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Arms For Pakistan, Export Curbs Top Antony’s US Agenda

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A.K. Antony

Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony

By Arun Kumar

Washington: Pakistan’s diversion of US supplied arms against India and export controls on high tech items top Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s agenda here to prepare the ground for President Barack Obama’s upcoming India visit.

“On the whole, India-US defence relations are steadily expanding and both countries have a stake in strengthening this relationship,” he said ahead of his talks with top Obama administration officials over the next two days to zero in on some big ticket items for the presidential visit in November. 
”But mainly these are two matters of concern too,” said Antony who is slated to hold talks with Defence Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Gen James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 
”Certainly I’ll express my concerns,” he told reporters at a reception Sunday by Indian ambassador Meera Shankar to meet the Indian community in Washington. “Specifically on export control, we want an early solution to that.” 
Antony also ruled out any dramatic announcements of any key agreements saying, “Don’t expect miracles.” “It’s a continuing process. Discussions are going on. Many things are in the pipeline.” 
Antony is accompanied by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, chief of Eastern Army Command Lt Gen. Bikram Singh, Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN) Vice Admiral D.K. Joshi and director general air operations of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal A.K. Gogoi. 
The minister said large scale of supply of US arms to Pakistan is a matter of serious concern for India. “The US is giving these arms to Pakistan to fight terrorists. But in practical experience, it’ always being misused. They are diverting a portion against India.” 
Referring to US export controls, Antony said: “On the one hand, our relations with the US are steadily increasing. In the area of defence also we are working more closely now. 
”But some of our defence organisations like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and even PSUs are on the entities list.” 
”That’s also a matter of concern,” he said. “We hope there will be an early resolution of these issues.” 
”On the whole things are improving,” Antony said pointing to joint exercises and exchange of high level visits by army, navy and air force officers. 
”In the area of defence procurement too, lots of high tech items have been procured from the US in the last few years. Still many are in the pipeline and many more will come.” 
”Which items I can’t say,” he said pointing out that in the Indian system, ministers don’t discuss specific defence procurements.” 
”But now our approach is rather than buyer-seller relations, we want technology transfer and if possible co-production and joint production,” Antony said. 
Asked about Gates’ remark that he would discuss with Antony the $9.11 billion deal for the purchase of 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for the Indian Air Force, the minister said: “That’s multi-vendor situation. Trials are over. I can’t say who will get it. 
Two American planes, F-16IN and F/A-18IN, a version of the Super Hornet, are among six aircraft in the race for what has been touted as India’s single largest defence deal ever. The Saab Gripen, Euro fighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Mikoyan MiG-35 are the others in the running. -IANS

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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