Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came into power in May, has started his trip to the United States. After attending the United Nations General Assembly, Modi will be on a state visit of the United States. Modi spoke highly of his state visit to the United States in an announcement released before the trip. He said that India regards America as a vital partner for national development and hopes visit will mark a "new chapter" in a strategic partnership between the two countries. The U.S is ready to reward India's enthusiasm. Reports indicated that U.S. President Barack Obama will host a rare private dinner for Modi at the White House to "promote a personal relationship with Modi". The direction of Indian-American relationships has aroused intensive attention. Media reports say that India has a vital role to play in the U.S. strategy of "rebalancing Asia-Pacific". Many people anticipate that the U.S. will rely on India to counter China. In fact, no matter how close the relationship between India and the U.S. grows, India will not be a major player on the American team. The 'rebalancing' strategy consists of three parts - politics, economy and security. However, Indian national power is not sufficiently strong in any one of the three aspects. Politically, India has to confront political uncertainties. Modi noted that the two countries’ values and interests are aligned. Furthermore, the complementary strengths of India and the U.S. are the foundation of a natural relationship between India and the U.S. The U.S. treats Indian self-esteem with respect. The U.S.-India ''Global Partnership'' was set up in July, 2005. The U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue started in 2010. On this occasion Modi's visit might provide opportunities for the establishment of an India-U.S. strategic partnership. At the same time, there are vulnerabilities in the relationship. Relations between the two countries deteriorated as a result of a diplomatic issue when Indian diplomats were arrested in the U.S. at the end of 2013. In the short term, unlike other traditional U.S. allies in Asia such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, India will not take on a major role in the U.S. "rebalance in Asia-Pacific" strategy. Economically, India is expected to enhance its business links with the U.S. but it cannot be a major factor in the important economic agenda of the rebalancing strategy. India has established an economic and financial partnership with America. One of Modi's task during his visit is to promote an Indian economic recovery plan. The Indian government has therefore arranged a set of joint activities with American business elite for their Prime Minister Modi in order to attract more Amerian investment. The key element of the U.S. rebalance strategy is The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The U.S. is attempting to establish free trade zones in the Asia-Pacific with the help of TPP. However, India has not been invited to participate in the negotiation process. In respect of security, America hopes to cooperate with India to maintain regional stability. But currently the U.S. strategy focuses on relationships between its traditional partners including Japan, the Philippines and Australia. When it comes to India, American interest is limited to ammunition supply and developing the military forces. Fundamentally, India was one of the countries behind the Non-Aligned Movement. Every Indian government has emphasized that non-alignment is a basic principle of their foreign policy. India adheres to an all-round foreign policy strategy. Not only does India give priority to the India-U.S. relationship, it also attaches great importance to Sino-India relationships. The unsolved territorial disputes will not affect the development of Sino-India relations. China and India vowed to forge a closer development partnership when Chinese President Xi Jinping finished his state visit to India a week ago. It is unrealistic for America to rely on India to play a leading role in its "rebalance in Asia-Pacific" strategy. There is little prospect of India and the U.S. reaching consensus on Chinese issues.
US President Barack Obama has excluded the possibility of military confrontation between Russia and NATO over the Ukrainian crisis in his interview to CBS Monday. "No, I don't think there's going to be a military confrontation between NATO and Russia, although we have worked very hard to reassure that Article Five of the NATO treaty means what it says," Obama stated, answering to the question whether he believes a military confrontation between NATO and Russia and Ukraine is possible. "We come to the aid and assistance, so if you mess with the NATO country, then there will be a military confrontation. And Putin understands that. But I do think there's a possibility of Russia moving in a better direction," Obama continued in his "60 minutes" interview to CBS. Obama also mentioned gas talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union that took place in Berlin last week and may be conducive to the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. "There was an agreement announced today that, in fact, Russian gas would still be sold to Ukraine. So that they're not going to freeze this winter," Obama concluded. According to the preliminary agreement, Russia and Ukraine could sign a so-called "winter package" of documents on the Russian gas supplies to Ukraine. The supplies would amount to five billion cubic meters of gas at $385 per 1,000 cubic meters for a half-year period.
The Huffington Post | By Erin WhitneyEarlier this week the Internet was pretty upset over President Obama's "latte salute," when he saluted Marines with a coffee cup in his hand. On this week's "Real Time With Bill Maher," the host debated the controversial incident with General Anthony Zinni. Maher, who hilariously dubbed it "latte-gate," found the matter more ridiculous than scandalous. "Let me just say, if this offends you that much, you should marry your teddy bear," Maher said. Zinni quickly cut in to add just how offended he was by the President's salute. "[It] may be fine in a frat house, it's not the way in the Marine Corps," he said. Maher went on to mock "latte-gate" asking if it was "more important than, like, anything else in the world." While the two disagreed over it, the audience continued laughing at an old photo of the time President George W. Bush saluted with his dog in his arms. We wonder what object will be the center of the next disgraceful salute debate.
In a move intended to mend frayed ties with the Unites States, a representative of the newly-inaugurated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and US Ambassador James Cunningham, signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on Tuesday, September 30 at the presidential palace in Kabul. The deal allows the US to leave a small contingent of troops in the country beyond this year, when a NATO-led combat mission ends. The agreement became a sticking point in US-Afghan relations after President Hamid Karzai refused to sign it last year despite a "loya jirga" grand assembly endorsing the deal. Also inked was a similar agreement between Afghanistan and NATO. The new mission, named Resolute Support, will focus on training and support for the Afghan army and police as they take on an increasingly resilient insurgency. Troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a force of some 9,800 US soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500. Scott Smith, director of the Afghanistan and Central Asia program at the United States Institute of Peace, says in a DW interview that signing the BSA is essentially the minimum condition for a future strategic partnership, which includes significant financial support. By doing so, the new government also reinforced its investment in this partnership.
DW: What does the signing of the BSA represent for Afghanistan?Scott Smith: At the very least, the signing of the BSA represents a restoration of confidence in the relations between the two countries. The US-Afghanistan relationship had deteriorated significantly during President Karzai's second term and his refusal to sign the BSA was only part of that deterioration. People knew that if the agreement was not signed, the US military commitment to Afghanistan would end, and this added to the general sense of uncertainty during a critical and difficult electoral year when, for the first time, someone other than Karzai would be president. Signing the BSA is essentially the minimum condition for a future strategic partnership, which includes significant financial support. By doing so, the new government also signaled that it is invested in this partnership.
What exactly does the BSA provide for?The BSA provides the legal basis for US troops to remain in Afghanistan. It also allowed the signing of a Status of Forces Agreement with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. These international forces that remain will not have a combat function as their mandate is to "train, advise, and assist" the Afghan security forces. Since June of last year, Afghan forces have been fully in the lead of combat operations. They have been supported by international forces in terms of receiving logistic support, medevac capabilities, and intelligence. But this support has dwindled. The US, for example, no longer provides medevac assistance.
More specifically, the BSA sets out rules of engagement for US troops and provides immunity for US troops from Afghan laws. The rules are more restrictive than in the previous agreement, which was negotiated more than a decade ago. Because of these more restrictive rules, the BSA is considered to be more respectful of Afghan sovereignty. Furthermore, President Obama announced in May that US troops would only remain until 2016. When the BSA was initially negotiated, the assumption was that US troops would remain in Afghanistan for another decade.
The BSA became a symbol of frayed US-Afghan ties. How did Karzai's stance impact bilateral ties?President Karzai surprised many people by refusing to sign the BSA, even though he had received a near-unanimous endorsement to sign it from the national assembly (loya Jirga) he convened specifically to seek guidance on whether it should be signed. This was indeed a sign of how difficult and, to some extent, bitter, relations had become between President Karzai and the US administration. I choose these words deliberately - most Afghans seemed to have wanted him to sign it, so it was not a symbol of frayed US-Afghan ties, but it was definitely a symbol of frayed US-Karzai ties. Karzai's refusal to sign it would have had a catastrophic effect on the bilateral relationship had the electoral dispute endured much longer. My personal view for his not wanting to sign it is that he had lost confidence in the military relationship with the US. As he said in his final speech, he believed the US had become a cause of conflict in Afghanistan, rather than a provider of stability, and therefore the responsibility for their presence should be assumed by his successor.
Some Afghans still oppose the BSA because they think it would undermine the country's sovereignty. What is your view on this?This may be the point of view of some, but I would not be surprised if many Afghans have come to adopt a more pragmatic view of sovereignty. In other words, they understand that it is difficult to exercise real sovereignty when your political class is divided, the state is under constant pressure from an insurgency, and neighbors are able to easily meddle in domestic political matters. Those who believe that a continued US presence will eventually help to strengthen state institutions and ensure the continued support for the Afghan national security forces may view this continued presence, in the medium term at least, as essential to attaining meaningful sovereignty, rather than declarations of sovereignty that are not much more than rhetoric.
What does the BSA entail in terms of financial aid?The NATO summit that was held in Wales in early September was perhaps more immediately relevant to financial aid. The participants pledged to continue to financially support Afghan security forces over the next ten years, but in decreasing amounts and under the assumption that Afghan authorities would make demonstrably effective efforts to ensure accountability. This agreement was reached before the BSA was signed. On the other hand, at a symbolic level, the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, as long as it lasts, will ensure that Afghanistan remains a top foreign policy issue for Washington. Afghans I have spoken to about this seem acutely aware that without US troops, Afghanistan might once again be quickly abandoned. For many, therefore, the important question was not necessarily how many troops would remain if the BSA were signed, but how long they would remain. From this perspective, the Obama announcement of a complete withdrawal by 2016 came as a disappointment.
How important is the BSA for the stability of the new Afghan government?The BSA is clearly perceived to be important for the new Afghan government, otherwise its signature would not have been one of the first acts of the new government. At the level of perception it provides some confidence that the international community will remain committed to Afghanistan's progress, and at the practical level it ensures that Afghan security forces will continue to be supported. In my view, a more flexible approach to the withdrawal timelines would have a positive effect on political stability. On the other hand, the fact that the administration of US President Barack Obama has not been ambiguous about its desire to remove all troops by 2016 sends a clear signal to Afghan political leaders that they cannot waste their energies on internal struggles; they must begin to create a government that is much more effective than it has been. It also sends a clear signal to Afghan military leaders that they have two years to prepare themselves to confront the insurgency alone, and that this time must be used wisely.
Pakistani leaders are hopeful to develop good neighborly relations with the new Afghan government as the years of tensions have proved unhelpful to effectively counter serious security challenges. In his farewell speech last week, former President Hamid Karzai blamed both the United States and Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban insurgents. This blame game continued for a long time over the cross-border shelling, lack of cooperation to jointly fight terrorism and alleged hideouts of the Taliban militants in both countries. The lack of trust harmed all efforts for reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and Karzai admitted his failure to carry forward the reconcilary process. Karzai also pointed out that peace with the Taliban is not possible without the help of the U.S. and Pakistan. Cross-border attacks have caused a serious blow to bilateral relations and Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani raised the issue of the alleged Pakistani "rocketing into Afghanistan" at his U.N. General Assembly's address last week. This shows a deterioration in bilateral relations, as Kabul preferred an international forum rather than using bilateral diplomatic channels. Kabul claims Pakistani rockets affect "civilians" in eastern Kunar province. Pakistan, however, denies it fired rockets into civilian areas and says its forces only target positions of the militants who attack Pakistani border posts. Karzai seemed to be upset at what he described as, "Pakistan' s lack of cooperation" to encourage the Taliban to enter into peace talks with his government. Islamabad, for its part, added that they do not have control over the Taliban and that it can only play the role of a facilitator. Pakistani officials insist they have freed over 50 Taliban detainees, including some senior leaders and former ministers, at the request of Karzai and his peace council to accelerate the reconciliation process, however, all the freed Taliban refused to join the intra-Afghan dialogue. For its part, Pakistan says it is disappointed at "Afghanistan' s failure to stop the Pakistani Taliban from entering the Afghan side of the border." Security officials insist that many Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled to Afghanistan following military operations in the tribal regions and Swat valley, now operate from the Afghan border region. Afghanistan-based Pakistan Taliban insurgents are being blamed for cross-border attacks on check post and villages. Pakistan military spokespeople have claimed that the Afghan gov' t has not helped to stop fleeing militants from crossing the border from North Waziristan tribal region, where the security forces are battling local and foreign militants. Pakistani forces launched the biggest offensive in the region in June to flush out the militants from their last major sanctuary. Afghanistan itself and the U.S. had also been calling for the operation, as they claimed al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network also had hideouts in North Waziristan. As political tensions had a negative impact on bilateral relations over the past 13 years, the two countries now have a good opportunity to bury the hatchet and deal with the post-NATO situation. Any instability in Afghanistan will directly affect Pakistan's fragile security situation. Pakistan made the wise decision to represent itself at the highest level in attending the swearing-in ceremony for President Ashraf Ghani on Monday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the only head of the state among the nearly 200 foreign guests who attended Afghanistan's historic first ever democratic transition. President Mamnoon Hussain held separate meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and " conveyed Pakistan's commitment to working closely with the new government for the promotion of common goals," the Foreign Ministry said late Monday at the conclusion of his day-long visit to Kabul. "Underlining the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his perspective that both countries should have a 'special relationship,'" a Foreign Ministry statement said. Dr. Abdullah also expressed his desire for the new government to forge a cooperative and forward-looking relationship with Pakistan. Statements from the leadership of the two countries have raised hopes for a new tension-free beginning, as their cooperation could enable them to meet the ongoing serious security challenges they would be facing after the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in less than three months.
By JORDAN SCHACHTEL
Tariq Kakar The true Origin of Baloch insurgency dates back to partition era when the Colonial masters decided to leave the Indian sub-continent and divided according to their will. According to the partition plan, India and Pakistan were independent while the princely states were allowed to join either of the newborn states or remain independent. Kalat declared its independence on 11 August 1947.This independence lasted 9 months and then the Kalat state was forcibly acceded to Pakistan. The Baloch retaliated and initiated insurgency plans under command of Prince Karim, younger brother of Khan of Kalat; Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, but it was curbed soon and prince Karim was imprisoned for 10 years. Four phases of insurgencies followed this event.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah on Tuesday recommended holding of mid-term elections to resolve prevailing political crisis. Talking to media in Islamabad, Khurshid Shah stated that it will be better for the system if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announces mid-term polls. The PPP leader stated that it is not appropriate to force the premier on ‘going point’ to take this action. We want survival of the system and parliament, he added. Khurshid Shah suggested that investigation of election rigging should be carried out through the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He said opposition jirga should hold direct talks with the leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) to end the deadlock. Shah said Nawaz Sharif is an constitutionally elected prime minister and he was felicitated by former president Asif Ali Zardari and PTI chief Imran Khan over his victory. Thousands of anti-government protestors led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have staged sit-ins in the federal capital s Red Zone to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan alleges the 2013 elections were rigged in a conspiracy led by nawaz Sharif, acting with the Election Commission, the judiciary, the interim provincial government in Punjab, and a private news channel. However, they have all denied the allegations.
In the wake of a devastating bomb blast that killed at least eight people on Sunday, the district police deployed around 20 Frontier Constabulary (FC) officials at Khwaja Muhammad camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Hangu. Hangu DPO Nazir Kundi, while talking to journalists, confirmed that IDPs housed in the camp were the main target. He said an FIR of the blast was registered at Saddar police station against unidentified militants under sections 302 and 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Kundi said FC officials were deployed inside and outside the camp, adding five more personnel could be stationed for added security. The DPO added four suspects had been rounded up from within the camp limits during a search operation after the blast and moved to an undisclosed location for interrogation. Last rites Grief-stricken relatives took the bodies of their loved ones to their hometown in Upper Orakzai Agency for burial. Camp residents said not a single political figure or government official visited to offer condolence or a shoulder to cry on. Lal Badshah, whose seven and eight-year-old sons—Lal Wali and Sher Wali—were killed while playing in the makeshift camp market, said he had to take the bodies to his hometown early in the morning. “We could not find a place to bury them in Hangu.” Badshah said the loss of his two young sons had a devastating impact on him and his wife. He recalled they had only recently visited the market to buy clothes for Eidul Azha. “Their mother is constantly looking at the clothes we bought them for Eid; she hasn’t stopped crying,” he added. A bike bomb According to DPO Kundi, a motorcycle was rigged with explosives and parked within the camp limits to cause “maximum damage”. Around seven kilogrammes of explosives were used in the explosive device, bomb disposal unit official Asadullah told The Express Tribune. The attack spread further fear and panic among camp residents, who had recently been threatened by militants to vacate the premises. “Not a single person living in the camp did anything which would provoke militants to attack us, yet we were targeted,” said Muhammad Sadiq, one of the people wounded in the blast. “We have to battle for survival even though we have nothing to do with this fight.” Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak ordered an enquiry against the blast and directed senior officials to submit a detailed report. He also directed the police and district administration to launch a crackdown and contact the border authorities of Orakzai Agency. On June 10, unidentified militants fired rockets and hurled grenades at the camp for IDPs from Orakzai in Hangu. The attack followed upon earlier threats asking IDPs to vacate by June 11.
The Express Tribune
Three people were injured on Tuesday when a polio team was attacked in Gujranwala, Express News reported. On August 31, the Gujranwala district health office had announced that a polio vaccination campaign would be launched on September 29. Despite the number of polio cases increasing with each passing day, the authorities have failed to put a concrete plan in place. Polio workers are frequently targeted in the country, while many parents refuse to let health workers administer polio drops to their children. For this year alone, the total number of reported polio cases stands at 174 in Pakistan - one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would restart the journey from the point where his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhuuto’s caravan was attacked on October 18, 2007. On the day PPP would hold a public gathering at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam. Speaking after his party’s core committee meeting at the Bilawal House, former prime minister and senior PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gilani said the 2007 Karachi bombing occurred two months before Benazir was assassinated. The bombing resulted in more than 120 deaths and 425 injuries. Most of the dead were members of the PPP. “October 18 reminds us that the PPP leadership and it workers have always sacrificed their lives for democracy,” he stated. Earlier addressing the meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who chaired the meeting, said that the PPP would again be made a party of the masses by mobilisation of the cadres across the country. Gilani said Benazir returned for the restoration of constitution, independence of judiciary and media. “Even though she was warned of danger, but she followed the footsteps of her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” Gilani said. He said today the nation is looking towards the leadership of Bilawal and his decision is of prime importance. “Under the leadership of Bilawal, PPP would flourish and regain. The party would bring stability in the country and institutions would be strengthened.” The former premier said Bilawal would come with the vision of Benazir and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Gilani said party office-bearers and workers had remained part of party. Asked if Bilawal’s apology to the party workers was not a charge sheet against the previous PPP government, the former premier replied diplomatically, saying “there is always room for improvement”. When asked whether Bilawal was referring to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) when he asked party workers not to move to other parties, Gilani explained that the statement had nothing to do with the PTI. “As far as Imran Khan’s party is concerned, they have their own manifesto. They have never come to power before, whereas we have been there many times,” he said. also speaking on the occasion, former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf said people would see real reflection of his mother and his grandfather in Bilawal.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would hold a public meeting at Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi on October 18, the party’s leader and the former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Monday. Gilani was briefing newsmen along with other party leaders after core committee meeting of the PPP in Karachi on Monday afternoon. The former prime minister said that the PPP workers and leaders rendered great sacrifices for the cause of democracy. The sources said that it was decided in the PPP core committee meeting that the party would launch mass contact campaign from October 18. The meeting decided that the PPP would hold public meetings in all provincial capitals as part of its mass contact program.