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Pakistan seeks US support on implementation of Indus Waters Treaty with India

Islamabad: Pakistan has sought support of the US on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India, as Secretary of State John Kerry called for an amicable settlement of the issue by New Delhi and Islamabad, media reported on Saturday.

The development came after Pakistan was irked by the World Bank pause in mediation to resolve differences over construction of two water projects by India.

The Express Tribune reported that Kerry made a phone call to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday night and discussed the row over the IWT implementation and the role of the World Bank (WB), which had brokered the treaty in 1960.

After Kerry’s call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Dar in Islamabad at the Finance Ministry.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The back-to-back contacts highlight the importance of the water issue, which can potentially endanger regional stability if the situation slips out of control, according to sources at Finance Ministry.

“The US would like to see an amicable solution to this (water) issue,” a Finance Ministry statement quoted Kerry as saying.

Kerry told Dar that the WB president had informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the IWT.

The water dispute has catapulted the US back into Pakistan’s economic picture.

The American civilian and military assistance to Pakistan has drastically come down in recent months and its implications on Pakistan’s fiscal situation have started emerging in the shape of a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit.

Independent analysts argue that Washington may not play an effective role in resolving the water dispute, as the Obama administration is preparing to hand over the White House to Donald Trump next month.

“Senator Dar indicated that the US support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan will be greatly appreciated,” stated the Finance Ministry.

Early this month, the WB had announced a pause in playing its legally binding role of mediator in the IWT implementation.

In October, Pakistan had approached the WB seeking appointment of the Chairman of Court of Arbitration to resolve a dispute over construction of two mega hydropower projects by India in violation of the IWT.

The Finance Minister told Kerry that the IWT was an international commitment and it was the WB’s responsibility to make sure India honoured the treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of Pakistani people were protected, said the finance ministry.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:03 IST

2016: Pathankot, Kashmir unrest, president rule in Uttarakhand, Arunachal kept home ministry busy

New Delhi: Cross-border firing incidents, crackdown on “erring” NGOs and activities of Pakistan-based terror groups kept the Home Ministry busy in 2016 which saw the audacious attack on Pathankot airbase. Imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and subsequent revocation by the Supreme Court in both the states, over 120 days of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani were some other issues that the ministry had to deal with.

The year saw prolonged tension along the India-Pakistan border due to fierce firing from Pakistani forces on Indian security posts and civilian areas forcing Home Minister Rajnath Singh to tell BSF not to count bullets if fired upon by Pakistan and give a “befitting” reply. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists carried out the strike at the Pathankot airbase, killing seven personnel and injuring 37 others. In its charge sheet, the NIA said JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and two others hatched the conspiracy.

The terror case saw an unusual move from India and Pakistan as Islamabad sent its probe team to Pathankot. However, the Pakistani team, upon its return, claimed India did not cooperate with them. Islamabad reciprocated by refusing to allow an Indian investigating team to visit Pakistan in connection with the Pathankot attack probe.

Union Home MInister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home MInister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Not taking it lightly, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Pakistan for a Saarc meeting, delivered a blunt message to Islamabad asking it to stop encouraging terror groups and “glorification” of terrorists and also called for “strongest action” against nations supporting terrorism and their isolation.

The Home Ministry was also engaged in the fire-fight to control the unrest in Kashmir Valley arising after the killing of Wani on 8 July. For next four months, Kashmir Valley saw large-scale protests against Wani’s killing, complete shutdown of educational institutions, market and offices, thus badly affecting normal life.

The home minister himself led two all-party delegations and met cross sections of people, in an effort to bring peace in the restive Kashmir Valley. The Home Ministry, on behalf of the central government, was busy with handling the situation following imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

However, the central rule in both the states was set aside by the Supreme Court, leading to the Home Ministry receiving flak from various quarters.

The year also saw massive crackdown on NGOs, including on Greenpeace India, Islamic Research Foundation, founded by controversial preacher Zakir Naik, activist Teesta Setalvad’s two NGOs and one run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising, by the Ministry for their alleged violation of various provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

Notwithstanding the crackdown on NGOs, a total of Rs 1,452 crore foreign funds was received by various voluntary organisations during 2014-15. As many as 11,319 NGOs were derecognised by the Home Ministry in October after they failed to renew their registration under the FCRA.

In addition, the Centre also denied renewal of FCRA registration to 25 NGOs after they were allegedly found to be involved in anti-national activities. Later, during a review of the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry, it was conveyed to Singh that licences of around 20,000 of 33,000 NGOs were cancelled by the government after they were found to be allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus barring them from receiving foreign funds.

Situation in northeastern states was by-and-large peaceful except in Manipur where blockade on two national highways by a Naga group against creation of seven new districts disrupted normal life, and led to rise in prices of essential commodities and violence in some parts of the state.

Violence perpetrated by Naxals were contained considerably and there were fewer incidents in some of the worst-hit areas of the 10 states affected by the menace. There were some incidents of online radicalisation by dreaded terror group Islamic State and reports of some youths desiring to join its network.

The Home Ministry feels that though Islamic State has not taken roots in India, it is influencing youths through Internet and social media. According to an estimate prepared by the intelligence agencies, at least 30 Indians have gone to Islamic State-held areas in Iraq-Syria to fight for the terrorist group after they were radicalised online, forcing security forces to keep a close eye on social media outlets and some radical websites.

At least six of them were killed in the conflict zone and 30 other Indians, who were radicalised by Islamic State elements, were prevented from travelling to West Asia.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 12:07 IST

Pakistan wants World Bank to ‘fulfil its obligations’ regarding the Indus Water Treaty

Sun, 25 Dec 2016-09:08pm , Islamabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has asked the World Bank to “fulfil its obligations” regarding the Indus Water Treaty as it objected to the body pausing two concurrent processes related to Indo-Pak dispute over Kishenganga and Ratle project.Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the Treaty does not provide for a situation wherein a party can “pause” performance of its obligations under the accord. Dar said the World Bank’s decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. “It (the letter) strongly conveys that the matter of appointment of a Chairman of the Court of Arbitration has been inordinately delayed. It urged the World Bank to execute its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty,” Radio Pakistan reported.Dar said the “pause” will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed. The letter is a response to Kim’s letter of December 12 in which he announced this pause to “protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants”.India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan collecting ‘more evidence’ from Kulbhushan Jadhav: Sartaj Aziz

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan on Wednesday said it is gathering “more evidence” from the alleged RAW spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and will share dossiers on India’s “involvement in subversive activities” with the UN.While briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs here, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz also regretted the “Indian aggression” on the Line of Control (LoC).Interrogation of Jadhav is underway and more evidences are being collected from him, he said. “Dossiers about Indian involvement in subversive activities in Pakistan will be presented before the UN and other important countries after completion of investigation from Kulbhushan Jadhav,” Radio Pakistan quoted him as saying.Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said there are several UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and that the international community should exert pressure on India for the implementation of these resolutions.He claimed 45 Pakistani civilians have been killed due to “unprovoked Indian firing” on the LoC and Islamabad has informed the UN in writing about these ‘violations’.

Without naming Pakistan, MJ Akbar says it is creating conflict zones through terrorism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Using the platform of the Indo-China Think Tanks Forum to highlight Pakistan’s role in terrorism, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar pointed said on Friday that Islamabad can be held responsible for developing major conflict zones in South Asia.”The principle weapon in the conflict process through which ideologues move towards their objectives, is the weapon of terrorism,” Akbar said.Highlighting the dangers of terrorism, including contributing to the deaths of innocents, Akbar said, “The dangers of terrorism are not simply the obvious ones, the death of innocents, mass killings, but the most pernicious danger of terrorism lies in its use of fear in order to divide people.”Without naming Pakistan, but indicating towards it geographically, Akbar said, “To the West of us, you can see an extraordinary instability and a major conflict zone developing. He further said that ideologues in such zones have made religion as foundation of establishing a political state. “Most of this conflict is engineered by ideologues who have based religion at the centre of their politics,” he said.”These ideologues are not only challenging the stability of these regions, but they are doing something which we hope our friends begin to understand and realize. We have realised it because our experience has been very bitter,” he added.He urged think tanks to play a critical role in finding solutions to this growing problem.

No intention to add to strain in ties with Pakistan: VK Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that it acted in interest of national security in expelling a Pakistan High Commission official in October, Government on Thursday said it has no intention to add to the strain in ties with Pakistan caused by Islamabad’s continued policy of cross-border terrorism.Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, said tension in the relationship between the two countries has been caused by Pakistan’s continued policy of directing cross border terrorism against India and supporting other anti-India activities. India had expelled Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar on charges of spying, triggering a tit for tat action by Islamabad, which also expelled an Indian High Commission official posted there.”In declaring Mehmood Akhtar persona non grata and asking for his return to Pakistan, the government acted in the interest of national security.”It is not government’s intention to add to the strain in the relationship with Pakistan, which is caused by the latter’s continued policy of directing cross border terrorism against India and supporting other anti-India activities,” Singh said. Days after Mehmood’s expulsion, Islamabad had recalled six staff members from its High Commission here.Subsequently, India had withdrawn eight of its officials posted in Indian Embassy in Islamabad after Pakistan Foreign Ministry on November 3 alleged that they were found involved in subversive activities there.India had rejected the charges as totally baseless and unsubstantiated, saying they represented an afterthought and a crude attempt to tarnish image. Replying to a separate question, Singh said a total of 787 Indian fishermen were apprehended by Sri Lanka in the year 2014, 454 in 2015 and 254 were caught this year.He said a total of 1,045 Indian fishermen were released by Sri Lanka in 2014 which included 273 caught in the previous year. Singh said 375 Indin fishermen were released in 2015 and 333 this year which included some caught in previous year. Asked about functioning of MADAD consular service portal, he said a total of 15,849 grievances were registered since its inception in February 2015 out of which 9,811 were resolved while 6,038 are at various stages of resolution.To another question, he said the government had drawn up a list of 68 countries, which have not been covered at the ministerial or higher level since the current dispensation assumed office.He said visits have so far taken place to 29 out of these 68 countries.

Pakistan lifts ban on Indian cotton imports

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has lifted an “undeclared” ban on import of ginned cotton from India, days after rejecting a consignment of 10,000 bales of cotton from India citing violation of plant quarantine rules by importers.Earlier, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research put cotton imports from India on hold through Wagah and Karachi port from November 23, saying the shipments did not fulfil phyto-sanitary conditions, Dawn newspaper reported.The rising border tensions between the two neighbours had prompted Islamabad to impose the ban on 10,000 bales of cotton worth US $3.3 million from India. “The DPP has started issuing permits for importing cotton from India via Wagah. But the DPP has also made it clear to importers that only the consignments free from cotton seeds will be accepted and allowed into the country,” a DPP official said. “If implemented strictly, we will not be able to import cotton from any country in the world, let alone India, because no consignment is completely free from cotton seeds,” he said.Last year, Pakistan imported ginned cotton worth more than US $800 million from India which accounted for two-thirds of India’s cotton exports.Traders are expecting cotton imports from India and elsewhere to surge this year in view of the anticipated shortfall in the domestic crop while the government expects cotton output to remain close to 10.5 million bales of 170kg each against a reduced industry demand of 14 million bales owing to widespread factory closures in Punjab because of higher energy prices.Last year, a drop of 27% in domestic cotton output shaved 0.5% off gross domestic product growth rate of Pakistan.

Pakistan admits it has insufficient proof against alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday admitted that the government was presented with only “insufficient evidence” on alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav who is under detention.

Kulbhushan Jadhav. PTIKulbhushan Jadhav. PTI

Kulbhushan Jadhav. PTI

Addressing a full Senate chamber, Aziz said the dossier on Jadhav contained mere statements.

“It did not have any conclusive evidence,” he was quoted as saying by the Geo TV.

“What the dossier contained was not enough. Now it is up to the concerned authorities how long they take to give us more matter on the agent,” Aziz said.

Jadhav, who was reportedly arrested in Balochistan after he entered from Iran, has been accused by Pakistan of planning “subversive activities” in the country.

Pakistan Army had also released a “confessional video” of Jadhav, who said he was the serving Indian Navy officer.

India has acknowledged Jadhav as a retired Indian Navy officer, but denied the allegation that he was in any way connected to the government.

However, later in the day, Pakistan denied having made such a statement. According to the news agency ANI, Islamabad said that there is irrefutable proof against Kulbhushan Yadav, saying he had made a public confession in March.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 22:51 IST

At least 36 dead in plane crash in Pakistan mountains | Reuters

By Jibran Ahmed and Asad Hashim
| PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A plane carrying about 40 people crashed on the slope of a mountain in northern Pakistan on Wednesday, with witnesses at the site of the flaming wreckage saying there were unlikely to be any survivors.The military said 36 bodies had been recovered and rescue efforts involved about 500 soldiers, doctors and paramedics.Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said its plane lost contact with the control tower en route to the capital, Islamabad, from the northern region of Chitral. The airline said the plane crashed at 1642 local time (1142 GMT) in the Havelian area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about 125 km (77 miles) north of Islamabad. The region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pakistan.”All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in Havelian, told Reuters.Khan, who was at the crash site, said witnesses told him “the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire”.Images shown on Pakistani TV channels showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.Irfan Elahi, the government’s Aviation Secretary, told media the plane suffered engine problems but it was too early to determine the cause of the accident.PIA said the plane was carrying 48 passengers, including five crew members and a ground engineer. But Sohail Ahmed, a PIA official in Chitral, said there were 41 people on board, while the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) put the number at 47.

A local trader at the site of the crash said the fire was still burning nearly two hours after the crash.”They are removing body parts,” Nasim Gohar told Geo TV.The military said it had sent in troops and helicopters.A PIA spokesman said the dual turboprop engine plane lost contact with the CAA at about 4.30 p.m. “PIA is doing everything possible to help the families of passengers and crew members,” the airline said in a statement.

POP STAR
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim cleric, was on board, according to Ahmed, the PIA official in Chitral.Jamshed, a singer in one of Pakistan’s first successful rock bands in the 1990s, abandoned his singing career to join the Tableeghi Jamaat group, which travels across Pakistan and abroad preaching about Islam.In his last tweet, Jamshed posted pictures of a snow-capped mountain, calling Chitral “Heaven on Earth”.

According to the flight manifest, there were three people on board with foreign names.Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan and safety standards are often criticised. In recent years, media have reported on multiple near-misses as planes over-ran runways and engines caught fire.In 2010, a passenger plane crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Two years later, a plane operated by a private Pakistani company, with 127 people on board, crashed near Islamabad. All on board were killed.PIA has also suffered major disasters in the past. In 1979 and 1992, PIA jets crashed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Kathmandu, killing 156 and 167 people, respectively.In 2006, a PIA plane crashed near the central city of Multan killing 45 people. (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Amjad Ali in ISLAMABAD and Gul Hamad Farooqi in CHITRAL,; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 21:04 IST

Heart of Asia realignments: India-Afghanistan in open courtship as Russia falls by wayside

In diplomacy, the subtext is often as important as the text. As the sixth edition of the annual Heart of Asia Conference came to a close on Sunday, between the comments and declarations, the narrative and the counter-narrative, lay the contours of a new, deviatory foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A nation’s strategic affairs are usually the result of well-curated gradualism. Major shifts are rare unless there is a confluence of circumstances and a strong leadership willing to shake off hesitations of history. At the end of the two-day summit, it does appear that India is on the cusp of a bold revision. Two things are immediately clear.

One, India is no longer coy about its relationship with Afghanistan and sees the Central Asian nation as an important pivot. Two, it is fast recalibrating its historic ties with Russia. We are still a long way away from hearing the last word of an enduring strategic partnership but New Delhi is close to accepting (after staying in long denial) that the Cold War-era bonhomie with Moscow is over. Indo-Russian ties, too, have fallen prey to the sweeping currents of realignment triggered by the end of American exceptionalism and the simultaneous rise of China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. PTI

Though major regional and global players met in Amritsar ostensibly to guide Afghanistan through its political and economic transition, in reality Heart of Asia platform was reduced to staging just another boxing bout between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan with Russia trying to play the referee and media in Islamabad and New Delhi in breathless anticipation for resumption of talks.

As if that would serve any purpose.

The way the pugilists threw their punches, it became abundantly clear that Kabul and New Delhi now see no point in downplaying the convergence of their strategic and commercial interests. In setting diplomatic niceties aside and blasting Pakistan’s complicity in sponsoring terror within its borders and inflicting an “undeclared war”, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani reflected his growing frustration with a delinquent neighbour. The ferocity of his charge not only laid bare Pakistan’s duplicity but also ratified New Delhi’s line on cross-border terrorism.

This growing closeness stays true to a trajectory in bilateral relations that saw New Delhi supply Afghanistan with four attack helicopters, the first supply of lethal military hardware to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). As a Defenseworld.net article points out, “The first three Mi-24 gunships were delivered in December 2015, before Modi visited Kabul to inaugurate the new Parliament, constructed through India’s assistance.”

These Russian-made choppers are expected to aid Afghan Air Force in their battle against the Taliban who still occupy 10 percent of territory and is in direct confrontation with Afghan forces for control over another 25 percent of land. Ghani accuses Pakistan of harbouring Taliban masterminds and reiterated before a full house of foreign delegates in Amritsar that were it not been for Islamabad’s duplicity, the Taliban wouldn’t last even a month.

Quoting a Taliban leader, the Afghanistan President said: “As Kakazada (Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada), one of the key figures in the Taliban movement, recently said, if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month,” according to a report in The Indian Express. In words that leave no space for ambiguity, Ghani rejected Pakistan’s $500 million pledge to “rebuild Afghanistan” and asked its foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz to instead use the money to “check extremism” on its soil.

Ghani didn’t stop there. According to the report, he accused Pakistan of selectively displacing terror networks in North Waziristan, betraying Afghanistan’s trust and inflicting on its soil a war that has grown in intensity during 2016 and has caused the highest number of civilian casualties and military-related deaths in the world.

In contrast, Ghani was effusive in his praise for India. News agency PTI quoted the Afghan President as saying that “India’s assistance is transparent and with no strings attached… there are no hidden deals between India and Afghanistan.” He also mentioned the “spontaneous celebrations” all over the country following the inauguration of Salma Dam by Modi during his Afghanistan visit and thanked India for further assistance of $1 billion apart from $2 billion.

Though Pakistan has long felt insecure about an India-Afghanistan axis that circumvents it and renders ineffective its geostrategic positioning, Islamabad’s obstructionist policies — refusing to let Afghanistan carry on trade with India through its territory — and subversive use of terror have ironically served to catalyse the very thing it dreads. There is now an even greater likelihood — with Modi and Ghani meeting on the sidelines and agreeing on a joint air corridor to bypass Pakistan and enhance bilateral trade — that the relationship will now be taken to the next level.

A commercial-strategic tie-up with Afghanistan — whose unique position as a central Asian country that provides connectivity to several Asian and even European nations — may offer India the chance to counter China’s strategic depth through the CPEC.

And in Ghani, Modi has a counterpart who’s willing to take India on board. While talking later to Suhasini Haidar of The Hindu during an interview, Ghani said, “India is converging with Afghanistan. There is nothing secret. It is a transparent state to state relationship. We are driven by common goals and opportunities.” He even quoted Tagore’s Kabuliwala to underline the historic bond between the nations.

But while one historic bond is being revived, another one fell by the wayside. In an extraordinary manouvre that reflected the depths of disparity in which Indo-Russian ties have fallen, Vladimir Putin’s envoy Zamir Kabulov rejected India and Afghainstan’s criticism of Pakistan and lectured on the need to “avoid scoring brownie points” on multilateral platforms such as these.

Pakistan media expectedly went to town with Kabulov’s statements but it became clear where the show pinches when a question was posed on the Russia-Pakistan military exercise. “India has close cooperation with the US, does Moscow complain? Then why complain about much lower level of cooperation with Pakistan,” he said.

Foreign affairs are based on narrow self-interests, not foggy sentimentality. It makes sense for Russia, whose relationship with the US is at an all-time low since the Cold War, to migrate to a more Sino-centric axis. That shouldn’t discourage India from pursuing its own self-interests. In coming out in the open over its relationship with Afghanistan, Modi has taken the right step.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 15:14 IST

Sartaj Aziz not allowed to visit Golden Temple for security concerns: India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Citing security reasons for not allowing Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Indian government said that Islamabad has no reason to complain.According to sources, India extended conveniences keeping in mind security requirements, and therefore, Pakistan has no reason to complain.Sources were also of the view that India acted like a good host. Apart from extending tarmac access, giving additional rooms and providing armoured cars (not given to every foreign minister), their arrival was advanced in Amritsar by the more than twelve hours. Also, a fresh flight clearance was provided due to which Pakistan’s envoy could mark his presence at an official dinner on December 3.India even went to the extent of allowing the arrival and departure of Pakistan nationals, by air in Amritsar, which is not a designated airport for entry and exit.Pakistan, yesterday asserted that Aziz was neither allowed to visit the Golden Temple, nor was he allowed to speak to Pakistan media personnel present at the venue of the Heart of Asia Conference. Aziz was in India to participate in the Heart of Asia Summit held On December 4 in Amritsar.

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

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).

Heart of Asia summit: Full text of Amritsar Declaration at sixth annual conference

Terrorism remained one of the important topics discussed at the Sixth Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia in Amritsar on Sunday.

The participating and supporting countries and their ministers on Sunday signed a joined declaration stating the need to work to combat terrorism in Afghanistan and the region and to improve connectivity to it.

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

The declaration also sought for peaceful means to achieve its goal including bring an end to any kind of support and shelter to terrorism, and to create a fund to find forces of terror in the region.

Here’s the full text of the declaration:

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 organisations, 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 Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of the Republic of India and Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

We express our gratitude to Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India for inaugurating the Sixth Ministerial Conference.

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.

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 recognise the role of cultural heritage as a catalyst for social and economic development of the Heart of Asia region.

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 recognised 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.

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 neighbourliness between countries of the region, and for peaceful co-existence as independent and sovereign nations, and re-affirm our commitment to these principles.

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.

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.

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.

We welcome the assumption of full responsibility for security by the ANDSF and for their role in fighting terrorism and violent 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.

We commend the European Union and Afghanistan for convening the 4-5 October Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, and recognise the importance of the development assistance commitments made by over 100 countries and international organisations, 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.

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.

We recognise 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.

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 recognise 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 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 finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus.

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.

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 Challenges

Recognising once again that terrorism, violent extremism, radicalisation, 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.

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 recognise the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youth to extremist and terrorist networks. We realise that the radicalisation of disaffected elements of the population, especially youth, can only be prevented by effective de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation strategies involving all the HoA countries.

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 utilise 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. We encourage HoA member countries to share their experiences and best practices in the area of counter radicalisation with a view to helping evolve their national counter radicalisation strategies.

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 finalisation for consideration by senior security officials.

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.

We recognise 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 and 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 recognising the importance of the contributions of neighbouring countries and regional partners in this process, we urge all those countries in the region and beyond who have leverages and influence to help bring the Taliban to the negotiation table.

Achieving Prosperity

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.

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 recognise 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 provide additional 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.

We appreciate the necessity to maximise 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.

We recognise 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 realise 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 Measures

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.

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 prioritised activities under the CBMs of which they are members. We urge lead countries, participating and supporting countries and organisations to ensure the implementation of the activities prioritised by each CBM.

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 organisations to realise the implementation activities prioritised 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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

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.

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 organisations: 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 Organisations (CSTO), Economic Cooperation Organisations (ECO), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 18:04 IST

Heart of Asia Summit: ‘Simplistic’ to blame one country for terrorism, says Sartaj Aziz

Amritsar: Under severe attack over terrorism emanating from its soil, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor
Sartaj Aziz on Sunday 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.

Sartaj Aziz. File photo. Reuters

Sartaj Aziz. File photo. Reuters

“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 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 Pakistan-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 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.

Aziz said the peace process for talks between Afghan Government and Taliban has not yet produced positive results and Pakistan has been making “serious efforts for facilitating the peace talks”.

“In our view, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and all our efforts should be to achieve a
politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led Afghan-owned process,” he said. He said Pakistan deeply values the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in promote Afghanistan’s connectivity with neighbouring and regional countries for durable stability in Afghanistan.

“Afghan security forces have firmly and bravely stood their ground in repulsing militant and terrorist attacks.
The international community has reiterated its commitment of support to Afghanistan in the areas of security and economic development upto 2020.

“The government and people of Pakistan stand in complete solidarity with the elected government and people of Afghanistan in furthering the objective of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan. We would do whatever we can to help achieve this objective,” he said.

The conference is being attended by over 30 countries including Russia, China, the US. “The Afghan government has also signed peace agreement with Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA). The implementation of this peace deal can serve as a model for talks with other insurgent groups in future,” he said.

Calling for enhanced regional connectivity to stimulate economic development, he said Pakistan was building its national rail, road and energy transmission network to meet with the growing regional transport needs.

“The focus is on modern, state of the art infrastructure including through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “There is immense potential for connecting our transportation and energy infrastructure with Afghanistan, and other countries of West and Central Asia,” he said.

He said Pakistan was committed to enhancing facilitation for transit of Afghan goods through Pakistan.
“We believe the two sides need to work together for extension of and improvements in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA),” he said.

The postponement of the Saarc Summit scheduled in Islamabad in November 2016 was a setback to these efforts and undermined the spirit of regional cooperation. He voiced hope that the deliberations would be
constructive and focused on the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, which is our shared objective.

Pakistan also welcomes the invitation of Azerbaijan to host the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia process in 2017 and looks forward to its active participation in this Conference, he said.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 17:52 IST

Heart of Asia Summit: Pakistan to be singled out for supporting terror at Amritsar meet

Over two months after India’s decision to stay away from Saarc summit in Islamabad, Pakistan was virtually sidelined in the South Asian regional group; the Heart of Asia Summit on 3 and 4 December will further reinforce that when representatives from 14 countries gather in Amritsar.

Afghanistan is the permanent chair and India as a co-chair will use the summit to yet again focus spotlight on Pakistan’s explicit connection with terror groups in fomenting trouble in both the countries. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, a firm believer that Pakistan does not support establishment of peace in his country will, set the tone of the conference.

The draft declaration on counter-terrorism circulated by Afghanistan will call upon Pakistan (without naming it) to stop harbouring and supporting terror groups on its soil. Both India and Afghanistan have joined hands to nail Pakistan on this issue once again at an international conference. Modi and Ghani will leave no stone unturned to hold Islamabad responsible for poor connectivity in every sector across the South Asian region.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pakistan’s government under domestic pressure from sending a delegation to Amritsar Summit has decided to send just a two-member team headed by advisor to prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former foreign secretary Sartaj Aziz.

Nawaz Sharif decided to send Aziz given the fact that ‘Heart of Asia’ is an international conference on bringing stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan believes it has an important say in that landlocked country’s future. Aziz days before the summit publicly announced that Pakistan was in touch with “anti-India elements” to keep New Delhi under pressure on the Kashmir issue.

The Pakistani team will arrive in India on Sunday for a few hours and Sartaj Aziz is bound to rake up the issue of tension with India and blame Modi government for spiking tensions in the region.
Arriving in India on Saturday, President Ghani will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the day in Amritsar, carefully selected to remind everyone that a city that stands on the historic Grand Trunk Road route that once linked Kolkata to Kabul via Delhi and Lahore, provides an opportunity to break connectivity barriers.

It will remind the world that as they gather in Amritsar, a city that sits on the now infamous GT Road, Pakistan remains a major obstacle in their dream to reconnect and rebuild Afghanistan with rest of South Asia.

President Ghani today loses no opportunity to emphasise Pakistan’s continued support to terror groups operating in Afghanistan, the role of its military and ISI in their steadfast refusal to help connect his country with India across Pakistan.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was founded in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Heart of Asia, the official website claims, “provides a platform for sincere and results-oriented regional cooperation by placing Afghanistan at its center, in recognition of the fact that a secure and stable Afghanistan is vital to the prosperity of the Heart of Asia region”.
The Heart of Asia has 14 participating countries, 17 supporting countries, and 12 supporting regional and international organizations.

On the eve of the summit the Afghan ambassador in India set the tone when he told journalists in Delhi that “as we all know, terrorism is a creation of this region and the solution lies within this region only”. Therefore the upcoming Heart of Asia is very well timed and very well placed to discuss how we should find solutions to the theme that we have already put forward, he remarked.
Afghanistan is angry at Pakistan’s continued refusal to allow India overland access to their country. At the last summit in Islamabad foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had asked for India’s admission to Afghanistan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement but, that was turned down, as expected.

The Chahbahar Port agreement between India-Iran-Afghanistan is seen as a serious initiative to help landlocked Afghanistan to get access to global market by connecting Persian Gulf with Kabul and beyond to Central Asia through a road network.

Given its geography Pakistan has held Afghanistan to ransom, by controlling land access to and from the country and using unstable security situation over the decades to help and sustain terror groups in that country.

Afghanistan heavily leans on India today for its moral, diplomatic, political and material support as it seeks to fight Afghan Taliban, Islamic State groups and Pakistan’s military establishment to rebuild a war-torn nation.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 09:02 IST

Pakistan should introspect on why relations with India are tense, says Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Blaming Pakistan for having an uneasy relationship with India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said it is for Islamabad to introspect as to why there are tensions between the two neighbours.”It is a serious situation. Right from the day this government had been formed and even prior to that, India has taken one step after another honestly trying to improve relations with Pakistan,” he said at HT Leadership Summit here.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a lot of initiatives including unconventional ones but then the response was Pathankot or Uri attack, prompted by Pakistan. This cannot be normal as far as Indo-Pak relationships are concerned. If there are tensions, its for the Pakistan to introspect really why there are tensions,” he said.Asked about impact of change in regime in the US, Jaitley said the relationship between the two country is expected to strengthen further. “I have not the least doubt that India’s relations with the United States would continue to be on the same plank as it was, probably growing and maturing almost by the day,” he said. Further adding “This was unusual election as far as the US was concerned.When one world’s most powerful democracies through a fair electoral process takes a decision, we have to accept the decision.”

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

Ahead of Sartaj Aziz’s visit, India says no bilateral meeting request from Pakistan

New Delhi: Just two days ahead of Pakistan foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz’s visit, India on Wednesday clarified that it has not officially received a request for any bilateral meeting from Islamabad.

File photo of Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Policy Advisor Sartaj Aziz. File photo. Reuters

“Pakistan has not requested for any bilateral meeting so far,” Gopal Baglay, who heads the Ministry of External Affairs division dealing with Pakistan, said at a media briefing.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Policy Advisor Sartaj Aziz is scheduled to visit Amritsar, Punjab, on 3 December to attend the Heart of Asia Conference.

The conference, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, will see the participation of over 40 countries.

This would be the first high-level visit from Pakistan after the announcement of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue in December last year, which never took off in the wake of terror strikes, including the Pathankot airbase attack, and subsequent incidents which led to intense tensions between the two countries.

Ties between India and Pakistan have soured after the terrorist attack on an army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir in September that left 19 soldiers dead and many wounded.

India has blamed Pakistan based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad for the attack.

India also recently boycotted the Saarc summit, scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November, citing continuous cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 18:25 IST

Pakistan’s new army chief brings no change in policy – defence minister | Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD There will be no immediate shift in Pakistan’s military policy under the new army chief, the country’s defence minister said, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed a new military leader on Saturday.Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa will replace retiring army chief Raheel Sharif when his three-year term ends on Tuesday, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power.General Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, has proved popular with ordinary Pakistanis but during his tenure relations between the army and the civilian government have often been tense.Relations abroad have also frayed, with the United States and Afghanistan complaining of a lack of action by Islamabad against Afghan Taliban militants based on Pakistani soil, while a stand-off with old foe India over Kashmir has soured relations.Bajwa was one of several high-ranking candidates put forward for the job by the army but little is publicly known about him or his ideological stance on key issues, including relations with India or how to tackle home-grown Islamist militants.Defence Minister Khawaja Asif dampened any expectations that Bajwa would immediately push for a radical policy shift.”The military policy will continue and there will be no immediate change in it,” Asif told Geo News TV channel.”The legacy of General Raheel Sharif would continue in the light of the examples he set,” Asif added.Security in Pakistan has vastly improved during General Sharif’s tenure, but the country remains vulnerable to internal strife, with Islamist militant groups carrying out major bomb and gun attacks. In recent months a hospital, a mosque and a police training college have been targeted.

Islamic State, which has claimed several large-scale attacks in recent months, is also trying to establish a foothold in the nuclear armed nation of 190 million people.The United States on Sunday issued a statement welcoming Bajwa’s appointment and said it wanted to assist Pakistan with its domestic and regional counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts.In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad also said it wanted to help “Pakistani authorities to honour their pledge to prevent the use of Pakistan’s soil for terrorist attacks against its neighbours”.India has in recent months sought to isolate Pakistan after an Indian army base in the disputed Kashmir region was attacked and 18 soldiers killed in a September raid that New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants. Islamabad denies involvement.

INDIAN ARMY CHIEF PRAISE
General Sharif will become the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down at the end of his term. Previous army chiefs have either obtained extensions or in the case of General Pervez Musharraf, staged a coup.One cabinet minister told Reuters Bajwa was chosen because of his low-key approach and a belief by Prime Minister Sharif that he would shun the limelight, in contrast to his predecessor, while ceding more policy space to the civilian government.The army plays a big role in Pakistani politics, including dominating foreign policy strategy on key areas such as relations with India, Afghanistan and the United States. The military also runs a vast business empire.

Zahid Hussain, a security analyst, said heightened tensions with India, kept inflamed by fierce cross-border shelling in the Kashmir region, means in the short term the army was likely to maintain a tight grip on foreign policy issues related to India.”Since the tension is so high, Nawaz (Sharif) is not in a position to manoeuvre out of that,” Hussain said.Bajwa, who was first commissioned in the army in 1980, has served in Kashmir and other regions bordering India but it is not clear if he will take a less hawkish approach to Pakistan’s historic foe.General Bikram Singh, a former head of India’s army who served with Bajwa in the Congo as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, praised Bajwa’s conduct as a soldier during their time in Africa.”In the international environment, his performance was professional, outstanding,” Singh told India Today TV channel.But when reporters asked Singh if he expected Bajwa to alter Pakistan’s military policy, he said: “I do not see any change”. (Additional reporting by Asad Hashim, Mehreen Zahra Malik and Amjad Ali; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 21:18 IST

Will kill 3 Indian soldiers for every Pakistani soldier killed: Pak Defence Minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Assuring severe retribution, Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has asserted that they will kill three Indian soldiers for every Pakistani soldier they neutralise.Speaking in the National Assembly on Friday, Asif said that dire consequences would be faced by India if it went to war against Pakistan.Asserting that the situation at the LoC was intentionally being intensified by the Indian government to win people’s support in the upcoming general elections, the Defense Minister alleged that India was behind terrorism in Pakistan and they have credible evidence against it.”We have sent dossiers and video films to the UN and other countries showing Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” Asif said.He also accused India of creating hurdles in the way of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as they were scared that the project would prove a game changer for Pakistan.Acknowledging that Pakistan might be economically weaker than India, Asif said that India knows that once the CPEC is complete, Islamabad will rise stronger. However, he said that Pakistan would try to maintain a balance of power in the region and would not respond to India in any kind.

Pakistan lobbying with Indians who are against Modi’s ‘extremism’, says Sartaj Aziz

Islamabad: Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said that Pakistani missions abroad, including in India, are making efforts to reach out to the Indian people who are opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s “extremism”, the media reported on Wednesday.

Aziz, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Policy Advisor, on Tuesday, conveyed this to the country’s Senate, Dawn quoted him as saying.

“Our missions abroad, including in New Delhi, are making outreach efforts to emphasise the extremist Indian policies,” Aziz said.

File image of Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

File image of Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Aziz also said Pakistan was doing its utmost to engage the international community, including its regional partners, to counter India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan in the region.

At the same time, Aziz stressed the need for a “positive response” from India in order to move forward. He said that while Pakistan always conveyed a desire to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, India had chosen to attach “conditions” to the talks, Dawn reported.

He said Pakistan was supportive of all initiatives for peace and stability in the region and this was evident from its decision to participate in the Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Amri­tsar, despite the Saarc summit in Islamabad being cancelled because of India.

Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, he said, was clearly spelt out and due restraint was being exercised. “Pakistan continues to exhibit maturity and statesmanship despite provocative statements by Indian leadership and the continued ceasefire violations across the LoC and working boundary having resulted in civilian casualties,” he was quoted as saying. He also said that Pakistan’s armed forces “only returned fire when fired upon”.

Aziz also conveyed that a high-level committee has been formulated to “counter India’s propaganda campaign” on Kashmir.

The committee, to be headed by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, consists of senior officials from Pakistan Defence, Interior and Information, ministries, the Mili­tary Operations Directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).

The Ministry of Information Technology had also been asked to prepare a comprehensive strategy to highlight the Jammu and Kashmir dispute via social media.

He also said the role of international lobbyists had become crucial in order to project the country’s position and pursue foreign policy objectives and that Pakistani missions abroad were in close contact with the Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 20:19 IST

Pakistan’s PIA considers Boeing, Airbus jets for fleet upgrade | Reuters

By Alexander Cornwell
| DUBAI

DUBAI Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is evaluating an order for wide-body Airbus (AIR.PA) and Boeing (BA.N) jets as it looks to upgrade its ageing fleet, an executive for the state-owned airline said on Tuesday.”Boeing 777X would be a good option,” the airline’s executive director of human resources and works, Raheel Ahmed, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, adding that PIA is also looking at the Airbus A330 and A350 models.PIA would consider purchasing the aircraft directly from the manufacturer and financing the order through a sale and leaseback arrangement, when an airline sells a jet to a lessor who then leases it back. It would also consider a direct leasing agreement, known as a dry lease.Ahmed did not say when PIA would order the jets or how many it could buy. It has a fleet of 38 narrow-body and wide-body Airbus and Boeing jets, with three A310s to be retired on Dec. 31, he added.

Ahmed also said PIA would cut its 18,000 workforce by between 3,000 and 3,500 employees by the end of 2017 as the Pakistan government looks to turn around the loss-making airline and sell-off a 49 percent stake.However, PIA later said Ahmed’s figures were incorrect, and no decision had as yet been taken on how many jobs would be cut or over what timeframe.

A meeting between Pakistan’s Privatization Commission and PIA top management was also held on Tuesday, “to determine the best suitable restructuring model to make PIA into a viable entity,” a senior government official who attended the meeting told Reuters. The official said restructuring would be done in two phases, carving out non-essential units within three to six months “to attain a clean balance sheet,” followed by the gradual carving out of other business units.

The airline would spin-off four “special business units” from January 2017, starting with its catering business and later its flight training, engineering and courier businesses.The units are planned to operate independently of PIA with their own general managers and marketing teams. PIA would later look to sell a stake in the units if they are profitable. (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)

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

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 23:21 IST

Pakistan hands over dossier on India’s ‘ceasefire violations’ to UN military observer group

Mon, 21 Nov 2016-10:45am , Islamabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has said it handed over a dossier to the UN military observer group on alleged ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control (LoC). Representatives of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) met Pakistani officials on Sunday at the General Headquarters Rawalpindi, where they were handed over a dossier on repeated “violations of the ceasefire agreement” by India, Pakistan Foreign Office said.The detailed dossier was given to UNMOGIP representatives in view of the death of four people, including three children, in firing by Indian forces in Khuiratta Sector of the LoC, Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said on Twitter. Pakistan has asked the UNMOGIP to investigate the incident, he said. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi had earlier also reportedly written to the UNSC President and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon alleging that Indian troops in Kashmir had launched artillery barrages.

Pakistan arrests 43 Indian fishermen for allegedly entering its territorial waters

Islamabad: At least 43 Indian fishermen were on Sunday arrested by Pakistan for allegedly entering its territorial waters in the Arabian Sea, officials in Islamabad said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The fishermen were nabbed by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency off the coast of Sindh province and taken to provincial capital Karachi.

“The fishermen were handed over Dock Police Station for registration of case against them,” an official of the PSMA said.

A police official said that a case has been registered against them under the Foreigner’s Act and the Fisheries Act.

“The arrested fishermen will be presented in the court tomorrow for further legal action,” he said.

Edhi Foundation has been providing food to the arrested fishermen, a spokesperson of the foundation told reporters.

Both Pakistan and India often arrest fishermen from the other country for violation of their territorial waters in the Arabian Sea.

These poor fishermen spent months and sometimes years in jails before released and repatriated back to their countries.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 09:12 IST

F-16 fighters sold by US to Pakistan are nuclear-enabled: Scientist

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A study of Google satellite images and information from other intelligence sources by US nuclear scientists Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris released earlier this week contains startling revelations: contrary to the conditions laid down by the US when it sold Pakistan F-16 fighters, the US jets, along with the Pak air force’s French Mirages, are now nuclear-enabled. Speaking exclusively to DNA, Hans Kristensen, co-author of the ‘Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani Nuclear Forces’ released November 16 acknowledged that despite the study, US strategic interests in the region will determine further weapons sales to Pakistan.“The US nuclear establishment can but won’t initiate further action,” the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists told DNA. “The F-16s were considered to be the first planes that are nuclear-capable in the Pakistan arsenal and the French mirage was upgraded as well to carry a new air launch cruise missile. But the US made its case. What Pakistan does once they get the planes is inevitably up to them,” he said. The worry that prevails — as several attacks on Pakistani military establishments have shown — is that its nuclear arsenal could land in the wrong hands: that of Islamist terrorists. But which of the study’s revelations are new, given that there have been many precedents based upon satellite pictures?“We haven’t had a picture of where Pakistan’s nuclear-capable forces went for a long time but this study throws up a more focused posturing of Pakistan’s nuclear-capable forces and their infrastructure,” Kristensen told DNA. “There will be more to come, this is only the beginning.”Kristensen said that while the number and location of Pakistan’s nuclear-capable missile bases is not known, an analysis of Google satellite images threw up features to suggest that at least five bases might throw light on Pakistan’s emerging nuclear network: army garrisons at Akro, Gujranwala, Khuzdar, Pano Aqil and Sargodha. The scientist speculates that a sixth base at Bawalpur may be under construction while a seventh seems to be coming up near Dera Ghazi Khan. Gujranwala in particular could be of concern to India: this is where the Pakistani Taliban have been active and in the open.Do these revelations indicate that Pakistan has now reached what is known as a ‘full-spectrum nuclear deterrent posture’? Almost, says Kristensen, but warns that it is only a matter of time before Pakistan is fully equipped not only for retaliatory strikes in response to nuclear attacks but also to launch short-range missiles to counter conventional attacks. The US scientist added that the study of Pakistan’s nuclear installations is a routine one and that one of India and other nuclear weapons states will follow. ‘Short-range’ nuclear strikes are likelier to damage Pakistan than India, but will certainly interest New Delhi’s defence, diplomatic and military establishment, since they could be launched if Islamabad merely perceives the threat of an all-out invasion by the Indian military establishment. Consequently, Kristensen suggested that even quick ‘surgical strikes’ by India will have to make it ‘appear’ to Pakistan as though there is no danger of an all-out pan-national aggression of Pakistan by India.

Indian Navy rubbishes Pakistan’s claim of chasing away its submarine in territorial waters

New Delhi: The Indian Navy on Friday denied Pakistan’s claim of detecting and chasing away an Indian submarine in its waters, amid heightening of bilateral tensions.

Representational image, Reuters

Representational image, Reuters

The Pakistan Navy on Friday said it detected an Indian submarine near its waters and “chased it out” in time, Geo News reported.

“Indian Navy categorically denies the report as blatant lies,” Indian Navy Spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said.

According to a Pakistan Navy spokesperson, their fleet units “chased” the Indian submarine until it left Pakistani territory, Geo reported.

The spokesperson further said that the Pakistani Navy’s ability to “push back” the submarine was a testament to the country’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

Pakistan was “capable of giving a fitting response to any sort of aggression (by India)”, the spokesperson added. He alleged that India is “trying to station its submarines in Pakistani waters”.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:50 IST

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz to attend Heart of Asia Conference in India

Islamabad: Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, said that he would travel to India to attend the Heart of Asia Conference in December, asserting that his visit could be a “good opportunity” to “defuse the tension” between India and Pakistan.

File photo of Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

File photo of Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

The conference is scheduled to be held in India on 3 December in Amritsar.

Aziz would be the first senior Pakistani official to visit India since the 18 September Uri attack, blamed on Pakistan-based militants, that led India to pull out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit in Pakistan in November.

“Unlike India, that had sabotaged Saarc summit in Pakistan by pulling out, Pakistan will respond by participating in the Heart of Asia being held in India,” Aziz told the media.

“It’s a good opportunity to defuse the tension,” PTV quoted Aziz as saying.

Dawn reported that Aziz also said he himself will participate in the conference and will not repeat India’s blunder where it boycotted the Saarc Summit.

Aziz, however, said it has not been confirmed yet whether he will meet his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the conference or not.

The adviser also said that the US president-elect Donald Trump would deserve a Nobel prize if he intervenes and succeeds in resolving the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.

“Trump would deserve Nobel prize if he helps resolve Kashmir dispute,” he said on a lighter note while responding to a question.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 10:51 IST

Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale summoned over killing of 7 Pakistan soldiers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale in Islamabad, over the killings of seven Pakistani soldiers at the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliatory firings by Indian soldiers.Earlier today, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported that seven Pakistani soldiers were killed at the Line of Control (LoC) in cross border firings by Indian soldiers late last night.Responding to Indian firing, said ISPR, Pakistani troops targeted Indian posts.”We strongly condemn continuous unprovoked #CFVbyIndia @Bhimber Sec, resulting in martyrdom of 7 Pakistani soldiers.Pakistan Army responding in befitting manner. We salute our valiant soldiers who render ultimate sacrifices for national cause,” Pakistan Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nafees Zakaria said in a series of tweets.On November 9, an Indian soldier was killed in Pakistani firing in the Machhal sector of Jammu and Kashmir last week; while on November 8, one soldier was killed and two others were injured as Pakistan Rangers resorted to unprovoked firing in Nowshera sector.More than 100 incidents of ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops have had happened so far, following India’s surgical strike across the LoC on September 29th.Meanwhile, Pakistan violated ceasefire today in Sunderbani and Nowshera sectors, to which the Indian troops gave a befitting reply.Ceasefire violation has also been reported by Pakistan in Planwala sector of Akhnoor, Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmir: Pakistan says Indian troops killed seven soldiers in ceasefire violation

Kashmir: Pakistan says Indian troops killed seven soldiers in ceasefire violation

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Islamabad: The Pakistani military said on Monday that seven of its soldiers had been killed in firing by Indian troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Seven soldiers embraced ‘shahadat’ at the LoC in Bhimber sector in cross-fire LoC violation by Indian troops late last night,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations, the army’s media wing.

The LoC divides the Indian and Pakistan parts of Kashmir.

It said Pakistani troops responded to India’s “unprovoked firing” and “targeted Indian posts effectively”.

Pakistani authorities last week lodged protests with India and with the UN military observers over the targeting of civilian population by Indian troops.

Pakistan says the civilian death toll in Indian shelling has risen to at least 25 in the past few weeks.

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 15:08 IST

Pakistan welcomes Donald Trump’s offer to mediate Kashmir issue

Pakistan welcomes Donald Trump’s offer to mediate Kashmir issue

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Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday said it “welcomed” the US President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir dispute.

During a weekly press briefing in Islamabad, while responding to queries about the victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US presidential election, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said the President-elect had earlier offered mediation between Pakistan and India on Kashmir dispute and “we had welcomed that offer”.

Zakaria said Pakistan desires a close relationship with the US, and wishes to further strengthen it.

The US President-elect last month said that if elected, he would be willing to play a mediatory role in addressing the “very, very hot tinderbox” of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

“If it was necessary, I would do that. If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honoured to do that. That would be a tremendous achievement… I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator,” Trump said in the interview.

Pakistan: Two more Indian High Commission officials leave for India

Pakistan: Two more Indian High Commission officials leave for India

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Islamabad: Two more Indian High Commission officials, out of the eight accused by Pakistan of being members of Indian intelligence agencies, on Thursday left for India.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Balbir Singh and Jayabalan Senthil left via Dubai-bound Emirates flight EK 615,” sources said.

Both the staffers were named as undercover agents of Indian intelligence agencies. With this, the number of Indian High Commission officials leaving Pakistan has reached five.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria last week had alleged that several Indian diplomats and staffers were involved in “coordinating terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan under the garb of diplomatic assignments”.

Last month, Pakistan had declared Indian High Commission official Surjeet Singh ‘persona non-grata’ after India’s action against Pakistan High Commission official Mehmood Akhtar following Indian police’s busting of an ISI-run spy ring.

On 2 November, Pakistan had pulled out six of its officials in the wake of the spy scandal.

Five more Indian diplomats return home: Pakistan security officials

Five more Indian diplomats return home: Pakistan security officials

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Islamabad: Pakistani security officials say five more Indian diplomats have returned to their country amid a deepening diplomatic row.

The two officials said Wednesday the five were among eight diplomats whose names were publicised by Pakistan, which said they were spies. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

A diplomatic row between Pakistan and India has deepened since 27 October, when they each expelled an embassy staffer for spying.

The situation worsened when Pakistan withdrew six of its diplomats after their names were released to Indian media amid tensions over Kashmir.

Islamabad reciprocated by publishing the names of the eight diplomats. India protested the move, and what it called “factually incorrect allegations.”

New report questions China’s commitment to NSG, lays bare Pakistan dubious ways to nuke tech

China’s commitment to the NSG at a time when it so religiously throws the rulebook to block India’s bid to become a part of the elite nuclear club, stands on a dubious platform as a new report published by the King’s College of London exposes Pakistan’s web of lies and Beijing’s firm hand behind it.

Competing with India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) with the implicit backing of China. Apart from its attempt to compete with India, it was also successfully lobbying against New Delhi’s membership and ensuring at least a delay in the decision.

Similar to India’s strategy to meet leaders from other countries and secure their support for its bid, Pakistan’s officials too embarked on a visit to Belarus and Kazakhstan to gain their backing.

The 48-member group will discuss the matter on 11 and 12 November during a plenary session in Vienna. At the NSG’s plenary session in Seoul, China had blocked India’s bid for membership. The meeting ended after an agreement was pushed by Australia and Mexico that a special meeting would be held in November to discuss the criteria for India’s entry.

China has refused to change its decision on India’s membership bid ahead of the Vienna meet. It said that it would only change its stance once rules for entry of non-NPT countries are finalised by the elite group.

Pakistan may hope to be considered for the NSG membership too in the Vienna meeting on Friday. It had told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that “the exemplary measures Islamabad had taken to strengthen nuclear safety establish its eligibility credentials,” according to a report by Dawn.

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said that Islamabad had implemented a comprehensive export control regime and ratified the 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material among other measures which make it eligible to become an NSG member.

According to the King’s College report carried by The Hindustan Times, Pakistan’s continued use of front companies and other deceptive methods to obtain dual-use goods for its nuclear programme means it cannot expect to be welcomed into the NSG.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. PTI

Although China remains mum on its support to either India or Pakistan’s bid, its implicit support to Pakistan is evident from Islamabad’s move of applying formally to the group immediately after Beijing blocked New Delhi’s bid.

“Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure, as well as the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office had said, according to a report by The Times of India.

However, the report by King’s College contradicts these claims. It also contends that China is either privy to Pakistan’s programmes, or negligent of its control over state-owned enterprises.

Project Alpha of the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College concluded that Pakistan has a “deliberate strategy of using deceptive methods to obtain dual-use goods”. The country also has a network of at least 20 trading companies in China, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore.

Islamabad “continues its forty-year history of covert procurement for its nuclear weapon programme largely unabated” and even keeps its nuclear fuel cycle off-limits to IAEA inspection. It remains to be seen how it will reconcile its activities to be in resonance with the rules of the grouping.

Further, the report also reveals that China is the most important supplier of all forms of goods to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes. China and its private entities continue to knowingly supply Pakistan’s strategic programmes.

This brings into question China’s adherence to the rules and requirements of the NSG group. It is almost impossible for Pakistan to single handedly become a nuclear exporter, as the report points out. It needs the assistance of its all-weather friend, who is interestingly a part of the elite group.

The report suggests that Beijing will have to adjust its sales relationship with Pakistan to avoid international criticism.

However, this brings the dubious nature of China and its commitment to the group to the front. Stalling India’s bid with the help of Pakistan might just be a clever move by Beijing. It is not in China’s interest to allow India a greater role in international politics or to ease India’s path to growth where its economic or military clout will challenge China, as R Jagannathan points out in this Firstpost article.

The report raises pertinent questions like, is China using Pakistan for all its nuclear activities while keeping a clean front itself? Or, is it strengthening Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions for its own benefit?

Nevertheless, it is also time for the group to take a note of this report and launch an inquiry against China.

Pakistan declares three Indian officials persona non grata, sends them back home

Islamabad: Pakistan authorities on Tuesday declared three Indian High Commission officials, accused of spying, as persona non grata. The officials have left for home, media reported.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Four other officials will leave for India via the Wagah Border on Tuesday, Geo News reported.

Pakistan had ordered the expulsion of seven Indian High Commission officials on charges of spying, Geo reported.

According to sources, the three officials, First Secretary commercial Anurag Singh, Vijay Kumar Varma and Mandhawan Nanda Kumar, left Islamabad Airport at 9 am.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to Geo that initially they were expected to leave on Sunday, but due to incomplete documents their travel plans were delayed.

Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri, Balbir Singh, Amardeep Singh Bhatti, Jiya Balin and Dharmendra Sodhi will leave by road, the daily said.

Pakistan accused the Indian officials of working for Indian intelligence agency RAW and Intelligence Bureau.

Pakistan has earlier alleged that Indian diplomatic official Surjeet Singh who was recently expelled was also part of Balbir Singh’s network, the report said.

Diplomatic spat: 3 Indian High Commission officials in Pakistan leave for India, says report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three Indian High Commission officials out of the eight accused by Pakistan of being members of Indian intelligence agencies, left for India on Tuesday, according to a media report.Geo News, quoting sources, reported that three officials — First Secretary commercial Anurag Singh, Vijay Kumar Varma and Madhawan Nanda Kumar left for Dubai from Islamabad on a morning Emirates flight.Five other Indian High Commission officials — Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri, Amerdeep Singh Bhatti, Dharmendra Sodhi, Balbir Singh and Jayabalan Senthil — will leave for India via road through the Wagah border, the report said.Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria last week had read out a statement at his weekly briefing saying that a number of Indian diplomats and staffers were involved in “coordinating terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan under the garb of diplomatic assignments”.He had named the eight Indian officials, accusing them of being members of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).There was no official confirmation on how many Indian officials had left Pakistan and were expected to leave the country.Last month, Pakistan had declared Indian High Commission official Surjeet Singh persona non-grata after India’s action against Pakistan High Commission official Mehmood Akhtar following Indian police’s busting of an ISI-run spy ring.On November 2, Pakistan had pulled out six of its officials in the wake of the spy scandal.

Stop shedding crocodile tears for India’s soldiers: BJP to Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman G V L Narsimha Rao on Tuesday lashed out at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for shedding crocodile tears for India’s armed forces, and cautioned him about the fact that the whole country is aware that he cannot be trusted.”After having deprived soldiers of One Rank, One Pension (OROP) for over four decades, for ten years the Congress party was in power between 2004-2014, it was Rahul Gandhi who remote controlled the Manmohan Singh government. They made an election promise in 2004 in their manifesto, but they did not spent one penny on implementing OROP when they were in office, and today, for the Congress Party to shed crocodile tears for soldiers, this is not going to impress anyone,” said Rao”The entire country has contempt for the Congress party and the whole country realises that Rahul Gandhi is not a leader that can be trusted, he is not a leader who understands politics, who can comment maturely. Rahul Gandhi’s desperate attempt to be taken seriously is falling on deaf ears; with every statement, he is proving to be a completely unsuitable leader for the Congress party,” he added.
ALSO READ ‘Uneducated’ Rahul Gandhi should read about OROP: Subramanian SwamyRao’s comments came a day after Rahul Gandhi chaired a crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CEC) in the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi, and chose the occasion to describe Prime Minister Modi as an individual who was ‘power-obsessed’. He also called on the gathering to expose the Centre’s failures during the winter session of parliament beginning next week.Rahul asserted that democracy under the present dispensation is going through one of its darkest hours and accused the government of silencing those disagreeing with it.
ALSO READ Rahul Gandhi repeatedly misses the bull’s eye”Hiding behind the cloak of national security, civil society is being intimidated for asking questions. Television channels are being punished and being asked to shut down. The opposition is being arrested for holding the government to account. All attempts by this government to suppress our fundamental freedoms by abusing state power will only strengthen our resolve to defeat such dangerous designs,” he said.Listing out a range of failures of the NDA Government, he emphasized that the Centre is hiding behind numbers that have been widely doubted and questioned.”Selectively chosen corporates are favoured, not the aam aadmi. Youth, even those who have a good education, face the spectre of unemployment. Famers’ suicides and agrarian unrest have increased to astonishing levels,” he claimed.He said the Centre has swung from one extreme to another in dealing with Islamabad and issues concerning Jammu and Kashmir.Pointing out that Indian soldiers have suffered the highest causalities in decades under the NDA dispensation, the Congress vice president maintained that the nation’s armed forces are being cruelly rewarded by a callous government.”With state elections due in the coming months, we can safely expect the Modi government to launch a campaign of disinformation and polarization. They will exploit caste and religious fault lines. We must anticipate and neutralise such devious strategies,” he added.The “comprehensive failure” of the Modi government must be highlighted, he said.

Diplomatic spat: Pakistan, India may temporarily recall their envoys, says report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Signalling a fresh slide in ties, Pakistan and India may temporarily recall their high commissioners and scale down the size of diplomatic staff in each other’s missions in the wake of the latest diplomatic spat over the spying episode, a media report said.The latest spat started last week after a staff member of Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi was detained by police for questioning over espionage charges, the Express Tribune reported.The fresh slide in ties may also lead to a ‘scaling down’ of the strength of diplomatic staff by the two neighbours, the paper said.
ALSO READ Pakistan risking lives of Indian diplomats by putting their details in public domain: IndiaThe tension intensified after tit-fit-tat naming of diplomatic staff for alleged spy work by both sides.Mahmood Akhtar, who was working as a visa officer at the Pakistani High Commission, was later expelled from India.
ALSO READ Cotton farmers suffer as India-Pakistan tensions rise”However, India, using a statement Delhi police extracted from Akhtar through coercive means, implicated other Pakistani staffers. The identities of at least six such officials were leaked to the media, jeopardising their security. The move prompted Pakistan to withdraw them from New Delhi,” it said.In what appeared to be a tit-for-tat move, Pakistan yesterday claimed that eight officials posted in India’s High Commission in Islamabad were agents of RAW and IB. The disclosure left New Delhi with no other options but to withdraw the named officials, the paper said.
ALSO READ Amid rising tensions, Pakistani media names 8 Indian mission staffers for anti-Pak activitiesAn official with knowledge of latest developments said that India had breached an ‘understanding’ by revealing the identities of certain Pakistani officials posted in New Delhi, the paper said.The official said both sides knew that certain officials worked under cover and they did so with the full official knowledge, it said.”What India did was unthinkable,” the official added, saying the Indian move would have serious implications for the two countries.He said the immediate fallout of this controversy could be the recalling of high commissioners by the two countries for the time being, the paper said.The official said another implication might be ‘cutting down’ the size of diplomatic staff posted in each other s countries till the situation normalised, it added.

Espionage case: Pakistani High Commission staffers sent back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six staffers in the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi, including ISI officials, returned to their country after New Delhi provided evidence of their involvement in running a spy ring.According to sources, those who have left include commercial counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and first secretaries Khadim Hussain, Mudassir Cheema and Shahid Iqbal. DNA reported on Wednesday New Delhi was mounitng pressure on Pakistan to send back Habib, a senior ISI officer posted as trade counsellor in the mission who was heading the espionage network that included three other ISI officers.The cover of the ISI spy network was blown after Mehmoood Akhtar, an ISI official working in the Pakistani High Commission was held by Delhi Police last week. The police arrested four Indian agents on the revelations made by Akhtar. Akhtar also told interrogators about ISI officials runnig the network from the mission.Though there was no official confirmation on the number of diplomats leaving India, according to Pakistan High Commission sources there were six mission officials who have left or were in the process of leaving.”The decision has been taken after it became impossible for the officials to work in this vitiated atmosphere. Indian government is threatening and blackmailing our diplomats. So in this condition, it is impossible for us to stay in this country and work,” the sources alleged.The Pakistani action comes days after India declared Pakistani official Mehmood Akhtar persona non-grata for espionage activities, triggering a tit for tat action from Islamabad, which also expelled an Indian High Commission official there. Earlier, media reports emerging from Islamabad said Pakistan may ask at least two officials of the Indian High Commission to leave the country for their alleged involvement in subversive activities.Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, Syed Haider Shah was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday and conveyed the government’s grave concern and strong protest at the recent escalation in the incidents of ceasefire violations by the Pakistan side at the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB), which have resulted into several fatalities and casualties on the Indian side among civilians and security forces personnel.The Government also registered its strong protest on the mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier by a terrorist who escaped across the Line of Control after committing the heinous crime.The Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan was conveyed the Government’s expectation that Pakistan will not take any step inimical to peace along the LoC and IB and to the security of India.

Diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan worsens amid border tensions | Reuters

Diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan worsens amid border tensions | Reuters

Updated: Nov 2, 2016 21:44 IST

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By Syed Raza Hassan and Douglas Busvine
| ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI Pakistan may expel five Indian diplomats for espionage and has revealed their names, local media said on Wednesday, a move sure to exacerbate a rift between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours that has been widening for months.Pakistan declined to comment on the matter ahead of a planned news conference on Thursday, while India said the identity of eight of its diplomats had been revealed by Pakistani media.Vikas Swarup, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, declined to comment when asked whether the eight diplomats stationed in Islamabad would be withdrawn.Swarup also said six Pakistani diplomats had left the Indian capital on Wednesday but said they had not been expelled.Last week India ordered one employee of the Pakistani embassy, known as a High Commission, to leave the country on suspicion of espionage, triggering the expulsion of one of its own envoys by Islamabad.

The diplomatic spat comes after months of sharply deteriorating relations that began with civil unrest in Indian-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan’s global lobbying against New Delhi’s crackdown on the Kashmiri activists.In September a group of gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

India said it had carried out “surgical strikes” inside Pakistan as retribution, but Islamabad denied they even took place and accused New Delhi of fabrication to distract attention from its crackdown on the protests in the part of Kashmir it controls.Artillery duels and skirmishing along the disputed frontier that runs through Kashmir have escalated in recent days, leading India to summon the Pakistani deputy high commissioner on Wednesday to express its “grave concern and strong protest”.In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs accused Pakistan of violations of a 2003 ceasefire that have caused several fatalities and injuries among its civilians and security forces.

New Delhi also protested against the alleged mutilation of the body of an Indian soldier by an attacker who escaped across the Line of Control after “committing this heinous crime”.Both sides typically refute the other’s version of events. On Wednesday the press wing of the Pakistani military said India had committed 178 ceasesfire violations this year, killing 19 civilians and injuring 80 more. (Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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

India says identities of 8 diplomats in Pakistan exposed | Reuters

India says identities of 8 diplomats in Pakistan exposed | Reuters

Updated: Nov 2, 2016 20:21 IST

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NEW DELHI India said on Wednesday that the identities of eight of its diplomats in Pakistan had been revealed in the local media, amid continuing tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.Vikas Swarup, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, declined to comment when asked whether the eight diplomats stationed in Islamabad would be withdrawn.

He also said six Pakistani diplomats had left the Indian capital on Wednesday, but that they were not expelled. India ordered one employee of the Pakistani High Commission out of the country last week on suspicion of espionage, triggering a tit-for-tat expulsion of one of its own envoys by Islamabad.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; editing by John Stonestreet)

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

Imran Khan says he expects Pakistani Supreme Court inquiry to topple Sharif | Reuters

Imran Khan says he expects Pakistani Supreme Court inquiry to topple Sharif | Reuters

Updated: Nov 2, 2016 20:05 IST

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By Syed Raza Hassan
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan said on Wednesday that he expected a Supreme Court corruption investigation to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and repeated his calls for Sharif to resign immediately.The court on Tuesday agreed to Khan’s request to set up a judicial commission to probe Khan’s corruption allegations against Sharif, stemming from revelations that his children owned offshore companies in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.Khan then backed down on his threat to paralyse Islamabad by bringing in a million protesters, defusing tensions after days of clashes between his supporters and the police. Instead he decided to hold a “celebratory” rally on the edge of the capital, where he accused Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, of being responsible for the clashes between police and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.”Hopefully within this month … we will see the end of the dark night of the Sharifs,” the former cricketer told tens of thousands of supporters.”My anger is against these two cowards, these jackals of Pakistan, for making (Pakistanis) fight one another.”

The Supreme Court is due to hold its first substantive hearing on the matter on Thursday.Sharif’s ruling party has said it will participate in an investigation into Panama Papers revelations but rejected an opposition demand that it should focus principally on Sharif’s family. The Court has said it will set the terms of the commission itself if the parties cannot agree on them at once.Khan’s challenge stems from documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm that appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Sharif’s family denies wrongdoing, and there was no mention of Sharif himself owning any offshore companies.Holding offshore companies is not illegal in Pakistan, but Khan has implied that the money and London apartments held by the companies, amounting to millions of dollars, were gained by corrupt means. Khan’s threat of a “shutdown” protest had sparked fears of a repeat of demonstrations in 2014, where thousands of his supporters paralysed Islamabad’s government quarter for several months over allegations of election rigging.

In a bid to foil the “shutdown”, authorities arrested scores of PTI supporters and shut a major motorway leading from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Khan’s political heartland.The capital was calm on Wednesday, though there was still a heavy police presence.Khan admitted in May that he himself had used an offshore company to legally avoid paying British tax on a London property sale. (Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Kevin Liffey)

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

Pakistan opposition party says more of its workers arrested, cancels rally | Reuters

Pakistan opposition party says more of its workers arrested, cancels rally | Reuters

Updated: Oct 29, 2016 16:31 IST

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By Asad Hashim
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD Pakistani police have arrested 30 workers from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party ahead of planned protests to shut down the capital on Wednesday, a PTI official said on Saturday, as the party cancelled a rally in the capital.On Friday, supporters of PTI leader Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket hero, clashed with police in Rawalpindi, 20 km (12 miles) from Islamabad, and Khan accused the government of placing him under virtual house arrest. Police on Thursday arrested 38 PTI workers at a youth rally, hours after local authorities imposed a two-month ban on all public gatherings in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The police and local authorities did not respond to requests for comment. Khan has vowed to ‘lock down’ Islamabad on Wednesday in a bid to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over allegations of corruption linked to the Panama Papers leaks. Police say they will block any such attempt.

Chaudhry Rizwan, a senior PTI official for Islamabad, said 30 people were arrested overnight from outside Khan’s home, where some supporters slept.A Reuters reporter saw more than 100 police officers, some in riot gear, posted near Khan’s residence.”Today’s rally has been cancelled. For now, whatever will happen will be at Khan’s Bani Gala residence,” added Rizwan.

PTI’s rally on Saturday was scheduled to act as a prelude for Wednesday’s attempt to lock down Islamabad.There were about 80 PTI supporters near Khan’s road, vowing to protect their leader and demanding that Sharif stand down.

“I came here because I think of Pakistan, and things are very bad here. There is too much corruption here,” said Dost Muhammad, 30, a tailor from Swat region who camped outside Khan’s home overnight.Khan’s latest challenge to Sharif’s government is based on leaked documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm that appear to show that his daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Sharif’s family denies wrongdoing.Holding offshore companies is not illegal in Pakistan, but Khan has implied the money was gained by corruption. Khan admitted in May that he used an offshore company himself to legally avoid paying British tax on a London property sale. (Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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

Indian mission staffer’s expulsion: MEA slams Pakistan, says it’s in denial of its anti-India activities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday condemned expulsion of Indian High Commission staffer in Islamabad, saying Pakistan’s action confirmed that it continued to be in denial of its anti-India activities.India on Thursday declared a Pakistan High Commission staffer in New Delhi as persona non grata for espionage activities after he was caught by Delhi Police with sensitive defence documents, including deployment details of BSF along the Indo-Pak border. Following that, in a tit-for-tat action, Pakistan declared Surjeet Singh, an Indian High Commission official, as persona non-grata and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours.The government said that Pakistan gave no justification for expelling Surjeet Singh. “Government notes with regret the Government of Pakistan’s decision to declare Shri Surjeet Singh, Assistant Personnel and Welfare Officer in the High Commission of India in Islamabad, persona non grata and expel him and his family members. No justification has been provided by the Government of Pakistan except for the completely baseless and unsubstantiated allegation that his activities were not in keeping with diplomatic norms,” the MEA said in a statement.Stating that the government condemned Pakistan’s step, the statement read, “It is obvious that the step is an afterthought following yesterday’s apprehension of Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar in Delhi while indulging in anti-India activities. Pakistan’s action further confirms that it continues to be in denial of its anti-India activities, including cross-border terrorism.”Mehmood Akhtar, who worked in the visa section of the High Commission and had diplomatic immunity, was procuring critical details from two other accomplices who were arrested in Delhi, police said.

‘Official’ war: India, Pakistan indulge in the game of diplomatic expulsions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a tit-for-tat action, Pakistan on Thursday expelled Surjeet Singh, an official of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, apparently in retaliation against the Indian action of declaring Pakistani High Commission staffer in New Delhi, Mehmood Akhtar, persona non grata. Hours after Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit at South Block to protest against the espionage activities of Akhtar, late in the evening in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry rang up Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale and summoned him to the Pakistan Foreign Office. As expected, the Indian High Commissioner was told that one of his staffers Surjeet Singh was declared persona non grata.“The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms,” said a statement issued by Pakistan Foreign Office.Unlike India, which put out a detailed charge list against Akhtar, who was working as an undercover assistant to the Councillor (Trade), Pakistan’s statement did not mention any charges against Singh.In a typical Cold War style, India and Pakistan have been indulging in the game of diplomatic expulsions to score points. In the past, there had been several acts of intimidation, beating, and even abduction of Indian diplomatic staff in Islamabad. In 1992, New Delhi and Islamabad signed a Code of Conduct for treatment of their diplomats in order to mitigate the allegations from both the sides. This agreement, however, has often been violated, leading to diplomatic expulsions from time to time by the two countries. In the past, the biggest incident of diplomatic action has been the expulsion of Pakistan’s acting High Commissioner Jalil Abbas Jilani in January 2003 in New Delhi for helping Kashmiri separatists. Pakistan retaliated by “boxing in” the flag car of the acting Indian High Commissioner Sudhir Vyas in Islamabad. Later Vyas, along with four other staffers, was expelled.The earliest high-profile expulsion from Indian side was that of Brig Zaheer Abbasi, defence advisor at the Pakistan High Commission, just a few days ahead of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s famous trip to Islamabad to attend the SAARC summit in 1988 and revive dialogue with then counterpart Benazir Bhutto. Delhi Police had caught him at Green Park hotel handing over Rs 25,000 for secret documents.In 1997, Pakistan expelled SK Chaudhury from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and India retaliated by calling for the withdrawal of Murad Baloch from the Pakistani mission in New Delhi. Again in 2000, India expelled three Pakistani diplomats because of “activities incompatible with their official status”. Months after the Agra summit in December 2001, India recalled its ambassador to Pakistan in response to an attack on its Parliament and reduced the size of the staff at its diplomatic mission.In May 2002, India asked Pakistan to follow suit, by reducing the size of its diplomatic staff. It also asked Pakistan’s then envoy Ashraf Jehangir Qazi to leave the country. In January 2003, came the high-profile expulsion of Acting High Commissioner Jalil Abbas Jilani, along with four other members of the mission, on charges of helping Kashmiri separatists.According to diplomatic norms, once a diplomat is declared persona non-grata, he is not allowed to go to that country. Ironically, in 2012, India had to receive Jilani to take forward the peace process — after being stalled by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks — as he had become foreign secretary.In 2006, Pakistan expelled Deepak Kaul, a Counsellor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, after accusing him of possessing “sensitive documents”. He was detained and interrogated while driving from Islamabad to Lahore. India retaliated by expelling Syed Muhammad Rafique Ahmed, a Counsellor in the Pakistan mission in New Delhi.But the most curious case has been that of Indian diplomat Madhuri Gupta. Delhi police’s Special Cell arrested Madhuri Gupta on April 22, 2010. She was posted as Second Secretary in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. According to the chargesheet filed by the police in 2010, she was involved in a relationship with Jamshed, an ISI official, whom she planned to marry. She was accused of passing on sensitive information to the ISI agent.

Espionage case: India, Pakistan seek recall of expelled High commission staffers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid growing strain in relations, India and Pakistan on Thursday declared a staffer each at their High Commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad ‘persona non-grata’ and sought their recall in tit-for-tat action after Indian police busted an ISI-run spy ring involving an employee of the Pakistani mission.Mehmood Akhtar, who worked in the visa section of the High Commission and had diplomatic immunity, was procuring critical details including those about deployment of BSF personnel along the Indo-Pak border from two other accomplices who were arrested in Delhi, police said.Described as the kingpin of the spy ring, 35-year-old Akhtar belongs to the Baloch regiment of Pakistani Army and was on deputation to spy agency ISI since 2013, investigators said, adding they also probing possible involvement of more people from the Pakistani mission.Akhtar and two others — identified as Subhash Jangir and Maulana Ramzan– were picked up from Delhi Zoo yesterday at around 10 AM. Akhtar was released after around three hours of interrogation as he enjoys diplomatic immunity. A fourth person Shoaib, who is a Jodhpur-based passport and visa agent, was detained by Rajasthan police this evening and was being brought to Delhi.India asked Akhtar to leave the country within 48 hours.”Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and informed him that India had intercepted an official of the Pakistan High Commission in the pursuit of espionage and that he was being declared persona non-grata,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.”The Pakistan High Commission has been informed that Mehmood Akhtar and his family must return to Pakistan by October 29. The Foreign Secretary also strongly conveyed to the Pak High Commissioner that the Pak High Commission must ensure that none of its members indulge in activities inimical to India, or behave in a manner that is incompatible with their diplomatic status,” Swarup said.In swift tit-for-tat action, Pakistan also declared an Indian High Commission official as persona non-grata and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours.A Pakistan Foreign Office statement said the decision was conveyed to Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale who was summoned to Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.”The Foreign Secretary (Aizaz Chaudhry) summoned the Indian High Commissioner and conveyed the decision of the Government of Pakistan to declare Surjeet Singh, an official of the Indian High Commission, as persona non-grata,” the statement said.The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms, it said.The Indian High Commission has been asked to make urgent necessary arrangements for Singh and his family to leave Pakistan by October 29.

After World Bank, ADB refuses to fund Pakistan’s dam project on Indus river in PoK

Islamabad: The ADB has refused to commit funds for Pakistan’s $14 billion dam project on Indus river in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), two years after the World Bank declined to fund the project following Islamabad’s refusal to seek an NoC from India.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We did not really make any commitment. This is a very big project,” Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Takehiko Nakao said on Wednesday at a joint news conference with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on the conclusion of the 15th ministerial meeting of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme.

Underlining that the project on Indus river in Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK was very important for Pakistan’s energy and irrigation requirements, Nakao called for the formation of more partnerships that could provide funding for the project, expected to generate a power output of 4,500 MW.

“We haven’t decided [whether to fund] this project yet because it needs big money,” he said, adding that the ADB might consider joining the financing of this project at a later date, the Dawn reported.

He said presently the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was conducting a feasibility study on the dam.

Islamabad has consistently failed to attract foreign lenders for the project.

Repeated efforts to rope in the World Bank as a co-lender had failed two years ago when the government declined to seek a No objection Certificate from India for the project.

Instead, Pakistan accepted a funding offer from the World Bank to start the Dasu Hydropower project, downstream of Diamer-Bhasha.

The ADB also advised the government to adopt a professional approach towards the construction of the big dam that cannot be funded by a single institution, country or group given its mammoth financial requirements and the risks involved.

As a way out, the ADB advised Islamabad to restructure the Diamer-Bhasha dam project by separating power generation, land acquisition and main dam structures and their various modes of financing.

The ADB chief also cautioned Pakistan to wisely implement projects under the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), another strategic project opposed by India as it passes through the PoK, and utilise their funds well so as to avoid debt or repayment problems.

Quetta terror attack: India trying to create ‘chaos’ in Pakistan, says Imran Khan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After 61 people were killed in twin suicide attacks as terrorists stormed a police training college in Quetta, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has lashed out at India for trying to ‘implode’ Islamabad under a new ‘doctrine’.Speaking to reporters outside his residence, the PTI chief asserted that India was aware it could not defeat a nuclear-armed state militarily, which is why it was trying to create chaos within the nation, Dawn reports.”It is strange that whenever we start doing something, something major happens in the country. It is apparent that India is trying to implode Pakistan. Under this doctrine, it wants to create chaos in Pakistan and wants the ongoing reform movement against corruption in the country to fail,” he said.Earlier, Khan had alleged that India was helping Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying that whenever the government came under pressure, tensions would flare up along the LoC.He added that the Quetta attack could be a part of the Indian doctrine of chaos in Pakistan.Branding Prime Minister Sharif a ‘security risk’ for Pakistan, Khan accused the government of failing to stop terror-funding in the country, which was an important part of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism.

Quetta Terror attack and other major militant attacks in Pakistan over the past 3 years

Quetta Terror attack and other major militant attacks in Pakistan over the past 3 years

Updated: Oct 25, 2016 16:55 IST

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Islamabad: Militant attacks in Pakistan have killed hundreds of people over the past three years, including many schoolchildren.

On Tuesday, authorities were investigating a brazen attack overnight in the Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta where gunmen stormed a police academy, killing at least 59 people, mostly police cadets and recruits.

Conflicting claims of responsibility have emerged, including by a Taliban splinter group and an Islamic State affiliate.

Here are some of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan in the last three years:

Pakistan’s deep-rooted hostility will always come in the way of Indo-Pak relations

Pakistan has decided to enforce a complete ban on Indian TV and radio at a time when Bollywood is under increasing pressure from the distributors and exhibitors not to promote movies starring Pakistani actors. This is in addition to its earlier decision to ban the screening of Indian movies in Pakistani theaters.

Obviously, the Indian peaceniks, who are essentially for unilateral gestures by India without any reciprocity by Pakistan, are unhappy. For them, the villain is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is “promoting” a “nationalistic” and “jingoist” culture in the country. They are of the opinion that unrestricted flow of the people and their ideas through movies, music, art, literature will bring India and Pakistan together. Unfortunately, these unilateralist peaceniks are speaking the half-truth.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

First, they should realise that unlike in India, restrictions on people-to-people contacts in Pakistan are always from the side of the government. In India, as the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) explained on 20 October, “As far as the Government of India is concerned, there is no blanket ban on Pakistani artists. However, in view of the prevailing atmosphere and taking into account security considerations as well and the sentiments of local organisers, we will do so on a case-to-case basis, but there is certainly no blanket ban on Pakistani artists.” He, in fact, added in Hindi, when asked about Pakistan’s decision to impose ban on Indian TV channels, “Dekhiye hum logon ne to is tarh ka koi ban nahi lagaya hai. Abhi bhi aap Pakistani serials dekh sakte hain, Zindagi Channel ya aur kai channelon par. Main isko durbhagyapoorn kahunga aur mere khayaal se ye Pakistan ki taraf se, ek tarah se aatmvishwas ki kami darshata hai.”

It may be noted that this is not the first time that the Pakistan government is banning Indian films, TV, radio and artistes. In fact, these bans prevail most of the time; what the government agencies do in that country is to reassert or reiterate them periodically. Why is it that melody queen Lata Mangeshkar has never been allowed to have a concert in Pakistan? The legend once told an interviewer about how she was scheduled to tour Pakistan but it was cancelled just one day before departing to Pakistan. She was supposed to participate in a cultural festival in Karachi, but the then military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq called it off at the very last moment.

Secondly, it is worth finding out the composition of these unilateralist peaceniks. Almost all of them have remained largely confined to the quasi-official realm with a few retired government personnel and the so-called left-liberalist academicians, journalists and artists. There may have been some odd men here and there, but the overall composition has more or less remained the same. These people are essentially from Delhi and the adjoining states (Bollywood actors shedding tears for Pakistan are mostly from North India). And in many cases, they (at least their parents and grandparents) have been refugees from what is today Pakistan, following India’s partition in 1947.

This I really find bizarre. We are talking of people-to-people contacts, but essentially the tracks have remained an elitist preserve, and that too from a particular region of the country. Why should not we involve individuals and grass-root organisations from different parts of the country, while framing our policy towards Pakistan? Why are the views on Pakistan by people from the North East, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are ignored? Do they not constitute India? By not doing that, we are giving a wrong picture of India to a Pakistani that Delhi or North Indian-based people represent the whole of India and that they are the wisest.

My problem with the peaceniks becoming the representatives of people like me and you is not that they are the fifth columnists (they love India as much as you and I do); the problem is essentially the fact that while looking at Pakistan, they follow their hearts, not heads. And that is mostly due to their common ethnic background. Therefore, I have always argued that India’s Pakistan policy has a much better chance of success if handled by leaders and officials hailing from the south of the Vindhyas. Any day, I will prefer a Narasimha Rao and Narendra Modi to a Jawaharlal Nehru or IK Gujral or Atal Behari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh on matters pertaining to Pakistan.

Even otherwise, if one goes by the history books written for students in Pakistan, the intensity of the anti-India venom and the ferocity with which it is being injected into young minds are mind-blowing

For the unilateralist peaceniks, let me demystify some vital aspects of Indo-Pak relations.

First, it is totally meaningless for India to talk to any civilian leader of Pakistan. The ultimate decision-maker in Pakistan as far as India is concerned happens to be the Army Chief. Therefore, if any breakthrough in the India-Pakistan impasse is to be made, New Delhi should insist that the Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif or his nominees should be in the Pakistan delegation for negotiations. The hard reality is that Nawaz Sharif and his ministers and advisers are simply helpless in pursuing any meaningful negotiations with India. Let us not forget that Pakistan is essentially an “Army with a country”. It is the Pakistan Army that decides country’s policy towards India. There are three Lakshman Rekhas (limiting lines) that the Army has drawn for the civilian Prime Ministers and Presidents. One, they would not interfere in any manner in the organisational and administrative work of the armed forces. Two, they would abide by the advice of the Army Chief on matters of foreign and defence policies. Three, they would not interfere with the army-controlled nuclear weaponisation and missile programmes.

Secondly, unlike China, which is and can be India’s rival and partner simultaneously, Pakistan will always behave as India’s enemy. Come what may, it will continue to promote jihad in Kashmir and other parts of India. Indeed, it is a huge myth that Pakistan will shed its hostility to India if Kashmir issue is resolved on Islamabad’s terms. Even if Kashmir joins Pakistan, Islamabad will find out another issue to trouble India. Because, Pakistan’s antipathy towards India is deep-rooted. Pakistan’s very existence as an entity depends on hostility towards India. Take India away and Pakistan’s justification as a separate country in the map of the world will hold no water.

And this explains why the Pakistan Army promotes fundamentalist mullahs in the country and uses them in tirades against India trough terrorist organisations like the LeT. Their fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam negates the Sufi tradition that promoted Hindu-Muslim amity and coexistence in the subcontinent for centuries. So much so that many Pakistanis now suffer from some identity crisis — they are not sure whether they should retain their age-old cultural roots (that are obviously influenced by Hinduism) or develop totally new “Arab identities”.

Even otherwise, if one goes by the history books written for students in Pakistan, the intensity of the anti-India venom and the ferocity with which it is being injected into young minds are mind-blowing. This great historic discovery is taught: “Previously, India was part of Pakistan.” In these books, Muhammad-bin-Qasim, the first Muslim conqueror of the Hindu-dominated Sindh province in the 8th century, is declared the first Pakistani citizen.

Thirdly, erosion of Indian power, dismemberment of its territories and consolidation of an anti-India geostrategic nexus are Pakistan’s predominant foreign policy goals. Pakistan’s war against India is no longer confined to Kashmir. Pakistan wants to Balkanise India by cutting off the country’s northern, eastern (North-East) and southern (Kerala) wings. In fact, Mushahid Hussain, once a former information minister under Sharif, has argued that Pakistan should work towards the division of India into three or four independent countries. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s ISI machinery will concentrate on widening the Hindu-Muslim divide, spreading hatred and destroying India’s inherent ethos of communal harmony.

Unless the typical mindset of the Pakistanis is changed, India will remain their eternal enemy, whatever the Indian peaceniks may say to the contrary.

Indian attempts to isolate us have backfired, claims Pak Foreign Secretary

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Turning a blind eye to the looming threat of global isolation, Pakistan”s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has said that New Delhi”s attempts to isolate Islamabad have backfired.On Thursday Chaudhry told a Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, “India wants to use the United Nations platform to defame Pakistan” (but) its efforts to isolate Pakistan have backfired. In fact, New Delhi itself stands isolated because of its policies.” The Foreign Secretary added that the issue of Masood Azhar, chief of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad whom India is trying to get on the global list of terrorists by the UN—would be tackled according to the National Action Plan, reports the Express Tribune.He told the panel that tackling the issue was not as simple. Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours soared after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army base camp in Uri Sector of Jammu and Kashmir, which India blames on Pakistan. Since then, constant efforts have been made by the Indian Government to isolate Pakistan on the international platform. Expressing its anguish, New Delhi boycotted the 19th SAARC summit which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad from November 9 to 12.Stepping up the efforts, Indian Prime Narendra Modi dubbed Pakistan as the ‘mothership of terrorism’ while addressing the BRICS Summit in Goa last week. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a regional political party in India, also called for a ban on Pakistan artistes working in the country following the ghastly Uri terror attack. Since the attack, the US has also continually urged Pakistan to eliminate all nefarious groups active on its soil.

Kashmir dispute: Sayeed Salahudeen urges Pak for ‘military support’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> United Jihad Council (UJC) chairman Sayeed Salahudeen has said that talks will not provide solution to the Kashmir dispute and urged the Pakistani military to support the Mujahideen in its cause.”The festering (Kashmir) issue is not going to resolve through talks or resolutions’ Pakistan should militarily support Kashmiris by providing resources to the Mujahideen”, the Dawn quoted Salahudeen as saying at a press conference.”If the Mujahideen get military support, not only Kashmir will clinch freedom but the map of the subcontinent will also undergo a change,” he said. He, however, declined to elaborate the kind of military support required by the cadres. “India invaded and occupied Kashmir at the strength of its military might and military occupation can hardly be brought to end through politics or diplomacy,” he said. “When the world is paying no heed to us, the only option left with us is the armed struggle,” Salahudeen said alleging that the Indian Government had also resorted to economic terrorism in Kashmir in a bid to pressure Kashmiris into surrendering their legitimate struggle. He also alleged that the Indian intelligence agencies and their ‘touts’ were trying to create disunity among the Hurriyat leadership as well as the Kashmiri public. He was of the view that the base camp of the freedom movement – a reference to Pakistani side of Kashmir – should not only send a strong message of solidarity across the divide but also adopt a forceful, rather aggressive, role in this regard. Salahudeen asked the police on the Indian side of Kashmir to stand by the unarmed public instead of being in the vanguard of the Indian Army or face the wrath of Kashmiri people. “The governments in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad should also raise the problems of Jammu-based Muslims at national and international forums,” he said. In India, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is a designated terrorist outfit and Salahudeen is National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) most wanted terrorist.

Ban on Indian content shows Pakistan’s lack of self-confidence: MEA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India on Thursday termed as unfortunate Pakistan’s ban on Indian TV and radio programmes and said it reflected the neighbouring country’s lack of self-confidence.”It shows lack of self-confidence on Pakistan’s part. It is an unfortunate development,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said, replying to a question. Amid Indo-Pak tensions, Pakistan’s media regulatory authority yesterday announced enforcing a complete ban on Indian TV and radio contents from Friday and warned that the licences of those found guilty of violating the ban will be suspended.The ban extends to all Indian content on cable and radio being aired in Pakistan. The authority also decided to cancel one-sided rights given to Indian media by the government of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in 2006. Swarup said there was no ban on Pakistani artistes’ performing in India. “As far as government of India is concerned, there is no blanket ban on Pakistani artistes. In view of the prevailing atmosphere and taking into account security considerations as well and sentiments of local organisers, we will do so in a case to case basis,” he said, in an apparent reference to demand for banning artistes from Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attack.Govt’s view on SAARCAsked whether the government was planning to have a SAARC minus Pakistan, Swarup said India remained committed to the regional bloc and its principles. “Our intention is not to throw out the baby with the bath water,” he said, adding the government’s priority is to promote closer cooperation and economic integration in our region. “Our interest in SAARC remains intact but our concern is that connectivity, trade, including MFN and cooperation that SAARC requires and the terror-free atmosphere needed for these initiatives is not there due to the actions of one country in our neighbourhood.”That is why all SAARC countries wrote to the Chair Nepal saying in one voice that in the current atmosphere it is not possible to participate in the proposed SAARC Summit in Islamabad,” he said.On China’s view that no country or religion should be linked to terrorism, in apparent unhappiness over India trying to corner pakistan on terror, the MEA Spokesperson said it is clear which country is the epicentre of terror in the region.”We are all aware that in our region, which country is epicentre of terrorism. There is no doubt about it at all. At the same time, we do have an ongoing dialogue with China on terrorism which is a phenomenon that affects China as well and China has said so also in the past,” he said. Swarup said dialogue with China on the issue of terrorism will continue, adding a series of discussions with China will take place in the next two months.

‘India used BRICS Summit to outmanoeuvre Pakistan, strengthen NSG, UNSC bids’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has “outmanoeuvred” Pakistan by effectively branding it as a “regional pariah” during Goa BRICS-BIMSTEC summit where the country presented itself as a “bright spot”, strengthening its case for the NSG membership and a permanent seat in UNSC, state-run Chinese media said.”Given the uneasy background of Indo-Pak tension, which escalated last month, India’s inclusion of BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) bore even thicker geo-strategic connotations,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.”As India invited all countries in the region except Pakistan, it in effect consigned Pakistan to be a regional pariah,” the article titled ‘India uses BRICS to outmanoeuvre Pakistan’, said.Referring to India’s decision not to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Islamabad after the Uri attack, it said, “The collapse of the SAARC summit presented India a rare opportunity to get rid of any constraints Islamabad may have over the regional group, as the same group would soon gather in Goa in the absence of Pakistan”.BIMSTEC also made a major difference for India at the Goa summit, it said.”A major difference between the Goa summit and the previous ones was that New Delhi put the (BIMSTEC) in tandem with the BRICS meeting,” it said.By bringing regional countries – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan – together with the major emerging economies of the BRICS, the daily said, India breathed legitimacy and substance into an otherwise “hallow and moribund acronym organisation”.”While the rest of the BRICS members would never openly endorse either side in the Indo-Pak tension, India in a way secured its stance vis- -vis Pakistan by taking advantages of its agenda-setting powers for the summits,” it said.”While the prospect of BIMSTEC as a more effective alternative to SAARC remains ambiguous, a subcontinent grouping without Pakistan balancing and checking a dominant India may well raise suspicions and fear for smaller countries,” it said.The summit also helped India to push for its membership in the NSG, which was blocked by China, as well as for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC), it said.”The BRICS summit brings India an ideal mechanism to articulate and push for its reformist demands together with like-minded countries. This common front became particularly va uable for New Delhi, especially as its arduous bids for Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) membership as well as for a permanent seat on an enlarged United Nation Security Council have both met frustration,” it said.The daily said that India successfully projected itself as the fastest growing economy compared to other members of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).”During the summit, India presented itself as a bright spot in a bloc whose other members have been buffeted by economic headwinds to varying degrees. With a GDP growth rate of 7.5% in 2015 against a rather gloomy global backdrop, India has replaced China as the world’s fastest- growing large economy,” the article said.”Only three years ago, India was still labeled as one of the ‘RIBS’, whose feeble and volatile growth contrasted sharply to China’s robust performance. Nowadays, the Russian and Brazilian economies have deteriorated into recession, South Africa struggles to avoid the same fate, and China’s decades-long economic boom has geared down,” it said.”But India finds confidence in talking about economic matters. After all, the setbacks undergone by its fellow countries made India’s recent economic achievements shine even brighter in comparison,” it said.”Although India’s domestic reforms have only made limited inroads in key areas such as land acquisition and labour regulation, an aspirant (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi equipped with newly-gained confidence on India’s growth prospects has clearly made the country more proactive,” it said.For India, the daily said, this BRICS summit has been a wonderful platform to coordinate efforts in reforming current global economic and finance governance.”This effect becomes more visible as the operationalisation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) have put pressures on the current international finance system, giving India tangible leverage in demanding relevant reforms,” it said.For example, the Goa Declaration urges advanced European economies to cede two chairs on the Executive Board of the IMF, to which India may have an “upper hand to claim thanks to its huge potential and robust growth recently,” it said.

Pakistan’s entire establishment is engaged in fuelling terrorism in India: Rajnath Singh

Chandigarh: Mounting a scathing attack on Pakistan, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said its entire establishment is engaged in fuelling terrorism in India making management of the Indo-Pak border “challenging” and warned that “those who breed snakes get bitten by them”.

He slammed Islamabad for adopting a “very flexible” approach to deal with terrorism and said if it wanted, India can help it carry out an anti-terror campaign in PoK. Singh asserted that India is against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and does not breed any hatred towards Pakistani people.

Union minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Addressing a two-day Regional Editors Conference from north and northeast states, he said, “Pakistan is so obsessed with Kashmir that it cannot see the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. When there is a talk about state and non-state actors, the argument put forward is that Pakistan is a non-state actor.

“The truth remains that the entire establishment in Pakistan is engaged in fuelling terrorism in India. And that is why managing our borders with Pakistan, as compared to other countries, has become a challenging task.” Pakistan has adopted terrorism as its state policy and is getting isolated in the entire international community, the minister said.

“Pakistan is so obsessed with some issues that it cannot do any good, nor can it see its own good. By adopting terrorism as state policy, it is isolating itself not only in south Asia, but in the entire international community. “In Brics’ Goa declaration, terror was strongly condemned.

It was stated that no state should allow its territory to be used for terror activities,” he said. He also denounced Pakistan for adopting a “very flexible” approach to deal with terrorism.

“As far as our relations with Pakistan are concerned, the biggest hurdle is that Pakistan’s approach towards terror remains very flexible. Those who breed snakes get bitten by them. Pakistan should understand this. India wants that terrorism should be wiped out from the entire region,” Singh said.

The minister said, “We want to say that we do not breed any hatred towards Pakistani people, but if we have hatred, it is towards Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. “If Pakistan’s intention to act against terrorism remains clear, India will help it conduct an anti-terror campaign in PoK. It can also take help from anyone in the global community, but its intention is not clear. If terror factories operating across the border are closed down, it can usher peace in the region and open doors for development.”

Singh said that four months ago a committee was formed to give suggestions on sealing the border with Pakistan. “The Madhukar Gupta Committee has submitted its report. We have also prepared an action plan. We will completely secure the Indo-Pakistan border by 2018,” he said.

Physical barriers have been put up along 2,034.96 km of the 2,289.66 km-long Indo-Pak border, he told the gathering. “The rest of the boundary is 254.80 km long. It includes riverine areas and tough terrain. We have decided to create physical barriers wherever possible. Where physical barriers like erecting fencing is not possible, non-physical barriers should be created,” he said.

“For non-physical barriers, there are solutions like sensors, radars and laser wall. These all will be used,” he said, adding a pilot project in this direction is being implemented by BSF in Jammu, Punjab and Gujarat. “The use of non-physical barriers on experimental basis will help ascertain up to what extent it is helpful and what sort of loopholes are there which need to be addressed. A report in this regard is expected to come by the end of the year,” he said.

Talking about the surgical strikes by the Army across the LoC, Singh said it was a counter-terror operation. “Our forces did not cross the LoC to carry out an attack on Pakistan, but they carried out pre-emptive anti-terror surgical action to destroy the terror launch pads there,” he said.

The minister said India’s ties with China are “good to a large extent” and that there was a drop in the cases of transgression in the past two years. “We consider our borders with China and Pakistan as strategic and sensitive. As far as our border with China goes, ITPB is entrusted with guarding it. We keep talking on perceptional differences (related to border).

“Overall, I can say our relations with China are good to a large extent. Its result is that after 2014, there has been a drop in cases of transgression. Till September, 170 such incidents took place. The number was 270 in the corresponding period last year and 432 in 2014,” he said.

“Earlier, transgression cases were high, but there has been a decline in the past two years. We have tried to resolve our border issues with China from time to time. We have focused on development and trade,” Singh said.

Singh also touched on insurgent groups in northeast. “India is actively engaging with neighbouring countries that share border with our northeastern states to put a stop to any anti-India activity. “Talks were held to urge the insurgents groups which are active in northeast to leave the path of violence. We have acted strongly against those were adamant,” he said.

“A framework agreement has been signed with NSCN-IM and there has been a good progress in it,” he said. As a result of steps undertaken by the Narendra Modi government over the last two years, there is peace in large parts of Tripura, Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Also, there has been a decline in incidents of violence in Manipur and Nagaland, he said.

The violence in northeast is at its lowest level in the last 20 years, he claimed. The Home Minister said that for effective border management, India is engaging with neighbouring countries at diplomatic level to find solutions to the problems. “The Bangladesh government has entered an agreement with India to tackle the problem of fake Indian currency notes. Terror outfits get their funding from fake currency notes and narcotics. To end this, our government has taken several steps,” the minister said.

“I can say that after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, we have brought changes in the national security structure…our agencies are better prepared. As far as the coastal security is concerned, we have taken several effective steps,” he said. Talking about the Left-wing extremism, he said, “We have deployed more forces in 10 affected states. In 2009, 37 battalions of paramilitary forces were deployed in Naxalism-hit regions. Now 100 battalions are deployed in the affected areas.”

“Our security forces do not want to kill anyone, but some times they have to act in self defence. Till September, 140 Naxals were killed. There has been a considerable decline in Left-wing extremism,” he said.

“We are also working to deal with the challenges posed by cyber crime and cyber terrorism,” Singh said. Singh said steps are being taken to bolster security at the Indo-Bangladesh border and more forces have been deployed. Taking potshots at those trying to “politicise” the surgical strikes, he said there should be no debate on issues concerning national security. “It is very unfortunate”.

Asked about the evacuation of people living within 10 km of the International Border after Army’s action, Singh said, “Sometimes such precautions have to be taken. We thought Pakistan will retaliate, but you must pat the back of our forces, nothing happened.”

Pakistan says India violated ceasefire over 90 times in 2016

Pakistan says India violated ceasefire over 90 times in 2016

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Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday accused India of violating the 2003 ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir more than 90 times.

“During 2016, India violated the ceasefire more than 90 times. This must stop,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakria tweeted.

He said India was the main hurdle to regional peace and accused it of vitiating the atmosphere through blame games, hostile statements and propaganda in order to malign Pakistan.

Zakaria claimed that Pakistan had “never violated the ceasefire agreement” and that ceasefire violations had always been misreported by Indian media.

Pakistan and Indian border troops last exchanged gunfire across the Line of Control on Sunday. The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries.

China defends all-weather ally Pakistan after Modi’s ‘mothership’ remark on terror

Opposed to linking any country to terrorism: China defends Pakistan after Modi’s ‘mothership’ remark
China defends all-weather ally Pakistan after Modi’s ‘mothership’ remark on terror <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistan a “mothership of terrorism”, China on Monday strongly defended its all-weather ally, saying it is against linking any country or religion with terror and asked the world community to acknowledge Pakistan’s “great sacrifices”.In a sharp reaction to a question about Modi’s characterisation of Pakistan at the BRICS Summit in Goa, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying said China is opposed to linking any country to terrorism.Answering a question on Modi’s criticism of Islamabad in aiding and abetting terror groups opposed to India, she said “on counter-terrorism, China’s position is consistent”.”It is the same way we oppose linking terrorism with any specific country or religion,” she said.”We oppose terrorism in all forms and we believe that international concerted efforts are needed to ensure stability and security of all countries,” she said.”We oppose linking terrorism with any specific ethnicity or religion. This is our long-standing position. China and Pakistan are all-weather friends.Noting that India and Pakistan are “all victims of terrorism”, she said Islamabad has made “great sacrifice to combat terrorism and this needs to be recognised by the international community”.To another question about Modi’s criticism that Pakistan State continues to support anti-India terrorist groups giving them arms, financial support and helping them to cross the border to carry out attacks in India and whether it is China’s view that international community should not take a stand on Islamabad’s support to terrorists, Hu said: “I understand your concern.””But, as I said on counter-terrorism China’s position is consistent. It is the same way we oppose linking terrorism with specific country or religion,” she said.”As per the problem between India and Pakistan, both the two countries are close neighbours of China. We truly hope that they can resolve these differences in a peaceful way through dialogue and consultation, so that India and Pakistan relations can develop. This serves the interest of the two countries and the region,” she said.

Masood Azhar’s surgical strike on Pakistan is deadlier than the one carried out by India

Masood Azhar just did a surgical strike on Pakistan more effective than the one carried out by Indian Army’s Special Forces on 29 September. In one editorial, published in the newest issue of terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad’s weekly pamphlet, he blew away Nawaz Sharif’s fig leaf and made Islamabad stark naked in its brazen bullying glory before the entire world. In the process, the JeM chief also raised some uncomfortable questions for China ahead of President Xi Jinping’s Brics visit to India.

Masood Azhar. ReutersMasood Azhar. Reuters

Masood Azhar. Reuters

During last month’s UNGA address in New York, Nawaz Sharif had stretched the last tendril of credulity when he went against history, reason and a mountain of evidence and proclaimed Kashmir violence as a “popular and peaceful freedom movement” led by “young leader Burhan Wani”.

Taking into account the pulls and pressures of Pakistani Deep State over its civilian government; Nawaz’s compulsions of ratifying Pakistan’s prized assets in the hybrid war against its neighbours; the need to stoke the embers of Kashmir fire — the speech was still a bravura display of defiance where the Prime Minister of a nation was found openly backing a self-declared militant of a designated terrorist organisation from the ramparts of UN. It showed Islamabad’s steady flight down the nihilistic slope of terrorism on the wings of denial.

Masood’s appeal to the Pakistan government to let loose the dogs of terrorism and use the ‘historic opportunity’ to snatch Kashmir, therefore, is the next logical step to Nawaz’s UN address. He was merely ratifying what the Pakistan PM had said and the world (except China and the House of Saud) already knew.

More interestingly, however, Masood’s address provides the context for Kashmir violence. It lays bare the reasons behind Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession — the need to avenge 1971 humiliation and the burning ambition for one Islamic Ummah in the Indian subcontinent. And it exposes, not for the first time, Rawalpindi’s historic role behind the insurgency and its steely resolve to use all terrorist groups, “non-state actors” and tools of insurgency at its command to engage ‘Hindustan’ in a never-ending jihad.

“If the government of Pakistan shows a little courage, the problem of Kashmir, as well as the dispute over water, can be resolved once and for all right now. If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen. Then, god willing, all the bitter memories of 1971 will be dissolved into the triumphant emotions of 2016,” reads Azhar’s front-page editorial, according to Praveen Swami in The Indian Express.

In the editorial, Azhar exhorts Pakistan’s policymakers and argues that the “jihadist policies it backed in the 1990s had brought strategic benefits to the country” and left India profusely bleeding, with “every one of its limbs badly injured”. He goes on to add that “what remained of India’s military prowess was exposed in Pathankot and Uri,” according to the newspaper.

Shorn of rhetoric, this is the damnedest indictment yet of Pakistan’s hand behind the twin terror attacks and yanks off the last vestige of Islamabad’s deniability. It is difficult to name and shame a puppet government but it could be worthwhile taking a reaction from Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who claimed that Uri was “staged by India itself” to malign Pakistan and take focus away from Kashmir, on what he made of Masood Azhar’s statement.

The JeM founder, who was released by the NDA government in 1999 in exchange for kidnapped 155 passengers and crew members of IC 814, writes further that “terror in Kashmir has weakened India” dramatically and a comparative evaluation of “India before and after the jihad in Kashmir” shows that it has “reduced from a serpent to an earthworm.”

“When we entered the tent of the jihadist movement,” writes Azhar, “it had no branch in Kashmir, nor was there lightning in Iraq or Syria. There were just two fronts, in Afghanistan and Palestine… We have watched as the jihad we befriended grew from a glowing ember into the sun…”, according to the newspaper.

The Indian Army unit that crossed over into the LoC and rained fire on launch pads, could destroy just five of the substantial terror infrastructure. Masood, through one article, established the chain that links jihad in Kashmir to global terrorism.

As Firstpost had argued back in July (Not Burhan Wani, it’s Pakistan’s proxy war that’s behind Kashmir tragedy, the neutralising of Burhan Wani wasn’t an inflection point in “Kashmir intifada” as Pakistan would have the world believe, but merely the kicking off of the latest phase in a long history of Rawalpindi-manufactured violence.

Masood’s statement indicates the extent of Pakistan’s collusion in The Kashmir Project — a venture launched by that humiliated and bitter former ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul in mid-1970s. Right from Kalashnikov-wielding Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) militants in early 90s to Hizbul Mujahideen, from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Jaish-e-Mohammed, the history of “peaceful and popular freedom movement” is now clear.

For Beijing, the al-Qalam editorial poses some tough questions. Only last week China’s state-controlled media had accused India of seeking “political gains” in getting UN to ban Masood Azhar. It would be interesting to note now how China justifies its stand of extending “technical hold” on designating the JeM founder as a global terrorist whom India has accused of masterminding the attacks on Indian Parliament in 2001 and on an IAF base in Pathankot, the last of which has been acknowledged by Masood himself.

If Beijing continues to stand as the only impediment behind Azhar’s designation as a terrorist, it would have done a cost-benefit analysis of the losses it may suffer by withdrawing the hold in terms of its heavy investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Beijing’s conduct over the South China Sea should tell us just how ‘seriously’ it takes global opinion when it comes to own strategic interests. So it would be foolish to think that Masood’s statement will force its hand any which way. What it may do is make its bargaining chip vis-à-vis India a little weaker. A position New Delhi would no doubt have noted ahead of the Brics Summit.