Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

India says China stand-off will end ‘soon’

August 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | An Indian soldier keeping watch at Bumla Pass on the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh
NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s home minister said Monday he believed a border stand-off with China would end soon, after new footage emerged showing border guards from both countries fighting on a disputed patch of land in the Himalayas.Indian and Chinese soldiers have for more than two months been facing off on a disputed tract of land known as Doklam that India says is Bhutanese territory and China claims for itself.

Some analysts have said the dispute amounts to the worst crisis in relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in decades.

 Image result for Home Minister Rajnath Singh, photos
Home Minister Rajnath Singh

On Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said India wanted peaceful relations with its neighbours as he addressed a unit of border guards in the capital Delhi.

“A deadlock is going on between India and China in Doklam. But I think a solution will come out soon. China will also take a positive step from its side,” Singh said as he addressed the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

“We want to maintain good relations with our neighbours. We don’t want conflict, we want peace.”

The ITBP guards India’s 3,488-kilometre (2,167-mile) border with China along the northern Himalayan mountain range.

His comments came days after video emerged of soldiers from both sides appearing to kick and punch each other as rocks rained down on them in a disputed part of the Himalayan region of Ladakh last week.

Army sources confirmed to AFP on Monday that the video of the fighting on August 15 — India’s Independence Day — was authentic.

India’s government had previously confirmed the scuffle and said no weapons were used.

It happened on the shores of Pangong Lake, which lies over 4,000 metres high on the Tibetan plateau and is a popular tourist attraction.

India and China share a long history of mistrust and went to war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The latest stand-off began in mid-June after Chinese troops started building a road on a remote plateau that is claimed by both China and Bhutan.

India has an army base nearby and moved soldiers into the flashpoint zone to halt the work, prompting Beijing to accuse it of trespassing on Chinese soil.

China has said India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation takes place. India said both sides should withdraw their forces together.

India has historically been closely allied to Bhutan, but in recent years China has sought to increase its engagement with the tiny mountainous kingdom.

That has fed into a broader competition for regional influence between the two Asian powers.

Related:

‘Extremely Dissatisfied’ China Blames India for Border Disagreement — Indian officials talk to Russia about a deal with China

August 21, 2017

BEIJING — China laid the blame at India’s door on Monday for an altercation along their border in the western Himalayas involving soldiers from both of the Asian giants.

Both countries’ troops have been embroiled in an eight-week-long standoff on the Doklam plateau in another part of the remote Himalayan region near their disputed frontier.

Last week, a source in New Delhi, who had been briefed on the military situation on the border, said soldiers foiled a bid by a group of Chinese troops to enter Indian territory in Ladakh, near Pangong lake.

Some of the Chinese soldiers carried iron rods and stones, and troops on both sides suffered minor injuries in the melee, the source said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that last Tuesday, Chinese border forces were carrying out “normal” patrols on the Chinese side of the actual line of control in the Pangong lake are.

“During this time they were obstructed by Indian border forces and the Indian side took fierce actions, colliding with the Chinese personnel and having contact with their bodies, injuring the Chinese border personnel,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

What India did went against the two countries’ consensus to keep the peace on the border and it endangered the situation there, she added.

“China is extremely dissatisfied with this” and had lodged solemn representations, Hua said.

India’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed the incident in Ladakh took place but has not given any details.

Indian media have shown footage taken on a mobile phone purportedly of the scuffle, originally posted by a retired army officer, with stone throwing and shoving by soldiers of both countries.

The heighten tension on both ends of the border come ahead of a summit of the BRICS group of nations in the Chinese city of Xiamen in early September, with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa due to attend.

China has repeatedly asked India to unilaterally withdraw from the Doklam area, or face the prospect of an escalation. Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than its crushing defeat in a brief border war in 1962.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Doug Busvine in NEW DELHI; Editing by Robert Birsel)

************************************

India, Russia talk Doklam before Brics

Sachin Parashar| TNN | Updated: Aug 21, 2017, 10:51 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Official said that Russia is an important strategic partner and it’s natural to discuss security issues with a friendly country.
  • In recent Brics preparatory meetings, Indian officials discussed with their Russian counterparts the situation at Doklam in Bhutan.

NEW DELHI: The government is in touch with Russia over the Sino-Indian military standoff at Doklam ahead of the upcoming Brics summit in China, official sources said. This is significant as India, hampered by an increasingly disoriented Trump administration, has looked at Moscow in the past 6 months to convince Beijing to shed its antagonistic approach towards India.

This was obvious also in the way India reached out earlier this year to Russia to convince China to drop its opposition to India’s bid for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). “Russia is an important strategic partner and it’s natural to discuss issues concerning security with a friendly country,” said an official requesting anonymity.

In recent Brics preparatory meetings, Indian officials discussed with their Russian counterparts the situation at Doklam in Bhutan, reiterating India’s position that by constructing a road China was unilaterally changing the status quo and that this had serious security implications for India.

While India has not yet officially announced the participation of PM Narendra Modi in the Brics summit, which will be held September 3-5 in Xiamen in China, Russia is confident that the event will turn out to be successful despite the tension prevailing at Doklam.

In that context, it may be significant to mention here that China has continued to stall the meeting of Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting which was scheduled earlier this year in April. Even though Beijing denied it, the decision to pull out of the meeting in April was widely seen as China’s way of getting back at India for hosting Dalai Lama in Arunachal Pradesh.

Despite Russia having worked actively to keep the RIC mechanism alive, the annual meeting couldn’t take place this year because of “differences over dates”. While India doesn’t expect Moscow to come out in open with support for its position on Doklam, it won’t mind the Russians working through diplomatic channels to convince Beijing to stop constructing road on disputed territory.

It also won’t be enough for Modi to just show up at Brics without keeping the outcome document in mind. New Delhi is looking for support from Russia to ensure that Indian interests, especially on the issue of terrorism, are not diluted.

India will remember the Goa Declaration issued after the 2016 Brics summit which failed to address India’s core concerns related to state-sponsored or cross-border terrorism. It is believed that China blocked the use of that term used by India to highlight Islamabad’s support to India-specific terror groups. It also blocked India from name-checking Pakistan based terror groups like Lashkar and Jaish even as it let Russia mention Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror group in Syria.

The fact that the Brics summit took place last year not long after the Uri attack, which saw 19 Indian soldiers killed in a cross-border terror strike, only added insult to injury. It is unlikely, officials said, that India will agree to such a formulation of the outcome document this year.

As strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney had put it, China had then managed to successfully defend Pakistan terrorism at a multilateral event on Indian soil. As Indian officials admitted then, there was no consensus on naming Pakistan based groups as other Brics nations were not hurt by their actions.

.

Pakistan: Bandit Gang Abducts 7 Pakistani Police Officers

August 20, 2017

MULTAN, Pakistan — Pakistani police say bandits have abducted seven policemen from a forested area of southern Punjab.

They say the gang wants several of its members who are behind bars to be freed.

Senior police officer Atiq Tahir says the police were returning by boat to the town of Rojhan, in Rajanpur district, from an outpost in a forested area along the Indus River when the gang captured them in the early morning.

Image result for Rojhan, Rajanpur district, armed gangs, photos

Tahir said police reinforcements with armored vehicles were dispatched to the forest.

Another police officer said police are working with influential landlords to get the abductees freed. He said the gang is demanding the release of their arrested cohorts. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

Image result for Rojhan, Rajanpur district, armed gangs, photos

Trump again puts off Afghanistan war decision

August 19, 2017

The Hill

Trump again puts off Afghanistan war decision
© Getty

President Trump on Friday again deferred on choosing a path forward for the 16-year-old Afghanistan war, despite a high-level meeting at Camp David to discuss options with his core national security team.

The meeting included Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Vice President Pence cut short a trip to South America to attend the meeting.

This is not the first time the president was widely expected to make a decision on an updated strategy for the war in Afghanistan but held off, frustrating top national security and defense officials as well as lawmakers.

Administration officials expected Trump to pick a path in May prior to attending the NATO summit in Belgium. And Mattis in June promised lawmakers that a decision would likely come in July.

A variety of reasons are driving the delay, including the complexity of the conflict and the president’s hesitation to make a decision that may ultimately prove to be the wrong move, according to James Carafano, a defense policy expert at the Heritage Foundation

“We need a strategy that’s going to be sustainable maybe eight years. There is no short answer here,” said Carafano, who was a member of the Trump transition team.

“The burden really is on the national security team to show Trump they have the most effective strategy to do that, because this is then going to be his war, his responsibility.”

Members of the administration still hold disagreements on the best path forward for Afghanistan, which will include how to handle conflicts along the border of Pakistan. Military leaders are pushing for additional U.S. troops, but Trump has reportedly been wary of continued American presence in the region.

Mattis and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. HR McMaster want to send 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops to the country to combat the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al Qaeda. Recently ousted chief strategist Stephen Bannon, however, had urged against it, saying that would amount to nation building.

Other options on the table include using private contractors, withdrawing altogether or keeping the current strategy, which consists of the existing 8,400 U.S. troop continuing to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions.

In July, Trump showed his reluctance to side with his military advisors by increasing troop numbers.

“We’ve been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas,” Trump told reporters.

When asked about a possible troop increase, Trump only said, “We’ll see.”

The immobility on a plan also has bothered lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who earlier this month unveiled his own strategy for Afghanistan.

“Now, nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” McCain said in a statement. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander-in-chief.”

Anthony Cordesman, a military strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the president is deeply frustrated with his list of military options, a complex formula that depends upon the backing of the Afghan government.

Foreign policy experts have expressed doubt that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will be able to stop corruption and effectively use American aid to bolster the Afghan National Security Forces. Pentagon leaders would depend on the forces to keep out terrorist groups once U.S. troops leave.

Image result for President Ashraf Ghani, photos

President Ashraf Ghani

“The Afghan government is very divided, it’s weak,” Cordesman said. “Even if [Trump] does all the military recommends, there is a 50-50 chance that the Afghanistan response is going to be effective enough. Everything we’re doing depends on the Afghans.”

Cordesman also suggested that Trump’s reported criticism of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, “likely stems from Nicholson told him the truth and the truth is unpleasant.”

Trump in July 19 meeting with his national security team pushed to fire Nicholson, NBC News reported earlier this month.

“We aren’t winning,” Trump complained during the meeting. “We are losing.”

“The options are so uncertain and so complex and confusing,” Cordesman said. “Not the kind of forward, positive proposal that [Trump] may be used to.”

Cordesman added that the longer Trump waits to make a decision, the worse it will be for soldiers on the ground. Afghanistan’s fighting season lasts into the fall. With no plan yet given as of late August, “nothing you do now is going to be effective, you lost pretty close to a year to actually influence the situation on the ground.”

Even with no decision yet made, Carafano said it was significant that Trump and his national security team went off site to Camp David to discuss options.

“Obviously I wish the process had gone on sooner, I think part of that is the difficulty of the decision. Afghanistan involves a lot of moving pieces and you have to make a commitment that will stick longer over time,” he said.

Mattis, meanwhile, promised again Thursday that the administration is “coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future.”

Earlier this month, Trump assured reporters of the same thing at his club in New Jersey.

“We’re getting close. We’re getting very close,” Trump said. “It’s a very big decision for me. I took over a mess and we’re going to make it a lot less messy.”

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/347178-trump-again-puts-off-afghanistan-war-decision

Related:

  (Includes map)

Gunmen Kill Local Leader of Pakistan’s Pro-Taliban Party

August 19, 2017

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A police officer says gunmen on a motorcycle have killed a local leader of Pakistan’s pro-Taliban Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party in an apparent assassination in the northwest before fleeing.

Local police chief Amjad Khan says Attaullah Shah was walking home after praying at a mosque in the city of Dera Ismail Khan when the assailants opened fire early Saturday.

Image result for Attaullah Shah, Pakistan, photos

No one has claimed responsibility and Khan says police have launched a manhunt for the assailants.

The latest attack comes months after Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, deputy leader of Pakistan’s Senate, narrowly escaped death when Islamic State militants orchestrated a suicide attack in the country’s southwest, killing 28 people.

Dera Ismail Khan is located 300 kilometers (180 miles) south of the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Mourners Attend Funeral of Pfau,’ Mother Teresa of Pakistan’

August 19, 2017

KARACHI, Pakistan — Mourners have attended a state funeral of Ruth Pfau, a German physician and nun who earned international acclaim by devoting her life to the eradication of leprosy in Pakistan.

Known as “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa,” she died on Aug. 10 at age 87 in Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province.

State-run Pakistan television in live broadcast showed last rituals of Pfau, which were held at a church in Karachi.

Pakistani politicians, military officials, members of civil society and hundreds of supporters of Pfau attended the service.

Leprosy remained a problem in Pakistan from the 1950s until about 1996, and Pfau played a key role in efforts to bring the disease under control.

See the New York Times report on her life:

US reviews war strategy for Afghanistan

August 18, 2017
Taliban and ISIL fighters. Reuters file photo

President Donald Trump and his national security advisors meet on Friday to discuss US strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

The 16-year conflict is the United States’ longest war, and there are 8,400 US soldiers still on the ground battling the deadly insurgency.

Options being considered include sending more American troops, withdrawing US forces completely, or replacing them with private contractors.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse reports from Kabul.

Video:

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2017/08/reviews-war-strategy-afghanistan-170818065049022.html

Related:

  (Includes map)

.
Image result for Herat mosque explosion, photos
Security officials inspect the scene of the blast outside the Great Mosque in Herat, August 1, 2017.

Pakistan slams US blacklisting of Kashmir ‘terror’ group

August 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Pakistani supporters of Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, shout slogans against the United States during a protest in Muzaffarabad

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan on Thursday criticised the United States for blacklisting the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation, calling the move “unjustified”.The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to it in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

“We are disappointed with the US decision in view of the fact that Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute with UN Security Council resolutions pending implementation for the last 70 years,” Nafees Zakariya, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters in the capital Islamabad.

The move was “completely unjustified”, he said.

After Washington announced the decision on Wednesday, several hundred activists gathered in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and chanted anti-US slogans.

Washington had already designated the group’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, a “global terrorist”, but he still operates in Pakistani Kashmir, where his group has strong support.

The designation comes the week both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire — and the start of bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Since 1989, rebel groups have fought in Indian-held Kashmir, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, and tens of thousands — mostly civilians — have been killed.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming militants, while Islamabad denies the allegation, saying it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmiris seeking self-determination.

US blacklists Kashmir ‘terror’ group

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The US designation comes on the week that both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire — and the start of a bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States added the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to its blacklist of terrorist organizations on Wednesday, amid renewed protests against Indian rule in the region.US authorities had already designated the group’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, a “global terrorist”, but he is still able to operate in Pakistani Kashmir, where his group has strong support.

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that HM is a terrorist organization,” the department said.

“Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments.”

The US designation comes on the week that both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire — and the start of a bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Since 1989, rebel groups have fought in Indian Kashmir, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, and tens of thousands — mostly civilians — have been killed.

On Sunday, two Indian soldiers and three rebels were killed in a gun battle after counter-insurgency forces surrounded separatists in a village just south of the city of Srinagar.

Trump to Discuss Afghan Strategy With Security Team on Friday

August 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with their national security team on Friday at Camp David to discuss U.S. strategy in South Asia, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The administration has been working to develop a new strategy for the long-running conflict in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region as it decides whether to deploy additional troops to combat recent Taliban advances.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann)