. We support the Final Statement of the UNHCR Executive Committee High Level Segment refocusing the international community’s attention on the Afghan refugee situation in this critical period.Addressing Challenges17. Recognizing once again that terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, separatism, and sectarianism and linkages among them are the gravest challenges that the Heart of Asia region and the rest of the international community face, and these problems would continue to pose a severe threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, economic development and bilateral and regional cooperation, we renew our strong commitment to strengthening comprehensive cooperation among the Heart of Asia countries and intensify our efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations through solidarity and collective action.18. We reaffirm our recognition made in Islamabad last year that violent extremism facilitates, encourages and justifies acts of terrorism and violence and we undertake to introduce measures to curb the spread of violent extremism and terrorism. We recognize the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youth to extremist and terrorist networks. We realize that the radicalization of disaffected elements of the population, especially youth, can only be prevented by effective de-radicalization and counter-radicalization strategies involving all the HoA countries.19. We, therefore, believe efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism and violent extremism will not succeed without a concerted and coherent regional approach involving all HoA countries. This approach will have to utilize the capacities of men and women throughout the cross section of society of the region that includes political figures, religious leaders, educational institutions, opinion makers, youth, civil society, mass media and social networks. We undertake to develop such a regional approach to counter radicalization by tasking our relevant experts from the fields of security, education and local governance to meet in the first half of 2017 to identify key areas to be addressed for developing this regional approach and provide recommendations to be presented to the Senior Officials Meeting of the HoA-IP in the first half of 2017 for further action on this critical issue. We encourage HoA member countries to share their experiences and best practices in the area of counter radicalization with a view to helping evolve their national counter radicalization strategies.20. We welcome and support Afghanistan’s initiative in taking the lead in exploring a regional counter-terror strategy, in accordance with the established principles of the UN charter, which we agreed was necessary when we last met in Islamabad in December 2015. We note the progress that has been made since the last Ministerial with an Ambassadorial meeting of the CT-CBM participating countries at which a draft framework strategy was shared by Afghanistan for further consideration and development. We call for convening an early meeting of experts to discuss the draft framework strategy with the view to its finalization for consideration by senior security officials.21. We are concerned about the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond. This requires further eradication efforts and poses a threat to the socio-economic development, security and stability not only in Afghanistan, but also in the surrounding region and the world as a whole. We understand that acuteness and global scale of the drug threat requires appropriate international efforts aimed at intensifying measures to fight drugs production and trafficking in Afghanistan and the region of HoA. We also stress the urgent need to respond to the serious challenges posed by the nexus between revenue and its financial support for terrorist entities in Afghanistan, the Heart of Asia region and globally. To disrupt these links, the HoA countries intend to increase dialogue between their relevant ministries and agencies to tackle this menace. In this regard, we believe it is essential to integrate a comprehensive approach in addressing the drug problem of Afghanistan and the HoA region.22. We recognize that a politically negotiated settlement remains important for durable peace in Afghanistan. We reiterate our support to the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to advance an Afghan led Afghan owned peace process. We urge all Afghan Taliban groups and all other armed groups to enter into peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan. While recognizing the importance of the contributions of neighboring countries and regional partners in this process, we urgeall those countries in the region and beyond who have leverages and influence to help bring the Taliban to the negotiation table.Achieving Prosperity23. We acknowledge the crucial role of Afghanistan as a natural land bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration in the Heart of Asia region, and we reiterate our strong support for Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance wider regional economic cooperation. We further stress that economic development will contribute to achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region, and enhance regional economic integration. In this regard, we welcome the practical implementation of TAPI and completion of the first stage of the Asian International Railway Corridor between Imamnazar, Turkmenistan, and Aqina, Afghanistan — the initial stages of TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Further, we encourage the early implementation of the multinational energy and connectivity projects of CASA-1000, TUTAP, Chabahar Agreement, the Five Nation Railway, TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan by rail, all of which would play a central role in strengthening regional cooperation between Central Asia and South Asia and further forge economic connectivity and growth in the region. We welcome the MoU on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. All these will lay the foundations for a successful Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) planned for November 2017 in Ashgabat.24. We are encouraged by the continued commitment of regional countries to establish significant North-South and East-West corridors within the Heart of Asia Region with a focus on the development of infrastructure connecting Afghanistan and the region to seaports. We recognize the crucial significance of enhanced and assured sea-land access for Afghanistan to region’s biggest markets. In this context, we note the significant step taken by Afghanistan, Iran and India by signing their trilateral transport and transit agreement based on sea access through Chabahar. Once implemented, this corridor will provideadditional and dependable access for Afghanistan and Central Asia to regional and global markets.We also welcome the progress made on the Lapis Lazuli corridor, and believe that this will further increase the connectivity of Afghanistan.25. We appreciate the necessity to maximize the speed of movement of goods across the region, and in this context we agree to collaborate more closely in removing the non-tariff barriers to trade, establishing and implementing bilateral and multilateral regional transit-trade framework agreements. In this regard, we stress on the urgent need to integrate, through the land route, South Asia and Central Asia through the expansion of existing bilateral trade and transit agreement both northwards and southwards.26. We recognize the importance of the role of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the economic growth of individual countries and the region as a whole. We commit to undertake measures to strengthen the growth of SMEs, including women entrepreneurship, and enable their expansion across borders into other countries of the region. To realize these objectives, we task the members of the Trade, Commerce and Investment Opportunities CBM to explore measures, such as simplifying customs procedures, exchanging information on regional markets and addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers, and submit a report to the Senior Officials Meetings, so as to take these ideas forward for implementation.Confidence Building Measures27. Reiterating our collective support to promote the implementation of six CBMs identified in the HoA-IP, we note with satisfaction that a number of activities under various CMBs that were carried out since we last met in Islamabad in December 2015.28. We request the lead countries of CBMs that did not hold their Regional Technical Group meetings as we stipulated in Beijing (2014) and in Islamabad (2015) to reflect on how they could strengthen their capacity to play a lead role, as per their commitments, in advancing the work of the CBM that they lead. We also call upon participants and supporters to collaborate closely to implement prioritized activities under the CBMs of which they are members. We urge lead countries, participating and supporting countries and organizations to ensure the implementation of the activities prioritized by each CBM.29. We appreciate the valuable support of the international community to the HoA-IP. In this context, we look forward to continued contributions of the supporting countries and organizations to realize the implementation activities prioritized under each CBM. In order to have a more precise picture of the contributions by the international community to the Heart of Asia Process, we request the co-Chairs to provide us with an annual report on the activities of each CBM and the contributions made by the participating countries and supporters of this process. In this context, an assessment of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process from its inception in 2011, including on the CBMs, was carried out by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and presented to the Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process in New York. We encourage participant countries and supporters to consider the recommendations of this assessment.Conclusion30. We task our Senior Officials to hold the first 2017 SOM of this process, within three months of this Conference, and engage in substantive discussions on various important subjects in accordance with our commitments in Beijing and Islamabad and also to review the plans submitted by the RTGs.31. We express our sincere appreciation to the Government of the Republic of India for hosting the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Amritsar. We welcome the willingness of Republic of Azerbaijan to host the next Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process as Co-chair in 2017.32. We welcome the presence of guest countries Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia and Uzbekistan in this Conference and note their interest in the Heart of Asia Istanbul process.33. This Declaration was adopted in Amritsar, India on 4 December 2016, by the Foreign Ministers and high-level representatives of the participating countries of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Russian Federation, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations. This Declaration was welcomed and supported by the Foreign Ministers and high-level representatives of the supporting countries of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, and the high-ranking representatives of the supporting international and regional organizations: Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, Royal Kingdom of Denmark, Arab Republic of Egypt, European Union, Republic of Finland, Republic of France, Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Iraq, Republic of Italy, Japan, Republic of Poland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Collective Security Treaty Organizations (CSTO), Economic Cooperation Organizations (ECO), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Simplistic to blame Pakistan for Afghanistan’s troubles: Under-fire Sartaj Aziz at Heart of Asia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Under severe attack over terrorism emanating from its soil, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz hit back saying it is “simplistic” to blame one country even as he raked up the issue of strain in Indo-Pak ties at the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference on Afghanistan. Aziz asserted his attending the meet despite “escalation” along the LoC was testimony to Pakistan’s “unflinching” commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and expressed unhappiness over cancellation of SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November, terming it as a setback to regional cooperation.He did not mention the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Noting that Pakistan was aware about serious challenges being faced by Afghanistan, Aziz said, “The first and foremost in our view is continuing violence and acts of terrorism claiming scores of human lives. This needs to be addressed urgently and effectively through collective efforts.”The security situation in Afghanistan is very complex. It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.”His strong response came after India and Afghanistan hit out at Pakistan for sponsoring and supporting terrorism and called for “resolute action” against terrorists as well as their masters.Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who jointly inaugurated the annual Ministerial conference here along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directly hit out at Pakistan for “launching an undeclared war” against his country and demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pak-sponsor terror operations. In his address at the HoA conference, a platform for Afghanistan’s transition, Aziz said,” My participation in the event, despite escalation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary with India, is testimony to Pakistan’s unflinching commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region.”I look forward to meaningful deliberations today towards this objective,” he said and pressed for a politically negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue.Observing that regional cooperation plays an important role in ensuring political stability and promoting economic cooperation, he said postponement of the SAARC Summit scheduled in Islamabad in November was a setback to these efforts and “undermined the spirit of regional cooperation”.”SAARC is an important forum, not only for promoting regional cooperation but also for the improvement of relations,” he said.India had pulled out of SAARC Summit, citing cross-border terror strikes emanating from Pakistan. Afghanistan and other SAARC countries had also sought cancellation of the eight-nation meet on the grounds that there was incitement of terrorism in the region.Aziz arrived here last night amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan over a series of cross-border terror attacks on India by Pakistan-based terror outfits and India’s surgical strike across the LoC two months back.

Heart of Asia summit LIVE: Amritsar Declaration recognises terrorism as the biggest threat, says Arun Jaitley

Heart of Asia summit LIVE: Amritsar Declaration recognises terrorism as the biggest threat, says Arun Jaitley

By Updated: Dec 4, 2016 17:14 IST

Dec 4, 2016

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Pakistan Premier’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz along with foreign ministers of four countries on Sunday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who told them that it was important to end terrorism and violence for fostering stability in Afghanistan and the region.

The Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Slovakia, which holds the European Union Presidency this month, along with Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Aziz called on Modi ahead of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process on Afghanistan.

PM Narendra Modi with Nawaz Sharif. PTI file imagePM Narendra Modi with Nawaz Sharif. PTI file image

PM Narendra Modi with Nawaz Sharif. PTI file image

Modi welcomed the Foreign Ministers and stressed it was the collective responsibility of all those in the region to work together to help Afghanistan out of its current difficulties, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

The Prime Minister stated that his several interactions with both the common people of Afghanistan and the country’s leadership had convinced him that the Afghan people were tired of the continuing violence and terrorism. Prime Minister Modi stressed on “the need to end terrorism and violence for fostering stability, security and development in Afghanistan and our region,” Swarup said. In this context, the Prime Minister hoped that discussions in the Ministerial Conference tomorrow will produce good results.

Agreeing with the Premier on the need to end violence in Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministers shared Prime Minister Modi’s view that Afghanistan’s stability, security and prosperity are integral to the region’s, Swarup said. “They greatly appreciated the continued commitment and engagement of India and its leadership for these ends.

The Foreign Ministers warmly thanked India for hosting the Conference and expressed confidence that all friends of Afghanistan will work together for realising the aspirations for peace and development,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 17:15 IST

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Will Heart of Asia bypass Pak artery in Amritsar?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Will India-Pakistan tensions hijack the agenda of an international conference on Afghanistan? That is the question agitating the minds of delegates who started arriving in Amritsar for the two-day Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, which began on Saturday.India was scrambling to insulate the talks about rebuilding Afghanistan — via trade and connectivity, development assistance, and security cooperation – after Pakistan Foreign Affairs and Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz landed here in on Saturday evening, ahead of his scheduled arrival on Sunday morning.Whether Aziz’s engagements before he returns home on Sunday will go beyond the customary handshakes and photo-ops to informal, unstructured contacts with Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his aides is the subject of animated discussions on the margins of the Afghan conference.The symbolism of Aziz’s visit is not lost on key world capitals, coming as it does soon after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army installation at Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir, which was only the latest in a series of attacks that have rocked Jammu and Kashmir, starting with the attack on the Pathankot air base in January this year. This was followed by the September 18 attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri, which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, among others.This is the third time in as many years that India is hosting world leaders or multilateral summits outside New Delhi. The choice of Amritsar as the venue of the Afghan conference is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to take summitry outside the cloistered confines of New Delhi.In 2014, Modi received President Xi Jinping of China in Gujarat. In October this year, India hosted the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in Goa.India’s decision to host the Afghanistan conference is being interpreted by some around the world as a deliberate move to underscore how Pakistan has consistently blocked connectivity in this region. It is also about terrorism and New Delhi and Kabul seem to have a plan to further embarrass Islamabad.Of late, India has not lost any opportunity to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, be it the G-20 Summit in China, the East-Asia Summit in Vietnam, the United Nations General Assembly or the cancelled South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit. Amritsar also has a historical significance to it. It is a key location on the Grand Trunk Road, one of the longest and oldest roads in Asia connecting Central Asia with South Asia.The GT Road was rebuilt and upgraded by Sher Shah Suri, then ruler of Delhi, nearly 500 years ago. Suri was of Afghan origin. The road links Kabul to Kolkata via Lahore, Amritsar and Delhi, and all the way up to Chittagong in Bangladesh.India and Afghanistan have given enough notice that they will try and corner their common neighbour for providing sanctuary and support to terrorist groups. The Amritsar conference can be expected to delve into specifics and identify ways to deal with terrorism and terror threats and also detail what steps should be taken against those who support and glorify terrorists.Afghanistan may demand binding clauses to contain terror infrastructure. It is pushing for the early adoption of a Regional Counter-Terrorism Framework. New Delhi and Kabul are also toying with plans to firm up an air cargo agreement to boost bilateral trade even as Pakistan continues to stall all possibility of promoting regional trade and connectivity.This is the sixth edition of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process.The first was held at Istanbul in Turkey in 2011.Nearly 50 countries and organisations, including the UN, are participating in the Amritsar summit.The theme of the Amritsar Summit is “Addressing Challenges and Achieving Prosperity.”
At least eight foreign ministers, including Sartaj Aziz of Pakistan and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, are attending the summit.

India likely to step up efforts for Pakistan’s isolation at Heart of Asia conference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid heightened tension with Pakistan following yet another brazen terror attack on an army base, India is likely to step up efforts to corner it diplomatically and mobilise support for concrete action against state-sponsored terrorism at the two-day Heart of Asia (HoA) conference beginning in Amritsar on Saturday.Afghanistan, which has also been witnessing increased attacks from terror groups operating from Pakistani soil, is set to push hard for a regional counter-terror framework with binding commitment at the annual meeting of Heart of Asia Istanbul Process, a platform set up in 2011 to assist the war-battered country in its transition.Top officials of the 14 member countries will meet on Saturday to discuss key challenges facing the region including from terror groups and explore ways to bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan. On Sunday, the main conference will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani where both India and Afghanistan are likely to corner Pakistan on terror.
ALSO READ Pakistan-backed terror to be focus of Heart of Asia conference, say India, AfghanistanPakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz will represent Islamabad at the conference and all eyes will be on whether an Indo-Pak bilateral meeting takes place on the sidelines. Ahead of Aziz s visit in Amritsar, India had on Thursday said it will never accept continuing cross border terrorism as the “new normal” in bilateral ties with Pakistan while making it clear that talks cannot take place in an atmosphere of “continued terror”.India had called for isolating Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri attack on an army establishment and it is likely to continue efforts in that direction at the Heart of Asia conference. At the BRICS summit in Goa in October, India had called Pakistan the “mother ship” of terrorism globally.Aziz is scheduled to arrive in Amritsar on Sunday and is expected to return the same day.The entire holy city, which is not far from Indo-Pak border, has been decked up, while multiple layers of security have been put in place. Strong vigil is being kept along the Indo-Pak border in Punjab. It was clear that dealing with terrorism will be a major focus at the conference as both India and Afghanistan earlier this week called terror emanating from Pakistan the “greatest threat” to regional peace and stability.Afghanistan has been pushing for an effective counter- terror framework and the matter will be discussed at length at the conference being attended by representatives from over 30 countries including China, the US, Russia and Iran. The Indian delegation will be led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the absence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is ill. “Terrorism is the greatest threat to the region and we expect the HoA to approve the regional counter terrorism framework that has been drafted by Afghanistan and circulated to HoA countries. We hope the conference will adopt it,” said Afghan Ambassador Shaida M Abdali. A declaration will be issued at the conclusion of the conference and is expected to focus on ways to deal with terror.The conference, whose theme is security and prosperity, will also deliberate on major connectivity initiatives including Chabahar project, a five nation railway project. There may be deliberations on TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan-Pakistan India) gas pipeline project.Ghani is scheduled to arrive on Saturday and he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a bilateral meeting where the Afghan President is likely to push for supply of military hardware by India to his country. India has already provided nearly US $2 billion to Afghanistan for reconstruction activities but has been adopting a cautious approach in providing weapons.The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates. Swaraj had attended last year’s conference in Islamabad.The platform was floated to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. The countries which support the initiative are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US. Four countries Uzbekistan, Latvia, Bulgaria and Austria are attending the conference as guest nations.

Mending Asia’s heart: Tackling terror together

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taliban are returning to Afghanistan along with refugee families which are being pushed out from the border areas of Pakistan under operation Zarb-e-Azb purportedly to fight terrorism.In 2015, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, confirmed this to DNA.In 2016, the Afghan Analyst Network reported that these Taliban spent time in Spin Ghar range on AfPak border and formed Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). ISIS has claimed responsibility for some of the recent lethal attacks on Afghan soil but it is unclear if ISKP is connected structurally to ISIS or is just using ISIS’s brand name. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani told DNA last year that ISIS is already in Afghanistan and that is because the group believes a prophecy which says “the mahdi will emerge with black flags from the Khorasan”. Some Afghan watchers have a different take, like the director of the Afghan journalist centre in London Zabihullah Noori. He says “ISKP isn’t linked to ISIS but to the ISI”.In short, the arteries of the heart of Asia are facing new blockages at a faster pace than the clogged ones heal. The background is driving the current situation as it is the failure of Saarc to take off because of Pakistan’s reluctance on a collective developmental agenda.Regional visionAs India hosts the 6th ministerial conference of the ‘Heart of Asia’ summit, the question many Afghans are asking is a rather basic one — What is India’s vision for the region? Davood Moradian, the director-general of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies says “China’s vision is one belt one road, Russia’s is Eurasia, Pakistan’s idea is to promote terrorism. But what is India’s vision?”.Afghanistan was one of the first nations to support India when Delhi decided to opt out of the Saarcsummit that was to be held in Islamabad. India managed to diplomatically isolate Pakistan in the South Asia group but didn’t offer an impressive alternative. Sub regional groups such as BBIN and BIMSTEC were already in existence and have been facing several obstacles.Will India utilise the Heart of Asia summit to define its regional goals? Countries like Afghanistan have found India helpful but reluctant. The timing for India to come out of its shell, Moradian says, has never been better, “Pakistan is a common problem that we should deal with together”.Modi and Ghani’s peace overtures towards Pakistan have proved futile, the two are now changing their strategy and synchronising it. Moeen Marastial, a former Afghan Parliamentarian says, “Pakistan should be confronted, the region must declare it a terror state. Talking with Pakistan is not an option, Afghanistan has been talking to them for a decade and a half and gained nothing”. Delhi and Kabul though would have to make a tough decision on how much to corner Islamabad, that thankfully still enjoys an elected government. At Habib hair salon in Delhi’s posh Khan market, everyday a bunch of Afghan girls learn hair styling. Afghan restaurants are a hit and from scholarships to Afghan students or training to Afghan soldiers, India is determined to support Afghanistan. But, in the Afghan mind this makes India a well-wisher not a loyal friend. Unless India backs Kabul against its enemy Pakistan in matters like defence, Afghanistan finds it difficult to depend on Delhi. India’s former PM Dr Manmohan Singh was excessively shy as the United States feared Washington might upset “ally” Islamabad. That has now changed. The Modi government decided to give four lethal choppers to Ghani after US’s nod and recently Commander of the resolute support mission John W Nicholson has asked Delhi to help arm Afghan forces. Afghan journalist Qais Mowafaq says, “We welcome Trump’s statement on increasing cooperation with India to deal with Pakistan”. Perhaps, it’s time for an “India-Afghan Defence Treaty” which moves the cooperation from the currently ad hoc basis to a more institutionalised form. The author is a senior journalist

FM Arun Jaitley to lead Indian delegation at Heart of Asia Conference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Finance minister Arun Jaitley will lead the Indian delegation at the two-day Sixth Heart of Asia (HoA) conference to be held in Amritsar, Punjab, from Saturday, an external affairs ministry official said.The conference, which will be held in India’s northern Amritsar city, will see the participation of representatives from over 30 countries, including China, United States, Russia, Iran and Pakistan to discuss peace, cooperation and economic development in Afghanistan.Afghanistan is the permanent chair of the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference, while India is its co-chair, and this year is its host.A senior foreign ministry official told reporters on Wednesday (November 30) that Indian finance minister will co-chair the conference with Afghan foreign minister.”This year, the ministerial conference will be co-chaired by Afghan foreign minister (Salahuddin Rabbani) and on our side it will be the finance minister,” said Gopal Baglay, Joint Secretary of PAI (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) division in the ministry.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is undergoing treatment for kidney failure, will not attend the meeting.Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Policy, Sartaj Aziz, will also attend the conference despite strained relations between the two nations. However, it is not clear whether Pakistan will hold any bilateral meeting with India on the sidelines of the summit.”We have not received any request from Pakistan for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of Heart of Asia ministerial conference,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.Relations between Pakistan and India have been strained for several months, while cross-frontier shelling has intensified leading to deaths of civilians and soldiers stationed along the disputed frontier.The latest round of problem between the nuclear-armed neighbours began with civil unrest in Indian Kashmir and Pakistan’s global lobbying against New Delhi’s crackdown on the Kashmiri activists.Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, who was part of the press briefing in New Delhi, condemned the recent militant attack on an army unit in Jammu and Kashmir.”Let me express my heartfelt condolences to the people of India for the tragic terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Nagrota on Wednesday morning which caused the loss of seven brave Indian soldiers. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” said Abdali.The raid in Nagrota town was the deadliest since a September 18 assault on an army base in the state that killed at least 19 Indian soldiers – the worst such assault in 14 years – triggering an escalation in tensions between the two countries.The ‘Heart of Asia’ platform was floated with an aim to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.The main ministerial conference will be inaugurated jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on December 4.

Relive the glory of Mandu’s historic ruins with a 360-degree walkthrough

Imagine a house in the middle of a water body — a palace rather! If that seems like a wallpaper for your computer or some surreal, out-of-this-world image, then we’ll tell you that it is actually the Jahaj Mahal, in the city of Mandu.

The ruins of the city of Mandavgarh — also known as Mandu, and enfolded by twin lakes — still bear testimony to the grandeur of its exquisite Afghan architecture. The most famous of its structures is the Jahaj Mahal — a palace surrounded by water; a ship about to embark on a voyage.

Ruins of ManduRuins of Mandu

A 360-degree walk-through features this very palace, the famous high terraces of Mandu and the enormous Hindola Mahal. Witnessing something that’s deeply embedded in the past is a delight. The city has existed since the 6th Century BC, and the stone and mortar it was made with has somehow, successfully withstood the passage of time.

Hindola Mahal, which you see later in the walk-through, is a large meeting hall that depicts the architectural style of the era.

Watch this to experience it virtually; visit to experience it in reality.

The 77 degree angle which gives an impression that the building is swinging

The 77 degree angle which gives an impression that the building is swinging

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 12:26 IST

UN should do more to send right message to terror groups: India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that the UN should do more to send the right message to terror groups, India has said that the inconsistent implementation of sanctions on some of the terrorist outfits eats away at the UN’s authority.”The United Nations must do more to send the right message. Inconsistent implementation of sanctions on some of these terrorist outfits eats away at the UN’s authority and needs to be addressed,” Indian Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said in his address to the UN General Assembly. “The leader of the Taliban – a proscribed entity – needs to be designated as a terrorist individual. The international community is impatient for action,” the Indian diplomat said.Earlier this week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani himself asked a delegation of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to include the new Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah (Akhundzada) and such others, in the list of terrorists. “Unless the Security Council and its subordinate organs are part of a cohesive response to global terrorism they run the risk of becoming marginalised from the most fundamental security priorities of Member States whose fabric is being torn as under by terrorists,” Akbaruddin warned.Addressing the UN General Assembly as it adopted an unanimous resolution on Afghanistan, he said the security challenges faced by the Afghan people and Government have not receded. “We note that Afghanistan, along with the Resolute Support Force, continues to make efforts to combat terrorism,” he said. “However, the shadowy supporters of some of these terrorist organisations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, ISIS, AI-Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed have not been deterred, as is reflected in the upwards trend in the toll of causalities,” the diplomat said.The resolution unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly pledged its continued support, in particular as the Afghan Government rebuilt a stable, secure and economically self-sufficient State free from terrorism and narcotics while strengthening the foundations of its constitutional democracy. At the same time, it heard expressions of alarm over recent spikes in civilian casualties and the influence of violent extremists.In her address, Pakistan Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said the presence of large numbers of terrorists, foreign fighters and militant groups in the vast ungoverned areas of Afghanistan presents an imposing challenge to the` long-term stability of the war-torn country. “They pose a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to Pakistan and indeed the entire region. Afghanistan could once again become a source of global terrorism, with grave implications for the region and the world,” Lodhi said. “A dialogue between the Afghan Government and the Afghan Taliban remains the only way to end Afghanistan’s long night of suffering,” she added.

Iconic ‘Afghan girl’ to be in India for Hepatitis C treatment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The blue-eyed iconic Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, the face of the war-torn country for many years since her cover photo appeared on the National Geographic cover, will soon travel to India for medical treatment. She was recently detained and expelled from Pakistan for possessing fake identity documents. Shaida Abdali, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India announced on Twitter: “The Iconic Afghan Sharbat Gula will soon be in India for medical treatment free of cost.”Gula, now in her 40s, is suffering from Hepatitis C. Sources in the Afghanistan Embassy here said that she will travel to Bengaluru to receive free-of-cost treatment in the Narayana Hospital. As an Afghan refugee residing in Pakistan and affected by war, she gained global recognition when her photograph was featured on National Geographic in 1985 and was linked with Leonardo Da Vinci’s magnum opus, Mona Lisa. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), on October 26, arrested her from her house in Peshawar’s Nauthia area for alleged forgery of a Pakistani Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC). A day after her arrest, the United Nations High Commission distanced itself from Sharbat Gula, claiming that she was not a registered refugee.She pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined Rs 1,10,000 by a special anti-corruption and immigration court. Following the sentence, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government offered to stop her deportation from the country but she refused to stay in Pakistan. She was personally welcomed by the Afghan president last week upon her arrival in Afghanistan, and offered her a furnished apartment.Her striking green eyes, mixed with ferocity, peering out from a headscarf symbolised the pain and sufferings of Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation. But she remained anonymous for years, till National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry rediscovered her in 2001. National Geographic made a short documentary about her life and dubbed her the ‘Mona Lisa of Afghan war.’

Pakistan delays deportation of Afghan girl for a few days | Reuters

Pakistan delays deportation of Afghan girl for a few days | Reuters

Updated: Nov 7, 2016 20:41 IST

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By Jibran Ahmad
| PESHAWAR, Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Pakistan on Monday delayed the planned deportation of Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose 1985 photo in National Geographic became a symbol of her country’s wars, an Afghan official said.Now in her 40s with four children, Gula has been hospitalised for most of the time since her arrest last month on charges of living illegally in Pakistan. A judge sentenced her last week to be deported.Waheedullah, a spokesman for the Afghan consulate in Peshawar, said Afghan diplomats had convinced Pakistani authorities to allow her to stay in hospital until Wednesday.

She then would be delivered to the Afghan border authorities at Torkham on Wednesday and from there she would be flown to Kabul where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would host a function in her honour.”The Afghan president has also announced a house for her in Kabul where she will live with her children,” said Waheedullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

A senior Pakistani official on condition of anonymity confirmed her deportation, planned for Monday, had been delayed until Wednesday.Sharbat Gula became a symbol of Afghanistan’s long wars when a photo of her as a young refugee was published in National Geographic magazine in 1985.

She had been living in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar city for years with her husband and children. Her family has said her Afghan husband died a few years ago. (Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

U.S. general pledges investigation on Afghan air strike casualties | Reuters

U.S. general pledges investigation on Afghan air strike casualties | Reuters

Updated: Nov 5, 2016 18:54 IST

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KABUL The top American general in Afghanistan promised on Saturday an investigation into civilian casualties caused by an air strike in support of Afghan special forces and their U.S. advisors near the northern city of Kunduz this week.More than 30 civilians, half of them children, were killed on Thursday after a strike on the village of Buz Kandahari, just outside Kunduz, that was called in when a special forces raid encountered heavy fire from Taliban militants.General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said he deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives.”An initial investigation has determined that efforts near Kunduz on November 3 to defend Afghan National Defense and Security Forces likely resulted in civilian casualties,” he said in a statement.”We will work with our Afghan partners to investigate and determine the facts and we will work with the Government of Afghanistan to provide assistance.”

The raid targeted three Taliban leaders in the village, who officials said were planning attacks on Kunduz. It met “significant enemy fire from multiple locations” and called in support from U.S. aircraft.Afghan officials said 33 civilians, including 17 children, appeared to have been killed.

The intensity of the fighting, in which three members of the Afghan special forces and two U.S. advisors were also killed, underlined how precarious the situation around Kunduz remains, a month after the insurgents threatened to overrun the city.Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the Taliban militants targeted in the raid were senior figures in the movement who had been targeted in their own houses.

“They weren’t ordinary people who had gathered. They were leading fighting in Kunduz. They were the commanders of their military commission,” he told a news conference, adding that they were evidently willing to use their own family members as human shields.”They hold meetings in their own houses and if there are civilian casualties, it’s an achievement for them because they can say the government killed civilians,” he said. (Reporting by James Mackenzie and Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Catherine Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Pakistan arrests ‘Afghan Girl’ from iconic photo, on ID fraud charge | Reuters

Pakistan arrests ‘Afghan Girl’ from iconic photo, on ID fraud charge | Reuters

Updated: Oct 26, 2016 23:17 IST

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By Sami Yousafzai
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD Pakistani authorities on Wednesday arrested the green-eyed Afghan woman who became a symbol of her country’s wars 30 years ago when her photo as a girl appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine, her family said.Sharbat Gula, who grew up in a refugee camp and is now in her 40s, is accused of having a forged Pakistani identity card.Gula is being held in jail in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, said her brother-in-law Shahshad Khan, who added that Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided her home early on Wednesday morning.”FIA along with security forces came, entered her house, searched all belongings and took important papers including $2,800,” Khan said.Officials with the FIA and Pakistan’s national identity authority were not available for comment.Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported on its website that Gula was arrested over alleged forgery of a Pakistani national identity card that allowed her to remain in the country.

She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of fraud.Gula was for years an unnamed celebrity after an image of her a teenage Afghan refugee was featured on National Geographic magazine’s cover in 1985, her striking green eyes peering out from a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain.The image became a symbol of Afghanistan’s suffering during the 1980s Soviet occupation and U.S.-backed mujahadeen insurgency against it.

The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 led to the collapse of the Kabul government and years of civil war until the Islamist Taliban movement seized power in the mid-1990s.After the Taliban regime fell to the U.S.-backed military action in 2001, National Geographic sent photographer Steve McCurry to find the girl in the photo, eventually identified as Gula.At the time, she was living in Afghanistan but she later moved to Peshawar to be with her husband, her brother-in-law said.

Gula’s arrest comes amid new Pakistani pressure to send 2.5 million Afghan refugees back to their home country, despite offensives by Taliban insurgents that kill and maim thousands each year.Khan argued that Gula is not a refugee but a legal Pakistan resident because she was married to his brother, Rahmat Khan, who was born in Pakistan and died five years ago, leaving her with four children.”Her children are not sleeping since last night. She is a poor widow. Her children need her and she needs justice,” he said. (Writing by Kay Johnson; editing by Andrew Roche)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Pakistan will attend Heart of Asia conference in India: Sartaj Aziz

Islamabad: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that Pakistan will be attending the upcoming Heart of Asia conference scheduled to be held in India.

Aziz on Monday confirmed Pakistan’s participation during a press conference here, Dawn online reported.

File image of Sartaj Aziz. AFPFile image of Sartaj Aziz. AFP

File image of Sartaj Aziz. AFP

The Heart of Asia conference will be held during the first week of December in Amritsar, India.

“We have started an effective campaign for the cause of self-determination of Kashmiri people,” said the foreign affairs adviser.

The announcement came amid growing tensions between the two neighbours following the 18 September attack on an Indian Army base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri town that killed 19 Indian soldiers.

Foreign ministers from 14-member countries, including Russia, China and Turkey, are expected to attend the day-long conference meant to discuss the current Afghan situation and possible initiatives the immediate and extended neighbours of Afghanistan could undertake to restore long-term peace and stability in the war-torn country, Daily Pakistan reported.

Senior officials from 17 supporting countries, including the US, will also participate in the meeting to be jointly presided over by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey. Its main objective is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan, and the region.

Pakistan hosted the last Ministerial Conference in December 2015 which was also attended by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Indian media must expose Pakistan’s hand in terrorism in Afghanistan

Pakistani media and Pakistani bloggers have warned their government and security agencies that Pakistan is on the verge of global isolation. A prominent Pakistani daily in its editorial has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi behind this move, saying he is sparing no effort in highlighting cross-border terror attacks by Pakistan at every international forum including indirectly calling Pakistan “mothership of terror” during the recent Brics meet. The editorial says, “Modi’s statement shows just how committed New Delhi is when it comes to isolating Pakistan globally. From cancelling SAARC summit to boycotting Pakistani artists, the Modi regime is hell-bent on weakening Pakistan at every international forum. When and if isolated, the impact would be drastic, and Pakistan would never want that.”

Not that the Pakistani government is not worried, as was disclosed by participants of the Heart Security Dialogue held in Afghanistan held recently, who had travelled to Pakistan earlier. The angst of the civil society in Pakistan is obvious as the above mentioned daily mentioned that the Pakistani government and security agencies “should at least have the decency to admit that Pakistan still isn’t 100 per cent sure which non-state actor is good or bad”, adding just days earlier, even a ruling party lawmaker demanded action against non-state actors who happen to be the very ones that New Delhi has alleged Islamabad is using for cross-border terrorist attacks. The paper also mentioned the episode of Dawn reporter Cyril Almeida.

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. APAfghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

With reference to Saarc, the summit that was scheduled in Islamabad is ‘postponed’ by Pakistan and not cancelled and to blame PM Modi for the same is wrong as Saarc members are sovereign nations who take their own decisions. For example, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh recently stated a media interview, “It is over the situation in Pakistan that we decided to pull out (from the Saarc summit in Islamabad). Terror from Pakistan has gone everywhere, which is why many of us felt frustrated by Pakistan. India pulled because of the Uri attack, but for Bangladesh the reason is totally different. One of the other main reason of my government for Saarc pullout was hurt felt over Pakistan’s strident criticism of the war crimes process in Bangladesh in which dozen Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, accused of brutalities during the liberation war in 1971, have been hanged or indicted.” As to Pakistani film actors returning to Pakistan, it was of their own volition because they refused to sympathise with victims of Uri attack and condemn propagators of the dastardly attack and the Indian Motion Pictures Association (IMPA) who previously had held a condolence meet to sympathise with the victims of Army School, Abbotabad. IMPA indicted these Pakistani artist for making distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.

But the most significant issue is that the term ‘non-state actor’ with reference to cross-border terrorism by Pakistan must be dropped being misnomer. There are no non-state actors in Pakistan undertaking cross-border terrorist acts. On the contrary, they are all state-supported; not only armed, funded, trained but also are operating mixed with disguised regulars from Pakistani Mujahid battalions and ISI operatives. The leaders of these so called non-state actors have been provided state protection, rabid mullahs like Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood are de-facto foreign policy spokespersons, terrorist organisations have been dovetailed with army establishments and intelligence reports indicate that terrorist along the LoC with India have been put in uniform of Pakistani Rangers post the surgical strikes by India.

While Indian media has been covering news reports about terror attacks in Afghanistan, it is imperative that Pakistan’s proxy war in Afghanistan be highlighted much more prominently, Afghanistan being our strategic partner. Report by UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (Unama) released in July 2016 shows that 5,166 people were killed or maimed in Afghanistan between January to June 2016 and total civilian casualties as per “conservative estimates” between January 2009 and 30 June 2016 were 64,000 including 23000 killed and 41,000 injured. The UNAMA report goes on to say that majority of these casualties have been caused by the Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Islamic State etc. Look at the horrendous horrific human tragedy in Afghanistan mainly because of Pakistan’s export of terrorism.

It may be recalled that Musharraf, former President of Pakistan has been boasting, “Osama-bin-Laden, Ayman-al-Zawahiri, Haqqanis are our heroes ….. We trained the LeT against India.” Now LeT is also being used for proxy war against Afghanistan. Earlier we had Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs (then also NSA) to Pakistan Prime Minister telling to BBC in an interview, “Pakistan should not engage in a war with those (insurgents / militants) whose target is not Pakistan.” US intelligence had admitted in February 2016 that Both Taliban (Afghan and Pakistan) have largely coalesced. The link is the Haqqanis that are based in Pakistan past three decades plus and Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of Haqqani network and protégé of ISI is deputy leader of Afghan Taliban. US intelligence also reveals that Khorasan branch of IS formed is “amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members”. Apparently, they were cobbled together in Peshawar region and have been pushed west into Afghanistan. Also, Voice of America recently reported Afghanistan officially telling Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing IS operations in Afghanistan.

It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

So the so called Islamic State (IS)  in Afghanistan is obviously mixed with LeT and other Pakistani proxies like JeM etc. The human toll in Afghanistan is mounting at incredible pace. Recently, 33 Muslim worshippers were killed and 82 injured in two separate terror attacks in Kabul and Balkh in Afghanistan. Intelligence now confirms that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, both Pakistan based, are also attacking Afghanistan. There should be little doubt that Pakistan’s military is doing all this with its stated aim of achieving ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan and influence Central Asia. Former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had admitted that Pakistan does not wish to ‘hold’ the cherished strategic depth but wants to ‘control’ it. In doing so, Pakistan is repeatedly targeting Hazaras in Afghanistan, aiming to create an ethnic divide.

There is also danger that the IS in Iraq-Syria under major attack will be welcomed by Pakistan with open arms and used for cross-border attacks. Pakistan is using JeM to attack both India and Afghanistan but China still continues to put its so-called ‘technical hold’ at the UN to stop Azhar Masood being branded terrorist; ‘technical hold” being an euphuism for abetting Pakistani terrorism. This, despite China being only country that is drilling oil commercially in Afghanistan since 2012 and making huge profits in copper mines extraction.

Not only are India and Afghanistan strategic partners, they are both being subjected to Pakistan’s proxy war. The Pakistani military may have acquired the hide of the rhinoceros but public opinion in Pakistan is important and latter’s concerns have begun to reflect in their media. It should therefore be incumbent on media of both countries, particularly of India, to prominently highlight Pakistan’s proxy war both on India and Afghanistan. A media blitz is warranted to expose the nefarious wrong doings and stranglehold of the Pakistani military on their own country leading them down the vortex of terror. While the youth in Pakistan are being systematically radicalised, they actually need to be exposed to what how and why the Pakistani military lost East Pakistan and 93,000 military personnel surrendered as prisoners of war. It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

The author is veteran Lt General of the Indian Army

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly mosque attack in Afghan capital | Reuters

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly mosque attack in Afghan capital | Reuters

Updated: Oct 12, 2016 20:07 IST

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KABUL Islamic State on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a mass shooting that killed at least 18 worshippers at a shrine in the Afghan capital, raising fears of sectarian violence after a string of attacks on the country’s Shi’ite minority.The claim to Tuesday’s attack, released online, came as the community observed Ashura, one of its holiest days, although commemorations have been subdued because of security fears.On Wednesday afternoon, an explosion outside a mosque in northern Afghanistan killed at least 14 people and wounded 24 at a similar gathering. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that assault.Islamic State had earlier targeted members of Kabul’s Shi’ite community in a suicide bombing in July that killed more than 80 people and wounded 130.The attacker in Kabul, said to be wearing a police uniform, entered the Karte Shakhi mosque on Tuesday night and opened fire on a crowd of Shi’ite Muslims marking Ashura, which commemorates the seventh-century death of a grandson of the prophet Mohammad.In its statement, Islamic State said the attacker detonated a suicide vest after firing all his ammunition, but security forces said they shot the man.A Reuters video shows the suspected attacker’s body intact, with no sign of an explosive vest.

Relatives carried dead and wounded victims away from the blood-stained steps of the mosque, which is known for its bright blue tiles and domes.The dead included four women and two children, said the United Nations, which condemned the attack as a violation of international law.”This attack, deliberately targeting a large group of civilians exercising their right to freely manifest their religion in worship, observance and practice, is an atrocity,” the U.N. said in a statement.

It put the tally at 18 civilians killed and 50 wounded, though some witnesses said the toll could be higher.Mourners buried several of the victims, including a four-year-old girl, on Wednesday.”We are not happy with the government and the police. They both failed to protect us and provide security for us,” said one of the girl’s relatives, Mohammed Hussain, who described the event as “doomsday” for the family.

Ashura is typically marked by processions that include self-flagellation by some worshippers, but government warnings of possible attacks prompted more subdued events this year.The Taliban, who have been waging a 15-year insurgency against the Western-backed government and often conduct attacks in Kabul, denied involvement in the shooting.The schism between Sunnis and Shi’ites developed after the Prophet Mohammad died in 632 and his followers could not agree on a successor. Some Sunni Muslim militants see Shi’ites as a threat and legitimate targets for attack. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

India’s surgical strikes across LoC unlikely to bring Pakistan-backed terrorism to cohesive end

Where do we go from here? The surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) is a remarkable, though not unique, achievement for the Army (there have been many cross-LoC/IB operations in the past, though without the present publicity), but it is unlikely to bring Pakistan-backed terrorism to an abrupt and conclusive end.

It is useful to recognise that, despite 3,520 soldiers of the international coalition, including 2,285 Americans (as well as tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians), having been killed as a result of Pakistan-backed terrorism in Afghanistan, and numerous leaders and cadres of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda successfully targeted by the US on Pakistani soil (most prominently including Osama bin Laden in the heart of the Abottabad Cantonment) Pakistan has not abandoned its support to terrorism directed against Kabul, even a decade and a half after America re-entered the Afghan conflict.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

There are many among India’s partisan jingoists who were demanding that Pakistan be ‘taught a lesson’ in the wake of the Uri attack, and believe that this is the principal yield of the surgical strike. This is nonsense. It is not India’s purpose to educate Pakistan and, in any event, despite all the ‘lessons’ it has been taught by India in the past, and by the US in a more proximate time frame, Islamabad remains quite uneducable.

Moreover, there are many who think that Pakistan can be ‘shamed’ into terminating its association with Islamist terrorism, and consequently emphasise the continuous sharing of intelligence and evidence with other nations of the world. But India has tried to do this for decades, with little or no effect. It is only now that the West is suffering repeated harm at the hands of Islamist terrorism that is squarely linked up with Pakistan that they are beginning to take cognizance of the problem – evidence or no evidence. Crucially, Pakistan is not a country that can be ‘shamed’ into anything; its leadership has demonstrated a complete lack of any sense of honour or adherence to principles of civilised behaviour. Pakistan will change direction only under the influence of fear, or the complete erosion of its capacities to continue support to terrorism without risking its own survival.

What does this mean for India in the immediate aftermath of the surgical strike? First, despite the general opprobrium Pakistan now attracts, and despite the fact that not a single country in the world has directed even the slightest criticism against India for this operation (even China has chosen to sit on the fence, exhorting both countries to resolve their difference through “dialogues”), there is likely to be some retaliatory action. Present indications, including Islamabad’s efforts to deny or downplay the surgical strike, do not, however, suggest disproportionate escalation. Pakistan will also seek to inflict harm by escalating street and ‘indigenous’ terrorist violence in Kashmir – though it may find some reluctance among its allies and affiliates to go along with its plans now.

For all the satisfaction the surgical strikes have rightly given Indians – frustrated by long decades of Pakistan-backed terrorism and the Indian state’s paralysis in response – it is best treated as no more than an incident; an important, incident, no doubt, but nonetheless transient in its impact unless it is integrated into a coherent and sustained strategy, pursued with unflagging attention certainly over the coming years, and possibly decade and more.

A polity obsessed with electoral cycles will find it difficult to sustain both will and attention for long, and there would likely be intervening changes of government as well. Worse, Pakistan has a long experience as a ‘minimal satisfier’; indeed, despite the fatalities it has inflicted in Afghanistan, despite unambiguous condemnation by a string of American and Nato military commanders of its support to terrorism in that theatre, and despite Pakistan’s visible footprint in an overwhelming proportion of terrorist attacks across the world, Islamabad continues to receive billions of dollars in US and Western aid even today (though this gravy train looks like it is slowing down drastically). Pakistan’s capacity for deceit and manipulation has been extraordinary, and it will quickly be turned to India if any sustained regime of discriminatory sanctions or sustained non-military penalties is imposed.

Indeed, this process already appears to have commenced just a day after the surgical strike. After his crass and offensive speech at the UN General Assembly, Nawaz Sharif has already shifted gear and, virtually lifting the language of Narendra Modi’s Kozhikode speech, declared that he sought peace in the region “to make economic progress and to battle poverty and unemployment.”

As time passes and the sting of the surgical strike diminishes, Pakistan will try to mollify India by talking about partnerships to fight poverty and backwardness; but terrorism will persist, calibrated to suitable levels given changes in the domestic, regional and global situation. It would be utter folly on New Delhi’s part if it is seduced by this deception as long as any trace of the terrorist infrastructure remains on Pakistani soil. Pakistan will not yield its only instrument of leverage in the region and in the world unless unbearable costs are imposed, or a sheer lack of capacity is inflicted through processes of gradual attrition, in what is clearly conceptualised, planned and implemented as a strategy of protracted war.

(The author is the executive director of Institute for Conflict Management & South Asia Terrorism Portal.)

Global cost of India-Pakistan nuclear war: 21 million dead, ozone layer destroyed and more

By Abheet Singh Sethi

If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

As the Indian Army considers armed options, and a member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) urges a nuclear attack, these projections, made by researchers from three US universities in 2007, are a reminder of the costs of nuclear war.

BCabsoptdailyBCabsoptdaily

Visualisation by nucleardarkness.org based on study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said, on 23 September, 2016, that if 100 million Indians died in a Pakistani nuclear attack, India’s retaliation would wipe out Pakistan.

But the real costs would be higher and not just in India and Pakistan, where the first 21 million people–half the death toll of World War II–would perish within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation, according to the 2007 study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles, all in the USA.

This death toll would be 2,221 times the number of civilians and security forces killed by terrorists in India over nine years to 2015, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of South Asia Terrorism Portal data.

Another two billion people worldwide would face risks of severe starvation due to the climatic effects of the nuclear-weapon use in the subcontinent, according to this 2013 assessment by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a global federation of physicians.

Pakistan has an estimated 110 to 130 nuclear warheads as of 2015–an increase from an estimated 90 to 110 warheads in 2011–according to this report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a global disarmament advocacy. India is estimated to have 110 to 120 nuclear warheads.

Talk of war began after a terrorist attack on an army garrison in the Kashmir town of Uri claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers. The Indian Army said the attack was carried out by four terrorists from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed) group, based in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja M Asif responded to threats from India by saying, “If Pakistan’s security is threatened, we will not hesitate in using tactical (nuclear) weapons.”

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability has previously deterred India from responding to previous attacks.

“At the end of the day, India has to ensure that the options it exercises–particularly the military ones–do not leave it worse off than before in terms of casualties and costs,” wrote analyst Manoj Joshi in The Wire.

It does not really matter if India has fewer nuclear weapons than Pakistan, IndiaSpend reported in April, 2015, primarily because of the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, as it is commonly known (See this IndiaSpend report for more about India’s nuclear weapons program).

66 percent Pakistan’s nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles

As many as 66 percent Pakistani nuclear warheads are mounted on 86 land-based ballistic missiles, according to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists data estimates.

Pakistan’s Hatf (named after the sword of Prophet Muhammad) series of ballistic missiles has been developed–and is still under development–keeping India in mind.

A major attack by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) would likely target India’s four major metropolitan cities–New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai (depending on where the missile is fired from), according to Sameer Patil, fellow, national security, ethnic conflict and terrorism at Gateway House, a think tank in Mumbai.

The MRBMs would also target “the major commands of the Indian Army”, Patil told IndiaSpend.

Nearly half (40) of Pakistan’s ballistic missile warheads could be mated to Ghauri (named after 12th-century Afghan king Shahbuddin Ghauri, also known as Muhammad of Ghauri) MRBMs. The missile has a claimed range of 1,300 km and can target Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhopal and Lucknow, according to this 2006 report on Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

Pakistan has an estimated eight warheads which could be mated to the Shaheen (Falcon) II. This MRBM has a range of 2,500 km and can target most major Indian cities, including Kolkata on the east coast.

Pakistans-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825Pakistans-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825

Source: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2015; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

An estimated 16 warheads could be fired atop the short-range Ghaznavi (named after the 11th-century Afghan invader Mahmud Ghazni) ballistic missile. With a range of 270 km to 350 km, it can target Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and the outer perimeter of Delhi.

Pakistan has an estimated 16 nuclear-tipped Shaheen1 (falcon), short-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), having a 750 km range which can reach Ludhiana, Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Pakistan has an estimated six 60-km range Nasr missiles, which could be mated to nuclear weapons. These tactical nuclear missiles could target “advancing battle formations of the Indian Army”, according to Patil. These missiles could be what Asif referred to.

Pakistan also has eight nuclear-tipped 350-km Babur cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

An estimated 36 nuclear warheads, accounting for 28 percent of Pakistan’s total, can be delivered using aircraft. US-made F-16 A/B aircraft can deliver 24 nuclear bombs while the French-made Mirage III/V can deliver 12.

India’s triad: Submarine, missile and aircraft

India has deployed 56 Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire) series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which carry 53 percent of India’s 106 estimated warheads, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

This doesn’t take into account the estimated 12 warheads for the K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which India has possibly produced for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.

Once commissioned, Arihant would give India a strategic nuclear triad and second strike capability, as this July 2015 IndiaSpend report notes.

“Given the smaller geographical size of Pakistan,” said Patil, India would likely target “Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi and the Pakistani Army Armed Corps headquarters at Nowshera”.

However, he cautioned: “The fallout of the nuclear attacks on Lahore and Karachi, for instance, would not just be restricted to the Pakistani territory, and depending on the wind directions, can affect both Indian and Afghan border territories.”

Indias-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825Indias-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825

Source: Indian Nuclear Forces, 2015; Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

The 250 km-range Prithvi SRBM acts as a delivery system for 24 of India’s warheads. These are capable of hitting major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore, Sialkot, the capital Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, according to this May 2015 IndiaSpend analysis.

India has 20 nuclear-tipped Agni I SRBM and eight Agni II intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with ranges of 700 km and 2,000 km, respectively. These are capable of covering almost all Pakistani cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and Gwadar.

Agni III, IV and V, with their longer ranges, might be able to reach all of Pakistan, but it can be safely said that they are directed more towards China.

IndiaSpend-Logo11 (1)IndiaSpend-Logo11 (1)

India also possesses an estimated two ship-launched 350-km range Dhanush SRBM, which could be fitted with nuclear warheads.

India’s aircraft can deliver an estimated 45 percent of 106 warheads. The Indian Air Force’s Jaguar fighter bombers can deliver about 16 nuclear warheads, while the French-built Mirage-2000 fleet can deliver 32.

Indiaspend.org is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to join jihad in Kashmir; gives fresh call to attack Indian security forces

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as India steps up efforts internationally to expose Pakistan’s nefarious plans and to hold it accountable for sponsoring terrorism into Indian territory, one of the deadliest terror groups operating from its soil – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – also known as the Pakistan Taliban has given a fresh call to start jihad in Kashmir and attack Indian security forces.Traditionally operating from the tribal badlands of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the neighboring Afghanistan, the TTP’s turn of focus towards the east in Jammu and Kashmir is curious. Last month, TTP’s Umar media released a statement defending its stand of not participating in the conflict in Kashmir as it said there was bigger enemy to fight first: the Pakistan military which, it said, plays a devious role against the mujaheedins.The ongoing unrest in the Valley, first triggered by the death of Hizbul Mujaheedin commander Burhan Wani, and later complicated by violent protests against government, pellet gun attacks on the civilians and a record 80-day curfew, has provided a tempting opportunity to extremist Islamist groups in the region to gain foothold in Kashmir and launch and expand their jihadi operations.In a video statement released on Tuesday juxtaposing images of civilians in Kashmir being beaten by security forces, the swollen faces of pellet shot victims, injured children and women in hospitals, a voice over states, “The anti-Islamic forces have started a tirade against Islam and our Kashmiri brothers, so the emir (chief) of TTP has called all the mujaheedin brothers to join hands and change the muzzle of our guns against the Indian army.’’ It is not known whether this statement was made by TTP’s current emir Maulana Fazlullah, head of Swat Taliban and also known as the Radio Mullah.In the later part, one of the four militants with masked face and holding loaded assault rifles says the UN and other infidel world bodies have turned a blind eye against the atrocities committed by the Indian army against Kashmiri brothers and sisters, playing with their lives, damaging their property and martyring children. “In the prevailing situation, there is a need to unleash jihadi forces that will give a befitting reply to the infidel Indian Army and once again restore Islam to its glorious heights in this land.’’Both TTP and al Qaeda, whose main focus has been to defeat the American forces and enforce Sharia-based laws in Afghanistan, are looking to make gains in Jammu and Kashmir. Last week, the al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent also announced its plans for jihad in Kashmir, the one that is waged on religious grounds minus the help of Pakistan military. Since the 90s when al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden earned himself the moniker of Arab jihadi, the group has tried to join the militancy and send its militant into Indian Kashmir. Laden, was prevented from doing so by the Pakistani military as it would’ve downed the ‘Kashmir cause’ and given it a colour of `terrorism’.Explaining this new shift in strategy, US-based Arif Jamal, author and scholar on Islamic extremist group, says it once again shows that links between the Pakistan Army and the TTP remain intact even though they reject it on the surface. “It also shows that Pakistan Army is again activating TTP and other Deobandi groups in Kashmir and India for jihad,’’ he said, adding that this interesting situation should be seen in the context of developments in Afghanistan where Pak Army is supporting the Afghan Taliban in the short term at least.“On the one hand, bringing Deobandi TTP and Jaish-e-Mohammad to Kashmir will divert their jihadi activities outside Pakistan and, on the other hand, it will please Afghan Taliban whose support is crucial to Pakistan Army. From the TTP viewpoint, it is a good strategy to get support from Pakistan Army and lower its pressure on the group TTP. Behind the smokescreen of jihad in Kashmir and India, they will expand their jihadist infrastructure inside Pakistan,’’ Jamal said.It remains to be seen whether the TTP that is considered as anti-Pakistan military will be given operational gateway from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to cross the Line of Control. So far Pakistan based Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammad and Hizbul Mujaheedin have found to infiltrate the LoC to participate in Kashmir militancy.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: Will the Afghanistan warlord turn out to be Pakistan’s wild card against India?

Notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is back to centre stage in Afghanistan and could play a pivotal role in the future political arrangement of the country. Hekmatyar is rumoured to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan but with last week’s deal signed between his party the Hezb-i-Islami and the National Unity Government, it will not be long before the butcher of Kabul resurfaces. Hekmatyar, a former Mujahideen leader was a favourite of the Americans when he was fighting the Russians. He was also close to the Pakistani military and virulently anti-Indian. Pakistan is hoping to use the Hekmatyar card against India. Whether it will work remains to be seen.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. ReutersGulbuddin Hekmatyar. Reuters

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Reuters

Last week’s agreement will give Hekmatyar and his supporters immunity for killing thousands of Afghan civilians in the civil war that wracked the country soon after the Russian soldiers left. Hekmatyar, who is a US and UN-designated global terrorist, has also been promised that his name will be deleted from the global terror list. Washington, desperate to have a political settlement in Afghanistan has promised to help. In return, Hekmatyar has promised to give up violence and abide by the Afghan Constitution.

His entry will shake up the political situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is hoping he will be in a position to ensure that President Ashraf Ghani cools down his enthusiasm for India. Soon after becoming president, Ghani had vowed to reset ties with Pakistan which remained bitter during his successor Hamid Karzai’s tenure. Karzai had excellent relations with India, and Islamabad had often charged New Delhi and Kabul of destabilising Baluchistan through Indian operatives posted in Jalalabad. Ghani started his tenure by wooing Pakistan’s military, breaking protocol to call on then army chief General Ashfaq Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Ghani had hoped that Pakistan would get the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal with the new government. Ghani had campaigned for getting all Afghans on the table for a political solution to the current impasse. The hopes were belied, with the President now accusing Pakistan’s military of using the Haqqani network and allowing the use of its territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

Will Hekmatyar be in a position to change the President’s approach to India remains to be seen. Pakistan will hope to use the Hekmatyar to its advantage, but it is too early to predict anything in the complicated tribal intrigues of Afghanistan.

For one, the Hezb-i-Islami is no longer the force it once was. Many of them have long split from Hekmatyar and joined the Taliban others have now joined Daesh. The Hezb have been attacking foreign soldiers and like the Taliban wants all foreign troops out of Afghanistan. The Hezb can claim to be as nationalistic as the Taliban as they had never played footsie with the US or any other Western power. Having these fierce nationalists come overground may encourage many of the Taliban to do so. Moreover, Hekmatyar is a Pashtun, and the majority of the Taliban also come from the Pasthun heartland. They are the largest group among the various tribes in the country and without Pashtuns involved no peace settlement can be meaningful. Negotiations between the government and the Hezb has been on the for last two years. President Ashraf Ghani’s government of technocrats have been unable to deliver. It came to power with the grand promise of reconcilation and peace with the Taliban. But each successive day the Taliban is growing in strength and is in control of large swathes of territory in the countryside. It has also carried out daring terror strikes under the very nose of the government in the capital. The government is hoping that Hekmatyar’s decision to give up violence may encourage many within the Taliban to do the same.

Whether the expectations are justified is hard to tell. But Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a shrewd and ambitious politician besides being a ruthless warrior. Some believe he has set his eyes on the presidency and will be playing his cards right. There are reports from Afghanistan quoting a senior Hezb leader that the former warlord will throw his hat in the ring for the 2019 presidential elections.

Given Hekmatyar’s anti-Indian stand, his resurrection will be a plus for Pakistan’s deep state, unhappy with Ghani’s current close ties with New Delhi. Pakistan can now rely not just on the Taliban but also the Hizb to ensure that a final settlement of the Afghan problem will ensure a friendly Pasthun dominated government in power in Kabul. Rawalpindi’s long-term strategic goal is to minimise India’s presence in its backyard and if possible get India completely out of Afghanistan as it was during the Taliban rule. The Modi government’s open support for the Baluch cause is disquieting for General Raheel Sharif and his men. A pro-India government in Kabul will help both Afghanistan and India to stir the Baloch cauldron even more. Taking all this into consideration Pakistan must be relieved that Hekmatyar is back in the centre stage of Afghanistan’s politics. How this will eventually pan out will be worth watching.

Sharif at UNGA: Pak PM asks India to discuss Kashmir, says Pakistan will submit dossier to UN documenting ‘brutalities’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raking up Kashmir at the UN, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday glorified slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani as a “young leader” even as he expressed readiness for a “serious and sustained dialogue” with India for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir.Sharif devoted much of his 20-minute speech at the UN General Assembly session to Kashmir and the current situation in the valley and said Pakistan “fully supports the demand of the Kashmiri people for self-determination”. He demanded an “independent inquiry into the extra- judicial killings” and a UN fact-finding mission to Kashmir “so that those guilty of these atrocities are punished.”Insisting that peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, Sharif made a number of allegations with regard to the current unrest in the valley. India has blamed Pakistan for engineering and fuelling the unrest.While talking about the situation in Kashmir, the Pakistan Prime Minister referred to Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8, as a “young leader” and said he has “emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement…”Pak to share dossier containing evidence of human rights violation: SharifSharif said the “Indian brutalities are well documented” and that “Pakistan will share with the Secretary General a dossier containing detailed information and evidence of the gross and systematic violations of human rights committed” in Jammu and Kashmir.”The Security Council has called for the exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite held under UN auspices. The people of Kashmir have waited 70 years for implementation of this promise,” he said, adding the Security Council must honour its commitments by implementing its own decisions.Sharif, who spoke amid heightening tensions between India and Pakistan, insisted that his country wants peace with the neighbour as “confrontation should not be our destiny in South Asia.”Pakistan is “ready for talks to agree on a bilateral nuclear test ban treaty”: SharifThe Pakistan Prime Minister claimed that he had “gone the extra mile to achieve this, repeatedly offering a dialogue to address all outstanding issues but India has posed unacceptable preconditions to engage in a dialogue.””Let us be clear: talks are no favor to Pakistan. Talks are in the interest of both countries. They are essential to resolve our differences, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and to avert the danger of any escalation.” While insisting that peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, he said, “This is an objective evaluation, not a partisan position.””Today, from this rostrum, I would also like to reiterate our offer to India to enter into a serious and sustained dialogue for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir,” Sharif said. He also said that Pakistan was “open to discussing all measures of restraint and responsibility with India, in any forum or format and without any conditions.” Pakistan is “ready for talks to agree on a bilateral nuclear test ban treaty,” he added.International community ignores danger of rising tensions in South Asia: SharifClaiming that Pakistan “neither wants, nor is engaged in an arms race with India”, Sharif said, “We have consistently urged the conclusion of bilateral arms control and disarmament measures between Pakistan and India to prevent conflict and avoid wasteful military expenditures.””The international community ignores the danger of rising tensions in South Asia, at its own peril,” the Pakistan Prime Minister said. He said Pakistan is “committed to the establishment of strategic stability in the region” but “we cannot ignore our neighbour’s unprecedented arms build up and will take whatever measures are necessary to maintain credible deterrence.”Demand abrogation of India’s draconian laws: SharifSharif, while speaking about the unrest in Kashmir, said, “We demand the immediate release of all Kashmiri political prisoners; an end to the curfew; freedom for the Kashmiris to demonstrate peacefully; urgent medical help for the injured; abrogation of India’s draconian laws; and removal of the foreign travel ban on Kashmiri leaders.”To this end, he said, “steps should be taken by the United Nations to de-militarize Jammu and Kashmir and undertake consultations with India, Pakistan and the true representatives of the Kashmiri people to implement the resolutions of the Security Council.”In this context, Sharif said he welcomes “the offer of good offices by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.”India has always maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and not third party, including the UN, has any role. “We will also open consultations with members of the Security Council to explore the modalities for implementation of the Security Council resolutions on Kashmir,” Sharif said. He claimed that Pakistan is the “principal victim of terrorism including that supported, sponsored and financed from abroad” and has the resolve of eliminating the scourge.”Our comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations has produced remarkable results and enabled Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism,” he said.Sharif’s pitch for Pak’s NSG membershipSharif also made a pitch for Pakistan’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, claiming that it is a “responsible” nuclear weapon state. “As a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan will continue to cooperate with all international efforts that seek to promote fair and equitable solutions to disarmament and non-proliferation challenges,” he said.”We have introduced state of the art measures to strengthen the safety and security of our nuclear materials and facilities. We have adopted a comprehensive export control regime that is fully consistent with international standards,” the Pakistan Prime Minister said.”Judged on the basis of objective criteria, and without discrimination, Pakistan is fully eligible for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group,” he said.Sharif also talked about Afghanistan, which earlier alleged that “merciless” terror attacks against its civilians are being planned and organised in Pakistan which trains, equips and finances terror groups like Taliban and Haqqani network. He said Pakistan has been “facilitating the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan” but “progress will be assured only when the Afghan parties themselves conclude that there is no military solution to the Afghan war.”

New York attack: Sikh man in US hailed as hero for helping arrest terror suspect

New York: A Sikh man in the US is being hailed as a hero for helping the police capture an “armed and dangerous” Afghan-born American wanted for the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey that injured 29 people.

Harinder Bains, the owner of a bar in Linden found 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami sleeping in the doorway of a bar he owns.

Bains said he was watching news on TV on his laptop from another business across the street.

At first, he thought he was some “drunk guy” resting in the vestibule but then recognised Rahami and called police.

“I’m just a regular citizen doing what every citizen should do. Cops are the real heroes, law enforcement are the real heroes,” Bains said.

When officers responded, Rahami pulled out a handgun and opened fire, striking an officer in the chest.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A foot chase ensued, during which Rahami shot at a police car, causing a bullet to graze another office in the face.

The chase ended when Rahami was shot multiple times.

He was taken to a hospital for surgery. Rahami was not initially cooperative with police who tried to interview him, a law enforcement official said.

Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra told PTI that Bains “dared to honour his Oath of Citizenship to protect & defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic – and it’s turns out that the Chelsea Pressure Cooker Bomber suspect, a naturalised citizen, is caught by another immigrant, an Indian-American Hero-Sikh.”

In a statement, the National Sikh Campaign said this was brave and courageous act by Bains.

“A Sikh helps police get to the terrorist involved in New York and New Jersey bombing over the weekend,” it said.

“He heroically helped save many innocent lives and yet gave credit to law enforcement officers. Harinder Bains certainly did what every responsible citizen in America ought to do. Brave and courageous act!” said the National Sikh Campaign.

PM Modi, Afghan prez Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurate Kabul’s Stor Palace via video conferencing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the 1.25 billion people will “always” stand with the neighbouring country in ensuring peace and prosperity as he jointly inaugurated through video conferencing the restored Stor Palace in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.”Afghanistan is a close friend. Our societies and people have had age old ties and links. It, therefore, saddens us to see that your proud nation continues to be challenged by externally sponsored instruments and entities of violence and terror.”Let me assure the people of Afghanistan that in your quest to build a prosperous Afghanistan and to bring peace, security and stability to your society, the 1.25 billion people of India will always be on your side,” he said.Modi, while speaking from his North Block office here, stressed that “whatever may be the odds, India will work with you for a bright future for all Afghans”.”The pledge of our partnership and strength of our friendship with Afghanistan is unwavering. Today’s event is a testimony to the resolve and range of our cooperative endeavours. We want each Afghan to flourish and your society to be benefited from fruits of economic growth,” he said.On his part, Ghani said the “logic” of peace and benevolence will defeat the logic of terror and violence as he said India and Afghanistan have always been close friends and joint initiatives like these are a fruitful journey of cooperation between the two nations.The Prime Minister underlined that “in our hearts and minds Indians and Afghans have always been closest of friends.”Modi also thanked the Afghan government for “protecting Indian Embassy and Consulates and ensuring the safety and security of Indian experts working in Afghanistan.” “The sacrifices made by our Afghan brothers will not be forgotten,” the Prime Minister said.Modi said the Stor palace “brings back to life a valuable landmark of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.” The palace, located on a hilltop in capital city Kabul, was built by Afghan King Amanullah Khan in the 1920s.”The Stor palace has been the setting for many momentous historical events. To those who cannot see beyond shadows of violence in Afghanistan, the restored Stor palace is a reminder of the glory of Afghanistan’s rich traditions.”And for our Afghan brothers and sisters, it revives the beauty, the richness and splendor of lost memories of Afghan society,” he said.True to the foundations of Indo-Afghan ties, Modi said, it links the present of the friendship to the historical bonds.”I must commend all the artists, experts and consultants who worked day and night to accomplish this delicate task,” he said.Calling Afghanistan a “close friend”, the PM said the societies and people of the two nations “have had age-old ties and links.””It, therefore, saddens us to see that your proud nation continues to be challenged by externally sponsored instruments and entities of violence and terror,” he added.During his speech, the PM talked about the successful “joint initiatives” that both the countries have accomplished in the past like inauguration of the new Parliament complex in that country and the Salma dam in June this year, also called as the Afghanistan-India Friendship dam.The Salma dam will revive and renew not just the economy and agriculture of the Herat region of Afghanistan. But will also build a strong and lasting pillar of support for Afghanistan’s overall growth and development.The historic palace, also known as the Darul Aman palace, has been a witness of decades of conflict in the country.

Hamid Karzai takes on Pak, says terrorists cannot be divided into categories

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Coming down heavily on Pakistan for supporting ISIS, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Sunday said the terrorists cannot be divided into categories of acceptable or not-acceptable as they are all bad.”When they cause harm to people, to citizens, to society, they are bad and this is how you should treat them”, he told ANI in an exclusive conversation. Karzai, who was the president of Afghanistan from 2001-2014, also agreed with the fact that Pakistan was supporting the ISIS. “We have no doubt about that. We have evidence, information coming to us from our population that deals the case,” he said.When asked whether the Indian military has any role in Afghanistan, he said, “I see a great role for India in Afghanistan. India has already been at the forefront of Afghanistan and to Afghanistan people in infrastructure, education, development, building of institutions of democracy and all of that.”

Pakistan skeptical on talks with India; Sartaj Aziz says New Delhi’s terms not acceptable

Sounding skeptical about progress towards normalisation of relations with India, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz called for managing the situation better so that tensions don’t grow.”Their narrative has remained unchanged. They (India) do not want to give us credit for our actions against terrorism and keep an excuse for not starting dialogue,” the Dawn quoted him, as saying at a foreign policy briefing session held for journalists yesterday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aziz asserted that the problem was that New Delhi wanted normalisation on its terms which was not acceptable for Islamabad.Stating that his country will not back from its principled stance on talks with India, he said that Pakistan has been insisting that talks should be held on a whole range of eight issues identified for bilateral dialogue but, India wants an exclusive focus on terrorism.”If no major improvement takes place, we should manage the situation and our minimum objective should be to prevent tensions from growing,” he added.Aziz wasn’t very hopeful about progress in the Afghan reconciliation process.”Prospects of the Afghan peace process are not good. It would all now depend on the ground situation in Afghanistan,” Aziz said.He was of the view that elimination of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone attack last month sabotaged the peace dialogue.”How can his successor now be asked to join the peace process.” he questioned adding that there had been no signal from the Taliban as yet to suggest that they were preparing to move in this direction.Aziz noted that there were divisions within Afghanistan about engaging a peace process with the Taliban and lack of clarity about how Kabul wanted to take the initiative forward.He said that Islamabad could not take full responsibility for bringing the Taliban to the table, but could use ‘whatsoever influence’ it had to facilitate the process.Regarding the repeated allegation by Kabul and Washington of not adequately acting against the Afghan Haqqani network’s alleged sanctuaries in Pakistan, Aziz pressed that there was no difference of objective and it was rather a matter of sequencing and timing.Regarding the border issue with Afghanistan he said, ‘Border management is an immediate need that is our priority. Moreover, border is not an issue for us, which we would like to negotiate, he emphasised.

PM Modi meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; asks him to expedite efforts for release of kidnapped Indian woman

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and requested him to expedite efforts to secure the release of an Indian woman kidnapped by suspected militants from Kabul two weeks back.Modi said he had an opportunity to meet and exchange greetings with Ghani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent during which he raised the issue of kidnapping of Judith D’Souza, who was working for an international NGO.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In my discussion with President Ashraf Ghani, raised the issue of the unfortunate kidnapping of Kolkata-based Judith D’Souza in Afghanistan,” the Prime Minister tweeted.”Requested President Ashraf Ghani to expedite efforts to rescue Judith D’Souza and extend all possible support to her family,” he said.40-year-old Judith, working for the Aga Khan Foundation as a senior technical adviser, was scheduled to return home this week but was kidnapped by suspected militants from outside her office in the heart of Kabul on June 9. Judith’s family had also written to Modi, urging him to do his “utmost” in securing her release.In the letter, the family members had said that the “brave, thoughtful, generous and compassionate” Judith had been working in Afghanistan for the well-being of the Afghan people and “as an ambassador of goodwill from India’s people, participating in the developmental programmes of that country”.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said every effort was being made to secure her safe release.

India is committed to Afghanistan’s economic prosperity and security: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: India is committed to security and economic prosperity of Afghanistan and will stand like a “rock” with it, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday.

“We want to convey this to the people of Afghanistan through Osmani Sahab (Afghanistan Minister) that India will stand like a rock with them. We are committed to your economic prosperity and security,” she said.

Swaraj made the remarks at an event organised by the Water Resources Ministry to felicitate its personnel and workers who successfully completed the construction of India-Afghan Friendship Dam in Herat province.

Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and Afghanistan’s Energy and Water Minister Engineer Ali Ahmad Osmani also attended the event.

Swaraj noted the dam was built in “very difficult and hostile” conditions by WAPCOS Ltd, a public sector undertaking under the Water Resources Ministry, even as Indian nationals were attacked in Afghanistan. She likened the “valour and determination” shown by the personnel working on the project to that of soldiers guarding country.

A file photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFPA file photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

A file photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

Referring to the recent bomb blast in Afghanistan in which two Indians were killed, Swaraj said the Indian Consulate, rest houses and Indian nationals were attacked 16 times and 24 Indians have so far been killed in such attacks.

“This is not an ordinary dam…attacks keep taking place on our consulate there, blasts occur…amid such a situation, if an organisation like WAPCOS says it will construct the dam, it reflects the determination and valour which our soldiers show…several Afghan security forces personnel too were killed, but they were determined,” she said.

Lauding the tradition of Chishti Sufism, she said it came to India from where the dam has been built in Afghanistan.

The Minister said the dam, funded entirely by the central government, will contribute heavily to the economic growth of Afghanistan.

Bharti described the dam “as an example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s efforts aimed at pushing development agenda at international-level too”.

“Before Modiji became Prime Minister, there used to be politics of division. But he made a pitch for development. Internationally too, he is pushing the agenda of development. This dam is example of that,” she said.

The dam was built keeping in mind the needs of local people. It will help irrigate swathes in Afghanistan and generate electricity, she said.

Osmani said his country received a lot of funds over the past 15 years from international donors but India’s cooperation was “very effective” and hoped other countries will follow India’s model.

He lauded India for supporting development activities in Afghanistan and constructing the dam at a time when “some countries are supporting terrorism” in his country.

“Surely, the history and the people Afghanistan will remember these two types of actions. This time terrorists and their supporters were disappointed. We proved that friendship succeeded and terrorists failed. The completion of the dam shows terrorists cannot stop our development,” he said.

Special Secretary in Water Resources Ministry Amarjit Singh, WAPCOS CMD R K Gupta and other government officials, Sufi saints from Afghanistan were also in attendance at the event.

Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani had on 4 June jointly inaugurated the Rs 1775-crore dam.

The multipurpose project, constructed on Chist-e-Sharif river in Heart province of Afghanistan, is expected to irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42 mega watt power, besides ensuring water supply and other benefits to local people.

Funded by Indian government, the project work was completed in over 10 years by 1,500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals.

India will stand like a rock with Afghanistan: Sushma Swaraj

India is committed to security and economic prosperity of Afghanistan and will stand like a “rock” with it, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said.”We want to convey this to the people of Afghanistan through Osmani Sahab (Afghanistan Minister) that India will stand like a rock with them. We are committed to your economic prosperity and security,” she said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Swaraj made the remarks at an event organised by the Water Resources Ministry to felicitate its personnel and workers who successfully completed the construction of India-Afghan Friendship Dam in Herat province.Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and Afghanistan’s Energy and Water Minister Engineer Ali Ahmad Osmani also attended the event.Swaraj noted the dam was built in “very difficult and hostile” conditions by WAPCOS Ltd, a public sector undertaking under the Water Resources Ministry, even as Indian nationals were attacked in Afghanistan. She likened the “valour and determination” shown by the personnel working on the project to that of soldiers guarding country.Referring to the recent bomb blast in Afghanistan in which two Indians were killed, Swaraj said the Indian Consulate, rest houses and Indian nationals were attacked 16 times and 24 Indians have so far been killed in such attacks.”This is not an ordinary dam…attacks keep taking place on our consulate there, blasts occur…amid such a situation, if an organisation like WAPCOS says it will construct the dam, it reflects the determination and valour which our soldiers show…several Afghan security forces personnel too were killed, but they were determined,” she said.Lauding the tradition of Chishti Sufism, she said it came to India from where the dam has been built in Afghanistan. The Minister said the dam, funded entirely by the central government, will contribute heavily to the economic growth of Afghanistan.Bharti described the dam “as an example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts aimed at pushing development agenda at international-level too”.”Before Modiji became Prime Minister, there used to be politics of division. But he made a pitch for development. Internationally too, he is pushing the agenda of development. This dam is example of that,” she said.The dam was built keeping in mind the needs of local people. It will help irrigate swathes in Afghanistan and generate electricity, she said.Osmani said his country received a lot of funds over the past 15 years from international donors but India’s cooperation was “very effective” and hoped other countries will follow India’s model. He lauded India for supporting development activities in Afghanistan and constructing the dam at a time when “some countries are supporting terrorism” in his country.”Surely, the history and the people Afghanistan will remember these two types of actions. This time terrorists and their supporters were disappointed. We proved that friendship succeeded and terrorists failed. The completion of the dam shows terrorists cannot stop our development,” he said.Special Secretary in Water Resources Ministry Amarjit Singh, WAPCOS CMD R K Gupta and other government officials, Sufi saints from Afghanistan were also in attendance at the event. Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani had on June 4 jointly inaugurated the Rs 1775-crore dam.The multipurpose project, constructed on Chist-e-Sharif river in Heart province of Afghanistan, is expected to irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42 mega watt power, besides ensuring water supply and other benefits to local people. Funded by Indian government, the project work was completed in over 10 years by 1,500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals.

Truck queues back up after fighting closes Afghan-Pakistan border | Reuters

TORKHAM BORDER CROSSING, Pakistan Hundreds of trucks lined roads leading to the normally bustling Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday, with drivers increasingly frustrated at an impasse between the two countries over their disputed frontier.

Pakistan is going ahead with plans to build a barrier at the crossing, saying that it is necessary to keep out Islamist militants sneaking in from Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan rejects the Durand Line border drawn up in 1893, and the row over a solid recognition of that boundary led to armed clashes between the neighbouring countries on Sunday that killed four people.

“We’re just sitting here waiting for some good news,” said Musa Jan, an Afghan truck driver from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, stuck in Pakistan since Sunday night.

“We just want this to end so we can go home and get back to making an honest living.”

Hundreds of brightly painted trucks lined both sides of the road at the end of the Khyber Pass, unable to deliver their cargo. The smell of rotting fruit filled the air, and drivers sheltered from the sun under their vehicles during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Thousands of vehicles normally pass through the crossing every week, making it a vital trade link between the countries.

A ceasefire agreed by Afghanistan and Pakistan is holding, but the weekend skirmishes reflected strained relations between them in recent months.

Afghanistan, struggling to contain a stubborn insurgency led by Taliban militants, blames Pakistan for harbouring fighters and allied networks on its territory.

Pakistan denies it supports militants, and says it is building the gate at Torkham to stop the movement of militants coming the other way, from Afghanistan.

“In the past there would be small skirmishes, but nothing like this,” said one guard at the crossing, Shafi Ullah, referring to the weekend clashes.

“But we will build this gate at all costs. … There is terrorism, there are blasts – it all comes from that side (Afghanistan).”

Pakistan’s top foreign policy official, Sartaj Aziz, told parliament on Thursday that Afghan forces started the clashes.

“There has been no aggression or provocation by Pakistan,” Aziz said.

Afghan officials, however, blame Pakistan.

“The past three times, Pakistani forces attacked us and our forces were in a defensive position and defended themselves and our soil,” said Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province where Torkham is located.

Afghanistan’s ambassador in Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, on Thursday accused Pakistan of reneging on ceasefire terms that he said included halting construction of the gate.

Zarwaid Khan, a Pakistani border guard, said construction of the gate was continuing and there was no fighting on Thursday, although he said the situation was still “delicate”.

“We are watching and waiting,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ahmad Sultan in NANGARHAR, Afghanistan and Asad Hashim in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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PM Modi leaves for Afghanistan; to inaugurate Afghan-India Friendship Dam today

With an objective to consolidate the progress made in diverse areas such as economy, energy, environment, defence and security and to intensify cooperation for the future, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a five-nation tour to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, United States and Mexico beginning on Saturday morning.On the first leg of his visit, Prime Minister Modi will reach Herat in the western part of Afghanistan in the afternoon, where he will inaugurate India-Afghan Friendship Dam earlier known as Salma Dam, along with President President Ashraf Ghani.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Looking forward to my visit to Afghanistan tomorrow. I will join President Ashraf Ghani to inaugurate Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam in Herat. It is a symbol of our friendship and would usher in hope, light up homes, nourish the fertile fields of Herat and bring prosperity to the people of the region,” the Prime Minister posted on Facebook.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday jointly inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam) with Afghanistan President Dr. Ashraf Ghani in Herat province of Western Afghanistan.The Afghan-India Friendship Dam is a multipurpose project planned for generating 42 MW of power, irrigating 75000 hectares of land, water supply and other benefits to the people of Afghanistan.Salma Dam is a landmark infrastructure project undertaken by the Indian Government on river Chist-e-Sharif, in Herat province of Afghanistan.The project is executed and implemented by WAPCOS Ltd., a Government of India Undertaking under ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.The project is located 165 kilometres east of Herat town and connected with earthen road. Due to security reasons Indian engineers and technicians involved with the project have been reaching the site once in a month by helicopter service provided by Government of Afghanistan.All equipment and material were transported from India to Bander-e-Abbas port of Iran via sea and then along 1200 km by road from there to Islam Kila border post at Iran-Afghanistan border and then further 300 km by road from the border post to the site.The gross capacity of the dam is 633 Million M3. The height of the dam is 104.3 metre, length 540 metre and width at the bottom is 450 metre.

NSG membership, black money high agenda as Modi starts five-nation tour

A whirlwind tour will take Prime Minister Narendra Modi to five countries in five days, ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in South Korea later this month. The PM, who is beginning his tour from the Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, will visit Qatar, Switzerland, United States and Mexico. Besides official engagements, he will interact with business leaders in these countries to explain how the government has made it simpler and easier to invest and to business in India.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In Switzerland, officials are expecting that the visit will give an impetus to the process of exchanging information on black money stashed in Swiss banks. They draw confidence from the Swiss Federal Council’s recent proceedings on the revision of the Tax Administrative Assistance Act, which provides for easing of Swiss practices with regard to data on tax evaders.The Opposition often takes jibe at the PM for his election promise of bringing back black money from abroad. Any assurance from Swiss authorities would help him boost his government’s profile back home. India has been looking into 782 names taken from a list of HSBC Bank clients given to foreign authorities by the former employee, Hervé Falciani, who worked at the bank’s Geneva branch. But despite pressure from India, Switzerland has so far rejected requests for banking information. “His programme in Switzerland on Monday begins with a meeting with the President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann, followed by a business meeting,” said the foreign secretary Subramanyam Jaishankar.In Switzerland, United States and Mexico, PM’s specific agenda will be to seek support for the membership of NSG. The grouping is meeting later this month in South Korea to discuss India’s membership. India applied the membership on May 12. Only members of this grouping can alone export nuclear technology or fuel. Pakistan, banking on the support of China also applied for the membership, on May 19. Though, the US has been batting for India’s membership, Modi needs to convince Mexico and Switzerland – both of which have strong reservations about granting membership to countries which have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).Modi’s first stopover in Afghanistan, the country he will be visiting for the second time in six months, is aimed at conveying the message to Pakistan that India will continue to remain engaged in the war-torn country. He will inaugurate a dam with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in western Herat district close to the Iran border which was built with Indian assistance.Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (centre) arrives in Herat on Friday, a day before inauguration of the Salma Hydroelectric Dam. In the United States, besides holding bilateral talks with President Barack Obama, he will meet with heads of American think tanks and also supervise a function involving repatriation of cultural property, basically Indian antiquities, which are in the US. The high point of his visit is delivering an address to the joint meeting of the Congress and a reception jointly hosted by the House and Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and the India Caucus.Jaishankar said the prime minister would be on in Mexico City in the afternoon of June 8 where he would have a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The visit to this Latin American country attains significance as the country had launched a Made in Mexico campaign all through 70s. Modi’s ambitious Make in India programme is on similar lines. The campaign made Mexico a manufacturing hub. The country is right now 11th largest economy in the world. In 1980, Mexican trade was 17%, which has now grown to 61% of its GDP. With $400 billion exports a year, 50% of which are high-tech equipment, Mexico is one country, officials here say, India can emulate.

Modi among few global invitees as Obama’s term enters last leg

New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the US on 7-8 June in the course of his five-nation tour starting on Saturday, he will be among the few close world leaders that President Barack Obama is inviting in the last year of his presidency.

“President Obama spoke to the Prime Minister and mentioned to him that this year he was inviting some leaders with whom he had a very close and productive working relationship to visit him in the United States,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said at a pre-departure media briefing here on Friday.

This will be Modi’s second bilateral visit to the US after his visit in September 2014.

Jaishankar said that in many ways it would be a sort of “consolidation visit” after Obama and Modi working on the US-India relationship in the last two years.

File image of Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. AP

File image of Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. AP

After departing on Saturday morning, Modi will stop over in Herat in Afghanistan where he will, jointly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, inaugurate the India-Afghan Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, that has been rebuilt with Indian aid.

Originally constructed in 1976 on the Hari river basin, the Salma Dam suffered extensive damage during the civil war in Afghanistan.

“It was built at a cost of approximately Rs 1,700 crore,” Jaishankar said.

He said that three turbines on the dam will provide 42 MW of electricity and the water will irrigate around 75,000 hectares of land.

After attending a lunch to be hosted in his honour by Ghani, Modi will leave for Doha, Qatar, where he will meet Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani on Saturday evening.

He will also visit a camp of Indian workers. Qatar is home to around 630,000 expatriate Indians, many of whom are blue collar workers.

Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit four Gulf countries after having visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Iran.

On Sunday, he will begin his engagements in Qatar with a meeting with business leaders following which he will hold a restricted meeting with Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

Jaishankar pointed out that trade between India and the Gulf region stood at $112 billion and two-thirds of India’s energy supplies come from that region.

Bilateral trade between India and Qatar stands at $10 billion.

“It (Qatar) can also be a large economic partner as it has a large sovereign wealth fund,” the foreign secretary said.

After signing of bilateral agreements and an interaction with the Indian community, Modi will leave for Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday evening.

On 6 June, the prime minister will hold a meeting with President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann and also interact with business leaders.

Jaishankar said that Switzerland was India’s fifth largest trade partner and the 11th largest investor in India.

The country is strong in the areas of renewable energy and vocational education.

After concluding his engagements in Switzerland, Modi will leave for Washington on 6 June where he will meet heads of think tanks.

On 7 June, he will be hosted for lunch by President Obama at the White House after which he will attend a business meeting.

The highlight of Modi’s US visit will be his address to a joint sitting of the US Congress on 8 June.

“Today, the Congress is very much at the heart of our relationship with the United States,” Jaishankar said.

“It has been very supportive of India,” he said.

After attending a lunch and a reception at the US Congress and an Indian community reception, Modi will depart for Mexico City on 8 June afternoon where he will hold a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto.

This will be the first prime ministerial bilateral visit from India to Mexico in 30 years after then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1986.

Manmohan Singh visited Mexico in 2012 to attend the G20 Summit.

Jaishankar said that two-way trade between India and Mexico stood at $6 around billion.

Within Asia, India is the largest importer of crude oil from Mexico.

India exports pharmaceutical products and automobile parts to Mexico.

“We expect the focus of the discussions will be on bilateral cooperation, specially bilateral economic cooperation,” Jaishankar said.

After attending a dinner that will be hosted for him by President Pena Nieto, Modi will leave for India on 8 June.

PM Modi to inaugurate Afghan-India Friendship Dam on his visit to Afghanistan on June 4

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Afghanistan on June 4, where he will, along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, in Herat province of Western Afghanistan.About 1, 500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals worked relentlessly in very difficult conditions to complete the dam.It also highlights India’s continued commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On December 25 last, Prime Minister Modi and President Ghani had dedicated the new Parliament building constructed under India-Afghanistan development cooperation to Afghanistan.The forthcoming meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Ghani will also provide an opportunity to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and how the two countries can cooperate further for promoting peace and stability there.

Afghan draft law must stop punishing women over moral crimes – rights group | Reuters

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Afghanistan’s president should ensure that the country’s draft penal code upholds women’s rights by banning “virginity exams” and outlawing the imprisonment of women and girls accused of so-called moral crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

Improving the lives and rights of women remains a major challenge in Afghanistan nearly 15 years after a U.S.-backed military campaign ousted the Taliban’s hardline Islamist regime.

Afghan women and girls accused of “moral crimes” such as running away from home or having sex outside of marriage are often forced to endure invasive and scientifically questionable “virginity tests” by government doctors, HRW said.

The tests claim to verify whether a woman has been sexually active outside of marriage, but the veracity of the exams has been widely debunked by scientists.

“President Ghani should ensure that the new law upholds women’s rights under both the Afghan constitution and international law, by removing all references to “moral crimes” and adding new provisions to protect women and girls from abuse,” said HRW researcher Heather Barr in a statement.

Afghan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

HRW said in most cases women and girls accused of “moral crimes” were escaping forced marriage or domestic violence. In some instances those who had been raped were charged with having sex outside of marriage, the rights group added.

Despite Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s pledge to stop women and girls from being locked up for running away from home, Afghan police and prosecutors continue to arrest them, HRW said.

“President Ghani’s promise to end the practice of arresting women and girls for “running away” is an important step forward for women’s rights in Afghanistan”, Barr said.

“But to make a real difference, the president needs to issue a clear and binding order that immediately changes how every police officer and prosecutor handles complaints against women and girls. For too long, women and girls fleeing violence have been treated as criminals while their abusers go free.”

According to HRW estimates from 2013, half of imprisoned Afghan women and about 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention have been arrested on so-called moral crimes charges.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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Pakistan can’t confirm Taliban leader is dead, criticises U.S. drone strike | Reuters

ISLAMABAD Pakistan’s interior minister said on Tuesday he could not confirm that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike, and described Washington’s justification for the attack as “against international law”.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Mansour had been killed in the drone strike, and the Pentagon said separately that Mansour was plotting attacks that posed “specific, imminent threats” to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the body recovered on Pakistani soil, near the Afghan border, was charred beyond recognition, adding that DNA samples would be tested against a relative who had come forward to claim the body.

“The government of Pakistan cannot announce this without a scientific and legal basis,” Khan told a news briefing.

He did not identify the relative or say whether he or she claimed to be related to the Taliban leader or someone else.

Khan rejected the U.S. argument that it could launch attacks across borders in order to protect its interests.

“For the U.S. government to say that whoever is a threat to them will be targeted wherever they are, that is against international law,” he said. “And if every country in the world adopts this rule, it will be the law of the jungle.”

Pakistan and the United States have been uneasy allies in the war against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in the region.

Critics in Afghanistan and the United States accuse Pakistan of allowing the Afghan Taliban’s leadership to take shelter on its territory, something that Islamabad has denied.

The militant movement has made territorial gains and carried out a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan since NATO forces officially wound down their combat mission at the end of 2014, undermining the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Recent events echo those in 2011, when U.S. special forces raided a building in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad that killed longtime al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, infuriating and severely embarrassing Islamabad.

CROSS-BORDER STRIKE?

Khan said the car was destroyed on Pakistani territory but was fired “from another country”, presumably Afghanistan, where more than 10,000 U.S. and coalition troops remain.

Khan added that Pakistani authorities were also investigating a passport bearing the name of Wali Muhammad, which was found near the burned out shell of the car believed to have been the target of the drone attack.

He confirmed the passport in question had been used to travel from Pakistani airports multiple times, and that it held valid visas for Iran, Dubai and Bahrain.

If the travel document proves to have been used by Mansour himself, it would raise fresh questions about how the Taliban leader was able to move freely in and out of Pakistan and whether he had help from the country’s security apparatus.

Khan on Tuesday disputed that elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus supported the Taliban leadership.

“If (Mansour) was availing Pakistani intelligence agency support and help, would he be travelling like this?,” he asked, referring to reports that the target was alone with a single driver.

The circumstances surrounding the killing remain murky, including how the U.S. verified it was Mansour who was killed in the attack and how any documents could be recovered from the fiery scene.

“You could not see a spot of paint … that’s how bad it was hit,” Khan said. “How was a passport lying just a few yards away? So first we have to establish that, whether he was actually using it.”

The Taliban have not issued any official statements on Mansour since Saturday’s drone strike.

However, Taliban officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Mansour is dead and a council is meeting to choose a successor, the second such leadership shura in a year after the death of the movement’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was confirmed in 2015.

MYSTERIOUS PASSPORT

Authorities in Quetta, the Baluchistan capital, showed a copy of the recovered passport, which has a photo bearing a strong likeness to the officially released Taliban picture of Mansour, to a Reuters reporter.

They also noted that it bore an exit stamp from Iran’s land border with Pakistan dated May 21, the day of the drone strike.

Pakistani immigration records show that the Wali Muhammad passport was used at least 18 times since 2006 to travel internationally, two senior officials in the Federal Investigation Agency, which manages borders, told Reuters.

One of the officials in the southwestern province of Baluchistan said the passport was used mostly over the land border with Iran and from the airport in the southern city of Karachi, with the last exit from Karachi en route to Dubai on March 31, 2015.

The second official reviewed computerised records of the passport and said there were “18 travel events” from Karachi airport starting in 2007, with the last arrival at Karachi on April 2, 2015.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry was quoted on state media denying that such an individual had crossed the border from Iran to Pakistan at the time in question.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates did not respond to questions on whether Mansour might have entered Dubai using an assumed name or whether there was any record of a Wali Muhammad visiting.

(Additional reporting by Gul Yousufzai in QUETTA; Writing by Kay Johnson; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Pakistan calls for justice to Samjhauta blast victims

Pakistan on Thursday accused India of trying to exonerate individuals, involved in Samjhauta Express attack, that resulted in the killing of 42 Pakistan citizens. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammed Nafees Zakaria said the issue had also figured during the meeting between the two foreign secretaries last month in New Delhi. “It is only through fair, timely and judicious administration of justice that any society can sustain itself as a respected member of global community,” he said, when asked about clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya and others in Malegaon and other terror related cases. The spokesperson further said normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan would require sincere efforts, good faith and commitment from both the countries. “We have already conveyed that the dialogue process will not be a concession from one side to the other but a modest modus vivendi in inter-state relations,” he added.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also denied that Pakistan during its strategic dialogue with the US has agreed to sign the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime), asserting that Islamabad will only sign if other countries in the region also sign it, putting the onus on India.On Afghanistan’s disinterest in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting that involved the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan to rope in Taliban in talks, Pakistan spokesperson said doubting his country’s intention was not only wrong, but it also strengthens those elements that do not want to see peace in Afghanistan. Afghan representation was at a very low level at the 5th QCG meeting in Islamabad. The Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad Dr Omer Zakhiwal even blamed the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s reluctance to act against them. In a big blow to Pakistan, Afghan government on its own has finalised a peace deal with a militant group Hizb-e-Islami, while Taliban have rejected the talks. Zakhiwal had even lamented that despite best efforts, misunderstandings between the two countries cannot be removed. Pakistan spokesperson said In context of the statement of the Afghan ambassador, both sides realise that their relationship is rooted in history, bound by similarity of cultures and religious affinity. He cautioned that differences would only serve the interests of the adversaries who do not want to see peace in Afghanistan.

Pentagon report reveals confusion among US troops over Afghan mission

Amid fierce fighting after the Taliban captured the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last year, US special forces advisers repeatedly asked their commanders how far they were allowed to go to help local troops retake the city.They got no answer, according to witnesses interviewed in a recently declassified, heavily redacted Pentagon report that lays bare the confusion over rules of engagement governing the mission in Afghanistan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the Taliban insurgency gathers strength, avoiding enemy fire has become increasingly difficult for advisers, who have been acting as consultants rather than combatants since NATO forces formally ceased fighting at the end of 2014.In the heat of the battle, lines can be blurred, and the problem is not exclusive to Afghanistan: questions have arisen over the role of US troops in Iraq after a US Navy SEAL was killed by Islamic State this month.”‘How far do you want to go?’ is not a proper response to ‘How far do you want us to go?'” one special forces member told investigators in a report into the US air strikes on a hospital in Kunduz that killed 42 medical staff, patients and caretakers.That incident was the biggest single tragedy of the brief capitulation of Kunduz to Taliban militants, and there is no suggestion that the mistake was the result of a lack of clarity over the rules of engagement.But the 700-page report, much of it blacked out for security reasons, sheds light on how the rules are not fully understood, even by some troops on the ground, compromising the mission to stabilise the nation and defeat a worsening Islamist insurgency.The issues exposed in the report are likely to be considered by the new US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, as he prepares to makes recommendations in the coming weeks that may clarify or expand the level of combat support the US-led training mission can provide.”It’s not a strategy and, in fact, it’s a recipe for disaster in that kind of kinetic environment,” said the soldier, who, like others in the report, was not identified. He added that his unit, whose role was to advise and assist Afghan forces without engaging in combat, asked three times for commanders to clarify the rules governing their mission. “Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire.”US MISSION UNDER REVIEWWhile acknowledging a lingering “lack of understanding in the West” about the US and NATO role in Afghanistan, US military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland denied there was confusion among troops over the broader mission.More than 9,000 US soldiers were “retrained” on the rules of engagement following missteps in Kunduz, in an effort to reduce future misunderstandings, he said. Critics say the confusion comes from political expediency, because US leaders are keen to portray the Afghan operation as designed mainly to help local forces fight for themselves.”The rules of engagement are trapped in the jaws of political confusion about the mission,” a senior Western official told Reuters. “Nobody in Western capitals seems willing to admit that Afghanistan is a worsening war zone and … that their troops are still battling out a combat mission on a daily basis,” added the official, who declined to be named.Until the end of 2014, when their combat role officially ended, NATO forces in Afghanistan peaked at more than 130,000 troops, most of them American. NATO’s presence today is a fraction of the size.DIFFERENT OPERATIONS CAN MERGEAround 10,000 US troops are divided between the NATO train-and-assist mission called Resolute Support and a US-only counter-terrorism operation against militant groups that include al Qaeda and Islamic State but not the Taliban.Under publicly declared rules of engagement, US advisers in Resolute Support generally cannot attack Taliban targets except in self defence. As government forces have struggled, however, the definition of “self defence” has appeared less sharply defined, with some US air strikes conducted to defend partnered Afghan units.The Kunduz report indicates at least some US troops have been sent into battle with questions unanswered. The Green Beret complained that failure to provide clear guidance represented “moral cowardice”, and that political leaders intentionally keep the mission vague.That allows them to “reap the rewards of success without facing the responsibility of failure,” he added. Soldiers pleaded for “clearer guidance” and more clarification of overly complicated rules, according to investigators.The Pentagon has not fully publicized rules governing the use of force by US troops, who may be called upon to act under either type of mission, sometimes in the same battle. In the four days leading up to the hospital attack, US special forces called in nine close air support strikes under the authority of counter-terrorism, and 13 under Resolute Support, according to the report.As part of self-defence, coalition troops have “some latitude” in calling air strikes on militant targets that may not be directly attacking them, but could soon pose a threat, Cleveland said. Last year the Pentagon announced that Afghan forces could be helped under extreme conditions.Additionally, under a “Person with Designated Special Status” classification, Afghan units operating closely with international advisers can be protected by air strikes as if they were coalition forces, according to Cleveland.WHO IS THE ENEMY?Further complicating matters are counter-terrorism rules that allow strikes against al Qaeda, as well as militants linked to Islamic State which did not exist when the US military intervened in Afghanistan in 2001, but not the Taliban.In recent weeks US commanders in Afghanistan have reported that al Qaeda and the Taliban are working more closely together, signalling that the dominant Taliban group could once again be attacked by more air strikes.Calling the authorities in Afghanistan “exceptionally complex,” previous training had failed to prevent confusion, the Kunduz report found. Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, commanders made clear that “combat operations was mostly a thing of the past,” another special forces soldier said in the report.On the ground, however, things were more complicated. The second officer said he went into the Kunduz operation unsure of which authorities his unit would be operating under. The lack of explicit instructions led the officer to choose his “default” of Resolute Support authorities, which he described as “just the safe bet.”

Afghan Taliban kill at least 28 in major attack in central Kabul | Reuters

KABUL A Taliban suicide bomb and gun assault on a government security building during Tuesday morning rush hour in central Kabul killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 320, in the deadliest single attack in the Afghan capital since 2011.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the assault “in the strongest possible terms” in a statement from the presidential palace, located only a few hundred meters away from the scene of the blast.

The insurgency led by the Afghan Taliban has gained strength since the withdrawal of most international combat troops at the end of 2014, and the Islamist group is believed to be stronger than at any point since it was driven from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001.

With nerves on edge in Kabul, a second explosion hit the city in the evening but no serious casualties were reported from the blast, which was caused by an improvised device, according to Interior Minister spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

Police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said civilians and members of the Afghan security forces were among those killed and wounded in the morning blast, when a suicide car-bomber blew himself up outside the wall of a National Directorate of Security (NDS) office.

Witnesses described chaotic scenes after the blast.

“I was here when a huge explosion happened,” said Amir, who works in a nearby restaurant. “I saw three boys with severe head injuries. My uncle was injured and my brother is missing, I don’t know what happened to him.”

It was the worst single militant strike in Kabul since 2011, when about 60 people died in a suicide blast outside a mosque, and will reinforce concerns in Afghanistan and the West that the country is being dragged into a worsening spiral of violence.

Rahimi said one attacker had tried to slip into the NDS building through a destroyed wall after the blast, but he was discovered and killed.

SMOKE, SIRENS

The Taliban said on their Pashto-language website that they had carried out the suicide bombing on “Department 10”, an NDS unit responsible for protecting government ministers and VIPs.

They said a suicide car bomber blew up the main gate at the front of the office, allowing other fighters, including more suicide bombers, to enter the heavily guarded compound.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a separate statement that the attackers engaged in a gunbattle with Afghan security forces inside the building. He said as many as 92 security staff and soldiers were killed.

The Islamist group often exaggerates details of attacks against government and military targets.

A thick plume of black smoke was seen rising from the area near the sprawling U.S. embassy complex nearby immediately after the blast.

Warning sirens blared out for some minutes from the embassy compound, which is also close to the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The U.S. embassy and the NATO mission both said they were not affected by the blast.

The Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive on April 12, and fighting has raged around the symbolically important northern city of Kunduz since then, although the capital had been relatively quiet.

Kunduz, Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city, fell briefly to the Taliban last September in the biggest blow to Ghani’s Western-backed government since NATO-led forces ended their combat operations at the end of 2014.

Taliban fighters have also been making territorial gains in the southern province of Helmand, further stretching Afghan forces who have struggled to contain the insurgency.

Tuesday’s blast came days after a United Nations report said urban warfare had caused a spike in the number of deaths and injuries among women and children in Afghanistan this year.

The U.S. embassy said the attack underscored the harm the Taliban continued to inflict on the Afghan people.

“Afghanistan deserves peace and security, not attacks that victimize parents taking their children to school, workers on their morning commute, and people who have stepped forward to help defend their fellow citizens,” it said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmed in PESHAWAR; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Paul Tait)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

PM Modi on TIME’s most influential people on internet for second year

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the most influential people on the Internet, TIME magazine said, describing the Indian leader as an “Internet star” who often uses social media to “conduct diplomacy”.The magazine cited Modi’s unconventional announcement on Twitter of his visit to Pakistan last year while naming him among ‘The 30 Most Influential People on the Internet’ for the second year in a row in this year’s unranked list.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The list includes US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her husband Kayne West, author J K Rowling, former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.For its second annual roundup of the most influential people on the Internet, TIME said it looked at the contenders’ global impact on social media and their overall ability to drive news.On Modi, Time said the leader of the world’s largest democracy is also an “Internet star”, boasting more than 18 million Twitter followers and over 32 million Facebook likes.Modi, Time said the leader of the world’s largest democracy is also an “Internet star”, boasting more than 18 million Twitter followers and over 32 million Facebook likes.It also cited Modi’s use of social media to break news and conduct diplomacy.”And unlike some of his contemporaries, he often uses social media to break news and conduct diplomacy. On Christmas Day, for example, Modi tweeted that he would visit the Pakistani city of Lahore to wish Modi tweeted that he would visit the Pakistani city of Lahore to wish Nawaz Sharif, the leader of India’s chief regional rival, a happy 66th birthday,” it said.TIME, however, also cited the faux pas Modi made when he took to Twitter last month to convey his birthday wish to Afghanistan President Modi made when he took to Twitter last month to convey his birthday wish to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who politely corrected him that his birthday was in May.”That tweet made headlines for the wrong reasons, though: the Afghan President replied with his thanks, and a polite note that he was actually born on May 19,” the magazine said.Last year, Modi was named by TIME among the 100 most influential people in the world in its annual list, with US President Barack Obama penning a flattering profile of him.Modi was named by TIME among the 100 most influential people in the world in its annual list, with US President Barack Obama penning a flattering profile of him.This year’s list also includes Indo-Canadian vlogger Lilly Singh, who TIME said is rapidly becoming one of the biggest stars on YouTube, both on and off-screen.On Trump, the magazine noted that he is “redefining how political candidates use social media, for better and for worse”.Despite facing flak for his often insulting tweets and comments online, Trump has almost 7 million followers on Twitter, more than any other presidential candidate including Hillary Clinton, it said.

Effective use of UN sanctions will restrict Afghan violence: India

Voicing concern over “unremitting distress signals” of a worsening security situation in war-torn Afghanistan, India said “effective” implementation of UN sanctions will ensure restrictions on the movements of groups perpetrating violence.India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin highlighted the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and called for greater efforts by the international community to support the Afghan government.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The distress signals are unremitting – a worsening security situation, an increase in the tempo of insurgent activities, a greater toll of civilian casualities, and a deteriorating humanitarian situation,” he said. “All point to the need for greater engagement by the international community in support of the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan,” he said, addressing the Security Council debate on UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) yesterday.The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN mission in Afghanistan until March 17, 2017. The resolution said it “looks forward” to the next Ministerial Conference to be held in New Delhi in 2016 and called on Afghanistan and its regional partners to keep up the momentum and continue their efforts to enhance regional dialogue and confidence.India has in the past underscored that it is the responsibility of the sanctions committee to protect UN nations and its citizens from terror groups and has demanded that sanctions against listed individuals be strictly adhered to and implemented.Akbaruddin said groups and individuals that perpetrate violence against the people and government of Afghanistan “cannot be allowed to exercise control or wield influence” over any part of Afghanistan’s territory, as it would pose serious threats to the gains of the last 15 years.”The effective implementation of the UNSC’s Sanctions regime including the 1267 ISIL/ Al-Qaeda Sanctions regime and the 1988 Taliban Sanctions regime is a tangible measure that will go a long way in imposing restrictions on the listed entities/ individuals’ movements, assets and arms embargo,” he said.Terming the expansion of the Taliban’s territorial reach as a “disturbing development”, Akbaruddin asked the Security Council to look into the security situation and the means to contain it with a “sense of urgency” adding that efforts to incite ethnic violence and conflict are also serious developments.He voiced India’s support to an Afghan government-led reconciliation process that respects the red lines drawn by the people of Afghanistan and the international community, adding that the “groups and individuals to be reconciled must give up violence and abide by the Constitution of Afghanistan.”

Afghans feel forgotten in Europe’s migrant crisis | Reuters

CESME, Turkey As the European Union and Turkey focus on stemming the flow of Syrian refugees attempting perilous journeys across the Aegean sea to Greece, another migrant community whose numbers are also swelling says it is being overlooked.

    Largely denied the chance for legal resettlement in Europe and struggling to find work or support in Turkey, Afghans account for around a quarter of the migrants risking their lives in the small boats leaving Turkey’s shore.

Ahead of an emergency European Union summit with Turkey on Monday, the EU executive has announced the first payouts from a 3 billion euro ($3.3 billion) fund meant to help Turkey cope with an influx of more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees and encourage them to stay put.

But while Afghans are unlikely to be prevented from using services such as medical centres and education facilities set up with European funds in Turkey, the fact they speak Pashto and Dari, rather than Arabic, risks excluding them from projects designed for Syrian refugees, aid workers warn.

“The EU is not even discussing these issues and is exclusively focused on Syria,” Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, told Reuters last month.

“Even if the Syrian crisis would be solved tomorrow, there would still be a serious refugee crisis, with a large number of refugees in Turkey who don’t have access to their rights.”

Afghan migrants in Turkey interviewed by Reuters said that over the past few years they had been denied interviews with U.N. refugee agency UNHCR that would formally determine their refugee status, a key step in the journey to being resettled.

Polat Kizildag, programme coordinator at ASAM, an organisation which registers asylum seekers in Turkey, said they were generally told they were ineligible because Turkey was the third country on their journey and the expectation was that they apply for refugee status in their second, in many cases Iran.

Human rights groups have said Iranian forces deport thousands of Afghans without giving them a chance to prove their asylum status and that they are pressured to leave the country.

“We want to stay (in Turkey) but … there is no support here. It’s too expensive,” said Najebullah, 45, a father of four originally from Kabul waiting in Cesme, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, to make an illegal crossing to the Greek Island of Chios.

    “In Europe we will get work and they will help us,” he said, echoing a commonly-held belief among the migrants flooding to Turkey’s shore that once they arrive in Europe they will be more easily able to build a new life.

Selin Unal, UNHCR spokeswoman in Turkey, said the most vulnerable, including Afghans, still received interviews, adding that close to 500 Afghans had been interviewed last year. She said the sheer numbers meant those most at risk were prioritised among UNHCR’s active case load of some 254,000 non-Syrians.

RESETTLEMENT WOES

More than 63,000 Afghans came to Turkey last year, a sharp rise from 15,652 in 2014, according to ASAM, counting only those who registered. Some came directly from Afghanistan, others from Iran, where they had tried unsuccessfully to settle.

    Kirikkale, near Turkey’s capital Ankara, is one of several satellite towns where registered Afghans are allowed to reside.

    Hakima Rezai, in her late thirties, said she was trying to get to Europe to be reunited with her four children, taken to Europe by sea by her brother-in-law almost a year ago. She said UNHCR – which declined to comment on individual cases – had told her they could not help.

Rezai lives in a single room with a coal-burning stove and relies on the charity of neighbours. She does not receive the cash cards given to some Syrian refugees by international NGOs and their local partners to help meet basic living costs because there is no such scheme specifically set up for Afghans.

“I cry every day,” she said, showing the identity documents of her absent children.

The exodus from Afghanistan has been prompted by an increasingly precarious security situation, with 11,000 civilians killed or injured in 2015, as well as widespread corruption undermining faith in the future and a war-ruined economy that cannot provide enough work for its population.

Kabul and other Afghan cities have seen a spate of suicide bombings and other attacks as the Taliban has stepped up its insurgency following the withdrawal of international troops from most combat operations in 2014.

The insurgents, driven from power by a U.S-led campaign in 2001, are seeking to reimpose hardline Islamist rule and are now in control or threatening around a third of the country.

FALSE PERCEPTIONS

According to the European Commission, 64,109 asylum requests were registered in Turkey in 2015, more than 11,000 of them from Afghan citizens, but only 459 were concluded, either by granting or rejecting refugee status.

Some are still waiting in Turkey, but others are among the thousands to have crossed illegally to Europe.

Under a law passed two years ago, Afghans and other refugees have access to healthcare in Turkey and Unal said the most vulnerable could also benefit from social security schemes.

In January, Turkey also passed a new law to give refugees access to legal employment, a move praised by the European Union, although the programme has not yet been rolled out.

    But many of the Afghan refugees, hampered in part by language difficulties, are unaware of their rights and rely on illegal labour such as fruit picking to survive.

    Birnur Esen, a psychologist who works for IMECE, an organisation which collects and distributes clothes and other supplies to migrants rescued at sea, said convincing migrants to stay in Turkey meant improving their lives there and making them realise conditions in Europe would be just as difficult.

That, she said, should be the focus of European efforts.

“We are trying to change their mind,” she said. “Europe must stand behind Turkey. It must say that if you stay in Turkey, we will improve your conditions.”

($1 = 0.8879 euros)

($1 = 2.9595 liras)

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie in Kabul, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Janet McBride)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

dna Must Read for the evening: Updates on Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail, India v/s Pak WT20 match and more

1) Kanhaiya Kumar granted interim bail for 6 months by Delhi High CourtJNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested in a sedition case, was granted interim bail for six months on Wednesday by the Delhi High Court which said that he has to cooperate in the ongoing investigation and has to present himself before the investigators as and when required. Read our full report here. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2) Afghan forces kill 4 suicide attackers who targetted Indian consulate in Jalalabad​Afghan security forces on Wednesday killed a team of suicide bombers who targeted the Indian consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad, following an attack in which at least six people were wounded. Read more here. 3) Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah hands over the controversial watch to Assembly SpeakerKarnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah handed it over to the Speaker in Assembly and declared it as a state asset.​ Read what Karnataka CM’s statement said, here. 4) India v Pakistan: HP govt must rethink hosting WT20 tie, insists Anurag Thakur”I hope the state government will rethink on their decision and will ask for more security from central government if needed,” BJP MP Anurag Thakur said. Read more here. 5) Priyanka Chopra in ‘Baywatch’: First pictures from the sets revealed!In the leaked pictures, Priyanka Chopra looks every bit glamorous playing her character of Victoria Deeds. Check out the pictures here.

Indian multi-role helicopters Mi-35 made a difference in Afghanistan: US General John Campbell

The three Mi-35 Indian multi-role helicopters donated to Afghanistan have made a big difference in the offensive against militants in the war-torn country, the outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan has said.”They do have three Mi-35s (sic) – really Mi-24s and Mi-35s from India. They’ll have a fourth one coming in pretty soon that will add to their inventory as well and that’ll make a great difference,” Gen John Campbell told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan yesterday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Mi-35, a comprehensive upgrade of the Mi-24, is a versatile helicopter gunship with troop carrying capabilities.Campbell, who has commanded US and international forces in Afghanistan for the past 18 months, is expected to retire.Lieutenant General John Nicholson has been chosen by President Barack Obama to replace Campbell.In January, three multi-role Mi-35 attack helicopters donated by India were inducted into the Afghan Air Force, giving the country’s security forces a much-needed lethal teeth against militant groups like the Taliban.The Indian gift to Afghanistan has been hailed by the people and government of Afghanistan, and also by the US.Campbell’s remarks on India’s donation of attack helicopters came in response to a question from Congressman Rob Wittman who wanted to know about the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force.The three helicopters were handed over to Afghanistan during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kabul in December last year. The fourth helicopter is expected to be delivered soon.

Pakistan army says deadly university attack controlled from Afghanistan | Reuters

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan The Pakistani army said on Saturday the four gunmen who attacked a university in northwest Pakistan were trained in Afghanistan and the assault was controlled by a Pakistani Taliban militant from a location inside Afghanistan.

In a briefing to reporters from the city of Peshawar, military spokesman General Asim Bajwa said the militants who stormed Bacha Khan University in Charsadda on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people, received training in Afghanistan and crossed over into Pakistan from the Torkham border between the two countries.

Bajwa said the attack was masterminded by Umar Mansoor, a Pakistani Taliban militant based in Afghanistan who is also held responsible for the December 2014 massacre of 134 children in the city of Peshawar – the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan’s history.

A deputy of Mansoor helped the attackers reach the Torkham border from where they crossed over into Pakistan, the spokesman said.

The army’s claims once more highlight the need for improved relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan which would prevent militants from carrying out cross-border terrorism which have undermined peace efforts in the region.

Pakistani officials say the Pakistan Taliban chief known as Mullah Fazlullah has been orchestrating raids on Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he fled several years ago after a Pakistani army offensive against his stronghold in the Swat Valley.

Afghan officials see Pakistan’s suggestion that Afghans are supporting cross-border attacks as an attempt to distract attention from what they say is Pakistan’s long history of supporting Afghanistan’s Taliban movement and other insurgent factions.

“The attackers were prepared in Afghanistan,” army spokesman Bajwa said. “We have come to the conclusion that terrorism cannot be fought when there are accomplices and facilitators.”

Providing details of the planning of the attack, the military spokesman said the gunmen used public transportation from the Afghan border to reach Mardan city, about 30 kilometres from Charsadda, where they were received by four Pakistani men, now in army custody.

“After entering Mardan, the terrorists were received by Adil and Riaz,” Bajwa said, identifying two of the suspected accomplices who he said put up the militants in two houses in Mardan.

“Adil is a labourer and just a few days ago he did some masonry work in the university, and made a map of the university which he shared with the militants,” said the military spokesman.

“Adil is the one who helped the attackers carry out reconnaissance of the area around the university.” 

Another accomplice, identified as Noorullah, bought an auto-rickshaw and transported the attackers from Mardan to the sugarcane fields next to Bacha Khan University, which they crossed through to finally scale the walls of the campus and carry out the assault.  

On Friday, Umar Mansoor, the mastermind identified by the Pakistan military, released video footage of the fighters he said carried out Wednesday’s deadly assault and vowed more attacks on schools and universities in the future.

Pakistan has killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under a major crackdown launched after the December 2014 school attack, which is seen as having hardened Pakistan’s resolve to fight militants along its border with Afghanistan.

(Editing by Clelia Oziel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Pakistan military runs govt in Islamabad: Shiv Sena

A day after Afghanistan blamed the Pakistan Army for the attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday backed the claims and alleged that the military runs the government in Islamabad. “Earlier, only the Shiv Sena used to say this but now the whole world knows that the Pakistani Government is controlled by its military. The military runs entire government in that country and it is responsible for sheltering the terrorists,” Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande said.”The fact stated by the Afghanistan Police chief is confirmation to all these specifics,” she added.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Responding to a poser on the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan which looks in jeopardy in wake of the Pathankot terror attack, the Shiv Sena leader said ‘dialogue’ is the keys to solve disputes. “Let’s see what comes out of these (Foreign) Secretary-level talks, which are scheduled at a time when former president of Pakistan Parvez Musharraf has stressed that attacks on Pakistan were not that major,” she added. Pakistani military officers were behind the attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif last week, a top Afghan police official said on Tuesday. One Afghan policeman was killed and nine others, including three civilians, were wounded in the attack on January 4.

India awaiting detailed report from Afghan agencies on Mazar-i-sharif attack

Asked if India knew who was behind the attack, he said, “The investigation by Afghan security agency was on and the government awaits a report.” He also referred to the telephonic conversation between Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the Afghan leader briefed him about the attack. In return, Modi thanked him for the exemplary bravery and courage shown by the Afghan National Security Forces in thwarting the attack. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

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ISI is behind Pathankot air base attack: Former top White House official

“Gen Raheel Sharif, the army’s boss, got a warm embrace from the Pentagon last fall despite the ISI support for the Afghan Taliban’s offensive against the Kabul government and despite the Pakistani military’s backing of terror groups like JeM,” he said.

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Why have you fallen behind? asks Pakistan handler to 2nd group of Pathankot terrorists

First priority for the government was to secure the assets parked in the technical area and a NSG team comprising about 160 commandos was dispatched and they were deployed along with other special forces to guard the assets in the inner periphery

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India should learn from Israel, says Mohan Bhagwat

RSS general secretary Bhayyaji Joshi, western Maharashtra chief Nana Jadhav, secretary Vinayak Thorat were also present on the dais.

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