At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least seven pilgrims killed in Indian administered Kashmir

A police spokesman said the bus was returning from the hard-to-reach Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath when militants and Indian police exchanged fire at Botengoo, Monday night, on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, south of the capital Srinagar.
“Terrorists fired on a police checkpoint and the fire was returned. A tourist bus was hit by bullets,” police spokesman Manoj Pandita said in a statement.
An estimated 60 to 70 pilgrims had boarded the bus at the Baltel base camp, reaching Botengoo just after sunset around 8.20 p.m. local time.
The bus was traveling after sunset — which is banned throughout the region due to security restrictions. It didn’t have the usual police escort and may not have had the correct registration paperwork, according to local authorities.
Amarnath is considered one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. Located at an altitude of 3,888 meteres (12,756 feet) and surrounded by snowy mountain peaks, the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine kicked off on June 29 and will culminate on August 7.
The last major attack on pilgrims in the area was carried out in August 2002, in which nine people were killed in Pahalgam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on social media, saying that “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and evil designs of hate.”
The attack coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a 21-year-old commander of the militant separatist group Hizbul Mujaheedin.
It happened just hours after a government imposed curfew was lifted. The curfew had been placed over the weekend in anticipation of an attack to mark the anniversary.
Wani’s death in July 2016 resulted in violent clashes between between protesters and security forces, that left at least 20 people dead and more than 300 injured.

Security Clampdown in Far-Western China Exacts Toll on Businesses

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND REUTERS)

URUMQI, China — The economy of the vast Xinjiang region in far western China is officially growing at a robust pace, faster than the country as a whole. That is largely thanks to big investments in infrastructure from Beijing as the region – with its links to much of central Asia – is critical to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road initiative.

But traders, business owners and residents in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, are seeing little benefit from the central government’s cash injection, according to about 20 interviews with people in the city.

One major reason for that, they say, is due to tightened security as the Chinese government seeks to control one of its biggest domestic threats. Beijing accuses separatist extremists among the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority of plotting attacks on the ethnic Han majority in Xinjiang and other parts of China, following a series of violent events in recent years.

As a result, there are roadblocks and stringent security checks across the region, including at restaurants, hotels and shops, making it slow and frustrating to move around.

The new Silk Road, officially known as the Belt and Road initiative, is Xi’s signature foreign and economic policy which aims to increase economic and political ties through roads, railways and other projects that link China to Central Asia and beyond. But the contrast between that ambition and the views at street level in Urumqi reflects the difficulty Beijing faces in trying to balance security against its other top priorities.

This is particularly the case as China is determined to avoid any trouble ahead of a critical Communist Party congress in the autumn at which Xi is expected to consolidate his power, and as it faces the threat from some Uighurs who have become battle-hardened Islamic State fighters in the war in Syria and Iraq and may return home.

DELIVERIES DIFFICULT

The impact of the clampdown is clear at the Frontier International Trade Centre in Urumqi,  where padlocked stores outnumber traders.

“Business became really bad last year. I’ve got nothing to do except a stock-take,” said Wei Chun, a shoe trader, surrounded by piles of high-heels.

She blames poor sales partly on the impact of sluggish economies in neighbours Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, among the eight countries with which Xinjiang has borders.  But she also says the Chinese authorities’ obsession with keeping Xinjiang secure at all costs is making it tough to do business here.

“It’s very difficult to send and receive deliveries because of the security crackdown,” she said, complaining that authorities will often shut down the delivery system for “security reasons”.

The Xinjiang government declined to make officials available for comment for this article. It also did not respond to a series of faxed questions.

Xu Bin, the head of the Xinjiang government’s statistics bureau,  told reporters in February that its growth – which was 7.6 percent last year – is mostly fuelled by fixed asset investment. But he then added: “Xinjiang faces slowing economic growth, falling industrial prices, companies are feeling the pain of falling profits and the growth rate of our tax revenue has dropped off.”

Xinjiang’s trade with other countries fell in the first quarter of this year, according to the customs bureau, and is still below the level it recorded in the first quarter of 2013, the year that Belt and Road launched.

Much of that drop was because a slump in the rouble in 2014-2015 hurt Xinjiang’s neighbours, and following the 2015 establishment of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). That aims to develop Central Asia and lessen its reliance on Chinese goods.

EVENTS CANCELLED

People here point to many disruptions in ordinary life as one reason the economy doesn’t feel buoyant at street level.

Group gatherings, whether for charity fun runs or trade expos, are often banned or cancelled at the last minute, they say. Phone lines sometimes go dead, and there’s no 4G internet because the authorities fear high-speed internet would help militants organize.

While Belt and Road has created opportunities, small businesses complain these projects often reward large state-owned enterprises.

“The Belt and Road Initiative doesn’t help small businessmen like me,” said Zhou Bangquan who sells men’s shoes in Urumqi.

“It helps big state-owned enterprises that do energy or have big infrastructure projects.”

Among the projects financed are a highway to Pakistan and a network of high-speed railroads connecting cities in Xinjiang and the rest of China, with 1.5 trillion yuan (171.69 billion pounds) in capital investment expected in the region this year alone.

But it is unclear how much of the money is used to buy materials from factories outside the region or ends up being sent to other provinces by workers brought in temporarily from elsewhere in China.

It’s not just heightened security measures that concern businesses. People are required to attend flag ceremonies and other patriotic education, instead of working, say locals. Such events are meant to encourage Uighurs to become patriotic Chinese citizens but can also be used to monitor their behaviour.

    PATRIOTIC EDUCATION

    “I’m losing my mind, I’ve already had six staff sent back to their home towns this past month for study,” said a restaurant manager in Urumqi who, like many people Reuters spoke to in Xinjiang, declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

His Uighur staff were required to return home to southern Xinjiang for one month’s study of Mandarin Chinese, another month learning about China’s legal system and a month of vocational training, he said.

“We all spend so much time doing things that aren’t our actual jobs. I have to take my staff to watch a flag-raising forty weeks of the year. If I don’t, I will be taken away for thirty days of study,” he said.

As well as the time spent on such matters, Uighurs – who represent just over 45 percent of the population – are being increasingly marginalized by the Han Chinese, undermining the overall economy.

Three Han Chinese entrepreneurs told Reuters local authorities had told them not to employ Uighurs. And a Han Chinese real estate agent in Urumqi said he had been told not to sell properties to Uighurs from southern Xinjiang.

There has been a change in attitude towards balancing stability and economic growth in Xinjiang since Chen Quanguo became its new Communist Party boss last August in what analysts say was an implicit endorsement of his previous hard-line management of ethnic strife in Tibet.

“Xinjiang used to have a policy of ‘with one hand we maintain stability, with the other hand we grow the economy’ but now it’s just ‘maintain stability with both hands, at all costs’,” said a local businessman and former government official.

Chen said in a speech last September that “all our work in Xinjiang revolves around maintaining a tight grip on stability.”

(Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong; Additional reporting by the Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Martin Howell)

‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him ─ a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Read more: Unjust to designate supporters of Kashmiri struggle as terrorists: FO

The White House had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in [the] Foreign Office to lodge [a] protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

Saudi envoy denies Pakistani mediation in Gulf row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER DAWN)

MARWAN bin Radwan Mirdad says PM Nawaz Sharif, while travelling to Saudi Arabia, did not indicate the purpose of his visit —INP
MARWAN bin Radwan Mirdad says PM Nawaz Sharif, while travelling to Saudi Arabia, did not indicate the purpose of his visit —INP

ISLAMABAD: Acting Saudi ambassador Marwan bin Radwan Mirdad has denied that Pakistan is mediating between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over their diplomatic row.

Speaking at a press conference at the Saudi embassy here on Thur­s­day, the Saudi charge d’affaires said Pakistani “prime minister did not say he was mediating”.

He was speaking through a translator. He rejected media reports about the Pakistani mediation effort as untrue. “Whatsoever is in the media is not correct,” he said.

Says Kuwait and Sudan are making reconciliation efforts

Last week Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to Jeddah on a daylong trip along with Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz accompanied them.

The acting ambassador’s statement puts the prime minister in a potentially embarrassing position. The PM’s Office had, in a statement before Mr Sharif’s departure on the mediation mission, said: “Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will visit Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today in context of the emergent situation among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.”

The crisis in the Gulf started late last month with the hacking of the website of the Qatari news agency and peaked when Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar over allegations of promoting extremism and terrorism and hindering efforts to contain Iran.

The Saudi diplomat said the crisis happened because Qatar had been persistently violating a 2014 accord between Qatar and GCC countries. Although the 2014 accord, which had then paved the way for resumption of ties between Qatar and its neighbours, is not public, it is said to be a commitment by the signatories about non-interference in each other’s affairs, cooperation on regional issues and ending support for extremist groups.

Mr Marwan said Mr Sharif, while travelling to Saudi Arabia, did not indicate the purpose of his visit.

The acting envoy separately noted that Kuwait and Sudan were making reconciliation efforts.

Pressed by the media, he said: “There is, however, a possibility that the issue could be discussed in some future meeting. Leadership of both countries is currently in Makkah.”

As per media reports, the prime minister’s mediation effort was not encouraged by the Saudi royal family. Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz had told Mr Sharif that “the fight against extremism and terrorism is in the interest of all Muslims and the Ummah”.

The Saudi government usually does not acknowledge Pakistani endeavours for resolving disputes in the Gulf.

PM Sharif had undertaken a similar effort last year to reduce tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the aftermath of execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr.

However, soon after PM Sharif’s visit to the two countries, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir had denied Pakistani mediation between his country and Iran.

The Foreign Office and the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the military, did not respond to queries about Mr Marwan’s claim.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2017

Pakistan: Fuel Truck Wrecks Then Explodes: At Least 135 Dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Karachi (CNN) A devastating accident involving an exploding oil tanker has left at least 135 people dead in eastern Pakistan, according to the country’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

Smoke billowed from the truck which fell off the road Sunday as it traveled through the city of Bahawalpur, Mohammad Akhtar, a police official, told CNN.
According to Akhtar, the explosion came as villagers began to gather around the truck in an attempt to collect oil in containers.
Oil tanker truck explosion
The blast has left at least 130 people injured and a state of emergency has been declared in the city, Punjab government spokesman Salman Sufi said.
Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said it was treating 40 of the injured, all of whom have suffered 70% burns.

Pakistani paramedics bring a burns victim injured after an oil tanker caught fire.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan’s military, said a total of 51 people with serious burns and in critical condition have been transported by army helicopters to the city of Multan.
It added that the road had been reopened and that traffic had begun to flow again.

‘Deep grief’

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif “expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life.”
“The Prime Minister has directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said. “The Prime Minister has expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls.”
Chief Minister of Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said an inquiry would be held into the incident.
Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, tweeted that the blaze was “a national tragedy of epic proportions.”
The politician and former cricketer said he had asked local leadership to assess what assistance could be provided to the injured and victims’ families.
The US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted its condolences. “We are so saddened to hear of the terrible oil tanker accident in #Bahawalpur. Our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims,” it said.

Dozens Of People Killed In A Bloody Day Of Attacks Across Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

Dozens Of People Killed In A Bloody Day Of Attacks Across Pakistan

Pakistani security officials inspect the site of an explosion in Quetta on Friday. All told, dozens of people were killed Friday in several cities across Pakistan.

Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan was hit with a spate of violence in several cities Friday, leaving the country to cope with the deaths of dozens of people and scores more injured. In twin bombings at a market in Parachinar, a car bombing in Quetta and a shooting in Karachi, more than 80 people were killed in the bloodshed.

“Enemy trying to mar festive mood of nation through such cowardly acts,” Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, said in a statement quoted by a military spokesman. “Shall fail against the resilience of Pakistan.”

The deadliest of Friday’s attacks came during rush hour in the town of Parachinar, where local authorities say 67 people were killed and scores more were injured. Turi market had been packed with residents preparing for their iftar meals to break the Ramadan fast at day’s end.

“The first blast took place at around 5pm in Turi Market, located on the edge of the recently-designated Red Zone, said a senior administration official,” Pakistani news outlet The Express Tribune reports. “The second explosion occurred when rescuers and bystanders rushed to help the survivors of the first blast.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the two explosions, though the BBC reports that some believe Shiite Muslims were specifically targeted.

However, the British news service says two separate extremist groups — the Islamic State and a Taliban offshoot known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — claimed responsibility for an attack earlier that day in the city of Quetta. The bombing in Quetta occurred near a local police official’s office, and The New York Times reports that seven police officers were among the 13 people killed.

The paper, citing local officials, says at least 19 people were injured in the blast.

Elsewhere in the country, in the port city of Karachi, gunmen opened fire on police, killing at least four officers before fleeing the scene.

Fakhar, Amir Sparkle As Pakistan Stuns India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Fakhar, Amir sparkle as Pakistan stun India

By Ed Osmond | LONDON

Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Amir shone as Pakistan defied the odds to overwhelm arch-rivals India by 180 runs and pull off a major upset in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday.

Fakhar capitalised on a lucky escape to strike a superb 114 and lift Pakistan to a commanding total of 338 for four and fast bowler Amir ripped out India’s top three batsmen before the defending champions subsided to 158 all out.

Pakistan had come into the tournament as the lowest-ranked team and lost heavily to India in their opening group match but they beat South Africa and Sri Lanka to make the semi-finals where they knocked out hosts England.

After India had won the toss, Fakhar, on three, was caught by wicketkeeper Mahehdra Singh Dhoni off a Jasprit Bumrah no-ball and the 27-year-old left-hander took full advantage to make his first international century.

He shared a fluent century opening partnership with Azhar Ali (59), the pair unleashing a barrage of crisp attacking strokes all around a sun-kissed ground.

Azhar also continued his fine form, reaching fifty off 61 balls before he was run out following a mix-up with his partner.

Fakhar lofted Ravindra Jadeja over long-on for six and got to three figures by sweeping Ravichandran Ashwin to the boundary.

He celebrated with an extravagant twirl of his bat and kissed the turf as the Pakistan supporters sensed an unlikely win.

Fakhar hit 12 fours and three sixes before skying a catch off Hardik Pandya but Pakistan had the perfect platform to make the highest total in a Champions Trophy final.

THREE SIXES

Babar Azam chipped in with a solid 46 and Mohammad Hafeez struck three sixes in a punchy unbeaten 57 that left India needing to produce the highest successful run chase in the tournament’s history to lift the trophy for the third time.

Within three overs, however, their reply was in tatters as Amir produced a devastating spell of bowling.

He trapped Rohit Sharma lbw for nought with a swinging delivery and removed India talisman Virat Kohli with another fine ball which the captain could only edge to point for five.

Kohli, the world’s top-ranked one-day batsman, had been dropped off the previous delivery in the slips and the India fans looked shell-shocked as he trudged off.

Their hopes now rested largely on the shoulders of Shikhar Dhawan who had been in fine form in the tournament but he made only 21 before nicking the inspired Amir to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.

Spinner Shadab Khan snared Yuvraj Singh lbw for 22 and Dhoni, India’s former captain who has saved the team on many occasions, pulled Hasan Ali to Imad Wasim at deep square leg to depart for four.

Shadab picked up his second wicket when Kedar Jadhav, on nine, gave Sarfraz a simple catch and India appeared to be crumbling meekly at 72 for six.

Pandya, however, briefly raised their spirits with a quickfire 76, reaching his fifty with three successive sixes off Shadab and hitting six maximums in all before he was run out.

Jadeja nicked Junaid Khan to slip for 15, Hasan had Ashwin caught by Sarfraz and Hasan forced Bumrah to lob another catch to the wicketkeeper, who pouched it gleefully to complete Pakistan’s first Champions Trophy win with 19.3 overs to spare.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

ISIS Murderers 2 Chinese Missionaries In Pakistan For Sharing The Gospel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

ISIS Kills 2 Chinese Missionaries Accused of Violating Visa Rules in Pakistan by Sharing the Gospel

Jun 13, 2017

The Scottish Episcopal Church approves gay marriage
Pakistan’s interior ministry has said the two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and killed by Islamic State-affiliated militants last month were preachers who allegedly violated their business visa rules.

(Screengrab: JustPaste.It) A masked ISIS militant reads the charges facing the two men tied to a cross, who were later shot in the back of the head for banditry, Mosul, Iraq.

According to Reuters, the terrorist-linked Amaq News Agency announced last Thursday that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was responsible for the killing of two Chinese nationals who were abducted last month in the Baluchistan province and were believed to be Mandarin language teachers.

“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq was quoted as announcing in a statement.

On Monday, the Pakistani government identified the two Chinese nationals killed as 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi. The interior ministry also claimed that both Lee and Meng were in violation of their visa rules because they were preaching instead of learning Urdu.

“Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning (the) Urdu language from a Korean national … were actually engaged in preaching,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The statement didn’t indicate whether the Korean national was from South Korea or North Korea or what the Chinese nationals were preaching.

According to the online news outlet Quartz, The Global Times and Shanghai-based The Paper, the slain Chinese nationals belonged to a 13-member Christian missionary group in China being led by a South Korean national.

Quartz also cited Chinese reports indicating that a local Muslim community complained about the group trying to evangelize to them. Additionally, Quartz reports that a Chinese journalist has said that Chinese foreign ministry officials briefed reporters in a closed-door session and gave them much of the same information that has been reported.

Following the killing of the two Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s interior ministry has decided to “streamline” its visa policy for Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s The Nation quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying.

According to The Nation, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan called for a databank of Chinese nationals present in Pakistan during a meeting.

“This data bank, to be prepared by National Database and Registration Authority, should be shared with all security agencies,” the minister said, reiterating their claim that the deceased Chinese nationals violated the terms of their visas.

The killing of the two Chinese Christians come as IS has attempted in the last year to establish its presence in Pakistan, just like it has in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. IS-linked militants have carried out a number of attacks in Pakistan this year, including a suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed at least 90 and injured over 300 in February.

Last month, IS claimed a bomb attack on a convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri south of Quetta that killed 25 people.

Additionally, this is not the first time that IS has claimed responsibility for the killing Chinese nationals.

In 2015, IS in Syria killed 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui who was held hostage for months.

Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NDTV)

As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

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As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

General Bipin Rawat met Jammu and Kashmir students coached by the Army under its ‘Super 40’ initiative.

NEW DELHI:  For young men and women picking up stones in Kashmir, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has a message: Pick up books, not stones.  And he has some inspiring stories to share – that of 35 children from Jammu and Kashmir who prepped for engineering schools under the army’s ‘Super 40’ initiative.
Nine of them have made it to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology this year. The rest have qualified for other engineering schools across India. On Tuesday, the Army Chief came face-to-face with the 35-odd students, a sharp contrast to the ones that the army usually deals with in Jammu and Kashmir.This group had quietly enrolled for coaching under the army’s initiative to give children from the state a better chance to join the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) when their friends were out on the streets..

General Rawat hoped there were more like them in Kashmir.

“They (the youth) should either have a laptop or a book. Whatever time they get they should devote to studies,” General Rawat told the young students according to Press Trust of India, his remarks aimed at the youth back home who have been turning up on the streets in Kashmir, often with stones in their hand, to target security forces.

In recent weeks, the Army Chief has come out strongly in support of army officers using innovative measures to fight what he had called was a proxy war, a “dirty war”.

At one point, he had suggested in an interview that it would have been much simpler if it had people firing weapons at them, instead of flinging stones. “Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he told Press Trust of India last month in an interview that echoed the predicament of the army officers in dealing with youngsters.

On Tuesday, General Rawat also told the young students born well after militancy peaked in the 1990s that he had served in the state in 1981-82 when the “situation was good”. The situation started deteriorating during his second posting between 1991 and 1993, the Army Chief said, noting that he also had stints in J-K from 2006-2008 and then from 2010-12.

“Generations have been destroyed due to this. The fear that has set in the mind of people of Kashmir and the youth… (that) a militant or the security forces will come… So you have militants on one side and security forces on the other. How long will we stay in this atmosphere? We have to put an end to it. We wish that peace is restored there and we carry out our daily work without any problem,” Gen Rawat told the students who had broken all previous records this year.

An army statement said a record 26 boys and two girls from the state had cracked the IIT-JEE Mains Exam 2017 including nine cleared the IIT Advanced Exam. This was the first batch in which five girls from Kashmir valley were coached. A PTI report said the ‘Super 40’ students who did not clear the IIT-JEE Mains exam had made it through the state’s entrance test for engineering.

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

Pakistan is hopeful that India will attend the Saarc Summit to be held in Islamabad later this year as the two sides need to move beyond their differences.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 23:40 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-Pakistan relations
Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (left) looks on as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (centre) walks past Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in 2014. (Reuters)

Pakistan hopes India will attend the Saarc Summit expected to be held in Islamabad later this year, a top Pakistani diplomat said on Monday, adding the two countries need to move beyond differences.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Shangani Cooperation Organisation (SCO) event in Beijing, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the deputy head of the Pakistani mission, said it is important for both countries to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

“We really hope that Saarc, which is our regional organisation to move beyond the differences…that India would be able to come to Pakistan for the summit because in the end we are neighbours,” Baloch said.

India pulled out of last year’s Saarch Summit in Pakistan after a string of terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants, leading to a pullout by Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The summit was subsequently cancelled.

It’s still not clear whether the summit will be held at the end of this year either, given India’s position on Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border terror.

Baloch, however, indicated that Islamabad is working to holding the summit.

She played down speculation that the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO would lead to disruptions in the Beijing-led security bloc’s agenda.

“It is an important organisation for Pakistan and it is an important organisation for India. This is not an organisation to settle disputes. This is an organisation to work for the region and for common challenges and work for common development,” she said.

Pakistan, she said, hoped the inclusion of the two countries will contribute to our “region’s development and more understanding between all parties in the SCO”.

Talking about possible cooperation within the SCO framework, Baloch said: “Of course, when you work together (in the same organisation), you are in the same organisation, you have opportunities to resolve many of the issues.

“With the increase of the membership with the inclusion of Pakistan and India, we have made this organisation more inclusive and we will be able to work together to fight common challenges.”

Speaking earlier, secretary general Rashid Alimov said the SCO’s convention on “countering extremism has become the collective response of the SCO member-states to the growing threat of this dangerous phenomenon for humanity”.

He added, “The convention is aimed at improving the mechanism for countering extremism in the SCO area (and) developing the provisions of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.”