Kashmir nuclear conflict warning 'daft'

Updated 23 January 2013
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Kashmir nuclear conflict warning 'daft'

SRINAGAR, India: The top elected official in Indian Kashmir yesterday described a public advisory telling residents to prepare for nuclear war by building basement shelters as a “daft idea”.
The State Disaster Response Force in a notice this week urged people to build shelters to prepare for a potential nuclear conflict in the disputed region, which has been on edge after deadly border clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops.
“What a daft idea!” Indian Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a post on a micro-blogging website, referring to the advisory which appeared in a local English-language newspaper.
The notice instructed residents in the Himalayan region to build toilet-equipped underground shelters “where the whole family can stay for a fortnight” and said the bunkers should be stocked with non-perishable food.
A cease-fire took hold last week in the territory after India and Pakistan agreed to halt cross-border firing that threatened to unravel a fragile peace process between the nuclear-armed nations, but tensions remain.
State civil defense authorities in Kashmir confirmed that they had issued the notice on Monday but said it “should not be connected with anything else”, in an apparent reference to the recent border flare-up.
The advisory was part of regular year-round civil defense preparedness, Mubarak Ganai, deputy inspector general of civil defense in the Kashmir police force, told AFP.
The notice in the Greater Kashmir daily vividly described a nuclear war scenario to prepare residents to deal with “the initial shock wave”, telling people to “wait for the winds to die down and debris to stop falling”.
“If the blast wave does not arrive within five seconds of the flash, you were far enough from the ground zero,” it said.
The prime minister of Pakistani-administered Kashmir yesterday dismissed the nuclear warning as a pressure tactic.
"India cannot impose even conventional war on Pakistan, and if it does, each and every child of Kashmir will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan armed forces against India," said Chaudhry Abdul Majeed.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the divided territory. Each country controls a part of the region but claims it in full.
Earlier this month, three Pakistani soldiers and two Indian soldiers were killed in the worst bout of fighting in Kashmir since a cease-fire accord was signed by the countries in 2003.
In light of the violence, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday he was reviewing future ties with Pakistan.


UN Security Council to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh as it eyes action on Rohingya crisis

Updated 48 min 10 sec ago
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UN Security Council to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh as it eyes action on Rohingya crisis

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will pay a visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar beginning Saturday as it weighs next steps to address one of the world’s worst refugee crises, stemming from the forced exodus of Muslim Rohingya.
Myanmar has come under international scrutiny since a military campaign launched in August drove more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes in northern Rakhine state and into crowded camps in Bangladesh.
The council is urging Myanmar to allow their safe return and take steps to end decades of discrimination that the Muslim minority has suffered in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The visit kicks off in the camps of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh where ambassadors will meet refugees, whose harrowing accounts of killings, rape and the torching of villages at the hands of Myanmar’s military and militias have been documented in UN human rights reports.
Led by Kuwait, Britain and Peru, the four-day visit is expected to include a trip by helicopter to Rakhine to allow ambassadors to tour villages affected by the violence, including Pan Taw Pyin and Shwe Zar.
The council will hold talks with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out in defense of the Rohingya, and with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said the visit was not about “naming and shaming” Myanmar, but that “the message will be very clear for them: the international community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it.”
“We are coming to see how can we help, how can we push things forward,” he said, stressing that the current situation was “not acceptable.”
“700,000 people have fled their country and they cannot go back. It’s a humanitarian disaster.”
After months of deliberations, Myanmar finally agreed this month to allow the council to visit as the government rejected accusations from the United Nations and Western countries that the attacks against the Rohingya were ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar has said the military operation in Rakhine is aimed at rooting out extremists.
British Ambassador Karen Pierce said it was “incredibly important” for the council to see the situation on the ground as it considers “what needs to be done next to help Myanmar develop as a modern, political and economic entity.”
The United States and its European partners in the council have faced strong opposition to action on the Rohingya crisis from China, a supporter of Myanmar’s former ruling junta.
The council adopted a statement in November that called on Myanmar to rein in its military, but there has been no resolution, a stronger measure that China would likely block as one of the veto-wielding permanent members.
“This trip represents an opportunity for the council to press the reset button,” said Akshaya Kumar, UN deputy director for Human Rights Watch.
“They have taken almost no action,” she said.
“So if this trip is what is needed to spur them to actually respond to the gravity of an ethnic cleansing on their watch, then we’ll be waiting for a resolution when they return.”
The president of the International Red Cross, which is providing aid to those affected by the violence in Rakhine, said the Myanmar government is rebuilding villages and taking steps to allow the Rohingya to return.
“But what we see is that people don’t yet trust that this will give them safety and security,” said Peter Maurer.
“We are at the beginning of the such a confidence-building process. It’s a very long way to go,” Maurer told reporters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday announced the appointment of Christine Schraner Burgener, Switzerland’s ambassador to Germany, as his new special envoy to Myanmar, following a months-long search for an emissary.