CPEC: Can India fit in?

October 13, 2015

India should be included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) if its true promise is to be realised, said a leading Pakistani daily which, however, warned that the military establishment is reluctant to view India through any lens other than one of rivalry.

An editorial in the Dawn on Saturday said that recent visit by the president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Jin Liqun raised issues for the government.

“The new challenge was his emphasis on including India in the CPEC vision, thus opening up the doors of the corridor towards the growing economy to the east. Previously, too, Chinese President Xi Jinping had mentioned this in his speech before parliament when he visited Pakistan. The idea should not be dismissed.”

The daily said: “If the true promise of the corridor is to be realised, it will be necessary to include Pakistan’s neighbours – both east and west – in it. Of course, there are significant hurdles to this.”

It added that in Pakistan, “the military establishment is reluctant to viewing India through any lens other than one of rivalry, and in India a right-wing government is similarly averse to responding to any overtures for talks and advancement of peace”.

The daily said that for now “it is enough to note that the proposal to open access to the economic corridor for India has credible commitment at the highest levels in China, and if there is any party in the world that can encourage a change in thinking in this country at least, it is the government in Beijing”.

The editorial went on to say that it would be better for the government of Pakistan to draw up a more realistic list of projects that they would like to see funded through the AIIB, and use the early years of the bank to build a relationship rather than go for broke with a proposal for a mega dam.

“There is no shortage of infrastructure requirements in Pakistan, and realism shouldn’t be very hard to pitch,” it added.

For Pakistan

Kasuri’s book launch in India, Who is black facing India

October 13, 2015

Replying to Shiv Sena’s allegation that he was a Pakistani agent, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Tuesday, said that he was an ‘agent’ but that of peace.

“I am certainly an agent, but not of Pakistan, but of peace between India and Pakistan and in South Asia,” Kulkarni said.

Also Read: Shiv Sena compares Sudheendra Kulkarni with Kasab, calls him a Pakistani agent

“I respect the freedom of speech of Saamna and Shiv Sena, I hope they respect other’s freedom of speech too,” he added.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invite to SAARC leaders for his swearing-in ceremony last year, Kulkarni said, “It was our PM’s effort from day one to improve relations with our South Asian neighbours.”

Also Read: Shiv Sena to quit Fadnavis govt in Maharashtra?

In a hard-hitting editorial, Sena mouthpiece Saamna has called Sudheendra Kulkarni a Pakistani agent , saying that with people like Kulkarni present in India, Pakistan need not send those like Ahmal Kasab.

The Saamna went on to attack the BJP and termed Kulkarni as the man behind the cash-for-votes sting.

Kulkarni, who was a top aide of LK Advani, was also blamed for the former deputy PM’s Mohammad Ali Jinnah fiasco.

Shiv Sena is upset with Kulkarni over his support for Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri​’s book launch in Mumbai. The event was held yesterday.


Start of India’s fall

October 13, 2015

The cold-blooded murder of Mohammed Akhlaq by fanatical Hindu bigots is only the beginning

The end came suddenly and unexpectedly on the night of September 27 for Mohammed Akhlaq, aged 50, an Indian Muslim residing in Bisara village on the outskirts of New Delhi. He did not die by his own hand, suicide being expressly forbidden in Islam, though many Muslims are desperately opting for this ‘emergency exit’ out of unbearable poverty and injustice. He did not die ‘peacefully in his sleep’ as some smug, complacent families like to put it in the newspaper obituaries, partly out of a desire for self-exoneration and partly from what they fondly believe might actually be the case, ignoring the last grim, painful struggle for breathing and for life that must have taken place: people ‘do not go gentle in into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light’, said the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas of his dying father. Nor did Mohammed Akhlaq give up the ghost after suffering from a terrible and humanly degrading terminal disease. Or, for that matter, from a simple case of everyday ‘mortality’, because after all we go ‘like flies in summer’ due to this universal and unavoidable malady.

No, Mohammed Akhlaq was murdered, premeditatedly and pitilessly, by a vigilante band of hate-filled Hindu extremists, on the basis of an idle rumour that he had slaughtered and devoured a calf that had gone missing from the village. This, as well as the alleged ‘blood trail’ leading from the site of the calf killing to the Akhlaq house and of beef being found in the family refrigerator, were all rejected by the police and dismissed by the family. Bizarrely, the ‘accused’ meat was sent for a forensic examination, indicating that if it did turn out to be beef, the cruel act would somehow be justified or vindicated. Such are the workings of religious and racial bigotry and the political philosophy of fascism, when in power. In the end, the meat on analysis reportedly turned out to be goat meat after all, but for the innocent victim of a BJP licence to kill, it was too late in the day. It was Night, dark and everlasting night.

Religion and emotionally charged rumours are indeed an explosive mix. They lead to acts of unspeakable savagery against the weak and voiceless by unthinking and frenzied mobs out on a killing spree, and especially so if the local police look the other way or even stand behind the miscreants. We too have seen and experienced such deplorable abominations in the sometimes blatant abuse of the blasphemy laws in cases involving the mostly backward Christians and our bright, well-educated but alienated fellow citizens, the Ahmedis, who cannot hit back in the same coin, or consciously refrain from doing so.

Poor Mohammed Akhlaq’s head was bludgeoned by a sewing machine in his first floor bedroom, his body was dragged down the stairs into the street and left lying there, the BJP equivalent of the al Qaeda and now Da’ish pastime of publicly beheading and then leaving their victims dangling in public squares as an unmistakable warning to others

Poor Mohammed Akhlaq’s head was bludgeoned by a sewing machine in his first floor bedroom, his body was dragged down the stairs into the street and left lying there, the BJP equivalent of the al Qaeda and now Da’ish pastime of publicly beheading and then leaving their victims dangling in public squares as an unmistakable warning to others. The murdered man’s 22 year old younger son was also severely injured by blows to the head with bricks, and after undergoing two brain operations, still remains in a critical condition. The mother and wife of Mohammed Akhlaq were manhandled and left bruised and battered by the barbarian mob driven by blood-lust and a brain-washed hatred of Muslims.

But what followed the gruesome deed, no doubt a harbinger of more gory things to come in India, was even more shocking and scary.

The first was the deafening silence on the issue of the lower-caste and uncouth Narendra Modi, otherwise an all too vocal voice on social media, that was widely interpreted as a sign of his tacit approval of the BJP vigilantes’ mob violence and an open invitation for more of the same in future. ‘Those who spread this poison enjoy his patronage’, wrote a critic. And silence means consent, as the cliché goes. The hugely successful ‘economic model’ of Gujarat under Modi was also the ‘laboratory of Hindu fascism’, an embarrassing aspect that the gluttonous foreign businesses and the slavish (when it concerns India) western media have conveniently overlooked.

This incident shows what happens to otherwise ordinary, peaceful and decent folk when an extremist government itself glorifies violence. It fills one groups’ mind with hate based on religion, race or ideology against an allegedly ‘alien’ presence within the community. Then, inevitably, the fear of the law and of justice vanish, the thin veneer of civilisation cracks and ‘the snout of the human beast reappears and howls the death cry of ancient, forbidden ages’. Hubris, an overweening pride in one’s own ‘master race’ misconception and rightness, and an all-consuming hatred of and lack of any pity for the targeted or persecuted (inferior) party, class or minority, is the very essence of Fascism. ‘My pedagogy is hard. All weakness must be hammered away. I want to see the animal spirit gleam in their eyes’, thus spoke Adolph Hitler of his Storm Troops (Sturmabteilung), the murderers army (demurely named as the ‘Sports and Gymnastics Wing’ in the early days), and likewise spake (or rather kept mum in the Mohammed Akhlaq murder) his contemporary acolyte Narendra Modi of his Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Voluntary Army Corps), the mirror image of the SA in its criminal mindset.

The second frightening fact was the absence of the slightest feelings of remorse or repentance among the perpetrators. The local BJP youth wing leader ironically maintained that it was all the dead man’s fault for killing and eating the holy ‘cow mother’ (a charge since disproved), and thereby ‘inciting the fury of the mob’

The second frightening fact was the absence of the slightest feelings of remorse or repentance among the perpetrators. The local BJP youth wing leader ironically maintained that it was all the dead man’s fault for killing and eating the holy ‘cow mother’ (a charge since disproved), and thereby ‘inciting the fury of the mob’. In another twist to the tragedy, he held that ‘he (Mohammed Akhlaq) slipped and his head hit the road and he died. These things happen. It’s a mob!’ So, hardly any sign of contrition, regret or sorrow here. On the contrary, he was planning a protest movement against the police for the release of those arrested for leading and actively participating in the gruesome murder! The Union minister for culture, also a BJP member of parliament from the same area where the incident took place, while visiting the aggrieved family, termed it as an ‘accident’ or a ‘misunderstanding’. The Uttar Pradesh BJP president remarked, ‘the blame for this incident lies squarely with the State’s administration and the law and order machinery, its police. Had the administration done their job at protecting our cows well, these men would not have been forced to take the law in their hands’. Thus he gave a deliberate political slant to the whole affair by shifting responsibility on the shoulders of the ruling Samajwadi Party of Utter Pradesh, which the BJP is desperate to replace in what is India’s biggest state with 200 million residents. The implication was that the ruling socialist party in the UP protected those who secretly slaughtered cows because it depended on the vast Muslim vote bank for its electoral success. It was also a ‘terror warning’ to the ‘errant’ Muslim voters of the state: they had better beware and behave or be prepared for more of the same. Of what constitutes the Indian opposition, the less said the better, as it acted as a ‘friendly opposition’ to the BJP in this particular instance. But while the Indian Muslims have been cowed (so to speak) into inaction (except in the Kashmir valley) some elements of Indian society, especially the artistic and the literary, have reacted sharply, and returned their state awards and medals in protest against this heinous crime. And the world now knows the origin and the true significance of the phrase, ‘sacred cows’.

Justice Robert H. Jackson the Chief US Prosecutor at the 1946 Nuremberg trials remarked, ‘these people (the Nazis) say they are not guilty. If they are not guilty, then who is? And if they are guilty, then who is not’. For there are exceptional situations, circumstances, issues and matters that touch all humanity and transcend the concept of time and place. The daughter of Mohammed Akhlaq tersely asked, ‘if they suspected we had slaughtered a cow, why did they not file a police complaint against us? Who gave them the right to kill my father’?

To this day, Narendra Modi maintains a discreet and studied silence over this painful question. When will the world, and especially his present gurus, the Americans, realise the true nature of the beast that they are diligently nurturing for their geo-political, commercial and regional ambitions, and wake up to the threat that he (or it) poses not only to the region but to the whole world? The modern-day appeasers will not be able to escape the consequences of their actions, in one form or the other. Their chickens too will come home to roost, in time. Make no mistake about it.


Meeting at the middle ground – Kashmir issue

October 12, 2015

History has shown the neighbours can agree on trade and visas. Demilitarisation and self-government are also achievable.

It is a surreal experience to look back through old newspapers published in India and Pakistan. Dog-eared pages from the past have headlines which echo events today. Peace is always about to break out between the two countries, yet war is just around the corner. Delhi and Islamabad are always talking about talking with each other, but rarely ever doing it for real.

“Intractable” is the word most often used to describe the relationship between India and Pakistan, at the heart of which is the dispute over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, larger in size than France. India and Pakistan have fought four wars, three of them over Pakistan’s desire to capture Kashmir Valley, held by India.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown extreme keenness in India’s foreign policy towards the US and China, he has remained disengaged with Pakistan.

News that should shock us into action is routine when it comes to India-Pakistan. A gun battle with militants recently saw the deaths of four soldiers in Kashmir. Pakistan also arrested 100 Indian fishermen for violating territorial waters. They have since been released. There is routine talk of “surgical strikes” and nuclear weapons.

Foreign policy

The Kargil war of 1999 is the only occasion when both countries went to war as nuclear powers. Pakistani troops in civilian dresses had infiltrated parts of Indian-held Kashmir, hoping to cut off some key Indian supply lines to the Siachen glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, nearly 6,000 metres above sea level. As the Indian army drove them out, it exercised strategic restraint in not crossing the Line of Control (LoC), the disputed, temporary ceasefire line. It was the fourth Indo-Pakistani war, and no one can say it will be the last.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown extreme keenness in India’s foreign policy towards the US and China, he has remained disengaged with Pakistan. A meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in July seemed to have arrived after international pressure from the US. It was decided in the meeting that the national security advisers of the two countries would soon meet.

However, when Pakistan’s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz was about to land in New Delhi last August, Indian officials said they would not let him meet Kashmiri secessionists, and would not discuss Kashmir. Aziz wanted to pay lip-service to Kashmir to appease his domestic audience. In the end, Aziz didn’t visit Delhi. Pakistan immediately ratcheted up the rhetoric on Kashmir.

RELATED: The ghosts of Kashmir’s past

There have, however, been remarkable breakthroughs in the past. For example, a 1960 treaty over sharing of river waters holds good even today. The treaty was brokered by the World Bank, which provided dispute resolution mechanisms over such things as building new dams.

There was a time when the two countries had moved beyond the binary conversations of Kashmir and terrorism to discuss many other issues, such as trade, visas and cultural exchange. This process, known as the composite dialogue, first began in 1997. Trade was partially liberalised and a new regime for issuing visas was agreed upon and a protocol was established on the issue of prisoners. The greatest achievement of the dialogue was a ceasefire agreement in 2003, which substantially reduced the loss of life and property on the disputed border, as well as terrorism in the Kashmir Valley.

Line of Control

It seems, once again, that compromise on Kashmir is proving to be intractable. On both sides, there are voices suggesting there is nothing to be gained through negotiations. They forget that India has often agreed to hold talks, despite not getting a commitment on terrorism from Pakistan. In turn, Pakistan has often agreed to not let Kashmir hamper an improvement in relations. Such flexibility has only brought gains.

In 2003, India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire on the LoC, as Pakistan started turning its attention away from Kashmir to the US-led war in Afghanistan. As that war has subsided, India says Pakistan has escalated tensions along the LoC. Pakistan blames India. Low-level fighting has seen both civilian and military casualties over the past two years.

On September 21, a meeting of local army commanders on both sides resulted in anagreement to de-escalate tensions. Both sides agreed to exercise restraint, respect the 2003 ceasefire, and reduce attacks on civilian areas. Among other proposals, Pakistan recently proposed formalising the 2003 ceasefire agreement on paper, but India said all Pakistan needs to do is give up sponsoring terrorism. Yet, the general consensus is that the likelihood of Pakistan changing its tactics in Kashmir is unlikely.

In 2005, India and Pakistan agreed to let citizens of Jammu and Kashmir travel across the LoC. India wanted the use of passports for this, which was not acceptable to Pakistan because that would have legitimised the LoC as a de jure international border. So the two countries agreed to issue “travel permits” without passports.

Similarly, the two countries reached a back-channel agreement to solve the Kashmir dispute, which did not involve redrawing borders. It included demilitarisation, self-government and greater movement of trade and people across both sides. This could not become a reality as Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf was ousted from office. To this day, it remains the only plausible way of solving Kashmir.


No rights for the people in India – Amnesty International

October 12, 2015

AREA 14/8

kashmir_terrorismThe continuing use of administrative detention laws in India to lock up persons without charge or trial violates the rights of both suspects and victims of human rights abuses. An interactive online map published by Amnesty International India today shows how several states continue to retain these laws to detain people on executive orders without charge or trial.

“Every government has a duty to bring to justice those suspected of crimes. But every government also has a duty to respect fair trial rights, and the criminal justice system loses credibility when people are detained for no good reason,” said Abhirr VP, Rapid Response Campaigner at Amnesty International India.

Read the rest of this entry »

PM Nawaz Sharif calls India anti-peace, invites Geelani to Islamabad

October 12, 2015

Days after raising Kashmir issue in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani to visit his country and blamed New Delhi for “spoiling Pakistan’s desire for peace.”

“Your (Geelani’s) character and your actions are guiding principles for the coming generations of Kashmir. I am inviting you to Pakistan so that I too can gain something from your views on the present situation. Hope that you will spare time to visit Pakistan at the earliest,” Sharif said in a letter to Geelani.

Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit had invited Geelani to his New Delhi residence where he handed over the letter of Nawaz Sharif to him, a Hurriyat spokesman said.

“We want friendly and cordial relations with all the neighboring countries, including India, but the unrealistic approach of India has always spoiled our desire and it is the major hurdle in our peace efforts with this country,” Sharif said.

Terming the role of Hurriyat Conference as historical, Pakistan prime minister expressed hope that the conglomerate will continue its struggle under the “fearless and honest leadership of Geelani”.

“While promising full support to the Kashmiri nation on political, diplomatic and moral fronts in the letter, Shairf said in clear terms that the granting of right to self determination of the people of Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of the Pakistan formation and ignoring of this agenda can never establish friendly relationship between the two countries,” said the Hurriyat spokesman.

The spokesman noted that the United Nations has accepted the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people and it is the responsibility of the entire civilised world to hold free and fair referendum in Jammu and Kashmir.”Instead of solving the issues amicably and on the table, India wants to use its military might and this attitude is increasing the instability and political uncertainty in the entire sub-continent day by day,” he said.

Quoting Sharif, the spokesman said, Pakistan is the center of hope for whole Muslim ummah and particularly to the Kashmiri Muslims and to meet these hopes we want economic development, social justice and lasting peace for this country so that it will play the role of a strong and important Muslim state.


Pakistan has always been a reliable ally – USA

October 12, 2015

The United States has indicated that it would continue its security assistance to Pakistan as it promotes “inter-operability” between the two allies in the war against terrorism.

A week before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s scheduled visit to Washington, the State Department issued a fact sheet on its ties with Pakistan, which highlights cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

“Pakistan has generally cooperated with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts and since 2001, has captured more than 600 Al-Qaeda members and their allies,” says the statement.

The State Department notes that the horrific Dec 2014 Taliban attack on an Army-run school in Peshawar had “a catalytic effect across Pakistan and led to the adoption of a 20-point National Action Plan to counter terrorism.”

US Security Assistance to Pakistan: The department explains that US security assistance to Pakistan is focused on strengthening the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities of the Pakistan security forces.

The security assistance promotes “closer security ties and inter-operability with the United States and … has directly supported Pakistan’s CT operations in the Fata,” the department adds.

According to the fact sheet, the US has provided $265 million in Foreign Military Financing to Pakistan this year, to develop Pakistan’s long-term security capabilities, particularly in Fata.

It also improves Pakistan’s ability to participate in maritime security operations and counter-maritime piracy. International Military Education and Training assistance to Pakistan enhances the professionalism of Pakistan’s military and strengthens long-term military relationships between Pakistan and the US.

The statement does not mention the period between May 2011 and Sept 2013, when relations between the two countries deteriorated rapidly after Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad.

But it does say that in Oct 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced “the reinvigoration of a US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to foster a broader, long-term, and more comprehensive partnership and facilitate concrete cooperation on core shared interests.”

Bilateral Economic Relations: The report points out that the United States is Pakistan’s largest bilateral trading partner. Between July 2014 and June 2015, overseas workers remitted $18.72 billion to Pakistan, 14.4 per cent from the US.

US Civilian Assistance to Pakistan: The department says that the Kerry-Lugar-Berman, passed in Oct 2009, demonstrates the long-term US commitment to cooperation with the Pakistani people and their civilian institutions.

Since the passage of KLB, the US government has committed over $5 billion in civilian assistance to Pakistan, and also over $1 billion in emergency humanitarian assistance for disasters like the 2010 floods.

To date, US contributions have added over 1,600 megawatts to Pakistan’s electricity grid through infrastructure upgrades, rehabilitation, and policy consultation; led to the launch of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, which will provide seed funding to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Pakistan; built or reconstructed roughly 1,000 schools; and funded about 1,100 kilometres of roads in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Guantanamo Bay’s youngest prisoner

October 12, 2015

Follow the incredible journey of Asadullah Rahman, the youngest inmate to be held at Guantanamo Bay.

Asadullah was only 10 years old when he was arrested and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

While working as a tea boy for an Afghan commander, he, along with 30 other Afghans were rounded up by US soldiers and sent to the notorious military site in Cuba.

Branded a ‘terrorist’ he was held for 17 months before finally being released.

Al Jazeera’s Sonia Verma was the first journalist to find Asadullah after he was freed, travelling to his remote mountain village to interview him.

What she discovered was a young boy who had been victimised by the US, abandoned by his country, yet nostalgic for his brief and unusual taste of the West.

Ten years later, Sonia returns to Afghanistan to find the 22-year-old. This is no simple task. As her friend Graeme Smith put it, “You only had a name. A first name, which is like looking for a guy called John in New York City.”

But when Sonia finally does find Asadullah, she discovers a young man trying to rebuild his life after a lost childhood.

Asadullah was missing for some seven months before his family discovered his whereabouts [Faris Kermani/Al Jazeera]


By Sonia Verma

I first met America’s youngest prisoner in its “war on terror” more than ten years ago. Asadullah Rahman had just returned to the remote village in Eastern Afghanistan where his family lived, a scattering of mud huts about a three hour drive from Kabul.

He was bright, easy-going and ambitious. He’d also just served seventeen months at Guantanamo Bay as a “juvenile enemy combatant.” Asadullah was about 10 years old when he was arrested, 12 years old when he was released.

Asadullah says he was beaten while in US custody [Al Jazeera]

I have spent more than a decade covering the conflict in Afghanistan, But over the years, I have never forgotten Asadullah. I was the first journalist to find, interview him and write about his ordeal.

He was enslaved to a local warlord when US special forces raided the compound where he was being held and arrested him. He spent a good chunk of his childhood in America’s most notorious prison camp.

As a person, Asadullah was also remarkable. When I met him, he was the only person in his village to speak English, understand that the world was round or know that dinosaurs had once roamed the planet. He’d learned all of those things in Guantanamo Bay.

On some level, he was grateful for his experience in prison. He’d received an education, learned how to play chess and enjoyed picnics on the beach. He told me the doctors and guards who were in charge of him were kind.

None of that squared with anything else I knew about Guantanamo Bay, a place where prisoner abuse was rife and had driven many detainees to commit suicide.

I was also, of course, shocked that such a young child had been in American military custody for so long. By all accounts, Asadullah was innocent of any crime. Even after he told me his story, I was left with so many questions. How did such a young boy end up in Guantanamo Bay? What did the Americans want from him and why did they keep him there for so long?

Over the years, I’d always wondered what happened to Asadullah. I wanted to know what happened to that precocious young boy I met in the Afghan village so long ago. What was it like for someone to grow up in Guantanamo Bay?

This is a story I’ve wanted to tackle for 10 years, but it was always going to be a gamble. I wasn’t even certain I’d be able to find Asadullah again, or whether he’d be willing to talk to me, much less agree to go on camera for a film. Farid Barsoum, the executive producer of Al Jazeera English’s Correspondent series, was willing to take the risk and for that I’m eternally grateful.

We not only managed to find Asadullah, but also some of the commanders, guards and medics who were responsible for him in Guantanamo Bay.

Our film, Growing Up Guantanamo, traces Asadullah’s journey from his arrest and imprisonment to his subsequent return to Afghanistan and present day struggles. It also features rare interviews with American military veterans who served at Guantanamo Bay – some of whom are speaking for the very first time about how they felt about having child prisoners in their custody.

We discovered Asadullah’s ordeal didn’t end with his release from Guantanamo Bay. In many ways, his return to Afghanistan marked just the beginning of his struggles. We also discovered how conflicted some of the American soldiers felt who were responsible for Asadullah at Guantanamo Bay, and how, in their own way, they tried to help him.

Today, Asadullah is a young man struggling to survive in Afghanistan, a country that remains at war with itself. It is a country full of stories of endless injustice. Asadullah’s story is nevertheless unique and one that deserves to be told.


Unrest strikes Israel

October 8, 2015

Netany­ahu says Israel­i civili­ans are at the forefr­ont of a war agains­t terror­ism and must also be on maximu­m alert.

New violence rocked Israel and the West Bank Wednesday, with three stabbings and an Arab shot dead by police, asPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis to be on maximum alert against “terrorism.”

In the West Bank, meanwhile, men thought to be undercover Israeli police opened fire on a group of Palestinian stone-throwers they had infiltrated, wounding three of them.

Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly met for security talks in the West Bank Tuesday evening, and there were calls Wednesday from the European Union for calm and a return to political dialogue.

In the meantime, however, Netanyahu had a stark message for his citizens.

Read: Arab woman stabs Jew in Jerusalem Old City: Israel police

“Israeli civilians are at the forefront of a war against terrorism and must also be on maximum alert,” he said Wednesday after visiting a Jerusalem police headquarters.

“The goal of terrorism is to spread fear, and the way to defeat it is to maintain composure and resilience on both a national and personal level,” his office quoted him as saying.

Netanyahu, who postponed a visit to Germany to tackle violence that has raged for three weeks, added: “We have known worse times than this, and we will overcome this new wave of terror by maintaining our determination, responsibility and unity.”

President Reuven Rivlin has warned that Israel and the Palestinians are “sitting on a volcano”.

In a potential sign of efforts to ease tensions, however, a report in the Haaretz daily said Netanyahu had ordered police to bar ministers and lawmakers from visiting the al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Blocking Israeli politicians from the compound would be aimed at lowering tensions and reducing the level of Palestinian violence. It is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred in Judaism.

Muslims fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, which allow Jews to visit but not pray to avoid provoking tensions.

Israel had already lifted age restrictions from Wednesday on Muslims praying at the compounds.

Both sides were the targets of violence, amid fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, despite efforts to calm tensions.

In central Israel’s Kiryat Gat, police shot dead an Arab man after he allegedly wounded a soldier with a knife and took his weapon, authorities said.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, not far from al Aqsa, police said an 18-year-old Palestinian woman stabbed a 35-year-old Jewish man in the back and lightly wounded him.

The man, who was armed, managed to draw his gun, shooting and seriously wounding his attacker, police said.

Rivlin warned against using the incident to incite further violence, saying “those who wish to turn the tragedy between us, Palestinians and Israel… into a religious war have blood on their hands.”

Read: Germany warns of ‘new intifada’ risk in Israel-Palestinian conflict

In another incident, four masked men who had been among Palestinians throwing stones in the West Bank suddenly turned on them, drew pistols and began firing.

One of three shot was seriously wounded in the back of the head.
Palestinians regularly accuse Israel of placing Arabic-speaking infiltrators among demonstrators.

Jewish settlers shot and seriously wounded an 18-year-old Palestinian near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the Red Crescent and witnesses said.

In the same area, a group of Palestinians tried to seize a Jewish woman from her car and possibly kidnap her, Israeli military spokesperson Arye Shalicar said.

Settlers fired in the air and the woman managed to escape, Shalicar said.

And a Jewish man was attacked with a knife outside a shopping centre in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, police said, adding that the attacker had been overpowered.

The spike in violence has brought international calls for calm, with concerns the unrest could spin out of control and escalate into a new intifada like those of 1987-93 and the early 2000s.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was vital for Netanyahu and Abbas to “show leadership to promote calm, encourage restraint and avoid actions which further fuel tensions.”

“The Israeli as well as the Palestinian people have the right to live in security,” she said.

“The way to tackle the violence and unrest is for both sides to move quickly to restart a credible political process…. Ultimately, a negotiated two state solution is the only way to bring the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.”


A Kashmir deal that never was

October 8, 2015

Files recording unsigned documents exchanged by the two sides were personally handed over to PM Modi by his predecessor at a May 27, 2014 meeting.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf had hammered out a draft framework agreement on Jammu and Kashmir in secret talks, a senior Indian diplomat familiar with the negotiations has told The Indian Express. Files recording unsigned documents exchanged by the two sides were personally handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his predecessor at a May 27, 2014 meeting, the diplomat said. The official spoke even as former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri is in New Delhi to release the Indian edition of his book, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove — the first insider account of India-Pakistan secret diplomacy on Kashmir.

Kasuri’s book quotes General Musharraf as stating that the secret Kashmir agreement envisaged joint management of the state by India and Pakistan, as well as demilitarisation of the territory. The Indian negotiator said the final draft of the framework agreement in fact spoke of a “consultative mechanism”, made up of elected representatives of the governments of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as well as officials of the two national governments. The consultative mechanism, he said, was mandated to address regional “social and economic issues”, like tourism, religious pilgrimages, culture and trade.

New Delhi, the official said, had rejected General Musharraf’s push for institutions for joint management of Kashmir by the two states, arguing it would erode Indian sovereignty. Prime Minister Singh’s hand-picked envoy, Ambassador Satinder Lambah, and General Musharraf’s interlocutors, Riaz Muhammad Khan and Tariq Aziz, held over 200 hours of discussions on the draft agreement, during 30 meetings held in Dubai and Kathmandu. Lambah, a former intelligence official recalled, was also flown to Rawalpindi on a Research and Analysis Wing jet as negotiations reached an advanced stage, travelling without a passport or visa to ensure the meetings remained secret. “In early talks,” the Indian diplomat said, “Pakistan reiterated its public positions, calling for international monitoring of the Line of Control, and so on. However, it became clear that both General Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh were keen on arriving at an agreement that would allow them to focus on their respective agendas, without conflict over Kashmir sapping their energies.” “Each paper exchanged between the two sides,” the diplomat said, “was read by him personally, and his instructions were then given to Lambah.

There were just two people in the Cabinet, and perhaps three more in the bureaucracy, who were privy to what was going on.” Later, Prime Minister Singh’s interlocutor on Kashmir, now Governor N N Vohra, was also tasked with briefing secessionist leaders in the state on the looming deal. “I think the agenda is pretty much set,” Kashmir leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in an April 2007 interview. “It is September 2007,” he went on, “that India and Pakistan are looking at, in terms of announcing something on Kashmir.”

Prime Minister Singh, a former aide involved in the talks said, was scheduled to begin consultations with his Cabinet and opposition leaders on the deal, when a tide of protest unleashed by Pakistani lawyers pushed General Musharraf into a corner in March, 2007. “He seemed confident the talks would soon be able to revive,” the aide said, “but ended up being swept out of office”. Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had sought to revive the talks when he took power in 2008, but was prevented from doing so by Musharraf’s successor as army chief, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani. “At one time,” Singh admitted at a press conference in 2014, “it appeared that an important breakthrough was in sight.

Events in Pakistan — for example, the fact that General Musharraf had to make way for a different setup — I think that led to the process not moving further.” Key to the agreement, the Indian negotiator said, was an understanding that it would not require ratification by Parliament, or a Constitutional amendment.

Thus, the two sides agreed to treat the Line of Control “like an international border”, with agreements to allow for the free movement of goods and people. Following cessation of “violence and terrorism”, the two sides were to draw down military forces on both sides of the Line of Control to a minimum though India was permitted to maintain full-scale defensive positions Lambah declined to be interviewed for this article, but the official said the language of speech he delivered at Kashmir University in 2014 “was near-identical to that used in the final draft”. Earlier notes exchanged by the negotiators, seen by The Indian Express, also agreed on self-governance for both sides of Kashmir, a proposal first moved by the PDP which now rules the state in alliance with the BJP.



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