No business as usual with Pakistan: Indian PM

Updated 17 January 2013
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No business as usual with Pakistan: Indian PM

NEW DELHI/AMRITSAR: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned yesterday that there “cannot be business as usual” with neighboring Pakistan after last week’s deadly flare-up along the border in disputed Kashmir.
“It cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan, he told reporters on the sidelines of an army function.
“What has happened is unacceptable,” he added in reference to the killing of two Indian soldiers, one of whom was beheaded.
“Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book.”
Singh’s comments came a day after commanders of the rival armies traded protests over the border exchanges.
The Indian government has accused Pakistani soldiers of crossing into Indian territory and killing two of its soldiers on Jan. 8.
Pakistan denies its troops were involved in any such incident and has accused Indian troops of killing two of its soldiers.
Foreign ministers of both sides have warned against escalating tensions. But the Indian army chief of staff told his commanders Monday to respond “aggressively” to any future Pakistani firing across the heavily militarized de facto border in divided Kashmir, known as the Line of Control.
India’s chief military commander in Kashmir cranked up pressure yesterday on Pakistan, saying Monday’s border meeting aimed at calming tensions was fruitless.
“We accused them of carrying out the barbaric attack... we insisted that the head be returned,” Lieutenant General K. T. Parnaik told a press conference in the Kashmir garrison town of Akhnoor.
“We (also) drew their attention to the frequent firing in the area,” the Press Trust of India quoted the general as saying
“At the end of the meeting, they were as arrogant and adamant — not ready to admit anything. We do not believe in reacting in hate and anger. We have our plans. We will react in time,” the general added.
India meanwhile suspended a new program to allow Pakistani pensioners to get visas on arrival at the border, citing technical glitches only hours after officials said it had begun yesterday.
Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters the scheme, which was designed to issue visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, had been suspended until further notice.
“Couple of points has to be ironed out on that. There are technical issues, documents required. We will iron it out after consultation with other agencies,” he said.
The suspension was announced the same day that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned neighboring Pakistan that there “cannot be business as usual” between the two countries after last week’s deadly flare-up in disputed Kashmir.
Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesman for the Home Ministry, insisted to AFP that the decision over visas had “nothing to do with tensions along the India-Pakistan border.”
India last week accused Pakistani troops of killing two of its soldiers, one of whom was beheaded. Pakistan denies its troops were to blame for any such incident.
It says two of its own soldiers were killed by Indian firing in the last nine days along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir where a ceasefire has been in place since 2003.
The visa deal was sealed last month, when the interior ministers from both countries met in New Delhi and decided to institute measures making cross-border travel easier.
The new agreement was to allow Pakistanis aged over 65 to arrive at the Attari/Wagah land border dividing the Punjab region and apply for a single-entry Indian visa for a duration of up to 45 days.
An Indian customs official on the border, who declined to give his name, told AFP earlier in the day that the process to issue visas had begun, but refused to say if any Pakistanis had made use of the facility yet.
The two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947. They resumed talks two years ago, after New Delhi suspended negotiations following militant attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 that killed 166 people.


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

Updated 58 min 14 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.