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Ties with India ‘global strategic partnership,’ not ‘zero sum game’ with Pak: U.S



(Asian News Hub) – While describing the US engagement with India as a ‘global comprehensive strategic partnership,’ the State Department has reiterated Washington’s policy of a de-hyphenated relationship with India and Pakistan saying it is ‘not a zero-sum.’

Speaking of the US relations with the two neighbours, the US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday made a distinction between the global dimension of its partnership with New Delhi and its shared regional interests with Islamabad.

‘When it comes to India, we have a global comprehensive strategic partnership,’ he said.

The importance of the partnership has risen as the challenge from an increasingly hostile China has grown.

With Islamabad, ‘we have important shared interests in the region. And we will continue to work closely with the Pakistani authorities on those shared interests,’ Price said.

The US needs Islamabad’s help to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan if the President Joe Biden is to go ahead with the deal his predecessor Donald Trump made with the insurgent group to withdraw all US troops on May 1.

As its patron and leadership refuge, Pakistan wields influence over the Taliban. On the other hand, Islamabad is also closely aligned with Beijing at a time when Washington is challenged on the global stage by an aggressive China.

‘United States has important relationships with India, as I said, but also with Pakistan. These relationships stand on their own in our view. They are not a zero-sum proposition when it comes to US foreign policy,’ he said replying to a question at his daily briefing on Washington’s relations with the two neighbours.

He added that the US has ‘productive and constructive relationships with one does not detract from the relationship we have at the other. It does not come at the expense at the relationship we have with the other.’

Referring to the strategic ties with India, he said, ‘This (fiscal) year, the United States has authorized over $20 billion in defence sales to India. It’s these offers of advanced US defence platforms that demonstrate our commitment to India’s security and sovereignty. It demonstrates our commitment to that global, comprehensive, strategic partnership.’

On Kashmir, Price said, ‘We welcome steps to return the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India’s democratic values.’

He said that ‘certainly as the State Department, we continue to follow developments in Jammu and Kashmir closely’ and the US policy ‘when it comes to it has not changed.’

However, there may be a nuance in his reference to Jammu and Kashmir as a ‘union territory.’

A reporter asked if for Washington Kashmir was not ‘controversial anymore,a¿ if it wanted a reversal of the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution, and if it considered Kashmir India’s territory or a ‘disputed territory.

Price would did not engage the reporter on those questions directly and only said, ‘What we have done is we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other areas of a’ and other issues of concern. Of course, we’ve continued to call for a reduction of tensions along the line of control, returning to that 2003 ceasefire.’

In August 2019, India rescinded Article 370 of the Indian constitution which gave Kashmir special status and downgraded it to a union territory.

Asked by the reporter if Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had raised the Kashmir issue with India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Price said, ‘We issued a readout of that call, so I would refer you to the readout of that conversation.’

When the reporter said the readout did not mention Kashmir, Price said, ‘I wouldn’t want to go beyond the readout.’

Blinken had spoken with Jaishankar twice directly — on January 29 and February 9 — and once along with the other two foreign ministers of the Quad, Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi and Australia’s Marise Payne — on February 18. None of the three readouts mention Kashmir.

During the election campaign last year, Biden had communalised the Kashmir issue by adding it in his ‘Agenda for Muslim Americans.’

The manifesto appealing to them said, ‘In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.’

But once in office, Biden is having to deal with the geopolitical realities of the rising threat from China and has to have India as a strategic asset for meeting the challenge.

While speaking about US efforts to bring back democracy in Myanmar, Price called India a ‘key partner’ in the Indo-Pacific region and said Blinken had discussed the situation in that neighbour of India with Jaishankar.

‘India and Japan are key partners in the Indo-Pacific and key partners that we will continue to work with towards our collective goal of seeking a restoration of Burma’s democratically elected civilian government,’ he said.


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Afghanistan: 37 killed, over 70 injured as blast hits Shia mosque in Kandahar



(Asian News Hub) – Suicide bombers assaulted a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that was packed with worshippers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70, Associated Press reported quoting hospital official and an eyewitness.

The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after a bombing claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

Also Read: Amit Shah warns Pakistan, refers to surgical strike

Murtaza, an eye-witness who like many Afghans goes by one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security gate, allowing the other two to run inside and strike the congregation of worshippers.

Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers are typically attended by around 500 people.

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At least 20 killed, over 300 injured in an earthquake in Pakistan



(Asian News Hub) – At least 20 people were killed and over 300 others injured after a powerful 5.9 earthquake struck Pakistan’s Balochistan province early on Thursday, October 7, 2021, according to PTI quoting media reports.

Disaster management officials said the death toll may increase, Geo News reported.

According to the seismological centre, the epicentre was located near Harnai at a depth of 15 km.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said many of the dead were women and children.

The quake affected Quetta, Sibi, Harnai, Pishin, Qila Saifullah, Chaman, Ziarat and Zhob in Balochistan.

Images on social media showed people in the city of Quetta out on the streets in the aftermath of the quake, Dawn newspaper reported.

Aftershocks are still being felt in different areas. The earliest tremors were felt at 3:20 am after which panicked citizens rushed out of their houses reciting verses from the holy Quran. Relief and rescue activities are underway, with an emergency declared in all hospitals.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Harnai Sohail Anwar Hashmi, several people have been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

He said that several buildings in Harnai have been damaged. Many people were left buried under the rubble.

The power supply to the area has been suspended, he said.

According to the rescue sources, more than 70 houses were reported damaged in Harnai.

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World surpasses 5M COVID-19 deaths



(Asian News Hub) – The coronavirus death toll around the world surpassed 5 million on Friday, according to Reuters’s tally.

Around the world, an average of 8,000 deaths a day were reported, according to the outlet. However, it noted that the global death rate has slowed in recent weeks.

Reuters reported that it took over a year to accumulate 2.5 million deaths, but it took under eight months to accumulate the second 2.5 million deaths.

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