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Pakistan arrests 66 Indian fishermen for ‘illegal fishing’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sixty-six Indian fishermen have been arrested for alleged illegal fishing in Pakistani waters and a court here remanded them into custody on Saturday.The Indian fishermen along with five boats were arrested last evening for “illegally” fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters and have been sent to jail by a judicial magistrate.The Maritime Security Agency had arrested the fishermen and seized five boats yesterday, a spokesman for the agency said.”The fishermen were arrested after they remained in Pakistani waters in the Arabian Sea despite warnings to move out of our territorial waters,” the spokesman said.Earlier on November 20, the Pakistani Maritime Security Agency had arrested 43 Indian fishermen for entering its territorial waters.Amin Marri, the station house officer of Docks police station, said the fishermen were booked under the Foreigner’s Act and the Fisheries Act and had now been sent to jail on court orders after being provided with clothing and food by a welfare organisation.Pakistan and India frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.

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

J&K: Pakistan violates ceasefire in Poonch, one civilian killed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One civilian was killed as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross border firing targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.”Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 1655 hours,” an army officer said.He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.On December 16, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district.The ceasefire violation had come after a lull of over three weeks after the Indian troops had launched a counter- offensive against Pakistan on November 23 against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on November 22, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Islamic State, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism keep NIA on its toes

New Delhi: Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the Islamic State trying to weave its terror network in India kept the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busy throughout 2016.

The year began with one of the most audacious terror attacks on India when four Pakistani terrorists stormed the India Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on 2 January and killed seven soldiers.

The NIA, formed in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, quickly sprang into action and traced links of the attack to Pakistan, blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar for masterminding the strike that brought the improving New Delhi-Islamabad ties back to square-one.

Within months, the anti-terror probe agency filed a detailed charge sheet nailing Azhar and three of his accomplices for their detailed and meticulous planning of the attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But the agency drew flak when the government allowed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which included an ISI officer, from Pakistan to visit the sensitive Pathankot military base to probe the incident.

Days after it took over the Pathankot probe, the NIA laid its hands on evidence of the Islamic State trying to expand its presence in India by radicalising youth as potential terrorists.

On 22 and 23 January, over two dozen raids were conducted across the country. Eighteen Islamic State suspects were arrested. Nine more, including a foreigner, were later held in separate raids in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The agency filed a charge sheet in June alleging that Islamic State sympathisers were seeking to establish an Islamist caliphate in India — Junoodul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind — and recruit Muslim youth to terrorism at the behest of Syria-based Shafi Armar alias Yusuf-Al-Hindi.

According to the NIA, Armar, a resident of Karnataka’s Bhatkal district and a senior Islamic State leader managing India recruitment, was in touch with the accused through social media networks.

He trained them how to prepare IEDs, identify training venues and provide logistics support for terror strikes.

However, the agency found itself in the midst of a controversy for going soft on alleged right-wing Hindu terror. On 13 May, it submitted the second and final report in the 29 September 2008, Malegaon bomb blast that killed six persons. The bombing was earlier blamed on the Abhinav Bharat group led by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, which was earlier probing the bombing, had filed charges against the two main accused in the attack. The NIA took over the case in 2011. And its chargesheet this year gave a clean chit to Thakur and watered down the case against Purohit.

The agency got one of its major successes when a Bengaluru court convicted 13 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in a 2012 conspiracy to kill prominent leaders, journalists and police officers in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Another success came when a special court awarded the death sentence to five Indian Mujahideen operatives for their role in the 21 February 21 2013, Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, twin-blast case that claimed 18 lives.

In all, the NIA registered 33 cases in 2016. Twelve of them were related to Islamic State sympathisers, three against JeM, two of regarding counterfeit currency notes, two of Maoists and two more on terror incidents in northeastern India.

The agency also registered a case against controversial preacher and Islamic Research Foundation founder Zakir Naik on charges of misusing donations to radicalise youth.

The year also witnessed an unprecedented second extension given to NIA chief Sharad Kumar, making him the first Director General of the agency to be re-employed twice after his superannuation in 2015.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 09:21 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

Indus water dispute: Pakistan FM gets a call from World Bank President

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has called Pakistan Finance Minster Ishaq Dar to discuss the latter’s request to help settle the Indus water dispute, sources said.The development comes after the Pakistani Minister wrote a letter to Kim on December 23 urging him to move ahead with the appointment of a chairman of the Court of Arbitration, reports the Dawn.The letter written by Dar was in response to the World Bank President’s letter of December 12 and their decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration.Dar, said in his letter, that this decision of the World Bank will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. The letter said 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. The Finance Minister noted that the pause proposed by the World Bank President will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed.Earlier this month, the World Bank asked both India and Pakistan to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements over the Indus Water Treaty Dispute 1960.The bank said it is temporarily halting the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus Rivers system.

Watch: Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur joins BJP ahead of Punjab elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh, who died in a Pakistan jail in 2013, joined the BJP on Sunday. “She joined the party in the presence of BJP MLA and Punjab Minister Surjit Jyani at a conference organised by the party’s Kisan Morcha here,” Punjab BJP Kisan Morcha general secretary Gurwinder Singh said in Fazilka.When asked by reporters, Kaur confirmed that she had joined the BJP. Kaur had grown close to the BJP even in 2005, during her struggle to get her brother out of jail, and there were reports of her joining the party.Sarabjit died following an attack on him by inmates of a Lahore prison in April 2013. He was convicted for terrorism and spying by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death in 1991. However, the government stayed his execution for an indefinite period in 2008. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh could not attend the Kisan Morcha’s conference because of inclement weather.

Christmas cheer: Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen, a goodwill gesture which comes amid strain in ties after the recent cross border terror incidents. The 220 fishermen released from Malir jail were arrested for allegedly entering Pakistan’s territorial waters illegally and fishing, jail superintendent Hassan Sehto told PTI. The fishermen boarded a train to Lahore, from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border.”The interior ministry ordered the release of the 220 fishermen while 219 are still in our custody,” Sehto said.The goodwill gesture comes amid strain in ties between the two countries after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Uri in September.Last week, the Pakistan fishermen forum claimed that Indian maritime authorities had picked up dozens of Pakistani fishermen from inside Pakistan’s territorial waters near the Gujarat coastline and taken them away, though the government has not responded to the claim so far.

Pakistan to enforce conversion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly which unanimously passed a Bill recommending jail term to perpetrators of forced conversion, may soon be struck down to please religious political parties.Minorities— Hindu, Sikh, Christians, Ahmadiyya, Hazara—constitute 2.3 million of the Muslim-majority country and continue to live in fear. The Sindh province is home to a majority of the Hindus in Pakistan. The Sindh Assembly in November passed a Bill preventing the forced conversion of minorities.The Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill-2015 proposed by Pakistan Muslim Leaugue-Functional (PML-F) parliamentarian Nand Kumar Goklani last year, recommended a five-year jail term for perpetrators and three years for facilitators of forced conversions.Under the Bill, forcibly converting a minor is also a punishable offence and gives 21 days to adults to consider their decision to convert. However, soon after the Bill was passed, hardline religious parties protested claiming that it was an attempt to make Pakistan a ‘secular’ nation and the provisions went against the spirit of Islam. The parties criticised the minimum age of 18 years for any person to change their religion and are of the view that such a law would make it difficult for members of religious minorities to adopt Islam.A furore was created by religious clerics. Farahnaz Ispahani, Author of Purifying The Land of the Pure: The History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities said, “At any and every opportunity where the rights and protections for Pakistanis who are from religious minority groups or for women are being secured, the religious/political force of the powerful Muslim clergy is seen acting to prevent these protections.”Rising UproarAfter facing the ire of religious groups and succumbing to the threats of terrorist Hafiz Saeed who warned of a movement against the Bill, it was sent to the Governor for his assent. The Bill will now be reviewed and amended by the Assembly, without waiting for the Governor’s assent, Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs had said.“Hafiz Saeed’s threats are very worrying as are the threats to the lives of the Hindu and Muslim lawmakers involved with the Bill. If Saeed continues to fan the flames it will create an atmosphere of fear and violence which could derail the Bill completely,” said Ispahani. Khuhro, in his statement, referred to Verse 256 of Surah al-Baqarah of the Holy Quran (see box), according to which no person could be forced to change their religion, adding that no Muslim could think about passing a law that was against this basic tenet of Islam. The minister also said that the Sindh Assembly had only declared unlawful the act of contracting marriage below the age of 18 and for this purpose a law had been passed.The Sindh police have also warned 13 lawmakers and a bureaucrat of possible ‘harm’ by religious parties, especially to those who were in the Standing Committee on Minority Affairs in which the Bill was considered.“In my opinion, religio-political parties with little or no representation in parliament, or in this case the Sindh Assembly, cannot and must not dictate to the elected representatives of the people. Nor can the Assembly be held hostage to the will of pressure groups who have no real support among the electorate,” added Zarrar Khuhro, Pakistani journalist.Bill to revoke?Post much chaos, Pakistani media have reported that the Sindh government might consider retracting the Bill.According to Pakistan media, a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) spokesperson has claimed that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zadari—also the ruling government in Sindh—has given his word to JI chief Sirajul Haq that the Bill will be struck down. Associated Reporters Abroad Pakistan correspondent, Naila Inayat calls it shameful that progressive political parties such as PPP are succumbing under pressure. “The Bill was being seen as a major relief to the minorites in Sindh, especially the Hindu community, which has been complaining of forced conversion, abduction and marriages.” Referring to data from Pakistan Hindu Council and Movement for Solidarity and Peace, Naila points out that four girls are converted to Islam girls converted each year.With no concrete changes to the Bill yet, the fate of minorities remains uncertain.”The ‘otherization’ of people of other faiths or Muslim sects that have been rejected by the orthodoxy has been seen repeatedly and increasingly in Sindh and all over Pakistan,” said Ispahani.

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon asks India, Pakistan to resolve differences through dialogue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters on Wednesday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.”All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary- General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict, Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life.Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”.Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

India and Pakistan should resolve their differences through dialogue: Ban Ki-moon

United Nations: Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. ReutersA file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.

“All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.

When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary-General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict,Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.

In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life. Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”. Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 11:27 IST

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’.

DNA Evening Must Reads: From India’s win in Chennai Test to BJP-SAD’s victory in Chandigarh Municipal polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Ahead of Punjab elections, BJP-SAD alliance sweeps Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls The BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal alliance on Tuesday attained clear majority in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls winning 20 out of the 26 wards. BJP won in 20 wards, rival Congress 4 and Independent one, an election office spokesman said. Read more here.2. Germany: Angela Merkel says Berlin Christmas market attack likely a ‘terror act’A man was arrested under suspicion of ploughing a seven-tonne truck through a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12, has been named as Naved B, a 23-year-old asylum seeker of Pakistani origin. Read what Merkel said here.3. RBI’s currency stock can last beyond December 30: Arun Jaitley”There was full preparedness. There was not a single day when RBI had not released adequate currency to banks. There was a certain level of currency that was to be released and there was full preparedness for it,” Jaitley told reporters. Read his full statement here.4. IND vs ENG: Virat Kohli and Co win Chennai Test, equal Sunil Gavaskar’s 3-decade-old recordRavindra Jadeja ripped the heart out of England’s batting order to bowl India to a thumping innings and 75-run victory in the fifth and final test on Tuesday. Read more here.5. EU accuses Facebook of giving misleading information during WhatsApp takeoverThe European Commission has charged Facebook Inc with providing misleading information during its takeover of the online messaging service WhatsApp, opening the company to a possible fine of 1 percent of its turnover. Read more here.

Sushma Swaraj released from hospital

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is released from hospital after a kidney transplant.

Coast Guard apprehends 26 Pakistani fishermen on five boats off Gujarat coast

Mon, 19 Dec 2016-10:52pm , Ahmedabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Coast Guard on Monday apprehended 26 Pakistani fishermen and seized their five fishing boats off Gujarat coast near Kutch as they crossed the Indian territorial waters.These Pakistani fishermen on five boats were held when they were inside Indian territory, said a release by Defence PRO.”The ICG vessel C-419 apprehended five Pakistani fishing boats with 26 crew members on board in Indian waters. These boats and the crew are being escorted to Jakhau port for further investigation,” it added.This is the second such apprehension in recent times by the Coast Guard off the Gujarat coast.Earlier in October this year, ICG ship ‘Samudra Pavak’ seized a Pakistani boat and apprehended 9 crew members onboard, off Gujarat coast during patrolling.

Pakistani cinemas quietly show Indian films again as tensions ease, losses mount | Reuters

By Syed Raza Hassan
| KARACHI, Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistani movie theatres began screening Bollywood films again on Monday, ending an 11-week boycott in response to political and military tensions with India, theatre officials said.Some theatre owners said the restoration was because tension was easing, but others said it was because audiences had dropped so sharply since the boycott that began on Sept. 30.In Karachi, the Atrium Cinema started with a screening of the Indian sports romantic comedy “Freaky Ali”. Still, the screenings were kept low key, with no publicity posters and scant attendance in theatres visited by Reuters.Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours and foes have been more fraught than usual since an crackdown by Indian security forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July.The tension worsened in September after militants killed 18 soldiers in a raid on an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.After exchanges of fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir – claimed by both countries and occupied in part by each – cinema owners announced the boycott.

Pakistan’s state censor soon imposed a ban on Indian content and channels on cable television.However, the boycott has cost Pakistani cinemas dearly.”The absence of Bollywood content from theatres resulted in losing over 80 percent of customers,” estimated Khurram Gultasab, general manager at Super Cinemas, which runs 10 cinemas in cities across Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Indian films are popular both at the cinema and on bootlegged DVDs in Pakistan.”If Bollywood films are not resumed, cinemas will be forced to close down,” Gultasab said.Nadeem Mandviwalla, whose Mandviwalla Entertainment runs eight cinemas in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad, said the resumption of Bollywood films was a step towards warming relations.

“Someone has to take a step towards bringing normalcy back so we have initiated the process to bring back peace and harmony,” Mandviwalla said.”As for losses, everyone knows that the suspension (of the boycott) is going to curtail huge losses on both sides.”Pakistan’s domestic film industry has seen a revival in recent years, but is dwarfed by India’s Bollywood. Pakistani actors have increasingly been appearing in big budget Bollywood films in the past few years. (Editing by Kay Johnson and Alison Williams)

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

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 20:26 IST

Pathankot terror attack: NIA names JeM chief Masood Azhar and brother Rauf Asghar in chargesheet

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed a chargesheet in the Pathankot airbase terror attack, naming Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and three others of his organisation as accused.

In a comprehensive chargesheet filed at Panchkula Special Court about a year after attack, NIA has highlighted the role of terror group JeM in spreading mayhem in India and referred to the nefarious plans of the outfit, sources said.

The chargesheet which also named Azhar’s brother Rauf Asghar as accused, alleged that immediately after the Pathankot incident, he had hosted a video message claiming responsibility for the terror strike and glorified the role of Azhar, who was released in exchange for passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in 1999.

The chargesheet is likely to be used by India at various international fora to highlight the role of Masood Azhar in Pathankot terror strike carried out on 2 January this year.

Launching of a diplomatic offensive against the JeM and its chief Masood Azhar has become imperative after China continued to stonewall efforts of India to get UN sanctions against the terrorist and his group.

Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

The Home Ministry had given sanction to NIA to file the chargesheet against Azhar, his brother and the two handlers — Qashif Jan and Shaid Latif – of the four terrorists, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention)Act (UAPA).

The four terrorists, after entering India from Bamiyal area of Gurdaspur, had carried out the strike at Pathankot IAF base killing eight people including seven personnel of IAF and National Security Guard (NSG).

The chargesheet named four terrorists involved in the attack.

According to NIA, the terrorists, who were killed after two days of gunfight, were identified as Nasir Hussain, Hafiz Abu Bakar, Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum and they were residents of Vehari (Punjab), Gujranwala (Punjab), Sanghar (Sindh) and Sukkur (Sindh) of Pakistan respectively.

The chargesheet includes evidence of linking the footprints of one of the terrorists obtained from Bamiyal besides matching of DNA sample found from a soft drink can in the hijacked car of Punjab Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, the sources said.

The Pathankot terror strike had seen a joint investigation team from Pakistan also arriving in India for carrying out a probe.

However, the Pakistani team, upon their return, claimed that India neither shared much of evidence nor allowed it to interrogate the security personnel involved in dealing with the attack.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:38 IST

Pakistani cinemas to resume screening of Indian movies from tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cinemas in Pakistan will start screening Indian movies from Monday as film exhibitors and cinema owners lifted the self-imposed suspension on their screening that was put in place after escalating Indo-Pak tensions following the Uri terror attack.Zoraish Lashari, Chairman of the Film Exhibitors Association, told reporters that after thorough discussions with parties concerned, it has been decided that screening of Indian films would resume from Monday.”The cinema owners and other stakeholders in the industry have been hit by the decision to impose a temporary suspension on screening of Indian films. A lot of investment has been made into upgrading or building new cineplexes and multiplexes and the business at this time is dependent on screening of latest Indian films,” he said yesterday.The cinema houses’ owners said that they had only suspended the screening of Indian films but had not completely banned them.Movies which were missed and could not be screened due to the suspension will be screened first, said Nadeem Mandviwala of Atrium cinemas.The first film to be screened will be actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Freaky Ali.”We lifted the suspension as a cinema guild. We took this decision because we would like to support them (Indian cinemas) and expect them to support us,” Aadil Mandviwala, Director Mandviwala Entertainment, was quoted as saying by the Dawn.The Pakistan Film Exhibitors and Distributors Association, which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single screen cinemas in the country, had announced to “temporarily” stop screening Indian films soon after tensions escalated between Pakistan and India following the Uri terror attack and cross border firing incidents in late September.The exhibitors and cinema owners had taken the decision voluntarily after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) announced a ban on Pakistani artistes and technicians working in India.Sources in the industry said that most of the cinema owners, exhibitors and importers of Indian films had got panicky after Pakistani films including old and fresh releases and even latest Hollywood movies failed to fill up the halls.”Plus in recent weeks several Indian films have been released while everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’,” a source said.One source, however, said some cinema owners were still apprehensive of any backlash from religious parities or groups once they resumed screening of Indian films and have asked for protection if required.”A private media group is presently trying to import and release ‘Dangal’ in Pakistan,” the source added.Pakistan’s leading English newspaper ‘Dawn’ had in a editorial last month termed the ban on screening of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas as “damaging” and said Pakistani cinema houses were losing money because of the move.The Media and Marketing Manager of a major chain of cineplexes, Sabina Islam, said 75 per cent of the revenues generated in the industry came from screening of Indian films.Pakistan is considered as the third largest market for Indian films.Indian movies returned to Pakistani cinema houses in 2008 after a 43-year-long hiatus imposed during the 1965 war.

Kashmir tension: Pakistan ends ban on Bollywood films

Pakistan ends an Indian film ban imposed in September amid worsening relations over Kashmir.

Announcement of next army chief will be very soon, says Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said the announcement of the next army chief would be very soon. Parrikar along with three service chiefs paid tributes to the bravehearts who laid down their lives during 1971 India-Pakistan war on the occasion of Vijay Diwas. “I don’t have to stress the importance of the day. It’s a day when we achieved a decisive victory and created a new country,” Parrikar said.On this day in 1971, the chief of the Pakistani forces General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, along with 93,000 troops had surrendered unconditionally to the allied forces consisting of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini, led by General Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka after their defeat in the war. The end of the war also resulted in subsequent secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh.Special programmes are also being organised at the headquarters of the Eastern Command at the Fort William in Kolkata to celebrate the day.Led by Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, a 72-member delegation of war veterans and Mukti Jodahas from the neighbouring country will take part in Vijay Diwas celebrations.

Jammu and Kashmir: Former Pakistani army man arrested by BSF along IB in Samba

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An ex-army man from Pakistan was arrested by BSF while he was trying to sneak into the country from the International Border (IB) along Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir.The intruder, who was nabbed last evening, has been identified as Mohammed, 65, of village-Gandyal in Pasroor tehsil of Sialkot, which is in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a senior BSF officer said, adding that the man disclosed that he had retired from Pakistan army.”Late last evening, alert BSF troops noticed suspicious movement on Pakistani side near the fence in Ramgarh Sector and they fired a few rounds,” a senior BSF officer said.The officer said visibility was hindered due to fog and wild growth.”Later, at some distance at about 01:00 hours, a BSF jawan on duty again observed suspicious movement of a person in front of a fence on Indian side of IB,” he said.The intruder was forced to surrender and was arrested, the officer said.

Dilsukhnagar blasts: Yasin Bhatkal, 4 others convicted by Hyderabad court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the first conviction of Indian Mujahideen cadre, a special court for cases probed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Hyderabad on Tuesday convicted Yasin Bhatkal and four others in connection with the February 2013 Dilsukhnagar twin blasts case.The court had framed charges against Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rahman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar alias Monu and Aijaz Sheikh, who are at present lodged in the Cherlapally Prison.Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal, the prime accused in the case, is absconding. The case was split up against him.Eighteen people were killed and 131 injured in two deadly explosions near Konark and Venkatadiri theatres in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, on February 21, 2013.The accused were tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and other relevant acts including IPC.(With agency inputs)

Mehbooba wants Modi govt to take Vajpayee line on Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Insisting that dialogue is the only way for peace between India and Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday suggested that the Modi government should adopt the policy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had exercised “patience” despite Kargil aggression and attack on Parliament.She also hit out at Pakistan for “forgetting” its promise to Vajpayee about not allowing its territory to be used for terrorism against India. Underlining that war is no option to any problem, she said, “How long you can be in the mode of war? Dialogue is the only solution to bring peace.” Referring to Vajpayee’s steps, Mehbooba said the former Prime Minister had all the reasons to fight a big war after Kargil aggression by Pakistan happened in 1999, but he did not do it.”It was followed by Parliament attack but even then he opted for patience and said ‘friends can be changed but not neighbours’,” the Chief Minister said addressing a gathering of refugees of 1947 while distributing cheques relating to compensation at a function here. It was only after that the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf announced that Pakistani soil cannot be used for terrorism against India and the result was reduced militancy in J and K, she noted.”The Central government should also think on the lines to bring Pakistan to a level which we witnessed during the period of Vajpayee,” she said. In an apparent reference to the Kashmir issue, she said once the “big knot” is untied, all other “knots” will be automatically removed. Her comments came amid intense chill in the India- Pakistan relations.

CPEC project reflects growing friendship between China and Pakistan: Will Trump be a game changer?

Pakistani media has hailed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project as a game changer. Pakistan is optimistic that China is about to transform their country with the $46 billion project. Interestingly, this corridor also runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is likely to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi uncomfortable.

There is, however, a new player in this game. Donald Trump — the President-elect of the United States  — recently held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to a report by Pakistani daily Dawn, Trump said, “Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.”

Trump’s remarks on Pakistan’s ‘outstanding problems’ has posed a serious question over US’ involvement in India-Pakistan ties and his stance on the CPEC project which makes China a dominant player in the South-Asian region. Many hailed Trump’s phone call and the upcoming CPEC project which will provide Pakistan the economic boost it requires.

Donald Trump. ReutersDonald Trump. Reuters

Donald Trump. Reuters

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, 43, who is under house arrest, told The Economic Times, “We had zero expectation from Trump, considering the discourse during his election campaign. However, Trump’s phone call to Pakistan, and the remarks of Vice-President-elect Mike Pence on Kashmir are very important. I guess South Asia is going to be the focus for the new dispensation in the US. If Trump administration gets involved in the region, it will be a huge diplomatic shift, which would help us.”

When asked how does he thinks CPEC will impact Jammu and Kashmir politics, he said that the project poses a good opportunity for J&K and allows them to be a part of the Silk Route once again. He said, “We can be part of the CPEC, even before the resolution of Kashmir issue and become a part of the Central Asian discourse rather than South Asian discourse. Kashmir can be gateway for India as well.” He was optimistic about India’s involvement in the project and noted 2017 will be an interesting year as economic and political equations are changing amid Trump’s victory and the engagement of many countries in CPEC.

However, it is a well-known fact that Pakistan has been feeling the pressure from global powers after India took a strong stance against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in light of the 2016 Uri attack in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed.  The dip in relations with America was reflected in the US bill introduced on 20 September which sought to officially designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Pakistan in turn has taken the route to gaining grace in China and treating it as a new source of weapons and economic growth. The CPEC reflects the growing friendship between China and Pakistan. As an emerging superpower, China has proven to be a thorn in America’s side. The US has been monitoring the Pakistan-China relations, but has not directly intervened.

India, on the other hand, is trying to balance the scales with Pakistan by trying to make its own inroads in China through the development of a road spanning Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) which is a 2,800 km-long corridor that starts from Kolkata and passes through Bangladesh and Myanmar before ending at Kunming in China.

China’s growing favour towards the success of CPEC has made Modi uneasy which was reflected during the bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in September where Modi raised India’s concerns over the CPEC being laid through PoK.

Besides a host of energy-related projects, the CPEC consists of rail, road and pipelines to ferry oil and gas from Gwadar port on Arabian Sea to Kashghar in China’s Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province through PoK.

Maybe Trump’s victory will play a significant role in the growing tension between India-Pakistan, but the official stance as of now is that the US will be a ‘peaceful mediator’. Only time will tell if that is the case.

With input from agencies

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 20:14 IST

Pakistan paying one crore per terrorist to cross LoC, reveals PoK leader

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as Pakistan keeps pleading its innocence at international fora regarding it not being involved in terror-related activities, particularly when it comes to India, Sardar Raees Inqlabi, a leader of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based Jammu and Kashmir Aman Forum, has rubbished that claim by saying that Islamabad is paying hefty sums of cash to send terrorists across the Line of Control (LoC).”You (Pakistan) are hiring killers and murderers; you pay them one crore rupees and turn them into a bomb and make them cross LoC, which is the main reason of tension. We condemn this terrorism. If you are so fond of firing, you must fight army to army,” says Inqlabi.Further exposing Pakistan’s state-support to terror outfits and questioning Islamabad’s ulterior motives, he asks, “Those terror outfits which are banned in Pakistan in accordance with the National Action Plan, why are they being allowed to operate from ‘Azad’ Kashmir (PoK), and why are the banned groups been given a free hand in PoK.”
ALSO READ Pakistan will splinter into 10 pieces if it doesn’t stop conspiring against India: Rajnath Singh”Those organisations which are banned by Pakistan have been given free hand here and along the LoC, and thus, we demand that Islamabad must impose a blanket ban on such outfits akin to the National Action Plan in Pakistan,” adds Inqlabi.
ALSO READ Pak Army has licence to kill us, rape us, still UN is silent, accuses Baloch activist Naela BalochAccording an official estimate, the Pakistan Army has violated the ceasefire arrangement agreed upon with India in November 2003 along the LoC and International Border (IB) more than 440 times this year.The Pakistan Army is facilitating and aiding infiltration by providing either cover fire or shelter to terrorists attempting to sneak into Indian territory by crossing over the LoC.
ALSO READ 300% increase in terrorists deaths in Jammu and Kashmir compared to last year Last month, Indian security forces released a video clearly showing infiltration bids by Pakistan-backed terrorists.According to the report, more than 100 militants owing allegiance to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have been staying in terror training camps located in PoK and waiting to sneak across the LoC into Indian Territory.Also slamming Pakistan for practicing discrimination in awarding compensation, Inqlabi said, “If someone dies in a bomb blast in Pakistan, his family is compensated with Rs. 50 lakh, but what we get in PoK is just Rs. 1-2 lakh.”Meanwhile, to mark International Human Rights Day on December 10 (Saturday), Baloch political activists across world, including the UK, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Germany and many other European nations, held protests against the atrocities committed by the Pakistani establishment on their people back home.

Pak Army has licence to kill us, rape us, still UN is silent, accuses Baloch activist Naela Baloch

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accusing the Pakistan Army of having the licence to ‘kill, rape and torture Baloch people and to take out their organs to sell them, Baloch Kurd liberation activist and World Baloch Women’s Forum president Naela Quadri Baloch has demanded that the United Nations, which has ‘turned blind and has closed its ears and mouth’, to wake up and listen what is going on in Balochistan.”The Pakistani Army has (a) licence to kill us, licence to rape us, licence to torture, licence to take out organs and sell them, because the Pakistani Army is involved in the organ trade of the Baloch people with the help of the Edhi Foundation; and, Pakistan is running rape cells, where Baloch women are abducted, kept and raped. Pakistan is doing all kinds of those atrocities that a sane human mind cannot imagine,” Naela told ANI.Stating that Pakistan is committing this genocide of the Baloch people with the full support of China as a form of ‘ethnic cleansing’, Naela said: “The International Day of Human Rights was announced by the UN, but it is silent despite the atrocities and the level of genocide going on in Balochistan by the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani establishment. It’s like a kind of situation where Baloch people have no rights that even your animals have.”Buttressing her claims, the Baloch activist said, “We have found more than 100 mass graves with more than 100 bodies in each, and doctors say they were alive when they were buried in those mass graves.”They are burning Baloch villages and towns, it is a situation that no human heart can see and keep silent, she said, adding, “But we are surprised and we are worried about the legal status of the UN now.”She said that what is going on in a part of the world (Balochistan) is very much needed for connecting the Indian Ocean to the Central Asia; it’s very much needed to be a route; it’s very much needed for people’s trade; and it’s very much needed for the economic corridor (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-CPEC). “It is not a corridor; it is our home; it is a corridor for outsider; it is a corridor for occupiers and passersby; for us it is our home,” she said.Naela said, “The United Nations is blind and has closed its ears and mouth to what?s going on in this part of the world. And this is the seventieth 10th December that the Baloch people are facing, and the UN is silent. So, on this day, on the behalf of the Baloch nation, on this International Day of Human Rights, we demand the UN to please wake up and to please listen what is going on in Balochistan.”Yes, you are the United Nations, a nation of 40 million people, one of the biggest nations on the earth is living without a country and needs you, said Naela, adding: “A nation is going to be finished from the face of the earth, so we are an endangered nation.””You (UN) work for the endangered species and animals, the world is working for them but what if we are endangered? So, the Baloch nation is going to be finished from the face of the earth and the U.N. is silent and the international community is silent, it’s a very-very worrisome situation for us,” she added.Meanwhile, to mark International Human Rights Day on December 10 (Saturday), Baloch political activists across world, including the UK, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Germany and many other European nations held protests against the atrocities committed by the Pakistan establishment on their people back home.It was on December 10, 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.In Geneva (Switzerland), Abdul Bugti of Baloch Republican Party said, “The objective of the protest demonstration is to highlight the abuses in Balochistan on this occasion. There are massive human rights abuses going on in Balochistan by the ‘terror-state’ of Pakistan, its army and intelligence agencies.””They are engaged in killing and enforced disappearances of Baloch civilians on daily basis. We have been highlighting these issues and we want international community to stop Baloch genocide,” he added.

India should deal with PoK, just like Indira Gandhi handled Bangladesh Liberation: Shiv Sena

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena on Saturday called on the Centre to abandon all endeavours for international help in dealing with the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) issue and said that the matter should be handled in the way former prime minister Indira Gandhi dealt with the Bangladesh Liberation War- by going to war against Pakistan. Indira Gandhi had concluded that instead of taking in millions of refugees, it was economical to go to war against Pakistan and charged head on into the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that India must handle the situation themselves and refrain from dragging the international community in the matter, as the same solution could be used by separatists over Kashmir. “We are not going to get any international help on this matter. If we talk about brining help from the global arena, then the separatists sitting in India and the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi will do the same for our Kashmir. India should interfere directly in PoK, the way Indira Gandhi did with Bangladesh,” Raut said.Asserting that the responsibility was solely on the Indian government in the matter, the Shiv Sena leader added that the Centre has shown the nation the dream of a unified India and must come through in it.Under Indira Gandhi’s India provided aid to about 10 million people who fled their homes to the neighbouring West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam, to escape the Pakistani army in 1971 India sent its troops to fight against Pakistani and at the end of a nine month-long war, Bangladesh was put on the world map.Meanwhile, anti-Pakistan protests erupted as Kashmiris complained of human rights violations by Islamabad on the people living along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan police and paramilitary forces brutally assaulted leaders and activists of the Peace Committee, a coalition of progressive and nationalist organisations in PoK.The Peace Committee was protesting against the activities of Jihadi groups in the area and when they refused to stop their sloganeering and March, they were thrashed by the security personnel.Several people participating were severely injured after they were baton charged and hit by tear gas shells.The police and the paramilitary personnel also stopped the demonstrators from approaching the Line of Control (LoC).

Pak authorities haven’t found shred of evidence against Kulbhushan Jadhav: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has sent eight note verbales to Pakistan for consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and 42 such communications in case of Nehal Ansari, External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday. Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also rejected as “completely baseless” Pakistan’s allegations against Jadhav, an Indian national and a former Indian Navy officer. Asked about media reports quoting Pakistan Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz as saying there was no “conclusive evidence” against Jadhav which were later denied by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, Swarup said, “We have seen conflicting media reports about this issue. This is a pattern we have seen in the past as well.”Even after more than nine months of keeping him “wrongfully and illegally” in custody, Pakistani authorities have not found a shred of evidence against him, he said. “We demand immediate consular access to him in accordance with relevant international conventions and his earliest release from wrongful confinement. We have also sent eight Note Verbales to the Pakistan Foreign Office on this issue,” Swarup added.On another Indian national Ansari, who had reportedly crossed over for his lady love, the spokesperson said Indian Mission is closely following up this matter and has issued more than 42 note verbales to the Pakistan Foreign Office. “In response to our latest Note Verbale dated November 15, Pakistan responded on November 25 stating that concerned authorities in Pakistan are ‘mindful of their responsibilities regarding Ansari who is safe, secure and in good health’.However, it must be noted that Pakistan has yet to provide us consular access to Ansari,” he said.

Pakistan doesn’t want to live in ‘perpetual hostility’ with India: Abdul Basit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Striking a conciliatory note amid rising tension in ties, Pakistan today said it does not want to live in “perpetual hostility” with India, noting time has come for the two neighbours to decide whether status quo should continue or a new beginning be made.Calling for an “uninterrupted and uninterruptable” bilateral engagement, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said the two countries must overcome the differences in order to embark on a “irreversible trajectory” of cooperative relationship. Maintaining that Pakistan was ready for comprehensive talks with India, Basit, however, said the desire for engagement was missing from the Indian side, adding his government has patience and was ready to wait for resumption of dialogue. “I think we have wasted 70 years of our existence. Time has now come to make up our mind on what do we want. Whether we would like to continue with the status quo or we want to make a new beginning in our ties,” Basit said.His comments at a discussion on Indo-Pak relations came amid escalating tension between the two countries over a number of cross-border terror attacks, including at army establishments in Uri and Nagrota, and India’s surgical strikes across the LoC in September. “Pakistan does not wish to live in perpetual hostility with India. We remain positive and constructive but it takes two to tango. There are serious problems between the two countries. We cannot shy away from them but at the end of the day we can engage in purposeful diplomacy, we can realise results for mutual satisfaction and make a good beginning,” he said.At the same time, he said, for Pakistan Jammu and Kashmir was the core issue between the two countries and finding a solution to it could bridge the trust deficit them. “We need to move from conflict management to conflict resolution and that obviously cannot happen unless we talk to each other with sincerity and seriousness of purpose,” Basit said. Holding that talks may bring down tension, Basit said Islamabad was “positive and constructive” in its attitude, adding the engagement should be meaningful and address the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.”Whenever there is any desire in New Delhi to engage with us, Pakistan would respond positively and constructively provided the engagement is meaningful and does address the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, pitching for diplomacy to be given a “fair chance” to deliver. At the same time he said,” At present, unfortunately we do not see much desire in New Delhi to engage with us in a comprehensive manner. We are ready to wait, we have patience. We will wait and see how things unfold in months and years ahead.”The Pakistan envoy said it was essential for the two countries to overcome the differences in order to embark on an “irreversible trajectory of cooperative relationship. Holding that SAARC summit in Islamabad could not be held due to differences between India and Pakistan, he said good relations and peace between the two sides will benefit the entire region. “The developments since July in Jammu and Kashmir yet again very clearly show that Jammu and Kashmir is the main issue. Islamabad’s feeling is that unless we move towards finding a just and fair solution to this problem, it will continue to be very difficult to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries.”It is in our mutual interest to have peace and also in the interest of the region. We have seen what happened to SAARC summit. It could not take place primarily because of the differences between the two countries,” he said. In this context, he said Pakistan was ready to move towards projects relating to regional connectivity and integration. Basit also rejected observations at the deliberations, attended by top diplomats, representatives from Jammu and Kashmir and foreign policy experts, that Pakistan may be “balkanised”.”I think Pakistan has a very, very bright future. It is a very confident country. We are moving ahead. People of Pakistan are very confident. We are destined to become a regional economic hub. We do not have any doubt about our future. Pakistan is not going to be balkanised,” he said. Speaking at the event, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar slammed government’s Pakistan policy, saying engagement with Islamabad is the only way to stop terror. It should be left to Pakistan to solve its internal problems, he said apparently referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to trouble in Balochistan. Aiyar also said no country was isolating Pakistan as claimed by New Delhi.He questioned the efficacy of the surgical strikes launched by the Indian army in PoK in containing terror. India must accept the significance of Pakistani army’s role in that country, he said, adding Pakistan has also suffered a lot due to terrorism.

30 days of demonetisation: Parliament comes to standstill but not the nation

A week is a long time in politics but a month is not in the relatively laid back and rarified world of economics. Yet, demonetisation of high currency notes on 8 November 2016 has elicited a flurry of comments and analysis on completion of a month of its announcement given perhaps the short time– -50 days—the government gave itself to smoothen out the rough edges inevitably expected to be left by it.

That 86 percent of the currency notes in terms of value were rendered useless in commercial transactions gave rise to the apprehension that the economy will come to a standstill given the fact cash lubricated large parts of the economy especially the unorganised sector or SME and farming. No less an authority than the Apex Court darkly hinted at the approaching apocalypse– – there would be riots in the country if cash was not made available. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while terming the exercise as monumental mismanagement also discounted its long term importance.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Yet, nothing catastrophic has happened. If anything, the nation has, by and large, accepted it as something in its long term interest. Indeed the nation has braved the small pinpricks in anticipation of larger gains in the long run. The RBI announced on 7 December 2016 that as much as Rs 11.5 lakh crores of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 demonetised notes have found their way into the banking system as against Rs 14.8 lakh crore believed to be in existence at the beginning of the exercise.

Detractors call this a single most failure of the scheme. Their index of success was the smallness of such notes entering the system so that the notes not entering the system by 30 December 2016 would go up in smoke. In other words, a large chunk of black money would have ceased to exert its pernicious influence on the economy. This is a pessimistic worldview. The optimistic one is a large chunk of the black money has entered the mainstream that would have a multiplier effect leading to greater GDP in years to come.

The catalogue of beneficial effects of demonetisation is:

1) Breaking the back of terrorists organisations especially the Pak backed ones that thrived on counterfeit Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes minted in Pakistani official mints;

2) Surge in bank deposits that would mainstream the economy like never before. Many bank branches are witnessing frenetic deposit of the demonetised notes often on the back of opening of fresh accounts. Indeed the unbanked are having no choice except to fall in line;

3) Surge in swiping machines on the retail landscape with 10 lakh such machines all set to get added to the system by 31 March, 2017 against the existing 14 lakh such machines. This too would mainstream the economy;

4) Leg up to digital and mobile banking. Mobile banking and e-wallets have registered a quantum jump in registration and activity since the announcement of demonetisation; and

5) A stiff price would be extracted from the black money deposited. The government is all set to notify a partial amnesty scheme under which those voluntarily admitting to having deposited black money would be let off with a 50 percent tax plus penalty as opposed to 85 percent on recalcitrant ones when caught.

Like they say the catalogue cannot be one sided. But the flipside is all about inconvenience and hardships some of which are:

1) Rural India experiencing cash crunch. But reports says this has not affected rabi sowing activity;

2) People having to idle away their time by standing in long and serpentine ATM queues. This was inevitable in an operation of this scale but the queues are shortening by the day and hopefully should be back to normal. Already Rs 4.5 lakh crore of fresh notes have been put back into the system according to the RBI in a month;

3) Private hospitals turn away patients not paying in cash unless they have insurance. This genuine concern indeed could have been addressed by permitting banks to release the amount on production of genuine hospital proforma invoices; and

4) Cassandras are predicting a 2 percent fall in the GDP in the current fiscal year. Without quibbling about the percentage, one can take heart from the heightened economic activity the surge in bank deposits are going to lead to in none too distant a future.

What is lost in swings would be more than made up in the roundabouts.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:50 IST

Indo-Pak relations sluggish but no impact on bilateral agreements: V K Singh

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the India-Pakistan relationship has become “sluggish” but added that there has been no impact on bilateral arrangements, including on exchange of fishermen and prisoners caught on either side.

Responding to a question related to Indian fishermen being arrested by Pakistan, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said, “The relationship between the two countries (India and Pakistan) has become sluggish. But that has had no impact on such bilateral agreements.”

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The minister added that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure release of fishermen caught by either side.

In addition, an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of retired judges from the higher judiciary of both countries, was constituted in 2008 to look into humanitarian aspects of the matter.

The committee was also to recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term.

“The last visit of the Committee to India was in 2013. It is now Pakistan’s turn to organise the next visit of the Committee and the government awaits further steps by Pakistan in this regard,” he said.

Singh said there are 516 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails, which includes 55 fishermen while, as of July 2016, there are 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails.

“During 2013, 2014 and 2015, three Indian civil prisoners and eight Indian fishermen have died in the custody of Pakistani authorities. In addition, one Indian civil prisoner and two Indian fishermen have died in 2016 so far,” Singh added.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 14:53 IST

India-Pak ties have become sluggish, but no impact on bilateral arrangements: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the India-Pakistan relationship has become “sluggish” but added that there has been no impact on bilateral arrangements, including on exchange of fishermen and prisoners caught on either side.Responding to a question related to Indian fishermen being arrested by Pakistan, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said, “The relationship between the two countries (India and Pakistan) has become sluggish. But that has had no impact on such bilateral agreements.” The minister added that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure release of fishermen caught by either side.In addition, an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of retired judges from the higher judiciary of both countries, was constituted in 2008 to look into humanitarian aspects of the matter.The committee was also to recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term.”The last visit of the Committee to India was in 2013.It is now Pakistan’s turn to organise the next visit of the Committee and the government awaits further steps by Pakistan in this regard,” he said.Singh said there are 516 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails, which includes 55 fishermen while, as of July 2016, there are 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails.”During 2013, 2014 and 2015, three Indian civil prisoners and eight Indian fishermen have died in the custody of Pakistani authorities. In addition, one Indian civil prisoner and two Indian fishermen have died in 2016 so far,” Singh added.

Watch: Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit gets into a row with security person in Amritsar

During his visit to India to attend the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar on Saturday evening, Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit got into a row with a member of security personnel at the Radisson Blue hotel, the venue of the conference.

After security denied permission for Aziz’s interaction with the Pakistani media at the conference venue, Basit got into an argument which was caught on video by a news channel.

Later, the Pakistani High Commission planned the interaction at another hotel but that too was not allowed, the Pakistani High Commission sources said.

Subsequently, Basit spoke to the Pakistani media.

Earlier that same day, Pakistan claimed that its Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor was not allowed to visit the Golden Temple and speak to Pakistani media persons at the hotel where he was staying, even as India said it was done due to security considerations.

Sources in the Pakistani High Commission said Aziz had planned to visit the Golden Temple but was not allowed citing security concerns.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 13:44 IST

Embassies get assurance on cash

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A high-level committee headed by an additional secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs is still grappling with the issue of shortage of cash experienced by the diplomatic missions, expatriate Indians, foreign tourists, and money changer associations abroad.Responding to the concerns raised by the Russian Embassy here that the cash crunch was affecting itsfuctioning, the government said the issues were at the advanced stage of being resolved.Earlier, the Dean of Diplomatic Corps stationed in Delhi had also raised the issue on behalf of all the missions.Earlier on Tuesday, in a letter, Russian Ambassador Alaxander Kadakin raised the issue of his diplomats not being able to withdraw enough money thus hampering the normal functioning of the mission. He sought intervention of the External Affairs Ministry so that the withdrawal restrictions for diplomatic staff are lifted. “We are awaiting a reply from the MEA and hope that this is resolved quickly. Otherwise, we will be forced to explore other options which may include raising the issue in Moscow with your Embassy by summoning Indian Minister Counsellor,” a senior Russian embassy official said here. He also warned that options may also include restriction on the cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia. There are approximately 200 staff members in the Russian mission here.After the demonetization process last month, MEA had said it approached the Department of Economic Affairs over three or four types of requests, including those related to maintaining sufficient flow of funds to diplomatic missions. Official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said a committee under an additional secretary that includes officials from finance and the MEA has been set up to look into the issues. The committee has met several times over the past few days to resolve the issue.It is also understood that some other countries such as Pakistan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also sent letters to the MEA. Pakistan High Commission had threatened a tit-for-tat action and starve the Indian mission in Islamabad of cash against the policies of a private Indian bank which had refused to release salaries of its employees.According to the Pakistani mission, the bank has imposed additional conditions for withdrawal of salaries. These conditions, which came into effect only last week, make it mandatory for Pakistan officials to fill up additional forms specifying their expenditures and also that they exchange their dollars with the same bank. The officials are upset because the exchange rate is much lower than that offered by the bank. Pakistan has told MEA that the bank in question had chosen to target its mission specifically and not imposed similar conditions on other missions. Sources said after the government’sintervention, the issue between the private bank and the Pakistani mission was resolved.The MEA has has received four types of different requests on the issue of demonetization, the first concern being the diplomats who are based in Delhi. “Some of them have told us that diplomatic missions require more funds and the existing limits are insufficient for them. They have requested thatthose limites should be increased for diplomatic missions,” said Swarup. The second set of issues involves NRIs having cash in Indian currency currently abroad. The committee is looking into the issue . The money changers’ associations abroad are also asking what they should do with the stacks of Indian currency they have or how to exchange them.

India should plan offensive, adversary should ‘feel the pain’: Ex army chiefs

Tue, 6 Dec 2016-10:06pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India should plan offensive and covert operations to take target militant leaders and hit the Pakistani Army hard, two former Army chiefs said on Tuesday. Former Army chief Gen (retd) Bikram Singh was of the view that Indian should exploit the fault lines in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) so that the Pakistani Army is forced to concentrate internally and not externally. “We need to create asymmetric capabilities which includes doing covert operations and targeting militant leaders,” he said, adding the adversary should “feel the pain” and be put in an “embarrassing spot”.Speaking at Agenda Aaj Tak here, former Army chief Gen (retd) VP Malik said, “Till now we have been focusing on defensive operation. We now have to look at offensive operation.” He was of the view that an all-out war between India and Pakistan or India and China was “unlikely”. To have a better planning of security needs, military experts should be roped into the government and be made minister of state for Defence, Malik suggested.

India counters Aziz’s allegations, says he was treated well

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India on Monday dismissed allegations that Pakistan PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was mistreated during his trip to Amritsar while attending the Heart of Asia conference.Official sources here said that India extended all facilities to Aziz and there was no reason to complain. Pakistan had claimed that restrictions were put on his movement of Pakistani delegation and they were not even allowed speak to media. Sources added that a rare exception was made to allow arrival and departure of Aziz by air at Amritsar which is not a designated port for entry and exit of Pakistani nationals, besides giving swift clearance despite a last-minute change in his scheduled arrival by a special flight.In a hurriedly called press conference after his return from Amritsar last night, Aziz had accused India of not treating the Pakistani media properly and said he was not allowed to have a press conference. “The attitude towards media was not good. I wanted to have press interaction with our own media. But we were not allowed,” he alleged. Pakistan had also claimed that Aziz was not allowed to visit the Golden Temple and speak to Pakistani media at the hotel where he was staying.“They have no reasons to complain. We were gracious hosts. Extended tarmac access, gave additional rooms, provided armoured cars (not given to every foreign minister) and other conveniences keeping special security requirements in view . This was done despite the last minute change of programme and advancing of arrival in Amritsar by special flight by more than 12 hours. Fresh flight clearance was issued within minutes,” the sources said. They said Aziz could be present in the official dinner and in the call on Prime Minister on the evening of October 3due to the last minute clearance given. “In addition, they were actively engaged in the Senior Officials Meeting and Ministerial and all other requests honoured. A rare exception was made to allow arrival and departure by air at Amritsar which is not a designated airport for entry and exit for Pakistani nationals,” they said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart of Asia declaration which named Pak-based terror outfits LeT, JeM was unanimous: Sartaj Aziz

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The declaration adopted at the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, which named Pakistan-based terror outfits LeT and JeM, was unanimous, said Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the country’s Prime Minister, who attended the meet in Amritsar.On his return home, Aziz sought to play down its significance by highlighting that other groups were also mentioned in the declaration along with Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the terror groups blamed for attacks in India.Addressing a press conference, he said the emphasis of the conference was on tackling all regional outfits to stamp down militancy. HOA is a platform for discussing reconstruction of the trouble-torn Afghanistan.The HoA declaration 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.Aziz said the declaration was unanimous and not only Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad were mentioned but several groups were named.”We are not under pressure to deal with militancy. It is not true as we are already doing it in our own interest,” he said.”I put forward the objective situation in my statement. I said that we need holistic approach, as there are different groups and foreign elements. Afghanistan is complex and needs careful handling,” Aziz said.He also defended the Pakistan government’s decision to attend the HoA conference.”It was good decision to attend HoA. It was good to attend multilateral forum…to show solidarity with Afghanistan. If we had boycotted, then India would say that first they expelled Pakistan from SAARC and now from HoA,” he said.Aziz also said that on the sidelines of the conclave he met Iranian foreign minister Jawad Zarif, foreign minister of Turkmenistan and Chinese assistant foreign minister.To a question, he said India had restricted movements of the Pakistani delegation.”Our interactions were not structured but overall there were constructive,” he said.

Pakistan says Sartaj Aziz denied permission to visit Golden Temple; New Delhi cites security concerns

Amritsar: Pakistan on Sunday claimed that its Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz was not allowed to visit the Golden Temple and speak to Pakistani mediapersons at the hotel where he was staying, even as India said it was done due to security considerations.

Sources in the Pakistani High Commission said Aziz had planned to visit the Golden Temple but was not allowed citing security concerns.

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

File image of Sartaj Aziz. AFP

Aziz, who arrived in Amritsar on Saturday evening, wanted to interact with Pakistani mediapersons who accompanied him at the Radisson Blue hotel, the venue of the Heart of Asia conference, but was not given permission by security personnel, the sources said.

Indian government sources said the permission was not given considering his security.

“Security was very tight. Permission was not given due to security reasons. Security of our guests is paramount. India ensured no untoward incident took place,” they said.

There was a tiff between Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit and security personnel at the hotel after they denied Pakistani journalists entry to the venue.

After security personnel denied permission for Aziz’s interaction with the Pakistani media at the conference venue, the Pakistani High Commission planned the interaction at another hotel but that too was not allowed, the Pakistani High Commission sources said.

Later, Basit spoke to the Pakistani media. Aziz left for Pakistan by a special aircraft around 8 PM.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had visited the Golden Temple on Saturday, while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited it on Sunday. Apparently, the parents of Hamid Ansari, who is at present lodged in a jail in Pakistan, were waiting for a meeting with Aziz at the Golden Temple.

Mumbai-based Fauzia Ansari and her husband Nihal had come to Amritsar, hoping to request Aziz to release their son from prison, who has already completed his jail term. Hamid, an IT engineer and MBA degree holder, had gone to Kabul on 4 November, 2012 from where he reached Pakistan allegedly to meet a Pakistani girl he had been in touch with through e-mails.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 21:32 IST

Samba attack: Focused research is necessary for detection of underground infiltration

Pump a rat with narcotics from both ends and see how it burrows through the mud like a mole, rabbit-eared bandicoot bilby, or an inebriated chipmunk. It is no surprise that the three terrorists who were killed near Chamliyal on 29 November carrying AK-47s, 8mm pistol, 20 grenades, GPS set, chained IED, explosives and food items, had according to DG BSF KK Sharma, ‘probably’ crawled through an 80 metre-long cross-border tunnel that was detected by the BSF along the International Border (IB) the next day — on 30 November.

Sharma said there might more tunnels and the matter would be raised with Pakistan. He also said there is no technology to trace tunnels easily and that the BSF is in touch with several countries, including Israel, and institutions like IIT-Delhi to look for solutions.

Speaking to the media, Sharma made the following points: The three terrorists killed in Samba, Jammu on Tuesday (November 29) might have crawled through an 80 metre-long tunnel under farmlands to cross the IB. After the operation in Samba at the Chamliyal border outpost, no breach of the border fence was found; on Wednesday (30 November) morning, a small 2×2 metre tunnel was found in a field where farming is done and the soil is soft; the tunnel is about 75-80 metres from the IB and about 35-40 metre from the fence. By the end of 2017, the BSF will have a patrol-less, multi-layered smart fence along its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh as 20 big global firms are undertaking a technical evaluation for the same.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It will be prudent to examine the following in the above context: One, taking up the issue with Pakistan is routine procedure but amounts to asking a confounded terrorist if he believes in violence; two, breaching the border isn’t simply cutting through the border fence – breach also implies getting across via the underground tunnel. In this instance, the IB was very much breached; three, this is not the first time that Pakistan has infiltrated terrorists through tunnels – there have been such occurrences in the past, and; four, a “patrol-less smart fence” is Utopian considering that the opening of this tunnel was 75-80 metres on our side of the IB.

Patrolling can’t be just along the fence especially when infiltration at times is assisted from the Indian side, even if for smuggling narcotics. Besides, traitors can always orchestrate ‘temporary technical failure’ of particular section of the smart fence. So, there can’t be any shortcut to patrolling. Smart fence is only a more powerful force multiplier.

Tunneling for operations, terrorism, smuggling is a global phenomenon. North Korea is estimated to have dug some 103 tunnels under the heavily guarded and well-fenced demilitarised military zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. Two have been discovered and opened for public viewing. These are large enough to push a brigade-sized force across in one hour with small vehicles. These were discovered by chance when a farmer observed smoke coming out of the ground. Properly fortified and lighted, these tunnels are meant for military offensive by North Korea. Israel suffers similar menace of multiple tunnels made by Hamas from the direction of the Gaza Strip. These are for terror attacks and to escalate conflict, but if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enter Gaza, they would encounter a network of tunnels, which implies the problem of first locating individual tunnel and then destroying it. So Gaza Strip has both offensive and defensive tunnels.

After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas seized control in 2007, the tunnels became a weapon that Hamas could deploy at will. The tunnel system branches beneath many Gazan towns and cities, running some dozens of kilometres within the Gaza Strip. They are used for hiding weapons and ammunition, facilitating communication, plus concealing and deploying militants, rocket teams and mobile anti-tank missile teams, making detection from air difficult. Hamas used cross-border tunnels to capture Gilad Shalit in 2006 and many times during the 2014 conflict. In July 2014, it was Hamas’ use of a tunnel near Sufa that spurred Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a ground operation in Gaza. During 2014, the IDF went in to neutralise 32 of these tunnels, 14 of which crossed into Israel. The IDF estimates Hamas spent around $30-$90 million, using 600,000 tons of concrete to build 36 dozen tunnels, some individually costing $3 million to construct.

Many tunnels dug from the Pakistani side have been discovered in India in recent years for smuggling and terrorism, including targeting urban areas. These include: March 2016, 10 feet underground tunnel, 3×4 feet diameter, 30 metre inside India in RS Pura sector to target Jammu. The tunnel was 200-300 metre inside Pakistan; 2014, 50 metre tunnel discovered near Pallanwala in Jammu sector, 10 feet underground, 3×4 feet diameter; 2014, 23 metre tunnel discovered in Chillyari in Samba district; 2012, 400 metre long and 20 feet deep tunnel with ventilation discovered near Pathankot; 2012, 540 metre long tunnel found dug into the Indian side cutting through Pakistan from the zero line. In 2009, a tunnel was found near Chakkla post along the LoC when it caved in due to heavy rains; 2008, tunnel found in Rajasthan’s Barmer sector probably meant for smuggling; March 2001, tunnel found in Gurdaspur area running 135 metre into India.

In Pakistan’s case, it is not the terrorist-rodents that are nurtured by the military, but also is assisted by godmother China and China’s second protégé – North Korea. Pakistan-North Korea nuclear nexus is well-known and goes as far back as the mid 1990s, North Korean technicians and engineers were developing missile silos in Pakistan. China is presently developing some 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan where the locals are denied entry. Some of these obviously would house strategic weapons. With China’s expertise in tunneling including the Metok tunnel, China may well be assisting Pakistan in establishing a tunnel network in PoK to surprise Indian forces against any offensive in case of conflict. Tunnels also have strategic significance if a weapon of mass disturbance (if not destruction) can be smuggled through it. The fact that some of the tunnels discovered could not have been dug without machinery and are proximate to Pakistani posts along the IB/LoC prove they are part of the offensive plan of the Pakistani military at sub-conventional level. We must also acknowledge that more our border fence is strengthened, making it smart, more would be the Pakistani effort towards tunneling.

In August 2014, the IDF announced they had successfully tested a system that could be used to detect tunnels, using combination of sensors and special transmitters to locate underground tunnels. The IDF expects development to cost up to NIS 1.5 billion. However, Amir Oren, senior correspondent with Haaretz wrote on 26 April, 2016, “In another two years, perhaps Israel will have perfected its response to the tunnels”. This is one area that must become priority in India-Israel cooperation, in addition to research within India. Tunneling affects our security and should not be treated as the baby of the BSF alone. The MoD should be looking at this seriously including developing a concept for our armed forces – both defensive and pro-active. In addition, we must have 24×7 satellite surveillance of our borders. Where Isro is helping chart the underground course of Saraswati river below the Thar desert, perhaps focused research could lead to detecting underground infiltration.

(The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army.)

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 14:44 IST

Aziz sends bouquet to Sushma, wishes speedy recovery

Sat, 3 Dec 2016-09:35pm , Amritsar , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a goodwill gesture, Pakistani Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz on Saturday sent a bouquet to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and wished her a speedy recovery.The bouquet was delivered to Swaraj’s residence this evening. Swaraj is being treated at AIIMS for kidney failure. “Aziz sent a bouquet to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her residence this evening extending his good wishes for her speedy recovery,” a source said. Aziz is representing Pakistan at the Heart of Asia conference tomorrow which will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

BSF foils intrusion bid in Gurdaspur, kills Pakistani intruder

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSF has foiled a cross-border intrusion bid after it shot dead a Pakistani intruder at Border Out Post Dhindha in Gurdaspur sector of Punjab.”BSF troops of Border Out Post Dhindha Sector Gurdaspur observed suspicious movement of a Pakistani intruder who crossed the International Border and came inside the Indian territory. BSF troops challenged him to stop but the intruder continued with his aggressive posture. Hence, BSF troops opened fire in self-defence and killed him,” a BSF official said. This incident took place at around 8 pm Friday night. Due to the enhanced vigil of BSF troops, the attempt of anti-national elements has been thwarted,” the official said.Keeping in view the vulnerability of border due to ongoing cultivation or tilling season and heightened activities of smugglers, Inspector General, BSF (Punjab Frontier), Anil Paliwal has issued operational guidelines to all the sectors under Punjab Frontier for further strengthening the border domination to effectively check the menace of narcotics smuggling and activities of anti-national elements on Punjab border with Pakistan, he said.The official said directions were also issued to field commanders to maintain extra vigil on the border to thwart the attempts of smugglers and anti-national elements. He said tactical operations are being mounted to foil the attempts of smugglers and intruders during this foggy season.

Heart of Asia Summit: Parents of Indian prisoner in Pakistan seek meeting with Sartaj Aziz

Amritsar: Parents of Indian national Hamid Ansari, who is lodged in a Pakistani jail, will seek to meet Pakistani Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz at the two-day Heart of Asia conference which begins on Saturday.

Sartaj Aziz. AFPSartaj Aziz. AFP

Sartaj Aziz. AFP

Mumbai-based Fauzia Ansari and her husband Nihal arrived in the holy city carrying several placards with the hope of getting back their son, who has already completed his jail term, from the neighbouring country. Fauzia said she had written a letter to Aziz seeking an appointment to request for the release of her 32-year-old son. She said as there was no reply from Aziz’s office, she will now stand near the venue of the conference and display placards.

Hamid, an IT engineer and an MBA degree holder, had gone to Kabul on November 4, 2012 from where he wanted to reach Pakistan allegedly to meet a Pakistni girl he had been in touch with through e-mails. There was no whereabouts of him after 10 November.

The deputy attorney general of Pakistan had informed the court that Hamid was in the custody of Pakistani army and had been awarded three years’ imprisonment. Fauzia had filed a writ petition in the Peshawar High Court seeking release of her son after the completion of his jail term. The petition was dismissed as the court had observed that army would decide on his release since he was in its custody.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 14:32 IST

J&K: Kulgam encounter ends as terrorists flee spot

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The encounter between security forces and militants that broke out in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district this morning has ended as the terrorists fled the spot.Following an intelligence input about the presence of militants, the security forces launched a combing operation in the area.Last night, a Pakistani infiltrator was shot dead by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in Bamiyal sector in Pathankot district of Punjab.Earlier on Tuesday, two terrorists were killed in an infiltration bid in Samba sector of Jammu and Kashmir. One BSF jawan was also injured in the infiltration bid.

Aware of deployment of Chinese ships in Indian Ocean Region, keeping a close eye: Navy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian Navy on Friday said it was aware of the deployment and movement of Chinese naval ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region, and that it has “kept a close eye” on them.Addressing the annual ‘Naval Day’ news conference in New Delhi, Navy chief Sunil Lanba said a Chinese nuclear submarine was deployed in the Indian Ocean and it made a port call at Karachi harbour. “As far as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships and submarines are concerned, the Indian Navy keeps a close eye and monitors their movements. We have maritime domain awareness of the deployment of PLA naval forces in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).“We launch surveillance missions in the form of aircraft and ships to keep a track of them. They had started deployment of their submarines from 2012,” he said.The Chief of Naval Staff said India’s primary area of interest was the IOR followed by Strait of Bab el Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz.In response to a question on Indian Navy’s capabilities in the Pacific region, Lanba said, “The Navy is well within its capabilities to operate in the region.” Lanba also sought to downplay the Bangladesh Navy acquiring its first submarines from China, saying “India has a plan in place that takes into account what is happening in the neighborhood.”When asked about the South China Sea dispute, the Navy chief said maritime issues should be solved as per United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He added that the Kalavari Class Scorpene submarine will be commissioned next year.In Mumbai, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Western Naval Command said the Indian Navy was working on improving physical security of all its bases and assets not just in Maharashtra but in the entire west coast. The Indian Navy, he said, was introducing new technologies for perimeter security and was also increasing patrolling and surveillance and strengthening the response mechanism in case of breaches. Security audits have also been conducted to “observe shortcomings.”As per its perspective measure, the Indian Navy plans to build next-generation destroyers with a new design which will be more potent and versatile, said Luthra.He said that INS Kalavari, the first of its six Scorpene class submarines, would be commissioned soon into the Indian Navy. The Navy’s six Scorpene-class stealth submarines are being constructed under the much-delayed Project-75 at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in collaboration with DCNS, France to augment its depleted and aging underwater fleet.‘PAK CLAIM BOGUS’Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Friday termed the claims made by Pakistan that an Indian submarine had entered into territorial waters, as “bogus”. “There was no Indian submarine deployed in the area where the Pakistani Navy is claiming it to be. As far as repelling a submarine of any nation goes, it is not an easy task and the claim made by Pakistani Navy is totally bogus. We deploy submarines where there is an operational necessity and we will continue to deploy them,” the Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said.(With input from Agencies)

Pakistani refugees lose Rs 16 lakh in fire

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Around 117 Hindu Pakistani migrant families lost an estimated Rs 16 lakh in cash in both old and new currency in a fire in North Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila area. The amount was lost when 28 shanties were gutted in a fire on November 27.”As much as Rs 16 lakh cash was charred into ashes in this fire,” claims Roop Chand, the in-charge of the settlement.Sona Das, 45, belongs to one of the families who have lost everything. Sitting in a makeshift shanty, Das is praying for divine intervention so that he could arrange his daughter’s wedding scheduled for next year.”I had saved Rs 1.5 lakh in cash in the past three years for my daughter’s wedding. That was my only possession and it was charred into ashes in the fire,” he said.On Sunday afternoon, Das, along with his family, went to have langar (feast) in a nearby Gurudwara only to come back to see his shanty burning. “It was a dreadful sight to see your life-long hard work turning into ash,” he said.Das makes ends meet by selling mobile covers and screen guards near Vishwavidhalaya Metro station.Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of two high denomination notes, Sonadas and his son had queued up outside banks in shifts to get their money exchanged. “I took ten days to exchange our savings using our passports as the identity card. All our efforts have gone in vain,” he said.Sona Das is not the only one who lost everything. His neighbour Shankar Lal, 30, whose shanty was also gutted down in the fire, pulled out cloth having burnt notes wrapped in it.”I went to exchange four Rs 500 notes left on me to a bank when this happened. It took me more than one week to exchange these 30,000 rupees that are now equal to burnt papers in value,” said Lal, who lives there with his wife and a 10-month-old son.The families’ plight is made worse by the fact that many of them do not have bank accounts. Roop Chand is among those few persons here who does.”Most of the people living here do not have bank accounts and keep their savings in cash. Soon after the present government had announced Aadhaar cards mandatory for everyone to obtain bank accounts, we started a drive to encourage people to get themselves the unique identity cards,” he said.He added that most of the people, who had applied for the cards recently, had not yet received them.The residents are now waiting for some compensation from the government as most of them are buying stuff on credit. “Most of us have been buying groceries from the nearby shops on credits. We have no idea how will we return the money,” said Das.

Obvious that some lethargy has set in: Manohar Parrikar on Nagrota attack

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of Nagrota terror attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday admitted that there is scope for improvement in security as some “sort of lethargy” has set in over a period of time and said those behind any “lapse” will pay for it.The Minister also said that the recent surgical strike has led to a sense of “uncertainty” in the Pakistani security establishment and it was also a good confidence building measure for India. Replying to queries on security arrangements at army camps, Parrikar said, “I think we can definitely improve upon it. Probably, over a period, some sort of lethargy has set in. Relaxation, it is obvious…it is taking some time.”He was asked if there was something that should have been done or can be done in the security arrangements in the wake of militants storming the complex of 166 artillery unit of Army at Nagrota on Tuesday. Seven security personnel, including two officers, were killed in the incident which witnessed a fierce gunbattle and a hostage-like situation at the army camp, considered to be a peace posting in the Army parlance.Parrikar, who was speaking at HT Leadership Summit, said it is “very painful” to see soldiers die but they needed to save children and families. “I think we need to think out of the box. I am very sure that Army is aware of it and working on it,” he said. Asked about his earlier stress on fixing responsibility, Parrikar said even if he does a mistake, he will “have to pay for it”. “Even if there are lapses, they need to be tackled properly. You cannot afford lapses,” the Minister said.Parrikar spoke about the need to use smart technologies for perimeter protection of sensitive bases but said infrastructure cannot be created overnight. He indicated that lengthy army procedures were coming in the way of getting things done swiftly.Asked if India could carry out more surgical strikes, Parrikar said the “principle of uncertainty” should be allowed to operate. “It will be beneficial to all of us.” He said that surgical strikes have introduced a degree of uncertainty. “Obviously, uncertainty itself creates decision-making bottlenecks. You will never know them.” The surgical strike were carried out in retaliation to the September 18 Uri attack that left 19 Indian soldiers dead. “Earlier, one thing was sure that India won’t cross (Line of Control). Now that is one thing that’s missing. In strategy and such kind of issues, you need to put uncertainty in their minds. That has been achieved,” said Parrikar.The minister said the operation has also left the nation satisfied. “It was a continuous insult to be treated like this…someone comes, hits us and we can’t do anything,” he said. The Minister said he had taken the initiative for the army to experiment with three to four types of fences on pilot basis but “they have massive procedures”.Following this, he has now asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation to experiment with smart solutions to secure military bases. “The DRDO has been asked to try fences of different kinds – microwave, laser, smart fence that can pick vibration and CCTV cameras that can pick movement at one kilometre,” he said.

The life and times of Pakistani chaiwala: From his tea stall to YouTube and the ramp

The Pakistani chaiwala (tea vendor), Arshad Khan, is a popular fashion model in his country now. If you look at him today, you’ll find it hard to believe that just a few months back, this handsome, blue-eyed model was once served chai on a little street in Islamabad.

His sudden rise to fame is a story of internet stardom that could have only happened in today’s hyper-connected world.

Khan’s story started with an Instagram photo by photographer, Jiah Ali.

A budding photographer, Ali said that she looks for “simplicity and raw emotion” in any image that she captures. That’s what she saw in Khan and that’s what she captured in her photograph.

Her image, titled “Hot tea”, garnered over 32,000 likes in just a few days, transforming Khan from a mere chaiwala to overnight viral sensation.

His latest success comes in the form of a music video that’s simply titled, Chai Wala.

The music video, courtesy of a band called Lil Mafia Mundeer, is rather… strange. And it does manage to show off Arshad Khan at his modelling best. The video shows Khan all spruced up, serving tea in a suit, surrounded by fawning women and charming everyone with his smile. Last we checked, the video had over 7,70,000 views.

This blue-eyed boy from Pakistan is certainly going places!

His modelling career is doing rather well. He also captured the attention of a global audience, when media houses like the BBC and The Telegraph highlighted his story.

Interestingly, there are striking parallels between Khan’s story and that of UK’s ‘One-pound-fish man’. Of Pakistani origin, Muhammad Shahid Nazir went to the UK on a student visa and ended up dropping his studies in favour of a career selling fish at Queen’s Market, London.

His rather unique trader’s call, “come on ladies, come on ladies, one pound fish” became so popular on social media that the Warner Music Group signed him up for a single.

Sadly for Nazir, he was forced to leave the UK and return to Pakistan since he only had a student visa. That said, Nazir was already very popular in his home country and returned to a large fan base.

He plans to return to the UK soon. Hopefully, the chaiwala’s story will have a happier ending.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 16:02 IST

BSF jawan injured in ceasefire violation by Pakistan along LoC in Rajouri, Kashmir

Jammu: Pakistani troops on Friday violated the ceasefire by firing on forward posts along the LoC in Rajouri district, leaving a BSF jawan injured.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“At 10 AM, a BSF constable deployed at a forward location at LoC in Bhimbher Gali sector of Rajouri district sustained an injury due to single round fire (sniper fire) from Pakistan Forward Defence location”, a senior BSF officer said on Friday.

The condition of the jawan is stable.

The fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops has taken place after a lull of over one week along the LoC.

Eleven persons including six Army personnel, four BSF jawans and a civilian porter working with Army were injured in Pakistan shelling and firing in Nowshera, Manjakote, Balakote, Mendhar and Gurez sectors on 23 November.

A total of 26 people, including 14 security personnel and 12 civilians, have been killed and more than 83 suffered injured in Pakistani shelling and firing along IB and LoC in Jammu after surgical strikes.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 14:52 IST

J-K: BSF jawan injured in ceasefire violation by Pak troops in Rajouri

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire on Friday by firing on forward posts along the LoC in Rajouri district, leaving a BSF jawan injured.”At 10 AM, a BSF constable deployed at a forward location at LoC in Bhimbher Gali sector of Rajouri district sustained an injury due to single round fire (sniper fire) from Pakistan Forward Defence location”, a senior BSF officer said today. The condition of the jawan is stable.The fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops has taken place after a lull of over one week along the LoC.Eleven persons including six Army personnel, four BSF jawans and a civilian porter working with Army were injured in Pakistan shelling and firing in Nowshera, Manjakote, Balakote, Mendhar and Gurez sectors on November 23.A total of 26 people, including 14 security personnel and 12 civilians, have been killed and more than 83 suffered injured in Pakistani shelling and firing along IB and LoC in Jammu after surgical strikes.

Sartaj Aziz’s India visit: No request from Pakistan, bilateral talks unlikely, says MEA

Chances of an India-Pakistan dialogue, during Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz’s India visit appears grim as Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup on Thursday talked tough on cross-border terrorism.

It was expected that Aziz’s visit may thaw out the India-Pakistan relations that have hit a new low since skirmishes along the Line of Control and terror attacks on army camps have increased. However, the MEA has shown little signs that a bilateral dialogue could be in the offing.

A file photo of Vikas Swarup. Photo credit: Twitter @MEAIndiaA file photo of Vikas Swarup. Photo credit: Twitter @MEAIndia

A file photo of Vikas Swarup. Photo credit: Twitter @MEAIndia

Swarup, who was addressing a weekly press briefing on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Summit, to be held on 3 and 4 December said that India does not sense any willingness to talk on Pakistan’s part, while clarifying that it has not received any request to start a dialogue.

“We have not received any requests for talks. India is always open for talks, but they obviously cannot be held with continued terrorism,” Swarup told reporters in New Delhi.

It was largely being speculated that the dialogue would finally inch forward, after months of deep freeze in the relations during Aziz’s visit, as earlier in the week, Pakistan had sent out mixed signals on the issue.

Pakistani newspaper, Dawn quoted a foreign ministry official as saying, “For now, we don’t see any willingness on their part… the ball is in India’s court, for they know we are willing but we don’t know whether they are willing.”  However, Aziz himself had said that although India scuttled the Saarc summit, Pakistan would not do the same —  leaving many guessing that the two nations may indulge in dialogue.

Swarup clarified that Pakistan has not officially raised a request for any talks while dismissing Aziz’s comments that India was responsible for the failure of Saarc summit.

“It was not India that scuttled the Saarc process but all the member nations wrote to Nepal (who was hosting the summit) to state that the summit will not be conducive in the present circumstances,” Swarup said.

He also added that India too shares Pakistan’s sentiment to hold dialogue without any preconditions, but he stated that talks were not possible with repeated instances of cross-border terrorism.

“When Pakistan says talks should be unconditional, we also say the same thing. But all we say is that there should be no cross-border terrorism,” Swarup said.

“India is always open for talks, but they obviously cannot be held with continued terrorism. India will not accept continued terrorism. It was India that has taken all initiatives to start dialogue with Pakistan. But what have we got in response to those initiatives,” Swarup added.

Pakistan and India, at the last Heart of Asia ministerial meeting in Islamabad, had agreed to start “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” that was to cover all outstanding issues. The resumption of the dialogue could, however, not take place due to the Pathankot attack in January earlier this year.

Bilateral relations further deteriorated in July following the commencement of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and India placed the blame for the 18 September Uri military camp attack and continuing infiltration attempts on Pakistan.  Another instance that further froze ties between New Delhi and Islamabad was when the body of one army soldier was found mutilated in Machhil sector near the border, while three soldiers were killed in the attack.

Moreover, Tuesday’s attack on Army’s 166 Field Regiment at Nagrota, which killed seven Indian soldiers, including to two Major-rank officers, apparently further extinguished any chances of improvement in relations between the two neighbours, in the near foreseeable future.

Things turned worse with the spike in ceasefire violations at the border that have left dozens of people dead in barely two months.

Pakistan has, however, denied India’s claims that it was behind these incidents.

The Pakistan government decided to attend the Heart of Asia conference despite a deep freeze in bilateral ties, even though as it alleged that India had “scuttled the Saarc summit” that Islamabad was to host in November this year.

Aziz will be leading the Pakistani delegation to the two-day meeting that will focus on cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for improving connectivity and tackling security threats in the region.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 19:21 IST

We will not accept continued terror as the ‘new normal’: India says no to talk with Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India on Thursday made it clear that there will be no bilateral talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of Heart of Asia Summit. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India is favour in talks but not in current situation. Swarup said, “We will not accept continued terror as the new normal in bilateral ties”. He clarified that India hasn’t received any proposal for meeting from Pakistan. On Nagrota attack, where 7 security men were killed Vikas Swarup said, “We are awaiting specific details on Nagrota attack before deciding on next step. Govt has taken the incident very seriously and will do what it feels is required for our national security”. Dawn report rules out bilateral meet with PakistanPakistan will have no bilateral meeting with India on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar where the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is set to participate on Sunday, according to a media report. Aziz is leading the Pakistani delegation to the two-day conference of the process that focuses on regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for improving connectivity and tackling security threats.”Pakistan and India would not hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia ministerial conference being held in Amritsar,” Dawn reported, citing officials. “For now we don’t see any willingness on their part…the ball is in India’s court, for they know we are willing but we don’t know whether they are willing,” it quoted an official as saying.Pakistan and India had held a meeting here at the last HoA ministerial conference and agreed to start ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ that was to cover all outstanding issues.The resumption of the dialogue could, however, not take place due to the Pathankot terror attack in January this year. An official was also quoted as saying that Pakistan had not formally reached out to India for a bilateral meeting in Amritsar. Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit, while participating in BBC Urdu’s ‘Facebook Live’ interaction yesterday, said Pakistan was ready for unconditional resumption of dialogue if India is ready.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is not attending the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting. “Since Sushma Swaraj is not attending, it’s difficult to have a meeting with anyone else,” the daily quoted a Pakistani diplomat as saying. “The Pakistani side believes that the way out of the current stalemate in ties is India giving up its intransigence,” the daily said.”India has to make up its mind. They are not willing to discuss Kashmir,” the official said. India has been non-committal about holding bilateral talks with Aziz but has made it clear that “talks and terror cannot go hand in hand”. With PTI inputs

Nagrota, Uri attacks: LeT, JeM and Afzal Guru Squad’s free run in Pakistan should worry Delhi

Now that it looks like the fidayeen attack on 16 Corps at Nagrota in Jammu was carried out by the Afzal Guru Squad (AGS) of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, it is obvious that both the Jaish and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are almost competing to inflict cuts on India’s self-esteem and pride. If the terror attack at Dinanagar in Gurdaspur district in July 2015 was the handiwork of the Lashkar, Jaish hit in Pathankot in January this year. Uri in September was a Lashkar operation and now Nagrota carries the Jaish stamp, with a note written in Urdu bearing the ‘AGS’ name.

There is little to distinguish between the two terror groups that are said to be at the beck and call of the Pakistan Army establishment and the ISI. The AGS, a force of about 300 well-trained hardcore terrorists, is meant to carry out spectacular high-profile attacks. The Lashkar also carries out suicide attacks but this outfit is comparatively discreet and less flashy.

The Jaish carried out the Parliament attack in 2001, in which Afzal Guru was named as a conspirator. That is why it chose the nomenclature of AGS, that was formed after the hanging of Afzal Guru in February 2013, to embarrass India.

Army personnel take position during encounter after militants attacked an Army camp in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu on Tuesday morning. PTIArmy personnel take position during encounter after militants attacked an Army camp in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu on Tuesday morning. PTI

Army personnel take position during encounter after militants attacked an Army camp in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu on Tuesday morning. PTI

But while the Jaish, through the AGS, always leaves behind its imprint to claim credit, the Lashkar seldom does so. The Lashkar often even removes markings on their clothes which can be traced to Pakistan. Only if they are carrying medicines on them, those may carry a ‘Manufactured in Pakistan’ sign. It is then left to the Indian sleuths to decipher the identity of the fidayeens through seized communication sets.

The mobile phones used by Lashkar operatives have ‘Skipe’, which is an in-house Lashkar communication system developed four years ago. Another voice tool used is ‘Vibar’. Both are similar to the original apps — no originality is shown in designing new names — but the Lashkar has improvised it with a coded matrix sheet. Most of the code language is Urdu, with a few English words thrown in. Each matrix sheet is valid only for a couple of weeks, overlapping terror strikes and is extremely tough to decode.

Security experts point out that on a few occasions the Lashkar has even let Hizbul Mujahideen take credit for a strike, carried out by the LeT. These are non-fidayeen attacks since Hizbul is not known to undertake suicide attacks. This serves the Pakistani purpose of projecting as if it is an indigenous resistance to the Indian state. It makes the Hizbul look better and, on the face of it, gives the so-called movement for azaadi of Kashmir some moral legitimacy.

Lashkar, founded by dreaded terrorist Hafiz Saeed in 1987, is a bigger outfit than the Jaish with a far greater reach. Jaish was founded around 2000 by Masood Azhar, who was freed by India in return for the Kandahar hijack hostages. Both groups co-exist and apparently enjoy a free run inside Pakistan. This anecdote recounted by an asset of the Indian intelligence establishment, who had gotten close to the top commanders of the Lashkar, gives a peep into the free run the terror operatives enjoy inside Pakistan.

“He would be taken around in SUVs along with gun-toting Lashkar operatives. Whenever the vehicle would be stopped by the police at a security barricade, all they had to do was roll down the window and say ‘Lashkar se hai‘ and they would be given a green channel,” said a handler from the Indian side. The same red carpet treatment is given to Jaish operatives as well. Proof that in Pakistan, the state and the deep state co-exist in harmony, united by hate against India. Bans imposed on terror outfits are not worth the Pakistan government paper they are printed on.

The recruitment zone for Lashkar is Punjab province, given that the leadership of the outfit is dominated by people like Hafiz Saeed, who hails from the province. It targets the impoverished peasantry of Punjab, who are largely uneducated or at best, semi-literate. The Ajmal Kasab kind.

Finding young men willing to turn fidayeen is not much of a challenge, given that the Lashkar and the Jaish feed them a toxic cocktail of radicalisation, anti-India and anti-Hindu audio-visual material, with the temptation of 72 virgins in heaven thrown in. Cheaper young boys are available if picked up from the impoverished Waziristan and Sind provinces. While a Punjab recruit gets (Pakistani) Rs 5 lakh for his family after he is gone, the ones from Sind and Waziristan get only about Rs 2 lakh.

From India’s point of view, what is worrying is that over 250 terrorists of both outfits who have infiltrated into the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region between June and November are, according to sources, comfortably ensconced in habitations in small towns and villages. The fact that the locals do not give them up, by reporting them to the state, is a dangerous sign. As winter sets in, their presence on Indian soil is proof that New Delhi and Srinagar’s ability to effectively police many parts of the troubled state, especially south Kashmir, has been severely compromised.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 11:20 IST

There is no point talking to Pak, India should adopt "tit for tat" policy: RK Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former home secretary RK Singh advocated for adopting a “tit for tat” policy against Pakistan on Wednesday and stressed that there should be no bilateral talks with the neighbouring state till it supports terrorism. His remarks comes ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz’s visit to India to take part in the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar this week. “His (Aziz) coming and participating in a multilateral conference, I don’t think that it is a problem. But bilateral talks no. There is no point in talking to them (Pakistan).Whenever we have started a dialogue with them, we only had terror attacks,” the BJP MP from Ara in Bihar said. He said that it should be made clear to the neighbouring state that the present Indian government has a new policy of “hitting back”. Asked whether Pakistan should be declared a terror state, he said that such a declaration from India will not lead to anything but if it is done at the international forum, then sanctions will be imposed and Pakistan will “feel the pain”.”If we (India) alone declares it as terror state, nothing will happen. If it is declared at the international forum, then sanctions will be imposed on it. Then it (Pakistan) will feel the pain. And if Pakistan does not change its policies, then that time will also come. “It is not only our problem, but it is world’s problem.” “This attack is a message that no matter who the chief (Pakistan army) is, our (Pakistan’s) policy remains the same.We need to tell them that our policy does not remain the same. During the previous governments, the policy was different. This government has a policy of hitting back,” he said.Referring to the recent terror attack on the army camp in Nagrota, he said the targeting is done by Pakistani army and ISI who not only train and arm these jihadis, but also send them across the border and give covering fire (while crossing border). “One should not take it as a Jihadi attack. This attack is by Pakistani Army and ISI. They just use jihadis. And the answer to this is only one. If someone hits you, you hit back. “This we have started through surgical strike. And it is not that we have done it once and we will not do again. It should be made clear to Pakistan that ‘tit for tat’ is our new policy,” he said.

Samba terrorists could have crawled through a tunnel to infiltrate India: BSF

New Delhi: The three militants killed in Samba in Jammu might have crawled through an 80-metre-long tunnel under farm lands to cross the International Border (IB), the BSF chief said on Wednesday.

Addressing journalists on the eve of the Border Security Force’s 51st Raising Dayin Delhi, its chief KK Sharma said the paramilitary force had “strong inputs” about possible infiltration bids by terrorists from across the IB following the Indian Army’s surgical strikes on terror launch pads, and hence it was “in a position” to detect and neutralise the heavily-armed militants.

Security personnel after an encounter with millitants at Army camp in Nagrota. PTISecurity personnel after an encounter with millitants at Army camp in Nagrota. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“After the operation got over at the Chamliyal BoP (border outpost), we checked the fence and there was no breach. Then on Wednesday morning, we detected a small tunnel of the size of 2×2 metres… We had deployed ‘depth nakas’ across the fence and hence we could detect and neutralise the three militants. The tunnel was found in a field where farming is done and has soft soil.

“The tunnel is about 75-80 metres from the IB and about 35-40 metres from the fence,” he said.

The DG said the border guarding force would take up the matter with its counterparts — Pakistan Rangers, but added that due to increased hostilities, the other side is not “getting in touch” for quite sometime now.

BSF officials said there is “ample proof” and indication to say that the militants crawled through the tunnel to reach this side of the border. Sharma said the Nagrota attack that took place on Tuesday at an army camp was “separate” and it was part of the investigation to find out if it had any connection with the Samba terror bid.

He said that since the increase of hostilities between the two sides, especially post the surgical strikes conducted by the army across the Line of Control, BSF has killed 15 Pakistani Rangers and 10 militants while it lost five troops.

“For the last 15 days there has been no shelling along the IB. Post the surgical strikes we knew that infiltration attempts and attacks would increase along the IB which we exclusively guard and hence anticipating trouble we have been prepared against such attempts,” he said, adding it was pitch dark last night hence picking up movements along the IB was difficult through naked eye.

Sharma said BSF had “strong inputs that infiltration can be attempted from around the IB area and that is why we were in a position to effectively neutralise the three” on Tuesday.

The DG said the three terrorists were carrying huge arms and ammunition like three AK-47s, 20 full magazines, 517 bullets, an 8mm pistol, 20 grenades and a GPS set along with other items on them.

The BSF chief said there are inputs of a “grave threat” to security establishments and hence the forces have beefed up and reviewed camp and perimeter security.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 19:22 IST

Nagrota attack: Stop meaningless debate on surgical strikes and focus on security lapses

The Nagrota attack has expectedly given rise to questions on the efficacy of India’s surgical strikes. The Indian Army, which took another major hit with two of its officers and five soldiers falling to fidayeen bullets, is yet to complete its combing operation, but critics and some political parties have already started suggesting that the operation carried out by India’s elite commandos across the LoC was much hype and little substance.

Security personnel take positions during a gun battle with suspected militants at Army camp at Nagrota. PTI

Security personnel take positions during a gun battle with suspected militants at Army camp at Nagrota. PTI

The death of 26 Indian soldiers since 29 September is a clear indication, goes the argument, that instead of restraining Pakistan, the strikes seem to have emboldened our neighbour to carry out more terrorist attacks. The contention is that the surgical strikes were more a political confabulation for the Narendra Modi government rather than an effective anti-terror tool.

There is a lot of room for criticism in Modi’s blow hot-blow cold Pakistan policy. Like many of his predecessors, the incumbent prime minister was also driven by an initial urge to author a new chapter in India-Pakistan history. Subsequent developments have perhaps taught him that one cannot rationalise a relationship with a revisionist nation — one that continues to be driven by Ghazwa-e-Hind dreams.

Be that as it may, the haste to label surgical strikes a failure for another terrorist attack on an army base is more than a little problematic. Such an argument is guilty of oversimplification. It is more an exercise of our confirmation bias and strikes at our ideological fault lines than focus energies on a hard-nosed, rational analysis.

Aversion or affinity towards current political dispensation must not cloud our judgement on the efficacy of the strikes, which were carried out by a professional army unit and was the culmination of an extraordinary synchronisation of efforts. It was also a welcome departure from India’s reflexive stoicism towards Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks. The rush to call it “ineffective” stems from a lack of understanding of the operation’s objectives.

As this columnist has argued in the past, the surgical strikes were not meant to prevent Pakistan from abandoning its decades-old terror policy. Nobody in their right minds would assume that one covert operation is enough to persuade Pakistan to dismantle its terror infrastructure and reverse its policy of using terrorism as a foreign policy tool — one that has brought it rich dividends.

The Pakistani Army would be a fool to let go of terrorism — its one strategic lever against a much more powerful and prosperous neighbour. What, then, was the point of those surgical strikes? There was never a doubt that the covert op, which was subsequently publicised, was an effort by India to raise the bar for retaliatory attacks while staying below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. For a country that drops the nuclear threat at every possible opportunity, the cross-LoC attacks exposed Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.

It proved to the rest of the world, and also to some in India, that Islamabad’s frequent nuclear threats were meant more as a strategic deterrence against India’s response to terror attacks. Surgical strikes annihilated that deterrence.

But while deriding surgical strikes is pointless, it is important to highlight the grave and repeated security lapses that have contributed towards yet another attack on an Army base. Alarmingly, since 29 September, there have been at least a dozen attacks as terrorist infiltrated the border and launched attacks in different areas of Jammu and Kashmir including Nagrota, Baramulla, Bandipore, Sopore, Shopian and Pampore, among others. Altogether, 26 Indian soldiers including BSF personnel, and army jawans and officers have been killed.

While at one level, it reflects Pakistan’s outgoing chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif’s desperate attempts to save face after getting bruised in the surgical strikes, at another level it also points to crucial lacunae in India’s security apparatus. Apprehending suicide attackers is tougher since their motivation levels are high but the repeated breaches of heavily-guarded army bases send a worrying signal about our preparedness or lack of it.

As disturbing details emerge of the fidayeen strike on Nagrota where a hostage-like situation involving civilians have luckily been averted, questions must be raised on an apparent lack of standard operating procedure when it comes to blocking or preventing such attacks. Heads must roll if it is found that our security intelligence network isn’t up to scratch or fatigue and complacency played its part.

The 16 Corps headquarters in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu is 55 kilometres away from the border. It must be asked how heavily armed terrorists — albeit dressed in police attire — managed to remain undetected before launching the attack.

A report in The Huffington Post claims that the terrorists had infiltrated the border at least a week ago and had done a thorough recce of the camp before launching their mission. Quoting a Ministry of Defence official, the report states that the police uniforms that the terrorists were wearing were stitched in India and couldn’t have been “done in a day, indicating that the terrorists were already in India for some time”. They had also purchased medicines from local pharmacy, added the report.

This, if true, raises several more uncomfortable questions on our intelligence and monitoring system and whether our military bases and security installations are “soft targets”.

A Times of India report points out, quoting defence sources, that there was “very little follow-up action” to the comprehensive recommendations of the tri-service committee, led by former army chief Lieutenant-General Philip Campose (retd), which was constituted after the 2 January terror strike on the Pathankot airbase.

These are damning indications. Discussions must be centred around these loopholes instead of meaningless, politicised debates of one-upmanship over surgical strikes.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 15:27 IST

Kerala: Pakistani national languishing in prison due to ‘lack of assistance’ from Islamabad

Kochi: A Pakistani national, who was set free by an NIA court in Ernakulam, has been languishing in a Kerala prison for several months due to “lack of assistance” from his country’s High Commission in India, a senior Congress MLA said on Wednesday.

PT Thomas, also a former Lok Sabha MP, said he met Pakistani national Abdul Qadir on Tuesday when he visited the Ernakulam district jail at Kakkanad here as a local MLA to inspect the basic facilities provided for jail
officers and inmates.

Congress leader PT Thomas. Twitter/ @PTThomasINC

Congress leader PT Thomas. Twitter/ @PTThomasINC

He said Qadir (53) was part of 11 crew members of the Iranian vessel ‘Barooki’, which was intercepted off the Kerala coast in July last year.No offences were found against the crew members, comprising 10 Iranian nationals and Qadir, the lone Pakistani citizen, by the NIA Court in March this year.

Following the court order, the Foreigner Regional Registration Office initiated procedures for deportation.

“I met Qadir who has been lodged in the jail. While his colleagues from Iran left for their country after they received assistance from their embassy in New Delhi, Qadir is still lodged in the jail here due to lack of assistance from the Pakistani High Commission,” Thomas told PTI in Kochi.

He hoped that the Pakistani High Commission would intervene and coordinate with Indian authorities to facilitate deportation of their national languishing in the jail.

Thomas said Qadir has provided two addresses to the jail authorities. “According to one document, he belongs to Jeevani Village, Bstivan, Baluchistan.”

“Another one says Qadir belongs to Jan Mohammed Kaloi Village under Dalel police station limit in Sanghar district of Sindh province,” the MLA said. Thomas said Qadir is the sole bread winner for his family
comprising wife Sareena, ailing mother Bechel and sister Sobha. He has no children.

The court had released them after NIA, which conducted a probe into the case, had stated that the crew had no links either with any terror outfit or international drug mafia.

The Iranian dhow “Barooki” was intercepted by the Coast Guard and state police following intelligence inputs in July last year off the coast of Alappuzha and brought to Vizhinjam.

The crew members were detained by the CG and police which recovered a satellite communication set and a Pakistani identity card from the vessel.

The case was later handed over to the NIA and a team of the agency and scientists of Geological Survey of India had conducted a mission onboard a research vessel ‘RV Samudra Ratnakar’ off Kerala coast to recover objects allegedly dropped in the deep sea from the dhow.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 15:21 IST

Pakistani national languishing in Kerala prison

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Pakistani national, who was set free by an NIA court here, has been languishing in a Kerala prison for several months due to “lack of assistance” from his country’s High Commission in India, a senior Congress MLA said on Wednesday.Thomas, also a former Lok Sabha MP, said he met Pakistani national Abdul Qadir on Tuesday when he visited the Ernakulam district jail at Kakkanad here as a local MLA to inspect the basic facilities provided for jail officers and inmates.He said Qadir (53) was part of 11 crew members of the Iranian vessel ‘Barooki’, which was intercepted off the Kerala coast in July last year.No offences were found against the crew members, comprising 10 Iranian nationals and Qadir, the lone Pakistani citizen, by the NIA Court in March this year.Following the court order, the Foreigner Regional Registration Office initiated procedures for deportation.”I met Qadir who has been lodged in the jail. While his colleagues from Iran left for their country after they received assistance from their embassy in New Delhi, Qadir is still lodged in the jail here due to lack of assistance from the Pakistani High Commission,” Thomas said.He hoped that the Pakistani High Commission would intervene and coordinate with Indian authorities to facilitate deportation of their national languishing in the jail.Thomas said Qadir has provided two addresses to the jail authorities. “According to one document, he belongs to Jeevani Village, Bstivan, Baluchistan.””Another one says Qadir belongs to Jan Mohammed Kaloi Village under Dalel police station limit in Sanghar district of Sindh province,” the MLA said.Thomas said Qadir is the sole bread winner for his family comprising wife Sareena, ailing mother Bechel and sister Sobha. He has no children.The court had released them after NIA, which conducted a probe into the case, had stated that the crew had no links either with any terror outfit or international drug mafia.The Iranian dhow “Barooki” was intercepted by the Coast Guard and state police following intelligence inputs in July last year off the coast of Alappuzha and brought to Vizhinjam.The crew members were detained by the CG and police which recovered a satellite communication set and a Pakistani identity card from the vessel.The case was later handed over to the NIA and a team of the agency and scientists of Geological Survey of India had conducted a mission onboard a research vessel ‘RV Samudra Ratnakar’ off Kerala coast to recover objects allegedly dropped in the deep sea from the dhow.

Samba attack: Infiltration might have happened through tunnel in Chamliyal, says BSF DG Sharma

Briefing the media on the Samba incident on Wednesday, BSF DG KK Sharma said that infiltration could have happened through a small tunnel in Chamliyal.

He added that as of now there was no technology to detect the tunnel and that the government was working towards border fencing.

Security personnel on the vigil following the militant attack on Nagrota Army camp, near Jammu on Wednesday. PTI

Security personnel on the vigil following the militant attack on Nagrota Army camp, near Jammu on Wednesday. PTI

Security forces killed three militants on Tuesday morning when a group of militants tried to sneak in from Pakistan through the International Border near a border outpost in Samba district of Jammu. The three militants were then killed after a “heavy firing exchange” with the Border Security Force (BSF).

The firing took place when the BSF noticed some suspicious movement in the general area of the Border Outpost Chamliyal in Samba, Jammu and Kashmir. The area was immediately cordoned off. When challenged, BSF patrol was fired upon by miscreants holed up in a tube well pumphouse, reported ANI.

Sharma also mentioned that since the 29 September surgical strikes that took place across the Line of Control, more than 15 Pakistani Rangers have been killed and more than 10 militants neutralised, along with many Pakistan border outposts destroyed.

He added that the BSF started an operation known as Operation Rustom, as they “anticipated that problems won’t be confined to LoC and will affect the IB too”.

Apparently, a 45-minute yoga session headed by Baba Ramdev has helped in getting down the “average weight of Jawans”, Sharma mentioned.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 13:28 IST

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