The Asian Age – Can’t blame Pakistan for J&K situation, says Omar Abdullah

Omar Abdullah accused the PDP-BJP alliance of wreaking havoc with the State

Srinagar, 4 December 2016. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and working president of Opposition National Conference (NC) Omar Abdullah on Saturday said that the political issue in Kashmir was neither an invention nor a creation of Pakistan.

He added that distorting the current unrest in the Valley as a simple manifestation of terrorism or external interference would be a grave mistake.

“To blame Pakistan alone for the political situation or the current unrest in the Valley is a distortion of the truth.

The people of J&K have espoused a political sentiment even when there was no external interference and this political sentiment forms the basis of the state’s special status that has since been eroded by extra-constitutional machinations,” he said.

He reiterated that the political issue in Kashmir is a result of historic blunders and broken promises by successive dispensations in New Delhi.

“The situation today stands compounded because of the present Central government’s refusal to even acknowledge that a problem exists in Kashmir,” he alleged.

While speaking at convention in north-western town of Baramulla, Mr Abdullah also asserted that the alienation in the Valley had been compounded by the “opportunistic” PDP-BJP alliance.

“Whose (PDP’s) inherent contradictions had translated into never-ending U-turns on crucial evocative issues”. He alleged that PDP’s “charade” of seeking CBMs and political initiatives could not conceal the party’s “brazen abandonment of its own ideology and vision document in a bargain to attain power”.

“There is a stark difference between the Mehbooba Mufti of the Opposition and the Mehbooba Mufti of the ruling PDP-BJP government. It has now become evident that the Mehbooba of Opposition was just an elaborate facade to pave way for Mehbooba Mufti’s ascent to the chief minister’s chair.

Her theatrical performances as an Opposition leader might have served her well but when people compare her present avatar to her previous posturing she stands exposed. Every single promise made by the PDP to seek votes in the previous elections has been broken with utter contempt shown towards the people of the state”, the NC leader alleged.

He accused the PDP-BJP alliance of wreaking havoc with the State and said that the government has ceased to exist on the ground and its mere presence is exhibited solely through indiscriminate arrests and imposition of the State’s stringent Public Safety Act against the youth.

“The loss of nearly a hundred innocent young lives in the current unrest and the unimaginable and indiscriminate repression of our youth has been the most noticeable hallmark of the PDP-BJP alliance and Mehbooba Mufti’s refusal to acknowledge her failure has only compounded the misery of the people”, Mr. Abdullah said.

He also said Ms. Mufti should accept responsibility for the loss of nearly 100 young lives based on the same standards which she used to accuse Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2008 and him (Omar Abdullah) in 2010.

“For Mehbooba Mufti everyone is responsible except her. She keeps blaming everyone else but doesn’t have it in her heart to accept responsibility for the loss of lives under her watch.

Rather than releasing thousands of arrested youths, she wants to create these charades of going to New Delhi to seek CBMs,” he said, asking “Why don’t you release thousands of arrested civilians before you seek CBMs from New Delhi?”

He concluded saying “We all know what came of her demands for CBMs as a pre-condition to form the government in the State after Mufti (Sayeed) Sahib’s demise”.

Meanwhile, the NC has demanded a time bound probe into the death of a civilian at an encounter site in Chancer Kulgam.

While condemning the “tragic loss” of a J&K Fisheries Department employee Assadullah Kumar, the party provincial spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said, “The NC legislators, while condemning the tragic loss of a young life in Kulgam, demanded that a time bound probe be announced to ascertain the circumstances leading to the death of Assadullah Kumar.”

http://www.asianage.com/india/politics/041216/cant-blame-pakistan-for-jk-situation-says-omar-abdullah.html

Sikh24.com – Jathedars Mand & Anjala: Sarbat Khalsa Will Go Ahead – The Final Nail In SAD/BJP Coffin

Sikh24 Editors

Ferozepur, Panjab, 2 December 2016. A meeting was held at Ferozepur to deliberate upon preparations for Sarbat Khalsa 2016 on November 29 in which prominent Sikh personalities including Interim Akal Takht Jathedar, Dhian Singh Mand and President of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), S. Simranjit Singh Mann took part.

Addressing the meeting, Jathedar Mand said that the Sikh community has basic right to hold the Sarbat Khalsa to deliberate upon immediate challenges facing the Sikh community. He added that there were a many examples in Sikh history when the Sikhs organized their congregation to tackle their problems.

Slamming the Badal led Shiromani Akali Dal for denigrating the Takht Sahibans (temporal Sikh posts), Jathedar Mand said that the SGPC appointed Jathedars were playing into the hands of anti-Sikh forces. He maintained that the Sikh community was outraged at the Jathedars because of their acts of continually reducing Sikh dignity.

Similarly, a gathering was held at Tarn Taran on November 29, where Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib (appointed by Sarbat Khalsa 2015) Bhai Amrik Singh Ajnala reiterated his stance to successfully conduct the event on December 8, at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib (Bathinda).

He announced that Sarbat Khalsa 2016 will prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab.

Jathedar Ajnala said that the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) led Punjab government had sabotaged the original Sarbat Khalsa 2016 event scheduled for November 10, by making statewide arrests of thousands of Sikh activists and deploying paramilitary forces at Talwandi Sabo.

He further added that the Sarbat Khalsa 2016 will now be successfully concluded at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib on December 8.

Jathedar Satnam Singh Manawa (United Akali Dal), S. Harbir Singh Sandhu (Office Secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar), Bhai Balwant Singh Gopala (President, Sikh Youth Federation Bhindranwala), Bhai Amrik Singh Nangal, Bhai Bhupinder Singh Sheron, Bhai Jarnail Singh Sakhira (General Secretary of Amritsar Unit of Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar), S. Karam Singh Bhoian (Distt. President of Tarn Taran Unit of Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar), Bhai Buta Singh Khalistani, Bhai Satnam Singh Kot Khalsa, Bhai Sikandar Singh Warana, Bibi Kulwant Kaur, Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Mand, Bhai Ranjit Singh, Bhai Heera Singh, Bhai Shamsher Singh, Bhai Satnam Singh, Bhai Kulbir Singh, Bhai Manjinder Singh Malli, Bhai Jasbir Singh, Bhai Baljit Singh Bahadr Nagar etc. were also present in the meeting.

http://www.sikh24.com/2016/12/02/jathedars-mand-anjala-sarbat-khalsa-will-go-ahead-the-final-nail-in-sadbjp-coffin/#.WEMVEVwSfY8

Sint-Truiden Station – Gent Botermarkt

Sint-Truiden Station
25 September 2016

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Sint-Truiden NMBS station

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Sint-Truiden NMBS station

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Sint-Truiden NMBS station

Gent Botermarkt
27 September 2016

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Gent – Botermarkt
New tramtracks Botermarkt – Belfortstraat – Sint-Jacob

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Gent – Botermarkt – New tramtracks

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Gent – Botermarkt – Stadhuis
New tramtracks

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Man in Blue

Daily Times – Sartaj Aziz arrives early in Amritsar for Heart of Asia conference

Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz arrived in India on Saturday evening, ahead of his scheduled arrival for the Heart of Asia conference on Sunday morning, due to weather conditions.

Aziz’s early arrival also raised speculation that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would meet for more than the customary welcome handshake, as he is attending a dinner hosted by Modi for conference delegates.

“We advised Aziz to come early given the fog factor in the morning,” a Pakistani diplomat told an Indian newspaper, referring to visibility issues that have delayed dozens of flights to north Indian cities including Amritsar.

The forecast for Sunday morning was a visibility of 600M, far below the stipulated 1000M clearance VIP flight controllers normally insist on, another official said.

While he avoided the fog, Aziz’s visit is not expected to dispel the chill between India and Pakistan over terror attacks including the latest terror strike on Nagrota base that left 7 jawans dead, and taking the casualties since the Uri attack to cross 20.

“There is no meeting,” a senior official said, when asked about the chance of a ‘pull-aside’ meeting between Modi and Aziz in Amritsar, indicating only a joint call-on was scheduled. Aziz will meet Modi along with other ministerial guests at the conference at the Sadda Pind local resort for dinner.

http://dailytimes.com.pk/pakistan/03-Dec-16/sartaj-aziz-arrives-early-in-amritsar-for-heart-of-asia-conference

The Hindu – The message from Amritsar

Harsh V. Pant

Opinion, 2 December 2016. The Heart of Asia conference is likely to confirm a new phase in India-Afghanistan ties.

India hosts the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference this week in Amritsar. It is aimed at speeding up reconstruction in war-torn Afghanistan and bringing peace and normalcy to the nation. It will see participation from 14 states: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The HoA process, supported by the wider international community, originated under the aegis of the Istanbul Conference in November 2011, which underscored the need for regional cooperation and confidence-building to resolve underlying problems facing Afghanistan and anchoring the state’s development in a regional environment that is stable, economically integrated and conducive to shared prosperity.

New Delhi too has repeatedly underscored the need for improving connectivity in the region to help Afghanistan harness its trade and transit potential.

The Pakistan factor

Yet this conference comes at a time when India is looking to isolate Pakistan regionally and globally. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will jointly inaugurate the ministerial deliberations and try to put up a united front vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s envoy to India Shaida Abdali, in a joint press conference at the Ministry of External Affairs, made it clear that terrorism is the “creation of the region and the solution lies in the region. Therefore the upcoming HoA conference is very well timed.”

He went on to suggest that terror must be dealt with effectively, not only for the sake of countries such as India and Afghanistan, but also for people in the country where “terrorism is nurtured”.

Afghanistan has been reviewing its policy towards Pakistan. In his address to a joint session of Afghanistan’s parliament this year, Mr. Ghani had threatened to lodge a formal complaint against Pakistan. In a departure from his earlier stand, he called on Pakistan to forego attempts to bring the Taliban to negotiations and take military action against them.

“If we do not see a change, despite our hopes and efforts for regional cooperation, we will be forced to turn to the UN Security Council and launch serious diplomatic efforts,” he said. Despite Pakistan’s repeated assertions that it would go after Taliban leaders who refused to engage in the peace process involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, the U.S. and China, negotiations have stalled and deadly attacks in Afghanistan have increased.

Mr. Ghani’s government is struggling to hold key districts and has failed to hold overdue parliamentary elections amid a worsening security situation. USA President Barack Obama also decided to draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his term, a change from his initial target of 5,500, in accordance with the views of the military.

It is not clear what a Trump presidency would mean for Afghanistan, but it is safe to assume that Washington now wants to reduce its stake in the country and would like the regional states to do some heavy-lifting.

India’s policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan has also evolved. It has been demanding dismantling of safe havens and terror sanctuaries in the region besides pressing for deeper engagement of various stakeholders for Afghanistan’s stability and security. That’s easier said than done. Indian interests, including its Embassy and consulates, are repeatedly targeted in Afghanistan.

Evolving relations

Mr. Modi’s visit to Afghanistan to inaugurate the new parliament building last year and the decision by New Delhi to gift Mi-24 attack helicopters to Afghan forces are meant to underline India’s resolve to preserve its equities in a troubled neighbour.

India also signed the TAPI pipeline agreement to showcase its continuing commitment to Afghanistan’s economic viability. China too is making it clear that it wants to have deeper security ties with Afghanistan, and there are plans to strengthen counter-terror and intelligence cooperation along with enhancing China’s role in the training of Afghan military and civilian personnel.

China has become increasingly concerned about its extremists and separatists in Xinjiang, and sees security in Afghanistan as key to stability in China. Whether India and China can cooperate in Afghanistan is anybody’s guess, given China’s deepening ties with Pakistan.

Though Beijing has been increasingly keen to see a political settlement in Afghanistan that ensures a stable balance of power, it is nevertheless placed well to deal with the less-than-desirable prospect of a Taliban resurgence.

New Delhi has so far shown an unusual tenacity in its dealings with Afghanistan, and a willingness to move beyond the binary of economic cooperation and military engagement and evolve a comprehensive policy which involves all dimensions of power.

This has enhanced Indian credibility in Afghanistan which is a tough country. Only those who are willing to fight on multiple fronts will be able to preserve their leverage.

Harsh V. Pant is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and Professor of International Relations at King’s College London.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/The-message-from-Amritsar/article16737918.ece?homepage=true

The Hindustan Times – Water that belongs to India will be stopped from going waste in Pakistan: PM Modi

Prabhjit Singh

Bhatinda, 25 November 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Friday to utilise “every drop” of the Sutlej-Ravi-Beas river waters that have been flowing over to Pakistan for the benefit of farmers in border states, especially Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

“These rivers, as per the Indus Waters Treaty, belong to India and our farmers. I will utilise every drop of it ,” Modi said at the foundation-laying ceremony of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bhatinda on Friday.

“Every drop will be utilised by the farmers of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and other states. I am committed to this,” he said.

The PM’s statement holds significance in the wake of the SYL canal imbroglio, in which the Parkash Singh Badal regime in Punjab refused to abide by the Supreme Court judgment and returned the land acquired for the canal to the owners.

Without mentioning the SYL issue, Modi said all water disputes could be resolved through talks. “We are with Badal sahib on water issue,” he said. He blamed the state’s previous governments for water disputes and under-utilisation of the natural resources.

For embracing mobile banking

A day after the opposition’s uproar against demonetisation in Parliament, Modi looked rather firm on his move, appealing to the countrymen to go for phone-banking or e-banking.

“Mobile phones are your wallet and your banks now. Download the banking apps on your phones and curb corruption,” he said.

He said the number of mobile connections was four times the number of family units in the country.

Acknowledging the harassment to the common people due to cash crunch, Modi said he was thankful to the people of the country “for standing by us (NDA regime) in this mission of demonetisation and bearing the short-lived brunt”.

The PM, however, skipped a reply to his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s claim that this move initiated by Modi will lead to 2% decline in the growth of country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and people may “lose faith in currency and banking system”.

The PM also appealed to information technology (IT) experts in universities and other agencies to train the people in net banking. “We have taken this step to save the poor people and to save the middle class from exploitation. This will end all unaccounted transactions and rid us of fake currency,” he said.

Advises Pakistan to fight terror, not India

The Prime Minister advised Pakistan “to fight corruption and black money in their country, if they want to fight terror”.

He said people in India were equally pained due to terror strikes in Pakistan. “I want to tell the people of Pakistan that we are also pained for the deaths of children in Peshawar,” he said.

Badals all praise for Modi’s currency war

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, son and deputy chief minster Sukhbir Badal and daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal, who is a minister in the Union cabinet, were all praise for Modi’s demonetisation move.

“This will curb the parallel economy of black money in the country,” the Punjab CM said, adding that the there will enough cash in banks and ATMs in another 10 days. “Modi sahib, we are always with you,” Badal said .

As Modi laid the foundation stone for the AIIMS with the wish to inaugurate the project in 2020, Sukhbir said he wanted to see Modi as the PM for the next 25 years. “AAP will not get a single seat,” the deputy chief minister said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-s-right-on-water-flowing-to-pakistan-will-ensure-enough-for-our-farmers-pm-modi/story-Msz0yk7TkEPR6PaEajh2QJ.html

The Tribune – Dera Baba Nanak awaits an opening

Jupinderjit Singh

Dera Baba Nanak, 3 December 2016. “Munde vehle ne, nasha khula vikda hai. Te border corridor khulda nahi. Agge kuch dikhda nahi. (The youth are unemployed, drugs are freely available, the corridor has not been opened. There is no hope),” says 68-year-old Beera, who sells toys outside Gurdwara Sur Sidh Singh, within earshot of the India-Pakistan border fencing.

The corridor is a proposed 2-3 km passage that the Sikh community wants to be thrown open for access to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have lived as a farmer.

One stroke of Sir Cyril Radcliffe’s pen cut the umbilical cord of Dera (originally Dehra, derived from “deh” — body) Baba Nanak town with the source of its sustenance: Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Residents have to travel hundreds of kilometres via Wagah and Lahore in jathas, through several checks and visa formalities, and that too only once or twice a year.

Every election, the corridor issue is revisited. Devotees used to see the Pakistan gurdwara through a pair of binoculars put up on a canopy by the BSF, but that too went missing recently.

The seemingly staunch Akali and Congress supporters in this border constituency — home to 53 per cent Jat Sikhs, 14 per cent Christians, 13 per cent OBCs, 11 per cent SCs and 0.03 per cent Buddhists too (as per the 2011 Census) — are clear that switching sides is not an option for them.

“The Akalis have given us wheat, rice and cereals almost for free,” says a gurdwara sewadar. “They have raised the old-age pension, got farmers insured. We have always voted for them and will continue to do so,” he says, but does not wish to be named.

Retired BSF officer Gurjeet Singh, overhearing the conversation, is not convinced: “Politicians, not just the Akalis, give such freebies with an ulterior motive. They don’t want educated and empowered youth who can question their decisions.”

Shakti, a vegetable vendor upset at demonetisation, feels the Congress would never have harmed the common man. No question where his loyalties lie: “We have always voted for the Congress. Modi’s note-politics has reaffirmed my choice.”

And then there are those who seem to have made a choice but will not reveal it. “Kise ne nahi bolna choun jabta lagan toh pehlan. Assi kut nahi khaani (No one will tell you their choice before the code of conduct is imposed. We don’t want to be thrashed),” says a septuagenarian.

What about the alternative to the Akali Dal and the Congress? Paramjit Singh, a resident of Kalanaur, says, “Kejriwal ne Chhotepur naal changa nahi kita. Chhotepur ne zameen bana ke ditti si party di. Kejriwal ne fasal bijni si bas.
But kam khraab ho gaya.

Te Langah (Akali candidate) ne vee sab khatam kar leya. Hun lagda votan di division vich Congress da daa lag jau [Chhotepur’s ouster has dented AAP’s chances. The Akalis are on a weak ground. The Congress might be the gainer].”

The one-time face of Aam Aadmi Party in the state, Sucha Singh Chhotepur’s native village falls in Gurdaspur district. His unceremonious exit can dent the party’s fortunes here.

Kanwaljit Kaur, among the women who go for a daily evening stroll to the spot from where Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara can be seen, says, “Whoever will make a commitment to bring a college to the town will get my vote. I don’t want my children to travel far for basic education.”

The former BSF officer Gurjeet Singh also talks about the lack of education and job opportunities: “I have two sons. One could not study beyond Class 12 as there was no college within 30 km. The other travelled to Batala and Gurdaspur, but is still jobless. We all are tilling four acres to make ends meet.”

The talk on development again veers to the opening of the border corridor. “It can help traders open shops and earn a better livelihood. How can you manage with just Rs 50-100 a day?” says Shakti, the vegetable vendor.

Some have lost hope on the issue and give vent to frustration, accusing the Centre of not doing enough. One such organisation has put up posters claiming that the government held parleys with China for a corridor for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, besides exchanging land with Bangladesh, but no effort has been made for the Sikhs.

Baljit Singh Goraya, founder of Sangat Langha (corridor for devotees), is among the several bodies involved in the campaign.

Gurinder Singh Bajwa, general secretary of the Kartarpur-Ravi Ikhlaq Sanstha and potential candidate of Chhotepur’s Aapna Punjab Party, says they have been holding ‘ardaas’ at the border for 16 years, praying for a corridor.

Gurpartap Singh Khushalpur, a former Akali leader and a one-time aide of Akali candidate Sucha Singh Langah, is the AAP candidate from this predominantly rural seat.

He says the border corridor can open the doors to development, but the state government just can’t keep relying on it. “Only AAP has plans and a vision to provide job opportunities and colleges in this forgotten belt,” he claims.

Sitting Congress MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa enjoys the support of PPCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh and the Delhi leadership. “Akalis have deliberately not carried out development in this region as people didn’t vote for them.

I have made a commitment that a college will be opened here when the Congress comes to power. The corridor is an issue we will keep taking up, but it needs bilateral action. It can be a pathway to peace between India and Pakistan,” he says.

SAD candidate Langah has considerable influence among the staunch Akalis. A former SGPC member, he has been taking a strong stand on Sikh issues. Though the party has announced his candidature, there is a legal hitch. He was convicted in a disproportionate assets case by a Mohali court. There is speculation that his son would eventually contest.

A twist in the tale can throw the electoral contest wide open.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/politics/dera-baba-nanak-awaits-an-opening/331731.html

Halmaal Gurdwara

Halmaal Gurdwara
25 September 2016

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Queuing up to pay respect to the Guru Granth Sahib

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Male sangat

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Female sangat

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Granthi Singh reading from Guru Granth Sahib

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Jalebia
Lekker, tasty, swaad

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Meria potia !

Gurdwara Sangat Sahib
20 Halmaal Dorp
B-3800 Sint Truiden

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New Kerala – Amritsar: Pakistan Envoy to Afghanistan to partake in Heart of Asia Conference

Amritsar, Panjab, 2 December 2016.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Abrar Hussain is set to take part in the official level talks in the Heart of Asia conference which is scheduled to take place in Amritsar, Punjab tomorrow.

This came days after Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Policy, Sartaj Aziz announced his participation in the event.

Both high level officials will be representing Pakistan at the official level talks tomorrow.

From the Indian side, Finance minister Arun Jaitley will lead the delegation at the two-day Sixth Heart of Asia (HoA) conference, an external affairs ministry official said.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is undergoing treatment for kidney failure, will not attend the meeting.

However, it is not clear whether Pakistan will hold any bilateral meeting with India on the sidelines of the summit.

“We have not received any request from Pakistan for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of Heart of Asia ministerial conference,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

The conference will see the participation of representatives from over 30 countries, including China, United States, Russia, Iran and Pakistan to discuss peace, cooperation and economic development in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is the permanent chair of the HoA, while India, which is its co-chair, will host this year’s conference.

The main ministerial conference will be inaugurated jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on December 4.

The ‘Heart of Asia’ platform was floated with an aim to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

http://www.newkerala.com/news/2016/fullnews-150196.html

Dawn – Pakistan not begging for dialogue with India: Abdul Basit

New Delhi, 2 December 2016. Pakistan High Commissioner to New Delhi Abdul Basit in an interview with The Hindu on Friday said, “Pakistan is not begging for dialogue. If India is not ready, we can always wait.”

Discussing the increasing hostility between India and Pakistan, Basit, highlighting “the need to break the impasse” between the two countries, said, “Talking to each other is inevitable. Whether it happens one year down the road or three years down the road.”

The interview took place days a few days before Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is due to lead a Pakistani delegation at the Heart of Asia conference being held in Amritsar this Sunday.

There has been speculation as to whether Pakistan and India will hold talks on the sidelines of the conference that takes as its focus increasing cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Speaking in relation to the possibility of such talks being held during the interview, Basit said Pakistan remains open to “any proposal for talks from the Indian side,” adding that during the conference, attention must remain on Afghanistan.

“Whether or not there are bilateral talks, our adviser is coming because Afghanistan is important for us, its stability and economy are important for us so we will participate constructively,” Basit said.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup, however, ruled out any possibility of talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the up-coming conference a day earlier.

“Talks cannot happen in a climate of continued terrorism. India will never accept continued terrorism as the new normal of the bilateral relationship,” Times of India quoted Swarup as saying during a weekly press briefing.

During the interview, Basit was asked whether Pakistan was worried about being cornered by Afghanistan and India at the conference on account of both countries holding Pakistan responsible for the ‘cross-border terrorism’ they face.

Basit responded by saying that Pakistan had no such concerns as terrorism is a important issue for the country as well.

“Why should we worry because terrorism is also an important issue for us.”

“There is zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan,” Basit added. He highlighted that in the past Pakistan has taken action against “proscribed” militant groups such as Jaish-i-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Taiba.

In regard to the escalating situation along the Line of Control (LoC), Basit said, “the 2003 ceasefire was an important Confidence Building Measure,” which should should remain intact.

“We must preserve it and then consolidate.”

He said firing along the LoC must be brought to an end and diplomacy should remain the primary means to reach solutions on the Kashmir front.

Basit described the relationship between India and Pakistan as “one step forward, two steps back and then discuss how to break the ice again.”

He stated that incidents such as the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani bring the countries back to “square one” whenever progress on holding talks is seen.

Basit added, there has been a “feeling in Islamabad that that there is no desire for a comprehensive dialogue in Delhi,” since the killing of Burhan Wani by Indian forces on July 8.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1300017/pakistan-not-begging-for-dialogue-with-india-abdul-basit