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PM Modi to visit Pakistan next year: Sushma Swaraj

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Islamabad: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan next year, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said here on Wednesday.

Modi will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit, Swaraj told the media.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the South Asian neighbour in January 2004 to attend that year’s Saarc summit.

The foreign minister said she would accompany Modi during his visit, Geo TV reported.

Swaraj is in Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference on peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Swaraj’s is the first ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since the visit of then external affairs minister S M Krishna in 2012.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Ufa, Russia, in July, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had invited Modi to attend the Saarc summit next year which the latter had accepted.

After the Ufa meeting, both the prime ministers directed their foreign secretaries to initiate the process of renewing talks, including meetings between the national security advisors of the two countries.

However, NSA-level talks between Doval and then Pakistani NSA Sartaz Aziz scheduled in New Delhi in August were cancelled after the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi insisted on inviting Hurriyat leaders for a reception in honour of Aziz.

The two prime ministers again had an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP-21) climate summit in Paris on November 30.

Both leaders were seen warmly shaking hands at the summit venue as world leaders converged for the opening of the event.

The two leaders then sat on the same sofa and were seen engaging in an animated discussion.

Following this, on December 6, National Security Advisors (NSAs) Ajit Doval of India and Naseer Khan Janjua of Pakistan held a meeting in Bangkok which was also attended by Foreign Secretaries S Jaishanker and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two NSAs held discussions “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

According to the statemernt, the NSAs “were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia.

“Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues including tranquillity along the LoC (Line of Control).

“It was agreed to carry forward the constrictive engagement,” said the statement.

The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.(IANS)

Next Story

ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)