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China blocks proposal at UN to list Masood Azhar as terrorist; India dismayed at ‘double standards’

New Delhi: China on Friday finally blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and Pathankot mastermind Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the UN, triggering a sharp reaction from New Delhi which termed it as “unfortunate blow” and a step that confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.

With China blocking India’s proposal, which was submitted in February to the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, New Delhi has to make a fresh listing request for Azhar to be banned by the global body, officials said.

After its submission, China twice imposed “technical” hold on the Indian proposal.

File photo of Azhar Masood. Reuters

File photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

However, India said it will continue to push forward with resolute determination “through the use of all options available with us to bring perpetrators of terrorist violence to justice”.

Asserting that its submission received the strong backing of all other members of the 15-member Sanctions Committee, External Affairs Ministry said, “We note with concern China’s decision to block the proposal to list Masood Azhar…”

The international community is aware that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed which is proscribed by the United Nations, has been responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks on India including the Pathankot Air Base attack.

“The inability of the international community to list its leader Masood Azhar is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.”

MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said the decision by Beijing is surprising as China itself has been affected by the scourge of terrorism and has declared opposition to all forms of terrorism.

“As a consequence of this decision, the UN Security Council has again been prevented from acting against the leader of a listed terrorist organisation. We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenge of terrorism,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:10 IST

Nagrota attack: Terrorists’ strategy similar to Pathankot, militants used tree to enter army base

Security breaches in and around Indian Army camps, over the past year, have cost us the lives of many soldiers. From Uri to Pathankot and from Samba to Nagrota, militants have brazenly attacked the security forces at the heart of some strategic security bases on the Indian territory. However, security loopholes seem to have taken a toll on the preparedness of our forces.

Now it appears that the recent attack on an army unit, which is located just three km from the Army XVI Corps headquarters in Nagrota was staged on similar lines of the Pathankot attack on the Indian Air Force base, where the failure to secure the camp’s perimeter resulted in the massive security breach.

Security personnel at guard in Jammu's Nagrota district. PTISecurity personnel at guard in Jammu's Nagrota district. PTI

Security personnel at guard in Jammu’s Nagrota district. PTI

Seven army personnel, including two Major-ranked officers were killed in the 29 November Nagrota attack, in which three heavily armed militants stormed into the army complex and started indiscriminate shooting within the officers mess and residential quarters of the army men.

The militants behind the attack reportedly sneaked into the premises from the forest area in its rear, official sources told PTI.

In fact a report by The Indian Express said that the militants climbed atop a tree in the officers’ mess campus alongside the three-metre high perimeter wall to enter the premises.

Even in the case of Pathankot attack, it was revealed that the terrorists had managed to jump into the campus by climbing eucalyptus trees and then using a nylon rope to slide down the perimeter wall, according to The Hindu. Despite this, no thorough fortification of the boundary walls of strategic camps was conducted, The Indian Express report states.

Moreover, just like the Pathankot attack, in Nagrota too, failure to ensure preemptive action despite credible intelligence input is also among the many reasons that compromised security.

According to another report in The Indian Express, intelligence agencies had been targeting the movements of suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in the Indian territory, since at least two weeks ahead of the Nagrota attack. Specific intelligence inputs, warning against an imminent strike on a high-value military target was issued just 10 days before the 29 November attack. Although, the LeT cell tracked by the intelligence agencies was not behind the attack, which was later blamed on Jaish-e-Mohammed, questions were raised as to what security measures were taken in response to the intelligence warnings.

However, responding to this, an army spokesperson told The Indian Express, “The reports generated by intelligence agencies were not specific and covered a large spectrum of targets and locations. Even with reference to intelligence regarding Nagrota attack, no such specific or actionable intelligence was received.” However, the report further claims that RAW further issued a warning just 72 hours ahead of the attack that suspected Jaish militants were active in the region. The warning, undoubtedly were generic and did not point out the specific targets on the radar of the militants, nonetheless, the inputs should have led bases to enhance security in the least.

Currently, the National Investigating Agency is probing the  attacks, while it has already filed a chargesheet against JeM cadres including its chief Masood Azhar in the Pathankot attack case, the agency is seeking to establish how did the terrorists creep into the Indian soil and sustained without detection for so long. Meanwhile, a likely theory floating after the preliminary investigation states that the terrorists could have crawled in through an 80-metre-long tunnel under farm lands to cross the International Border (IB) used for the Samba attack, which occurred on the same day.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 16:49 IST

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

J&K: 44 suspected terrorists arrested; Chinese, Pak flags, incriminating materials recovered

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Possibly for the first time in Kashmir, security forces have recovered Chinese flags along with incriminating material during raids at suspected hideouts of militants in Baramulla and arrested 44 people for their alleged involvement in “terror-related activities”.”Over 700 houses were searched in a span of 12 hours on October 17 in an extensive search operation in old town in Baramulla, during which 44 persons involved with terror related activities have been apprehended,” an army spokesman said.The security forces sanitised the area and a number of hideouts were busted during the operation, the spokesman said.”A large quantity of incriminating material such as petrol bombs, Chinese and Pakistani flags, Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) letter head pads, unauthorized mobile phones and seditious anti-national publicity material were seized,” he added.He said the operation was jointly carried out by teams of army, police, BSF and CRPF in 10 sensitive localities including Qazi Hamam, Ganai Hamam, Taweed Gunj, Jamia and other mohallas reportedly being used as “safe havens by the terrorists”.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar contradicts defence minister, says surgical strikes carried out in past

New Delhi: The army had carried out “target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations” across the LoC in the past too but this is for the first time the government has gone public about it, a Parliamentary panel was told on Tuesday, in remarks that appear to contradict the Defence Minister’s claim.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar gave this information to the Parliamentary Committee on Exernal Affairs when he was specifically asked by MPs whether surgical strikes have been done in the past.

“Professionally done, target-specific, limited calibre counter-terrorist operations” have been carried out across the LoC in the past too, but this is for the first time that the government has made it public,” according to sources present in the meeting.

The top diplomat’s comments assume significance in the context of claims by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s claims last week rejecting Congress’s claims that surgical strikes were undertaken during the UPA government too.

He had asserted that it was the first time that surgical strikes had taken place in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack and what was undertaken previously were operations locally executed by commanders without involving the government.

Jaishankar also told the Committee that while India has been engaging with Pakistan post the 29 September surgical strikes, but no “calendar” has so far been prepared regarding future engagement and its level with Islamabad, members said on condition of anonymity.

File photo of S Jaishankar. PTI

File photo of S Jaishankar. PTI

He said soon after the operations had ended, the Director General Military Operations of the Pakistan Army was informed about the strikes.

During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat also gave details of the strikes targeting terrorist launch pads across the LoC.

Government representatives told the panel that the strikes have fulfilled the purpose as of now and there will always be a nagging doubt in the Pakistani establishment whether India will carry out similar operations in the future.

A Congress member wanted to know whether similar operations could be carried out in the future. The government representatives said the strikes were carried out after a “lot has been suffered”.

When asked about the casualty they could inflict on the terrorists, the officials said the army had crossed the LoC to carry out strikes and not to collect evidence.

On China recently extending the technical hold on India’s efforts for a UN ban on chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group and Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar, the Foreign Secretary said New Delhi is working on the issue.

When a member of the Committee raised the issue of India’s failure to get JeM chief named in the Brics Goa declaration when terror outfits like Islamic State figured in the document, Jaishankar gave the same answer that the establishment was working on it.

Jaishankar sought to skirt the issue of UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan stating that it did not witness any action at LoC during the surgical strikes. He said since panel chairman Shashi Tharoor had been associated with the body, he would not like to say anything.

During the meeting, there was a brief exchange of words between a BJP and Left party member when the former raised the issue of security of MPs after the strikes. Some members said the topic of the meeting was national security and not individual security.

Special Secretary Internal Security M K Singhla informed the panel about the types of security being extended to the VIPs. Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar and DG BSF K K Sharma were also present at the meeting besides the Foreign Secretary and the Vice Chief of Army Staff. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who is a member of the Committee, attended the meet but did not ask questions, a member said.

However, a clarification about what transpired at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, which was briefed on the strikes by Jaishankar, came after some opposition MPs quoted him having said the army had carried out “target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations” across the LoC in the past too but this was for the first time the government had gone public about it. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Tuesday said whether cross-LoC surgical strikes were undertaken by the army in the past only the military will know as no “message” about such assaults were conveyed.

“What FS said is that the key issue is that we went public after conducting the surgical strikes which conveyed a politico-military message. Whether any previous crossings had been done only the army would know. But it is irrelevant anyway because there was no message,” sources in the government said.

As revenge against surgical strikes, JeM may target Indian Parliament, says report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To take revenge against the surgical strikes conducted by Indian Army on the terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC), the intelligence agencies have reportedly been tipped off about Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) planning an attack on the Indian Parliament.JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar is thinking about attacking Indian Parliament, again, reported Times of India, saying that the intelligence agency and the Jammu and Kashmir CID had been tipped off about Jaish planning a ‘spectacular attack.’The report also said that the chatter picked by the agencies suggested that the operatives had been told to attack the Delhi Secretariat, the Akshardham and the Lotus temple if they failed to carry out the suicide attack on parliament.In 2001, Afzal Guru had carried out an attack on the parliament. He was hanged to death on February 9, 2013, following his conviction.The Interpol has already issued a fresh Red Corner notice against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf for their alleged involvement in the attack on the Indian Air Force Base.Meanwhile, NIA is awaiting a response from Pakistan on letters rogatory seeking information and interrogation of Jaish-e- Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf in connection with the Pathankot air base strike.Last week, civil airports in western states and important ones like those in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru were put on a high alert as part of the heightened security arrangements following cross-LoC surgical strikes by the Indian army.Seven terror launch pads across the LoC were targeted by the Indian Army on the night of September 28 in a nearly five-hour-long operation during which heli-borne and ground forces were deployed.The announcement of the strikes came 11 days after the attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad on an Indian army camp in Uri in Kashmir, after which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the attackers will not go “unpunished” and that they will not be forgiven.

Will Pakistan’s realisation about the folly of breeding anti-India terrorists last?

Pakistan should have realised that its days of breeding terrorists were over the very day the Islamic State went berserk in Europe, the US and parts of the Indian subcontinent.

With almost every liberal democracy under attack from jihadists, Pakistan should have read the writing on the wall: The world would soon start abhorring terrorism in every form, and begin to isolate and punish States that patronise jihadists. But, even in the backdrop of a world wary of jihadists waging wars in the name of Islam, Pakistan’s deep state continued to pursue its policy of using terrorism as a component of its statecraft and diplomacy.

File image of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

File image of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan continued to believe that by overtly supporting the US’s ‘Global War on Terror’ and covertly using terrorists on its western and eastern borders, it would be able to strike a delicate balance between its regional and global inspirations, become the good cop for the West and the bad boy for the neighbours.

Those days of duplicity, it is evident from recent events in Pakistan, are over. The perennial bad boy of the Indian subcontinent, it is clear, has realised that it now needs to mend its course, denounce terrorism and shut down its jihadist factories. The double game Islamabad played is over, its political leadership has realised. According to Dawn, at a recent meeting, “in a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan and sought consensus on several key actions by the State.”

According to the report, Sharif has directed the military — particularly the ISI — to back off and not interfere if the government cracks down on jihadists and pursues cases against perpetrators of the 26 November, 2008 attacks on Mumbai. The government has also asked the military leadership to expedite the probe into the Pathankot attack. The new course of action — in many ways unprecedented for Pakistan — was agreed upon after the government talked about its increasing diplomatic isolation and pressure from the US, India and even China to act against the Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives.

According to the newspaper, at the meeting, Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz, chief minister of Punjab, clashed with the ISI director-general and complained that whenever action has been taken against certain groups by civilian authorities, the security establishment has worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free. “Astounded onlookers describe a stunned room that was immediately aware of the extraordinary, unprecedented nature of the exchange,” according to Dawn.

Pakistan has gone down this road several times in the past.

In the aftermath of Kargil and the attack on the Indian Parliament, the then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had announced that he would not allow his country to be the launchpad for terror attacks in the region. That promise — extracted out of him by the US and the threat of an Indian attack — was unfortunately forgotten in a few months. But, the recent bout of self-introspection reported by Dawn may have been induced by rapid geopolitical changes.

Apart from the emerging consensus in the world that terrorism needs a unified global response, Sharif may have also read the signs of the shift in the US stance and China’s frustration with Islamabad’s inability to act against terrorists lodged in Pakistan. The US is about to wind up its operations in Afghanistan, getting ready to leave governance in the hands of an increasingly anti-Pakistan government in Kabul. Once it leaves the region, the US may have no use left for Pakistan and may dump it like a rotten egg. China, on the other hand, is pumping billions of dollars into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

It obviously wants Pakistan to pursue peace to ensure the investments are not wiped away.

Curiously, although Sharif is seen as a villain outside Pakistan, many in his home country consider their prime minister an India sympathiser — somebody who is soft towards the traditional rival. Within Pakistan, Nawaz is seen as a lame duck with zero impact on foreign policy and national security. As Cyril Almeida argues in Dawn, from RAW agents in Sharif’s sugar mills to conspiracies of steel mill monopolies, to the relentless linking of Sharif to Narendra Modi, all of it has worked to put the Pakistani prime minister in a position where he can’t even talk about India sensibly anymore.

So, it isn’t clear whether Sharif’s belated introspection and realisation of the “gradual drift towards isolation” will lead to some real action against jihadists. But, it is clear that recent events have woken Pakistan’s civilian leadership out of its nuclear blackmail-induced stupor to see where the country is heading. Pakistan, being Pakistan, may not listen to this belated voice of sanity and continue on its path of self-destruction, and may even soon chuck out Sharif, something Imran Khan is threatening to do post-Moharram.

But the good news is that the civilian leaders have started looking into the mirror and telling their military counterparts about the ugly self-image they see.

Surgical strikes across LoC: CISF chief briefs Rajnath Singh on security arrangements


Uri attack was the worst in 26 years: Has India ignored the growing threat of Jaish-e-Mohammad?

Soon after the deadly attack on Sunday at one of the Army bases in north Kashmir’s Uri town, Indian intelligence agencies said that Jaish-e-Mohammad militants were behind the attack.

“All four killed were foreign terrorists and had carried with them items which had Pakistani markings. Initial reports indicate that the slain terrorists belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad tanzeem (outfit),” Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh said, while briefing the media after the attack.

Based on all the evidences, the Army confirmed that Jaish militants carried out the 18 September attacks.

File image of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

File image of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

Since its inception in 2000, the signature of the Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit was attacks on Army bases at Mohra and Tangdhar in north Kashmir, at Kathua and Samba in Jammu region, and at Pathankot airbase in Punjab, as Sameer Yasir points out in this Firstpost article.

After a debilitating period of being infiltrated by Kashmiri police, “the outfit has fast replaced Lashkar-e-Taiba in launching suicide missions on military and other security formations in the state,” Yasir pointed out.

Even though there was enough evidence of the outfit’s rising popularity and overt threats, it looks like India failed to keep a track of its activities.

The group claimed that it will use violence to force the withdrawal of Indian security forces in Kashmir. After the 2001 attack on the Parliament, the US State Department added it to its foreign terrorist organisation list. India seems to have ignored the cognisance of the group’s gradual rise.

Despite efforts, the Indian authorities have not managed to tighten the strings of JeM’s activities in India. It continues to grow and create havoc in the country, possibly with the help of Pakistan’s ISI.

In 2016, the group carried out the daring attack on the Pathankot airbase. The Indian police even arrested 12 JeM operatives for their involvement in the attack. Offices of the JeM in Bahwalnagar, Bahawalpur, Multan and Muzafargarh were also identified and sealed in January 2016.

Although the Pakistani government too tried to crack down the outfit’s militants (or projected to), it operates almost without any constraints in the country now.

Pakistan conducted raids in Gujranwala and Jhelum regions, and questioned the family of one of the Jaish leaders following the Pathankot attack.

The Hindu reported that Pakistan even announced the arrest of several JeM members. Chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rehman Rauf were also detained. “Based on the initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad, have been apprehended,” the office of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying in The Hindu report.

Soon after, ANI reported that the mosque-cum-seminary run by JeM was sealed and the Counter-Terrorism-Department arrested 14 people from Mundeyki Goraya village. The Dawn also reported that the police raided and sealed Jamia Masjid and Madressah Al-Noor.

According to PTI, Pakistani authorities also raided and sealed religious seminary operated by JeM. The madrassa was sealed after a thorough search, reported DNA.

In February, the Jammu and Kashmir police busted a module of JeM and three militants were arrested, The International Business Times reported. Mohammad Sadiq Gujjar, a JeM terrorist, who carried out an attack in Kupwara was arrested by security forces towards the end of February.

In May, 2016 the Army arrested a terrorist belonging to JeM in the Baramulla district of Kashmir, The Hindu reported. Abdul Rehman, a resident of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), had infiltrated in January and was engaged in recruiting local youth for “suicide” attacks, the Army said.

In July, according to reports, the outfit was seeking funds outside mosques in Karachi to send jihadists to fight in India and Afghanistan.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, JeM released a video issuing threat against mainstream politicians and Kashmiri ‘informers’ working for security forces in the Valley on 9 September.

And just days later, it carries out the Uri attack. The JeM has had an adventurous year with arrests and some major attacks. The speedy rise of the outfit becomes a matter of concern for India.

With inputs from PTI

Uri attack carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad militants, confirms Indian Army

Hours after Sunday’s deadly attack on one of its base in north Kashmir’s Uri town — that left 18 soldiers dead — the Army said four militants who carried out of the attack belonged to the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant outfit based in Pakistan.

“All four killed were foreign terrorists and had carried with them items which had Pakistani markings. Initial reports indicate that the slain terrorists belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad tanzeem (outfit),” Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh said in South Block in New Delhi after the attacks.

Investigators probing the Uri suicide attacks are working overtime to identify the four fedayeen who stormed into 12 Infantry Brigade in Uri, and all the initial indications are leading towards Jaish outfit. The NIA, which overtook the investigation of the Uri attack from Army, is looking into the case from different angles, which also include studying the previous successful infiltration attempts made by the outfit and the attacks carried out by the group along the LoC.

Soldiers stand outside the army base in Uri. PTISoldiers stand outside the army base in Uri. PTI

Soldiers stand outside the army base in Uri. PTI

A majority of the attacks carried out by Jaish in recent years have been suicide attacks, in fact, the outfit introduced the concept of the suicide bombing in Kashmir insurgency when it carried out its first suicide attack in April 2000. An 18-year-old Srinagar boy detonated a car-bomb outside the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters in Srinagar. It was also for the first time that a militant laced with explosives blew himself up in the conflict-ridden state.

What is alarming for the security agencies is the increasing number of attacks carried out by the group in recent years, particularly along the LoC. The majority of these attacks have taken place along the LoC and all of them were suicide attacks. The outfit has fast replaced Lashkar-e-Taiba in launching suicide missions on military and other security formations in the state.

“The life of a Jaish militant once he leaves Pakistan to carry out attack is very short, most of them have been killed along the LoC. In recent years all the attack carried out by the group almost mirror each other. They attack the first Army installation they encounter after crossing the LoC,” an intelligence officer told Firstpost.

So when Baramulla police early this year in February arrested Mohammad Sadiq, a member of the outfit, alive from Kanispora area, everyone was shocked. On 25 November, Jaish militants attacked a Gorkha Rifles Camp along Kalsuri Ridge in Tangdhar area near the LoC in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, leaving a military contractor dead before three attackers were gunned down. What rattled the forces was the recovery of bags inscribed with Afzal Guru Squad from the three slain militants. All the four militants infiltrated through Tangdar area and struck the camp but Sadiq managed to flee from the spot. He was one among the four tasked to carry out suicide attacks in Kashmir.

Earlier Colonel Santosh Mahadik, the Commanding officer of 41 Rashtriya Rifles, was killed during an encounter in Haji Naka forest area of Kupwara. The outfit took the responsibility of the attack saying three militants, who attacked the camp in Tangdhar, were its members.

Jaish was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, a fiery orator, in January 2000 after his release in Taliban-governed Kandahar, Afghanistan, from Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail in exchange for passengers of hijacked IC-814 Indian Airlines plane. Azhar was arrested in Srinagar in 1994 on terrorism charges.

“Revenge has begun and it will reach where you cannot even imagine,” Azhar said in January 2014 in a rally organized by the outfit in Muzaffarabad in PoK.

Since then, the signature of Jaish-e-Mohammad was found in attacks on army bases at Mohra and Tangdhar in north Kashmir, at Kathua and Samba in Jammu region, and at Pathankot airbase in Punjab. The comeback was lethal.

The outfit was once considered to be the most infiltrated group by Kashmir police, which led to its decline in valley and by mid 2013 it was on the verge of extinction when two of its last three surviving commanders were killed in that year, leaving the outfit with a total cadre capacity of eight militants in Kashmir, the lowest since it was formed 13 years ago, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Earlier it was considered the deadliest group only second to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). But after the killing of Gazi Baba, a top brass of the outfit and the mastermind of the Parliament attack, the outfit was never able to regroup in Kashmir. Jaish has been accused for the 13 December, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament in New Delhi. The outfit was banned by the Indian government under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on 25 October, 2001.

However in recent years it has carried out a sustained trail of attacks on Army installations along the LoC, one in which Colonel Mahadik was killed.

Army on Tuesday dealt a major blow to militants who tried to sneak into Uri region in Kashmir, killing ten militants. It is not clear who carried out the infiltration but don’t be surprised if the fingers are pointed at Jaish as it fast replaces Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Kashmir again.

Congress tells Centre to ostracize Pakistan internationally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress on Tuesday urged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the Centre to act very strongly and isolate Pakistan globally in the wake of Sunday’s Uri terror strike.Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh said, “We strongly condemn the attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists who are sponsored by the Pakistan government. The Government of India has to act very strongly and isolate Pakistan in the International sphere, also build up pressure in the Security Council and United Nation General Assembly, so that Pakistan is forced to take action against whether it is LeT or JeM all these people have to be dealt with strongly.”After giving an assurance of going after the perpetrators of the deadly Uri attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday gave the green signal to diplomatically isolate Pakistan at every international grouping.
ALSO READ #UriAttack: NIA registers case; to take DNA samples of 4 neutralised Jaish-e-Mohammad terroristsIndia is to present all actionable evidence against Pakistan to international bodies if required. Evidence of Pakistan’s hand in the Uri attack, including GPS tracker movements that go back to a starting point in Pakistan, Pashto literature, Pakistan Army marked arms will be given to Islamabad at the DGMO level, sources said.The sources also revealed that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will strongly emphasize on Pakistan’s involvement in the attack during her UNGA speech on September 26. This development comes after the Prime Minister yesterday chaired a high-level meeting at his official residence at 7 Race Course Road here.Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Army Chief Dalbir Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other officials were present in the meeting.Pakistan has, however, flatly rejected New Delhi’s claims of Islamabad’s involvement in the Uri terror attack, saying it is the latter’s traditional tendency to point fingers at the former whenever a terror attack takes place on Indian soil. “Pointing fingers at Pakistan has become a traditional tendency of India after each terrorist attack,” the Dawn quoted Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria, as saying. “In the past many Indians were involved in the terrorist acts for which India had blamed Pakistan,” he asserted.Director General of Military Operations Lt.Gen. Ranbir Singh said earlier that the four terrorists who attacked the military base in Uri, belonged to Pakistan’s banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Designate Pakistan as terror sponsor state: Indian-Americans to US

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian-American community has asked the US government to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism and impose sanctions on it following the terror attack in Uri that killed 18 soldiers.”Enough is enough. It is time that Pakistan be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Jagdish Sewhani president of American India Public Affairs Committee.Referring to various unilateral peace initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after coming to power in May 2014 including the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his swearing in ceremony and Lahore visit last December, Sewhani said Islamabad had interpreted these overtures as India’s weakness.”Leaders of Pakistan need to understand the price they might have to pay for their continuing support to terrorist activities in India,” Sewhani said, adding that both the Obama administration and the US Congress needed to send a strong message to Pakistan by declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism and impose sanctions on it.”The ability of groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad to operate freely and with impunity in Pakistan are a direct indication of state sponsored terrorism by the country’s intelligence services and military apparatus,” said Samir Kalra, senior director and Human Rights Fellow at the Hindu American Foundation.The foundation said the attack was allegedly carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based militant group and a US designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation, believed to receive military and logistical support from the Pakistani army.”Since 1989, a militant insurgency supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has left thousands of Hindus dead, and has driven out more than 350,000 people from the Kashmiri Pandit community from the Kashmir Valley,” it alleged.”It is time for the US to take a serious look at the foreign military assistance to Pakistan and how those resources are being diverted to cross-border terrorism and other nefarious activities,” said Indian National Overseas Congress, USA.”We join the civilised people everywhere in condemning this dastardly attack across the border from Pakistan and offer our condolences and prayers to families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives,” said George Abraham, chairman, INOC, USA.”We also call upon Pakistan to stop exporting terrorism and return the region to relative peace and tranquility,” Abraham said.Eighteen soldiers were killed and over a dozen others injured as heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the force in North Kashmir’s Uri town early Sunday.Four militants involved in the terror strike were killed by the Army.

President Mukherjee concludes ‘fruitful and productive’ visit to China

Beijing: China has conveyed its willingess to enhance cooperation with India on combating the menace of terrorism, including in the United Nations, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday winding up a “fruitful and productive” four-day visit to that country,

Mukherjee, who met the top Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping yesterday, also expressed the hope that China will play a “positive and facilitative role” in ensuring a predictable environment for India in its pursuit of civil nuclear programme in bridging the huge power deficit the country faces.

His statement on the two issues in his interaction with the media on board Air India One aircraft on his way back home, assume significance in the context of China’s recent action in blocking a UN move to designat Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and Beijing’s stand that India should sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) for gaining admission to the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The Chinese stand is seen as a bid to scuttle India’s membership of NSG and New Delhi has dismissed the Chinese proposition.

“Terrorism was an important topic which I covered in my meetings,” the President said. During his discussions with the Chinese leadership, he conveyed to them that there was universal concern over growing acts of terrorism.

Presdient Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

President Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

“India has been a victim of terrorism for around three and a half decades. There is no good terrorist or bad terrorist. Terrorism respects neither ideology nor geographical boundaries. Wanton destruction is its only aim.

“Comprehensive cooperation by all countries of the world is essential to tackle this global menace. The inernational community must engage in strong and effective action. As close neighbours, India and China should work together. The Chinese leadership agreed that terrorism was a menace to the entire human race. They conveyed their willingness to enhance cooperation, including in the UN,” he said.

Asked by a journalist whether the specific “current problem” with China, an apparent reference to the Masood Azhar issue, came up in his talks with the Chinese leaders, the President said “We don’t discuss any specific issue during President’s visit.

“We confine ourselves to overall policy issues and not confined to specific issues. This was decided when I was External Affairs Minister.”

On the nuclear issue, Mukherjee said he conveyed to the Chinese leaders that India faces acute energy shortage and was engaged in efforts to significantly expand power generation in the country.

India has announced a goal of 40 percent non-fossil fuel power generation capacity and it can be achieved only if we rapidly expand the generation of nuclear power.

“I conveyed that it was important for us to have a predictable environment in the above regard and hoped that China, as a close partner in the field of development as well as climate change, will play a positive and facilitative role,” he said.

Mukherjee said the two sides agreed that as neighbours it was natural for them to have differences from time to time.

“But what is important is that we should continue to advance our relationship while managing our differences.”

On the vexed boundary question, the Chinese leadership conveyed their resolve to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute at an early date.

“I agreed with the Chinese leadership that while we continue to engage in seeking an early resolution of the boundary question, we must improve border management and ensure peace and tranquility is maintained in border areas,” he said.

The President said his visit as well as discussions with Chinese leaders were fruitful and productive.

They expressed gratitude for the forward-looking approach adopted by India and willingness to take India-China relations to the next level through all-round exchanges as well as continued communication at high political level on important issues, he said.

The BRICS summit in Goa in October and the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou in September this year will provide the two countries opportunity to continue bilateral dialogue in this regard, he said.

Mukherjee invited Xi to pay a bilateral visit to India which he accepted

Noting that China was as keen as India to take the bilateral relations forward, he said he was returning home with the conviction that the two countries must jointly impart new momentum to this defining partnership of the 21st century, the President said.

Mukherjee said during his first visit as head of the state his interaction with the Chinese leadership was multi- faceted and comprehensive. It was conducted in a warm, friendly and cordial as well as candid manner.

Discussions were wide-ranging and covered various areas of mutual interest. All the four Chinese leaders including Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman of the National People’s Congress Jiang Zengwei fondly remembered their recent visits to India and conveyed heir conviction that this state visit would would provide new impetus to the development of bilateral relations.

There was deep appreciation of the role played by high=level visits in enhancing mutual understanding and political trust. “We agreed on the need to build a solid foundation of goodwill between the two countries,” he said.

The President said he conveyed to the Chinese leaders that there was a national consensus within India on strengthening India-China ties.

“India attaches high importance to the relations with China. There was convergence of views that India and China as two major powers must have greater strategic communication and work together in an uncertain global situation where economic recovery was fragile, geo-political risks were growing and the menace of terrorism proving to be a threat to the whole world.

“We agreed that our relationship transcends bilateral dimensions and has regional and global salience. We emphasised the importance of close cooperation in all international fora. I conveyed that India and China should join hands not just in the interests of the people of our countries but also for the good of the whole world,” he said.

Mukherjee said India thanked China for its support for India’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Chines leaders welcomed India’s membership and conveyed that it would strengthen the SCO and contribute to regional stability.

Asked whether the membership of India in SCO is final, the President replied that there were some technicalities and they were being addressed by the ministers concerned.

Expanding bilateral and trade investment figured prominently in the discussions Mukherjee had with the Chinese leaders.

“I was briefed on steps being taken by them to bring better balance in bilateral trade, including facilitating greater import of agricultural and pharmaceutical products from India. I conveyed that while addressing the imbalance is important, we should continue to expand bilateral trade.

“I welcomed greater Chinese investment into India especially in our flagship programmes such as ‘Make in India’, “Digital India’, ‘Skill India, ‘Smart Cities, etc.

“The Chinese leadership conveyed their deep appreciation for India’s economic progress of recent times and for our efforts to maintain rapid growth. We agreed to engage in practical cooperation and identify possible areas for early harvests in sectors such as railways, industrial zones, smart cities, renewable energy, power, space, aviation, etc. The Chinese side expressed appreciation for the visa facilitation measures adopted by us, including introduction of e-visa,” the President said.

JeM to carry out another round of Pathankot-style attacks, says military intelligence report

The terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has started marking North Indian cities in order to carry out a spate of Pathankot-style terror attacks, reported The Times of India.

The above statement is a part of a report sent by the military intelligence to the state government of Punjab on 18 May. The report also claims that JeM is getting help from Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and The Indian Mujahideen (IM).

Representational image of Pathankot airbase. PTIRepresentational image of Pathankot airbase. PTI

Representational image of Pathankot airbase. PTI

The report specifically mentions that the JeM commander Awais Mohammed, who has been given the task of carrying out the attacks, is expected to visit Malaysia, from where he will obtain a fake Malaysian passport to enter India.

Three new JeM ‘offices’ in Pakistan’s Punjab, Pakhtunkhwa and Balakot have been opened while the old ones in Kohat and Hazara are being revived, says the report.

This news surfaced at a time when a court on Tuesday sent three JeM suspects to 14 days of judicial custody accused for planning terror attacks in Delhi and nearby areas.

Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh had remanded the three: Mohammed Sajid, Shakir Ansari and Sameer, to judicial custody till 6 June after Delhi Police told him that accused are no longer required for further custodial interrogration.

The three were therefore presented before court, after the expiry of their earlier police custody remand.

Sajid, one out of the three arrested, is said to be one of the most wanted terrorists. His hand got burnt while preparing a bomb sometime ago. He was arrested from Gokulpuri in east Delhi on 4 May.

The other two arrested are Shakir and Sameer. They too were said to be directly linked to JeM, which was blamed for the 2 January attack on the Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot.

According to police, the three were active and plotting to target “sensitive and crowded” areas in the national capital. They were being closely observed by security and intelligence officials, before they were busted in separate raids carried out in parts of Delhi and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. An IED was also recovered in the raid.

(With inputs from IANS)

Pak minister’s statement on terrorism corroborates Indian view: MEA spokesperson

New Delhi: India on Friday said that the comments by a Pakistani provincial minister that legal action against militant organisations in his country was not possible because the state itself was involved corroborated New Delhi’s stand.

“If the honourable minister indeed said so, it sadly corroborates the view that we have always held about the support and freedom available to anti-India terrorist groups in Pakistan, including internationally sanctioned terrorist groups and individuals,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing here.

Vikas SwarupVikas Swarup

File photo of MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup. Reuters

In a startling revelation, Rana Sanaullah,, law minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, said that legal action against militant groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was not possible as the “state itself is involved”, media reported on Wednesday.

In an interview to BBC Urdu, Sanaullah, on being asked why action has never been taken against pro-establishment and anti-Indian militant groups in the province, responded: “By pro-establishment groups if you mean JuD and JeM, then let me tell you that they have been declared proscribed organisations and they can no longer carry out any activity in the province.”

However, ruling out the possibility of legal action against the groups, the Punjab law minister posed: “How can you prosecute a group with whom the state itself has been involved?”

Swarup said on Friday that Sanaullah’s remarks also elucidated “the reason for lack of effective action even against those entities and individuals against whom Pakistan has international obligation to act”.

“It is up to authorities in Pakistan to address this unfortunate reality in the interest of a normal relationship between our two countries and in broader interest of Pakistan itself,” he added.

Pranab Mukherjee: India-China joint action on terror will have an impact

New Delhi: China joining hands with India in the fight against terrorism will have its own impact, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday in comments that come against the backdrop of Beijing recently blocking the bid to put Masood Azhar on the UN list of proscribed terrorists.

“India and China — both huge countries — multi-cultural, multi-racial— if they come together in fighting this menace, I am sure it will have its own impact. And India always believes that every country should have a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and the fight is to be all out,” he told state-run television channel CCTV in an interview ahead of his visit to China next week. He was replying to a question on terrorism.

File photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTIFile photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

File photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

In March 2016, China had blocked India’s bid at the UN to place Azhar, the alleged Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and alleged mastermind of 2001 Parliament and 2016 Pathankot terror attacks, on the list of global terrorists.

The President said both the countries have a “comprehensive relationship” and India considers ties with China as important.

“I would say that we have very comprehensive relationship with People’s Republic of China. And we consider it is a very important relationship for us. And that the state visit has its own significance as it provides an opportunity to the leaders to share their views, explore the possibilities of expanding cooperation between the countries’ concern and also they exchange their views, on regional, global and multilateral issues,” he said in an interview, excerpts of which were broadcast on Wednesday.

In March, China had requested the UN Sanction Committee, which is considering a ban, to keep on hold the proposal for declaring Azhar as a Globally Designated Terrorist.

India had told the Committee that not listing Azhar would expose it and other countries in South Asia to threats from the terror group and its leader.

The UN had banned JeM in 2001 but India’s efforts to ban Azhar after the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 also did not fructify as China, one of the five permanent members of the UN group with veto powers, didn’t allow the ban apparently at the behest of Pakistan again.

The US State Treasury department had designated him as Special Designated Global Terrorist in November 2010.

Funds from Gulf being used for radicalisation of youth in Jammu and Kashmir: Officials

Srinagar: The flow of suspected hawala funds from Gulf countries is adding to the woes of security agencies in Kashmir Valley as the illegal money is reported to be mainly used for creating infrastructure for radicalisation of youths in a bid to wean them away from centuries old Sufi tradition.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

As new religious institutions dot several parts of the Kashmir Valley, they have been attracting youths more where, according to the security assessments, the young men are indoctrinated with the type of religion being followed by likes of banned Islamic State and al-Qaeda terror groups.

The new trend has left many religious heads, who refused to come on record, worrying as they believe that the new generation of youth is being weaned away from Sufi tradition that has been followed in the Valley for centuries.

A senior security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said while older generation families offer prayers at their traditional mosques, the youth prefer to pray at the new religious places which have been built in the last couple of years.

As questions crop up over the funding for new mosques, the Army, Police and central security agencies believe that large amount of illegal funds are been pumped into the Valley from Gulf countries and they apparently go unchecked.

“The funds come in small amounts to avoid detection. Besides we believe that certain business houses having their establishment in these countries, overinvoice their products and pass on the surplus funds,” a senior police official said.

During various stone-pelting incidents in the Valley, the security agencies have seen “ISIS-JK” flags coming soon being waved by miscreants. “While we hope this is a publicity stunt but at the same time, we are closely watching it,” a senior police official said.

The recent spurt in growth of large number of local militants can be attributed to this new trend and change in mindset of sections of the younger generation who have become more hostile, is also a general observation across the board among all wings of security agencies.

This large inflow of hawala funds from Gulf countries and more Kashmiri youths getting sucked into militancy are dangerously stoking terrorism in the Valley in a fresh test for security forces in their anti-militancy operations.

An axis from Tral, Batapora, Panjgaon and Yaripora in South Kashmir is witnessing a dominance of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, while in the other axis from Palhalan to Sopore this group and few militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed are calling the shots, according to officials.

Since January this year, nearly seven boys have reportedly vanished from the Valley with Kulgam and Anantnag in South Kashmir accounting for them. Last year, according to a reply in the Parliament, 82 boys had been sucked into militancy.

While terming it as a dangerous trend, security officials said the difference between today’s militancy and that during early 1990’s is the ideological conviction of the present lot is far more superior than that of the terror groups during the previous years. Kashmir is witnessing a trend of ‘Pan-Islamisation’ where the young boys are opting for the path of terrorism knowing fully well that they are at the risk of being killed, the official said.

On the funding part, the security agencies feel that organisations like Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax need to focus more on flow of funds into Kashmir. The previous regime of National Conference and Congress had pushed the Enforcement Directorate to open their offices in the Valley but in last three years, only a few attachments have taken place.

Payback for Masood Azhar: China left chafed as India issues visa to Uyghur ‘terrorist’

India has upped the ante with China by issuing visas to World Uyghur Congress leader Dolkun Isa and three others, and by allowing them to visit India for a conference in Dharamshala — home to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and the capital of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Conference is slated for the end of the month.

Smarting under China’s refusal to sanction Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist, who New Delhi blames for the Pathankot terror strike, India has hit back. Though the plan to allow the conference to be held with the Chinese dissidents was taken months before China’s refusal in the UN, this could be Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s muscular foreign policy in action.

Although much has been made of the new aggressive foreign policy of the NDA government, the Prime Minister’s record in external relations so far has been good. He has shown no aggression, and has carried on the UPA policy, albeit with much more vigour and determination.

Is this about to change? Many of his supporters, as well as the larger Sangh parivar, will be delighted. They want India to act as a strong power, notwithstanding the fact that New Delhi lacks both China’s economic clout and its defense capabilities.

Many in the Indian establishment have welcomed the government’s move.

“China has for a long time got away scot-free – whether it is claiming Arunachal as its own, or the Masood Azhar case, where China twice bailed out Pakistan at the UN. If India continues to take all this then it creates the impression that China is strong, while we (India) swallow everything it throws at us,” said Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra.

“I fully support the government’s move. I am particularly happy that it has taken place just after the NSA border talks,” Chandra said.

He believes that India should not be seen as docile towards China.

“Also the situation in Asia at the moment is such that China cannot afford to be adventurist with India,” said Chandra, who was also India’s ambassador in Washington. He said that apart from being a political appointee, he did not always go by the rules of the IFS, and would often meet the Dalai Lama publicly during his visits to the US.

Chandra supports the government’s stand on Masood Azhar. The fact that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj raised the issue with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also spoke of India’s unhappiness to his counterpart Yang Jiechi, substantiates the government’s stand on the issue.

NSA Ajit Doval with his Chinese counterpart Yang Diechi in Beijing on Wednesday. PTINSA Ajit Doval with his Chinese counterpart Yang Diechi in Beijing on Wednesday. PTI

NSA Ajit Doval with his Chinese counterpart Yang Diechi in Beijing. PTI

China has been battling Uyghur Islamic extremism in the Xinjiang province since the 1990s. Dolkun Isa is regarded as a terrorist by China, and there is an Interpol red-corner notice against him. He has been a German citizen since 2006, and has been in the forefront of the movement for democracy, often speaking out against the human rights abuse by Chinese authorities.

He is the chairman of the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghurs are the largest Turkic ethnic group living in Xinjiang. Isa has denied the Chinese charges that declare him as a terrorist.

Whether Dolkun Isa eventually comes to India for the conference, or if he sends his colleauges instead is not the point. Beijing is angry with India’s move to grant them visas, thereby directly oppsoing the Chinese views.

China will see red. For one, the conference calls for restoration of democracy. And, it will be held in Dharamshala. To make things worse, the Dalai Lama, who China regards as enemy number one, will address the meeting.

“China will not take this lightly. More so because the Dalai Lama is involved and the conference is taking place in Dharamshala,” said Alka Acharya, director at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.

“This will unnecessarily sour relations at a time when India and China need to build some momentum. Ties between India and China are progressing in fits and starts,” Acharya said.

President Pranab Mukherjee is slated to visit China at the end of May. Hopefully, by then the two sides will get over this latest blip. The initial euphoria of improved ties between the two Asian giants, following President Xi Jinping’s visit to India and Prime Minister Modi’s subsequent return trip to China, will fade quickly and the relations will continue to be lukewarm at best.

The brief border war between India and China – when the PLA troops rolled into Arunachal as an ill prepared Indian army beat a hasty retreat, left a psychological blow on India. Suspicion of China is pervasive in the Indian establishment.

China too regards India’s decision to host the Dalai Lama as a provocation. Beijing is also wary of India’s warming relations with the US, and the Washington’s efforts to draw New Delhi into a future defense architecture of the Asian Pacific region.

The good news is that despite the irritants, both countries are pragmatic enough to ensure that the situation does not get out of hand. As officials on both sides keep pointing out that the border between the two countries continues to be peaceful, not a shot has been fired here.

Kashmir simmers: Handwara incident shows violence, begets more violence, defiant protests

What is the standard procedure for dealing with alleged molestation of a minor?

Everywhere in India, cops are first expected to record the statement of the victim and her guardian, interrogate the accused and then, if required, arrest the guilty.

A couple walks at a road as a security jawan guards in a deserted street during the 4th consecutive day of strike and restrictions in Srinagar on Saturday. PTIA couple walks at a road as a security jawan guards in a deserted street during the 4th consecutive day of strike and restrictions in Srinagar on Saturday. PTI

A couple walks at a road as a security jawan guards in a deserted street during the 4th consecutive day of strike and restrictions in Srinagar on Saturday. PTI

In Handwara, cops messed it up completely when a protest erupted over the alleged molestation of a teenager by an army personnel on Tuesday. First, it recorded the statement of the alleged victim and then leaked the video, a statutory offence because of the nature of the alleged crime and the age of its victim.

Next, the cops took the victim and her father in preventive custody, without even bothering to speak to the accused. They did not allow even the mother to speak to the teenager, denied access to human rights groups and lawyers to the alleged victim and her detained relatives. The mother has now approached the high court, seeking her release from police custody, a Hindustan Times report said.

Kashmir is still an integral part of India. Standard operation procedures, law of the Indian land still apply to the Valley. But, when both are flouted with impunity, human rights are violated, you only get trouble.

In Kashmir, violence begets violence. For every bullet security forces fire at people, a hundred stones get thrown back. For every right violated, there is hell to pay with rioting and retribution. It is a pity that state and security forces have still not learnt the rules of engagement in the Valley.

Since Tuesday, when protests erupted in Handwara following allegations that a teenager was molested by an army personnel, Kashmir is on the boil. Five persons, including a budding cricketer and a student of class XI have lost their lives, dozens have been injured. Tempers are running high, every day fresh protests are erupting leading to curfews, restrictions and hartals.

Kashmir isn’t a place where violence is steeped merely in ideology or commitment to jihad. Most of the unrest is fundamentally triggered by violation of human rights, the feeling that the rights of the people are being suppressed and the state is in the role of an oppressor. Every act that contributes to this range of emotions leads to more violence, protests and breeds a new generation of youngsters thirsting for revenge.

In 2010, more than a hundred persons died in protests across Kashmir. But, the trigger was not a call from a militant outfit, an Al Qaeda or a Jaish-e-Mohammad.

That year violence began on 30 April, when Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone, all residents of Nadihal in Sopore, were lured to work as porters for the Army on the promise of high wages. They were later killed in a staged encounter and passed off as foreign militants.

The army sentenced five persons for life in 2015—too late for the punishment to mean anything to victims of the encounter as well as the subsequent violence—for the staged encounter. But, it seems the lessons from the incident were not learnt.

The ongoing violence is yet another chain of events triggered by brazen violations. As an editorial in Kashmir Reader points out,” …the rage with which young men are attacking army camps and police is not about just the latest killings; they were also a fresh trigger, another scream expressing the pain of subjugation, perpetual humiliation and gross misrepresentation of the Kashmiris’ political aspiration by pro-India politicians who speak in their name.”

Nobody knows the truth behind the allegations of molestation. Since the girl has denied that she was molested, it could well be a case of rumours leading to violence. But, the entire incident has been mishandled by cops, security forces and the local administration. Disclosing the girl’s identity, shooting a video, releasing it to the media, detaining her with relatives and firing on unarmed protesters instead of using others means to disperse the crowd have combined to unleash a monstrous cycle of violence and protests.

It defies logic how Nayeem Bhat, a budding cricketer from Handwara who was hit by a bullet while taking photographs and a woman tending to her farm far away from the protests could have been killed in the firing. It is also difficult to understand how teargas canisters could have killed two more persons? When was the last time in India we heard of deaths caused by teargas canisters lobbed at a group of protesters? As this NDTV report argues, there is not even evidence of stone pelting by people on an bunkers that led to the death in firing of a class XI student in Kupwara.

India can’t afford to let Kashmir slip out of control, especially when militancy is on the decline, infiltration is at its lowest and the past few years have been of relative calm and peace. Only a year ago, large number of Kashmiris had participated in elections and chosen a government that seemed best to represent their democratic aspirations.

But, when the Valley is shut down for three consecutive days—on Thursday the strike was enforced automatically even when nobody had given a call for it—and fresh violence erupts in different parts, it is a clear sign of anger and distrust.

The desperation among Kashmiris becomes apparent when they march towards army pickets and bunkers, facing bullets, grenades and teargas shells. Their hostility is underlined when they try to snatch arms and ammunition from security forces in town after town, in spite of rising incidents of firing and death. Their alienation is highlighted when hundreds participate in funerals of militants killed by security forces and women throw stones at soldiers fighting militants in the Valley.

The government has deployed around half a million security forces in the Valley. But, if the local people are willing to take on guns, attack pickets and defy death, there is no way a soldier guarding a territory can hold his ground for long without resorting to greater force. (The Centre, incidentally, is responding to the current violence by sending in more troops).

India will have to find a way to win the trust of the people of Kashmir, especially its youth. It begins with respecting their rights, following established procedures of law and justice and punishing those who violate them.

Pathankot attack: Investigation team admits four terrorists were from Pakistan

The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) admitted on Thursday that the four terrorists who attacked the Pathankot Indian Air Force base were from Pakistan, according to The Indian Express report. The investigation team was at National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters in New Delhi to question witnesses connected to the attack that took place on 2 January.

File image of the Pakistan investigative team. IBN Live

File image of the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team. IBN Live

Seven security personnel were killed in the attack. Though the terrorists were later shot dead, the incident exposed a major breach in India’s border security. Earlier, the NIA team had identified the four fidayeen as Nasir Hussain, Hafiz Abu Bakar, Abdul Qayum and Umar Farooq, reported The Times Of India. Reports also suggested that Pakistan had enough evidence to link them to extremist group Jaish-e-Muhammed.

A senior official was quoted by The Indian Express saying that both the countries have shared the identities of the attackers and will decide on the next course of action.

The report further stated that apart from giving their list of demands, the NIA has put down a list of questions and asked for audio samples of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf and Nasir’s mother Khayyam Baber and have sought access to Azhar and Rauf.

Apart from the details of the four terrorists, the NIA will also share details about the people who had cooperated with them and facilitated their entry into India through Bamiyal village on Indo-Pak border. According to the PTI, DNA samples were taken from the energy drink that the attackers are believed to have consumed before carrying out the suicide attack.

Suspended Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and friend Rajesh Verma were also questioned by Pakistan JIT. Singh has claimed that he, Verma and cook Gopal were abducted by four or five heavily-armed terrorists near Punjab’s Kolia village on 2 January.

The three were earlier questioned by the NIA on 26 March in the national capital and have been living under the agency’s supervision since then, the sources said.

With inputs from agencies

Pakistan lodges case against alleged perpetrators of India air base attack

A Pakistan police spokesman said on Friday a case has been lodged against unnamed perpetrators of a deadly attack on an Indian air base last month that has renewed tensions between the rivals.The January 2 attack on the Pathankot air base, in which seven Indian security personnel were killed, has stalled hopes of revived peace talks between the nations after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to his counterpart Nawaz Sharif in December.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India said it gave actionable intelligence to Pakistan in the weeks following the attack, but Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar suggested on Thursday Pakistan was slow to act. “The government of India has been continuously giving evidence of so many things,” Parrikar said in a televised interview on India Today. “If someone is serious, he can definitely act.”Foreign secretary level talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours had been scheduled for last month. On Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said a new date should be decided “as early as possible”.Counter-terrorism police in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Thursday filed a case against the alleged air base attackers and “their alleged abettors” belonging to a banned militant group, a spokesman said in a statement.It did not give the number or names of the accused, or which group they belonged to. Last month, Pakistan detained Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, or Army of Mohammad, a militant group that Indian officials blamed for the attack.Pakistan authorities sealed offices and shut several religious schools run by the group, but security officials said a special team set up to look into the attack found no evidence implicating Azhar or associates in the January raid.On Friday, Pakistani officials said a new joint team of military and civil intelligence agencies would look into the freshly lodged case, and that any non-state actor found to be involved would be brought to justice.”The registration of this case shows that there is full commitment and earnestness,” Punjab’s law minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters. “If you want to make your image before the world better, and to dispel the propaganda of other countries that our commitment is questionable, then we have to do things like this,” he said.India has long accused Pakistan of using Kashmir-based militants such as Jaish-e-Mohammad as a proxy to mount attacks on Indian soil. Pakistan and India have fought three wars since becoming separate countries in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Pakistan shuts down seminaries run by Jaish-e-Mohammad accused of Pathankot air base attack

Pakistani authorities have shut down several religious schools run by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group accused of masterminding an attack this month on an air base in India, the provincial law minister said on Friday.The crackdown in Punjab province, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s power base and the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, follows the arrest this week of several members of the militant group, including its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, an Islamist hardliner.Pakistan has said it is clamping down on Azhar’s group, which India has long accused Pakistani authorities of tolerating, while it investigates Indian assertions that the January 2 attack on the Pathankot air base was the work of the Pakistan-based militants. “Officials of the Counter-Terrorism Department raided the Jamiatul Nur seminary in the Daska area on Thursday and arrested more than a dozen people,” Rana Sanaullah, the law minister of the Punjab province where Jaish-e-Mohammad is headquartered, told Reuters.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The seminary has been sealed off and documents and literature have been confiscated from the premises.” Sanaullah said several other offices and seminaries run by Jaish-e-Mohammad had also been raided and shut down, with many of its staff arrested. He declined to share further details. In a TV interview on Thursday, Sanaullah confirmed that Azhar had been taken into “protective custody” and said legal action would be taken against him if his involvement in the Pathankot attack was proved “beyond doubt.”The January 2 attack on the base in Pathankot was followed by a raid on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan that has also been linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad.India has demanded that Pakistan take action against the group and on Thursday announced that the two countries would reschedule talks between their foreign secretaries while the investigation into the air base attack was carried out. Jaish-e-Mohammad militants are blamed for a 2001 attack on India’s parliament that nearly led to a war between the nuclear-armed rivals.

India should hold talks with Pakistan after JeM chief Masood Azhar’s arrest: Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena on Thursday said that India should hold talks with Pakistan only after the arrest and handing over of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar by Islamabad to New Delhi for his terror acts.Party leader Sanjay Raut said that it has been the “consistent” position of the Sena that Masood Azhar should be first handed over to India to make the atmosphere conducive for talks between the two countries. “It is the usual game being played by Pakistan of detaining some people, arresting them and then releasing them and later letting them off. It had also happened after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raut was reacting to India and Pakistan today deferring their foreign secretary-level talks to “very near future” even as the Indian government welcomed the apprehending of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) members linked to the Pathankot terror attack and agreed to the visit of a Pakistani SIT to India.

Pathankot attack: Pakistan reaches out to India, detains several Jaish-e-Mohammad militants

Pakistan on Wednesday detained “several individuals” belonging to JeM, which is suspected to have engineered the Pathankot terror attack, and sealed its offices after India linked Islamabad’s “prompt and decisive” action to the fate of Foreign Secretary-level talks scheduled on Friday.Pakistan is also considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to carry forward the process of cooperation with India.The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, come as the fate of the FS-level talks hung in balance with just two days for Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to go to Islamabad for talks with his counterpart on resuming the bilateral dialogue process.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terrorists belonging to the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad, headed by Maulana Masood Azhar of Kandahar hijack episode, is believed by India to be behind the Pathankot terror attack in which seven security personnel were killed.A PMO statement issued after the meeting on Wednesday said it noted with satisfaction that as part of Pakistan’s commitment to eliminate terrorism from its soil and the expressed national resolve not to allow the territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere. It said “considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident.”Based on initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended. The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are underway,” the statement said.In the spirit of the cooperative approach, the statement said, it was also decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required for which the government of Pakistan is considering sending a SIT to Pathankot in consultation with government of India.”The meeting reiterated that in line with our decision to counter and completely eliminate terrorism, Pakistan would remain engaged with India on this issue,” the statement said.Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Director-General ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other senior officials attended the meeting.Last week India put the ball squarely in Pakistan’s court, linking the FS-level talks to Islamabad’s “prompt and decisive” action in the Pathankot terror attack for which it has provided “actionable intelligence”.An official said that close to a dozen militants have been held so far and were being questioned. He refused to give further information like where they have been held or when they could be produced before any court.In the terror attack on Pathankot Air Force base that began on January 2, six militants were also eliminated in an operation that lasted four days.