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Is US looking for an alternative to Pakistan?

Sheshadri Chari

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After the recent US-Pakistan spar over Islamabad’s inability to finish terror outfits operating from its soil, the US has stopped military aid to Pakistan. The US has also named and shamed some of the terror outfits working with the total support of Pakistan army. More stringent action from White is expected. In such circumstances, Pakistan is ready to retaliate by imposing a blockade of US and NATO forces thereby cutting off supplies to landlocked Afghanistan. The only alternative route for the US is through Balochistan provided, it supports “Azad Balochistan” forces. This could be a game changer for the region. Trump should act fast.

India International

Trump calls India a true friend: US official Wells

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Navtej Sarna ;Wells

Washington | President Donald Trump calls India a “true friend”, a top American diplomat has said as she highlighted the steps taken by the US over the last two years to strengthen its ties with India for the benefit of a broader Indo Pacific region.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells’ remarks came at a farewell reception hosted by the State Department in honour of the outgoing Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna.

“President Trump calls India a true friend and Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo has characterized the US-India bilateral relationship as one deeply bound by our shared values,” she said.

Top officials of the State Department and the White House were present at the farewell reception for Sarna held at the historic Blair House, which is the official guest house of the US President. It is quite rare that the Blair House is used for a State Department farewell reception for an outgoing diplomat.

The US tenure of Sarna, who is retiring from Indian foreign service after an illustrious career of 38 years, has been extraordinary, Wells told the select audience.  Sarna took charge as India’s ambassador to the US on November 5, 2016.  “Over the last two years, we have been able to host Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi here in Washington for a successful summit with President Trump,” Wells said.

During Sarna’s tenure, the two countries have inaugurated a new 2 +2 Dialogue to elevate their cooperation on security and strategic priorities for the benefit of their people and for the benefit of a broader Indo-Pacific region where the leadership of the two nations matters so much.

“Under your leadership, our countries have negotiated and finalised a landmark communications compatibility and security agreement, which makes our military cooperation more profound and advanced. We have also taken significant steps to build on India’s status as a US major defense partner, including elevating India to strategic trade authorization, tier one status, Wells said.

“In your engagements with Americans across the country and also with the more than three million Indian Americans and these incredibly vibrant business leaders, the students, the technologist, the artist, you really helped bring our people in other countries together,” she said as she praised Sarna.

Sarn said that the successful visit of Prime Minister Modi in June 2017 was the high point of his term here in Washington DC.

“The fact that the outcomes were so strong from the visit, the personal chemistry between Prime Minister Modi and President trump was so, so evident and the joint statement that we came out with really set the chart for the months to follow,” the Indian Ambassador said.

Listing some of the major highlights of his posting in the US, Sarna said, “Today we can look back on and say that, well, yes, we are truly strategic global partners”.

“We have found a huge amount of understanding for our political space, for our strategic autonomy, for the needs of our economy, for our role, for our taking into account our art history and our regional position vis a vis several other countries,” he said.

“I think this entire process of building the bilateral relationship has been to work with each other to find while each country fulfills its national objectives of the US as well as India at the same time, we find ways and means of growing together,” he said.

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India International

India’s negative attitude unhelpful in improving ties: Pakistan

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Islamabad | Accusing India of perpetuating “dynamic rivalry”, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has said New Delhi’s negative attitude was not only unhelpful for improving bilateral ties but was also stopping South Asia from making progress and attaining peace.

Speaking at a conference on ‘Conflict and Cooperation in South Asia: Role of Major Powers’ hosted by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Janjua said that India, by refusing to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Islamabad, was holding the regional body’s summit process hostage.

Referring to India’s approach on ties with Pakistan, Janjua said India was “spinning hatred” and perpetuating “dynamic rivalry”, according to Dawn newspaper. This, she maintained, “was not only unhelpful for improving Pakistan-India ties but was also stopping South Asia from making progress and attaining peace”.

India, which blames Pakistan for several terror attacks in the country, has firmly told Islamabad that terror and talks cannot go together. She regretted that India tried to drown in controversy of Pakistan’s gesture of agreeing to the Kartarpur Corridor, for facilitating Sikh pilgrimage to one of their holiest sites, due to its domestic politics, but Islamabad ignored the Indian negativity and decided to “stay the course”. We are convinced that we will continue to try for peace and stability in the region,” she said.

About the new Pakistan government’s policy on India, Janjua spoke of Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s first address to the nation after the July elections in which he had offered to take two steps for every single step that India would take for normalisation of ties with Pakistan.

She said Khan in his letter to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi expressed willingness to discuss all issues that were part of the ‘Composite Dialogue’. “Unfortunately we haven’t seen the kind of reciprocation that was required,” she said.  The ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place.

The ties strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The sentencing of alleged Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April over espionage charges last year further deteriorated bilateral ties.

The two sides often accuse each other of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, resulting in civilian casualties. The foreign secretary also criticised India for “spending massively on force modernisation” and questioned the support being extended to it by the world powers in its acquisition of weapons.

“Recently held India-US 2+2 dialogue provides India access to advanced and sensitive US military hardware, technology, and weaponry,” she said.  She also took a jab at Russia for signing a deal with India for providing it advanced S-400 air defence systems. “This would undermine the delicate strategic balance in the region and beyond,” she said.

Reiterating Pakistan’s position on the Indian arms build-up, she said: “Pakistan is concerned that such an arms race will be detrimental to peace and stability of the region. Pakistan doesn’t subscribe to any nuclear or conventional arms race in the region.”

Janjua said Pakistan would continue to pursue its policy of “credible minimum deterrence” to maintain strategic stability and cater for its interests. Contending that Pakistan’s foreign policy has been successful, the foreign secretary said it was proven by the country’s counterterrorism operations, the progress achieved by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the emerging consensus on seeking a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict.

“Our view point on Afghanistan on the futility of kinetic approaches and merit of pursuing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process is finding greater traction today than ever before,” she underscored.

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India International

India-Myanmar friendship driven by quest for mutual peace: President Kovind

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Nay Pyi Taw | The friendship between India and Myanmar is not driven by short-term goals, but by a lasting quest for mutual peace and prosperity, President Ram Nath Kovind has said as he extended New Delhi‘s support for preserving the unity and territorial integrity of the neighbouring country.

Speaking at the State Banquet hosted by his Myanmarese counterpart U Win Myint on Tuesday, Kovind stressed that India’s partnership with Myanmar is at the important intersection between friendship, neighbourhood and shared core interests. He appreciated Win Myint, First Lady Daw Cho Cho and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the generosity and hospitality accorded to him, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“Because our destinies are inter-twined and inter-linked, our friendship is driven not by short-term goals, but by a larger and lasting quest for mutual peace, progress, and prosperity,” Kovind, who became the first state guest after Win Myint assumed office as the President of Myanmar, said.

He said both the sides are working tirelessly to enhance the intensity of the bilateral engagement through increased connectivity, capacity-building and growing commercial and cultural exchanges. “We are aware of the challenges Myanmar faces in taking forward the peace process, national reconciliation, and economic recovery.

“The government and people of India stand by you. We are in full support of your peace process and in preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar, all of which are fundamentally in our own interests as well,” Kovind said, adding without that, India cannot succeed in its effort to bring development, prosperity, and connectivity to its citizens in the Northeast, which borders Myanmar.

He said that the two countries are bound together by shared waters, forests and hills, by culture, cuisine, language, and history. “And more profoundly, by the blessings of Lord Buddha. These are the bedrock of our relationship, which provides it strength and a unique emotional connect,” he said. The vibrant Indian-origin community, which has made Myanmar their home, is an organic link between the two countries, the president said.

“Our anti-colonial struggles and our shared aspirations bring us together as well. We gave a home to each other when force and fate defeated us. King Thibaw spent his days in Ratnagiri and Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in Yangon. We have, indeed, been friends in prosperity and as much in adversity,” Kovind said.

The propagation of vipassana, a meditation technique developed and practiced by Lord Buddha, owes so much to the pioneering work of Satya Narayan Goenka, who received his initial lessons from Sayagyi U Ba Khin, he said.

“We fondly remember Daw Tint Tint, or Usha Narayanan, the daughter of Myanmar, who became the First Lady of India,” Kovind said.

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