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India Seeks China’s Support For SCO Membership

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            India Seeks China's Support For SCO Membership   Beijing: India Wednesday sought China’s support for membership of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), dominated by Beijing and Moscow, and underlined that it will bring many strengths and positives into the grouping.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held wide-ranging talks with China’s Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao next year, and sought China’s support in becoming a member of the SCO.
“I conveyed to him India’s desire to become a full-fledged member of the SCO. It was heartening to hear that the modalities of admitting new members is being worked out. The process is on,” Krishna told Indian journalists in the Chinese capital.
“India has been coming to the SCO since 2005. We have made known our seriousness in joining the grouping. Otherwise, no one will be coming to these meetings since 2005,” said Krishna. Underlining India’s track-record in “other multilateral organizations”, Krishna said: “And when India comes into a grouping or association, it brings with it many positives and strengths. That will have to be evaluated.”
“We have been moving in a positive direction of finalizing the modalities,” said Krishna. “We are indeed working very hard to comply with the modalities. However, things are moving very slowly,” Krishna replied when asked about elaborate technical formalities and procedures the SCO firmed up for prospective members at the 11th summit in Astana, Kazakhstan last year.
The SCO comprises Russia and China, the two regional giants and permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the energy-rich Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
India, along with Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia, currently enjoys the status of observer at the SCO. Any decision on including India or expanding membership is unlikely to be taken at the 12th SCO summit in Beijing. Although Russia has backed India’s full membership, China is seen to be hedging and resorting to technical procedures to what some see as an attempt to stonewall India’s admission into the grouping where it enjoys pre-eminence.
Recently, China had welcomed India’s prospective entry into the grouping, but said “the relevant countries should work hard towards political, legal and technical preparations for [the membership].” China has not explicitly opposed India joining the SCO, but insiders say that Beijing is looking for a deal with New Delhi whereby it becomes a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in return for getting India inside the SCO tent.
If India is admitted as a member, Pakistan, China’s ally, too will be accommodated. “We are hopeful of becoming a member of the SCO. It’s just a matter of time,” Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said.

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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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