(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.
World’s Most Vaccinated Nation Activates Curbs as Cases Rise
(Asian News Hub) – Seychelles, which has fully vaccinated more of its population against Covid-19 than any other country, has closed schools and canceled sporting activities for two weeks as infections surge.
The measures, which include bans on the intermingling of households and the early closure of bars, come even as the country has fully vaccinated more than 60% of its adult population with two doses of coronavirus vaccines. The curbs are similar to those last imposed at the end of 2020.
“Despite of all the exceptional efforts we are making, the Covid-19 situation in our country is critical right now with many daily cases reported last week,” Peggy Vidot, the nation’s health minister, said at a press conference Tuesday.
The Indian Ocean archipelago, which has a population of about 98,000, is dependent on tourism for much of its foreign exchange and acted quickly to begin vaccinations in January using a donation of Chinese vaccines from the United Arab Emirates. It has procured other vaccines since.
By April 12, 59% of the doses administered were Sinopharm vaccines and the rest were Covishield, a version of AstraZeneca Plc’s shot made under license in India.
To date 62.2% of its eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. That compares with 55.9% for Israel, the next most vaccinated nation.
Officials at the press conference gave little detail on what could be behind the infection surge other than to say people were taking fewer precautions against the virus than before and the surge may be due to celebrations after Easter.
The number of active cases in the nation rose to 1,068 on May 3 from 612 on April 28, according to health ministry announcements.
Devastating impact of the pandemic on media, deplorable situation in India: PEC
(Asian News Hub) – The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the media, the Switzerland based media rights and safety body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) lamented on Friday in preparation for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.
Human cost of the pandemic is particularly high where over one thousand journalists have lost their lives due to novel corona virus aggravated ailments. India recently lost over 50 journalists in 2 weeks (3.5 per day).
Human cost of the pandemic is particularly high where over one thousand journalists have lost their lives due to novel corona virus aggravated ailments. Journalists are engaged in a profession which is particularly exposed to the virus, as many have been forced to continue working in contact with the population. Until 29 April 2021, since March 2020, within 14 months, the PEC (www.pressemblem.ch/) has counted more than 1,200 journalists who died from complications related to Covid-19 in 75 countries.
“This is an unprecedented slaughter and a great loss for the profession,” said PEC secretary-general Blaise Lempen adding, “On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, we call for honoring eminent colleagues of all ages who have not survived the pandemic.” He appeals to all concerned governments to take action to help the media most affected and support the families of the victims on this auspicious occasion.
PEC also considers there is a need to distribute vaccines equally all over the world, to stop spread of the virus and its new strains in developing countries.
Vaccine production is limited and it is available for the wealthiest countries, preventing access to journalists in South America and South Asia. As long as this situation continues, deaths will keep on increasing, it added.
The rate of deceased journalists accelerated further in April with the deaths of 126 journalists in one month or four media-victims per day. Since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, four countries have been particularly affected with more than one hundred journo-casualties each including Brazil (more than 183 media corona-casualties), Peru (140 dead), India (122) and Mexico (106).
There is nevertheless a positive note that the number of journalists’ deaths slowed sharply in Europe and North America, thanks to effective protection measures and the progress of vaccination. By region, Latin America tops the list with more than half of the victims, 673 in 20 countries. Asia follows with 256 in 18 countries, then Europe with 175 in 19 countries.
Africa comes next with 56 dead in 16 countries, ahead of North America with 47 in 2 countries.
India recently lost half a century journalists within a fortnight to corona-complications, said Nava Thakuria, PEC’s country representative adding that the populous country might have lost more journalists than documented, as many media outlets in India prefer to tone done the corona casualties among their journo-colleagues. India’s neighbour Bangladesh recorded 52 journo-victims to Covid-19 followed by Pakistan (26 dead), Afghanistan (9) and Nepal (7). Other tiny neighbours namely Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar etc have not reported a single corona media casualty.
The robust Indian media fraternity has lately lost Rohit Sardana, Nilakshi Bhattacharyya, Aiyushman Dutta, Bhanu Prakash Rath, Manas Ranjan Jaipuria, Amjad Badshah, Sridhar Dharmasanam, Raju Mishra, Sadanand Shinde, Kakoli Bhattacharya, Kondra Srinivas Goud, Sammi Reddy, Akash Saxena, Khwaja Mujahiduddin, Anil Basnoi, Venga Reddy, Madiraju Harikrishna Giri, Syed Shabaz, etc to the corona-pandemic. Good bye friends and rest in absolute peace around the unseen world.
India rapidly losing scribes to Covid-19, global tally reaches 1175
(Asian News Hub) – India is fast losing working journalists to Covid-19 and crossed 100 mark, where as the global tally hit 1,175. The country lately starts losing three journalists every day.
Brazil continues to be the worst affected country with 181 media corona-casualties followed by Peru (140) and Mexico (106), stated the Switzerland based media rights & safety body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC).
India, which witnessed the death of nine journalists due to novel corona virus infection aggravated ailments in the last three days, is just behind of Mexico with 101 casualties since the pandemic broke out in March 2020. The nation with a billion plus populace comes far ahead of Italy (52 dead), Bangladesh (51), USA (47), Colombia (47), Ecuador (46), United Kingdom (28), Dominican Republic (27), Pakistan (25), Turkey (22), Iran (21), etc.
Expressing apprehensions that the situation may worsen for the safety of journalists on the ground due to the corona-pandemic, Blaise Lempen, general secretary of PRESS EMBLEM CAMPAIGN (PEC), advocates for adequate compensations to the victim families. He also emphasized on early vaccinations to media workers so that they can perform their duties as corona warriors after the doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, etc without endangering their lives.
Even after the launch of a massive corona-vaccination program covering around 13 million Indian citizens India till now in the backdrop of around three million reported infections every day mounting its cumulative Covid-19 cases to over 16 million (total casualty crosses 190,000).
Reported names of recent corona-victims include Shailesh Raval (Gujarat), Sopan Bongane, Ashok Tupe, Motichand Bedmutha (Maharashtra), P Tataiah, Chandrashekar Naidu, Srinivasa Rao (Andhra Pradesh), Ashish Yechury, Chanchal Pal Chauhan (New Delhi), Chinta Naga Raju, Ramachandra Rao (Telangana), Govind Behera, Manoj Kumar Sahu, Karunakar Sahu, Naresh Behera (Odisha), Jodu Chutia (Assam), etc.
“India has the probability to increase the number of media corona-victims as a number of States went on under-reporting about the actual figures because of various reasons,” commented PEC’s country representative Nava Thakuria adding, in many cases even the established media houses had not reported about their own corona-positive cases to avoid unwanted interferences from the authority under the health protocols.
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