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If Kashmir issue persists, then anything is possible: Pakistan hints at a risk of "accidental war"

Geneva: Pakistan's foreign minister warned Wednesday that the situation in Indian Kashmir risked sparking an "accidental war", and urged UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to visit the troubled region.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he believed both Pakistan and India "understand the consequences of a conflict." But with tensions soaring since New Delhi revoked Kashmir's autonomy last month, he warned that "you cannot rule out an accidental war." "If the situation persists... then anything is possible," Qureshi said.

India imposed a clampdown on Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region's autonomy. Mobile phone networks and the internet are still cut off in all but a few pockets. Tensions over Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, have sparked two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

Qureshi, who on Tuesday appealed to the Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the situation in Indian Kashmir, told reporters he had spoken with Bachelet and had invited her to visit both the Indian and Pakistani parts of the region. "She should visit both places and report as objectively as she can so that the world knows what the true... situation is," he said.

The minister said Bachelet had said she "was keen to visit". Her office could not immediately be reached for confirmation. Qureshi meanwhile ruled out the possibility of bilateral talks to resolve the tensions. "If the US plays a role, that can be important because they have a considerable influence" in the region, he said. New Delhi, meanwhile, has insisted that the situation in Kashmir is an internal Indian affair, rejecting all international interference in the region.



Hefty fines imposed not to generate revenue but to save lives: Nitin Gadkari defends new Motor Vehicles Act

New Delhi: Amid public outcry over new provisions in the new Motor Vehicles Act, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said hefty fines were not imposed to generate revenue for the government but to save lives of the people.

"We are implementing this to create respect and fear for the law so none can do such type of thing. That is the reason behind it. If you obey the law, you don't have to give any fine. 30 years before, the fine was 100 rupees. Now what is the value of Rs 100 today?" he told ANI. "The state government can decide on fines. There is no problem. But this is not a revenue earning proposal. This is for saving lives of people. We are losing 2 per cent of GDP due to road accidents. It is not the responsibility of the government to save the lives of the people? That is the spirit behind the law. It was not the intention of the government to increase fine to get revenue for the government," the minister added.

After the heavy fines introduced in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019, hefty challans for traffic rules violations by the police have hit the headlines.

Advocating the hefty fines levied as per the amended bill for traffic violations, Gadkari said, "Some may also argue that we have increased the death penalty for rape of a minor girl. Some may say it is very strong but why are we implementing it then? Because we want to create fear in them about the law. If you obey law you don't have to pay a penalty. It's as simple as that." The minister took pains to explain the process of what went in to make the bill possible and how it was supported by various political parties.

"When we considered this bill, it was done by a committee that had studied laws of the UK, the US and Canada," he said. Defending the cases of huge amounts of challans being issued, Gadkari accused the "microscopic" media of highlighting these cases without going into the merits of the cases. "You spoke about the truck case, the driver didn't have anything, no driving license nothing. It was overloaded, the driver was drunk. It could have killed people. Should he not be fined?" asked the minister.


Chandrababu Naidu, son Nara Lokesh put under house arrest amid protest against YSRCP government

Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh): Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu was on Wednesday morning put under preventive detention at a time when he along with his party workers were set to take out 'Chalo Atmakur' rally.

The former Andhra Pradesh chief minister following the house arrest sat on a hunger strike to protest against the said move. Naidu sat on a fast at around 8 am and will continue till 8 pm. His son was also put under preventive detention at their residence, following an altercation with the police. Meanwhile, party leaders and workers who were on their way to Naidu's residence were stopped by police and taken into preventive custody. Further, section 144 was imposed in Narasaraopeta, Sattenapalle, Palnadu and Gurajala.

Andhra Pradesh police have put several TDP leaders under house arrest in view of party's call for 'Chalo Atmakur' rally following political violence allegations made by YSRCP. Police said that TDP did not receive any permission to take out 'Chalo Atmakur' rally. Meanwhile, TDP has accused the YSR Congress Party of indulging into political violence after coming to power in May. It has alleged that the cadres of the YSRCP have killed as many as eight of its party workers and have attacked many more.


Indian Army's Mountain Strike Corps, Air Force to carry out war games near China border

New Delhi: More than 5,000 troops of the Indian Army's only Mountain Strike Corps will carry out a massive war game along with the Air Force in Arunachal Pradesh in October where Forces will be deployed to practice real war-like situation on the eastern front of the country.

The exercise will be the first of its kind along the China border by the newly-raised 17 Mountain Strike Corps which has been preparing for it under the Eastern Command for the last five to six months now. "As part of the war games, the troops of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps will be deployed at a high altitude location to defend their 'territory' while a brigade-sized force (over 2,500 troops) of the 17 Mountain Strike Corps would be airlifted by the Indian Air Force to 'launch an offensive' against them," top Army sources told ANI.

The Indian Air Force will airlift the troops using its latest transport aircraft including the C-17, C-130J Super Hercules and the AN-32 to airlift the army troops from Baghdogra in West Bengal and deploy them close to the 'war zone' in Arunachal Pradesh, they said. The troops of the 17 Mountain Strike Corps would be from the 59 Mountain Division and will include armoured regiments including battle tanks and infantry combat vehicles along with light howitzers and strike elements.

To make the 17 Mountain Strike Corps more effective during wartime in mountainous region with China, the fighting formations under it are being converted into Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) as part of Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat's restructuring process. Once the IBGs are formed, the formations will be converted into leaner and more efficient fighting units with ability to strike deeper and faster against enemy targets, the sources said.

An IBG, which will be a little smaller than a division, will integrate the existing elements of infantry, tank regiments, artillery, engineers and signals. It will comprise six battalions of these elements and will be directly under a Corps. Once the Army converts all its required fighting formations into IBGs, it would lead to elimination of the brigades in the fighting structure.

The first IBG is coming up under the 9 Corps which looks after parts of Jammu and Punjab border with Pakistan. Two more IBGs are ready for conversion under the 17 Mountain strike Corps and 33 Corps which are both tasked to fight wars on the Chinese front in the Northeast.

By Ajit K Dubey/ANI


India rejects Pakistan's false narrative on Jammu and Kashmir, says terrorism worst form of human rights abuse

Geneva [Switzerland]: India on Tuesday firmly rejected Pakistan's allegations at the UN Human Rights Council and hit back saying a "fabricated narrative" on Jammu and Kashmir has come from "the epicentre of global terrorism" and from a nation, which conducts cross-border terrorism as a form of 'alternate diplomacy'.

India also said that its legislative decisions on Jammu and Kashmir cut the ground from under Pakistan's feet by creating obstacles in its continuing sponsorship of cross-border terrorism and its gory human rights record speaks for itself. Rejecting Pakistan's propaganda, India said it was an ill-disguised effort to advance its territorial ambitions and that Islamabad's "hysterical statements with false, fabricated narratives" were aimed to politicise and polarise the forum.

The clash occurred after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed earlier in the day that India had transformed Jammu and Kashmir into a largest "caged prison on this planet" by abrogating Article 370 and that human rights were being "trampled with impunity" there. While Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East) in External Affairs Ministry dismissed Qureshi's allegations while making national statement during the general debate at the UNHRC session, Vimarsh Aryan, First Secretary in the Ministry, later exercised India's right to respond to debunk the claims of Pakistan minister.

Aryan also said that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has no locus standi to comment on the internal affairs of India. He said Pakistan's rhetoric will not distract international attention from its persecution and elimination of religious and ethnic minorities - be it the Christians, Sikhs, Shias, Ahmadiyas and Hindus and referred to the recent incident of abduction and forced conversion of a Sikh girl. He referred to call for 'Jihad' and to encourage violence both inside Jammu and Kashmir and in third countries.

Singh said the government's decision to abrogate Article 370 and reorganise Jammu and Kashmir, saying that legislative decisions on Jammu and Kashmir were "sovereign" and "entirely internal to India". She said the decisions were taken by the Indian Parliament after a full debate that was televised and enjoyed widespread support. "We wish to reiterate that this sovereign decision like other legislation passed by Parliament is entirely internal to India. No country can accept interference in its internal affairs, certainly not India," she said.

Singh said the Council should call out those who are misusing this platform for malicious political agendas under the garb of human rights. "Those who are attempting this speak on the human rights of minorities in other countries whilst trampling upon them at will in their own country. They cry victim when they actually are the perpetrators," she said.

Without naming Pakistan, she said that one delegation "has given a running commentary with offensive rhetoric of false allegations and concocted charges against my country." "The world is aware that this fabricated narrative comes from the epicentre of global terrorism, where ring leaders were sheltered for years. This nation conducts cross-border terrorism as a form of 'alternate diplomacy'," she said. Singh said terrorism poses a grave challenge to the commitment of the international community to protect the right to life and security of people globally.

"It is extinguishing innocent lives and spreading fear and uncertainty. Those who abet, finance and support terrorism in any form on territory under their control are in truth the worst violators of human rights," she said. The senior MEA official said that the world, in particular India, has suffered greatly on account of the activities by "practitioners of state-sponsored terrorism" and it is time to collectively take decisive and firm action against terror groups and their abettors who threaten the fundamental human right to life.

"We must speak out. Silence only emboldens terrorists. It also encourages their intimidatory tactics. India appeals to the international community to work together in the fight against terrorism and their sponsors," she said. Singh said despite challenging circumstances, Jammu and Kashmir's civil administration was ensuring basic services, essential supplies, normal functioning of institutions, mobility and nearly full connectivity.

"Democratic processes have been initiated. Restrictions are being eased continuously. Temporary preventive and precautionary measures were necessitated to ensure safety and security of our citizens in the face of credible threats of cross-border terrorism," she said. The senior official said that as a responsible member of the international community, India firmly believes in a constructive approach to promote and protect human rights.

Noting that India is an ancient civilisation with immense and rich diversity, she said it also holds the credentials of being the world's largest democracy. Aryan said he had been forced to take the floor to call out the "blatant is a representation of facts and false narrative peddled by Pakistan in all its statements today." "This is an ill-disguised effort to advance its territorial ambitions. We reject this propaganda. We are not surprised at Pakistan's hysterical statements with false, fabricated narratives aimed to politicise and polarize this forum," he said.

He said Jammu and Kashmir has been, is and shall continue to be an integral part of India and Pakistan's nefarious designs will never succeed. "It defies credibility that Pakistan, which is the epicentre of global terrorism is claiming to speak on behalf of unnamed countries on the issue of human rights. It forgets that terrorism is the worst form of human rights abuse," he said.

He said the Article 370 was a temporary provision of the Indian Constitution and the recent modification was "within our sovereign right and entirely an internal matter of India." The decision, he said, removes "impediments to the enjoyment of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of our citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh," especially those dealing with women, children and disadvantaged sections of our society in that region.

"Pakistan realises that our recent decision cuts the very ground from under its feet by creating obstacles in its continuing sponsorship of cross border terrorism against India," he said. "In this desperate mind-frame, some Pakistan leaders have even gone as far as to call for 'Jihad' and to encourage violence both inside Jammu and Kashmir and in third countries, in order to paint a picture of 'genocide' which even they know is far from reality," he added.

Aryan said Pakistan has pretended to speak as the voice of the global community on human rights but the world cannot be fooled and it no longer publishes official statistics about its minorities as India does," he said. Aryan said that blatant abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan to persecute minorities was well documented and referred to forced conversion and marriage of a minor Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur.

"Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman was incarcerated for years. So was Abdul Shakoor, the 82-year old Ahmadiya, under Anti-Terrorism Act for selling books. The recent case of abduction, forced conversion, and marriage of a minor Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur, exemplifies the state of women, especially from the minority communities in Pakistan. And today, in this Council Pakistan has the audacity to tell others about human rights that it so egregiously violates again and again," he said.

Aryan said the people of India were determined to preserve the territorial integrity. "Pakistan's nefarious designs will never succeed because the people of India are united in their determination to preserve our territorial integrity along with our core values of democracy, tolerance, and unity in diversity. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will continue to progress and prosper along with the rest of India," he said.


Change in millennials mindset to prefer OLA, Uber led to automobile sector slowdown: Nirmala Sitharaman

Chennai: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday said the slowdown in the automobile sector was due to many factors like the change in mindset of millennials, who now prefer taxi aggregators like OLA and UBER instead of committing for monthly installments to own a car.

Sitharaman said the automobile industry did have its "good times" till two years ago. "It was definitely a good upward trajectory for the automobile sector", she told reporters. The minister said the sector had been affected by several things, including movement towards BS-VI norms and registration related matters and (also) change in mindsets.

She said some studies had revealed that there was a change in the the mindset of the millenials not to commit any EMIs (equated monthly installments) towards buying an automobile and instead taking OLA, UBER or the Metro (train) services. "So, a whole lot of factors are influencing the automobile sector. We are all seized of the problem. We will try to solve it", she said.

The Bharat Stage VI (or BS-VI) emission norm will come into force from 1 April 2020 across the country. Currently, vehicles conform to BS-IV emission standards. On August 23, in a bid to address the slowdown in the auto sector, Sitharaman had announced lifting the ban on purchase of vehicles by government departments and allowed an additional 15 per cent depreciation on vehicles acquired from now till March 2020. Also, the government clarified that BS-IV vehicles purchased up to March 2020 would remain operational for the entire period of registration, while also considering various measures, including scrappage policy to boost demand.


I am target of vendetta politics: Shivakumar who is arrested by ED in money laundering case

New Delhi: Former Karnataka Minister and senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar, currently in the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) custody, here on Tuesday reiterated that he had done nothing wrong and was a target of vendetta politics.

"I would like to reiterate that I have done nothing wrong and am a target of vendetta politics," Shivakumar, who was arrested by the ED in a money laundering case on September 3 after four-day questioning, said in a tweet. In the same tweet, the Congress leader said, "With the support and blessings that I am receiving from all of you, and my belief in god and our judiciary, I have full faith that I will emerge victorious both legally and politically."

Earlier in the day, the financial probe agency summoned his daughter Aishwarya for questioning on September 12 in connection with the probe. The officials said while scrutinising the financial dealings of Shivakumar, the ED found documents pertaining to a trust handled by his daughter. "To get the details of the functioning of the trust and its financial transactions, we have summoned Aishwarya for questioning," he said.

Shivakumar has been on the radar of the Income-Tax Department and the ED since demonetisation in 2016. An Income-Tax search at his New Delhi flat on August 2, 2017 led to the seizure of Rs 8.59 crore unaccounted cash. Thereafter, the I-T Department lodged cases against the Congress leader and his four associates under sections 277 and 278 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, and sections 120(B), 193 and 199 of the Indian Penal Code.


Ex-MLA from Imran Khan's party seeks political asylum in India, alleges Hindus and Sikhs tortured in Pakistan

New Delhi: Pakistan's record of using unfair means of treatment against the minority communities was exposed once again after a former legislator of Prime Minister Imran Khan's party sought political asylum in India in one of the latest reports of atrocities across the Muslim-majority country.

Baldev Kumar, a former MLA of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI party) from Barikot in Khyber Pakhtun Khwa (KPK) assembly, is in India, along with his family, to seek political asylum here.

Baldev, 43, no longer wants to return to Pakistan and has alleged that minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs, are being prosecuted in Pakistan.

In 2016, a sitting MLA from his constituency was assassinated. Baldev was charged with a false murder case and acquitted in 2018.

However, the above incident was not the only incident of atrocities against minorities in the cash-strapped nation. In Pakistan, many such incidents are regularly reported where Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls are forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

The recent incident of abduction, forcible marriage and religious conversion of a Sikh girl of Nankana Sahib is a telling example. Jagjit Kaur daughter of the Granthi of Nanakana Sahib Gurdwara, the birthplace of Shri Guru Nanak Dev, in Pakistan, was allegedly abducted and forcibly converted to Islam after her marriage to a Muslim man.

The matter had raised a furore in India, with several political leaders across parties asking for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

The incidents have come at a time when Pakistan has been ranting up its diabolic rhetoric of the so-called mistreatment of minorities in India, particularly Muslims, ever since the Indian Parliament decided to revoke the especially accorded constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the fact remains that Pakistan remains a thoroughly unsafe country for its own minorities.

Pakistan has repeatedly been asked by the international community to end discrimination against religious minorities on its soil. Last month, the United States, the UK, and Canada raised the issue of suppression of religious freedom Pakistan and slammed the nation for "persecuting and repressing" its religious minorities.

The incidents are occurring despite the PTI government's promises to keep a check on anti-Hindu sentiments and its failure to cater the minorities with equal rights and justice.

The cricketer-turned politician's time and again ranting of diabolic rhetoric against the RSS ideology, especially in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is a burning example.

Amid such incidents, the prime minister currently needs to focus on its cash-strapped economy and providing equal rights to his countrymen, instead of calling "the goons of the RSS" are lynching people, threatening judges, intellectuals, and deeming anyone who speaks against them as anti-nationals, which is "exactly what the Nazis did. India is heading towards disaster with extremist ideology".


India-Pakistan tensions 'less heated' now than 2 weeks ago: Donald Trump

Washington: The relationship between India and Pakistan is "less heated" now than what was two weeks ago, United States President Donald Trump has said, reiterating his offer to help the two South-Asian neighbours only if both of them want.

The comments by Trump were his first and comes two weeks since his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France on August 26. "India and Pakistan are having a conflict over Kashmir as you know. I think (it) is a little bit less heated right now than (what) was two weeks ago," Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday.

Tensions between the two neighbours escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status by scrapping provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution. "I get along with both countries very well," Trump said while responding to a question on his assessment of the situation between India and Pakistan. "I am willing to help them if they want. They know that. That (offer) is out there." During a meeting with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in July, Trump had offered to mediate between the two countries on the issue of Kashmir.

India was quick to reject the offer, saying the Kashmir issue was bilateral. It has also dismissed Trump's astonishing claim that Modi had asked him to mediate. During his meeting with Modi in France last month, Trump had said Kashmir is an issue that needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

By Lalit K Jha/PTI


All measures in Kashmir aimed at safeguarding lives, we have been successful, says Advisor to J&K Governor

Jammu: Asserting that the administration has successfully dealt with the law and order situation in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions, advisor to J-K governor Farooq Khan on Monday said that not a single bullet has been fired by security forces for over a month and slammed Pakistan for spreading lies.

He stressed that all measures in Kashmir were aimed at safeguarding the lives of people and normalcy was slowly returning to the Valley. "We have been successful in that (safeguarding lives). More than a month has now passed, but not even a single bullet has been fired by security forces and police to deal with the law and order situation. It is a big thing. It is the reality," he said, adding they "will not be cowed down" by the Pakistani propaganda. His remarks came on a day UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed concern on the restrictions and asked India to ease the current lockdown.

In her opening statement at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council, she asked both India and Pakistan to ensure that human rights of the Kashmiri people are respected and protected. Khan told reporters that the Indian government is exposing the propaganda by Pakistan which "has bitterly failed to internationalise the issue of Kashmir by spreading lies". "China too has failed... Everyone in the world knows it well that Pakistan is spreading propaganda and has been a master of lies," he said.

Normal life has remained affected in Kashmir since August 5, when the special status for Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped and restrictions were imposed. However, Khan told reporters that trade and business activity will resume soon. "The situation in the Valley is slowly getting normalised. You will soon see children attending schools and normal trade and business will resume soon," Khan said. He termed the firing by terrorists on a family in Sopore, in which a two-and-a-half-year-old child was injured, as an act of frustration.

Khan also called for making unified efforts to fight against the menace of malnutrition for a healthy and a prosperous nation. The Advisor stated this while chairing an inaugural event of POSHAN Maah-2019 as part of Jan Andolan under POSHAN Abhiyaan held at Convention Centre. Khan stressed on the utmost need for proper implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan in Jammu and Kashmir and insisted that the problem of malnutrition should be tackled on a war footing.