The Asian Age – We need a more robust Pakistan foreign policy

Diplomacy to be effective must be embedded in a strategic matrix. The question is not whether we should talk to Pakistan or not.

Pavan K Varma

Op/Ed, 23 September 2018. I have great personal respect for Sushma Swaraj. She is, by far, one of the most competent ministers in the current Cabinet. It is for this reason that I am at a loss to understand what is happening with regard to our policy towards Pakistan.

It is abundantly clear to anyone remotely in the know that Pakistan is quite clear about how to deal with India. Pakistan’s policy is, as I have said on countless occasions, one of explosive aggression followed by tactical appeasement. This policy has undergone no change with Imran Khan becoming the PM of Pakistan.

In fact, any civilian PM of Pakistan is a puppet of the deep state consisting of the ISI and the Pakistani Army. PMs may come and go, but the policy of the deep state remains unchanged, and the incumbent civilian, who is ostensibly “democratically” elected, has no option but to follow this policy.

This situation explains why Mr Khan, on assuming power, held out an olive branch to India, while Pakistan relentlessly continued its support and sponsorship of terrorism against India.

Ceasefire violations have escalated; the Pakistani Army has upped its shelling from across the border, killing and displacing civilians; terrorists sponsored by Pakistan have claimed with impunity the lives of our brave armed forces and paramilitary personnel. Aggression, followed by appeasement, has been the consistent policy.

What has been our response? I am afraid, we have neither been consistent, nor prepared, nor armed with a strategic response of our own. On the one hand, we have publicly maintained, for some time now, that there can be no talks with Pakistan in the shadow of terrorism.

Formal comprehensive talks were suspended by the previous UPA government precisely for this reason.

Even though PM Narendra Modi invited former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, and later air-dashed to Lahore to give a hug to Mr Sharif on his birthday, these talks were not resumed, because Pakistan’s transparent nexus with terrorism directed against India not only continued, but escalated, with such brazen attacks as that of Uri and Pathankot.

While not agreeing to the resumption of the composite dialogue process, we have, in addition, made countless statements that no talks with Pakistan will be our policy so long as it does not end its verifiable nexus with terrorism.

Ms Swaraj herself said that until the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage are brought to book, any talks with Pakistan are out of the question. But, just a few weeks after her statement, PM Modi met with his counterpart, Mr Sharif, on the sidelines of the Ufa summit, and issued a rather ambivalent and questionable joint statement after that.

Mr Khan’s offer of talks with India was something we should have expected, and been prepared for. In fact, even better, we should have proactively pre-empted Pakistan’s move by becoming the prime mover ourselves.

Immediately after his election, we should have issued a formal statement expressing the hope that the new PM of Pakistan will eschew the path of terrorism, so that the comprehensive dialogue process can be renewed, with terrorism as the first item on the agenda.

Then the ball would have been in Pakistan’s court. It would have to respond, and we could manoeuvre the response trajectory.

However, since we were not proactive, the opposite has happened. Pakistan has made the offer of talks, and we are scurrying around to respond. And, our response has been, to say the least — rather egregious. First, we said that the two foreign ministers will meet on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York.

Then we clarified that this will be a meeting, not a dialogue. What is the difference between the two? When two people meet, at the level of foreign ministers, what they say to each other, unless they are on “maun vrat”, a vow of silence, constitutes a dialogue.

Such a dialogue may not be at the level of the structured comprehensive dialogue, but it is a dialogue. Hair splitting on what is a “talk” and what is a “dialogue” is, frankly, quite silly.

But more egg on our face was to follow. The very next day the MEA said that this meeting has been cancelled.

The reason given for this reversal was the killing of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities, and the release of postage stamps of Pakistan-glorifying militant Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter by our security forces.

The MEA spokesperson said “the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed, and the true face of the new Pakistan PM, Imran Khan, has been revealed to the world”.

This is truly mystifying. Were “Pakistan-based entities” not killing our security personnel when we agreed, just 24 hours earlier, for Ms Swaraj to meet with her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi?

Were we in any doubt that Burhan Wani was a terrorist trained and supported by Pakistan, for us to suddenly realise, in the space of 24 hours, that a stamp issued in his name by Pakistan showed the “true face of the Pakistan PM”?

The truth is that our response was a plain and simple flip-flop, whose underlying cause is the transparent absence of a well-thought out strategic policy to deal with our hostile neighbour. In the absence of such a policy, our responses become ad hoc.

We appear as diplomatic dilettantes on the international stage, and the advantage, quite unnecessarily, accrues to Pakistan. In this instance, while we were busy explaining the reasons for the abrupt reversal of our decisions, Pakistan has conveyed to the world that India has spurned its offer for talks.

Mr Qureshi said as much: “It is unfortunate that India has not given a positive response. India has once again wasted an opportunity for peace.”

Diplomacy to be effective must be embedded in a strategic matrix. The question is not whether we should talk to Pakistan or not. The real issue is that whatever we do must be in accordance with a wellcalibrated strategic policy.

There is no point in diverting attention from this basic issue by planning the celebration of anniversaries of the surgical strike. That was a move we welcomed and paid tribute to our brave soldiers. However, one strike alone is not enough to overlook the continued violence against us from across the border. Nor is a muscular posture a substitute for strategic clarity.

I do not claim to understand the ‘deep state’ workings in Pakistan, or how Army, ISI and government work together or not, as the case may be. But it is useful that the author has a critical look at the Indian policies towards Pakistan.
Man in Blue

The writer, an author and former diplomat, is a member of the JD(U).


The Tribune – Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) president sent to 5-year jail for land fraud

P K Jaiswar, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 21 September 2018. Dr Santokh Singh, the president of the CKD, was on Friday sentenced to five years in prison in a land fraud case. The verdict was delivered by Chief Judicial Magistrate R S Bajwa here.

Manjit Singh of Gali Waziranwali in Rajasansi and Mohinder Singh of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar had accused Dr Santokh Singh, his brother Inderpal Singh and two others of trying to grab their ancestral land in Haer village on the airport road.

During the trial, Dr Santokh Singh and his brother produced a sale deed agreement, claiming that the land had been sold to them by Bishan Singh and Gopal Dass in 1967. But the complainants pointed out that Gopal Dass had died in 1940 and Bishan Singh in 1950.

Counsel Ajay Vermani said the court had found Dr Santokh Singh guilty of forgery under Sections 465, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC and of criminal conspiracy. He said Inderpal Singh, already declared a ‘proclaimed offender’, did not appear in court during the trial.

“The CJM’s court has awarded a maximum of five-year imprisonment and Rs 10,000 as fine under Section 467, four years’ imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fine under Section 468, two years’ jail and Rs 5,000 fine under Section 465, two years’ jail and Rs 5,000 fine under Section 471 and five years’ imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fine for criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B). The sentences will run concurrently,” Vermani said.

Meanwhile, the CKD honorary secretary, Narinder Singh Khurana, told The Tribune that senior vice-president Dhanraj Singh would take over as officiating president. The elections to the body are due next year. Unlike the SGPC, the CKD is an apolitical body. It runs 47 schools, three colleges (educational institutes), orphanages, old-age homes, hospitals and clinics.

Chief Khalsa Dewan in doldrums once again

The 115-year-old Chief Khalsa Dewan Charitable Society (CKDCS), is once again headless

Noted surgeon and philanthropist, Dr Santokh Singh was elected president on March 25

He defeated former Akali MP Rajmohinder S Majitha by 10 votes in the 513-member House

The election took place after Charanjit Singh Chadha, who headed the Society between 2004 and 2017, was asked by Akal Takht to step down following a sleaze tape on the social media

Subsequently, Chadha and his son Inderpreet (he later committed suicide) were booked

Chadha appeared before the Takht for atonement and was awarded a two-year ban

The News – India denies visa to Pakistani chefs participating in food-festival

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 23 September 2018. Six Pakistani chefs had their visas rejected by the Indian government on Saturday, restricting them from participating in the World Heritage Cuisine and Food Festival that will be held in October in Amritsar.

The rejection of the visas came in the middle of the intensifying pressures between the neighboring countries after the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj pulled out from making dialogue with Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, earlier this week.

The visas to the Pakistani chefs were denied on the basis of the political tensions between the countries, stated the Indian government.

The food festival is initiated by World Cultural Culinary Heritage Committee of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WorldChef)- a global network of chef associations in the French capital of Paris.

It was reported by Geo News that the chefs who were denied the visa have registered an official complaint regarding the matter in opposition to the Indian government, to the WorldChef’s secretary general.

The event is scheduled to be held from October 12 to 14, featuring representation through chefs of over 40 countries.

23 September 2018. Six Pakistani chefs had their visas rejected by the Indian government on Saturday, restricting them from participating in the World Heritage Cuisine and Food Festival that will be held in October in Amritsar.

The rejection of the visas came in the middle of the intensifying pressures between the neighboring countries after the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj pulled out from making dialogue with Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, earlier this week.

The visas to the Pakistani chefs were denied on the basis of the political tensions between the countries, stated the Indian government.

The food festival is initiated by World Cultural Culinary Heritage Committee of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WorldChef)- a global network of chef associations in the French capital of Paris.

It was reported by Geo News that the chefs who were denied the visa have registered an official complaint regarding the matter in opposition to the Indian government, to the WorldChef’s secretary general.

The event is scheduled to be held from October 12 to 14, featuring representation through chefs of over 40 countries.

Dawn – Poliovirus that originated in Afghanistan detected in Rawalpindi

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 23 September 2018. Poliovirus that originated in the Northern Corridor in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Helmand, has been detected in various Pakistani cities including Rawalpindi.

Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication National Coordinator Rana Mohammad Safdar said the virus has been detected in Peshawar and other cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well.

“This shows that there is a threat because of the virus, which is travelling with people from Afghanistan to Pakistan, so we need to ensure our children’s immunity level is high to keep them safe from the virus,” he added.

A total of 14 cases have been reported near the border in Afghanistan, as polio vaccination campaigns cannot be held in some provinces for security reasons.

The area where the polio-virus originated can be detected through DNA testing. In 2013, the Syrian government had alleged that polio-virus that originated in the then Federally Administered Tribal Areas had travelled to Syria because of Pakistanis who were fighting alongside rebels.

First nationwide vaccination campaign of 2018-19 starts tomorrow

“Three cases have been reported from Balochistan, but all three were reported from one district and two adjacent union councils. Such cases are considered a single case, as the same virus attacks the children.

“The fourth polio-virus case was detected in Charsadda in an 18-month-old child. Although the child was affected by polio, he was not paralysed because he not only received all the doses in the routine immunisation but also in door-to-door campaigns,” he said.

Children have to be vaccinated as long as the virus exists to keep their immunity levels high, Dr Safdar added.

Pakistan has started its final push towards the interruption of the polio-virus with the first nationwide door-to-door vaccination campaign of the 2018-19 low transmission season tomorrow (Monday), in all districts other than Sheikhupura and Orakzai.

The vaccinations in those two areas will start a day later, as an urs will be held in Sheikhupura and a procession is scheduled in Orakzai for September 24, Dr Safdar said.

“The campaign is fully synchronised with Afghanistan to ensure effective vaccination of mobile children as well,” he added.

The vaccination programme will target 38.6 million children under the age of five, including approximately 19.2m in Panjab, 8.9m in Sindh, 6.8m in KP (including the tribal districts), 2.5m in Balochistan, 700,000 in Azad Kashmir, 237,000 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 330,000 in Islamabad.

It will be spread over three days, plus one or two days for catch-up work, and five days plus two catch-up days in core reservoir areas.

“A Vitamin A supplement will also be administered to around 35m children aged between six and 59 months during this campaign along with the OPV, aimed at boosting immunity against all infection diseases including measles,” Dr Safdar said.

According to a statement, a total of 260,000 personnel will participate in the campaign across the country. This includes 26,169 area in-charges, 7,958 union council medical officers and 190,950 mobile, 10,271 fixed and 11,998 transit team members.

The National Emergency Operations Centre has also deployed 40 experts to facilitate preparedness by local teams in priority areas.

The New Indian Express – Congress sweeps Punjab Zila Parishad, Panchayat Samiti polls

The Akalis suffered a humiliating defeat in their home turf Muktsar as the Congress won 10 of the 13 Zila Parishad zones.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 22 September 2018. The ruling Congress in Punjab has won the most seats in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections as counting was underway on Saturday.

In Patiala, the Congress has won 43 Panchayat Samiti seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal four.

The Akalis suffered a humiliating defeat in their home turf Muktsar as the Congress won 10 of the 13 Zila Parishad zones. All six Zila Parishad seats in Ludhiana were won by the Congress.

The Congress won a majority in Gurdaspur by securing 154 of the total 213 Panchayat Samiti zones. In Zila Parishad, the Congress won 15 of the 25 seats and was leading in the remaining seats.

Out of the total 148 seats of the Panchayat Samiti in Bathinda, the Congress won 31, Akalis four and the Aam Adami Party and independents three each. The counting for 107 seats is on.

Sporadic skirmishes, mainly between the Congress and the Akalis, were witnessed during the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls on September 19. The voting percentage was 58 per cent.

A total of 354 Zila Parishad and 2,900 Panchayat Samiti members will be elected. There are 22 Zila Parishads and 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state. – Not bound to implement Justice Ranjit Singh’s recommendations, Punjab Government tells High Court

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 21 September 2018. Lodging reply in response to a petition challenging investigation report of Justice Ranjit Singh in Punjab & Haryana High Court on September 20, the Congress led Punjab government submitted that it is not bound to fully accept the recommendations made by the Justice Ranjit Singh led Commission of Inquiry.

It has been clarified to the Court that the Punjab government needs solid evidence or witness before taking action against any person or organization on the recommendation of Justice Ranjit Singh.

However, the Punjab government has also clarified it to the Punjab & Haryana High Court that it can order investigation against the person or organization held guilty by the Commission by registering an FIR but the views of Investigating Officer may differ from Commission.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the next hearing on this petition has been deferred onto October 11 in which the petitioners might be asked to file reply on Punjab government’s reply.

It may be recalled here that three Police cops namely Ex-SSP Charanjit Sharma, Mansa’s Ex-SSP Raghbir Singh Sandhu and SHO of Bajakhana Police Station Amarjit Singh Kular had challenged the Justice Ranjit Singh investigation report by moving a petition in the Punjab & Haryana High Court on September 12.

The trio petitioners had claimed in the petition that the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission violated the provisions of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. They had also accused the Commission of going against the evidences on record while making recommendations for their indictment.

It is pertinent to note here that the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission had recommended registration of criminal cases sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code against the Police cops responsible for opening an unprovoked firing on peacefully protesting Sikhs at Behbal Klan in which two innocent Sikh youths had attained martyrdom.

Justice Ranjit Singh had stated in its report that the cops acted without warning and permission.

Huffington Post – Anti-Terror police raid British Sikh separatists over ‘extremist activity’

Five properties were targeted in dawn searches.

Amardeep Bassey

Birmingham – Coventry – West London – UK, 22 September 2018. Anti-terror police have carried out a series of raids on British Sikhs, seizing cash and electronic devices as part of an investigation into alleged extremism.

West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) carried out multiple searches on this week, swooping on five properties in Birmingham, Coventry and West London.

Up to 70 officers took part in the co-ordinated operation, targeting suspects accused of being involved in “extremist activity in India and money laundering”, but no arrests were made.

Huffington Post UK understands an army bomb disposal squad was called to the Coventry address, after a number of fireworks were discovered at the residential property.

The Sikh Federation UK, a pro-Sikh independence organisation, accused Special Branch officers of abusing an elderly resident and said the operation was “politically motivated” and a “waste of money and resources.”

The dawn raids came a day after the federation held a convention in the West Midlands in support of an independent Sikh homeland in India called ‘Khalistan’.

A spokesman claimed the operation was an “unfair targeting of Sikh activists” and said it hoped the police were “not doing the dirty work of the Indian authorities”.

He added: “Britain is being used by the Indian government to crack down on so-called Sikh extremism in the UK, for which there is no evidence.

“The raids were simply a fishing expedition to disrupt legitimate campaigning by Sikhs in the UK. Britain is pandering to India for trade favours in a post Brexit world and this is an example of appeasement.”

Britain and the West Midlands region in particular has been the nerve centre for the Sikh separatist movement since 1984, when the Indian army launched an assault on the religion’s holiest shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar in Punjab, India, in an attempt to flush out armed disaffected Sikhs.

Months later, the then-prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards, sparking riots across the country which saw thousands of Sikhs killed by angry Hindu mobs.

British Sikhs formed the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) soon after, but found it proscribed in the UK under anti-terror laws until 2016, when in an unprecedented move the ban was lifted.

Shamsher Singh, of the National Sikh Youth Federation, told Huffington Post his home in Hayes, London, was one of the addresses targeted by detectives.

Singh, 31, said: “They knocked on the door and appeared quite apologetic when they said they’d been told to search for money which I was being accused of laundering.

“They found no cash, but took all my computers and electronic devices which contain years of my research.

“There is no Sikh terrorism or extremism. We are simply exercising our legitimate right to self determination enshrined in the UN charters.

“British authorities are acting like lackeys for the Indian government who are trying to defame and demonise Sikhs in the UK.

“We need to build our own Sikh institutions to counter this campaign of disinformation from the Indian government which is clearly leaning on the UK authorities to try and silence us.”

He said he believed the raids were connected to an ongoing Indian police investigation into Scottish Sikh activist Jagtar Johal, who has been held for almost a year without trial in Punjab for allegedly funding the murders of prominent Hindu politicians in the north west Indian region.

Two websites associated with Johal were taken down just hours after this week’s police operation.

Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur Gill, the first female Sikh to sit in the Commons, said she had “serious concerns” about the raids and that she planned to take up the matter directly with Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

She told Huffington Post: “There is speculation that the police raids have political motives and targeting those activists who are outspoken on the 1984 Sikh Genocide issue.

“If this is the case then it is totally unacceptable.”

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “Searches of a number of properties as part of a West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) investigation into allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences have now concluded; the investigation continues.”

The Hindu – Imran Khan calls India’s decision to cancel talks ‘arrogant’

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 22 September 2018. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday denounced India’s cancellation of a planned meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers, calling the decision “arrogant” and decrying “small men occupying big offices” who oppose change.

“Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” tweeted Mr Khan

India, on Friday, called off the talks planned for the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month. This would have been the first high-level talks in years between the nuclear-armed neighbours and long-time foes.

Tolo News – Insecurity, drought displace 300,000 Afghans

Minister of Refugees and Repatriation says 52 camps have been established in Kabul for displaced families.

Abdul Wadood Salangi

Kabul – Kabul province – Afghanistan, 21 September 2018. Figures by Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation show that 300,000 Afghans have been displaced this year in the country due to drought and insecurity.

Almost 80,000 of the internally displaced persons are living in Kabul, said Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, the Minister of Refugees and Repatriation.

Balkhi said drought has displaced residents of 20 provinces in the recent years.

“We have 52 camps for displaced families in different parts of Kabul. Nearly 10,000 displaced families are living in these camps. The total number of the displaced persons in Kabul is between 70,000 to 80,000,” said Balkhi.

Some displaced families from Nangarhar said they are faced with “numerous challenges”.

“Clashes are ongoing in our district. There is no one to collect, transfer and bury those who lose their lives in the clashes. We are faced with various problems at the moment,” said Mohammad Ali, an internally displaced person from Nangarhar’s Achin district.

Ezor Khan, a resident of Achin district, said insecurity forced them to leave their homes two times.

“Achin residents are facing with lots of problems imposed by Daesh. A number of people had to go to mountains to collect bushes of pine nuts, but Daesh fighters killed them. Now no one dares to bring the bodies down to the village,” said Khan.

Ziar Khan, 10, member of a displaced family from Nangarhar, said he has bad memories from the clashes in Achin district. He said he continues his education in Kabul to make his future.

“We are tired of war. We want peace and want to live in a peaceful environment,” said Ziar Khan.

A report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that an estimated 253,600 people are currently displaced from drought affected areas across the Western Region.

The report says that 2.2 million people have been affected by drought in Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recently 120,000 people have been displaced only in Badghis province due to droughts.

Among displaced families in the provinces of the Western Region, the situation is even more dire with 82 percent of the families having a poor food consumption score and 72 per cent having had to resort to negative coping mechanisms like reducing food intake or the number of meals, according to the Drought Impact and Needs Assessment (DINA) conducted by OCHA, UNDP and partners.

The Tribune – Villagers boycott polls to protest sacrilege

90% Dhaula residents abstain from voting, Votes polled: 541, Total number of voters: 5,227

Parvesh Sharma, Tribune News Service

Barnala – Panjab – India, 19 September 2018. To protest against the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab and alleged subsequent failure of the Congress to punish the guilty, 90 per cent residents of Dhaula village under Barnala district boycotted the rural elections.

“The sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib was done under the rule of the SAD-BJP government and they have committed a grave sin.

The Congress is also equally responsible as it has failed to take required action against guilty persons, despite getting report from the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission.

Today majority of villagers boycotted the polls and we protested at eight places in front of polling booths,” said Parminder Singh, a member of a special committee of the village.

Four days ago, all villagers had called a meeting and formed a special committee to mobilise support to boycott elections.

Today villagers with banners having photos of SAD and Congress leaders with Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh protested in front of all polling booths and convinced village residents to boycott election.

AAP MLA from Bhadaur Pirmal Singh, who is a resident of Dhaula village, also supported the boycott and said that the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib had hurt the feelings of all Punjabis across the world.

“By boycotting the elections, our village residents have highlighted their pain. All Punjabis must take a lesson from the residents of my village to show their anger,” he said.

During protest, village residents raised slogans against SAD and Congress leaders.

When contacted, Barnala SDM Sandip Kumar confirmed that only 541 votes were polled, whereas the total number of voters was 5,227.