(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.
US asks Pakistan, India to work towards stable relationship
(Asian News Hub) – Just before the all-important visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to India and other destinations of South Asia and the Middle East, the US has issued a statement, encouraging arch-rivals India and Pakistan to work for a more stable relationship.
Blinken is scheduled to visit India and other countries between July 26-29 in what is being said is an important tour in reference to the developing situation and increasing Afghan Taliban control in Afghanistan.
As per Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Affairs Dean Thompson, Blinken would be discussing different options for what he called a “negotiated settlement” in Afghanistan.
Blinken is going to be landing in New Delhi on July 28 and is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As per details, India’s role in Afghanistan and relations with Pakistan is going to be on Blinken’s agenda during his visit to India.
“We strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves. Washington would continue to encourage better ties between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed neighbours,” said Thompson.
“We are pleased to see that ceasefire that went into place earlier this year has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward,” he added.
The US played an important role in engaging both Pakistan and India to come down to an agreement and abide by the 2003 ceasefire after backdoor meeting between top military leadership of both countries in the Middle East.
On the other hand, the US seems to have keen interest in engaging India in seeing its increased role in Afghanistan, especially after the withdrawal of all foreign forces.
“We expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward. We will certainly be talking to our Indian partners about how we can work together to realise that goal, to find ways to bring the partners together, and continue to pursue a negotiated settlement to the longstanding war,” said Thompson.
Interestingly, Blinken’s visit does not include a visit to Islamabad. However, the Biden administration has invited Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed to Washington during next week for talks with the American counterparts.
Over two million people died of drowning in last decade: WHO
(Asian News Hub) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that more than 2 million died due to drowning in the last decade, a number which exceeded fatalities caused by maternal conditions or protein-energy malnutrition.
Ahead of the first World Drowning Prevention Day to be marked on July 25, the WHO, in a statement released on Friday, said at least 236,000 people drown every year, and drowning is among the 10 leading causes of death for children and youth aged one to 24 years.
More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, wells and domestic water storage vessels in low- and middle-income countries.
Half of all drowning deaths are in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, according to the WHO.
Rates of drowning deaths per 100 000 population are highest, however, in the Western Pacific region followed by the African region.
“Anyone can drown, no one should,” noted Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO).
“I welcome the opportunity of this first World Drowning Prevention Day to increase attention and hasten action by governments and their partners to avert the pain and suffering caused by drowning, a largely preventable killer.”
World Drowning Prevention Day was called for by member states through adoption in April 2021 of UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/273, which also invited the WHO to coordinate drowning prevention actions.
To mark World Drowning Prevention Day, WHO and partners will host a virtual event on July 28, entitled “Global, national and local reflections on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021”.
Pakistan deploys Army at Afghan border amid deteriorating situation in Afghanistan
(Asian News Hub) – Amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan due to US drawdown, Pakistan’s regular army has been deployed at the border areas with the neighbouring country as a security measure.
“Now regular army troops are manning the border after replacing the paramilitary forces,” the Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted by the Dawn.
There are two key border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In recent weeks, large-scale violence has been on the rise as the Taliban stepped up its offensive since the start of US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them.
The decision to deploy the army was made amid the uncertain situation in the war-torn country.
“Paramilitary troops including the Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Rangers are deployed at the borders to deal with regular issues including illegal border crossing, smuggling etc,” the Interior Minister said. “However, the current volatile situation (in Afghanistan) demands that regular military troops be deployed along the border.”
Afghanistan is witnessing clashes between the government and the Taliban who have seized significant territories throughout the country and launched an offensive against big cities.
The growing Taliban offensive has created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan which is leading to a refugee problem. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government announced that it will no longer welcome Afghan refugees.
The ties between the two sides have further deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on July 16. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.
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