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Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at India, calls its response “arrogant” for cancelling talks

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level meeting in New York was “arrogant”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday, asserting that he was “disappointed” by the New Delhi’s “negative” response.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this month.

Announcing the cancellation of the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the incidents “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to the world as well as Islamabad’s evil agenda behind the proposal for talks.

“The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said. “Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” Prime Minister Khan said in a tweet.

“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said in a sharp reaction to India’s cancellation of the meeting. Kumar said talks with Pakistan after the “two deeply disturbing” developments would be “meaningless”. “In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” he said.

Reacting to India’s remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Friday that the “so-called ‘disturbing developments'” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York. He said the alleged killing of a BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, Pakistani rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that the country had nothing to do with it, he said. “Pakistan…categorically reject these allegations…Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” Faisal said.

On the issue of the postage stamps, he said they were issued before the July 25 elections and before Prime Minister Khan assumed office on August 18.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” Faisal said.

“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India has once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development,” he added.

International

China ups pressure as tech executive’s hearing goes into Tuesday

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Vancouver (Canada) | A jailed Chinese technology executive will have to wait at least more day to see if she will be released on bail in a case that has raised U.S.-China tensions and complicated efforts to resolve a trade dispute that has roiled financial markets and threatened global economic growth.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport December 1 the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce. The U.S. has accused Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

After a second daylong session, Justice William Ehrcke said the bail hearing would continue Tuesday. In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley noted the Huawei executive has vast resources and a strong incentive to flee as she is facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years. Gibb-Carsley later told the judge that if he does decide to grant bail it should include house arrest. David Martin, Meng’s lawyer, said Meng was willing to pay for a surveillance company to monitor her and wear an ankle monitor but she wanted to be able to travel around Vancouver and its suburbs.

Scott Filer of Lions Gate Risk Management group said his company would make a citizen’s arrest if she breached bail conditions. Martin said Meng’s husband would put up both of their Vancouver homes plus USD 1 million Canadian (USD 750,000) for a total value of USD 15 million Canadian (USD 11.2 million) as collateral.

The judge cast doubt on that proposal, saying Meng’s husband isn’t a resident of British Columbia a requirement for him to act as a guarantor that his wife won’t flee and his visitor visa expires in February. The prosecutor said her husband has no meaningful connections to Vancouver and spends only two or three weeks a year in the city.

Gibb-Carsley also expressed concern about the idea of using a security company paid by Meng. He said later that USD 15 million Canadian (USD 11.2 million) would be an appropriate amount if the judge granted bail, but he said half should be in cash. Meng’s arrest has fueled U.S.-China trade tensions at a time when the two countries are seeking to resolve a dispute over Beijing’s technology and industrial strategy.

Both sides have sought to keep the issues separate, at least so far, but the arrest has roiled markets, with stock markets worldwide down again Monday. The hearing has sparked widespread interest, and the courtroom was packed again Monday with media and spectators, including some who came to support Meng.

One man in the gallery brought binoculars to have a closer look at Meng, while outside court a man and woman held a sign that read “Free Ms. Meng.”  Over the weekend, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canadian Ambassador John McCallum and U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad.

Le warned both countries that Beijing would take steps based on their response. Asked Monday what those steps might be, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said only, “It totally depends on the Canadian side itself.”  The Canadian province of British Columbia has already cancelled a trade mission to China amid fears China could detain Canadians in retaliation for Meng’s detention.

Stocks around the world fell Monday over investor concerns about the continuing US-China trade dispute, as well as the cloud hanging over Brexit negotiations after Britain’s prime minister postponed a vote on her deal for Britain to quit the European Union. In the U.S., stocks were volatile, tumbling in the morning and then recovering in the afternoon.

The Huawei case complicates efforts to resolve the U.S.-China trade dispute. The United States has slapped tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese imports, charging that China steals American technology and forces U.S. companies to turn over trade secrets.

Tariffs on USD 200 billion of those imports were scheduled to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1. But over dinner December 1 with Xi in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Trump agreed to delay the increase for 90 days, buying time for more negotiations.

Bill Perry, a trade lawyer with Harris Bricken in Seattle, said China’s decelerating economy is putting pressure on Xi to make concessions before U.S. tariffs go up.

“They need a trade deal. They don’t want the tariffs to go up to 25” percent, said Perry, who produces the “US-China Trade War” blog. “This is Damocles’ sword hanging over the Chinese government.” Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to the Chinese government.

The U.S. has pressured other countries to limit the use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information. Lu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, accused countries he didn’t cite by name of hyping the “so-called” threat. “I must tell you that not a single piece of evidence have they ever presented to back their allegation,” he said.

“To create obstacles for companies’ normal operations based on speculation is quite absurd.

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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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Donald Trump’s potential next chief of staff pick leaving White House

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Donald Trump

Washington | The White House official widely touted as Donald Trump’s favourite to succeed his outgoing chief of staff John Kelly is instead leaving the administration at year’s end, he tweeted.

Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tweeted on Sunday that “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” referring to Trump’s campaign.

“Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House.” Trump announced Saturday that Kelly, 68, would leave the administration – the latest key personnel move at a time of mounting pressure from the Russia election-meddling probe that comes amid increased focus on preparing for the 2020 elections.

Shortly after Ayers said he would not take on the role, Trump jumped online to tweet: “I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff.”

“Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda,” he continued, adding that “I will be making a decision soon!” Ayers reportedly would not commit to signing on through 2020 to the president’s irritation.

And according to sources cited by The Washington Post, the youthful but politically savvy senior staffer was “skeptical” of taking the position because of the rocky tenures of Kelly and his predecessor Reince Priebus.

When Kelly was picked in July 2017 to replace Priebus, he inherited a White House plagued by political intrigue and internal disorder, and under a cloud because of the allegations of collusion with Russia.

Other potentials on Trump’s shortlist include Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Republican congressman Mark Meadows, a leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, according to the Post. The impending departure leaves Trump reliant on a reduced group of key advisers even as he prepares to deal in the new year with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The opposition party will have the power to launch investigations, issue subpoenas, and generally make his life more difficult.

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