New York, Sep 28: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has told a meeting of the SAARC foreign ministers that the scourge of “terrorism” remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in the South Asian region and it is necessary to eliminate the ecosystem of its support.
Addressing a meeting, also attended by her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Swaraj emphasised that regional cooperation can only be successful if it meets the expectations of the people.
The meeting, chaired by Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, was held on the margins of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly and attended by foreign ministers of the SAARC bloc – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity of our people. The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise,” Swaraj said in her statement at the Informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers.
She said “terrorism” remained the single largest threat to peace and stability in the region and to the world.
“It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support,” she said.
Swaraj stressed that meetings, including high-level ones, can only be effective if expressions of resolve are translated into concrete action on the ground.
“The world is moving ahead to become more integrated and connected where movement of goods and people is becoming easier with each passing day. SAARC needs to deliver on its commitments or risk being left behind,” she said.
Swaraj underscored that in order to realise the region’s immense potential for trade, it was imperative that further trade liberalisation under South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and operationalisation of SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS) are done at the earliest.
Cooperation in the energy sector is also critical for meeting the high energy needs, she added.
Swaraj noted that the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation that the group’s leaders signed at the 18th SAARC Summit had not yet entered into force due to non-ratification by some Member States.
With South Asia being one of the fastest growing regions of the world, Swaraj said its true potential can be realised only if all countries contribute constructively towards delivering on the commitments SAARC has made to the people of the region.
Swaraj voiced India’s commitment to regional cooperation, saying it attaches highest priority to the development and prosperity of the region, under the government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
Improving connectivity in all forms also remains vital for progress of the region and for increasing people-to-people contacts, Swaraj said, adding that India is working on extending its National Knowledge Network to participating SAARC countries.
“Development of seamless physical connectivity is key for achieving regional growth, employment and prosperity,” she said.
Swaraj said India had collectively decided to finalise a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement, which, however, still remains pending.
She emphasised that India was willing to share the fruits of its economic, scientific and technological progress with the South Asian community and the country has taken various initiatives including asymmetrical responsibilities for enhancing regional cooperation under SAARC.
Swaraj cited the example of the South Asia Satellite, a first-of-its-kind initiative, that was launched in May 2017 and will positively impact lives of the people even in remote areas of the region through its wide ranging applications in health, education, disaster response, weather forecasting and communications.
Further, the SAARC Disaster Management Centre in Gandhinagar is now in its second year of operation. A wide-ranging calendar of activities in area of disaster risk reduction and response prepared by the Centre is being implemented with the active participation of all Member States, she said.
Swaraj also assured speedy completion of the new campus of the South Asian University.
SAARC summits are usually held biennially. The member-state hosting the summit assumes the Chair of the association. The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Militants hurl grenade at Shopian police station
Shopian, May 20: Suspected militants Monday evening lobbed a grenade outside police station Shopian.
An official said that the grenade was thrown towards the police station Shopian which however exploded away from it.
The official said there were no injuries to any one and area has been cordoned off to nab the attackers.
“Militants hurled a grenade towards Police Station Shopian from a distance which exploded far outside the PS boundary. No loss of life or property. No firing or attack. Investigation on,” Shopian police tweeted on its official handle.
To it SP Shopian, Sandeep Choudhary reacted: “Grenade hurled at Police Station Shopian from a distance by militants. The grenade exploded far outside the PS boundary. This is not an attack on Police Station. Inclination for sensationalism may please be avoided for places like this slowly healing district.”
Life comes to standstill for the cross-LoC trade workers
Srinagar, May 19: Tragedy befell 50-year-old labourer, Noor-ul-Amin three years ago when he was grievously injured while unloading the goods from the cross-LoC truck at the Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre in Uri.
Unable to work, Amin has been bed-ridden at his home nursing the injury. With no money left to bear the medical expenses, it was his fellow Cross-LoC trade workers who joined in to help Amin in meeting the medical expenses.
Enter the government decision to suspend the Cross LoC trade, the workers, who were not only eking out their living but also helping workers like Amin, were left jobless. With no money coming, Amin accompanied by his family members can be seen in mosques seeking alms from the people.
“For the last one month we couldn’t pool money for Khan. He is now seeking donations from the people at mosques in order to meet his daily expenses of medicines. These labourers would meet expenses of five ill workers who earlier were injured at the facilitation centre”, said Mohammad Yusuf, a labourer who used to work at Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre.
Last month, Centre suspended cross LoC trade from both routes –Salamabad (Uri) and Chakan-da-Bagh (Poonch)– citing its ‘misuse’ by Pakistan.
Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered as mother of all confidence building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond barter system. Lack of proper banking and communication facilities added to the woes of the traders.
More than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both routes. Some of items to be traded include Rice, Carpets, Precious Stones Wall Hangings, Gabbas Shawls and Stoles, Namdas, Peshwari Leather Chappals, Medicinal Herbs Embroidered Items, Honey, dry and fresh fruits etc.
Official figures reveal that goods worth 1274.43 crore traded out and Rs 1093.39 crore were traded in from 2014-15 to 2016-17 from Uri-Salamabad cross LoC route. Similarly goods worth Rs 402.34 crore were traded out and Rs 662.78 were traded in from Chakan da Bagh crossing in Poonch from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
Haneef, a 28 year old postgraduate working as a labourer for the last eight years is equally worried with the suspension of the trade. Like him, many educated youth were working as labourers to earn their livilhood.
“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.
Data reveal that there are at least 100 labourer whose livelihood have got impacted due to the closure of cross LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir. “The trade was a source of hope to earn livelihood for many families. We have no other option than to look for other sources, which is becoming harder now” Haneef said.
Scores of labourers have now moved to the other districts for work as hopes fade for the early resumption of cross LoC trade. “Earlier our work station was near to our homes. But now we have to travel to other towns in search of work. Majority of the labourers here have moved to Srinagar, Baramulla or either in Uri town. Our livelihood has been affected as all of us have been rendered jobless,” said Shabir Ahmad another labourer
Bhaderwah man’s killing: Magisterial probe ordered, curfew continues for 4th day
DODA, MAY 19: Authorities Sunday ordered a time-bound magisterial probe into the killing of a man in firing and subsequent violence here, which prompted imposition of curfew in the communally-sensitive town.
The curfew continued to remain in force without any relaxation for the fourth day on Sunday even as a total of seven persons involved in incidents of stone-pelting were arrested. The Army, which was called out following the violence, was withdrawn, officials said.
The Doda district administration had earlier refuted reports that “cow vigilantism” was the reason behind the killing of Nayeem Shah and said some people were trying to give a communal colour to the incident to flare up the situation.
“A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the killing of Shah and subsequent stone-pelting episode. Sub-divisional Magistrate, Thathri, Mohammad Anwar Banday will conduct the inquiry and was asked to submit his report within seven days,” Deputy Commissioner, Doda, Sagar Doifode said.
He said the officer is supposed to give a detailed report on the killing of Shah, reasons thereof and probable causes, besides the reason for stone-throwing and the perpetrators because the administration is of the idea that the stone throwing was well collaborated and needs a thorough investigation.
Doifode said the situation in the curfew-bound areas is well under control and there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere.
“We are monitoring the situation and considering to relax curfew in a phased manner for a few hours later in the day,” he said, adding that the mobile internet services, however, will remain suspended in the town till further orders though the services have been restored in the rest of the district.
The official said the Army was withdrawn from the curfew-bound areas of the town, but the CRPF and police remained deployed in strength especially in the sensitive localities to maintain law and order.
On Saturday, police constituted a five-member special investigation team (SIT) headed by Superintendent of Police, Bhaderwah, Raj Singh Gouria to probe the killing of Shah at village Kachi Nalthi on Thursday.
The SIT visited the site of the incident and also seized a 12-bore gun which is believed to have been used in the killing and sent it to FSL Jammu for examination.
Eight persons have been arrested in connection with the killing so far and are being questioned, Gouria said, adding that seven more persons were arrested for their involvement in violent protests.
The relatives of the deceased alleged that he was victim of cow vigilantism and was targeted as he was involved in cattle trade.
However, the residents of Kachi Nalthi village told police that two to three persons were found moving under suspicious circumstances in the area which led to the firing.