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Indo-Pak tensions dominates first strategic dialogue between China, Pak

Press Trust of India

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Beijing, Mar 19: The Indo-Pak tensions following the Pulwama attack became the focal point of the first strategic dialogue between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China as Beijing urged the global community to take a “fair perspective” of Islamabad’s commitment to fight terrorism.

Pakistan is facing intense international pressure to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

The meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi came days after Beijing foiled for the fourth time the efforts to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

 

Heaping praise on Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts, Wang said, “China commends Pakistan’s recent strong counter terrorism measures taken at home. We fully support Pakistan in carrying out its counter terrorism campaign.”

“We also discussed the situation emerging out of the Pulwama incident,” Qureshi said during a joint press conference where both sides took two selective questions.
References to the involvement of JeM in the Pulwama attack as well as China blocking the US, UK and France proposal to list Azhar as global terrorist by the UNSC were conspicuously absent in their press interaction.

“As Wang was suggesting both sides have to show restraint. I think the world has noted that Pakistan did exercise restraint and responsibility,” Qureshi said.
He also said Pakistan is always ready for an engagement to “resolve all our outstanding issues.”
“We did discuss the impact this (Pulwama) incident had on Pakistan-India relations and the impact this could have risen to different level of escalation and impact it could have had on the peaceand stability of the region,” he said.

“I briefed Wang about steps Pakistan had taken to safeguard our territorial integrity and the steps we had taken to de-escalate (tensions with India). Pakistan appreciates the role China had played once again in standing by Pakistan in these difficult times,” he said.

Qureshi also raked up the Kashmir issue at the press conference saying that he also briefed Wang “on the rapidly deteriorating situation” in Kashmir.
He said the reaction at times creates tension in the region and it must be avoided.

In his comments, Wang said China and Pakistan have agreed to step up counter terrorism cooperation.
“We call on the international community to adopt a fair perspective of the commitments made by Pakistan to combat terrorism over the years. We think a peaceful and stable South Asia is in the common interest of the regional countries and meets the expectations of the world and China,” he said.

“China commends efforts made by Pakistan to ease the situation. We call on both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint and peacefully resolve their differences through dialogue. The purpose UN charter and norms of the international law must be observed in earnest,” he said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after the Pulwama attack.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India later.
China early this month rushed its Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou to Pakistan to discuss the Indo-Pak tensions, as it called for the creation of an “enabling atmosphere” for its close ally Pakistan to cooperate with “other parties”


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Kashmir

Traders protest in Srinagar against suspension of cross-LoC trade

Firdous Hassan

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Photo: Umar Ganie

Srinagar Apr 22: Traders affected by the suspension of cross-LoC trade by the Centre held a protest march in Srinagar on Monday.

Scores of traders engaged in cross-LoC trade on the Uri-Muzaffarabad route demanded revocation of the suspension order, and sought a fool-proof mechanism for smooth operations.

The traders claimed that suspension of the trade had cost them losses over crores of rupees as their goods were either in transit or lying in godowns.

 

President, LoC traders Association Tanveer Ahmad Wani claimed each trader had a huge liability in the form of loans from banks and pending stocks at home.

He demanded the resuming of the trade in order to avoid their losses ahead. “The wholesale dealers have started asking for payments as they realized that the trade has been closed indefinitely. We are in a very difficult situation as our entire tradable items, which mostly includes fruits have not arrived at trade facilitation center in Uri, which we could sell to earn livelihood,” he said.

Wani informed a delegation of the LoC traders met Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan Monday adding they are planning to visit MHA office in New Delhi in coming week with their grievances.

“We have no choice other than to commit suicide. It is not only concerning traders but transporters and labourers who have been associated with this trade for the last 10 years,” he said.

Another trader Tanveer Ahmad Mir, who runs business in the name of Kako importers and exporters, said the LoC trade suspension has involved his rupees four crores alone.

 “The transaction, which is based on barter system has not happened yet. I am worried about the pending payment for the month to my dealers. Presently stock of stocks of embroidery suits and other items are lying in my store,” he said.

Mir said the government should have intimidated them ahead of announcing this decision to avoid their losses.

“The work regarding installation of full body scanner is going on. Other facilities have also been set up to ensure transparency. The government should continue the trade besides installing advanced mechanism ahead,” he said.

Mohammad Haneef, a 28 years old postgraduate who has been working as a labourer for the last eight years at Trade Facilitation Centre is equally worried with the suspension of the trade.

He said many like him joined as labourers after finding no employment opportunities in the government sector despite an academic qualifications.

“This was the only means to earn bread for our families, which too has been snatched now. There are no good avenues of employment in Uri and we fear our families will have to starve ahead,” he said.

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Kashmir

Time to review Article 370, 35A in J&K: Rajnath Singh

Press Trust of India

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Jaipur Apr 22: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said India’s stand against militancy has been weakened on several occasions by the Congress party.

Addressing a press conference here, Singh said, “They (Congress) have given a new theory of Hindu militancy. There is no religion or caste of militancy. Their new theory weakened India’s stand against militancy.”

He said repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was another such case which undermined India’s stand.

 

“In 2004, India had an agreement with Pakistan in which its former army chief had assured that the country will not provide shelter and allow militancy to flourish on its soil, but Congress tried weakening India’s stand, saying Pakistan was also a victim of militancy,” he said.

The home minister said the opposition was doing politics over issues which should not be politicised.

Instead of praising the defence forces after the airstrike in Balakot of Pakistan, the opposition parties questioned it with queries on number of militants killed, he said.

“When such types of questions are asked, it weakens India’s stand against militancy,” he said.

Speaking on the Congress’ election manifesto promising to scrap the sedition law, Singh said the law should be further strengthened but it should not be misused.

Talking about Articles 370 and 35A for Jammu and Kashmir, he said it was a temporary arrangement and it was time to review it.

“How much the entitlement benefitted Jammu and Kashmir? When a few people are raising questions there should be two prime ministers in the country then what is the significance of Article 370 and 35A,” Singh asked.

He exuded confidence that the first two phases of Lok Sabha elections reflected a wave in favour of the BJP, and there was no doubt the party will get a clear majority and possibly the NDA will achieve 3/4th majority.

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Kashmir

Rawalpora youth’s mysterious death: Family protests for justice

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Apr 22: Protests were Monday held in Rawalpora area here after a local youth’s body was found in mysterious circumstances on Sunday afternoon.

The deceased was identified as Umar Ahmad Bhat, a 2nd year student, whose body was found on a road at Astanpora area of the locality.

The youth’s family and the locals in the area protested in the area demanding a thorough probe into his death and stern punishment for his killers.

 

Bhat, as per his family, was a singer who had left his home on Sunday at 9 am as he was to attend some function at Tagore hall here.

“After leaving home, he received a call from his friend, who told him that he has some work with him,” said Umar’s maternal uncle, Shahid Ahmad.

“The call was received exactly at 10:02 am as per the call details available on his phone. God better knows what happened thereafter. There are rumours that he died at around 10:30 am but I came to know at 11:30 am,” Shahid added.

He said that “Umar was initially taken to Star hospital, Sanat Nagar, from where he was referred to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital.”

“As per the reports we have received, he was brought to Star Hospital by a passerby in his vehicle. His friend, who called him, was accompanying him to the Sanat Nagar hospital. From there, he even boarded ambulance to accompany Omar to SMHS hospital but near Amar Singh college, he jumped from the ambulance. It needs to be ascertained why,” Shahid said.

Bhat was the only support for her widow mother as his father has died some 18 years ago.

The neighbours, whom this reporter talked to, said that Umar and his sister were raised by their mother facing great adversities.

“There is nobody to look after his mother now. She has been earning her livelihood from spinning, it has been fetching her meagre amount,” said Bashir Ahmad a local.

Station House Officer (SHO), Shergari, Aftab Ahmad, said that inquest proceedings have been started under section 174 of CrPc.

“We were informed that a dead body was spotted near Amar Singh College. We have taken up the investigation, collected the CCTV footage. Once it is proved that he was murdered, the inquest proceedings would be converted to FIR,” Ahmad said.

“So far, no arrests have been made. Within 2- 3 days, things would be clear,” he added.

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