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India-Pakistan peace process: US President Donald Trump may get involved, says US Representative to UN Nikki Haley

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Donald Trump. Wikimedia
United Nations, April 4, 2017: The US is concerned about the state of India-Pakistan relations and President Donald Trump himself may get involved in a peace process between the two South Asian antagonists, Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN said on Monday.

“This administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward,” Haley, who holds a cabinet rank in the Trump administration, said.

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“I would expect that the administration going to be in talks and try and find its place to be part of that (process).”

She added, “And also wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates as well.”

India has opposed external involvement in bilateral issues with Pakistan.

During his campaign in 2016, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, but was careful to add that it was only if the two nations wanted him to.

In an interview to The Hindustan Times he said that he “would be honoured” to be a moderator. “I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.”

Haley was answering a question from a reporter at her news conference on assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April.

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The reporter pointed out that India does not want an interlocutor for talks with Pakistan, while Islamabad wanted the US or another country to facilitate talks between them and asked if the US would get the leaders of the two countries to talk.

With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeping a low public profile and generally avoiding the media, Haley is emerging as the public face of US diplomacy making her presence felt in the media aided by her cabinet status.

Her statement about India-Pakistan relations, therefore, assume importance and it is the first high-level Trump administration statement on India’s relations with Pakistan.

While it is not clear what steps the US could take, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Trump in Washington in May when the two could discuss it.

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Former President Barack Obama also had said during his 2008 campaign that the US should mediate the Kashmir dispute. The offer met with strong opposition in India and he did not actively follow it up when he became President.

“We don’t think we should wait until something happens” Haley said. “We very much think we should be pro-active in what we are seeing, tensions rise and conflicts seem to bubble up and so want to see if we can be a part of that.”

“So, that will be something you will see, that is something that members of the National Security Council participate in,” she said. (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)