Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations, says Rajnath Singh

Even as frontier villagers continue the bear the brunt of Pakistani ceasefire violations, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says Islamabad must eventually stop firing at Indian villages.

INDIA Updated: Sep 12, 2017 00:07 IST

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
File photo of Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector in Poonch after a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops.
File photo of Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector in Poonch after a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops. (PTI)

Union home Rajnath Singh on Monday warned Islamabad to mend its ways and stop firing at Indian posts and villages along the 744 km long Line of Control and 198- km long International Border in Jammu and Kashmir.

Singh’s warning followed the latest ceasefire violation by the Pakistani army in Shahpur Kerni sector of Poonch district in the morning.

Addressing displaced border villagers at a relief camp in Nowshera town in Rajouri district, Singh said that he had told the BSF DG in 2014 that “we shouldn’t fire first but if they (Pakistani forces) fire even a single bullet then there should be no count of bullets from our side.”

He was accompanied by Union minister Jitendra Singh and Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh.

“The situation has improved from what it was in 2014 after security forces were authorised to retaliate strongly. It will improve further in the days to come. Pakistan has no option but to stop ceasefire violations today or tomorrow. I assure all of you that situation will improve in the coming days,” he said.

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Singh said he had told the director general of border-guarding force Pakistan Ranger in 2015 that Pakistan was resorting to firing violating certain protocols which should be respected and followed.

“India today is not a weak country anymore. It is a changed country under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. The world today has started acknowledging India as a force to reckon with. India’s image has changed across the world today,” he asserted.

Nowshera is the place from where the Indian army had launched its surgical strikes on September 29 last year on terror launch pads in Bhimber Gali area across the LoC.

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But since May this year, over 4000 people have been displaced from several villages along the LoC in Nowshera sector following several ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces.

These displaced people have been living in six relief camps. During their interaction with Singh, the migrants demanded that “bunkers” be set up at their homes along the LoC.

“Our first and foremost demand is that the government should set up bunkers in each of the border houses if we have to live again along the LoC. We need bunkers more than food,” Jangarh resident Parshottam Kumar, the president of the Border Migrants Coordination Committee, told Singh.

The home minister heaped praise on the border villagers describing them “strategic assets” of the country.

“Though no amount of money can ever compensate a human life, it was our government that raised the ex-gratia to the next of kin of those who die in Pakistani firing from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Those with more than 50% disability are also entitled for RS 5 lakh compensation,” he said.

Rajnath Singh said that the country was indebted to the border residents. He said he would ensure that 60% posts were kept reserved for the youth of border areas in recruitment drive for various central police and paramilitary forces.

The home minister began a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on September 9 as part of an exercise to find solutions to the problems that the state faces.

(With PTI inputs)

U.N. Criticizes India Over Journalist Murder And Handling Of Rohingya Refugees

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

UN rights commissioner criticises India over Gauri Lankesh murder, handling of Rohingya refugees

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said rights defenders working for India’s most vulnerable groups were being harassed or denied protection by the state instead of being seen as allies in building a more inclusive society.

INDIA Updated: Sep 12, 2017 00:43 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.
Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.(REUTERS)

The UN high commissioner for human rights on Monday criticised India for the rise of religious intolerance and attacks on freedom of expression, including the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, as well as its handling of Rohingya refugees.

In unusually frank remarks made while addressing the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said rights defenders working for India’s most vulnerable groups were being harassed or denied protection by the state instead of being seen as allies in building a more inclusive society.

Al Hussein also criticised India and Pakistan for not cooperating with his office to assess the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).

There was no official reaction from the Indian government to Al Hussein’s comments.

Al Hussein said he was “dismayed” by the rise of intolerance towards religious and other minorities in India. “The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming,” he said.

Read more

Referring to attacks on people who speak out for fundamental human rights, he pointed to the murder last week of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who, he said, “tirelessly addressed the corrosive effect of sectarianism and hatred”.

Though Al Hussein said he was “heartened” by protests against Lankesh’s killing and other lynchings, he noted that rights defenders working for the most vulnerable groups, including people threatened with displacement by infrastructure projects such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, were being subjected to harassment and criminal proceedings, or denied protection. Such groups, he added, should be considered allies in creating a more inclusive society.

Read more

Al Hussein, who described the Myanmar government’s handling of the Rohingya issue as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, specifically targeted minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju for his stance on deporting Rohingya refugees.

“I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country,” he said.

“The minister of state for home affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion,” he said, noting that 40,000 Rohingyas had settled in India.

On Saturday, India asked Myanmar to handle the situation in Rakhine state with restraint while focussing on the welfare of both civilians and security forces. It also called for violence in the region to be ended expeditiously.

Al Hussein also regretted what he described as the “reluctance” of India and Pakistan to cooperate with his office on “human rights concerns”, including a failure to grant access to Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the LoC.

He said his office is remotely monitoring the rights situation in Kashmir in order to make the findings public in the near future.

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘STATE TIMES’ NEWS OF JAMMU/KASHMIR)

 

Indo-Pak commanders meet at LoC; agree to mechanism for durable peace

Army Commanders from India, Pakistan exchanging gifts after the meeting at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch Sector.

State Times News
JAMMU: Senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan on Wednesday held a flag meeting on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir against the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and agreed to institute mechanisms for durable peace and tranquility on the border.
At the meeting of Battalion Commander-level officers, the Indian side highlighted “abetment and support of the Pakistan Army to cross-border terrorism, sniping actions on the Line of Control and deliberate targeting of civil population during cease fire violations,” a defence ministry spokesman said here.
The two sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders at the LoC, he said.
“Indian and Pakistan Army held a Battalion Commander- level flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch Sector at 1100 hours today, in the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and casualties to civilian population in the past several months,” the spokesman said
“The meeting lasted for 50 minutes in a cordial atmosphere,” he added. He said that both sides mutually agreed to the importance of exercising restraint on the LoC and keeping the channels of communication open between local commanders.
Both sides also agreed for necessity to institute mechanisms to ensure durable peace and tranquility along the Line of Control, the spokesman added.
Resumption of trade and transit through Chakan-Da-Bagh was also discussed during the flag meeting, he said.
The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Till August 1, there were 285 such violations by the Pakistan Army while in 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to the Army figures.
Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army in the month of July, the Army data says.
There were 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (border action team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which 4 people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.
In May, there were 79 ceasefire violations, according to officials.

Anantnag College Turns into Battle Ground

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

 

Anantnag College Turns into Battle Ground

Police Bid to Hoist Tri-Colour Sparks Student Unrest


Anantnag—Agitating students at the Boys Degree College here went on a rampage, setting afire the stage set by police for a sports festival to protest against hoisting of Indian national flag in the college premises.

The inaugural match of T20 cricket tourney, sponsored by the J&K Police,  began in the morning without any hassle, eyewitnesses said.

While the match was in progress some policemen hoisted Indian tricolor on the stage meant for dignitaries. This enraged the students present who resented the move by shouting pro-Azadi slogans. Soon other students joined in and all hell broke loose.

Anantnag Degree College Turns into Battle Ground (Photo Courtesy: Muneeb ul Islam)

Agitating students resorted to heavy stone-pelting forcing cops to take down the tricolor. This did not pacify the protesting students who continuously raised Azadi slogans prompting police to lob tear smoke shells transforming the cricket field into a battle ground .

College sources said that the match was abandoned after the clashes.

As cops left the premises, protesting students set the stage on fire and ransacked the chairs and other items.

Reports said that students also attacked the fire services vehicles with stones. Police again rushed to spot and charged the students with canes.

Videos of the incident, which had students setting hoardings and banners ablaze, went viral on the social media.

Anantnag Degree College Turns into Battle Ground (Photo Courtesy: Muneeb ul Islam)

The institute authorities had reportedly asked the police to refrain from holding the event during college hours because it could lead to a law-and-order problem. “But the police did not pay any heed to our suggestion that the programme be held after 4 pm,” according to a media report.

Reports said that the police later conducted the match in the evening and the first match was played without any disturbance.

The Government Degree College at Anantnag, established in 1950, is affiliated to Kashmir University. As many as 5,000 students are enrolled there.

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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.

‘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.

Kashmir Schools Being Closed 60% Of The Time: Causing A ‘lost’ Generation?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA NEWS 18.COM)

One of the biggest schools of Jammu and Kashmir became a venue to a fierce 16-hour gun-battle between security forces and militants early on Sunday. The encounter inside DPS Srinagar ended when security forces eliminated two terrorists.

In some time from now, security forces will finish a room-by-room search of the school and will announce the school safe. And a few days later its students, a lot of who presumably are right now curiously following the violence unfolding in their classrooms, will be asked to resume classes.

It will be tough, but DPS Srinagar’s students won’t be the only ones who would’ve felt violence unfold palpably close to them, who would’ve stayed away from each other and the school for long periods, and intermittently attended a few school classes.

Over the last one year, schools and colleges in the Valley have remained shut for six out of every 10 working days, leading to near-loss of entire academic year. Since July 8, 2016, educational institutions have stayed open on only 80 out of 197 working days, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

In April, for the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

And during this period, starting from the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, well over 150 people have died, about 20,000 have been injured and hundreds have lost their eye-sight.

“A couple of years ago, it was okay for me and my friends to come back from school in evening. Now, we are home by early afternoon, that is, if we go to school at all,” rues Bashir, a Class 10 student from Pulwama. People in Kashmir are no stranger to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, and children, like Bashir, are the worst-hit.

Union Home Ministry’s data shows that in 2016 as many as 2,690 incidents of stone-pelting took place. And with every such incident, the state administration’s first response has been to shut down educational institutes as a precautionary measure.

Changing Face of Classrooms

Although schools and colleges have often been used as protest venues by students, it was for the first time that they’ve turned into active battlegrounds.

In April this year, local police barged into a degree college in Pulwama and fired tear-gas shells and pellets at protesting students inside. Over 60 students were injured, most of them girls. In retaliation, for the first time in the Valley, thousands of students across schools and colleges erupted in anger. For the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

Classes were suspended for weeks as educationists kept urging students to go back to schools.

As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

Once schools reopened, the discussions in classrooms went beyond topics of the solar system or equations of mathematics. Children were seen huddled, discussing turbulent environment around them, either with a sense of fear or rage, said Nayeema, a teacher based in Pulwama.

“What else do you expect? Students here can’t afford to be innocent. They are deeply political as they the worst-hit. There is no way they can concentrate on academics. The Valley is deep into conflict and the first thing that happens whenever the situation snowballs is a crackdown on schools and colleges,” said Nayeema.

A feeling of being discriminated, Nayeema said, rules the minds of students.

“Forces march inside school and college campuses at their will. Will a normal student be fine with that?” asked Mir, a budding writer and Class 12 student based in Baramulla. Mir recounts the day he was sitting on the window sill of his classroom, along with a friend, when a tear-gas shell was allegedly thrown into the school playground. “We were evacuated by teachers. Many students fell unconscious due to breathlessness,” she added.

“I have lost friends. It’s not like we have seen total peace, but earlier we at least has schools to divert our attention,” said Mir.

Learning Without Schools

Bashir and Mir are among students who are struggling not to lose their grasp on academics. As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

“We all try and sit together to study. There are few seniors around my home. So, I take my books and see if they can help. Rest of it is self-study,” said Bashir. His parents said even on days when schools are open, they are scared of sending their son to school.

Nayeema said internet came as a boon for students in the Valley as those who missed school could catch up through online tutorials. But that too remains shut most of the times.

Uncertain Future

Educationists fear that if schools and colleges continue to remain shut, an army of uneducated and unemployable youths will be created, further pushing Kashmir into violence and protests. Angry and directionless youths might also make for easy target of terrorist groups.

“The youth in the Valley is staring at a bleak future. There are no two ways about it. Schools and colleges are shut for most of the times. There are bans on the internet. On top of it all, even if there were community study circles, parents are scared to let their children step out of the houses,” said Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander, a writer and researcher.

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones.

Vijay Dhar, founder of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, highlighted how the school functioned in the face of constant curbs and shutdowns. “We kept our schools open on Sundays. We conducted pre-board exams in the indoor stadium. Results of the students have been stupendous. So, it’s clearly not like the students don’t want to study. If given a chance, they want to excel,” he said.

Additionally, the school had, during the period of curbs on internet, sent out video lessons on various gadgets to the homes of its students. While Dhar could pull it off successfully, scores of other students who had no access to such lessons at home suffered.

A Fight for Rights

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones. The idea of being looked at with suspicious eyes is a trigger in itself.

“What good will the forces and the administration get by shutting our schools, and then looking at us with suspicious eyes and doing physical search whenever they feel like?” asked Mir.

But, what about those who are found indulging in stone pelting incidents? “They have no option,” said Mir. “We are finding ways to channelise our anger and the environment around us making it worse,” he added.

Dhar said, “Many of them are angry at the sight of forces all around them. But there are also many more youngsters who are furious because they don’t know a thing about their future. Their education is suffering and there are no concrete jobs. Their mindset is that of looking after themselves, and not caring about anyone else.”

“The youths need to be educated. They need to be empowered. The way things are going, Kashmir will have a big percentage of semi-literate generation,” said Mushtaq.

6 Policemen Killed In Terror Attack In Kashmir’s Anantnag

 

6 Policemen Killed In Terror Attack In Kashmir’s Anantnag

Breaking News: 6 Policemen Killed In Terror Attack In Kashmir's Anantnag

Six policemen died as terrorists attacked a police contingent in Kashmir’s Anantnag. Among the policemen was a Station House Officer.

Yesterday, a policeman, identified as Shabir Ahmad Dar, was shot near his house in Boguld village. He was taken to the district hospital, where he died, a police officer said.

This is a breaking news story. Details will be added soon. Please refresh the page for latest version.

Follow @NDTV on Twitter for breaking news and more.

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.

CPEC route through Kashmir could create tension with India: UN report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

CPEC route through Kashmir could create tension with India: UN report

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through Kashmir could fuel geo-political tension with India and more political instability, a UN panel has warned in a report.

WORLD Updated: May 25, 2017 00:29 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

China has said the CPEC is an economic initiative that is “not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty”.(Reuters File)

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir could create tensions with India and lead to “further political instability” in the region, a UN body has warned in a new report.The report on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, released on Tuesday by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP), the UN’s regional development arm, said President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project has the potential to position the region as an epicentre for growth and trade.

However, the report prepared at the request of the Chinese government flagged concerns about social and environmental safeguards and the route of the CPEC passing through Kashmir.

“The dispute over Kashmir is also of concern, since the crossing of the (CPEC) in the region might create geo-political tension with India and ignite further political instability,” the 94-page report said.

India has repeatedly voiced its objections to the route of the CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). New Delhi did not send a representative to the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing last week because of these concerns.

Read more

China has said the CPEC is an economic initiative that is “not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty”. Beijing has also said the project does not affect its position on the Kashmir issue, which should be addressed through negotiations between India and Pakistan.

The ESCAP report also referred to the political instability in Afghanistan and said this could “limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active”.

It was more critical about the implications of the CPEC for Balochistan, Pakistan’s resource-rich province that has been troubled by a long-running insurgency. It referred to the impact of migrants on the ethnic Baloch, who have been demanding a greater say in the use of the province’s abundant natural resources, including gas and minerals.

The CPEC, the report said, “could lead to widespread displacement of local communities”.

“In Balochistan, there are concerns that migrants from other regions of Pakistan will render ethnic Baloch a minority in the province…In addition, Hazaras are another minority of concern. If the benefits of the proposed (CPEC) are reaped by large conglomerates, linked to Chinese or purely Punjabi interests, the identity and culture of the local population could be further marginalized,” the report said.

Read more

There were also concerns that the CPEC would pass through an “already narrow strip of cultivable land” in mountainous western Pakistan, “destroying farmland and orchards”.

“The resulting resettlements would reduce local population into an ‘economically subservient minority’. Marginalisation of local population groups could re-ignite separatist movements and toughen military response from the Government,” the report said.

ESCAP’s executive secretary Shamshad Akhtar, a former chief of the State Bank of Pakistan, was silent on the concerns related to Kashmir in her foreword to the report but said the “success of an initiative of this scale and ambition will depend on intelligent implementation built on strong analysis”.

“For it to be inclusive, the BRI should be informed by broad consultation of affected communities, including on health, employment and land rights issues,” she wrote.

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