The Indian Express – Tarn Taran Blast Case: NIA court dismisses bail plea of accused

The court observed that evidence pointed to the accused was active member of pro-Khalistan terrorist gang. The court said it was of the opinion that there was sufficient ground for believing that accusation against the applicant/accused is prima facie true.

A special NIA court has dismissed the bail application of one of the accused in Tarn Taran blast case. The accused Malkit Singh alias Shera had applied for the bail on health grounds. His plea was rejected Monday.

While the defence said that he was falsely implicated, it also added that the applicant was a patient of diabetes.

The Public Prosecutor appearing on behalf of the NIA submitted that there was more than sufficient evidence against the accused.

He submitted that during the course of investigation incriminating role of accused had emerged and he was highly radicalised towards Khalistan movement. The prosecution added that the accused was part of gang that had planned terrorist activities.

The court observed that evidence pointed to the accused was active member of pro-Khalistan terrorist gang. The court said it was of the opinion that there was sufficient ground for believing that accusation against the applicant/accused is prima facie true.

Shera is one of the accused in a bomb blast case which had taken place on the outskirts of Pandori Gola village in Tarn Taran district on September 4 last year.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/tarn-taran-blast-case-nia-court-dismisses-bail-plea-of-accused-6440454/

The Tribune – Dalit women break shackles, seek share in reserved land

Sangrur – Panjab – India, 02 June 2020. Having stayed behind the veil for many years, local Dalit women have finally begun to stand up for their rights.

They have been leading protests against upper castes and the Panchayat Department, demanding 33 per cent reserved village common land on annual lease.

“It’s a fight for our self-respect. Five to six years back, in a majority of villages, upper castes, who had taken the land in the name of their Dalit servants, would cultivate the reserved land.

The Dalits would have to face humiliation whenever they went even to a roadside to get fodder for animals. But now we do not wish to remain landless,” said Nikki Kaur from Kulara village.

Parmjit Kaur, zonal secretary, Zameen Prapti Sangharash Committee, said they had been fighting for the reserved land for Dalits in about 50 villages of the district.

“This year, women have come in large numbers and with their support, we have succeeded in getting the reserved land for Dalits in 33 villages,” she said.

“In many villages, we have proved through joint farming that reserved land can help Dalits,” said a protester.

Bimal Kaur, district cashier, Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab, said they were working in 40 villages of the district and had got the land allotted to Dalits in 33 villages.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/dalit-women-break-shackles-seek-share-in-reserved-land-93565

Hansard – Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Speech made in the House of Lords

My Lords, the first week of June will mark the 30th anniversary of the Indian Government’s attack on the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib], the Vatican of the Sikhs.

The attack was deliberately timed to coincide with the martyrdom anniversary of the temple’s [Gurdwara’s] founder Guru Arjan, when the huge complex would be full to overflowing with pilgrims. Tanks and armoured vehicles were used.

On conservative estimates, well over 2,000 pilgrims were killed. Eye-witnesses told of how some who surrendered were tied up in their own turbans and shot.

Other eye-witnesses outside the temple complex, including my own in-laws, described with horror how they saw groups of pilgrims being herded together and then dispatched with hand grenades.

Many of the atrocities were reported in the British and world press. The President of India at the time, Zail Singh, a Sikh, who was the nominal head of India’s armed services, was not even consulted.

Every June Sikhs remember the huge loss of life and the mindless damage to the Golden Temple, the historic centre of the Sikh faith. The question arises: why did Indira Gandhi resort to such brute force against the Sikhs?

The Indian government version, unquestioningly accepted by our Government, and I speak as a British Sikh, was that there were 17 wanted ​separatists “holed-up”, to use the Indian Government’s jargon, in the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib].

They were a threat to a country of 1 billion people. The absurdity is obvious. In addition, this version does not explain why 40 other historic gurdwaras in Punjab were attacked at the same time.

Sikh gurdwaras are open to all. Why were the so-called separatists not simply arrested by the hundreds of soldiers and police who daily entered the gurdwara for the traditional free food?

What Sikhs were demanding at the time was a fair share of Punjab’s river waters to irrigate their fields, and, more importantly, fair treatment for all India’s minorities against growing evidence of majority bigotry.

Earlier in the same year hundreds of Muslims in Mumbai were massacred, with the mob carrying barriers proclaiming: “Majorities have their rights”.

The true reason for Mrs Gandhi’s vindictive attitude to Sikhs stemmed from her prison conviction for electoral fraud in the election of 1975 and her seizing power and imposing dictatorial rule. Her son Sanjay had married a Sikh and she turned to Sikhs for support.

Sikhs, although less than 2% of the population, were at the forefront of the opposition to dictatorial rule, in which the poor, particularly Muslims, were forcibly sterilised and others dumped in the wilderness to make Delhi a tidier place for the Asian Games.

Maneka Gandhi, Sanjay’s wife, true to Sikh democratic traditions, openly opposed the dictatorship.

Sikhs were never forgiven by Mrs Gandhi. When she returned to office, she cynically decided to play to majority religious bigotry, first against the Muslims and then even more vindictively against Sikhs.

The June 1984 carnage in the Golden Temple far exceeded in numbers and barbarity the 1919 massacre led by General Dyer at the nearby Jallianwala Bagh. Even worse was to come.

The widespread killing of thousands of Sikhs following Mrs Gandhi’s assassination was blamed on spontaneous mob violence.

All the evidence is that it was pre-planned for the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birthday and was simply brought forward, with the government-controlled All India Radio constantly inciting the killers with the words “Khoon ka badla khoon”, meaning “Take blood for blood”.

The army was confined to barracks for three full days to allow free rein to organised gangs carrying Sikh voter lists, armed with identical steel rods and an unusually plentiful supply of kerosene, to go around the capital in municipal buses beating and burning male Sikhs and gang-raping women and young girls.

Prominent Hindus and Sikhs begged the new Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to order troops to restore order. His chilling response was: “When a big tree falls, the ground is bound to shake”. The same scenes were enacted throughout the country.

We know all about the disappearances and killings in General Pinochet’s Chile, but a WikiLeaks document carrying a signed report from the American embassy in India shows that more Sikhs were brutally murdered in just three days in 1984 than those killed in Pinochet’s 17-year rule.

I turn to our Government’s involvement, as revealed in documents that have now come to light.

In their initial reaction, the present Government said that support for Mrs Gandhi was “minimal”. I beg them to ​think again in the light of the evidence of persecution of Sikhs that was freely known at the time.

A Government committed to human rights must question the morality of “minimal” involvement in the persecution of minorities. The released documents praise Mrs Gandhi and cast aspersions on UK Sikhs, with not one word of concern over the murder of thousands of Sikhs.

I was not in the least surprised to read of SAS involvement; I wrote about it at the time in the summer 1984 issue of the Sikh Messenger.

Nor was I surprised by evidence linking British support for Mrs Gandhi to a £5 billion arms contract and the need to “keep Mrs Gandhi happy”.

In November 1984 I went to see a senior Cabinet Minister to seek government support to end the pogrom against Sikhs.

I received the reply: “Indarjit, we know exactly what is going on but we’re walking on a tightrope; we’ve already lost one important contract”.

At the time I was a member of the UNA, where we discussed the killings. The director, Malcolm Harper, formally raised evidence-based concerns with the Government, asking them to support a UN inquiry into the killings.

I made a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, then chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

The APPG decided to send two parliamentarians to investigate but the High Commission refused them visas. They appealed, saying that the visit would help to improve Hindu/Sikh relations. They were again refused.

Sikhs accept that today’s Government are in no way responsible for the mistakes of the past. However, they can and must help to heal wounds. I was in Westminster Abbey this morning and heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu quote the words:

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come”.

This is true for the wounds in the Sikh community, opened further by the new revelations.

I take this opportunity to thank many in the Hindu community who hid and sheltered Sikhs at the time of the killings.

Others risked their lives carefully documenting the names of Congress Party leaders inciting mobs to kill. Sikhs owe them a great debt.

Two of the three main political parties in India have declared their support for an open inquiry. Even Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party, has admitted that some Congress officials were involved in the killings.

Speaking in the Indian Parliament in 2005 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the revealing comment:

“Twenty-one years have passed, and yet the feeling persists that somehow the truth has not come out”.

I urge the Government to add their support for an open, independent inquiry into the massacre or genocide of Sikhs in 1984 in the same way that they are backing a UN-led inquiry into the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Against this, all offers of government assistance and offers to talk to Sikhs pale into an unnecessary distraction.

Eighty-three thousand Sikhs gave their lives supporting Britain in the two world wars. In comparison, giving public support for an open, UN inquiry is a small ask.

Not to do so will give a clear message to Britain’s half a million Sikhs and others concerned with human rights that the UK Government are ambivalent and selective on issues of human rights.

As director of the ​Network of Sikh Organisations, the oldest and largest grouping of Sikhs in the UK, and of the more recently formed Sikh Council UK, I offer my full and unconditional support to the Government to help end the 30-year nightmare suffered by Sikhs.

We are confident that our Government will not let us down.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2014-03-03/debates/14030340000202/SikhCommunity

Sikh24.com – Akal Takht directs SGPC to install Bhai Waryam Singh’s portrait in Central Sikh Museum

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 01 June 2020. In a press note shared with Sikh24, the SGPC appointed officiating Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has informed that the portrait of political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh will be installed in the Central Sikh Museum.

Giani Harpreet Singh has made this announcement a day before Bhai Waryam Singh’s Antim Ardas to be held at his village in Uttar Pradesh.

“Bhai Waryam Singh spent his whole life in jail while adhering to Sikh principles. Keeping in view his sacrifice, I have directed SGPC to install Bhai Waryam Singh’s portrait in the central Sikh museum,” said Giani Harpreet Singh.

It may be recalled here that 69 years old political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh had passed away on 24 May. Following 26 years of imprisonment, he was released in 2016 considering his good conduct during imprisonment.

Also read :Political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh passes away [
https://www.sikh24.com/2020/05/25/political-sikh-prisoner-bhai-waryam-singh-passes-away/#.XtZizMBS_IU

The Indian Express – Nanded gurdwaras now Covid Care Centres: ‘Most comfortable’

Officials were scouting for suitable locations to set up Level-1 Covid Care Centres (CCCs) when the gurdwaras, Langar Sahib and Sachkhand Shri Hazur Sahib, made available three buildings used to house pilgrims.

Srinath Rao

Nanded – Maharashtra – India, 02 June 2020. Nanded popped up on the national Covid radar early last month when at least 1,263 of 4,218 pilgrims from Punjab, who were evacuated in buses from two gurdwaras in the district during the lock-down, went on to test positive.

Today, officials say they had the medical infrastructure in place when the district recorded its own first Covid case on 22 April, but would not have been able to keep pace with the outbreak without help from these gurdwaras.

Officials were scouting for suitable locations to set up Level-1 Covid Care Centres (CCCs) when the gurdwaras, Langar Sahib and Sachkhand Shri Hazur Sahib, made available three buildings used to house pilgrims.

“The administrators simply handed over the keys when the corporation made its request. The rooms are huge, clean and air-conditioned.

The quarantine facilities are the best and most comfortable that you can expect to find anywhere,” said Dr Sureshsingh Bisen, Medical Health Officer, Nanded Waghala Municipal Corporation (NWMC).

“We have housed positive cases at the Langar Sahib’s 150-bed Yatri Nivas. The gurdwara took it upon itself to prepare food for the patients. Our staff in PPE kits delivered the food to the rooms,” Bisen said.

At the Sachkhand Gurdwara, suspect cases are housed in the NRI Yatri Nivas, and positive patients at Panjab Bhavan next door, both in separate compounds, divided by barriers. “Any suspect case that tests positive is shifted from the Nivas to the Bhavan,” Bisen said.

Gurdwara authorities are not keen to talk about their efforts. But officials say that till about two weeks ago, the 500 beds available were “almost full”.

Currently, nine patients are housed in Punjab Bhavan and 100 of their high-risk contacts in quarantine at NRI Yatri Nivas.

In all, Nanded has 20 CCCs with 3,040 beds for “pre-mild” and “mild” cases, seven Dedicated Covid Health Centres (DCHCs) with 480 beds for “moderate” cases, and nine Dedicated Covid Hospitals (DCHs) with 649 beds, 121 ICU beds and 38 ventilators for “severe” cases.

The current case count is 149 in 43 days, with 120 recoveries and eight deaths. And at the moment, only one of the district’s 38 ventilators is in use, to treat an 80-year-old female patient at the Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College and Hospital, the only patient currently in a DCH.

So far, the district has not needed to call into action six DCHs set up in private hospitals.

“Since we had time to prepare, we identified nine DCHs in Nanded town and its periphery, with central oxygen facilities and separate entrances and exits, as per ICMR guidelines,” said Dr Neelkanth Bhosikar, the Civil Surgeon.

Given the relatively low rate of infection currently among a population of nearly 34 lakh in 18 talukas, Bhosikar insists that the facilities have not been stretched.

“Most of our patients are asymptomatic carriers who have recovered after quarantine. We have not seen a large number of patients being admitted to DCHCs and DCHs,” he said.

At the Shri Guru Gobind Singh Memorial Hospital, which houses the government’s frontline DHC, 50 beds with a central oxygen connection, 10 ICU beds with ventilators, and a team of 18 doctors are ready.

“This facility was identified in the first week of April, and we were able to attend video conference training sessions with experts from Mumbai and Pune, A 50-bed DCHC is also nearing completion.

We had started construction last year and decided to convert it into a Level-II facility. It will be operational within two weeks,” said Dr Sumit Lomte, the nodal officer.

However, officials in Nanded acknowledge that constant vigil is the key. For a start, with the NWMC employing only 40 doctors, the district embarked on a recruitment drive for doctors, nurses, data entry operators, and Class III and IV employees.

“We have selected the candidates,” said Bisen, the medical officer.

Even at the two gurdwaras, he said, the NWMC’s Class III and IV employees were hesitant after one of them tested positive. “They would wear PPE kits 24 hours because they were afraid.

We counselled them and told them to wear the kits only while serving food and medicine to patients, and while cleaning their rooms,” he said.

Outside Nanded town, meanwhile, the death of a woman in the predominantly tribal Kinwat taluka, 150 km away, has caused concern.

“The results came after she had died, it was positive. The taluka has a CCC and DCHC but the nearest DCH is several hours away. The woman had walked home all the way from Pune, about 450 km away,” said Bhosikar, the Civil Surgeon.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-nanded-gurdwaras-now-covid-care-centres-6437965/

The Print – Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Bose dropped as Bengal BJP V-P for ‘speaking up against CAA’

Chandra Kumar Bose says Modi a tall leader but BJP has become a machine to win polls, topple governments.
Bengal BJP says he was dropped with 2021 elections in mind.


Madhuparna Das

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 02 June 2020. Bose had been vocal against the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by Narendra Modi’s government, and wrote multiple letters to the PM and Home Minister Amit Shah to offer citizenship to all persecuted communities from neighbouring countries, and not isolating Muslims to be kept out.

Speaking to ThePrint, Bose said he was dropped as an office-bearer for “going against the party line” on the CAA, but the BJP leadership said that he was politically “irrelevant” and “embarrassing the party routinely”. However, he remains a member of the party.

Bose said he was not consulted before being shunted out, nor was the decision communicated to him personally. He had attended a video conference with central leaders 10 days ago, after Cyclone Amphan struck Bengal, and said he received no indications that he would be dropped.

On speaking out against the CAA, Bose said he would always prefer to have faith in his ideology than blindly following the party line.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a tall leader, but the party that has spread too much everywhere now, and has just become a machine to win elections and topple governments. They are not looking at issues sensitively,” he said.

“How can they segregate Muslims like this? What kind of politics is that? If the whole country erupted in protest, including all the universities, IIMs and IITs, there is something really wrong.

It needs to be addressed. But it seems my suggestions did not go down well with the central leaders,” said the 59-year-old information technology entrepreneur.

Bose alleged that he received no response to his letters, which is when he chose to speak to the media about his opinions and also opened up on social media.

“My point was simple. I just requested the government to drop the names of religions and maintain that citizenship would be given to all persecuted communities.

Anyway, not many Muslims from Pakistan would seek citizenship here. There was no need to identify and isolate one particular community,” Bose said.

“This is the same as Mamata Banerjee polarising people and practising vote-bank politics. Everyone does that, including the Congress. I joined the BJP to work on inclusive growth of people, and I made it clear to Modiji and Shahji.

BJP ideology is opposite to Netaji’s

Bose was pragmatic about why the BJP took him into its fold and made him its state vice-president.

“The BJP is just a platform for me. I never had any political background. Why did they induct me in the first place?

It was not me they inducted; it was Netaji’s lineage. So, now, it is not an insult to me but to Netaji,” he said, but ruled out quitting the BJP immediately.

“It is the party’s decision, and I have accepted it. I will try to meet Modiji and Shahji. Modiji has done a lot for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

But he also needs to understand that only building statues and naming institutes after him does not serve the purpose of paying tribute to his sacrifices,” Bose said.

“They need to follow his ideology too, and the BJP’s ideology is diametrically opposite to his. Just using Netaji’s name cannot win them elections, they need to address issues.

Just badmouthing Mamata Banerjee will not earn them people’s faith, they need to highlight what good we have done for the people,” he added.

Family name doesn’t matter, nobody above the party

The state leadership of the BJP, meanwhile, seems to have no difference of opinion on dropping Bose as vice-president.

And speaking to ThePrint, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said while he had taken note of Bose’s dissension, he insisted the decision was based on who could help the BJP win the 2021 elections.

“I know he had been making comments against the party and its decisions, but I do not want to say (that was the reason for his ouster).

The party has given positions to those it needs for winning the 2021 assembly elections. There are many people who were shuffled. We will give them other important tasks according to requirements,” Ghosh said.

Asked about the optics of dropping a member of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family, Ghosh stated: “Families do not matter to the BJP, work does. Family matters in the Congress; we do not believe in such things.”

A vice-president of the BJP who spoke anonymously added: “Chandra Bose was not adhering to party rules for long.

At a time when Amit Shahji says that we will give our lives for the CAA, he was going on commenting against the legislation.”

The vice-president further added: “Nobody takes him seriously in the party. He never worked in the field. Following Netaji’s ideology does not mean wearing his uniform once in a year and chanting ‘Jai Hind’ slogans.

“Netaji never spoke of secularism; it was brought by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. All these statements he is making, do not make sense.

He has become politically irrelevant. Holding an important position, he had been routinely embarrassing the party. The BJP is a regimented party. Nobody is above the party here.”


The Tribune – Sikh doctor dies due to coronavirus in northwest Pakistan

Dr Phag Chand Singh retired as deputy medical superintendent four years ago

Peshawar – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 01 June 2020. A Sikh doctor, who was tested positive for the novel coronavirus, died at a hospital in northwest Pakistan on Monday, officials said.

Dr Phag Chand Singh was on ventilator at a private hospital in the provincial capital Peshawar since last four days, they said. He was cremated on Monday.

Dr Singh had obtained the MBBS degree from the Khyber Medical College in 1980 and was decorated with a gold medal by former president Zia-ul Haq.

He started his career as a medical officer in the Nowshera district hospital in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and stayed in the district for three decades. He retired as a deputy medical superintendent four years ago.

His ancestral village was Pirbaba Badshah Kalay in Buner district.

Dr Singh was famous for his honesty and he used to provide free treatment to poor patients. He is survived by his wife, two sons, Dr Gurmeet Kumar and Dr Jaitan Kumar, and daughter Dr Sweety.

Deputy Commissioner Nowshera Shahid Ali Khan said Singh’s son Dr Jaitan Kumar was the head of the district corona cubic response team.

Dr Kumar was tested positive for coronavirus and officials believe Dr Singh might have contracted the disease from his son or during interaction with patients at his private clinic.

Leaders of the minority Sikh community, Suresh Kumar and Ashok Kumar, paid rich tributes to Dr Singh and praised his services to society.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients rose to 73,868 with 10,027 cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sikh-doctor-dies-due-to-coronavirus-in-northwest-pakistan-92962

The Hindustan Times – Sikh community in J&K demands six assembly seats, implementation of minority commission

The community migrated from Pakistan in 1947 and was settled in Nowshera, Udhampur, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts.

HT Correspondent

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 31 May 2020. Sikh organisations, including the state Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee and Jammu district Prabhandak Committee, on Sunday demanded six assembly seats and implementation of minority commission to ensure political reservation and benefits to the community in Jammu and Kashmir.

While addressing mediapersons here, National Conference leader T S Wazir said, “Since the Delimitation Commission has set the process into motion, we demand that the Sikh community must get political representation.

The community migrated from Pakistan in 1947 and was settled in Nowshera, Udhampur, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts but we have not been given any political representation.”

“We have no political voice. We had a MLA in 1987 from Gandhi Nagar assembly constituency and since then there has been no representation.

We request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Delimitation Commission to do justice with us.”

Wazir also demanded a minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir. “Why is the Centre reluctant in setting up a Delimitation Commission? Why minorities are being deprived of the benefits in J&K,” he said.

While Muslims constitute 68.31% of the total population of erstwhile J&K state as per Census 2011, Hindus comprise 28.44%, Christian 0.28%, Sikh 1.87%, Buddhist 0.90% and Jain 0.02 %.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/sikh-community-in-j-k-demands-six-assembly-seats-implementation-of-minority-commission/story-L8Ne8urFCZKTvUV2nJRDYN.html

Dawn – Navigating an unsettled world

Op/Ed Maleeha Lodhi, 01 June 2020. In an unsettled world where strategic tensions between big powers are mounting, Pakistan faces daunting foreign policy challenges in a turbulent global and regional environment.

The pandemic has injected greater volatility into an international landscape already afflicted by threats to multilateralism, trade and technology wars between big powers and attempts by regional powers to reshape the rules of the game in their neighbourhood.

Understanding the dynamics of a world in disarray where unilateral actions and rejection of international norms by big powers and populist leaders hold sway is important as they have implications for the pursuit of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Four key policy areas pose immediate challenges and have to be simultaneously addressed:
1) Navigating the US-China confrontation
2) Dealing with occupied Kashmir and managing relations with an implacably hostile India
3) Helping Afghanistan win the peace but also preparing for less hopeful scenarios
4) Balancing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Rising tensions between the US and China have a direct bearing on Pakistan. Even as Islamabad does not want this stand-off to affect its relations with either of the two countries, that is easier said than done.

What has been described as a new cold war will intensify in a US election year when President Donald Trump has made China-bashing a central plank of his re-election campaign.

He is both playing off a bipartisan political consensus and fortifying anti-China public sentiment that preceded the pandemic and has been strengthened by it.

Pakistan faces daunting foreign policy challenges in a turbulent environment.

The pandemic has also reinforced US plans to reduce economic dependence on China by reconfiguring or diversifying global supply chains and pursuing a more overt contain-China policy.

When this gets underway it may result in India emerging as a stronger economic partner of Washington.

This will also bolster the longer-standing American strategy to project India as a strategic counterweight to China especially as India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems willing to play that role.

The implications for Pakistan of the US-India entente are already evident by Washington’s tepid response on Kashmir and continuing augmentation of India’s military and strategic capabilities.

Thus, closer US-India relations will confront Pakistan with a regional environment of greater strategic imbalance.

Concern about CPEC and China’s Belt and Road Initiative has prompted frequent US criticism of these megaprojects.

A White House report sent last month to Congress is more explicit, asserting that BRI will give China “undue political influence and military access”.

Statements by American officials that CPEC will impose a heavy debt burden on Islamabad represent unsubtle though vain efforts to drive a wedge between Pakistan and China.

While Islamabad will want to avoid getting in the cross hairs of US-China friction it is obvious that Pakistan’s strategic future lies with China.

CPEC is emblematic of China’s aim to strengthen Pakistan, economically and strategically, and must be our overriding priority.

Pakistan’s relations with China remain on a positive trajectory but will need regular reinforcement. Close consultation with Beijing on key global and regional issues, including Afghanistan, will be important.

Ties with the US have improved, but lack substantive content. For now, the main commonality is Afghanistan.

That too will be tested in coming months when hurdles are encountered in the fragile Afghan peace process. Nevertheless, it is important to keep engagement on a positive track while accepting the limits of the relationship.

On Afghanistan, Pakistan should extend whatever assistance it can to the much-delayed peace process, still facing a host of challenges.

The recent Eid ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul and the accord between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have however brightened prospects.

What Pakistan’s establishment must come to terms with is President Trump’s intention to pull out US troops regardless of whether intra-Afghan talks advance or produce a negotiated end to the war.

The latest indications of this are the US military withdrawal proceeding ahead of schedule and Trump’s reiteration that it was time for Afghans “to police their own country”.

Washington’s stance is unlikely to change if Trump loses the November election to Joe Biden as they have similar views on disentangling the US from its costly involvement in Afghanistan.

Islamabad thus needs to think long term and prepare for different scenarios that might emerge in Afghanistan keeping in view machinations by regional countries acting as spoilers in Afghanistan’s peace effort.

Pakistan’s most imposing challenge however will remain managing relations with India where the Modi government is bent upon crushing the Kashmiri resistance by unprecedented levels of repression and orchestrating anti-Muslim sentiment and pogroms in India.

Dialogue with Delhi is ruled out by its brutal and illegal actions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where even medical services have been denied during the pandemic, and India’s refusal to discuss the issue.

Aggressive moves by India on the Line of Control and covert actions in Balochistan represent a toxic mix that have sent tensions soaring with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated warnings about a possible false flag Indian operation underlines the growing danger.

Faced with this, Pakistan will have to avoid any engagement for the sake of engagement with India unless Pakistan’s concerns are accommodated in future talks. This is hard to see under Modi.

On Kashmir, Pakistan needs a strategic approach and a sustained diplomatic campaign, not an on-off approach. Tweets are not a diplomatic strategy. Noise is not a policy.

A strategy for a changed global environment should preserve our principled stance while mobilising international support for a peaceful Kashmir settlement.

This means pushing the boundaries at the international level. For a start, a virtual meeting of OIC foreign ministers should be sought, taking advantage of the rising concern among many OIC countries about India’s anti-Muslim actions.

Once the situation permits, Pakistan should also seek a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council exclusively on occupied Kashmir to refocus world attention on the egregious human rights violations there.

Space limits detailed consideration of policy towards the Middle East.

Most importantly, Pakistan should deftly balance its relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who remain locked in a tense stand-off, and stay the course on a policy that avoids being drawn into their rivalry, however challenging it may be given Pakistan’s increased financial reliance on Riyadh.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK and UN.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1560480/navigating-an-unsettled-world

The Telegraph – Covid no bar for BJP celebrations

First anniversary of the second Modi government

J P Yadav

New Delhi – India, 30 May 2020. The BJP will begin a month-long campaign on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the second Modi government, the unprecedented crisis posed by the pandemic not deterring the party from going ahead with the celebrations.

On Saturday, when the second Modi government completes one year in office, BJP president J P Nadda will address party workers on Facebook Live.

This will be followed by a series of events through June, including digital rallies, conferences and media addresses, designed to tell the people about the achievements of the Modi government and its continued commitment to serve the public.

The high point will be a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the people on his call for an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India). The BJP plans to get copies of the letter delivered to 10 crore families across the country.

“At least one virtual rally (where a leader will speak and people at their homes and party offices will listen to the video live) will be held in each district of the country. The theme of the rallies will be a self-reliant India,” BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav said.

“People will be told about Modiji’s call for a self-reliant India and the stress on using locally made goods,” he added.

Earlier this month, the BJP had released an audiovisual to mark six years of Modi in power and highlight the achievements of his government. The BJP believes that despite the distress and hardship being suffered by the people, particularly the poor, due to the lockdown, Modi’s popularity was still high.

BJP leaders said that barring the pandemic, which was beyond the control of the government, the first year of Modi 2.0 had achieved big.

They listed the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the Citizenship Amendment Act and clearing the decks for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

The leaders said core ideological issues of the BJP that had been pending for decades had been cleared by the government in the first year itself of its second term.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/coronavirus-no-bar-for-bjp-celebrations/cid/1776988?ref=india_india-page