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India-China Deadlocked On Kashmir

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India and China continue to disagree over Kashmir, with no sign of the deadlock easing despite high-level talks even a month before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits India.

India-China Deadlocked On KashmirDuring a four and a half hour ‘frank’ dialogue in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told her Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun that China needs to find a solution to the dispute over separate stapled Chinese visas for Indians from Kashmir.

“I did bring up stapled visas and mutual sensitivity to India’s core concerns. It’s an issue of sovereignty and the right of all Indian nationals to be treated on par,’’ Rao told Zhang during the fourth strategic dialogue. “The seriousness with which India views this was conveyed to the Chinese,’’ Rao said at a media briefing.

The talks were preparatory to finalising the outcome of Wen’s visit through potential agreements and a joint statement. While both sides say the bilateral relationship is sound, there has been no progress in resolving sensitive disputes.

India’s suspension of high-level defense exchanges over China’s Kashmir visa policy continues, and the Chinese say their Kashmir policy is unchanged. On Sunday, external affairs minister S M Krishna told his counterpart Yang Jiechi that India expects sensitivity on Kashmir the way India is sensitive to Chinese core concerns on Tibet and Taiwan.

The Indian side reiterated the stance on Tuesday and also raised concerns of Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Sino-Pak nuclear technology cooperation.

“We spoke of our concerns of terrorism and safe havens. I said very clearly we don’t regard their relations with Pakistan as a zero-sum game,’’ said Rao, adding that the Chinese understood the depth of Indian concerns. The Chinese discussed India’s global role and ties in Asia, quizzing India on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the revival of its look east policy and ties with Japan.

While the Chinese view India as a South East Asian nation, the Indians maintained that India is also an ‘east Asian nation’ with substantive partnerships in the region. India also briefed Beijing on the US endorsement of a permanent seat for India at the UN Security Council.

The Chinese did not react beyond the standard official line of holding consultations. India again expressed concerns over damming the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra river in Tibet.

Latest Chinese reports say damming has begun for Tibet’s first large hydropower station, a 510 MW project, 325 km from Lhasa, to be built by 2014. Zhang said that the project is not designed to divert water or affect people on the river’s lower reaches in northeast India. The Chinese suggested bigger trade targets and expansion of border trade at Nathu-la with improved infrastructure.

India pointed out that targets could be achieved but trade must be more balanced with Indian hi-tech exports to China.

-HT

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SOUTH ASIA

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

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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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SOUTH ASIA

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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SOUTH ASIA

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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