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Pak military takes media to IAF-bombed Balakot seminary

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Islamabad: Pakistan military on Wednesday took a group of international media personnel and foreign diplomats on a tour of the seminary and its surrounding areas in Balakot, where India carried out a counter-terror operation on JeM’s biggest training camp 43 days ago.

Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest 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 an IAF pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.

 

According to BBC Urdu, the group was flown from Islamabad in a helicopter to Jabba in Balakot. The visitors trekked for about one-and-a-half hour to reach the madrassa on the top of a mountain surrounded by lush green trees.

The group, while going up, also saw a ditch on a hillside where India jets dropped its payload, according to Pakistan military.

About 150 students, aged 12-13, were present inside the seminary building and were being taught Quran when the group reached inside the madrassa, they said.

The visit by the group lasted for about 20 minutes and the participants were allowed to take pictures and even some of them spoke to the teachers present there.

Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor held formal and informal chat with the reporters.

“This is an old madrassa and has always been like this,” he said, indicating that Indian claim of hitting it was not true.

This was the first formal visit of foreign media and diplomats to the place about which India claimed that its strike killed scores of militants.

The purpose of organising the trip was apparently to fortify Pakistan’s claim that Indian failed to destroy any structure or kill anyone during the ariel attack of February 26 which brought the two nations to the verge of a war, he said. —


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Trump hints at some announcement at ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston

Press Trust of India

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US President Donald Trump has hinted that there “could be” some announcement by him at the mega “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston on Sunday, where he would join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in addressing the 50,000-strong Indian diaspora.

The White House on Monday announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally on September 22 as a “special gesture” by the US President to underscore the special bond between the two countries.It is for the first time that Trump and Modi would share a stage together. The event is the third meeting between the two leaders in three months, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June and the G-7 summit in France last month.

“Could be. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One on his way back from California to Washington DC. He did not elaborate.He was responding to a question if there would be any announcement when he goes to Houston for the rally with the Indian leader.

 

According to media reports, officials of the two countries are trying to finalise a trade deal before Modi and Trump meet in Houston.

Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with Trump complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were “no longer acceptable”.

The US in June terminated India’s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration revoked its preferential trade privileges.

Reacting to a record number of 50,000 Indian-Americans registering for the event, Trump said the crowd for the event had now become bigger after it was announced that he would be going there.

“He (Modi) has got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced–he asked, would I go, and I will go,” Trump said.

After the Houston event, Trump would travel to Ohio for an event with the visiting Australian Prime Minister.

“Then we’re stopping in Ohio on the way back and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week,” the US President said.

Trump also said that he had a great relationship with both India and Pakistan.

Modi will be visiting the US from September 21-27 for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It is his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in May.

The two leaders are again scheduled to meet later in the week in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.

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Kashmir may not be a major topic during PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit next month: China

Press Trust of India

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China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

A senior Chinese official said it should be left to Modi and Xi on the issues they would like to discuss.

“As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.

“For this kind of informal summit, I think it is better to leave the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” she said.

Hua said Kashmir may not be a major topic of discuss between the two leaders. “I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks, that is my understanding,” she said.

“But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like,” Hua said, responding to a question.

China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, already tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC, in a snub to both Beijing and Islamabad, ended without any outcome or statement.

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European Parliament set to discuss Kashmir

Agencies

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Brussels, Sep 17: The European Parliament is expected to hold discussions on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday, the media reported.

After India scrapped its Constitution”s Articles 370 and 35A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divided the state into two union territories, Islamabad has been crying foul over New Delhi”s move and continuously trying to highlight the issue on a global level.

However, Pakistan has failed to get the international community to censure India.

The report said that in early September, the European Parliament “had debated an urgent resolution for the horrible conditions, including human rights violations, in Indian-occupied Kashmir”.

The European Union”s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, delivered a detailed policy statement on the Kashmir situation on September 17, it said. (IANS)

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