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US says it backs India, Pakistan dialogue

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Washington, Welcoming the announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan, US has said it supports all steps between the two governments to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation.Narendra Modi Nawaz Sharif

The US welcomed the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on sidelines of SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia “and their announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan”, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday.

“We also welcome the announcement that India and Pakistan will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including security, people-to-people ties and expediting the Mumbai trial,” he said.

“And we support all steps between the Governments of India and Pakistan to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation,” Toner said.

Asked how the US viewed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s move to commence the process of granting India and Pakistan full membership, he said: “I’d refer you to India and Pakistan for a reaction to that or for the reasons why they’ve chosen to join that group.”

In reply to another question, Toner said the State Department does not agree with the assessment of Gen. Joseph Dunford, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Russia currently poses the greatest global threat to the US.

As State Department spokesman John Kirby spelled out Thursday, “We certainly recognize the challenges that Russia, primarily through its actions in Ukraine, poses to the region,” he said.

US had taken many steps to address those challenges, Toner said, “But I would add that the Secretary (of State John Kerry) doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly.”

“These are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues despite any disagreements we may have with them,” Toner said. “And those issues include, frankly, Iran and others – Syria, other issues around the world.”

“I would just say what the Secretary does consider an existential threat is the rapid growth of extremist groups like ISIL, particularly in ungoverned spaces,” he said.

“Certainly, we have disagreements with Russia and its activities along or within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat,” Toner said.

(IANS)

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Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

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#MeToo, women
The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

#MeToo
Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

#MeToo
Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)