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PM Modi says India has difficult neighbourhood

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Kochi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India has a “difficult neighbourhood”, and that several countries have reached out to India to deal with the rising threat of terror and radicalization across regions “including the Islamic world”.

Addressing top commanders of the country’s three armed forces at the Combined Commanders’ Conference onboard INS Vikramaditya, the Prime Minister said India is seen as a “new bright spot” of the world economy, and also as “an anchor for regional and global peace, security and stability”.

Modi emphasised on India’s attempt to establish good relations with its neighbours, including Pakistan.

“And, as the world seeks to deal with the rising threat of terrorism and radicalism, countries across all regions, including in the Islamic world, have reached out to seek cooperation with India,” Modi said.

“Above all, it is our neighbourhood that is most critical for our future and for our place in the world. But ours is a difficult neighbourhood with the full spectrum of security challenges,” he said at the conference attended by the three service chiefs, the defence secretary and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Modi also expressed concern over the instability in West Asia.

“We see terrorism and ceasefire violations, reckless nuclear build-up and threats, border transgressions and, continuing military modernization and expansion.

“The shadow of West Asian instability is becoming longer,” he said.

The Prime Minister said, “our region” is marked by uncertain political transitions, weak institutions and internal conflicts and, “major powers” have increased their engagement in India’s land and maritime neighbourhood.

On Pakistan, Modi said India was trying to “turn the course of history” and “bring an end to terrorism”.

“We are engaging Pakistan to try and turn the course of history, bring an end to terrorism, build peaceful relations, advance cooperation and promote stability and prosperity in our region.

“There are many challenges and barriers on the path. But the effort is worth it because the peace dividends are huge and the future of our children is at stake,” the prime minister said.

“So, we will test their intentions to define the path ahead. For this, we have started a new NSA-level dialogue to bring security experts face to face with each other. But, we will never drop our guard on security and we will continue to judge progress on their commitments on terrorism,” he said.

Modi also mentioned China and said India was pursuing “closer relations” to harness the full potential of the economic partnership.

“We will aim to address outstanding issues, maintain stability on the border, and develop greater mutual understanding and trust in our overlapping neighbourhood.

“I believe that India and China can engage constructively across the complexity of their relationship as two self-assured and confident nations, aware of their interests and responsibilities,” he said.

“From Maldives and Sri Lanka in the seas to Nepal and Bhutan in the mountains, we are working to safeguard our interests and our relationships,” Modi said.

The land boundary agreement with Bangladesh has strengthened relations, and India was also committed to peace in Afghanistan, he added.

This was the first time the Combined Commanders Conference was held onboard an aircraft carrier.

Modi inspected a Tri-services Guard of Honour in the morning at INS Garuda in Kochi, before arriving onboard INS Vikramaditya, where he was received by the three service chiefs.(IANS)

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The HIV Spread in Pakistan: Government And UN Investigating Causes

Some also blame unsafe injection practices by quack doctors for contributing to the spread of HIV. Government officials estimate about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan and 270,000 of them are practicing in Sindh. 

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HIV patients take part in an awareness session at Pakistan Society, a nongovernmental organization drop-in center, in Karachi, Nov. 30, 2013. Pixabay

Officials in Pakistan and the United Nations are investigating causes of a new outbreak of HIV infections in a southern district where nearly 400 people have been diagnosed in less than two weeks. Officials confirmed Saturday that nearly 80% of those infected are children, with nearly half of them under age 5.

Local media began reporting about the epidemic two weeks ago from Larkana, a district of Sindh province, which has already experienced three outbreaks in recent years. A local doctor who treated several patients with a single needle and syringe was blamed for spreading the virus, which causes AIDS.

The provincial government rushed teams of public health workers to the district, with an estimated population of 1.5 million, to quickly assess the situation and mobilize resources to curtail further spread of HIV. More than 9,000 people have since been subjected to screening in the affected district, and the process is continuing, Sikandar Memon, the provincial head of the AIDS Control Program, told reporters.

A UNAIDS spokeswoman told VOA that international partners had joined local teams to help quickly carry out an outbreak investigation and address the acute needs of the people infected with HIV, including immediately linking them to treatment, care and support services.

The spokeswoman, Fahmida Khan, said efforts were being made to ensure that unsafe injection and blood transfusion practices were being stopped. She also noted that there were unconfirmed reports of similar HIV outbreaks in surrounding districts.

FILE - Pakistani social activists carry placards during a rally to raise awareness on World AIDS Day in Lahore, Dec. 1, 2016.
Pakistani social activists carry placards during a rally to raise awareness on World AIDS Day in Lahore, Dec. 1, 2016. VOA

Focus of problem

Sindh, with a population of nearly 48 million, accounts for 43% of an estimated 150,000 people living with HIV in Pakistan.

U.N. officials say since 2010, there has been a 57% increase in new HIV/AIDS infections in Pakistan. They noted that among all identified HIV cases in Pakistan, 43,000 are females.

Last year, an estimated 20,000 people were newly identified with HIV in Pakistan and 6,200 people died of AIDS, according to local and U.N. officials.

Khan would not comment on the reasons for the high number of HIV infections among children and the potential causes of the latest outbreak in Larkana, saying “further investigations and epidemiological review is yet required and suggested.”

Provincial authorities also have launched a high-level investigation to ascertain the veracity of the allegations against the local doctor, who already has been taken into police custody.

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Pakistani and U.N. officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with men. Pixabay

Some also blame unsafe injection practices by quack doctors for contributing to the spread of HIV. Government officials estimate about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan and 270,000 of them are practicing in Sindh.

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Critics also blame lapses in Pakistan’s national health system, the low priority given to the problem, corruption, the recent abolition of the federal health ministry and the delegation of its functions to the provinces for the worsening health sector situation and the increase in HIV infections.

Pakistani and U.N. officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with men. (VOA)