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Amid ongoing dispute between Archrivals, Pakistan says India is Lying on Surgical Strikes

There have been several calls for India, South Asia’s largest country, to explore the possibility of forging a regional forum that could exclude Pakistan

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FILE - Indian army soldiers keep guard on top of a shop along a highway on the outskirts of Srinagar, Sept. 29, 2016. VOA

The latest dispute between archrivals India and Pakistan centres on whether the Indian army took out several suspected terror camps just across the volatile border in Kashmir. While India claims its special forces carried out preemptive “surgical strikes” last week, Islamabad is adamant that they did not cross the line of control into Pakistan.

The truth may be hard to ascertain in the remote, Himalayan region where the two armies have long faced off and where bouts of heavy cross-border firing is not unusual.

An Indian Border Security Force soldier patrols near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, India, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA
An Indian Border Security Force soldier patrols near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, India, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

What is certain is that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signaled a more assertive posture in dealing with Pakistan following an attack on an Indian army post in Kashmir that killed 20 soldiers on September 18. New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants.

Tougher policy

Officials say in the coming days and weeks, India will explore more diplomatic and economic measures to put pressure on its neighbour and rival, who it has long accused of supporting cross-border attacks by Islamic militant groups.

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Analysts warn the tougher line carries the risk of an escalation of hostilities as it takes the South Asian rivals into “uncharted waters.”

The head of the strategic studies program at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, Harsh Pant, said the fundamental shift in India’s approach follows the failure of past policies after multiple terror attacks.

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“This time there was a real focus on making sure that Pakistan pays, not simply in terms of rhetoric, but real costs,” he said. “This is one of the few times when a more comprehensive strategy was adopted.”

Analysts say the army’s “surgical strikes” were a signal that India can retaliate. That is a reversal from its restraint in the past when fear of hostilities turning nuclear held India back. “The issue was India was losing its credibility in its conventional deterrent,” according to Pant.

Pakistan denies the Indian allegations of supporting militant groups mounting attacks in India and says the real problem is alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir that have triggered unrest in the region.

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But blaming Pakistan-based groups for fomenting unrest, India has said it will isolate Pakistan diplomatically.

Summit canceled

The first casualty has been a South Asian summit that was canceled by Islamabad after five out of eight nations in the group, led by India, pulled out citing concerns about cross-border terror.

There have been several calls for India, South Asia’s largest country, to explore the possibility of forging a regional forum that could exclude Pakistan.

However, security analyst Bharat Karnad at New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research underlines the risk of such a strategy.

“You are in essence undermining the idea of reconciliation in the long term,” he cautioned. Pointing out that distancing Pakistan from South Asia is “physically, culturally” not possible, he said, “So you are going to create a real problem in trying to attempt something that is not practical.”

Economic measures considered

India is also looking at economic measures aimed at Pakistan. The prime minister is due to review the Most Favored Nation status that New Delhi granted Pakistan in 1996. That is unlikely to hurt Islamabad as direct trade between the two countries is small and most of the trade is in India’s favor.

The bigger pressure point is a 1960 Indus Water treaty that awarded most of the waters from three Himalayan rivers to Pakistan. India says it will explore all options including building hydroelectric dams along these rivers so that it can utilize its share, something that could potentially reduce the flow into Pakistan.

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That may not happen anytime soon as it would take years to build dams. But it has raised alarm in Islamabad, which says scrapping the treaty would be an act of war.

While India says it has no intention of ending the treaty, which has survived two wars and decades of bitter relations, analysts say the message New Delhi wants to send out is that it might now be willing to use tools never contemplated in the past.

The closer strategic ties that Prime Minister Modi has cultivated with the United States since taking office two years ago have also given India the confidence to contemplate tougher measures, according to analysts.

“He [Modi] recognized the fact that having good relations with America allows India greater strategic space to pursue certain policies vis-a-vis Pakistan,” says Pant.

Tensions have spiraled along the Kashmir border in recent days. Indian officials reported another attack on an Indian army camp Sunday night by six militants in north Kashmir. One border guard died and another was wounded. India has evacuated hundreds of border villages on its side and cross-border firing continues.

But in a signal that both sides want to reduce tensions, the National Security Advisers of the two countries spoke to each other Monday for the first time since tensions spiked in the last two weeks. (VOA)

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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. 

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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