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Modi-Trump metting signals a good start

Sheshadri Chari

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Modi – Trump metting paves way for a new world economic re-alignment in near future. India-US reiterate their resolve to fight terrorism

India International

Stark difference in Indo-US ties since 1998 nuclear tests: Indian envoy

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Washington | There is a stark difference in India’s relationship with the US since the 1998 nuclear tests and bilateral ties are now very good, the outgoing Indian envoy here has said. Navtej Singh Sarna, India’s Ambassador to the US since November 2016, is retiring later this month after an illustrious career spanning 38 years.

In his previous stint in the US from September 1998 to June 2002, Sarna served as the minister/counselor at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. During that time India was slapped with US sanctions in the aftermath of the nuclear tests.

“Well, it’s night and day, if I can say that,” Sarna said in response to a question when asked about the difference in the India-US relationship in the past 20 years.  After the nuclear tests, he said though the country was slapped with sanctions, there was new respect and understanding for India.

“There was a new understanding of India’s potential as an economy. There was a new understanding of India’s power as an IT, particularly around Y2K, when suddenly Indians were the ones who were sorting out major problems. And there was an understanding that India had to do its nuclear tests because it lived in a tough neighbourhood,” he said.

Sarna said the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US last year gave tremendous impetus to the bilateral relationship. Describing Modi’s visit to US as the highlight of his ambassadorship, Sarna said the visit was a tremendous success.

“Today, I think the relationship is in a very good place,” he told the select audience.  Referring to the recent visit of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Sarna said India-US defence relationship has strengthened under the Trump administration.

Early this year, he pointed out, the US renamed one of its commands as US IndoPacific Command. India was given STA-1 Status, he said adding that this is the long run, perhaps may be a hugely significant step. It is very satisfying that India is the only non-NATO country in that category to date.

India was given the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status in August, paving the way for high-technology product sales to the country, particularly in civil space and defence sectors.

In his remarks, Sarna urged the business community, one of the prime drivers of the relationship, to create and sustain good feelings about India across the United States. Sarna also served as the longest-serving spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs and country’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Israel.

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India International

Indian diplomat walks out of SAARC meeting in Pakistan over minister’s presence

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India-Pakistan

Islamabad | An official of the Indian High Commission in Pakistan staged a walkout of a SAARC meeting over the presence of a minister from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) at the event, according to source here. Diplomat Shubham Singh, left the meeting to register India’s protest over the presence of PoK minister Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed at the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting on the SAARC Charter Day in Islamabad on Sunday.

India considers Kashmir as its integral part and does not recognise any minister for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).  In 2016, India had pulled out of the 19th SAARC summit that was to be held in Islamabad after the deadly terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri. The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to attend. No SAARC meeting has happened ever since.

India called off the foreign minister-level talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in September after the brutal killing of policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of a postage stamp by Pakistan that glorified Kashmiri militant commander Burhan Wani.

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India International

India criticizes UN’s failure to show resolve in sanctioning new Taliban leaders

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United Nations | India has strongly criticized the UN for its failure to show resolve in sanctioning new Taliban leaders who continue to perpetrate violence and destruction in Afghanistan and aided by those harboured in safe havens in its neighbourhood, a veiled reference to Pakistan.

Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir said at a UN General Assembly debate on the situation in Afghanistan it is clear that the terrorists who plan attacks against Afghanistan are not interested in peace.  “The goalposts for them have changed. The terrorists and their supporters have now set up industries amongst them of narcotics and illegal mining in the territories they control stealing the resources of the Afghan people and to fund more violence and terrorism,” she said.

Gambhir said that while the people of Afghanistan strive for better lives and a peaceful future, the challenges they face have only increased in the recent past. She cited the recently released Global Terrorism Index, which named Afghanistan as the world’s deadliest country for terrorism with one-quarter of all worldwide terrorism-related deaths during 2017 occurring in the country.

India strongly criticized the UN’s failure to deal with the “source” of terrorism wrecking havoc in the war-torn country.  “Despite these challenges, the UN has not demonstrated the resolve to deal with the source of the problem. The Security Council sanctions committee, which refuses to designate new leaders of the Taliban or to freeze the assets of the slain leader of Taliban, is falling short of what is expected of it by the Afghans and international community,” she said.  “From the lessons from the past, we who are located in New York, are aware that peace in Afghanistan is tied to the peace and security in the entire world,” she added.

Gambhir noted that while the international community advocates that there is no military solution to the issue, the Taliban, aided by their supporters, continue to pursue military operations perpetrating violence and destruction, like the recent attack in Kabul, over several parts of Afghanistan.  In a thinly-veiled reference to Pakistan, Gambhir said “These offensives are planned and launched by those who are harboured in safe havens in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. These sanctuaries have, for years, provided safety for the dark agendas of ideologically and operationally-fused terror networks like the Taliban, Haqqani network, Daesh, Al- Qaeda and its proscribed affiliates such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.”

Gambhir said the reports of the Secretary General repeatedly demonstrate that the violence and terror in Afghanistan was showing no signs of abating. “We witnessed an increased frequency of attacks, in places never imagined before; even the sick and wounded in hospitals, young boys and girls in schools, praying devotees in mosques, and even mourners at funerals, were not spared by the forces of terror and violence,” she said.

The General Assembly held its annual debate on the situation in Afghanistan during which it adopted a resolution by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to none against, with three abstentions (Libya, Russia, Zimbabwe).  Through the terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly pledged its continued support to Afghanistan as it rebuilds a stable, secure and economically self-sufficient State, free of terrorism and narcotics. It further encouraged all partners to support constructively the Government of Afghanistan’s reform agenda and emphasizes that threats to stability and development in the country and the region require closer and more coordinated cooperation.

Gambhir lauded the enthusiastic participation of the people of Afghanistan in the Parliamentary elections held last month despite terrorist violence, saying this reflects their desire and faith in democratic governance and rejection of forces that foment and spread terror and violence. “Democracy in Afghanistan is taking deeper roots,” she said.  She stressed that India supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled inclusive peace and reconciliation process which promotes and protects unity, sovereignty, democracy, inclusiveness and prosperity of Afghanistan. “Any meaningful progress towards sustainable peace requires cessation of terrorist violence, renunciation of links with international terrorism, respect for rights of common Afghan people, especially the women, the children and minorities.”  She further said that India will continue to stand with Afghanistan, stressing that building reliable connectivity for the land locked country is key component of its regional partnership.

“In these endeavors we are mindful that all such projects respect state sovereignty and territorial integrity and are based on universally recognized international norms, transparency and principles of financial responsibility, ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards,” she said.  It is with this spirit that India is engaged in various connectivity projects in the region including the Chabahar Port project and direct India-Afghanistan Air-Freight Corridor, which have been successfully operationalised, she said.

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