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Pakistan, Afghan intelligence chiefs hold talks to reduce trust deficit

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Intelli­gence chiefs of Pakistan and Afghanistan are set to hold talks in Kabul on Thursday in an attempt to reduce the trust deficit between the two South Asian neighbours.

Director General Inter-Services Intelligence Rizwan Akhtar would travel to Afghanistan for a meeting with the acting chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Masoud Andarabi, Dawn online reported.

The US is facilitating the meeting which would also be attended by Chinese officials as observers.

The meeting which earlier was planned to be held in Islamabad, comes ahead of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group meeting comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, US and China scheduled for February 6.

The intelligence talks, an official said, were separate from the quadrilateral mechanism, even though the parleys were expected to impact the reconciliation effort, as well.

The meeting is taking place as Pakistan had called on Afghanistan to act against the terrorist group involved in January 20 Bacha Khan University attack that killed 22 people. Islamabad alleged that terrorists planned and directed the terrorist activity using Afghan soil and telecom infrastructure.

It would also be the first time that the two intelligence agencies would be directly talking to each other about their relationship since a cooperation deal signed between them in May 2015 was prevented from materialising due to a stiff opposition in Kabul.

Politics

China must respect norms, use diplomacy to resolve border issue with India: Top US Congressman

Eliot L Engel, who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs, said, “China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law.”

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India China Border Sikkim

Washington, June 2 : The US censured China for resorting to aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and not resolving the conflict as per the international law.

In the first comments from Capitol Hill on the ongoing tension along the India-China border, a top US Congressman — who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs — has expressed “concern”, called China a “bully”, and “strongly” urged China to “respect norms and use diplomacy” to resolve its border questions with India.

In a statement late on Monday night, US Congress’ House Committee chair Eliot L Engel said, “I am extremely concerned by the ongoing Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border.”

“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law. Countries must all abide by the same set of rules so that we don’t live in a world where “might makes right,” he said.

“I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”

Engel, an influential Democrat Congressman, has long been a supporter of India. However, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had cancelled a meeting with Engel and other Congress members in Washington DC last December, over Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s inclusion into the delegation.

In July last year, after US President Donald Trump had falsely claimed that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, Engel had spoken with then Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

“Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India and Pakistan, but reaffirmed that the dialogue’s pace and scope can only be determined by India and Pakistan,” he had said in a statement.

During the call, Engel “reaffirmed that in order for dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” on its soil, the statement had said.

Last week, on May 29, Trump had claimed that he spoke to PM Modi about the India-China border, but sources in New Delhi said there has been “no recent contact” between the two leaders and the last conversation took place almost two months ago, on April 4.

Trump had claimed that he had spoken to Modi, who was “not in a good mood” about what’s going on with China. The US President made those remarks in response to questions at the White House.

“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” the US President had said.

That had been the only comment so far from the US on the ongoing India-China border tension.

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Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accuses US of ‘double standards’ over protests

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong, June 2 : Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday accused the US government of double standards when addressing the pro-democratic protests that occurred in the Asian city and the current protests against racism across American.

“We now see how local authorities are handling the revolts in the US, compared to the position they took last year when almost the same riots occurred in Hong Kong,” Lam said during her weekly press conference.

The controversial Hong Kong leader spread this accusation to other foreign governments, although she did not give names: “They are very concerned about their own national security, but about our national security… They see it through tinted glasses,” Efe news reported.

On Monday, the US was still mired in protests and riots, despite the curfews declared in the major cities, a week since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in the city of Minneapolis.

Last week, US President Donald Trump had ordered to start a process to finalize Hong Kong”s preferred trade status.

In this regard, Lam was of the opinion that it would not benefit either party and proove more harmful to both.

This latest decision by Trump is a response to the approval by the Chinese legislature of a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that aims, very broadly, to eradicate any loophole of “foreign interference” in the former British colony and that was endorsed last Thursday by China.

The law could allow Chinese security forces to operate freely in Hong Kong and carry out enforcement techniques such as those commonly practiced in mainland China.

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

–IANS

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7 million Afghan kids affected by COVID-19 pandemic

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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Afghan kids

Kabul, June 2 : The coronavirus pandemic has left more than 7 million children in Afghanistan prone to poverty, barring them from their basic rights in a country where half the population is under 15 years of age, a rights group said.

“The COVID-19 crisis exposes more than seven million Afghan children to the threat of hunger. Also, the children who have been deprived of school in the last three months have not had access to their basic right that is education,” TOLO News quoted Maryam Ataee, spokesperson for Save the Children, as saying in the report on Monday.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan stood at 15,750, with 265 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Citing Unicef figures, Ghulam Hairdar Jailani, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said that about six million children were prone to danger.

“We have 3.1 million children that are highly vulnerable and 1.2 million working children,” he said.

Meanwhile, Naeem Nazari, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that despite “big commitments by the government, the situation of children in terms of access to education, child marriages and sexual abuse is critical and unacceptable”.

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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