US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

Indian soldiers examine the debris after a suicide attack on a military convoy on Thursday killed 44 paramilitary policemen. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

  • India’s government said it had evidence the group Jaish-e-Mohammad, had the backing of Pakistan and demanded Islamabad take action
  • India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The United States has told India it supports its right to defend itself against cross-border attacks, the government said on Saturday, as New Delhi considers retaliation against a car bombing in disputed Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based militants.

Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have risen again after New Delhi, incensed by the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades, demanded that Pakistan act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group behind the bombing.

Pakistan condemned Thursday’s attack in which 44 paramilitary police were killed when the bomber slammed into a military convoy and denied any complicity.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Friday night, promising to help bring those behind the attack to justice, the Indian foreign ministry said in a readout of the phone call.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“They resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under UN resolutions,” it added.

India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced calls for retribution from Indians on social media as well hardline groups demonstrating in the streets, said on Saturday he had given a free hand to the military to respond to acts of violence.

“The country understands the anger simmering within the soldiers,” he said at a political rally in western Maharashtra state.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling group faces a tough general election in April-May.

India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947. In 2001, an attack on its parliament building prompted New Delhi to mobilize the military along the border with Pakistan in a standoff that lasted a year.

On Friday, India withdrew trade privileges to Pakistan in what it said was the first step to isolate Pakistan for not acting against Islamist militants operating from its soil.

As the bodies of the policemen who died in the car bomb reached their homes in small towns across India, crowds waving the Indian flag gathered in the streets to honor them and demand revenge.

Others held flowers as they walked behind the coffins in the towns of Jabalpur, Varanasi and Moga, television showed.

Tens of thousands of troops, paramilitary police and state police are deployed across scenic Kashmir to quell the nearly 30-year revolt there, India’s only Muslim-majority region.

In Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, authorities imposed a curfew for a second day after mobs attacked vehicles and pelted stones at the homes of Kashmiris.

Sanjeev Verma, the divisional commissioner of Jammu, said that the curfew will remain until further orders to maintain law and order. An army column staged a flag march.

In New Delhi, leaders of political parties met and said they stood behind the government in its resolve to tackle terrorism.

The attack comes at a difficult time for Pakistan, as it struggles to attract foreign investment and avert a payments crisis, with foreign currency reserves swiftly diminishing.

On Friday, it summoned India’s deputy envoy in Islamabad to reject the accusations against the country.


Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

Updated 12 min 49 sec ago
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Canada extends Iraq, Ukraine military training missions

  • Chrystia Freeland: "Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support"
  • In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops training Iraqi security forces

OTTAWA: Canada's defense and foreign ministers jointly announced Monday the extensions of military training missions in Iraq and Ukraine.
Both had been slated to wrap up at the end of March, but security concerns persist.
In Iraq, Canada will keep 250 special forces troops advising and training Iraqi security forces, plus several attack helicopters, as part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State mission until the end of March 2021.
The number of troops deployed could ramp up to 850, if needed, and they will also help neighboring Jordan and Lebanon build their respective security capabilities, said officials.
Complementing those efforts, Canada last November assumed command of a new NATO mission. It has been contributing air power, medical support and help in training Iraqi forces since 2014.
"We have made significant and lasting progress, but we recognize that more work is needed. Now we must ensure that Daesh can never rebuild and threaten the safety of Iraq," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a press conference, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
In Ukraine, some 200 Canadian troops will continue to provide arms, military engineering, logistics, military policing, and medical training until the end of March 2022.
Since 2015, Canada has so far trained nearly 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
Canada will also host a third Ukraine reform conference in Toronto on July 2-4.
"Ukraine can continue to count on Canada's unwavering support," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
"It's very important to send a strong message to Ukraine, to the people of Ukraine, and to the international community that the invasion of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea are a grave breach of international law," she added.