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Relations with India not of dictation but partnership: US

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Alice Wells

New York, Oct 22 : The United States does not dictate to India but partners with it, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells declared on Tuesday at a Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia at which Representatives leveled caustic criticism of India’s action in Kashmir after rescinding its special constitutional status.

“This is not a relationship of dictation, it is a relationship of partnership,” she said.

She was responding to Democratic Representative Anthony Brown who suggested that the US should take economic or other measures against India on the restrictions it has placed on Kashmir.

Wells said that India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has survived four wars, the suspension of the constitution under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, “it has survived Maoist insurgencies and insurgencies in Kashmir, and at the same time it has continue to lift people out of poverty and incrementally make advances. We respect that. So that conversation with India will continue. When we see Indian institutions have failed or responded slowly it is something that we take up but this is not a relationship of dictation, it is a relationship of partnership”.

During the hearings by the House of Representative Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in Washington that was to cover all of South Asia, almost all of the discussions centred on India, mostly ignoring human rights issues in Pakistan as Representatives repeatedly brought up the restrictions placed by India on Jammu and Kashmir, often based on what they heard from some of their constituents with ties to Kashmir.

Wells said in her opening remarks to the subcommittee that the US welcomes “actions by the Indian government to improve the situation and address local grievances” in Jammu and Kashmir while being concerned about the detention of local political leaders and activists and the internet blackout.

But she also said that Washington was “concerned about reports of local and foreign militants attempting to intimidate local residents and business owners in order to stymie normal economic activity”.

“While conditions in Jammu and Ladakh have improved, the Valley has not returned to normal,” she said.

The US supports the Indian government’s objectives “to increase economic development, reduce corruption, and uniformly apply all national laws in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in regard to women and minorities,” she said.

However, “the Department remains concerned about the situation in the Kashmir Valley, where daily life for the nearly eight million residents has been severely impacted since August 5” when India rescinded the special constitutional status, she said.

“The Department has raised concerns with the Indian government regarding the detentions of local residents and political leaders, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said, adding: “We have urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks.”

“The United States supports the rights of Kashmiris to peacefully protest, but condemns the actions of terrorists who seek to use violence and fear to undermine dialogue,” Wells said.

Overall about India, she said: “We are proud to partner with India. Its Constitution mandates a secular state that upholds the rights of all citizens to practice religion freely, freedom of expression and speech, and equal treatment before the law.”

Wells said that the US believes that Pakistan and India should resolve the Kashmir problem bilaterally.

In response to a Congressman’s remarks about the presence of 800,000 troops in Kashmir which he said amounted to one soldier for every eight Kashmiris, she said that it was a misleading characterisation because most troops were stationed along the line of control.

She said that a decline in cross-border infiltration has been noticed since the restrictions were imposed in Kashmir.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

Europe

UK’s Prince Andrew steps back from public duties over scandal

The 59-year-old has been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl, Virginia Roberts, in 2001 after going to a London nightclub.

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Prince Andrew

London, Nov 21 (IANS) The United Kingdoms Prince Andrew has announced he is stepping back from royal duties over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

In a statement released on Wednesday he said he would end his public work “for the foreseeable future “over his links to the convicted sex offender, Efe news reported.

He also offered to help police investigating allegations against the disgraced hedge-fund manager and accused sex trafficker.

Andrew said his former association with Epstein had become a “major disruption” to the royal family.

“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission,” he added.

“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstien.”

Epstein was found dead in a prison cell in the United States while awaiting trial for sex trafficking of minors.

He was found to have died of suicide by hanging.

Andrew’s statement said his death “has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure”.

“I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives,” he added.

“Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”

Andrew has been under increasing criticism for his relationship with the well-connected financier, with a number of sponsors severing ties with the royal after an interview he gave with the BBC on Saturday.

The 59-year-old has been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl, Virginia Roberts, in 2001 after going to a London nightclub.

He has denied all the allegations and in the BBC interview said he was at a pizza restaurant on the day in question.

Roberts said she had sex with Andrew three times, in London in March 2001, weeks later at Epstein’s New York mansion and a third time on his private island.

Epstein, who was known for friendships with high-profile figures such as US Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and Israeli former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

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Business

US govt grants export licenses for some Huawei’s suppliers

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network late on Tuesday that the department has “had 290-something requests for specific licences.”

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Huawei US Suppliers

Washington, Nov 21 : The US government has started to issue licenses to some US suppliers, allowing them to resume shipping to China’s telecom giant Huawei, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The US Department of Commerce in May put Huawei on its Entity List over the so-called “national security concerns.” The sale or transfer of American technology to a company or person on the Entity List requires a license issued by the department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Xinhua news agency reported.

Reuters cited two industry sources as saying that companies began receiving notices of approval and “intent to deny” notices from the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network late on Tuesday that the department has “had 290-something requests for specific licences.”

“We now have been starting to send out the 20-day intent to deny letters and some approvals,” said Ross.

The Commerce Department announced Monday to extend, for the third time, a temporary license loosening restrictions on business deals with Huawei for another 90 days.

Huawei said in a statement on May 20 that the US export control decision is in no one’s interest and will do significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business.

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Europe

Donald Tusk elected as new EPP leader

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk was elected the new president of the European People’s Party, the largest bloc within the EU Parliament. Tusk vowed to fight “populists, manipulators and autocrats.”

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Donald Tusk

Zagreb, Nov 21 : The European People’s Party (EPP) elected outgoing President of the European Council Donald Tusk as its new leader at annual congress here.

Tusk, whose term in the European Council expires at the end of November, got 93 per cent of votes in his favour on Wednesday night.

He is replacing Joseph Daul who has been leading the largest political group in the European Parliament since 2013, Xinhua news agency reported.

Tusk promised earlier on Wednesday that he will tackle populists as soon as he becomes the new president of the EPP.

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