Thursday, May 26, 2022

NIA Court Awards Life Imprisonment To Kashmiri Separatist Leader Yasin Malik In Terror Funding Case

Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik being produced at Patiala House Court

Malik had earlier pleaded guilty to all the charges, including those under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), in the particular case, court sources said

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in a terror funding case.

Special Judge Praveen Singh also awarded varying jail terms for various offences under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The court also imposed a fine of over Rs ten lakh on Malik.

The life term was awarded for two offences -- Section 121 (waging war against the government of India) of IPC and section 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act) of the UAPA.

All the sentences will run concurrently.

Meanwhile, clashes erupted between supporters of JKLF chairman and security forces in Maisuma locality in Srinagar on Wednesday, even as parts of the city observed a spontaneous shutdown, officials said.

Scores of people, including women, assembled at Malik's residence at Maisuma, a short distance from Lal Chowk city centre, and raised slogans in support of the separatist leader, the officials said, adding that the protesters took out a protest march around the area.

The protesters tried to move towards Maisuma Chowk and clashed with security forces, they said.

Some of the protesters pelted stones on the security forces, who fired teargas shells to disperse the crowd, the officials said.

However, there were no reports of any injury, they said.

Most of the shops and business establishments in Maisuma and adjoining areas, including some shops at Lal Chowk, were shut, they added.

According to the officials, shops in some areas of the old city have also been shut, but the public transport is plying normally.

Security forces have been deployed in strength in the city to avoid any law and order problems, they said.

The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) also termed "unfortunate" the life imprisonment awarded to Malik and said it is a "setback" to the efforts for peace.

The court verdict will only fuel more alienation and separatist feelings, PAGD spokesperson M Y Tarigami said in a statement in Srinagar.

All the sentences will run concurrently.

The court also imposed a fine of over Rs 10 lakh on Malik.

"Life imprisonment given to Yasin Malik is unfortunate and a setback to the efforts for peace. We are afraid that this will further compound the uncertainties in the region and will only fuel more alienation and separatist feelings," Tarigami said.

He said the NIA court has delivered its verdict "but not justice".

The PAGD also suggested Malik to avail all legal opportunities to contest the verdict.

Hitting out at the ruling BJP and a section of the media, Tarigami said, "The triumphalism being displayed by the BJP and the corporate media is bound to prove counterproductive."

The PAGD is an alliance of six mainstream political parties, including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, in Jammu and Kashmir demanding restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state which was revoked by the Centre on August 5, 2019.

The alliance is headed by NC president Farooq Abdullah.

Malik was convicted on May 19 in the case related to funding terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir after he pleaded guilty to all the charges framed against him.


Indian DeepTech Startup Astrome Develops World’s First Multi-Beam e-Band Radio


Indian DeepTech start-up Astrome Technologies, Incubated at IISc Bangalore has developed the world’s first multi-link E-Band Radio, GigaMesh. This product shall revolutionize the deployment of wireless backhaul in Rural Broadband and Defence communications markets in India and the world.

E-Band(70-80GHz) is a high-speed and high-capacity wireless communication frequency, which solves the purpose for both urban and rural locations. With the entire world migrating to virtual communication, there is a greater demand for gigabit-speed internet for hassle-free communication, data transfer, etc. E-band is the right technology to tackle these demands.

GigaMesh is an E-band radio, with Multiple-Point-to-Point (Multi-P2P) communication, making it the most effective way to share fibre-like capacity wirelessly. In terms of applicability, a single GigaMesh at a Gram Panchayat in Rural India, can connect to multiple surrounding villages, thus, providing a significant cost advantage.

It is deployed as a front-haul, mid-haul, and back-haul in the 5G implementation, aiding Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs).

“GigaMesh enables operators to reduce Cap-Ex cost and Op-Ex cost due to its powerful software features which maximize distributed capacity and minimize onsite maintenance. Setting up the radio is as easy as turning on your mobile. With our automatic electronic link alignment algorithms, the radio automatically searches for other GigaMesh radios in its field of view and connects with them. Our vision is to enable seamlessly high-bandwidth connectivity across land, ocean and air through innovative technologies,” Neha Satak, Co-Founder and CEO.

Astrome is a DeepTech startup that is accelerating the deployment of 5G infrastructure. The company is backed by marquee investors such as IAN Fund (India), Urania Ventures (France-Germany) and Impact Collective (South Korea). It is pioneering the future of E-band wireless communication. The company is incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore which is India’s premier R&D school. The company has also been accelerated at EvoNexus (San Diego), a 5G accelerator program sponsored by Qualcomm and Verizon.


China-India Border: Why Another Chinese Bridge May Be The Latest Friction Point: Chinese Media

The K-9 Vajra Self-Propelled Artillery is an effective weapon that was inducted into the Indian Army in 2018. It has been deployed for the first time in Ladakh

Beijing has built a second bridge across the disputed Pangong Tso lake in the Himalayas, in an area New Delhi says belongs to India. Analysts say this could lead to more political rows, increase region’s militarisation, diminish chance of decades long stand-off being resolved

Even as talks to resolve it continue to flounder, the border stand-off between China and India may have a new friction point – another Chinese bridge across the disputed Pangong Tso lake in the Himalayas, just weeks after an initial one was built, and appearing right next to it.

Both structures are in an area India lays claim to and cut across the high-altitude lagoon, connecting its northern and southern banks. Reports in the Indian media have estimated the bridges to be about 450 metres long and 10 metres wide.

The lake spreads across regions administered by both countries, in the Indian region of Ladakh and the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin, with nearly two thirds of it under Beijing’s control.

According to military generals who have served in the area, the latest bridge will allow Chinese troops to quickly move military equipment and personnel across the Pangong Tso, which is over 130km long and has an average width of around 2-6km.

Rather than Chinese troops having to move along and around the eastern arc of the lake to reach their military base at Rutog, 10km south, the bridge will mean a faster and more direct trip. An analysis by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated travel time would be cut from 12 hours to 3-4 hours.

Lying just kilometres away from the hotly-contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border separating the two countries, Indian analysts believe the bridge could lead to further political rows, increase the militarisation of the region and diminish chances of the decades-long stand-off being resolved.

Soldiers have often clashed on the long disputed and ill-defined border, which is more than 3,000km long (1,800 miles) in a landscape defined by lakes and snow caps. The two neighbours are also both endeavouring to build infrastructure in the area.

“Both sides have withdrawn their forces from the LAC, but the Chinese side has retained them in areas around the Pangong Tso,” said retired Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma, who previously commanded India’s northern army around Ladakh.

“This fact, coupled with this new bridge, might make many in New Delhi believe that since China has not de-escalated, the possibility of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops coming into Indian territory exists,” he added.

A Tactical Advantage?

It was May 2020 when Chinese and Indian soldiers first clashed at Pangong Tso, which is more than 14,200 feet (4300 metres) above sea level and is the world’s highest saltwater lake.

Since then the beautiful spot has become the site of a contentious stand-off. Then in January this year came the news that the Chinese authorities were constructing a bridge at the narrowest point, connecting China’s military base at the Khurnak Fort in the north to the lake’s southern bank.

Locals said the bridge was about 8 metres wide.

Satellite images this month showed the Chinese had built another bridge, next to the first one. Locals said this second structure was stronger and wider.

Konchok Stanzin, a local lawmaker who represents Chushul in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), said the initial bridge seemed to be a temporary structure.

“The bridge didn’t seem very sturdy and looked like it was meant to transport only personnel and, maybe, light vehicles across. But this new bridge is wider than that and can even handle the transport of heavy machinery, equipment and artillery.”

The lawmaker also said the bridges were less than 20km (12 miles) from the so-called ‘fingers’ area, where finger-like spurs on the northern bank of the Pangong Tso make up the contested area.

“It’s a clear sign of the danger that faces India,” Stanzin said.

He, and others, believe the bridges may spark fresh hostilities in an already-contentious area.

Thousands of troops from both sides have been locked in the lake stand-off and warning shots were fired in September 2020, with India and China accusing one another of firing. No one was injured.

In January last year, the two nations agreed to pull out troops and artillery and create a buffer between finger 4 and finger 8, where neither side would patrol – the withdrawal that retired Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma referred to.

“It’s a clear sign of the danger that faces India,” Stanzin said.

He, and others, believe the bridges may spark fresh hostilities in an already-contentious area.

Thousands of troops from both sides have been locked in the lake stand-off and warning shots were fired in September 2020, with India and China accusing one another of firing. No one was injured.

In January last year, the two nations agreed to pull out troops and artillery and create a buffer between finger 4 and finger 8, where neither side would patrol – the withdrawal that retired Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma referred to.

But the Chinese bridges threaten that agreement, experts said, with some pointing out they could nullify progress made in disengagement in the area.

Sameer Patil, a senior fellow at the New Delhi think-tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said Chinese readiness to disengage at some points was not apparent.

He said while Chinese soldiers at the Pangong Tso lake and Gogra had pulled out, they were still being sent to other disputed areas including in Depsang Plains and Demchok.

“At the Pangong Tso, where there had been some success (in resolving the stand-off), this (bridge) has now pushed the situation back to square one,” added Patil.

“Overall, the impact of this (bridge construction) is really adverse for the disengagement process,” he added.

On May 20 the Indian ministry of external affairs called the bridges an “illegal occupation” making an “unjustified Chinese claim”.

“Both these bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s,” said ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, adding that New Delhi expected other countries to “respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

More Infrastructure, More Militarisation?

Many other military experts believe the bridges and the possibilities they offer China could spark the creation of further infrastructure and even greater militarisation in the Himalayan region.

Both sides have already significantly ramped up civilian and military infrastructure along the LAC.

Indian foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Bagchi said last week that New Delhi had “stepped up development of border infrastructure especially since 2014, including construction of roads, bridges etc”.

Last year, the Indian government unveiled at least 90 roads and bridges, constructed in the areas along the India-China border, many of them in Ladakh. But Indian officials say China has been building airstrips, military bases and roads close to the LAC.

News reports have claimed the Indian government has also planned at least 4 airports and 37 helipads close to the LAC to boost connectivity in the Ladakh region.

In October 2020 the Chinese foreign ministry called India’s increased border infrastructure the “root cause” of border tensions at the LAC, while in January this year, the ministry defended China’s first bridge on the lake, insisting its infrastructure construction was aimed “at safeguarding China’s territorial sovereignty and security, as well as peace and stability in the China-India border area”.

Retired Lieutenant General Deependra Singh Hooda, who commanded India’s northern army under which the Ladakh region falls, said tension between the two neighbours was shaping the infrastructure race.

“The kind of infrastructure the two sides need now is very different from what was needed when it was a peaceful border,” said Hooda. He said the bridges were “part of the heightened tensions that exist between the two countries and the kind of infrastructure needed to manage that environment”.

Sharma, the retired general, said this was likely to continue, and he thought China’s military infrastructure thrust was dramatically altering the “infrastructure pattern”.

“China has completely changed the infrastructure pattern across the entire region,” said Sharma. “From the border roads it has constructed to the bases it has expanded, even heliports have come up, so have blast pens (shelters for fighter jets) along with weatherproof accommodation for troops on the Chinese side.”

Yet there are some, like Stanzin, who are pushing for some speedier infrastructure development on the Indian side, believing New Delhi, in some ways, needs to catch up.

“We are talking about Chinese-controlled areas seeing rapid infrastructure construction and having high-speed 4G internet, whereas we don’t even have basic connectivity in our border villages,” he said. “Even basic road construction work is often very delayed.”


Demystifying The Army Chief’s Appointment


The government promoted Lt Gen Manoj Pande to the rank of General and appointed him Chief of the Army Staff (COAS or Army Chief) recently. This promotion-cum-appointment is a “first” because Gen Pande is an officer who was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers (known in the army as “Engineers”) and he is the first Engineers officer to be appointed COAS. Incidentally, “Corps” should be pronounced as “core”, not as “corpse”!

This writer, a veteran Engineers officer, has received queries from people who ask questions like: #When only a soldier can command the Army, how has an engineer been appointed as its Chief? #If an engineer can be Army Chief, why cannot a medical officer be Army Chief? #What command experience would an engineer have that can make him eligible for the post of Army Chief?

These are valid questions or doubts arising from not knowing about our Army. This brief article attempts to answer the questions.

First of all, who is a soldier? After successfully completing basic military training and taking oath to protect and defend the nation and the Constitution of India, every Jawan (Sepoy) and every Officer (Lieutenant) begins life as a professional soldier.

In order to fight battles and wars, the Army is organised into “Arms” and “Services”. There are six Arms, namely, Infantry, Armoured Corps, Artillery, Engineers, Corps of Signals, and Aviation Corps. Soldiers of these Arms are trained for their respective specialised roles, which are directly connected with combat. The actual fighting is done by Infantry and Armoured Corps soldiers, supported during combat by the other Arms.

The soldiers of the Services are trained to provide essential logistic cover in the field, to enable the Arms to fight – by the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) providing weapons, vehicles, equipment and ammunition, the Army Service Corps (ASC) for fuel and food supplies and transport, the Army Medical Corps (AMC) for medical cover, and the Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (EME) for repair of all military hardware.

Units of all Arms and Services are commanded by officers of the respective Arms and Services. Fighting formations – Brigades, Divisions, Corps and Army Commands – are commanded by officers from the Arms. The Services do not need such formations; so, after commanding their respective units, officers of the Services are posted in headquarters of fighting formations, to advise and assist the formation commander regarding their respective Services.

Even though soldiers of these Services may also serve in a battle zone, their functioning is focussed on providing vital logistic and medical cover, without which effective combat is impossible. Thus, officers of the Services are not trained for professional exposure and experience of combat situations and deployments, and it is not possible for them to assume command of fighting formations.

Reverting to the questions concerning Gen Manoj Pande’s promotion, providing some details of the role of Engineers in combat is necessary. Soldiers who are posted in the Corps of Engineers (Engineers) are primarily organised, equipped and trained for combat engineering tasks. Combat engineering tasks are executed in active combat situations, when bullets are flying, and artillery shells and bombs are exploding, to assist and support infantry and tanks to move and to fight. The tasks are such as, rapid bridge construction for immediate passage of armoured tanks and other vehicles (and later guns, reinforcements, etc.) across obstacles, or clearing safe lanes through enemy minefields, for our fighting forces to penetrate enemy defences in strength and engage with the enemy. Combat engineering tasks depend upon particular operational phases and requirements.

Some officers from Artillery, Engineers or Signals may be placed in command of fighting formations – beginning with a brigade and then division, corps and army command – if they satisfy time-tested, specific command, staff, training and performance standards. These same standards also apply to officers of Infantry and Armoured Corps. Only officers who have held these command appointments are eligible to be promoted to the rank of General, as Army Chief.

Gen Manoj Pande has had a brilliant career as a soldier, having successfully commanded fighting formations of infantry brigade, infantry mountain division, corps, joint services command and army command. In between these critical command appointments, he has held key staff appointments at different rank levels and was Vice COAS at the time of his promotion as Army Chief.

Several Engineers officers had in past years reached the rank of Lt Gen and commanded army commands, making them eligible for elevation to Army Chief. However, for one or the other reason, they were not promoted. All Army Chiefs so far have been from Infantry, Armoured Corps or Artillery. Thus, Gen Manoj Pande being promoted to the Indian Army’s top appointment is a proud moment for the Corps of Engineers.


BRI Westward Expansion of China Looks Bleak Amid Russia-Ukraine War


Beijing: Changes in the geopolitical situation as a result of the Russian-Ukraine war will have an increasing impact on China's strategic and economic projects as Beijing needs to examine major strategic issues pertaining to the westward expansion of China's Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), peripheral security, and strategic competition between China and the US.

According to China Chengxin International (CCXI), a domestic credit rating agency, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has heavily impacted the progress of the BRI as the China-Europe freight rail services through Ukraine have stopped or rerouted, as reported by Policy Research Group (POREG). The progress of Chinese projects in Ukraine valued at USD 6.64 billion are also significantly halted.

Chinese think tanks are of the opinion that China's economic security in the BRI might also get affected. Transport risks along the BRI route are likely to be increased as well. Further, with sanctions against Russia continuing to intensify and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine surging, China's investment risk might ascent too.

The BRI construction might also get hampered owing to the Economic stagnation in Central Asian countries, reported POREG.

Chinese experts argue that Beijing should strengthen the economic and trade cooperation with Russia, promoting enhanced cooperation between China and countries participating in the BRI projects. It is equally important for China to establish strategic communication with Russia and Ukraine in order to obtain information on the military forefront for the safety of Chinese citizens and to safeguard China's trade and security with the BRI countries.

The BRI is an internationally planned infrastructure development project for China and the countries trading with Beijing. It is a move designed to recapture the ancient Silk Road and expand China's influence globally. The BRI is the most ambitious economic development and infrastructure project the world has ever seen. But critics say the BRI projects present dangers to participating countries, such as debt traps.

China's BRI strategy was first introduced in 2013 by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The strategy is in two parts - on land via the Silk Road Economic Belt which runs through Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe to Western Europe; and on water via the 'Maritime Silk Road', which runs through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, westward through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.


Air Force Chief Asks Maintenance Command To Be Ready To Handle New Technologies


Air force chief V R Chaudhari has exhorted the personnel of the IAF's Maintenance Command to ''anticipate and plan to meet the challenge of absorbing newer technologies,'' a Defence release said here on Wednesday.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari was in Nagpur for the Commander's Conference of the Maintenance Command held here on March 24 and 25, the release said.

Top officials of the Maintenance Command, which is based in Nagpur, attended the meeting.

In his address to the Field Commanders of Depots and Units under the Maintenance Command, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari acknowledged the role played by the command in the maintenance of combat assets of the Indian Air Force and its contribution to operational preparedness.

"He urged the air warriors to anticipate and plan to meet the challenge of absorbing newer technologies on our platforms and systems while simultaneously maintaining them in a combat-ready state. He emphasized the importance of synergizing our thoughts and actions towards maintaining our combat assets in an operationally prepared state at all times," the release said.

The Air Force chief also lauded the efforts of the Maintenance Command in effectively increasing the country's self-reliance in the maintenance of assets under the Make in India program.


Modi Govt 8 Years: Five Out-of-The-Box Steps By The PM That Took The World By Surprise


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will complete eight years in power on May 30. During his tenure as PM, on several occasions, decisions made by him were both welcomed and criticized by people. However, many times, despite what they thought of the decision, people agree that Modi's moves took them by surprise. In the most recent times, the decision to repeal the three farm laws, that was opposed by some sections of farmers, was seen as a big step, just before assembly elections were due in five important states - Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa.

Here's looking at 5 decisions by the PM, that no one saw coming:

Abrogation of Article 370

On August 5, 2019, Articles 370 and 35(A) were nullified that gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status and the mandate to define its domicile rules. After its revocation, special status was no more attached to the state. This meant significant changes in the state, like people from outside J&K could buy land there, domicile certificates could be granted to the husbands of local women in the state, which meant they could buy property there, and could also apply to government jobs. The announcement was made by Home Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha. Following the revocation of Article 370, internet was suspended in the state for more than an year.

Balakot Airstrike Or Surgical Strike

In a surprising move, the PM Modi-led government gave a free pass to the Indian Army to respond back to the Pulwama attack, that took place on February 14, 2019, and that killed 40 CRPF personnel, after their convoy was attacked. On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force's Mirage-2000 fighter jets took off from various airfields in India, and launched smart bombs that targeted Jaish-e-Mohammad's largest terror facility, located in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The BJP claims that at least 250 terrorists were killed in the airstrike, but the opposition still questioned why exact details of the casualties were not revealed.

GST

GST, or Goods and Services Tax, was introduced in India on July 1, 2017. It came into effect after the Goods and Service Tax Act passed in Parliament. It is a tax on goods and services sold domestically for consumption. The tax is included in the final price and paid by consumers at point of sale and passed to the government by the seller. The GST is a common tax used by the majority of countries globally. Much like many introductions by the Centre, GST also faces criticism by the opposition. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi even termed it 'Gabbar Singh Tax'.

Notably, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday (May 19, 2022), that recommendations of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council only have persuasive value, and cannot be binding on the Centre and states.

Meeting Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif

Seven years back in 2015, PM Modi landed in Pakistan's Lahore city, to pay a surprise visit to the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. It was also PM Modi's first visit to the country in more than 10 years. Modi was received by Sharif with a warm hug at the tarmac of Allama Iqbal International Airport after his unexpected stopover here on his way back home after a day-long trip today to Afghanistan where he went after concluding a two-day visit to Russia.

Demonetisation

On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced ‘demonetization’ to weed out black money from the country. The decision was announced, and overnight currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations were banned. The currency with the public, which stood at Rs 17.97 trillion at the time, declined sharply to Rs 7.8 trillion in January 2017, soon after demonetisation. A few months later, of the Rs 15.41 trillion which had been demonetised, Rs 15.31 trillion came back to the RBI. So, more than 99% of the demonetised currency notes were returned to the banking system.


'Golden Letter Day': Captain Abhilasha Barak Becomes First Woman Combat Pilot In Army Aviation


Indian Army said that 15 women officers had expressed their desire to join Army Aviation but only two officers were selected after Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and Medical.

New Delhi: Captain Abhilasha Barak on Wednesday has become the country's first female Combat Aviator. According to the Indian Army, Abhilasha has successfully completed her training after which she has been inducted into the Army Aviation Corps as a Combat Aviator. Abhilasha has been awarded the prestigious Wing with 36 Army Pilots. Army said that 15 women officers had expressed their desire to join Army Aviation but only two officers were selected after Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and Medical.

The post, shared on Instagram, also features a set of pictures from the ceremony. The note, attached to the social media upload, read, "Golden letter day in the history of Indian Army aviation. Captain Abhilasha Barak becomes the first woman officer to join Army Aviation Corps as Combat Aviator after successful completion of training."

"Captain Abhilasha Barak has been awarded the Coveted Wings along with 36 Army Pilots by Director General and Colonel Commandant Army Aviation. Young Aviators are now ready to spread their wings in Combat Aviation Squadrons," it read.

In June last year, for the first time, two women officers were selected for helicopter pilot training. Both of them were trained at the Combat Army Aviation Training School, Nashik. According to the Army, 15 women officers had expressed their desire to join Army Aviation. At present, women are given the responsibility of Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Ground Duty in the Aviation Department. In the year 2018, Air Force Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi became the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft.


Kashmir Conflict Is Elephant In The Room: Hina Rabbani Khar On South Asia Integration, Trade Potential


Her remarks came at a session on 'Strategic outlook on South Asia' at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022

Describing the Kashmir issue as "the elephant in the room", Pakistan Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said any efforts to integrate South Asia and boost trade would be futile without resolving the "70-year-old dispute".

Her remarks, on May 24, came at a session on 'Strategic outlook on South Asia' at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, in replies to suggestions about boosting ties and facilitating people's movement across borders while keeping aside the differences between India and Pakistan.

India has been maintaining that terror and talks cannot take place together and for any normalisation in ties, Pakistan needs to stop terror activities against India. India has also been consistently rejecting Pakistan's position on the Kashmir issue and has been demanding that Pakistan should move out of the territory occupied by it.

Reacting to a remark by a panellist that India was more worried about China than Pakistan now, Ms. Khar said, "I look at China obviously as an immediate neighbour and also as part of a broader region that we all belong to. At the same time, I would not celebrate India's antagonism towards China, pretty much in the same way that I would not celebrate anyone's antagonism towards anyone else at all."

On the Kashmir issue, Ms. Khar, Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said, "... I did not want to go into all of that as it is an economic debate but it is the elephant in the room and you cannot ignore it." She claimed that her party when in power earlier had made a lot of efforts to normalise ties with India, including her visit to India in 2011, inking of a visa agreement as well as opening up of trade.

The Minister said she and her party had decided to do so despite knowing it will take a lot of political hit due to what all had happened after 1965, when no government of any type in Pakistan thought it was wise to normalise trade relations with India, because there was a very high political cost, unless there was a resolution to the Kashmir conflict.

"Still, we went ahead and said no, let's try to normalise it, first of all, because we are human beings who are very similar in every way, culturally, we look alike, the way we speak, we eat similar food and we are pretty much very similar. But we have this huge divide on the basis of inherited disputes," she said.

The Minister further said for decades, the two countries kept on adding to the basket of their differences rather than reducing the problems they inherited in Partition. "We still thought, let's try to normalise the relations and then we can move towards resolving the dispute in a peaceful and a normal environment," she added.

Ms. Khar further said, unfortunately, events of the last 2-3 years that have happened in Kashmir, legally, cannot be looked at any other way. "That is almost conflagrating an already difficult situation," she said. Ms. Khar further said she was born after 1971 and the current Foreign Minister of Pakistan was born even much later.

"We are a young generation that has not inherited the memories of the Partition and memories of war. We can go ahead but when you start piling on the problems, then you are discouraging those who want to move ahead. We host the largest population of poverty and then we keep congratulating ourselves on little successes," she said. Ms. Khar admitted that there was potential to move forward but one cannot be delusional about the reality.

"So, let's start the journey of showing some movement on recognising what the problem is. Normalising would obviously be the way forward, but if you start adding to the problems and your intentions are rightfully doubted," she said.

Asked why trade cannot be normalised as that would benefit both the countries, she said, "After saying everything, you [India] did August 5" -- referring to the Indian government's decision in 2019 to scrap the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir.

Ms. Khar said the message one sees on the other side is that a country that is much larger will suddenly feel that it [India] can send jets into your country and then it can take up an issue that is already unresolved despite a United Nations Security Council resolution and do something against bilateral commitments and commitments to the international community and UNSC.

"Then you as a smaller state, start feeling that you are living in the neighbourhood of a rogue state. And not only that, you may underestimate the rights of Kashmiri people, the international law has provided them those rights... we don't have the right to be dismissive about it. So what you are propagating as a way forward, that is what exactly we did. But it is important that once we start a journey we don't put problems there," she said.

Asked what single step could be taken to boost trade in South Asia, she said, "As someone who happily went to India and signed the visa agreement, opened trade with India and had to roll back everything, the 70-year-old answer is let's resolve the Kashmir conflict. Unless the elephant in the room disappears and we are able to look at each other as normal people and not one who are impeded by situations that can conflagrate anytime...".


Honey-Trapped Army Jawan Shared Missile Launch Snaps

Indian Army personnel Pradeep Kumar

Accused Pradeep Kumar Prajapat also shared live videos of army programmes and exercises to the spy woman confidentially

JAISALMER: Intelligence agencies interrogating Indian Army soldier Pradeep Kumar Prajapat, who was honey-trapped by a Pakistani woman agent, have stumbled upon some startling revelations. The soldier, who was caught on May 18, was brought to Jaipur for a joint inquiry in which many facts came to light. He was arrested on May 21 under Official Secrets Act.

According to intelligence officials, Prajapat introduced a few of his colleagues to the woman agent and even provided rocket missile launch videos and other important documents to her. He was produced before the court on Sunday from where he was sent on four-day police remand. He is being intensively questioned.

Intelligence official sources said Prajapat deployed in an important and sensitive unit was caught providing confidential information about the army to the Pakistan woman agent.

During inquiry, he told that seven months ago he got attracted to the woman and for her, he was ready to go to any extent. He sent pictures of testing of missiles and rockets to the agent along with complete details.

Sources said the soldier kept sending live videos of army programs and exercises to the woman confidentially.

There was no exchange of money for sending information. The soldier used to talk and chat for hours with the woman agent. They would also engage in video calls, sources said.

Official sources said the honey-trapped soldier even told his friends that he and the woman were going to marry. The woman tried her best to trap 5-6 soldiers but they did not fall in her trap.

Sources said that there was commotion in the army after the soldier was caught. After which the mobile phones of all soldiers were taken away. Intelligence agencies along with army experts are investigating the mobile phones.


Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar With FDA Chief, UAE Discussed Defence Cooperation Between Both Countries


It was decided to identify new avenues and examine areas of mutual interest for Joint ventures in order to enhance defence industry cooperation. Chief of the Force Development Authority at Ministry of Defence, United Arab Emirates Major General Staff Hassan Mohamed Sultan Bani Hammad called on Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar

New Delhi: Chief of the Force Development Authority at Ministry of Defence, United Arab Emirates Major General Staff Hassan Mohamed Sultan Bani Hammad called on Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar in New Delhi on May 25, 2022. They discussed ways to enhance defence cooperation between the two countries. The General also briefed the Defence Secretary about the 11th meeting of India-UAE Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) held on May 24, 2022.

The JDCC meeting was co-chaired by Joint Secretary (Armed Forces) Shri Dinesh Kumar and Chief of the Force Development Authority at Ministry of Defence, UAE. During the meeting, the two sides reviewed the progress made in military-to-military engagements, including joint exercises, Expert Exchanges, Industry Cooperation and Cooperation in the field of Research and Development.

It was decided to identify new avenues and examine areas of mutual interest for Joint ventures in order to enhance defence industry cooperation. Enhancing the scope and complexities of the existing joint exercises was also discussed.

It was agreed to hold the next meeting of JDCC in UAE on mutually convenient dates in 2023. The JDCC is the apex body between the Defence Ministries of India and UAE to comprehensively review & guide all aspects of bilateral defence cooperation.

The General also met with Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Policy Planning and Force Development) Lt Gen Atulya Solankey at Headquarters, Integrated Defence Staff. The UAE delegation also interacted with Indian Defence Industries and visited Bharat Electronics Limited, Ghaziabad.


Cuba Praises India For 'Big Gains' In Healthcare At World Economic Forum


Davos: Cuba applauded India for its extraordinary efforts in Healthcare interventions at World Economic Forum as Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya met his Cuban counterpart, Jose Angel Portal Miranda to discuss pharma research and manufacturing between the two nations in Davos on Tuesday.

"Met @JaPortalMiranda, Minister of Public Health, Cuba," said Mandviya in a tweet, adding that both sides agreed to work together on pharma research and manufacturing.

During the meeting, Cuba praised India's healthcare interventions and also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in the health sector through established bilateral MoU in health.

For over 50 years, the World Economic Forum has been the international organization for public-private cooperation as the annual meeting and its sessions bring together global leaders from business, government, and civil society under one roof.

Earlier, in a historic address at the 75th session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 23, Mandaviya reiterated India's commitment to building a more resilient global health security architecture.

India believes that this year's theme linking peace and health, is timely and pertinent as there can be no sustainable development and universal health and wellbeing without peace, he said in a statement.

India's covid vaccination programme has turned out to be one of the most successful in the world as the coverage exceeded 192.52 crores on Tuesday as per provisional reports by 7 pm, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Covid vaccination for the age group 12-14 years was started on March 16, 2022.


Pakistan: Over Usd 13 Billion Debt Incurred In 10 Months


Islamabad: Pakistan's failure in handling its economy is an unpleasant result of its own actions as the country incurred a foreign debt of USD 13.033 billion from multiple financing sources in the first 10 months (July-April 2021-22) including USD 2.623 billion from foreign commercial banks for the entire fiscal year.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) on Monday released data which shows that the country received a hefty sum of USD 262.14 million from multiple financing sources in April 2022. However, no amount was borrowed from foreign commercial banks during the April band, Business Recorder reported.

As per the reports, the external inflows during the corresponding period (July-April) of the fiscal year 2020-21 were USD 10.195 billion including USD 3.246 billion from foreign commercial banks against the budgeted amount of USD 12.233 billion.

The government has budgeted estimates of foreign assistance of USD 14.088 billion for the current financial year, including USD 13.871 billion in loans and USD 217.44 million in grants from multilateral and bilateral sources, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The total receipt of loans constitutes USD 4.050 billion from multilateral, USD 485.97 million from bilateral, USD 2.623 billion from foreign commercial banks, USD 2.041 billion from issuance of bonds and USD 3 billion in time deposits from Saudi Arabia, the report added.

The non-project aid was USD 10.263 billion including USD 9.024 billion for budgetary support and project aid was USD 1.937 billion.

Among multilateral development partners, mainly the Asian Development Bank provided USD 1.454 billion and the World Bank disbursed USD 1.189 billion.

Meanwhile, China disbursed USD 153.30 million in the first 10 months (July-April) of the current fiscal year, the USA 64.32 million, Korea 4.81 million, the UK 16.01 million, and Germany USD 13.25 million and Saudi Arabia USD 201 million including USD 100 million in April for imports of oil products, Business Recorder reported.

The World Bank has highlighted the structural weaknesses of Pakistan's economy which include low investment, low exports, and a low productivity growth cycle. Further, high domestic demand pressures and rising global commodity prices have given rise to double-digit inflation in the country.

Moreover, the growth momentum is not expected to pick up in Pakistan in the near future as a sharp spike in the import bill would also impact the Pakistani Rupee adversely.


Conference In Brussels Slams Pakistan For 'Extrajudicial Killings of Minorities'


Brussels: A conference on "Islamism and Human Rights in Pakistan" was held in Flemish Parliament at Leuvenseweg in Brussels on Tuesday.

The conference was attended by Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, exiled chair of the United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP), Sardar Nasir Aziz Khan, central spokesperson of UKPNP, Sardar Amjad Yousaf, President of UKPNP Europe, and Sikandar Abbas, Vice President of UKPNP a mong others.

At the press conference, Jamil Maqsood, Central Secretary of the committee on foreign Affairs of UKPNP spoke that instead of framing a Constitution, all Pakistan did was adopt resolutions. However, although a Constitution was framed in 1973, Pakistan continued to exploit minorities due to which their population in the country has dipped to three per cent.

Maqsood further added that when Pakistan introduced the Blasphemy Law in 1973, it was used against Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians. Hindu women were abducted and married off to Muslims. Recently, two Sikh youths were killed in Peshawar. There are laws which are used against minorities to threaten and usurp their property, he alleged.

Faza ur Rehman, President of the Institute of Research and Strategic Studies, stated that Pashtuns were used as sacrificial goats in Pakistan. They were being forced to fight other people's wars in Afghanistan. Rehman claimed that thousands of extrajudicial killings of the Pashtun and Baloch people were conducted by the Pakistan Army as means of eliminating terrorists and the Taliban.

Rehman condemned Pakistan for using radical Islam ideology to target its adversaries in the Pashtun community.

Sardar Nasir Aziz Khan said that Pakistan was using PoK as a terror launchpad. Jihadi organizations are being trained in these areas while Pakistan is aiding them in terrorism in the name of fighting terror, he said, adding that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan proves this fact.

Further, the UKPNP Central spokesperson stated that presently women madrassas are being financed, promoted and even encouraged where the female population is being radicalized paving the way for a larger impact on the whole generation of radicals in the coming years. He urged the people living in the PoK, not to fall prey to Pakistan's tool of radical Islam ideology.


Pakistan Hell-Bent On Fencing Durand Line To Secure CPEC


Kabul: In the wake of ensuring the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is adamant to fence the Durand Line while also restricting the Pashtun solidarity in the region.

According to media reports, the proposed fence, along the 2640 KM Durand Line is planned to be supported by over 400 outposts and a similar number of check posts. The fencing work which started in 2016, continued unhindered till the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in 2021.

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has witnessed several instances of illegal bombardment by the Pakistani forces mainly in the Khost and Kunar provinces resulting in casualties and financial losses on the Afghan side.

In the current year till May 1st, 2022, there have been around 40 clashes along the Durand Line most of which pertain to the border dispute. More than 40 people died when rockets were fired from Pakistan Air Force (PAF) helicopters in Kunar, Khost, Paktika and other bordering provinces on April 16, 2022.

The situation has come to such a pass that the Pakistani ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Kabul and was issued a stern warning. The sequence of events suggests that a major confrontation with the Afghan Taliban, which Pakistan desperately wants to avoid, may just be around the corner, the Afghan Diaspora Network reported.

In Pakistan, most of the problems precipitating cross border threats in the Af-Pak region are created from within by flawed state policies as the nation's politics have been plagued by failures in establishing an equitable and honourable existence for its ethnically divided population, living on both sides of the border disturbing their agricultural land, traditional border trade and movement of labour.

The ethnic consciousness of Pashtuns and Balochis in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan is essentially arising out of this sense of alienation and deprivation. As a consequence, border areas have experienced tribal insurgencies, ethnic and sectarian struggles and secessionist movements by Balochis and Pashtuns.

Pakistan's contention that the Af-Pak border is plagued with cross-border movement of terror groups, infiltration, illegal immigration, smuggling and drug trafficking may be valid to some extent.

Pakistan's deep state is known to be involved in the largest state-sponsored drug peddling operations along the Af-Pak border and has emerged as the prime exponent of the narco-terror nexus.

The Durand Line passes through the present-day Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. It also includes 10 provinces in Afghanistan. Disputed in the context of the struggle for the Pashtun homeland, the Durand Line has of late become the cause of heightened border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.