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US lawmakers seek transparency in Afghan peace deal with Taliban

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Washington: An influential group of three lawmakers on Friday sought assurance from the Trump administration that it will make available to the Congress the full text of any agreement signed with the Taliban.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three Congressmen also sought assurances that any deal signed would verifiably require the Taliban to break ties with all its terrorist allies, including in Pakistan, and that withdrawal of US troops will be conditioned on an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In the letter, the Congressmen — Tom Malinowski, Mike Gallagher and Brad Sherman — asked for written commitment that there will be no secret understandings or annexes with the Taliban that will not be share with the Congress.

 

“We believe that it is essential for the elected representatives of the American people to be able to review the exact language of any deal that is reached with the Taliban, given its profound implications for US national security,” they said in the letter dated August 30.

“It’s time for the administration to talk to the Congress, not just to the Taliban, about the future of Afghanistan. We need to make sure that any withdrawal of US forces does not come at the cost of everything they fought for,” said Malinowski.

Sherman said while it may be necessary to conduct these talks with the Taliban in secrecy, no agreement reached effecting the foreign policy of the US should be kept from Congress. “Congress, and ultimately the American people, need to know exactly what we have agreed to, especially given that we are dealing with the Taliban,” he said.

In their letter, the three lawmakers asked whether the Taliban’s commitment to break with international terrorists also extend to Taliban activities in Pakistan.

“Needless to say, it would be deeply troubling if the agreement fails to address the latter,” they said.

The Congressmen also sought to know if the Taliban pledge to repudiate and cease any cooperation with international terrorists encompass not only al-Qaeda, but the other twenty-plus US designated foreign terrorist organisations that operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, many of which have been responsible for murder of Americans.

“How will the Trump Administration verify that the Taliban is upholding its commitments under the agreement with respect to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, and how will it respond in the event of credible intelligence of a violation?” they asked.

The Congressmen asked if US troops leaving Afghanistan be brought home to the United States, or merely redeployed to countries neighbouring Afghanistan to enable continued counterterrorism operations.

“If the former, how will the US protect the homeland from the dozen-plus terrorist groups that continue to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and that many analysts believe are poised to surge in the aftermath of a US exit?” they sought to know from Pompeo.

“If the latter, how will redeployment to regional bases meaningfully reduce burdens faced by our troops or costs to the US taxpayer, particularly since such a redeployment will likely require the construction of entirely new bases and other support infrastructure?” they asked.


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Pakistan exporting ‘terror’, stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains: India at UNSC

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UNITED NATIONS: India lashed out at Pakistan for raising the issue of women’s rights in Kashmir in the UN Security Council, saying the country represents a system that has been exporting militancy and “regressive” extremist ideologies and “stifling” women’s voices for narrow political gains.

India’s strong response came after Pakistan’s outgoing UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi commented on the situation in Kashmir, revocation of Article 370 and women’s rights in the Valley during the debate on October 29.

“As everyone today focuses on collective action, one delegation rhetorically regurgitates about women’s rights in my country,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said Monday at a Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security.

 

Without naming Pakistan, Tripathi said the delegation “represents a system that has been exporting terrorism and regressive extremist ideologies, and stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains. This has devastated lives of generations of women and their families, in our region and beyond.”

Alluding to Islamabad’s habit of raking up the Kashmir issue at various UN forums and committees, Tripathi said the country habitually makes baseless allegations without any relevance to the agenda under consideration and this has “become a staple for this delegation.”

She referred to Lodhi’s comments on Jammu and Kashmir during the October 29 debate as well as during a previous debate on the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.

Asserting that India firmly rejects the baseless allegations, Tripathi said “the Council has not paid attention to such deceitful narratives in the past, and we are confident that the Council will continue to do so, to ensure that its agenda is not used as a ploy for furthering territorial ambitions.”

In her remarks to the debate, Tripathi underscored that violence against women and girls perpetrated by terrorists remain rampant and subjugation of women in public and in private spheres continue across situations that are on the agenda of the Council.

“It is important that the Council strives to effectively integrate women, peace and security considerations into sanctions regimes, including by listing terrorist entities involved in violence against women in armed conflicts,” she said.

Further, Tripathi highlighted the positive impacts of greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping but voiced concern that women make up only 4.2 per cent of military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

“We ought to encourage participation of all women units to achieve the set targets in this regard,” she said.

Tripathi pointed out that a trend in which in order to accommodate those who cannot fulfill the commitments of providing all women units to peacekeeping missions, mixed units are being given preference by diluting the policy frameworks.

“If this continues, we possibly cannot achieve the set targets,” she said as she added that India remains committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and has deployed a Female Engagement Team in UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) earlier this year.

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Rajnath Singh arrives in Moscow to boost defence cooperation with Russia

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Moscow: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday arrived in Moscow on a three-day visit to Russia where he will discuss modalities pertaining to defence co-production between the two countries.

During his visit, the Defence Minister will co-chair the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) here.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, Singh is expected to hold extensive discussions with Defence Minister of Russia General Sergei Shoigu covering all areas of military-to-military cooperation and defence industrial cooperation.

 

He will also inaugurate, along with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, ‘India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference’.

The Conference will discuss ways to promote defence industrial cooperation between India and Russia, technology transfer and investment in India in the defence industry under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to visit St Petersburg where he will place a wreath at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery honouring the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Last week, Singh had travelled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he represented India at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

India and Uzbekistan signed three MoUs pertaining to military education and military medicine.

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UN chief continues to call for Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to call for the Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue, saying any solution should be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people living in the Valley, his spokesperson has said.

Guterres will engage whenever he can with the two nations on the issue, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing here Thursday.

“The Secretary-General… has discussed the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India, during the General Assembly and before,” he said.

 

Responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir, Dujarric said the UN chief has called and will continue to call for “the situation to be resolved through dialogue and that any solution be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people who live in Kashmir. So, that continues to be his position”.

Last month, the UN chief said that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for resolving the Kashmir issue and his good offices are available if both sides ask for it while calling for the full respect of human rights.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan. The Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

On August 5, India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Several security restrictions were imposed in Kashmir as well as Jammu following the decision.

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