Kashmir terror attack: Indian PM warns of strong action

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An activist of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party shouts slogans during a protest against the attack on a bus that killed 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in south Kashmir on Thursday, in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party shout slogans during a protest against the attack on a bus that killed 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in south Kashmir on Thursday, in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Kashmir terror attack: Indian PM warns of strong action

  • Modi blames Pakistan for the deaths of 42 soldiers; Islamabad rejects allegations

NEW DELHI: India’s government on Friday held a high-level security meeting where it blamed Pakistan for the terror attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir that claimed the lives of 42 troops from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Thursday.
“Those who did the heinous act will have to pay a heavy price. Those who supported it will definitely be punished,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the meeting.
The Cabinet Committee on Security also decided to withdraw the Most Favored Nation status (MFN) accorded to Pakistan for the “support given to the Jaish-e-Mohammad,” a terror group that has claimed responsibility for the incident. The attack took place in the Lethpora village — along a highway in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir — when a suspected suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a bus carrying paramilitary troopers.
Condemning Pakistan for the incident, Modi said that “our neighboring country thinks such terror attacks can weaken us, but their plans will not materialize. The security forces have been given complete freedom, the blood of the people is boiling.”
The main opposition Congress Party also held a press conference where former prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the party’s president, Rahul Gandhi, took turns to address the gathering. “The entire Congress party and most of the opposition stands by the security forces and the government in this difficult time. We are not going to get into any other conversation,” Gandhi said.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry released a statement blaming Pakistan “for supporting terror groups.”
“We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries,” the Foreign Ministry Affairs said.
Islamabad has rejected the allegations. “We have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world. We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Local security experts in Kashmir, however, said that such a suicide attack “marks a new normal in militancy in Kashmir.”
“Since 2014, the dialogue process has reached a dead-end from all sides. An atmosphere of fear has been unleashed in the Valley and that is the problem,” Gul Mohammed Wani, a professor at the University of Kashmir, said.
“Media reports say that the suicide bomber was from Pulwama only, a local boy. This points to desperation and a level of disconnect that Kashmiri youth have now. It is a new kind of militancy which is a matter of concern,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Srinagar-based political analyst and thinker, Prof. Siddiq Wahid, questioned “how long will both sides continue to mourn? It is senseless when you consider that it is the result of an arrogant power center refusing to talk, to engage in a dialogue. What does it take to accept that listening to the aspirations of people is a civilized norm?”
“The absence … and the rejection of dialogue has politically radicalized Kashmir. Not just among its youth but generally, too,” he told Arab News. “To blame Pakistan for it is to abdicate responsibility to understand, politically and socially, what a state is, and to look at India’s problems purely through the lens of some sort of strange and ironic victimhood for its population of more than a billion.”
Manoj Joshi of a New Delhi-based think tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said that “this is the larger failure of the government because, for the last four years, the government has launched an operation all out to finish off militancy.”
“This is the most serious attack since the militancy started in the 1990s. Obviously, there is something wrong with the policy because the previous policy has managed to bring down the casualty and violence. But the violence has been going up for the last few years; it is a clear sign the policy of the present regime has failed,” he said, adding that an “all military strategy is the extension of political strategy and you have to have a political strategy before you think of having an effective military strategy.”
He criticized the government for creating a war hysteria, saying that “it’s easy to start the war but it’s difficult to predict what would be the outcome.” He, however, said that Pakistan cannot escape the responsibility. “If it’s serious about combatting terror it should hand over the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar to India,” he said.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.