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Sushma Swaraj to visit Pakistan, meet Sharif

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picture courtesy: www.newspoint.in

New Delhi/Islamabad: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Pakistan for a regional security conference on Tuesday and also meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif there.

Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation for Heart of Asia 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a tweet.

In Islamabad, the prime minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said he was looking forward to meeting Sushma Swaraj.

“Talks are the only solution,” the Daily Pakistan quoted Aziz as saying.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Sushma Swaraj will arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday and Tuesday, respectively, to attend the two-day summit.

The Heart of Asia conference engages “heart of Asia” countries in sincere and result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Aziz said there have been breakthroughs in dialogue with Afghanistan and India and the Pakistani relationship with the two countries would now be further strengthened.

Matters of the conflict between Pakistan and India would be discussed in the meeting and a road map would be devised to resume the composite bilateral dialogue during the visit, he said.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes after the NSAs of India and Pakistan met in Bangkok on Sunday and “agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement”.

A joint statement issued after the Bangkok meeting said Ajit Doval of India and Naseer Khan Janjua of Pakistan held discussions “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

“Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control)”, the statement said.

Sunday’s meeting in Bangkok followed the impromptu meeting of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan in Paris on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 climate summit on November 30.

This was the first meeting between Modi and Sharif since they met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Russia’s Ufa in July this year.

Sushma Swaraj’s will be the first ministerial-level visit from India to Pakistan since the visit of her predecessor S.M. Krishna in 2012.

The Congress, referring to the NSAs meet, sought to know what made the government effect a “fundamental departure” from the position conveyed to parliament with regard to engagement with Islamabad and asked it to take parliament into confidence.

“The prime minister and the government should inform the house about the developments and reasons which have made the government make a fundamental departure from the position as was conveyed to this house in the last session with regard to India’s engagement with Pakistan,” party leader Anand Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour.

On Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan, he said it was “disrespect of parliament as parliament is not taken into confidence”.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi then said a statement would be made by the foreign minister on December 10.

Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah sought to know if India was “made to talk Kashmir” as there was no mention of ‘K’ word when the two prime ministers had met at Ufa.(IANS)

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‘Pakistan Agreement with US does not Prevent from Using F-16 Fighter Jets in Conflict with India’, Says US Publication

The dogfight occurred a day after Indian jets crossed deep into Pakistan territory and allegedly destroyed the suspected training camp of an anti-India militant group

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FILE - Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter jets fly in formation during a military parade to mark Pakistan National Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2019. VOA

Pakistan’s agreement with the United States does not prevent it from using F-16 fighter jets in a conflict with India, and Indian claims of shooting down a Pakistani aircraft in a recent dogfight between the two nations is untrue, according to an influential U.S.-based publication.

Foreign Policy magazine quoted two senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation as saying American personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing. It did not identify the officers. The personnel were invited by Pakistan to count its F-16 planes after the incident.

“The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own [MiG21] plane was downed by a Pakistani missile,” said the report published Thursday.

The Indian pilot took a missile hit during the Feb. 27 aerial battle over the disputed Kashmir region and ejected safely into Pakistani territory. He was captured by Pakistani troops and freed two days later, effectively bringing the two countries back from the brink of another full-scale war. The two nations previously have fought four wars, in 1947, 1965, 1971 and a limited conflict in 1999.
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FILE – Indians dance as they wait to welcome Indian fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at India Pakistan border at Wagah, 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) from Amritsar, India, March 1, 2019. VOA

The magazine noted “the count, conducted by U.S. authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi’s version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day.”

There was no Indian or U.S. official reaction to the report.

The Pakistan military has consistently maintained it did not lose any aircraft and instead asserts the dogfight destroyed two Indian fighter jets — claims New Delhi rejected.

A military spokesman Friday hailed the findings by Foreign Policy, saying the “truth always prevails.”

“Time for India to speak truth about false claims & actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan,” tweeted Major-General Asif Ghafoor.

The dogfight occurred a day after Indian jets crossed deep into Pakistan territory and allegedly destroyed the suspected training camp of an anti-India militant group. Pakistani officials rejected Indian claims of hitting any camp or killing a large number of militants before undertaking the retaliatory military action the following day.

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FILE – Pakistani soldiers stand next to what Pakistan says is the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir at Somani area in Bhimbar district near the Line of Control, Feb. 27, 2019. VOA

Foreign media reports from the site, backed by satellite images, also contradicted Indian claims the Feb. 26 counterterrorism cross-border strike had damaged any structure or killed militant casualties.

“When the incident occurred, India asked the U.S. government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

However, “the agreement did not involve any terms limiting the use of the F-16s,” the magazine quoted the second U.S. defense official as saying.

“It would be incredibly naive for us to believe that we could sell some type of equipment to Pakistan that they would not intend to use in a fight,” the official said.

General Ghafoor tweeted a picture Friday of what he said were four unused Indian missiles mounted on the downed MiG-2 to support assertions that no Pakistani aircraft got hit in the dogfight.

“All 4 missile seeker heads recovered intact from the wreckage & held. Pakistan and its professional armed forces staying humble by not drum beating. We have more truth on this to share,” Ghafoor said.

The reported revelations are seen as a fresh blow to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, heading into an election next week that observers anticipate will be a tight contest.

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FILE – A salesman watches Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing to the nation, on TV screens inside a showroom in Mumbai, India, March 27, 2019. VOA

Indian media and opposition politicians have been demanding that Modi offer proof to support claims the airstrikes hit terrorists in Pakistan’s Balokot region. They insist the Indian leader orchestrated the military action merely to achieve political gains ahead of the polls.

“Another blow delivered to India,” observed Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Center in a series of tweets. “There could be some deleterious political implications there, just days before the election.”

The cross-border counterterrorism airstrike has been a top campaigning issue during Modi’s election rallies, underscoring that he’s tough on national security, especially with regard to Pakistan if BJP returns to power.

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Indian officials said the air raid had struck a camp allegedly linked to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which reportedly had claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing in Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed more than 40 Indian security personnel. Islamabad had denied any role in the violence and offered New Delhi cooperation to investigate it and bring perpetrators to justice. (VOA)