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Masood Azhar is in Pakistan, Qureshi admits

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Masood Azhar

Islamabad, March 1: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and is “very unwell”, adding that Islamabad is open to “any step” that will lead to a de-escalation of tensions with India.

Qureshi’s remarks during an exclusive CNN interview on Thursday came after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the captured Indian Air Force pilot, will be released on Friday as a “peace gesture”.

“Prime Minister Khan made the statement (about Varthaman’s release) while addressing a joint session of Parliament (on Thursday) and this is a goodwill gesture. This is an expression of Pakistan’s willingness to de-escalate,” the Minister told CNN.

When asked if Azhar was in Pakistan and if authorities would go after him in the wake of the escalation of tensions, Qureshi replied: “Well he is in Pakistan.

“According to my information, he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house.”

Queried about why has Pakistan not arrested Azhar, despite the fact that the JeM has been labelled a terrorist organisation which causes “incredible tension between the two highly armed neighbours”, the Minister said: “If they (India) give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan… If they have solid, inalienable proof, share it with us so that we can convince the people and the independent judiciary of Pakistan.”

Following the February 14 attack by a JeM suicide bomber on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama causing the death of 40 troopers, the Pakistan Prime Minister had asked India to provide evidence to Islamabad to take necessary action.

Qureshi said that Pakistan follows a “legal process” and will have to “satisfy that legal process” for the country to take any action against Azhar and his group.

The Minister told CNN that an all out war between India and Pakistan would be “mutual suicide”.

“When I learned about the tragic Pulwama attack, I condemned it and made a very balanced and sincere offer (to India). If you have evidence, share it with us, we will honestly and sincerely investigate.”

He said that the new Imran Khan government has a “new mindset”.

“After a very long time there is a government in Pakistan which supports the Pakistan Armed Forces. The civil and political leadership is on the same page.

“The policy of this government is that we will not allow our soil to be used by any organisation or individual for terrorism against anyone and that includes India,” Qureshi told CNN.

The Minister thanked US President Donald Trump “for taking an interest to de-escalate the situation”, adding that the “US can play a significant role”.

“The US and Pakistan have had good relations for decades. We have been allies. I am happy that they have taken notice of the situation… This is a very welcomed development.”

IANS

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US hardens stance against China’s South China Sea resource claims

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

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mike pompeo

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday hardened its rejection of China’s disputed claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, calling it “unlawful,” a move that will further sour the already-fraught ties between the world’s largest two economies.

China has offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other South Asian coastal states, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo, a prominent China hawk within the Trump administration, said in a statement.

The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, even sending U.S. warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year. Beijing has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.

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Global coronavirus infections top 13 million

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RUSSIA CORONAVIRUS

Worldwide coronavirus infections passed 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease which has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

The first case was reported in China in early January and it took three months to reach one million cases. It has taken just five days to climb to 13 million cases from 12 million recorded on July 8.

The number of cases is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been more than 568,500 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, within the same range as the number of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide. The first death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities surged in Europe and then later in the United States.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Other places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in Latin America. The Americas account for more than half the world’s infections and half the deaths.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third-highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 26,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect only a proportion of total infections. Experts say official data likely under-represents both infections and deaths.

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India created fake Ayodhya, Ram was from Nepal: Nepali PM Oli

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli, on Monday, said that ‘real Ayodhya’ is in Nepal and ‘Lord Ram is Nepali not Indian’.

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KP Oli Napali PM

Kathmandu, July 13 : Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has claimed that India has created a ‘fake’ Ayodhya, and Lord Ram was originally from Nepal — a shocking statement that has come at a time when India’s diplomatic ties with the Himalayan nation is going through certain upheavals.

“We have been oppressed a bit culturally. Facts have encroached. We still believe that we gave Sita to Indian Prince Ram. But we gave to the prince from Ayodhya, not India. Ayodhya is a village a little west to Birgunj, not the Ayodhya created now (sic),” Oli said at an event at his official residence in Baluwatar.

Oli was addressing a program to mark the birth anniversary of Bhanubhakta Acharya.

The stunning claim comes on the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic tussle between Kathmandu and New Delhi over the newly published Nepal map which claims Indian territory as its own.

Bilateral ties between India-Nepal were stressed after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long road connecting Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Kathmandu reacted sharply to the development and claimed that the road was built on Nepalese land.

Nepal also updated its political map which included Indian territories. India condemned the move and handed over a diplomatic note to Nepal over the map issue.

The ties worsened further when Oli blamed India for demands by his party colleagues who sought his resignation over multiple ‘failures’. During a rally, Oli alleged that the leaders of his Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who were making attempts to ‘topple his government’, were doing so at the behest of India.

His remarks have invited severe criticism from senior leadership in that country. Former prime minister ‘Prachanda’, who was among leaders who demanded Oli’s resignation, said that Oli’s anti-India remarks were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.”

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