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Obama Backs ‘India’s Rise’, Promises Little

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Upset with service, Indian businessman has Jaguar pulled by donkeys

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said India was the “cornerstone” of US engagement in Asia, but gave no assurance on supporting the country in its bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council or ending curbs on export of dual-use technologies.

Obama Backs 'India's Rise', Promises LittleObama, who begins a three-day visit to India on Saturday, said that building “a true strategic partnership” with India had been one of his “highest foreign policy priorities”.

The Indo-US partnership “is based on both our shared values and our shared interests, and for these reasons, I welcome and support India’s rise as a global power”, said Obama

Obama said the visit would give him an opportunity to work with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring Indo-US cooperation on a broad range of issues “to a new level”.

India’s rise “is in the best interests of both the countries (India and the US), of the region and the world”, he said.

Obama answered a wide range of questions covering contentious issues like US curbs on export of dual-use technology items, outsourcing, UNSC membership and Pakistan’s failure to take action against perpetrators of 26/11 attacks.

When told that there did not seem to be any “big ticket items” on the agenda, he responded by saying: “I do not want to pre-empt the announcements that the Prime Minister and I will make while I am in India.

“I think you can expect a series of announcements on how we are going to deepen and broaden our cooperation on a range of things that will have a direct and very positive impact on millions of people both in India and the United States.

“There will be big items on the agenda, and — just as importantly — I believe that we will build an even stronger foundation for the US-India partnership going forward.”

Asked about the possibility of his announcing lifting of curbs on export of dual-use technology items and clearly supporting India for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, Obama said the two issues were “very difficult and complicated”.

“Our teams continue to work hard to reach an agreement that strengthens the international non-proliferation system while treating India in a manner that is consistent with our strategic partnership,” he said in a reference to export restrictions that cover items which have both peaceful and military usage.

Without committing himself to a firmer support for India’s bid for permanent seat in UNSC, Obama said, “I do also expect to discuss India’s role as an actor on the global stage during my visit.”

Obama gave a subtle comment on the controversial issue of outsourcing when he said: India should give US companies the same access to its markets that US gives.

“As President, I have a responsibility to support jobs and opportunity for the American people, and I believe the US-India economic relationship can and should be a ‘win-win’ relationship for both of our countries,” he said.

The President went on to emphasise that Indo-US relationship “now goes well beyond any one particular issue”.

“If you look at the breadth of everything we are working on now — from economic engagement to counter terrorism and security cooperation, from clean energy to development — it goes well beyond the type of cooperation that we pursued just a few years ago.”

All this indicated “the enormously positive trajectory of US-India relations”, Obama said.

Outlining his vision of the relationship between the two countries, the President said, “my vision is a US-India partnership in which we work together to shape a more secure, stable, and just world.

“My visit gives me an opportunity to experience first hand your fascinating country, discuss issues of mutual concern with my friend Prime Minister Singh, and work with him to bring our cooperation on a broad range of issues to a new level.

“It is also important that I am visiting India as the first stop on a major trip to Asia, as I see India as a cornerstone of America’s engagement in Asia, just as it is fundamental to our engagement in multilateral forums like the G-20.

“To me, the US and India share an indispensable partnership, one that has benefits for both our countries and the world.”

-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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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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Temple

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