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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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After Effects of Articles 370: Pakistan Suspends Trade with India, Expels Indian High Commissioner

Pakistan downgrades ties with India as tensions rise over Kashmir

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In this handout picture released by Prime Minister Office (PMO) August 7, 2019, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) chairs a National Security Committee meeting in Islamabad. VOA

Pakistan says it is expelling India’s high commissioner to Islamabad, just hours after downgrading diplomatic and trade ties with New Delhi for stripping the disputed Kashmir region of its special status (Article 370), as bilateral relations continue to deteriorate.

The foreign ministry said in a brief announcement the Indian government has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India.

Earlier, an official announcement said that an emergency meeting of the National Security Committee, which includes top Pakistani civilian and military leaders, had decided to lower diplomatic and trade ties with India among other steps in response to the “unilateral and illegal actions” by the Indian government.

It said without elaborating that Pakistan will review other bilateral arrangements with India and take the Kashmir matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council. “[The] Prime Minister directed armed forces to continue vigilance,” the announcement noted, citing the situation on the military line of control separating Pakistani and Indian portions of Kashmir.

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A Kashmiri municipal worker pushes a trash cart as Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol during curfew in Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 6, 2019. VOA

New Delhi added a special provision to its constitution in 1949 giving autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, allowing the region to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defense and communications. India’s Hindu nationalist-led government scrapped the constitutional provision Monday.

On Tuesday, the Indian parliament passed a bill giving its approval to the move, including splitting its part of the divided Himalayan state both New Delhi and Islamabad claim in its entirety. Hours later, the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning India’s measures to alter the status of the divided region and demanding New Delhi lift its wide-ranging security lockdown imposed on Kashmir since Monday.

The Indian security action to prevent a possible backlash, particularly from insurgents fighting New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir, has plunged the region into a communications blackout and a virtual shutdown.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told the emergency joint session of the parliament on Tuesday that the Indian action to “annex” Kashmir would intensify the insurgency in the majority-Muslim Kashmir, and the ensuing tensions could trigger another war between India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons.

The Pakistani leader warned the conflict could eventually lead to an exchange of nuclear weapons, urging the international community to intervene and press India to reverse its controversial decisions and resolve the Kashmir dispute through negotiations.

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Islamabad rejects New Delhi’s allegations the Pakistani military is behind separatist groups in Kashmir. VOA

Islamabad rejects New Delhi’s allegations the Pakistani military is behind separatist groups in Kashmir. “The next time there is a major attack on Indian forces in Kashmir, the next India-Pakistan crisis will be upon us. And it could get ugly,” cautioned Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based expert on South Asia affairs.

In a significant clarification issued Wednesday, a senior U.S. State Department official rejected Indian media reports New Delhi had informed Washington ahead of its Kashmir-related moves.

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“Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US Government before moving to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status,” tweeted Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs. Wells is currently in Islamabad for official talks with Pakistani leaders on bilateral matters.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Monday, the administration was “closely” following developments in Kashmir.  “We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities, said Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. (VOA)