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Gurdaspur terror attack casts a shadow on India-Pak peace talks

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

Analysis of data from two GPS sets recovered from the Punjab attackers show two routes that the terrorists might have taken. Both originate from Pakistan but have different points of entry to India. However, before reaching, both the routes merge to form a single path into Dinanagar.

The technical dilemma that the Border Security Force (BSF) and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) are facing is that which one of the two paths did the assailants really take.

“We are putting together pieces of various intelligence inputs – the terror attack comes from Pakistan,” said an intelligence official. In the aftermath of the Gurdaspur attacks, relations between India and Pakistan are set to suffer strains.

The Prime Ministers of the two countries had met at Ufa, where Modi had warned Sharif about unprovoked actions like cross border terrorism, saying that India would be prepared for a ‘befitting reply’.

However, the two nations continued to pursue their endeavour to maintain cordial ties in the spirit of the Ufa meeting. The attack on Punjab took place at a time when the National Security Advisors of the two countries were to meet, a decision taken at the meeting.

Delhi treaded with caution during the meet, for any evidence of state support to the terrorists may jeopardize its commitment to peace. The NDA government displayed high level of diplomacy not to scuffle the Ufa talks, but both the countries blamed each other for violation of the ceasefire. PM Modi however did not take to any state posture and was keen on improving the perennially difficult relations with Pakistan.

This was the deadliest attack on Punjab since the Khalistani movement. Naturally this incident has increased tensions between the two countries. Home minister Rajnath Singh articulated New Delhi’s dilemma. “I cannot understand why time and again cross-border terror incidents are taking place when we want good relations with our neighbour (Pakistan). I want to tell our neighbour that we want peace but not at the cost of our national pride.”

BCCI Secretary and BJP Leader Anurag Thakur refused to resume bilateral cricketing ties. “When you see attacks on India time and again, the Jammu region and now Punjab where Indians are losing lives… as an Indian I don’t see the possibility to that,” Thakur said to the media.

Modi’s foreign policy has always had the primary aim of removing obstacles from economic growth. His Pakistan policy has remained inconsistent and confusing. However, foreign investors cannot be attracted to a terror-stricken country and perhaps it is time for the Prime Minister to take a stand.

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Pakistan will never accept ring-fencing and as a result it is extremely difficult to combat increased cross-border firing. It also enjoys the important back-up of China, Saudi-Arabia and the Gulf countries. Even the USA also could not do much to contain terrorism despite Pakistan harboring Bin Laden. So what are the choices India is left with? Was the Gurdaspur attack a tactical mistake that Pakistan will be made to pay for? If so, then is violence the only way? How can India make Pakistan pay without going to war?

There has been evidence of state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan beyond Jammu and Kashmir even in the past. Pakistan was deeply involved in funding Khalistani attackers through the 1980’s before shifting attention to Jammu in the 90’s.

The ideological farce of ‘freedom fighters’ they use in the Kashmir valley no longer stands in Punjab, well within the Indian Territory. It only exposes that Pakistani claims are based on pathological enmity and not on ideology.

“Uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue” is the only way to deal with Pakistan according to Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyyar. The Hawks, on the contrary, opine that the government should send cross border raids to inflict damages in terror camps. A third way could be to take strong constitutional measures against Pakistan. This is Modi’s opportunity to assert his leadership and make a strong populist statement instead of dogging soft policies which has let India be the victim of many such attacks in the past.

The Modi Government has an option of downgrading the Pakistani government to a consular level, allowing its embassy only limited diplomatic functionality, at least till Islamabad delivers on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and other attacks on India.

On the economic field, the Government has an option of using sanctions. Pakistan’s economic position is inferior to that of India. The GDP of the country is barely 11 per cent of India and growing at a rate of 2 per cent compared to India’s 7 per cent. India is involved in international trade worth approximately $700 billion annually. Trade restrictions conditioned on terrorism could be a strong statement for the country. Moreover, India is sensitive about internationalizing its conflict with Pakistan.

In the light of the Kashmir issue, Pakistan calls the ‘bluff’ of plebiscite. However, the 1948 UNSC resolutions make the demand for Pakistan to vacate POK before even the consideration of plebiscite.

In the light of past events, we can gather that the relations between India and Pakistan have never remained stable. Pakistan always competed with India to gain economic, military, and diplomatic parity. There has always remained a permanent phase of low-intensity conflict between the two nations. The Gurdaspur incident seen in a way can be considered as a part of this strategy – plausible deniability while inflicting harm on Indian citizens and soldiers.

The Indian strategy of maintaining peace is somehow mistakenly conceived to be its weakness. The government’s critics say, “India forgets problems and within a week ‘business is back to usual.’”

Is it true that the Indian government lacks the appetite for a sustained battle against terrorism? The Gurdaspur attack calls for the government to take a stand for the protection of its citizens.

PM Modi should spell out the foreign policy of India and the broad strategies he has in mind regarding Pakistan, though he need not talk about covert operations. The whole country awaits to see what stand is taken for the loss of six innocent lives and the protection of more.

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Richard Thaler Supported Demonetisation, there is More to the Story

Demonetisation is what Richard Thaler had long supported. However, he remarked "Really? Damn," when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

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Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.Wikimedia

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to scrape Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last November, Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler supported demonetization describing it as a policy that he had long supported.

Dr. Richard Thaler, a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.

Did Richard Thaler really support demonetization in the way BJP took it? There is more to the story than what meets the eye.

As soon as Thaler was declared the Nobel Prize winner, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started sharing Thaler’s tweet regarding demonetization on social media affirming that the move which was severely criticised by the members of the opposition was actually supported by a Nobel Prize winner. The BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya retweeted the old tweet within a fraction of a second.

However, Richard Thaler remarked “Really? Damn,” when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 note thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

It was not only the BJP supporters but also a large number of BJP leaders who were flowed away with incomplete picture depicted by Malviya and tweeted about it.‬ This included Union Minister Giriraj Singh, former BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta, and many others.

Soon after, twitterati realized that the full picture of Thaler’s statement on demonetization was rather hidden.

Prime Minister Modi declared that the motivation behind scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was to promote cashless economy and reduce corruption. This decision was severely criticised by different sections of the society putting on Modi the ultimate responsibility for heralding economic deceleration. Demonetisation pulled down India’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1% in 2016-17.

Some highlighted that the introduction of Rs 2000 note was an ephemeral panacea for remonetization and that its printing has been terminated.

-Prepared by Mohima Haque of NewsGram, Twitter: mohimahaque26

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.