India’s Northeast Remains on Edge After Ethnic Clashes

Shootings and arson continued Monday in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, where clashes between security forces and tribal insurgents the previous day killed five people, media reports said.

The state, which borders Myanmar, has been roiled by violence for weeks after members of mostly Christian tribal groups clashed with the Hindu majority over its demands for special economic benefits.

More than 75 people have been killed in the fighting, the state’s worst ethnic clashes in decades. Hundreds have been injured and more than 35,000 have been displaced.

Authorities said Indian Home Minister Amit Shah was expected to arrive in the state capital, Imphal, on Monday evening to review the security situation and help restore peace in the state, where a curfew is in place and the internet has been shut off to stop rumors from spreading. 

The violence prompted the federal government to rush thousands of paramilitary and army troops to the state, and many of the recent deaths were caused by the security forces.

The state’s chief minister, N. Biren Singh, said Sunday that 40 Kuki insurgents were killed by government troops. It was not clear whether the figure was part of the overall death toll.

“The fight is not between communities, it is between Kuki rebels and government security forces,” Singh told reporters.

He said insurgents fired at civilians and burned down homes, prompting the security forces to counter their attacks.

The clashes occurred after the security forces began searching for weapons looted from police stations, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. 

Homes and buildings burned in some villages on Sunday, with plumes of grey smoke filling the skies. Troops also fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse a mob that attempted to take weapons from a police station near Imphal, said Sapam Ranjan, a state government spokesperson. He said 1,041 guns and 7,500 rounds of ammunition were looted in recent weeks, with authorities recovering about 500 weapons so far. 

Gunfire was reported Monday in districts near the capital, army officials said. Homes were also set ablaze in the Leimakhong area, they said.

The violence first broke out on May 3 after protests by more than 50,000 Kukis and members of other predominantly Christian tribal communities against the majority Meitei Hindu community’s demand for a special status that would give them benefits including access to forest land, cheap bank loans, health and educational facilities, and more government jobs.

The Kuki and other minority leaders say the Meitei community is comparatively well-off and that granting them more privileges would be unfair. The Meiteis say employment quotas and other benefits for the tribespeople would be protected.

Two-thirds of the state’s 2.5 million people live in a valley that comprises roughly 10% of the state’s total area. The Kuki and other tribes mainly live in the surrounding hill districts. 

your ad here

UN: Pledged Fund to Support Rohingya Refugees Grossly Insufficient

Bangladesh should not bear the burden of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees alone while the agencies of the United Nations are facing challenges to feed them, an official of the United Nations said Monday.

Olivier De Schutter, a U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made the statement after ending a 12-day trip to Bangladesh, where he visited camps sheltering the refugees from Myanmar. He said the response from the international community to support the refugees against the fund needed is “grossly insufficient.”

About $876 million are needed to support the community for a year, but only 17% of that has been pledged to date, he said, calling it “scandalous” at a news conference in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.

“Bangladesh should not be left to shoulder the burden of the presence of the refugees on its own. These [U.N.] agencies should be much better supported in their work,” De Schutter said.

He said the World Food Program has been forced in May to reduce the value of the monthly food vouchers it gives to each refugee from $12 to $10. It will be reduced further to $8 on June 1, he said.

“In a context in which food inflation this year was about 8%, that means that in the camps, children are undernourished,” De Schutter said. “The rates of malnutrition will increase. The rates of stunting will increase. The development of the child in that context will be endangered.”

Bangladesh has sheltered more than 1 million refugees as the Muslim Rohingya face widespread discrimination in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most are denied citizenship and other rights.

More than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh starting in late August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a “clearance operation” against them following attacks by a rebel group. The safety situation in Myanmar has worsened following a military takeover last year.

Bangladesh is currently working with China to start repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar as a pilot case. The U.N. said earlier that they were aware of such a move but were not part of it.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she would not force any refugees to move to Myanmar.

your ad here

70 Years of Mount Everest

Seventy years ago, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepali Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first humans to summit Everest on May 29, 1953.    

The British expedition made the two men household names around the world and changed mountaineering forever.   

Hundreds now climb the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak every year, fueling concerns of overcrowding and pollution on the mountain.    

AFP looks at the evolution of the Everest phenomenon.   

What is the mountain called? 

Initially known only to British mapmakers as Peak XV, the mountain was identified as the world’s highest point in the 1850s and renamed in 1865 after Sir George Everest, a former Surveyor General of India.    

On the border of Nepal and China and climbable from both sides, it is called Chomolungma or Qomolangma in Sherpa and Tibetan — “goddess mother of the world” — and Sagarmatha in Nepali, meaning “peak of the sky.”   

How has climbing Everest changed? 

The 1953 expedition was the ninth attempt on the summit and it took 20 years for the first 600 people to climb it. Now that number can be expected in a single season, with climbers catered to by experienced guides and commercial expedition companies.   

The monthslong journey to the base camp was cut to eight days with the construction of a small mountain airstrip in 1964 in the town of Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region.   

Gear is lighter, oxygen supplies are more readily available, and tracking devices make expeditions safer. Climbers today can summon a helicopter in case of emergency.     

Every season, experienced Nepali guides set the route all the way to the summit for paying clients to follow.   

But Billi Bierling of Himalayan Database, an archive of mountaineering expeditions, said some things remain similar: “They didn’t go to the mountains much different than we do now. The Sherpas carried everything. The expedition style itself hasn’t changed.”   

What is base camp like? 

The starting point for climbs proper, Everest Base Camp was once little more than a collection of tents at 5,364 meters (17,598 feet), where climbers lived off canned foods.   

Now fresh salads, baked goods and trendy coffee are available, with crackly conversations over bulky satellite phones replaced by Wi-Fi and Instagram posts.   

How does the news of a summit travel? 

Hillary and Tenzing summited Everest on May 29, but it only appeared in newspapers on June 2, the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation: the news had to be brought down the mountain on foot to a telegraph station in the town of Namche Bazaar, to be relayed to the British Embassy in Kathmandu.   

In 2011, British climber Kenton Cool tweeted from the summit with a 3G signal after his ninth successful ascent. More usually, walkie-talkie radios are standard expedition equipment and summiteers contact their base camp teams, who swiftly post on social media.   

In 2020, China announced 5G connectivity at the Everest summit.    

What are the effects of climate change?   

Warming temperatures are slowly widening crevasses on the mountain and bringing running water to previously snowy slopes.   

A 2018 study of Everest’s Khumbu glacier indicated it was vulnerable to even minor atmospheric warming, with the temperature of shallow ice already close to melting point.   

“The future of the Khumbu icefall is bleak,” its principal investigator, glaciologist Duncan Quincey, told AFP. “The striking difference is the meltwater on the surface of the glaciers.”   

Three Nepali guides were killed on the formation this year when a chunk of falling glacial ice swept them into a deep crevasse. 

It has become a popular cause for climbers to highlight, and expedition companies are starting to implement eco-friendly practices at their camps, such as solar power.   

What is the impact of social media? 

Click, post, repeat — the climbing season plays out on social media as excited mountaineers document their journey to Everest on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.   

Hashtags keep their sponsors happy, and the posts can catch the eyes of potential funders.    

That applies to both foreign climbers and their now tech-savvy Nepali guides.   

“Everyone posts nowadays, it is part of how we share and build our profile,” said Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, who has summited Everest multiple times and has 62,000 Instagram followers.   

Mountain of records? 

Veteran Nepali guides Kami Rita Sherpa and Pasang Dawa Sherpa both scaled Everest twice this season, with the latter twice matching the former’s record number of summits before Kami Rita reclaimed pole position with 28.   

There are multiple Everest record categories for first and fastest feats of endurance.   

But some precedents are more quixotic: in 2018, a team of British climbers, an Australian and a Nepali dressed in tuxedos and gowns for the world’s highest dinner party at 7,056 meters on the mountain’s Chinese side. 

How many people have attempted to climb Mount Everest?   

Since 1953, more than 6,000 people have attempted to summit Mount Everest, and at least 310 people have died on the mountain, according to the online site Everett Base Camp Trek.  

your ad here

Fresh Deadly Clashes Reported in Northeast India

Fresh deadly clashes were reported Sunday in the remote northeastern Indian state of Manipur although the exact number of fatalities was not immediately clear. 

Manipur has been on edge after an explosion of inter-ethnic violence this month killed at least 70 people and left tens of thousands displaced. 

The state’s chief minister N. Biren Singh told local media, in comments confirmed by a government official to AFP, that 40 suspected militants had died along with two police in the past two days.  

“The terrorists have been using M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles and sniper guns against civilians. They came to many villages to burn down homes,” local media quoted Singh as saying.  

“We have started taking very strong action against them with the help of the army and other security forces. We have got reports some 40 terrorists have been shot dead,” Singh was quoted as saying.  

However, while a military source confirmed an uptick of unrest, he said four people had been killed in the past 24 hours. 

“At least three armed miscreants — who were trying to set fire to empty houses and fired at the security forces when they tried to stop them — died in retaliatory firing,” the source told AFP, declining to be named. 

“One more armed miscreant was killed in Moreh and three others, including two security personnel, were injured,” the source said. 

The far-flung states of northeast India — sandwiched between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar — have long been a tinderbox of tensions between different ethnic groups. 

The violence in Manipur earlier in May was between the majority Meitei, who are mostly Hindus and live in and around the state capital Imphal, and the mainly Christian Kuki tribe in the surrounding hills. 

Most victims are believed to be from the Kuki community, with some of their villages and churches destroyed by Meitei mobs. But the Meitei were also targeted by the Kukis in some places.   

The initial spark was Kuki anger at the prospect of the Meitei being given guaranteed quotas of government jobs and other perks in a form of affirmative action.   

This also stoked long-held fears among the Kuki that the Meitei might be allowed to acquire land in areas currently reserved for them and other tribal groups.   

Thousands of troops were deployed to restore order, while around 30,000 people fled their homes for the safety of ad-hoc army-run camps for the displaced. Mobile internet has been cut for weeks.  

your ad here

Modi Inaugurates New Parliament Building in New Delhi 

India’s prime minister presided over the opening of the country’s new massive and controversial parliament building in New Delhi Sunday.

Many of the opposition parties refused to join in the opening ceremonies. They have criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s takeover of the ceremony and called for President Droupadi Murmu’s participation in the event.

The parties said in a joint statement last week, “ …Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building by himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult, but a direct assault on our democracy…”

Rahul Gandh, head of the main opposition Congress Party, tweeted that Modi was treating the occasion as his coronation ceremony.

Modi has said he will seek a third term in next year’s elections.

Many people have also argued that the nearly $120 million used to build parliament could have been put to better use or a portion could have been used to renovate the old parliament.

The new building replaces the parliament from the British era. Modi said in his address Sunday that India has left behind its colonial past.

Information from Associated Press was used in this report.


your ad here

Border Clashes Subside Between Iran, Afghanistan  

Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities and neighboring Iran said Sunday deadly clashes between their border security forces had subsided, with both sides engaging in talks to ease tensions.

The skirmishes erupted in the Afghan border province of Nimroz Saturday, killing two Iranian security forces and a Taliban border guard, officials in both countries said.

Both sides traded blame for the heavy exchange of cross-border gunfire, escalating Iran’s tensions with Afghanistan amid a dispute over water resources.

Sunday, the Iranian state-run IRNA news agency quoted a senior official as saying that “the situation is under control” in the conflict zone near the Sasuli border post in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Alireza Marhamati, the deputy provincial governor, said that “local Iranian and Afghan officials have held negotiations on the cause of the clashes and agreed to continue their talks.”

A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Affairs Ministry said in a statement that his government “does not want to fight with its neighbors” and insisted Iranian forces started the conflict, prompting Afghan border forces to retaliate.

Bilateral tensions have recently escalated over Iranian allegations that the Taliban are breaching a 1973 water-sharing treaty between Tehran and Kabul by blocking water flow from Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan to Iran’s arid eastern border regions.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, during a visit to the border province, called on the Taliban to respect the treaty, which envisions shared water resources and outlines access to monitoring of the water level. Raisi warned the de facto Afghan rulers against violating the agreement and vowed to defend Iran’s water rights.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes dialogue and negotiation are a good path to addressing any issue. Making excuses for war and negative actions do not serve the interest of any of the parties,” Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khowarazmi wrote on his official Twitter account.

The United Nations says Afghanistan and Iran have suffered from a prolonged drought, and drought conditions have worsened over the past decade.

Last week, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, responding to threatening statements by the Iranian leadership, said that Kabul was committed to the water treaty.

In a televised speech, Muttaqi urged Tehran not to overlook the region’s drought and try to resolve the issue in “face-to-face talks instead of making noises” through media.

“We also expect the officials of Iran to adjust their expectations in line with the treaty and base the criteria for judgment and comments on the provisions contained in the treaty,” he added.

Analysts warned that Afghanistan and the region at large could ill afford another conflict.

Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official, said the Taliban would avoid a standoff with Iran. He noted that Afghanistan is fragile after 40 years of war, and four million Afghans live on Iranian soil as refugees.

“Sure, skirmishes and then a war can start with Iran, but soon Afghanistan will end up as the terrain for proxy wars with Teheran,” said Farhadi. “Arms and munitions will flow to Afghanistan to fight Iran, but the fighters would be Afghan youth, and the destruction will occur in Afghanistan. Not a good perspective.”

Iran has retained its embassy in Kabul along with nearly two dozen neighboring and regional countries since the Taliban seized power nearly two years ago, but it has not recognized the new Afghan government nor has the world at large.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s right to education and work as well as a lack of political inclusivity in their government have deterred the international community from granting them legitimacy.

your ad here

‘Brahmastra’ Grabs Gongs at Bollywood Awards in UAE

Fantasy adventure “Brahmastra: Part One — Shiva” won a series of prizes as the glitzy International Indian Film Academy Awards show started in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Star songstress Shreya Ghoshal won best female playback singer for her turn in the romance-laced epic, which also took awards for music direction and lyrics.

The show, studded with flashy dance numbers, is being held in the capital of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, a third of whose population is Indian, for the second year running.

Earlier the green carpet — adopted in 2007 in a vote for environmentalism — bore some of Bollywood’s biggest names including Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan.

“What does IIFA mean for (Indian) cinema? I think opening up to the global stage and also bringing us to the global stage as well, so it’s exciting both ways,” said actress Jacqueline Fernandez, wearing an Arab-inspired head covering.

The Hindi-language film industry was worth $2.5 billion in 2019. India also releases hundreds of films in its 21 other official languages, churning out about 1,600 each year.

But Mumbai-based Bollywood, the world’s most prolific producer of movies, has been mired in crisis since the pandemic with ticket sales remaining low since cinemas reopened.

The rise in streaming services, competition from other parts of India and demand for meatier fare than Bollywood’s trademark song-and-dance routines have all contributed to the slump, experts say.

However, superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s “Pathaan” smashed Indian box office records in January, in a positive sign for the industry.

Indian cinema also received a boost in March when the viral dance hit “Naatu Naatu” won an Oscar for best song, a first for a film from the country.

The IIFA show, one of several Indian awards ceremonies, is aimed at reaching international audiences and has been held in several countries since its debut in London in 2000.

your ad here

India Gets New Parliament Building as Modi Remakes Capital’s Center

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a new parliament complex on Sunday, the centerpiece of a $2.4 billion project that aims to remake British colonial-era buildings in the capital’s center and give it a distinct Indian identity.

The inauguration, and the ongoing makeover of the heart of New Delhi based on Indian culture, traditions and symbols, comes a year before parliamentary elections in which Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will pitch its strong Hindu nationalist credentials, besides its performance in office over the last decade, to seek a third term.

The Modi government has also similarly renovated some of Hinduism’s most revered pilgrimage centers since first sweeping to power in 2014.

The new, triangular-shaped parliament complex is just across from the heritage building built by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in 1927, two decades before India’s independence.

The old parliament will be converted into a museum, the government has said.

It has said a new parliament building is badly needed as the existing structure “is highly stressed” for a number of reasons including capacity, infrastructure, technology and safety.

The new building, Modi said when he launched its construction in December 2020 during the pandemic, “would become a witness to the creation of a self-reliant India,” underlining another pet theme.

Besides modern technology, the new parliament has a total of 1,272 seats in two chambers, nearly 500 more than the old building, and at least three times as much space.

It features four stories and halls themed according to the national symbols of the peacock, lotus and banyan tree, and murals, sculptures and art from across the country capturing 5,000 years of Indian civilization, said an architect directly involved in the project.

But critics of Modi see the new parliament, designed by an architect from his home state of Gujarat, as an attempt to bolster his brand of nationalism as part of a personal legacy.

Opposition parties have announced a boycott of the inauguration. The president, the highest executive of the country, should open the new parliament and not Modi, the opposition members said.

The president’s office declined to comment. An official in Modi’s office said the prime minister respects the constitutional head of the country.

On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed a public interest petition that sought a direction from the court to get the president to inaugurate the building instead of Modi.

The overall makeover includes the new parliament, the construction of several government buildings along the lawns of India Gate in the center of the city and new residences for the vice-president and the prime minister.

The plan has drawn objections from conservationists and urban planners who say it will obliterate the character of the city.

“The decision to build a new parliament building was abrupt and there has been no transparency, probity and frugality in the entire process,” said A.G. Krishna Menon, an architect and conservation consultant.

your ad here

Pakistan Hands Over 33 Pro-Imran Khan Protesters for Trial in Military Courts

Thirty-three supporters of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan have been handed over to the army to face trial in military courts on charges of attacking armed forces’ installations, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said Friday. 

The 33 accused are among the thousands detained since Khan’s May 9 arrest sparked violent protests across Pakistan. Those handed over to army authorities are accused of trespassing on and vandalizing sensitive military installations, according to Sanaullah. 

Khan was arrested on graft charges, which he denies. While he was subsequently released on bail, his confrontation has escalated with the country’s powerful generals. 

The political unrest has deteriorated as Pakistan faces its worst economic crisis in decades. Inflation is at record highs, economic growth is anemic, and there are fears the country could default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund unlocks delayed disbursements. 

“The accused who are being handed over to the military are those who trespassed and entered very sensitive defense installations,” Sanaullah told a press conference in Islamabad. 

He said that evidence suggested the protesters damaged or stole important equipment, computers and other sources of data collection. 

Sanaullah said only those involved in breaching out-of-bounds areas would face trial under army laws, suggesting there would not be mass trials in military courts.

But in response to a question, he also suggested that Khan could also be tried in a military court, saying: “as far as my own assessment and the evidence we have … this man is the architect of all this mess and planning, so yes, he comes under this category.” 

Rights groups have raised concerns over military trials of civilians, saying they cannot ensure a fair trial. Such courts are closed to outsiders and the media. 

Sanaullah said after a verdict from the military courts the accused would have a right to appeal to a high court and then the Supreme Court. 

your ad here

Amnesty International: Investigate Taliban for Restrictions on Women

A Friday report by Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists calls for Afghanistan’s Taliban to be investigated for possible crimes under international law because of severe restrictions on females.  

The report, the groups said, provides “a detailed legal analysis of how the Taliban’s draconian restrictions on the rights of Afghanistan’s women and girls, together with the use of imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, could amount to the crime against humanity of gender persecution.”

“These are international crimes. They are organized, widespread, systematic,” Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International secretary-general, said in a statement, “Let there be no doubt: this is a war against women.” 

Santiago A. Canton, secretary-general of the International Commission of Jurists, said the joint investigation, covering the period from August 2021 to January 2023, indicates Taliban repression of women meets all the criteria to qualify as a crime against humanity of gender persecution.

your ad here

Isolated Taliban Find Active Diplomacy With China

Among a small number of ambassadors who remain in Kabul, Wang Yu, Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, appears the busiest.

This week, Wang met with three Taliban ministers, two of whom are particularly shunned by Western diplomats — Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister who has a $10 million terrorism bounty over his head from the United States, and Nida Mohammad Nadem, the higher education minister who has closed universities for Afghan girls.

Like his counterpart in Kabul, Sayed Muhayuddin Sadaat, the Taliban’s ambassador in Beijing, maintains a busy schedule meeting nationwide with Chinese government and corporate officials.

China is among a small number of countries that host a Taliban charge d’affaires. Short of a formal recognition, Beijing has practically treated the Taliban regime as not only Afghanistan’s legitimate government but also a trade, investment and security partner.

“A crucial driving factor behind China’s shift lies in its preference for political systems that guarantee longer-term predictability in bilateral relationships, even if led by Islamist groups like the Taliban,” Javid Ahmad, a former Afghan ambassador, told VOA.

“The Chinese leaders operate under the assumption that their success in the competition with the West hinges on their leverage over smaller intermediary states like Afghanistan.”

3-3 policy

Even while sharing a rugged and always closed 92-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan, China has traditionally treated the country distantly, saying it follows a policy of “3 Respects” and “3 Nevers.”

“China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, respects the independent choices made by the Afghan people, and respects the religious beliefs and national customs of Afghanistan,” reads a policy statement issued by China’s foreign ministry on April 12.

Perhaps it is out of that respect that China has failed to take any punitive action against the Taliban, which, according to the United Nations and other independent human rights groups, has imposed a nationwide gender-apartheid regime denying women the most basic human rights.

“China never interferes in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, never seeks selfish interests in Afghanistan, and never pursues so-called sphere of influence,” the policy statement continues.

Lithium deposits

Around the world, Beijing has been accused of maintaining a highly exploitative policy toward low-income countries in Asia and Africa, where Chinese companies have invested in mine extraction and large construction projects.

After signing an oil extraction contract with a Chinese firm earlier this year, Taliban officials now say China is interested in investing in lithium mining in Afghanistan.

Landlocked Afghanistan reportedly has more than $1 trillion worth of precious minerals, including the highly sought-after lithium deposits used in rechargeable batteries.

“Part and parcel of the way they [China] approach a bilateral relationship is extractive, literally and figuratively extractive, looking for advantages that they can take from a bilateral relationship, including the potential for critical minerals,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, told reporters Wednesday in response to a VOA question about recent rapprochements in China-Taliban relations.

Chinese interests in Afghanistan’s natural resources are not new, as it signed a multibillion-dollar copper mining contract with the former Afghan government in 2007, though the project never started.

The recent oil deal signed with the Taliban “is the same one CNPC [China National Petroleum Corporation] reached back in 2011. The regime asked the Chinese to sign a new deal, or the project would not be allowed to continue,” Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, told VOA.

China is still concerned about instability in Afghanistan and is unlikely to invest in mining there in the near future, she said.

Targeting Uyghurs

Accused of torturing minority Muslim Uyghurs in indoctrination camps, Chinese communist leaders have voiced concerns about allowing safe havens for Uyghur militants in neighboring Afghanistan.

“China’s main concern is possible arms sale to Uyghurs and the group reorganizing to establish tactical partnerships with other militants,” said Ahmad, the former Afghan ambassador.

The Taliban say no terrorist group will be allowed to use the Afghan territory against other countries, including the Uyghur dissident group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement.

“Within the Taliban, the Haqqani faction manages Uyghur affairs, and they have traded certain concessions to the Chinese in exchange for surveillance systems and cash,” Ahmad said.

Under an agreement made with the United States in 2020, the Taliban pledged they would not permit safe havens for al-Qaida and its affiliates in areas under the group’s control — a commitment U.S. officials say the Taliban broke by hosting former al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in downtown Kabul.

“[The] Taliban’s religious conviction determines it cannot abandon its Muslim brothers,” Sun said.

Condemned and sanctioned by the Western countries, the Taliban regime appears desperate for approval from regional countries in exchange for mining deals and security assurances.

your ad here

Pakistan Court Allows Military to Prosecute 16 Supporters of Ex-PM Khan

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan handed over 16 supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan to the army Thursday for prosecution in military tribunals for their alleged roles in violent protests sparked by his recent short-lived arrest.

The court in the eastern city of Lahore ruled the charges against the suspects “are exclusively liable to be inquired, investigated and triable by the military authorities in court martial.” It directed city jail authorities “to hand over the custody of the accused” to the relevant military officer “for further proceedings.”

The 16 suspects include a former provincial lawmaker of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, the country’s largest.

Pakistan has rounded up thousands of people, including women, in a countrywide crackdown in connection with the several days of PTI-led nationwide protests.

The agitation erupted on May 9, when the popular 70-year-old opposition leader was violently taken into custody by paramilitary forces on corruption charges from outside a courtroom in the capital, Islamabad. The Supreme Court outlawed Khan’s arrest two days later.

Protesters in parts of Pakistan stormed the public and military property, with some setting fire to the residence of a top army commander in Lahore amid allegations the security institution was behind the arrest.

The army chief, General Asim Munir, swiftly announced that those involved in attacks against his institution would be brought to justice through military courts.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet subsequently endorsed the decision, despite demands by rights groups not to try civilians in military tribunals.

Khan and his party leaders have condemned the violence against military installations, alleging military intelligence agencies infiltrated the arsonists to justify the crackdown on his political party. The military says it has collected “irrefutable evidence” against arsonists.

On Thursday, the cricket star-turned-politician denounced the decision to try his party members in military courts, saying that “the full force of state terror” had been unleashed against the PTI “to dismantle the party” on the pretext of arson.

“Over 10,000 PTI workers and supporters in jail, including senior leadership and some facing custodial torture,” Khan wrote on Twitter.

Pakistani authorities have recently released some of the senior PTI leaders from custody after they announced they were either quitting the party or politics, a move Khan says stemmed from custodial torture and pressure by the military to isolate him.

Critics have long opposed the prosecution of civilians in military courts, saying they deny citizens the right to a fair trial because proceedings are held in secrecy and even family members are not allowed to attend them.

The army officer-run tribunals are exclusively used to try military personnel and those condemned as state enemies.

Amnesty International called on Pakistan Thursday to immediately reverse its decision and try the suspects in the country’s civilian judicial system, using ordinary criminal laws commensurate with the offense.

“We have documented a catalog of human rights violations stemming from trying civilians in military courts in Pakistan, including flagrant disregard for due process, a lack of transparency, and coerced confessions,” the global watchdog said.

Khan’s party said Thursday that authorities had not restored internet service around his Zaman Park residence in Lahore since Wednesday and he “is being subjected to a virtual house arrest” with his home cordoned off by police.

A PTI spokesman said that telecommunication authorities had abruptly cut off the internet connection on Wednesday, shortly before Khan was set to join an online meeting with several British politicians to brief them on alleged human rights abuses against his party. The government has not commented on the allegations but residents in the area have confirmed suspension of internet service.

Conservative member of parliament Sara Britcliffe was among the attendees. She took to Twitter to criticize Pakistani authorities for cutting off the internet. She wrote that she was “extremely concerned by the deteriorating economic, political and security situation” in Pakistan.

A parliamentary vote of no-confidence removed Khan from power in April 2022, nearly four years into his coalition government. He accused the military and Sharif of being behind what he condemned as an illegal vote. He has since held massive countrywide rallies to press for early elections.

Since his ouster, Khan remains embroiled in more than 100 legal cases, ranging from corruption and terrorism to sedition and blasphemy. He rejects all the charges as politically motivated and an attempt by the military to disqualify him from the elections scheduled for the fall.

your ad here

Armenian and Azerbaijani Leaders Spar in Front of Putin

The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia argued openly in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in exchanges that underlined the extent of their differences over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

At a meeting in Moscow, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan raised the issue of the Lachin corridor, the road which links Armenia to the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani activists in mid-December began obstructing the road, which Pashinyan noted should be under the control of Russian peacekeepers, and Baku subsequently erected a checkpoint along it.

“Azerbaijan, unfortunately, has blocked this corridor,” Pashinyan said at a round-table meeting of the Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow.

Azberbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev responded: “Azerbaijan did not block any corridor… There is no need to use this platform for unfounded accusations.”

The two leaders continued arguing for several minutes before Putin closed off the conversation, noting that the topic was sensitive. He was due to host three-way talks with Aliyev and Pashinyan later.

“We will now have the opportunity, as we agreed, to talk about everything calmly in a businesslike manner in a trilateral format, and I hope to reach some agreements that will put the situation not only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also in the region, on the path of constructive development,” Putin said. “I can assure you that everyone here has an interest in this, absolutely everyone.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at loggerheads for three decades, fighting two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh. In recent months, both sides have expressed increasing willingness to sign a permanent peace agreement, even as regular skirmishes have continued.

Minutes before the testy exchanges with Pashinyan, Aliyev had said there were “serious grounds for the normalisation of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the basis of mutual recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

your ad here

Bangladesh Promises Free, Fair Elections in Response to US Visa Curbs

Bangladesh will take steps to tackle and prevent unlawful practices or interference in its elections, authorities said on Thursday, a day after the United States threatened curbs on citizens of the South Asian nation who undermine them. 

Concern flared after accusations of vote-rigging and the targeting of the political opposition marred national elections in 2014 and 2018, charges denied by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States is adopting a new policy to restrict visas for Bangladeshis who undermine the democratic election process at home. 

“The government apparatus will take necessary measures to prevent and address any unlawful practices or interference … to compromise the smooth and participatory conduct of the elections,” the Bangladesh foreign ministry said in response. 

“The electoral process will remain under strict vigilance, including by international observers as accredited by the Election Commission,” it added in a statement. 

The commission retains the ability to perform its functions in full independence, credibility and efficiency, the ministry said. 

Political analyst Badiul Alam Majumder welcomed the U.S. curbs. 

“I see this restriction as a preventive measure,” he added. “This could avert efforts by individuals to rig elections in their favor.” 

Hasina, who has kept tight control of the South Asian nation since coming to power in 2009, has been accused of human rights violations, obliteration of press freedom, suppression of dissent and the jailing of critics, including many supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). 

The BNP has been calling for Hasina to step down and for the next election, due in January 2024, to be held under a neutral caretaker government, a demand her government has rejected. 

“This new visa policy proves once again that the international community is certain that a free and fair election is not possible under this government,” said a senior BNP leader, Zahir Uddin Swapon. 

Since December 2021, Washington has maintained sanctions on an elite police unit targeting crime and terrorism, which has been accused of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. 

your ad here

Bodies of 18 Migrants Who Died While Being Smuggled Into Bulgaria Are Returned to Kabul 

The bodies of 18 Afghan migrants who died while being smuggled into Bulgaria were returned to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Taliban government’s Foreign Ministry said. 

Bulgarian authorities discovered the bodies in a secret compartment below a load of lumber in the back of a truck left on a highway not far from the capital, Sofia, in February. 

They confirmed all 18 had died of suffocation. Bulgarian authorities detained seven people in connection with the deaths. The director of Bulgaria’s National Investigation Service described the case as the country’s deadliest involving migrants. 

Borislav Sarafov, the director, said the migrants were “pressed against each other like in a tin can,” which had caused their slow and painful deaths. He described it as “an extraordinary human tragedy.” 

The ministry’s deputy spokesman in Kabul, Zia Ahmad Takal, said his government paid for the repatriation of the bodies. He blamed the Bulgarian legal process for their delayed return and the “cruel banking restrictions” imposed on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021 following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the country. 

Takal said the bodies were handed back to the families and urged Afghans not to risk their lives on illegal smuggling routes. 

Another 34 Afghan migrants on the same truck survived the ordeal, but they were dehydrated and suffered frostbite. They had entered Bulgaria from Turkey, hoping to reach Western Europe. 

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they have imposed measures in line with their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. 

They have barred women from public spaces and banned girls’ education beyond the sixth grade. The international community has decried the Taliban’s actions, leading to the country’s further isolation as it faces an economic crisis and drought threat.

your ad here

Pakistan’s Ex-PM Khan Softens Demand for Snap Vote Amid Crackdown on Party

Pakistan’s embattled former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday softened his year-long demand for early elections and said he is forming a committee for talks with the government to end the country’s lingering political turmoil.

The offer, if accepted by the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, may help ease political tensions amid stalled talks between the International Monetary Fund and cash-strapped Pakistan, which is currently trying to avoid a default.

“If they tell the committee that they have a solution and the country can be governed better without me, or [if] they tell the committee the holding of elections in October benefits Pakistan, I will step back,” Khan said in a speech on his party’s YouTube channel.

Wednesday’s rare overture from the 70-year-old former cricket star turned Islamist politician comes amid an ongoing crackdown by Sharif’s government on Khan supporters charged with attacking public property and military installations in the country. Although not a member of parliament, Khan leads a broad opposition movement against the government.

Khan was ousted from office by an alliance of opposition parties headed by Sharif in a no-confidence vote last year, and has since been calling for new elections. He alleged, without providing evidence, that Sharif, the U.S. and the Pakistani military conspired to remove him from office — allegations they deny. Khan later backtracked saying only the military and Sharif were behind his ouster.

Earlier this month, thousands of supporters from Khan’s party staged violent protests following Khan’s arrest by officials from the National Accountability Bureau, which saw him dragged out of a court in the capital, Islamabad.

Over three days of violence, Khan’s supporters responded by attacking the military’s headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and even burned down the residence of a top regional army commander in the eastern city of Lahore.

It drew nationwide condemnation, prompting several top leaders from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to resign.

In recent days, Khan has dialed down his rhetoric.

In a video message for his supporters on Wednesday, the former premier said he was ready to form a committee to hold talks with the government. He said he will step back from his demand for the holding of a snap vote if his committee is convinced that the holding of the parliamentary vote scheduled in October “benefits Pakistan.”

Under the constitution, the next vote is due in October when the parliament completes its term.

Khan’s largely unexpected offer to pull back from demanding snap elections comes a day after he appeared before anti-corruption authorities in Islamabad in connection with a graft case. No details were available about Khan’s appearance before the National Accountability Bureau, which quizzed him for more than four hours.

Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi are accused of accepting property as a gift to build a private university in exchange for providing benefits to a real estate tycoon. 

Khan denies the charge, saying he and his wife were not involved in any wrongdoing. 

Khan’s offer to pull back comes amid a crackdown against those who were linked to the recent violence in which at least 10 people were killed. It also came after several of Khan’s deputies, including former information minister Fawad Chaudhry and human rights minister Shireen Mazari, resigned over the recent violence.

Asad Umar, the secretary-general of Khan’s party, in a major blow also resigned Wednesday amid fears that Khan’s party was being dismantled by his political opponents ahead of the next elections.

Since his ouster, Khan has been embroiled in more than 100 legal cases, and he has been granted protection from arrest in multiple cases until June 8.

The lingering political turmoil has worsened the economic crisis in cash-strapped Pakistan, which is desperately waiting for the release of a key $1.1 billion tranche from the 2019 $6 billion bailout package loan to Islamabad.

Pakistan witnessed one of the worst week’s of inflation — 50% — this month after Sharif’s government slashed subsidies and raised taxes to comply with the bailout terms to secure the release of the tranche. It has been on hold since December.

On Wednesday, Sharif in televised remarks at a gathering in Islamabad denounced recent attacks by Khan’s supporters on military installations, saying “a red line was crossed” when Khan’s supporters staged violent protests.

He said all those linked to the attacks on military installations and public property will be prosecuted. 

your ad here

G20 Tourism Meeting Ends in Kashmir With Appeals to Revive Local Cinema 

As a high-profile meeting of tourism ministers from Group of 20 nations ended in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, local officials said they hoped the attention would lead to more business for the local tourism and film industries.

The G20 consists of 19 of the world’s biggest economies plus the European Union.

Kashmir reported record tourism last year, with 18 million visitors who sought out the region’s diverse landscapes, lakes and snow-capped Himalayan peaks.

Local officials, however, see a brighter future in revising the region’s film industry.

Sameer Kaul, a leader of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, a regional political party, said the industry would be helped in part by loosening up the region’s heavy security.

Speaking to VOA, Kaul said, “We shall have to go beyond political tokenism and facilitate the creation of hospitality infrastructure, supporting human resources and involve the local population as opposed to restricting their movement and forcing them to stay homebound every time an event of any kind is held here.”

Starting in the 1960s, the region was a favored location for India’s widely popular Bollywood movies.

That largely ended three decades ago when political unrest in Kashmir suspended most film shoots. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a privately owned economic research group in Mumbai, Jammu and Kashmir now has the third-highest unemployment in India, with an alarming 23.1% rate.

Economy revived by film?

In 2021, the government of Jammu and Kashmir rolled out a five-year plan to try to boost the local film industry, but locals are critical.

Ayash Arif, a 60-year-old artist with decades of experience in the industry, said the current policy promoting the film industry is not working.

“The policy has not been implemented and is not functioning. We don’t know anything about it,” Arif said. “There is no film council, as is mentioned in the policy.”

According to Arif, regional cinema needs to be developed to provide maximum employment to the locals. “We need soft loans from the government and associated agencies to produce a maximum number of regional films that will provide jobs to locals.”

Sushil Chaudhary, the founder of mobile cinema operator Picture Time DigiPlex, said to bring back the past glory of the region’s film industry, government help is necessary.

“I hope to see G20 policymakers do some miracle to bring back the happy times,” Chaudhary said.

Bilal A. Jan, an award-winning filmmaker from Srinagar, told VOA that filmmakers need funding that must finance both fiction and nonfiction films in different regional languages.

Apurva Chandra, secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said during the meeting that more than 404 films, TV soap operas and advertisements were permitted for shooting in Srinagar.


A handicraft trader, Irfan Hamdani, told VOA that rather than showing off Kashmir as an example of stability and normalcy in the region, the government should focus on addressing the area’s burgeoning unemployment problems.

Fifty-three foreign delegates, including 46 from G20 and specially invited countries, along with seven representatives from multilateral organizations, participated in the tourism meeting in Srinagar. China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and special invitee Egypt chose not to attend.

your ad here

Afghanistan Restarts Direct Flights to China After 3 Years

The Taliban have announced the resumption of direct flights between Afghanistan and China after a gap of three years, saying it would help boost bilateral economic and political relations.

The first weekly passenger flight of the national flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines left Kabul on Wednesday for Urumqi, the capital of the western Chinese border province of Xinjiang. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the air operation in early 2020. 

The Taliban deputy minister for transport and civil aviation, Ghulam Jilani Wafa, hailed the resumption of the air service while addressing reporters at the airport in the Afghan capital.

“These flights would directly impact enhancing economic, political, and commercial ties between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and China,” Wafa said, using the official title for the Taliban’s unrecognized government.

No country, including China, has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, mainly over human rights concerns and restrictions imposed on women’s access to education and work.

China has stepped up engagements with its conflict-ravaged neighbor since the Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021, when all United States-led Western troops closed out their involvement in the Afghan war and departed the country after almost two decades.

On Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to Kabul, Wang Yu, told Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi that Beijing “has maintained normal relations with Afghanistan and is willing to strengthen it.”

Muttaqi’s office said the Chinese diplomat promised his country would facilitate increased Afghan exports to China and expedite “preliminary work” on the Mes Ainak mines, which contain Afghanistan’s largest copper deposits.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has said it hopes for Chinese investment in the site, which is about 40 kilometers southeast of the Afghan capital.

In April, the ministry reportedly talked with a Chinese company about a potential $10 billion deal to extract lithium but offered no further details. The South Asian nation has an estimated untapped mineral deposit of about $1 trillion, including iron ore, copper, lithium, gold, gemstones, and hydrocarbon resources.

In January, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Wang jointly announced a contract with a Chinese company to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin in the northern provinces of Afghanistan over the next 25 years.

The deal would bring about $540 million in Chinese investment and would create an estimated 3,000 jobs, according to Taliban officials. China reportedly will build a refinery in Afghanistan to process the oil.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attended a trilateral dialogue with the Taliban and Pakistan in Islamabad earlier in May, and he agreed to extend Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan.

Islamabad has received billions of dollars in Chinese investment, building major economic infrastructure projects, such as roads, power plants, and ports. The collaboration — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC — is the BRI’s flagship project. Both countries say they are set to link it to Afghanistan to promote regional connectivity.

The Chinese foreign ministry recently released an 11-point policy statement regarding Afghanistan. It emphasized the need for the Taliban to ensure “moderate and prudent” governance in Afghanistan through an “open and inclusive” political structure, while urging the international community to enhance engagement with Kabul.

The statement also expressed hope the de facto Afghan authorities would fulfill their “commitment in earnest” to effectively combat terrorism.

In exchange for its economic outreach, China primarily seeks assurances from the Taliban to prevent the spread of extremism from Afghanistan into Xinjiang and beyond and ensure the security of Chinese nationals.

Beijing has long alleged that extremists linked to the anti-China East Turkestan Islamic Movement use sanctuaries on Afghan soil to wage cross-border terrorism.

China’s deepening engagement with Afghanistan apparently stems from its interest in mineral extractions and to further its own influence in the broader region. 

your ad here

Taliban Guidelines for Women’s Work ‘Nearly Complete’

Months after banning Afghan women from work for the United Nations and other aid agencies, Taliban authorities have told aid workers that new guidelines allowing women to return to humanitarian work are almost complete.

“Taliban leaders in Kandahar said ‘guidelines’ that will allow women back to work & resume girls’ education are ‘nearly completed,’” Jon Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), tweeted on Wednesday after meeting Taliban officials in their stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have not said when the new rules will go into effect. It is also unclear whether the new guidelines will permit women to return to jobs in public service.

A Taliban official who met Egeland said aid agencies should expand their operations because “corruption and insecurity have been completely terminated” in Afghanistan.

Immediately after seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban fired almost all female government employees except in the health and education sectors. No woman serves in the Taliban’s interim cabinet.

The Islamist leadership has also closed secondary schools for girls for nearly two years, though it has said the ban is temporary and will be lifted after new guidelines are completed.

Until the new guidelines are announced, some female aid workers could return to work under an interim solution.

“We have initial agreement of looking for interim solutions so that our brave professional female colleagues can come back to work,” Egeland said in a video adding that the NRC would not work with male-only staff.

Since the ban on women’s work, the NRC has downgraded its activities in Afghanistan by 40%, Egeland said.

Huge funding gaps

In addition to sparking widespread international condemnation, the ban on women’s work has also adversely affected humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, the U.N. warned about “huge funding gaps” disrupting critical aid work in the country.

To assist over 28 million vulnerable Afghans, some of whom face starvation, the U.N. has asked donors for $4.6 billion this year. As of May 24, less than 8% of the appeal ($353 million) has been fulfilled.

The United States has contributed about $35 million to the appeal this year, second only to Japan’s $61 million contribution. Last year, the United States was the largest donor to the Afghanistan appeal and gave over $1.2 billion.

Earlier this year, Thomas West, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced for various reasons.

In response to global criticism of their misogynistic policies, Taliban officials insist their denial of women’s basic rights is an internal Afghanistan matter and that it should not be “politicized” to cut off aid to the country.


your ad here

India’s Hosting of G20 Meeting in Disputed Kashmir Raises Questions of International Acceptance

Tranquil rides on the scenic Dal Lake in intricately carved wooden shikara boats. Traditional dance to the beat of local music. A performance by actor Raj [Ram] Charan to “Naatu Naatu,” this year’s Oscar-winning song featuring the Indian movie star.  

All are part of New Delhi’s effort to welcome G-20 delegates to its part of Kashmir, the Himalayan territory disputed with its neighbor, Pakistan.  


As India attempted to exude a sense of normalcy by hosting the third G-20 tourism working group meeting in Kashmir amid heavy security and Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari conducted a protest campaign on his side of the divided territory, the status of the 75-year-old conflict looked murky.  


Expressing outrage, Bhutto Zardari called India’s decision to hold the first major event on its side of Kashmir since revoking its special autonomy almost four years ago a “display of arrogance.” 


“That was India sending a message to the world that we don’t believe in international law,” Bhutto Zardari told VOA. “We can violate international [United Nations] Security Council Resolutions, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And by holding the event in occupied Kashmir today, they are sending the same message to their participants and to the international world.”  

This year, as the president of the G-20 — a group of 19 of the world’s biggest economies plus the European Union — New Delhi is hosting nearly 100 events across the country. 


India’s Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar rejected Pakistan’s objections to hosting the tourism conference in the disputed territory’s summer capital, Srinagar.   


Pakistan has “nothing to do with the G-20, nothing to do with even Srinagar and Kashmir,” Jaishankar told reporters early this month.  

The South Asian nuclear rivals have fought three wars over the disputed region since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. A 1948 U.N Security Council resolution that outlines a process to resolve the issue has never been fully implemented.   


Kamran Bokhari, a senior director at the Washington-based New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, told VOA that currently, the Kashmir conflict has little relevance internationally because it is “unresolvable” and “mired in a stalemate.” 


“The only reason that it has any importance is because it is between two nuclear-armed historic rivals in the most densely populated region of the world,” Bokhari said in written comments.  

Former Indian diplomat Manju Seth called the dispute a matter of perception. 


“I think disputed as far as who is concerned, you know? In our view, it is no longer disputed, and it’s … always been a part of our country,” Seth told VOA, reiterating New Delhi’s stance.  


While most countries sent just local staff to the tourism conference, Pakistani allies China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey skipped the event. However, only China, which also has a border dispute with neighboring India, issued a condemnation.  

“[This] says something about how the issue itself is defined by the international community, contrary to what India claims [it is seen] as an international dispute,” Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, told VOA.  


She rejected the notion that attendance by dozens of G-20 delegates was a quiet endorsement of India’s position on Kashmir, instead blaming global politics for the continuation of the decades-old conflict. 


“The fact that the … Security Council has been unable to implement its own resolutions on Kashmir … is a reflection of big power politics,” said Lodhi. 

Fernand de Varennes, U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues, recently criticized the meeting, saying that by hosting the session in Kashmir, “India is seeking to normalize what some have described as a military occupation.”  


Reeling from decades of separatist militancy that has killed tens of thousands, Indian-administered Kashmir is among the most heavily militarized parts of the world. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the insurgency, but Pakistan says it only provides moral support to the separatist cause.  


Security was bolstered for the event, with New Delhi deploying National Security Guards, marine commandos and Border Security Force personnel to join dedicated police units. As the event drew closer, though, security moved into the background to give a sense of normalcy amid reports of mass detentions.   

Bokhari said the fact the G-20 is happening in Kashmir shows the most powerful nations have accepted New Delhi’s claims the security situation has improved.  


“Obviously, India has been able to demonstrate that it has things more or less under control,” he said.  


According to India’s minister of tourism, G. Kishan Reddy, a record 18.4 million tourists visited Kashmir in 2022, with the government expecting that number to grow. 


However, only 20,000 of the millions of tourists were foreign visitors, according to local officials.   

As India works to make the conflict-riddled scenic valley welcoming for globe-trotters, Lodhi notes, “Pakistan has no choice but to continue to internationalize the issue, to keep raising it at key forums.”   


New Delhi says it will not discuss the issue with Pakistan until Islamabad stops supporting terrorist activities against it, a charge Pakistan denies.  


“We would like to discuss … the status of what is [the part of Kashmir’] with Pakistan, which was originally a part of India,” Seth said.  


Earlier this month, Jaishankar told reporters, “There is only one issue to discuss on Kashmir, that is when does Pakistan vacate its illegal occupation of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.”   


Pakistan calls its part of Kashmir, Azad or Free Kashmir.   


Some information for this story came from Reuters. 

your ad here