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India pulled out of SAARC meeting that is to be held in Pakistan

Modi's decision to stay away from the South Asian meet came a day after India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the U.N. General Assembly in New York it is time to identify nations that nurture, peddle and export terrorism

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Pakistani Kashmiris carry placards to show their solidarity with Indian Kashmiri Muslims during an anti-Indian protest in Islamabad, Sept. 26, 2016. VOA

Update: 1120 AM IST, Sept 28,2016: After Modi pulled out of SAARC meeting to be held in November in Pakistan, 3 other countries- Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh – have also pulled out, further isolating Pakistan.

New Delhi, September 28, 2016: On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will not be attending the South Asian regional summit to be held in Islamabad in November because of increasing cross-border attacks in the region.

The decision was announced days after Modi said that he will mount a global campaign to diplomatically isolate Pakistan in the wake of a terror attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers.

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Tensions between the two countries have spiked after India blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants. Islamabad has denied any role in the assault and said it could be a reaction to the situation in Indian Kashmir, which has been wracked with widespread civilian unrest since July.

Coffins containing bodies of Indian soldiers G. Doloi and Biaswajit Garai, killed in an attack at the Indian army base in Kashmir, arrive at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport in Kolkata, India, Sept. 19, 2016.VOA
Coffins containing bodies of Indian soldiers G. Doloi and Biaswajit Garai, killed in an attack at the Indian army base in Kashmir, arrive at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport in Kolkata, India, Sept. 19, 2016.VOA

In a statement, the foreign ministry said that “increasing cross-border attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of the member states have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful hosting of the SAARC [South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation] summit.”

Other countries’ concerns

Without elaborating, the statement said that other countries have also conveyed their reservations about attending the South Asian gathering.

They are believed to be Afghanistan and Bangladesh, which also blame Pakistan for supporting terror groups. Neither country has publicly disclosed such reservations.
She said Pakistan believes terrorist attacks will allow it to gain territory it covets in Kashmir. “My firm advice to Pakistan is: Abandon this dream. Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so,” Swaraj said.

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday's attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir's Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA
A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA

‘Litany of falsehoods’

In a sharp response to the Indian foreign minister, Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, called the Indian allegations a “litany of falsehoods” and said Kashmir was an “internationally recognized dispute.”

Lodhi said the attack on the Indian army base had all the hallmarks of an operation designed to divert attention from “India’s atrocities” in Kashmir.

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While New Delhi accuses Pakistan of backing and supporting militant groups that mount terror strikes in India, Islamabad holds India responsible for human rights violations in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between them and claimed by both. About 80 civilians have been killed since July in the largest anti-India protests in recent years.

On Tuesday, India also summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi for the second time in less than a week and presented him with what it said was proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the militant strike on an Indian army base in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers.
India’s foreign ministry said it gave the Pakistani diplomat details on two “handlers” of the four militants who attacked the army base. Officials say the “handlers,” who are in Indian custody, and one of the militants killed in the attack were from Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Kashmir.

Regional isolation is one among a range of retaliatory measures New Delhi has been weighing against Islamabad.

India summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi on Sept. 27, 2016, and presented him with what it said was proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the militant strike on an Indian army base in Kashmir.VOA
India summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi on Sept. 27, 2016, and presented him with what it said was proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the militant strike on an Indian army base in Kashmir.VOA

Water exploitation

On Thursday, Modi is due to hold a meeting to review the Most Favored Nation status that New Delhi has granted to Pakistan.

Indian officials have suggested they are also exploring ways in which New Delhi can increase the exploitation of water from three Himalayan rivers that flow into Pakistan. India has a right to use roughly 20 percent of the water under a 1960 pact but says it has not done so.

New Delhi says there is no plan to scrap the treaty, but it will see how it can utilize more water allowed under its terms.

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Such a move could further heighten tensions between the two countries. The waters of the three rivers are crucial for Pakistan.

SAARC includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Maldives.

Modi’s decision to stay away from the South Asian meet came a day after India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the U.N. General Assembly in New York it is time to identify nations that “nurture, peddle and export terrorism.” (VOA)

Next Story

Find out How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Disrupted Global Food Supplies

Explainer: How Coronavirus Crisis Is Affecting Food Supply

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People wait in line to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in downtown Havana, Cuba. VOA

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted global food supplies and is causing labor shortages in agriculture worldwide. This is the latest health news.

Are there food shortages?

Panic buying by shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of staples such as pasta and flour as populations worldwide prepared for lockdowns.

Meat and dairy producers as well as fruit and vegetable farmers struggled to shift supplies from restaurants to grocery stores, creating the perception of shortages for consumers.

Retailers and authorities say there are no underlying shortages and supplies of most products have been or will be replenished. Bakery and pasta firms in Europe and North America have increased production.

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Food firms say panic purchasing is subsiding as households have stocked up and are adjusting to lockdown routines.

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Agricultural workers clean carrot crops of weeds amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a farm near Arvin, California, U.S. VOA

The logistics to get food from the field to the plate, however, are being increasingly affected and point to longer-term problems.

In the short term, lack of air freight and trucker shortages are disrupting deliveries of fresh food.

In the long term, lack of labor is affecting planting and harvesting and could cause shortages and rising prices for staple crops in a throwback to the food crises that shook developing nations a decade ago.

What’s disrupting the food supply?

With many planes grounded and shipping containers hard to find after the initial coronavirus crisis in China, shipments of vegetables from Africa to Europe or fruit from South America to the United States are being disrupted.

A labor shortage could also cause crops to rot in the fields.

As spring starts in Europe, farms are rushing to find enough workers to pick strawberries and asparagus, after border closures prevented the usual flow of foreign laborers. France has called on its own citizens to help offset an estimated shortfall of 200,000 workers.

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More wide-scale crop losses are looming in India, where a lockdown has sent masses of workers home, leaving farms and markets short of hands as staple crops like wheat near harvest.

Is food going to cost more?

Wheat futures surged in March to two-month highs, partly because of the spike in demand for bakery and pasta goods, while corn (maize) sank to a 3½-year low as its extensive use in biofuel exposed it to an oil price collapse.

Benchmark Thai white rice prices have already hit their highest level in eight years.

Swings in commodity markets are not necessarily passed on in prices of grocery goods, as food firms typically buy raw materials in advance. A sustained rise in prices will, however, eventually be passed on to consumers.

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A farmer feeds iceberg lettuce to his buffalo during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Bhuinj village in Satara district in the western state of Maharashtra, India. VOA

Some poorer countries subsidize food to keep prices stable.

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The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that a rush to buy by countries that rely on imports of staple foods could fuel global food inflation, despite ample reserves of staple crops.

Fresh produce such as fruit or fish or unprocessed grains such as rice reflect more immediately changes in supply and demand.

Will there be enough food if the crisis lasts?

Analysts say global supplies of the most widely consumed food crops are adequate. Wheat production is projected to be at record levels in the year ahead.

Also Read- Every Hospital in US May Treat COVID-19 Patients: Health Human Service Agency

However, the concentration of exportable supply of some food commodities in a small number of countries and export restrictions by big suppliers concerned about having enough supply at home can make world supply more fragile than headline figures suggest.

Another source of tension in global food supply could be China. There are signs the country is scooping up foreign agricultural supplies as it emerges from its coronavirus shutdown and rebuilds its massive pork industry after a devastating pig disease epidemic. (VOA)