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India Latest News

Indian Army top brass discuss threats from China, Pakistan

New Delhi: Amid border standoff with China, the Indian Army held a commanders’ conference led by General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday to review the operational situation at the border with China and Pakistan. Indian Army Commanders’ Conference is an apex level biannual event, which formulates important policy decisions through collegiate deliberations.

The conference was attended by senior officers of the Army including the vice chief of the army staff, all commanders, principal staff officers (PSOs) of the Army Headquarters and other senior officers.

In the two-day conference, the Army top brass discussed the current position of Chinese People’s Liberation Army positions in disputed areas at Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang at Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.

China has enhanced troops, artillery and armour deployment in three sectors of Line of Actual Control — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) sectors.

A year after the Galwan valley clash in Eastern Ladakh, China is still sitting at the Line of Actual Control and India has geared up for a long grind. Indian and Chinese military delegates had 11 rounds of talks to resolve border disputes at friction points.

During the commanders’ conference meeting, Army top brass discussed how to be better prepared to face Chinese belligerence in Ladakh over the last year as a final resolution seems far off. India has enhanced military infrastructure, increased troop deployment to 50,000 to 60,000, and constructed better roads connectivity for quick mobilisation.

Last month, General Naravane said that the troops are on high alert at Line of Actual Control and are keeping watch on Chinese People’s Liberation Army activities.

The Indian Army chief stated that India wants the status quo ante of April 2020 to be restored. He also stated that India has made it clear to China that de-escalation will only be considered once disengagement is completed to the mutual satisfaction of both the sides.

He had said that Indian troops are on high alert and deployments have not thinned after the disengagement in Pangong River.

General Naravane said that India is currently concentrating on resolving outstanding problems at other friction points like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang at Line of Actual Control.

The army chief also stated that trust levels between two countries are low but pointed out that the trust deficit should not hinder the negotiation process.

At Galwan valley, the clash took place on June 15 last year sparking a war like situation. Later by the end of August last year there was a further build up across and Pangong Lake at 14,000 feet turning it into a battle zone as India occupied key mountain tops at the Kailash Range overlooking the southern bank of the lake.

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e-paper-stories Latest News

India-Pakistan crises may escalate, borders tensions with China still high: US intel

Washington, DC: India-China border tensions “remain high” despite pullbacks of forces and although a war between India and Pakistan is “unlikely”, crises between them will become “more intense, risking an escalatory cycle” the US intelligence community said on Tuesday in its annual assessment of threats around the world.

It added that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India was “more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations, and heightened tensions raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints.”

For the US, the intelligence community saw China as “a near-peer competitor, challenging the US in multiple arenas”; Russia as “pushing back against Washington where it can globally, employing techniques up to and including the use of force”; Iran was described as a “regional menace” with broader malign influence activities; and North Korea as a “disruptive player on the regional and world stages.”

The report — released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — said China was seeking to use “coordinated, whole-of-government tools to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences”, including its claims over disputed territory and assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan. India-China border “tensions remain high, despite some force pullbacks this year”, the report said, adding: “China’s occupation since May 2020 of contested border areas is the most serious escalation in decades and led to the first lethal border clash between the two countries since 1975.”

As of mid-February, “after multiple rounds of talks, both sides were pulling back forces and equipment from some sites along the disputed border”, the report added on the India-China conflict.

The US has followed the border conflict closely and condemned China’s aggression in strong terms. It has also expedited certain military supplies requisitioned by India. (Source: hindustantimes.com)

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International Latest News

Pakistan’s iconic human rights defender I A Rehman passes away

An iconic Pakistani human rights defender and journalist I.A. Rehman has died in the city of Lahore after a brief illness, his family and friends said Monday. Rehman was 90. He spent his life defending human rights, opposing military dictators, fighting for the rule of law and democracy.

Rehman was also a strong voice for the country’s minorities, including Christians and Hindus.

He died of old age, high sugar, and blood pressure level, according to Harris Khalique, secretary-general at the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Rehman had been associated with the commission for a long time.

Rehman worked as an editor for various newspapers before joining the commission. He regularly contributed articles for Pakistani newspapers.

Rehman was born in 1930 in Haryana, India. He was the author of three books an advocate of peace between Pakistan and India.

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India Latest News

INDIA-PAK THAW? Not so fast

by K.S. Tomar

Contrary to expectations, while taking a ‘political decision’ not to lift a ban on the import of sugar and cotton from India despite severe economic crisis, Pakistan government has re-emphasized the notion of ‘Kashmir Phobia’ which reigns supreme in the minds of army generals and politicians in Islamabad, thereby ignoring woes of people and seriousness of economic depression which has hit this nation hard.

Pakistan government took a U-turn in importing cotton and 500,000 metric tons of sugar from India, dragging Kashmir into the imbroglio, which may bear on the UAE efforts to start a peace process between the two neighbors.

Pakistan decided to suspend bilateral trade with India in August 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. However, one factor was also the 200% tariff imposed by India on Pakistani imports earlier while revoking Pakistan’s Most Favored Nation status after the Pulwama terrorist attack, which was abetted and supported by the army of that country.

A cursory look shows that India’s exports to Pakistan dropped nearly 60% to USD 816.62 million and its imports fell by 97% to USD 13.97 million in 2019-20. Over the years, nicknamed as “Little Sparta’’ by US generals like former Defence  Secretary Jim Mattis, UAE is without any military power but immense ambition as peace broker as witnessed during last year’s Abraham accord between Israel and Arab states.  UAE’s latest project is audacious as it pertains to  India and Pakistan’s negotiations, which led to the unexpected Feb 25 announcement by DGMOs of India and Pakistan to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement. As per indications, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s Army Chief, has taken charge of the peace initiative with India, which seems to be meaningful as the army pulls the levers in the elected government there. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is dubbed as ‘puppet’ of the army and Bajwa’s extended term will run to November 2022. Hence he may be deemed to be India’s main interlocutor in the peace process.

It was General Bajwa who took the lead in statements emerging from Islamabad that arch rivals India and Pakistan should  “bury the past” and move towards cooperation, an overture came after the joint announcement on ceasefire. Bajwa cleverly put the burden on India to create a “conducive environment”, bringing in Washington to play an effective role in ending regional hostilities.  He mentioned intentionally that Pakistan’s powerful army has ruled the country for nearly half of its 73-year existence.

UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed’s quick visit to India after the ceasefire confirmed the peace broker’s role being played by  a country friendly with both India and Pakistan.

Analysts believe that as India and Pakistan are starting afresh after a long time, they should inject liveliness and vitality to the previous Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), which include 2005-initiated cross-LoC movement of civilians and cross-LoC trade started in 2008.

As negotiator, UAE is still expecting to facilitate an exchange of ambassadors between New Delhi and Islamabad, which may later lead to restoration of trade links between the two countries.

India and Pakistan’s current faceoff  is the world’s most dangerous as it was triggered two years ago when 40 Indian soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kashmir, claimed by a Pakistan-based terrorist group, and actively supported by Pakistan.

Writer is a senior journalist and national columnist based in Delhi.

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International Latest News

UAE royals brokered secret India-Pakistan peace roadmap

New Delhi: About 24 hours after military chiefs from India and Pakistan surprised the world last month with a rare joint commitment to respect a 2003 ceasefire agreement, the top diplomat of the United Arab Emirates popped over to New Delhi for a quick one-day visit.
The official UAE readout of the February 26 meeting gave few clues of what foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed spoke about with Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, noting they “discussed all regional and international issues of common interest and exchanged views on them.”

Yet behind closed doors, the India-Pakistan ceasefire marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier, according to officials aware of the situation who asked not to be identified. The ceasefire, one said, is only the beginning of a larger roadmap to forge a lasting peace between the neighbors, both of which have nuclear weapons and spar regularly over a decades-old territory dispute.
The next step in the process, the official said, involves both sides reinstating envoys in New Delhi and Islamabad, who were pulled in 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s move to revoke seven decades of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. Then comes the hard part: Talks on resuming trade and a lasting resolution on Kashmir, the subject of three wars since India and Pakistan became independent from Britain in 1947.

Last week Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa asked India “to bury the past and move forward” while saying the military was ready to enter talks to resolve “all our outstanding issues.” The comments came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan after called for a resolution on Kashmir, which he described as “the one issue that holds us back.”

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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 International Latest News

Pakistan-India ties touch new lows in 2020

Intro: With no thaw in the frosty bilateral relations, the year saw periodic war of words over the issue of Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism.

New Delhi/Islamabad: The relations between Pakistan and India plumbed new depths in 2020, a year marred by periodic verbal duels, summoning of diplomats and rhetorics by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is facing mounting pressure from the Opposition to step down in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that has battered the country”s fragile economy.

With no thaw in the frosty bilateral relations, the year 2020 saw periodic war of words over the issue of Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism. In June, India asked Pakistan to reduce the staff in its mission in New Delhi by half and announced a reciprocal trimming of staff strength in its high commission in Islamabad.

India said its decision to downgrade the diplomatic ties was based on instances of involvement of Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” and “dealings with terrorist organisations”.

Over the past 12 months, Pakistan made several futile attempts to raise the Kashmir issue at the international forums and drum up support against India. New Delhi has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

Pakistan, however, adopted escalatory measures by intensifying ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, where the armies of the two sides regularly targeted each other, resulting in casualties.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office tried to keep up pressure on India by regularly summoning its diplomats in Islamabad and issuing press statements about the alleged ceasefire violations by the Indian Army.

Islamabad also accused New Delhi of “politicising” the deliberations at the meetings of the Paris-based Financial Action task Force, a global money-laundering watchdog. The FATF decided to retain Pakistan on its ”grey list” till February 2021 as it failed to fulfill six key obligations, including failure to take action against two of India”s most wanted terrorists – Jamaat ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed and JeM head Masood Azhar.

In 2020, Saeed was sentenced for a collective imprisonment of 21 years on terror financing charges in four cases, a move experts described as an attempt by Pakistan to improve its global standing and to wriggle out of the FATF’s grey list.

During the year, both sides also failed to agree how Kulbhushan Jadhav, on death row in Pakistan, should be represented in his review appeal in the Islamabad High Court against his conviction by a Pakistani military court for alleged spying. India says that Pakistan has failed to respond on core issues pertaining to the case.

The chances for any change for broader cooperation between the two sides are slim in 2021.

On the domestic front, Prime Minister Khan faces a serious challenge as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an alliance of 11 Opposition parties – set a January 31 deadline for him to step down or face a “Long March” to Islamabad.

The PDM held massive rallies in major cities to seek Khan’s ouster and press the powerful military to stop interfering in politics. The Pakistan Army has denied meddling in politics. Khan also denies that the Army helped him win the election in 2018.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly blamed Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed for Pakistan’s current situation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing mounting pressure from the Opposition to step down. (File photos)
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Latest News USA

Anger against foreign aid in omnibus bill

Washington: A $25 million sanctioned for  Pakistan for promoting democracy and gender studies, among other foreign aid items tucked into the 5000-page spending bill that also contains the $900 billion Covid-19 stimulus package, has triggered outrage among Americans, articularly right wing media, as they see Congressional indifference to their suffering from the pandemic, reports Times of India.
Already furious about the modest $600 per individual stimulus check provided for in the stimulus bill, Americans — including some lawmakers and activists — are poring over the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending package passed on Monday and identifying foreign aid they say is unnecessary and wasteful at this time. Ridiculing the notion that Washington is putting “America First,” critics of the package are calling for a bipartisan movement against foreign aid, saying “it’s time other countries printed their own money.”

Some Republican lawmakers are urging President Trump to veto the spending bill, which was passed 92-6 by the Senate on Monday, saying that is is too rushed and adds too much to America’s debt. In fact, some lawmakers divvied up the massive 5000-page bill among staffers to identify what is commonly referred to as “pork barrel spending” — legislators slipping in funding for pet programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers.

Among the domestic items in the bill critics raged against is funding for two new Smithsonian museums. “I’m reading this bill and can I just say I’m so glad that $89,615,280 is going towards maintenance and furniture for the Senate office buildings,” fumed one critic.

But it is the foreign aid component in the spending bill — including for Washington’s closest ally Israel and Sudan besides Pakistan– that is attracting the most outrage.

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India Latest News

Modi, Hasina reiterate commitment to eliminating terrorism

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday acknowledged the threat of terrorism to both the countries and reiterated their commitment to eliminate it.

In a virtual summit between Prime Minister Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Thursday, the two countries held comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Recognizing that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both Modi and Hasina reiterated their “strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” an official statement of the ministry of external affairs said.

Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus, with a view to finalizing the delineation of the boundaries as fixed. It was agreed to carry out necessary work to convert the International Boundary along Kuhsiyara river into a fixed boundary.

The two leaders also agreed to facilitate completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border between both the countries at the earliest beginning from the Tripura (India)- Bangladesh sector. Both sides stressed on full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan.

At the summit, Prime Minister Modi also announced that under his ‘neighborhood first policy’, the government will provide Covid-19 vaccines to Bangladesh as soon as they are produced in India. While noting the ongoing bilateral collaboration over the vaccine-development in the private sector, PM Modi also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production.

Recognizing the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

The two leaders noted that India-Bangladesh bilateral relations are based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership.

Both the leaders paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Muktijoddhas and the Indian soldiers, for their great sacrifices in 1971.

The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangladesh had issued a stamp in honor of Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary celebrations in September this year.

An introductory video on the digital exhibition to commemorate the two great leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu, was also screened on Thursday. The filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of celebrated Indian film director Shyam Benegal will commence in January 2021.

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