Thursday October 19, 2017
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Siachen becomes a battleground for India and Paksitan

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Image source: kufarooq22.over-blog.com

At an elevation of over 5,000 metres and at temperature that can dip to minus-50 degrees Celsius, Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield, is a tough terrain. It is also one of the largest fresh water reserves in the Indian subcontinent.

India and Pakistan, the two sparring nuclear-armed nations, have deployed their troops in large number in an area which is facing clear signs of an impact from climate change, adding to the looming threat of a water crisis.

The conflict between India and Pakistan, historically, has been over land, both claiming the Kashmir valley.

Water woes are a part of the picture.

The Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan had its premise in the fear that India could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war, as the Indus, the river that brings life to most of Pakistan, flows out from India.

The melt water of Saichen glacier is the main source of the Nubra river, which drains into the Shyok river. The Shyok then joins the 3,000 km-long Indus river which flows through Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan had their claims on the glacier. In 1983, Pakistan decided to deploy troops on the glacier. India acted swiftly and launched Operation Meghdoot.

At present, India occupies most of the glacier, Pakistan being only on the western side of the Saltoro ridge. Both armies have been stationed here, losing more soldiers to climate than to bullets.

This year alone, India has lost 12 soldiers and one porter in Siachen.

In a reply in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said India has lost 915 soldiers in Siachen in the last 33 years. The number on Pakistan’s side are similar.

While neither India nor Pakistan have admitted to the water angle of the dispute, Pakistan did accuse India of threatening the ecology of the glacier with its troop presence.

In 2013, a report of the Asian Development Bank declared Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world.

In December that year, Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, said Pakistan was facing a water shortage and Indian forces were damaging one of the largest sources of water to Pakistan on a regular basis.

He also accused Indian forces stationed in Siachen of posing a “serious threat” to Pakistan’s environment by damaging Siachen’s “virgin snow”.

India, with its strategic concerns, amplified after the 1999 Kargil conflict, has clearly stated that troops will not be withdrawn from the glacier.

Parrikar, following the death of 10 soldiers in an avalanche in Siachen earlier this year, said that he regretted the loss of life but ruled out removal of troops, stating that occupancy of the area by rival troops will lead to bigger loss of lives.

Climatologists and scientists however paint a grim picture when they talk about the shrinking of the glacier and rising temperatures, which they say has also led to more avalanches that are killing soldiers.

As per research data, including that from the defence ministry’s Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment, frequency of avalanches has gone up with both maximum and minimum temperatures rising. However, this, along with sudden steep falls, causes more cracks and avalanches.

According a report by the World Wildlife Fund on Climate Data and Modelling Analysis of Indus Region, rising temperatures in Siachen have lead to a greater rate of thinning of ice and glacial retreat.

The decay estimates calculated by remote sensing techniques show that Siachen Glacier has reduced by 5.9 km in longitudinal extent from 1989 to 2009. Thinning of ice mass is evaluated at 17 percent.

The guns have been silent on the world’s highest battlefield since 2003 but nature is pretty active, creating a long-term threat to livelihood and well being of people in the region.(IANS)

1 COMMENT

  1. I think again the solution to everything including Siachen problem lies in the independence of Baluchistan. Once Pakistan is disintegrated, Kashmir will become part of India and Siachen issue will be solved forever.

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Pakistan Elected to UN Human Rights Council along with 14 other countries

The new members will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018

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UN General Assembly elect 15 new members of Human Rights Council. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 17, 2017 : Fifteen countries, including Pakistan, have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly.

In a vote on Monday, Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine were elected, a Foreign Office statement said.

They will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018. (IANS)

 

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Pakistan Electoral Body Bars Political Party Due to Terror Ties

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Sheikh Yaqub
Sheikh Yaqub (C) candidate of the newly-formed Milli Muslim League party, waves to his supporters at an election rally in Lahore, Pakistan. voa

Pakistan’s Election Commission (ECP) on Wednesday rejected the registration application of a newly established political party with alleged ties to a banned militant group in the country.

Milli Muslim League (MML) has been disqualified to participate in the country’s state and general elections.

The electoral commission’s decision is said to be based on a request made earlier by the country’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, stating that Milli Muslim League is a front organization for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S.-designated terror sponsoring organization in Pakistan.

“The government is vigilant and under no circumstances will allow any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to spread their extremist ideology through democracy and political means,” Tallal Chaudhry, Pakistan’s minister of state for Interior Affairs, told VOA.

Saif Ullah Khalid, president of Milli Muslim League, dismissed the election commission’s decision and said the party will take the matter to the country’s judiciary.

Political wing

Milli Muslim League was established in August 2017 as a political wing for the controversial Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group led by Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed was accused of masterminding Mumbai’s 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Saeed has been reportedly under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore for the past eight months.

In September, during an important by-election in Lahore, when the National Assembly’s seat fell vacant following the disqualification of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the newly launched MML backed an independent candidate who finished fourth in the race for Sharif’s seat.

At the time, Pakistan’s upper house of parliament strongly criticized the country’s election commission for allowing JuD’s political wing, MML, to participate in the Lahore by-election.

Some experts were concerned about the emergence of militant groups joining mainstream politics in Pakistan. They maintain that the political trend seen in Lahore’s by-election, where parties linked to militant groups are able to mobilize and generate sufficient numbers of votes within a very short period of time, as alarming.

“There should be a debate on this sensitive issue through social, political and media channels. By allowing militant-based political parties to integrate into mainstream politics, it will only escalate radicalization in the society,” Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar based political analyst, told VOA.

“There are people who believe with the merger of such militant groups into politics, we’ll provide them an avenue to maintain a political presence without leaving their extreme ideologies,” Hussain added.

Army’s support

Earlier last week, Pakistan’s army acknowledged they are mulling over plans to blend the militant-linked political groups into the mainstream political arena.

Some analysts side with MML, arguing the party should be allowed to participate in elections.

“I do not understand in what capacity the election commission has rejected MML’s application to register as a party,” said Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, the head of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

“Did they (MML) break any law? If not, how can you bar MML from entering the mainstream politics when they’re doing it through legitimate ways,” Mehboob emphasized.

Zubair Iqbal, a Washington-based South Asia expert, also raised concerns over the validity of the decision.

“This is how democracy works. … There are some extreme groups, some moderate groups and no one should be stopped because of their extreme ideologies,” Iqbal told VOA. “The extremist groups can be barred from entering into the politics only through people and democracy.”

“Unless these parties and individuals are allowed to participate in the political system they might never change their extreme ideologies and might continue operating underground which will prove to be more dangerous,” Iqbal added.

International pressure

In the past few years, Pakistan has faced escalating pressure from the international community for not being able to crackdown on militant groups enjoying safe havens in Pakistan and launching attacks in neighboring countries.

In his recent speech on the region, U.S President Trump put Pakistan on notice to take actions against safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the existence of safe havens on its soil.

Pakistan is also accused of being selective in its pursuit of terror groups. It allegedly goes after only those groups that pose a threat to the country’s national security, ignoring others that threat India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects the allegations and reiterates its stance of having no sympathy for any terror group operating in the country.(VOA)

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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)