The Asian Age – Donald Trump to flag CAA, religion

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

Sridhar Kumaraswami

New Delhi – India, 23 February 2020. US President Donald Trump will raise the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and religious freedom issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit next week, and he will convey that “the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law”, the US administration said on Saturday.

It added that President Trump “will also encourage bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan” on the Kashmir issue, adding that the US expects Pakistan to crack down on terror outfits operating there.

The US said the “Make in India” campaign raised fears in the US of “protectionist” policies by New Delhi, while pointing to “the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors”.

Economic and energy ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region will also be discussed, the US said.

In response to a question on the CAA, the US administration said, “President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration.

And I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Mr Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities.”

The US administration added, “Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law.

Of course, it’s in the Indian constitution, religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India. We have great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions.

India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions.”

On Kashmir and Pakistan, the US said, “What you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences.

We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that.

But I think the President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region.”

On whether India’s “participation” in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), that had earlier given India many concessions could be “restored”, the US said, “The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India’s GSP access remains a concern for us. We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers.”

The Asian Age – Donald Trump’s visit sparks fear among J&K Sikhs

Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on 24 and 25 February.

Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 23 February 2020. The US President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit of India has caused fear psychosis and panic among the Sikhs of Kashmir Valley as they are reminded of the ‘horror’ of the night of March 19, 2000 when as many as 35 members of the minority community were massacred by gunmen in Chattisinghpora village of southern Anantnag district during then President Bill Clinton’s official visit of the country.

Stating this, Jagmohan Singh Raina, chairman of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), an amalgam of J&K’s Sikh organizations, said that the Sikhs of the Valley have to face such fearful situation whenever a high profile foreign personality, especially, that from USA visits India.

“The whole of India seems to be busy in making preparations for Mr Trump’s visit, but for Sikhs of Kashmir, the visit has brought in fears that the members of community are yet again on the radar.

The Sikhs are feeling insecure and they fear that something untoward might happen on the eve of Donald Trump’s visit,” Mr. Raina said in a statement here on Saturday.

In 2000, on the intervening night of 19 and 20 March, when the then US President Mr. Clinton was in India, 35 Sikhs were shot dead by gunmen in Army uniforms after descending to Chattisinghpora. A local woman had also died of cardiac arrest on seeing piles of bullet-riddled corpses of the victims, raising the toll to 36.

The authorities had blamed the gory incident on separatist militants. Five days after the massacre, Army and J&K police had claimed that five perpetrators were killed in an encounter in Anantnag’s Pathribal area and all of them were foreign terrorists.

But later, it turned out to be a fake encounter and all the five slain men were unarmed civilians, who were picked up by the forces from different areas of the district earlier. Subsequently, at least ten persons were also killed after security forces opened fire on the people protesting against the fake encounter in Anantnag’s Brakapora area.

The CBI had in 2006 chargesheeted Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt. Colonel Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan for killing five civilians.

However, in January 2014, the Army closed the Pathribal fake encounter case, asserting that the evidence recorded couldn’t establish a prime-facie case against any of the accused.

The Army had taken up the case from the civil court in 2012 following the directions of the Supreme Court before which it has earlier challenged the charge-sheet filed by the CBI, which had described the incident as staged encounter and the killing of the civilian as a cold-blooded murder.

Even after the lapse of nearly two decades the people of J&K particularly the Sikhs of the Valley are still waiting for the justice to be delivered. Mr Raina said that the scars inflicted on the Sikhs of the Valley during Mr Clinton’s visit “are yet to be removed even after 20 years as the people who carried out the crime are yet to be identified”.

He said, “It is highly unfortunate that neither the Government of India nor the successive J&K governments have reached to any conclusion with respect to identifying the killers of Sikhs at Chattisinghpora. The people at helm have just been making claims and truth of the matter is killers continue to roam free,” he added.

He said the Sikhs of the Valley were gripped by panic also during the India visit of (former) President Barrack Obama “but, fortunately, nothing untoward happened”. He, however, asked the Sikh living in village of north and south Kashmir “to remain alert and vigilant” during the Trump visit.

World Sikh News – Release Prisoner of Conscience 76-year-old Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom

Published 2 weeks ago – Jagmohan Singh

Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, 76-year-old Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association President is in prison since 5 August when India decided to take control of Kash­mir. Incarcerated earlier in Central Jail Agra and now in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, this veteran lawyer has dealt with 15,000 habeas corpus petitions, making him perhaps the only lawyer in South Asia to do so.

His steadfast stance on the right to self-determination for Kashmir has rattled the Indian government and he is being harassed for his views, making him a Prisoner of conscience. The Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices of Kashmir (LFOVK) in an online petition to the United Nations seeks his release. WSN urges you to vote and share.

Mian Abdul Qayoom is a name every home in Kashmir is familiar with. Virtually, every home has had a brush with the state machinery and has had the need to take the services of this veteran advocate, who has been the president of the High Court Bar of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court for as many as 21 times.

The Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices of Kashmir (LFOVK) urges political activists who support the right to self-determination, conscientious individuals, civil society and human rights defenders to endorse the on­line petition seeking his release.

The petition addressed to the United Nations is a sincere effort to raise the voice for a leading counsel whose detention has not invoked the attention of the Bar Associations throughout India to stand up for him and denounce his detention.

While Indian civil liberties or lawyer bodies have not expressed concern over Qayoom’s detention so far, in November last year, Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales and Schona Jolly SC, Chair of the BHRC wrote to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern over the arrest of Qayoom.

The rationale given by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court while dismissing a plea for Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom’s release is noteworthy. Presiding judge Justice Tashi Rabstan described personal liberty as the most cherished freedoms guaran­teed under the Indian Constitution in Article 22, but with a caveat.

He cited observations made by the Supreme Court in ‘The Secretary to the Government, Public (law and order-F) and another vs Nabila and another (2015)’ case, which said, “Where individual liberty comes into conflict with the interest of the security of the state or maintenance of public order, then the liberty of the individual must give way to the larger interest of the nation.”

“We urge political activists who support the right to self-determination, concientious individuals, civil society and human rights defend­ers to endorse the online petition seeking release of Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom’s” release.”

The Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices of Kashmir (LFOVK)

Not only this, the court said, “the detention of the person is not to punish him for what he has done but to intercept and prevent him from doing it.” For how long? Is his health and life of any concern? Can the court order the shuffling of a 76-year-old prisoner from one prison to another even after a heart attack? Is the Indian administration, executive and judiciary following the norms of criminal jurisprudence and India’s obligations under various UN treaties and conventions in this case or in such other political detentions?

Qayoom is known for his political views and has been a staunch critic of the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A.

LFOVK in the petition says, “Since the insurgency in 1990, he has been arrested and incarcerated in different Indian prisons. In 1995, he was shot at by an unknown gunman resulting in serious spinal injuries leading to nine surgeries through which he recovered but with a limp. With one of his kidneys also removed, he survives on one.”

He is sick suffering from multiple ailments: diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and prostate issues and thus needs urgent medical attention and regular care.

The petition has added that on 29 January, while in detention in the Central Jail Agra, he suffered a major heart attack and was rushed to S.N. Medical College Agra.

Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed that he be shifted to Tihar Jail in Delhi. He has now been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act of 1978 which gives arbitrary powers to Indian administrators to detain individuals with­out any judicial process or trial for up to 2 years.

Recently this law has been clamped on two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir: Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. It has also been used to mistreat, abuse, victimize and suppress activists, journalists, political, human rights, lawyers and common people of Kashmir. Since 05 August, a few thousand Kashmiri nationalists have been detained under this Act.

India’s National Inestigation Agency, NIA, has harassed him in terror-funding cases but all allegations have proved base­less.

“A senior advocate is behind bars and the silence of the lawyer fraternity is not a good omen for respect for human rights. Lawyers and activists will do well to remember what Martin Niemöller said.”

Navkiran Singh, General Secretary, Lawyers for Human Rights International

Spearheading the campaign for the release of political prisoners, LFOVK, an independent organisation that advocates nationally and internationally the Right of Self-Determination and respect for human rights in Occupied Kashmir through legal research, documentation and capacity-building to address, under international law, the violations of individual and collective rights of Kashmiris.

To protect and assist the victims of conflict, LFOVK seeks to ensure compliance with the obligations of International Human Rights Laws and International Humanitarian Laws during coflicts.

Lawyers for Human Rights International general secretary Advocate Navkiran Singh of the Panjab and Haryana High Court, who has been urging advocates and activists to sign the on­line petiion seeking Qayoom’s release says, “A senior advocate is behind bars and the silence of the lawyer fraternity is not a good omen for respect for human rights. Lawyers and activists will do well to remember what Martin Niemöller said.”

Sign the petition at !

Release Prisoner of Conscience 76-year-old Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom

The Hindustan Times – ‘Explain how J&K can really attract investors’: Opposition MPs ask MHA

The tough questions from the MPs came during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliament yesterday when the lawmakers were being briefed by the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

New Delhi – India, 20 February 2020. The Union Home Ministry was asked by opposition members of Parliament to explain how Jammu and Kashmir could hope to attract investment in the current security situation.

The tough questions from the MPs came during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliament yesterday when the lawmakers were being briefed by the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

“Speeches don’t attract investment. In addition, infrastructure in J&K also doesn’t support the kind of investment that Centre is talking about”, a senior opposition MP who was at the meeting but didn’t want to be named, said.

Local body elections in J&K scheduled in March have had to be deferred because of security concerns. “The ministry didn’t have a clear answer to these questions. They have, however, assured us that it would come back with details”, the MP said.

Parliament had last August scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split the state into two Union Territories. Immediately after the removal of the special status, curbs on telecom and movement were brought in fearing a law and order flare-up.

Some curbs have been removed since over the past six months. But curbs on telecom still remain.

Recently the Jammu and Kashmir administration released its Information Technology policy to attract investors and has spoken of roadshows in metros to attract investment. Besides. the administration has also been planning an international investors’ meet to attract foreign investors.

The Telegraph – Cops bow to hawks, re-arrest students

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups

Hubli – Karnataka – India, 18 February 2020. Three Kashmiri students of an engineering college in Hubli – Karnataka, facing sedition charges have been arrested again after being released a day earlier.

The police summoned them on Monday morning amid protests by Hindutva groups.

Members of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad staged a protest outside the Gokul police station soon after the students’ release.

Hubli police commissioner R Dilip on Monday said: “We summoned them again today (Monday) after we found incriminating evidence and subsequently arrested them.”

But he did not dwell into why they were arrested after being released just hours earlier. Police had arrested them on Saturday after a purported video clip they had recorded showed them chanting “Pakistan zindabad”.

The police released them on Sunday citing Section 169 of CrPc that permits any person to be released for want of proper evidence. They were produced before a court that remanded them for 14 days in judicial custody.

Dawn – India summons Turkish envoy over Erdogan’s remarks on Kashmir

New Delhi – India, 18 February 2020. India summoned the Turkish ambassador on Monday to lodge a diplomatic protest over President Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks on occupied Kashmir and warned it would have a bearing on bilateral ties.

During a visit to Pakistan last week, Erdogan said the situation in occupied Kashmir was worsening because of sweeping changes New Delhi introduced in the Muslim-majority region and that Turkey stood in solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

India told Turkish envoy Sakir Ozkan Torunlar that Erdogan’s comments lacked any understanding of the history of the Kashmir dispute, the Indian foreign ministry said.

“This recent episode is but one more example of a pattern of Turkey interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. India finds that completely unacceptable,” foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.

He said that India had served a strong demarche, or formal diplomatic note.

India withdrew Kashmir’s special status in August of last year and brought it under federal rule. Pakistan slammed the measure and other Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey and Malaysia joined in calls for India to reconsider its actions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has put curbs on palm oil imports from Malaysia in retaliation and officials have said it is planning to cut some imports from Turkey as well.

“These developments have strong implications for our bilateral relations,” the foreign ministry spokesman said, referring to Erdogan’s comments.

Erdogan told Pakistan’s parliament that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved through pressure but on the basis of justice and fairness.

The Statesman – ‘Deeply concerned over Jammu & Kashmir’, says UN chief in Pakistan, India says ‘no scope for third-party mediation’

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories on 05 August 1919.

New Delhi – India, 17 February 2020. India on Sunday straightaway rejected an offer of mediation by UN chief Antonio Guterres on Kashmir saying instead Pakistan should vacate territories occupied by it “illegally and forcibly.”

India responded after Guterres on a four-day visit to Pakistan, said in Islamabad that he was concerned over the situation in Kashmir, and that he was ready to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the long pending issue.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “India’s position has not changed. Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and will continue to be an integral part of India. The issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan.”

He added, “We hope that the UN secretary general would press Pakistan to take credible and irreversible action to stop cross-border terrorism against India.”

Kumar while reiterating India’s stand on Kashmir said, “Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third-party mediation.”

The MEA spokesperson added, “We hope the UN secretary general would emphasize on the imperative for Pakistan to take credible, sustained and irreversible action to put an end to cross-border terrorism against India, which threatens the most fundamental human right – the right to life – of the people of India, including in J&K.”

The UN secretary general said he was “deeply concerned” over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and tensions along the Line of Control while addressing a press conference after his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

Guterres said it was important for India and Pakistan to de-escalate “militarily and verbally” and exercise “maximum restraint” on the Kashmir issue and added that he was ready to help if both countries agreed for mediation.

“Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the Charter of United Nations and resolutions of the Security Council,” Guterres said.

The UN chief said he had “repeatedly stressed on the importance of exercising maximum restraint”. “I offered my good offices from the beginning. I am ready to help if both countries agree for mediation,” he said.

Guterres arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and during his visit will attend an international conference on Afghan refugees and visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 1919.

India had categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

India on January 23 reiterated its position on Kashmir saying that there is no role for any third party in the issue and reprimanded Pakistan for attempting to internationalise the issue.

The assertion came as US President Donald Trump, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, once again reiterated his offer to “help” on the Kashmir issue, saying the US was “watching and closely following” the developments in the Valley.

Trump made the statement ahead of talks with “a very good friend” PM Imran Khan on the sidelines of the annual WEF in Switzerland.

Earlier in January, Deputy Permanent Representative of India to UN, Nagaraj Naidu had slammed Pakistan for “spewing venom and false narratives” of monumental proportions in the United Nations, saying it “takes to hate speech like a fish takes to water”.

“Just like a fish takes to water, one delegation has again taken to hate speech. Every time this delegation speaks, it spews venom and false narratives of monumental proportions,” Naidu said at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Further, India slammed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for attempting to internationalise the Kashmir issue yet again and termed him “desperate” while adding that the “global community now understands the country’s double standards”.

Meanwhile, India had on several occassions slammed Pakistan for trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue. New Delhi had asserted that Islamabad needs to focus on the hard tasks it has to address in order to ensure normal relations with India.

‘Deeply concerned over J-K’, says UN chief in Pak, India says ‘no scope for third-party mediation’

The Hindu – Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar slams envoys

Special Correspondent

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 17 February 2020. Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar, who was restricted to a Srinagar hotel and prevented from participating in a conference here, termed the Kashmir situation far from normal and criticised the foreign diplomats who claimed to see signs of normalcy during their recent visit.

“Any foreign Ambassdor who went to Srinagar just two days before I did and claimed that he has seen signs of normalcy should never have been promoted to above third secretary status. I say this as an Indian foreign service officer,” Mr Aiyer told The Hindu.

Mr Aiyar and O P Shah, who heads the Centre for Peace and Progress, had planned a meet and invited civil society groups.

”The hotel where we were staying had just three rooms booked. It was me, Mr. Shah and an armed policeman who monitored movement of all those who visited us. Hours before the conference was to start, the police barricaded the hotel. We were also restricted to its premises,” Mr. Aiyer said.

”If the foreign envoys could visit and meet the groups of delegations recently despite Section 144, why can’t we meet groups inside a hotel? It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy,” he said.

“I decided to visit J&K because the Prime Minister said opposition leaders should go there and see for themselves. Besides, Mr Amit Shah said he is not placing any restrictions on people going or coming. In effect, if one goes to endorse their normalcy, you are allowed to go.

If you want to listen to people and see what is boiling in their hearts, it’s not allowed,” said Mr Aiyer.

He said during his stay in Kashmir he just witnessed empty hotels, shikara-walas (boat owners) waiting to host a tourist and armed security personnel manning the streets.

“It’s clear there is no normalcy. If Mr Amit Shah regards disallowing this kind of meeting as normalcy I would like him to explain what is normalcy. What are they afraid of if normalcy has returned? Why are they continuing with restrictions on the people of Kashmir.

There is fear and apprehension everywhere that the lid on the steam kettle will blow off by the internal pressure. Though nobody is able to say when and what will be the trigger. Many here fear ailing Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani’s death could provide that trigger,” he added.

This kind of behaviour, he said, showed that the situation in Kashmir is not under control of the Government of India. “The huge military presence seems an attempt at dominating the local population,” he added.

The Congress leader said there were bogus attempts at creating some kind of alternative to the genuine leadership, which is in the prison.

“I realised that the entire Sheikh family is now in detention of one kind or other without recognition to the fact that this is the family that acceded with India and upheld the flag of India for 70 years in every corner of Kashmir,” he added.

He lamented that there was no attempt to reach out to the people. “It’s believed that by intimidation and by cultivating quislings, the Centre will be able to sell development discourse.

J&K is far ahead on most of the development indices because of Article 370. In fact, there is plummeting of J&K’s GDP since August 5. The Kashmir problem is far from over but got aggravated instead,” he warned.

The Asian Age – Second batch of foreign diplomats shown around Kashmir

Briefings, meetings and boat rides organized for their benefit

Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 12 February 2020. A second batch of New Delhi-based diplomats from over two dozen countries began a two-day tour of Jammu & Kashmir for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the troubled territory.

Reports emanating from Delhi said the Russian ambassador to India declined an invitation to join the delegation.

In Srinagar, the delegation was briefed by top Army officers on the security situation in the districts and along the Line of Control (LoC).

They were told of Pakistan’s “unremitting attempts to push in militants and terrorists and perpetrate ceasefire violations” along the de facto border, a defence spokesman said here.

Earlier in the day, the visiting envoys interacted with fruit growers and traders in Baramulla district and had a series of meetings with representatives of political parties, trade unions, civil society groups, women entrepreneurs and a select group of media persons, all handpicked by their hosts.

They were also treated to shikara rides on the Dal lake.

After a night’s stay in a luxury Srinagar hotel, the delegation will visit the winter capital Jammu on Thursday where they are scheduled to meet Lt Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, his advisors and government functionaries, officials of the police and security forces and leaders and representatives of various political parties, civil society groups and business leaders.

Opposition criticism

This is the third visit by foreign diplomats and lawmakers to Jammu & Kashmir since 05 August last year, when the erstwhile state was stripped of its special status and bifurcated into two union territories.

Supervised by the Union Home Ministry, the visits have been strongly criticized by the opposition which questioned the wisdom of “wasting money and other resources of the state by sponsoring such pleasure trips.”

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said, “The visiting delegation should be allowed to meet the three former chief ministers who have been incarcerated. I too have some ideas to share with them but I wonder if they will be allowed to meet me. I’ve been under house arrest for the past six months.”

He added, “Taking them on shikara rides on the Dal lake and allowing them to meet only people handpicked by the government agencies are not going to help. Such tamashas have in the past left a negative impact on the psyche of the people, especially in the Kashmir Valley.”

Presence of EU diplomats

This batch of diplomats being conducted around Kashmir includes those from Canada, Austria, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Slovak Republic, Netherlands, Namibia, Kyrgyz Republic, Bulgaria, Germany, Tajikistan, France, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Poland and Rwanda.

The presence of diplomats from European Union member countries in this delegation is significant. The EU Parliament recently saw moves to bring in a joint draft resolution on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Kashmir situation. A vote on the resolution was later deferred.

In mid January, envoys of 15 countries including United States ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster and diplomats from Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru had visited J&K at the invitation of the MEA which had said that they wanted to see firsthand the efforts being made by the government to normalise situation in the union territory.

In October last year, 27 MPs, drawn mainly from far-right parties, of 11 European countries visited Srinagar but the EU embassy in Delhi was quick to clarify then that they were in India in their “personal capacity” and not as part of an official delegation.

That visit too had drawn criticism by the Congress, National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), CPM and other mainstream parties, terming it a “guided tour aimed at misleading the world about the ground realities in J&K.” The opposition and a section of the media had in particular criticised the manner in which European MPs were brought to Srinagar.

The Congress also questioned the wisdom and probity of the government in inviting foreign diplomats to visit J&K when the country’s own political leaders including MPs are being denied access to the erstwhile state.

However, Union minister of state for home affairs G. Kishan Reddy told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that there are no restrictions on Indian citizens visitng J&K.

The Hindu – NIA court issues warrants against 2 Khalistan terrorists in drone arms drop case in Punjab

New Delhi – India, 12 February 2020. A special NIA court in Mohali has issued non-bailable warrants against two terrorists belonging to the Khalistan Zindabad Force in a case related to dropping of arms and ammunition in Punjab by drones originating from Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday.

Non-bailable warrants have been issued against Ranjeet Singh Neeta, a resident of R S Pura in Jammu, who is based in Pakistan at present and Gurmeet Singh alias Bagga, a resident of Hoshiyarpur district in Punjab who is based in Germany now, an NIA spokesperson said.

The case pertains to dropping of arms, ammunition, explosives, communication devices and fake Indian currency notes (FICN) in September last year in the Indian territory at Chola Sahib in Punjab by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones that originated from Pakistan.

“During investigation, the role of Neeta, Pakistan based chief of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), a proscribed terrorist organisation and Singh, a key operative of KZF based in Hamburg, Germany has been found in the conspiracy of trafficking of illegal arms, ammunition, explosives, communication devices and FICNs into India to further terrorist activities,” the agency spokesperson said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had taken over the case as this act was considered “to cause loss of life and property of citizens as well as to threaten the security of India”.

“Investigation has disclosed that the two have been able to recruit certain individuals from Punjab for carrying out terrorist activities,” the spokesperson said.

Nine people have been arrested in this case till now and the probe is ongoing, he said.

I am always very sceptical about the truthfulness of such news items.
Man in Blue