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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)

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Trump will be seventh US President to visit India

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Donald Trump

New York, Feb 24 : When Donald Trump is greeted with a crescendo of “Namastes” when he lands in Ahmedabad he will be the seventh US President to visit India while in office.

He visited India in 2014 as a real estate businessman, but this will be a presidential visit.

President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who came to India in 1959 at the height of the Cold War was the first to visit India as it was coming into its own as an independent nation and the laboratory of democracy.

The visits reflect in some ways the status of India in the US world view.

Eisenhower’s visit was to explore India as young democracy with hopes of closer cooperation, perhaps moving away from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s nonalignment.

While there have been gaps of about a decade between some of the visits, since Bill Clinton in 2000 every president has come to India in a sign of its rising importance in world efforts.

There was a ten-year gap between Eisenhower’s visit and the next.

Democrats John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had skipped India firmly ensconced in the nonaligned movement. (Johnson, however, had visited Pakistan, then a US ally.)

President Richard Nixon, another, Republican, visited India in 1969 and his successor Gerald Ford did not.

Nine years later, Democrat Jimmy Carter made the India trip in 1978 while Moraji Desai of the Janata Party was prime minister.

His mother, Lillian Carter, had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Mumbai.

Ronald Reagan and George Bush (the senior) skipped India.

Democrat Bill Clinton came to India in 2000, ending the 12-year gap in presidential visits.

Since then, every president has come to India.

The highlight of Republican George W Bush’s visit in 2006 was the signing of the landmark US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement – which was the only time a substantive agreement between the two countries was signed during a presidential visit.

The agreement, which he signed with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, virtually recognises India as a nuclear weapons power exempting it from some of the US nuclear nonproliferation restrictions in order for both the countries to cooperate in the nuclear field with access to some civilian nuclear technology and materials.

It effectively neutralised some of the stringent sanctions imposed on India after its 1974 nuclear test.

Barack Obama, a Democrat, is the only president to have visited India twice.

He first visited India in 2010 when Singh was the Prime Minister.

Modi was the Prime Minister during his second visit in 2015 when he was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])

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Disaster

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits Iran

According to local reports, communication means within the quake-hit region as well as the power network have been disrupted.

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Iran Turkey Earthquake

Tehran, Feb 24 : Another 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Qotur region in West Azerbaijan Province in the northwest of Iran, according to Iran’s Seismological Centre.

The earthquake took place at 7:30 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, with the epicentre at the depth of 12 km, 38.505 degrees north latitude and 44.388 degrees east longitude.

Earlier in the day, another 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the same region, injuring nearly 100 people and damaging dozens of villages, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to local reports, communication means within the quake-hit region as well as the power network have been disrupted.

The governor of the West Azerbaijan province told IRIB TV that the access to the region is very difficult, as the quake has took place in the mountain area.

He said that rescue operators have been sent to the area.

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India

COVID-19: Airports to screen passengers from 4 more countrie

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coronavirus test
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New Delhi, Passengers arriving from Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will also be screened for novel coronavirus infection at Indian airports, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Sunday.

So far, the in-bound passengers from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore have been screened to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The DGCA circular said that the universal screening of passengers “shall be ensured immdiately once they step out of the specific locations at all the airports and getting the self-declation form filled by the passengers as per the instructions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare”.

All airlines shall make in-flight announcement in flights coming from these countries and ensure strict compliance, said the circular sent to all the international airport operators in India and the scheduled airlines operating from the four countries.

Cases of the deadly coronavirus have been reported in several countries including India.

The overall death toll in mainland China due to the deadly coronavirus increased to 2,442 on Sunday, while the number of confirmed cases reached 76,936, according to health authorities.

The National Health Commission said that it received reports of 648 new confirmed casesand 97 deaths on Saturday from 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, reports Xinhua news agency.

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