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Trump writes to Imran, seeks help to bring Taliban into talks

Agencies

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Islamabad, Dec 3: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday received a letter from US President Donald Trump seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”, said the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

“President Trump has also acknowledged that the war had cost both USA and Pakistan,” the statement added.

“He has emphasised that Pakistan and USA should explore opportunities to work together and renew partnership.”

The ministry “welcomed” the US decision for negotiations, noting that “Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan”.

“Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith,” the statement reads. “Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility.”

Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also confirmed Trump’s letter to Reuters, saying: “President Trump has written a letter. He has asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks.”

Trump’s letter was first talked about by Imran in a meeting with journalists earlier in the day.

In the letter, the PM said, Trump has asked Pakistan to play its role in the peace talks which seek to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the first direct communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan assumed power in August.

Trump has been consistent in his criticism of Pakistan since he launched his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy despite multiple attempts made by the two governments to fix the problems in their ties.

Last month, a row that began with Trump’s interview to Fox News led to a series of tweets by both the US head of state and Pakistan PM Khan.

President Trump, while talking about the reasons for ending the over a billion dollar annual aid for Pakistan at the beginning of the year, said the country didn’t do “a damn thing for us”.

Khan had led the sharp reaction by political leaders to Trump’s tirade against Pakistan by hinting at review of foreign policy options and asking the US president to introspect on the real reasons for America’s failure in Afghanistan.


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Modi invincible notion dispelled: Omar

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Dec 13: The recent assembly poll results have demonstrated that the BJP is not invincible as there is “anger” among people over several of the Centre’s policies, including on agriculture, rising fuel prices and demonetisation, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said Thursday.

Abdullah said the results made it clear that there is anger and a feeling of alienation among the people and the Centre has been unwilling to accept this reality. He also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he should listen more and talk less.

“Modi ji talks a great deal, which is not wrong, but people who talk more, listen less.

“The prime minister does not listen as much as he should. Otherwise, the mass anger due to agrarian distress, demonetisation or rising fuel prices among others will not have led to humiliation for the BJP in the assembly polls,” Abdullah said at an event here.

The BJP lost the assembly elections in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“The general notion that the PM is a powerful speaker and party president Amit Shah is a master strategist and both have a magic wand and will always lead the BJP to victory, has been dispelled by the poll results. We know now that (Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi can lead the Congress to victory,” he said.

“We now know that it is not impossible to beat the BJP. Everything they were known for, from Shah’s great management, money power and Modi’s capability to galvanise masses has come a cropper,” he said at a national conclave organised by ‘Lokmat’.

The National Conference leader said the political mood in the country had already changed and it will not be easy for the BJP to arrest it very soon and take it into its command.

“The winds of change have begun, the atmosphere has altered. And it is not in the BJP’s favour anymore,” he said.

Abdullah said Gandhi should get the credit for his party’s success as he is the man who faced the flak for the Congress’ poor performance in the past elections.

He said the regional parties will play a key role in the upcoming general election, highlighting the results of Telangana and Mizoram.

He said his party decided to support the rival PDP recently to “save the state” of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We are all worried about the situation in the state. We are also concerned that the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under articles 370 and 35A needs to be defended in the Supreme Court. The next hearing is in January and we wanted an assurance from Government of India that it will be defended in a right manner, but haven’t got it so far,” he said.

Abdullah, however, lauded Modi for reaching out to Pakistan initially to normalise ties between the two countries.

“The prime minister made sincere efforts initially. He invited former (Pakistani) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony at a time when nobody would have imagined and then paid a surprise visit to Lahore, but Pakistan hasn’t acted on our concerns…The perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack have not been brought to book and are roaming freely in Pakistan,” he said.

“Imran Khan has to walk the talk and dispel the apprehension here in our country that he has been installed by the Army and is Army’s man,” he said.

Abdullah said Pakistan would have to do something to win India’s confidence so that New Delhi can forget the past experiences and trust Islamabad again

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Rains, snow in valley parts

Stranded vehicles on highway cleared; weather to remain dry for over a week: MeT

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Srinagar, Dec 13: Light rain and snow occurred in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday as the weather office has forecast an improvement in weather.

Dir MeT, Sonum Lotus, as per reports, said that there is no forecast of rain or snow in the next ten days.

“We are predicting a dry spell from Thursday evening till next one week to ten days. There can be light snowfall in higher reaches as well but overall the weather in these days would remain almost dry,” he added.

He further informed that the higher reaches in Southern Kashmir including Anantnag areas, Shopian and others received a fresh snowfall.

The plains also received light snowfall since Wednesday evening, bringing the temperature further down.

An official in MeT department said that the night temperature across the Valley would go further down while as the day temperature would likely increase from tomorrow or in upcoming days.

The Srinagar-Jammu highway continued to remain closed for the second consecutive day due to fresh snowfall in Banihal and other areas although the stranded vehicles, around 3000 of them, were cleared by the end of the day.

The Mughal road, connecting Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region, remained closed for the fourth day due to fresh snowfall, particularly at Pir-ki-Gali, a traffic police official said.

He said the road has also become very slippery as the snow had accumulated due to below freeing temperature.

Traffic had remained suspended since Wednesday afternoon on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway due to snowfall and landslides, he said.

It snowed a lot on both sides of the Jawahar tunnel. Reports of snowfall were also received from Qazigund, Shaitan Nallah and Banihal throughout the night while it was raining between Ramban and Ramsu.

He said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintenance of the highway, pressed into service sophisticated machines and men to clear the highway.

He said some persons were injured yesterday when few vehicles skidded off the road due to slippery conditions. The accidents were non-fatal, he said.

Large number of vehicles, including trucks and oil tankers, are stranded on both sides of the Gali, official sources said, adding that last month, over 200 passengers and truckers were rescued after they got struck on the road due to snow.

It was heavily snowing on the historic road at several places since last night. The road remained closed for six winter months due to heavy snowfall.

However, the authorities have already announced to construct a tunnel to make it an all weather road.

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Kartarpur Sahib Corridor:India to develop 4 km stretch from Dera Baba Nanak

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Dec 13: India will develop 4 km stretch of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab to International Border with Pakistan, Parliament was informed Thursday.

The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of first Sikh guru Guru Nanak Dev – with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India.

“The government of India has decided to develop the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district up to the International Border (with Pakistan),” Minister of State for Highways Mansukh L Mandaviya said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

He was replying to a question whether the National Highways Authority of India has developed or plans to develop any project on the corridor.

“Approximate length of the road project is about 4 km,” he said.

Work on determination of the alignment of road has been initiated, he added.

On November 26, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone for the corridor.

The decision to build the passage was taken by the Union Cabinet on November 22.

Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life in Kartarpur.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the corridor in Pakistan on November 28.

The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims. (PTI)

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