Latest News USA

Pakistan repatriates Indian techie who crossed LoC

New Delhi: A Hyderabad-based software engineer, who was arrested by Pakistan’s Bahawalpur police two years ago for illegally entering their country, was repatriated through the Attari-Wagah border on May 31.

The techie, Vaindam Prashanth (31), along with Durmi Lal, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, was arrested in the Cholistan desert area in Bahawalpur, Punjab province on November 14, 2019. The Bahawalpur police registered an FIR against them under Pakistan (Control of Entry) Act and since then he was in their custody.

They had crossed the border without any identification papers and proper documents, such as a valid visa and passport, the authorities.

At that time the Pakistani authorities suspected that he was a ‘spy’, but later they believed his version of the story that he was trying to cross the Pakistani border to reach Switzerland to meet his online girlfriend. Prashanth surfaced in Pakistan after having gone missing for two years.

Two years ago when he left for office and did not return home, his father Babu Rao lodged a complaint with the Madhapur police of Cyberabad and a man missing case was registered on April 11.

Later when his whereabouts were known, after a video of Prashanth from Pakistan went viral on the internet, his father approached Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar, who wrote to the State government and Ministry of External Affairs seeking his extradition from Pakistan.

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India Latest News

It is time for India-Pak peace with Border Peace Forum

By Irfan Pullani and Amile Gulzar

After prolonged discussions. the Director General Military Operations of India and Pakistan made a joint statement issued from Delhi and Islamabad on 24th February, 2021, that both sides agreed to “a strict observance of all agreements, understandings, and cease firing along the LOC ( Line of Control) and all other sectors, effective from midnight 24/25 February”. 

The statement said that existing mechanisms of hotlines and flag meetings would be used to resolve any misunderstanding. 

The statement further said: “In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders the two DGsMO (India and Pakistan) have recently agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence like cross border firing”.

By this joint statement, the two countries agreed to honor the 2003 Vajpayee-Musharraf agreement, which had unfortunately been not fully observed consequent to a series of unfortunate events that followed, including the tragic 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the Pulwama attack, and the Balakot strike. 

In a speech, delivered recently by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, displayed great maturity that “It is time for India and Pakistan to bury the past and move forward”.

There are also reports of back-channel dialogue between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Moeed W. Yusuf, who serves as National Security Advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister. All this may lead to a breakthrough, though it is important to decode the realities across both the sides of the border. 

Ever since the Partition and an unsettled Kashmir, India and Pakistan’s relations can be described as those harbouring hostility.

However, it was within this civilization, on the banks of the Indus and the Ganges, that both Hindus and Muslims lived in amicable co-existence for centuries. Both countries have huge natural resources and cheap skilled labor, which if pooled together could make this region into a paradise on earth, with our people enjoying a high standard of living. 

The 2019 Covid pandemic disrupted the entire world order. We live in a time where collaborations and mutual efforts are desperately needed; not only for regional stability but also for the world to heal. It is high time for both countries to encourage dialogue between citizens to foster an environment of peace. 

It is the trust between India and Pakistan that is needed to be restored first.

Our ancestors lived together and broke bread together. We share the same blood, as well as a common rich heritage and culture for centuries. We also have the common human principles that we can share with the world that connects our nations.

The UN has called 2021 as the International Year for Peace and Trust. The developments such as India allowing Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to use the Indian airspace, speculations of UAE brokering peace deals, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishing greetings to his neighboring country on Pakistan Day, let us utilize all this to walk towards the greatest peace movement the world can ever see. 

Some of us in both countries have jointly set up an organisation called the Border Peace Forum to undertake non-profit activities involving research in policy and advocacy with a focus on peaceful resolution of conflicts and crises across the borders. We shall promote non-violent dialogues with actors across the borders and to foster mutual collaborations between the countries in the subcontinent to counter common challenges like poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, and contemporary economic instabilities. 

We seek to draw India and Pakistan closer together through the allowance of free travel without visa restrictions and free trade without import/export taxes. We seek to make all educational institutions in the subcontinent open to admission to both Indians and Pakistanis to increase mutual understanding in our region. 

We wish to see work permits granted to nationals of each other so that Indians and Pakistanis can earn a living throughout the entire subcontinent without any restrictions to boost our region’s economy. These things will bridge India and Pakistan together for a more peaceful South Asia and the world.

(Irfan Pullani is an independent peace builder and law student in Delhi University and Amile Gulzar is an advocate, Lahore High Court)

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Latest News USA

US welcomes Ind-Pak agreement reaffirming ceasefire along LoC

The US has welcomed the agreement between India and Pakistan reaffirming their commitment to a ceasefire along the Line of Control, President Joe Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Thursday.

“This is a positive step towards greater peace and stability in South Asia, which is in our shared interest and we encourage both the countries to keep building upon this progress,” Psaki said during her daily briefing in Washington.

She said, “The US welcomes the joint statement between India and Pakistan that the two countries have agreed to maintain strict observance of ceasefire along the Line of Control starting February 25.”

Asked whether Pakistan was doing enough to combat terrorism, Psaki did not give a direct reply.

She said, “We remain closely engaged with a range of leaders and officials in the region, including those in Pakistan. But in terms of an assessment of that, I would point you to the state department or the intelligence department.”

The two neighbors’ director generals of military operations (DGMO) announced the agreement reaffirming the ceasefire on Thursday.

Their joint statement said that after a “free, frank and cordial” assessment of the situation along the border, they agreed “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders. The two DGMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence.”

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India Latest News R-Day Special

Low-key Beating Retreat at Attari border

Amritsar: India’s Republic Day ceremonies on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah international border near Amritsar in Punjab were held in the absence of spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The flag-hoisting, ceremonial drill and Beating Retreat on the country’s 72nd Republic Day was a low-key affair at the Joint Check Post, around 30 km from the holy city.

Also missing was the traditional bonhomie between border forces of both India and Pakistan — the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers — who in normal times would share sweets and exchange greetings.

In March 2020, the BSF had stopped the entry of visitors from across India who otherwise thronged the JCP to witness the famous Beating Retreat ceremony — a daily charged-up drill performed by the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers in the evening hours — in view of the spread of the pandemic.

Only the joint parade was held on Independence Day last year.

However, flag-hoisting and lowering of flags daily by both the forces is being held as usual.

At sunset, border guards on both sides lower their national flags. Normally the ceremony is a major tourist attraction on both sides of the borders.

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India Latest News

India rejects Pakistan’s claims about targeting UN vehicle

New Delhi: India rejected Pakistan’s allegations about a UN vehicle being deliberately targeted by Indian troops on the Line of Control (LoC) and said such fabricated allegations were part of Islamabad’s efforts to cover up its failure to protect UN personnel.

Indian officials had rejected claims by the Pakistani military’s media arm and Foreign Office that a vehicle carrying two officers of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was “specifically targeted” by Indian troops from across the LoC.

Pakistani military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar had tweeted photos of the UN vehicle with apparent damage to its windows and chassis, and contended the SUV was the target of “unprovoked fire” in Chirikot sector of the LoC.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “Allegations by Pakistan regarding Indian forces deliberately targeting a UN vehicle on December 18, 2020 have been investigated in detail and found to be factually incorrect and false.

“Our forward troops were aware of the visit of UN military observers in the area and did not conduct any firing as alleged.”

Srivastava said that instead of repeating “baseless and fabricated allegations against India to cover up its own failure in ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel in territory under its control, Pakistan should responsibly investigate its lapses”.

He added that India has conveyed its findings and views on “these misrepresentations” to the Pakistani side.

Shortly before India made clear its position, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said it had taken up the incident with the UN and asked it to “initiate a transparent investigation” into the matter. (Hindustan Times)

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International Latest News

Pak Army Chief issues open warning to India

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has sent out an open warning to India, claiming that his country would win the “fifth generation or hybrid war”.

Addressing a ceremony marking Defence Day and Martyrs’ Day at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, Bajwa said Pakistan is facing multiple challenges aimed at discrediting the country and its armed forces.

“We are facing the challenge that has been imposed on us in the form of the fifth generation or hybrid war. Its purpose is to discredit the country and its armed forces and spread chaos”, he said.

“We are well aware of this danger. We will surely succeed in winning this war with the cooperation of the nation.”

Giving out an open and clear warning without naming India, Bajwa said that Pakistan will give a befitting response to every aggression if a war is imposed.

“I want to send a message to my nation and the world that Pakistan is a peace-loving country. But if war is imposed on us, we will befittingly response to every aggression.

“We are always ready to defeat nefarious intentions of the enemy,” he said.

He also reminded Pakistan’s response to the 2019 Balakot airstrikes by India, insisting that there should be no doubt on the country’s readiness to respond.

“Pakistan had again demonstrated this in response to the failed airstrikes at Balakot and the enemy should have no doubt about it.

“We want peace in the whole world and especially in our region. Pakistan’s key role in peace efforts in Afghanistan is a testament to that, but our neighbor India has, as always, taken an irresponsible stance,” Bajwa added.

Mentioning the longstanding dispute of Kashmir between the two countries, the COAS said: “India, by illegally abrogating the special status of illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir had once again threatened peace in the region.

Bajwa reiterated that time has tested the capability of Pakistan many times, highlighting that the country has come out successful every time.

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India Latest News

Center withdraws 12,000 paramilitary personnel from J&K

New Delhi/Srinagar: A year after additional security personnel were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, the Central government on Wednesday withdrew around 12,000 troopers of various paramilitary forces, indicating a significant improvement in the law and order situation of the Union Territory.

Ahead of the nullification of the Constitution’s Articles 370 and 35A on August 5 last year, the government had made additional deployments of paramilitary forces to Jammu and Kashmir, anticipating Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks and separatist violence. The intelligence inputs about possible terror attacks had followed after the Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bombing in February in Pulwama, in which 40 paramilitary personnel were killed.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs said that the government had reviewed the deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) which includes the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in Jammu & Kashmir.

After the review, the government decided to withdraw 100 companies – 40 companies of the CRPF and 20 companies each of the BSF, the SSB and the CISF with immediate effect. All the companies have been asked to revert to their respective locations.

A copy of the order was sent to the Union Territory government, headed by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and all the CAPFs based in J&K.

The law and order related incidents in Kashmir Valley have dropped dramatically in the last one year. As per the data, civilian casualties due to stone-pelting incidents and the subsequent clashes with security forces, came down by 87.5 per cent in 2019 (January to July) when compared to the corresponding period in 2018. The killings in stone-pelting incidents in the non-winter nine month period last year came down by 62 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2018.

As per the data, civilian casualties due to stone-pelting incidents and the subsequent clashes with security forces in 2019, were 94 per cent less than the number in 2016. Similarly, the injured due to stone-pelting incidents were down by 70 per cent in 2019 compared to 2016.

The Kashmir Valley, in 2016, had witnessed massive Pakistan-sponsored separatist violence after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter by security forces.

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India Latest News

Resolute India celebrates 74th I-Day as PM Modi gives call for self-reliance

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing pandemic and its economic impact, India is resolute and confident of coming out better and stronger on the other side. This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted the nation to know as he greeted his countrymen on the 74th Independence Day on Saturday morning.

While keeping  to social distancing guidelines, still over 4,000 select people including his cabinet members, diplomats and mediapersons, listened to his over two hour long speech from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. He gave a clarion call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, saying it is need of the hour and that India will realize this dream.

Asserting that protecting nation’s sovereignty is supreme, Modi said, “What India can do, the world has seen it in Ladakh,” and that “From LoC to LAC, India’s army has given befitting reply.”

It was PM Modi’s 7th consecutive I-Day speech from the Red Fort and 2nd after he won a second term for his government last year.

Modi also said India has always believed in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the entire world is one family) and that while we focus on economic growth and development, humanity just retain a central role in this process and our journey.

Talking about the people who have recovered from Corona, PM said, “Over 1,500 “coronavirus winners” who recovered from the disease, are present at the function as a symbol of the citizens’ determination to fight the pandemic and emerge winners.

Talking about inclusive development, he said we need balanced development where everyone gets the benefits.

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India Latest News

India asks Pak to reduce its High Commission staff by 50%

New Delhi/Islamabad: In a strong diplomatic offensive, the government has decided to reduce the staff of Pakistan’s High Commission in India by 50 per cent, in view of their espionage activities and links with terror groups.

India will reciprocally reduce its own presence in Islamabad to the same proportion. The decision is to be implemented in seven days.

The move comes after two Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad were abducted on gunpoint and tortured by Pakistani security agencies. A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said that the government summoned the Charge d’ Affaires (CDA) of Pakistan and informed him about its decision related to the Pakistan High Commission.

India has repeatedly expressed concern about Pakistan High Commission officials indulging in espionage activities and maintaining dealings with terror outfits. The government recalled the recent case where two Pakistani visa officials were caught red-handed and expelled for spying last month.

The statement said that while the Pakistani officials indulged in actions that were not in conformity with their privileged status in the High Commission, Pakistan has in parallel engaged in a sustained campaign to intimidate the officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from carrying out their legitimate diplomatic functions.

The government pointed out the recent case of the two Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad, who were kidnapped and subjected to torture.

“Their severe ill treatment underlines the extent to which Pakistan has gone in that direction,” the government told the Pakistani CDA.

The officials returned to India on Monday and have now provided “graphic details of the barbaric treatment that they experienced at the hands of Pakistani agencies,” the statement said.

The behavior of Pakistan and its officials is not in conformity with the Vienna Convention and the bilateral agreements on the treatment of diplomatic and consular officials, the government said.

“On the contrary, it is an intrinsic element of a larger policy of supporting cross-border violence and terrorism,” it said.

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