Pakistan desires peace and cordial relations with India, says army chief

Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has recently hinted at Islamabad's desire to resume dialogue with India for peaceful relations. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Pakistan desires peace and cordial relations with India, says army chief

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, has reiterated Islamabad’s desire for a resumption of dialogue with India and for peaceful relations with its eastern neighbor. Both nations are engaged in border skirmishes resulting in loss of life along the disputed boundary of Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking at a seminar of Interplay of Economy and Security on Wednesday, Gen. Bajwa said, “It takes two hands to clap” and without India reciprocating, issues will remain unresolved between the nuclear-armed rivals.
“With a belligerent India on our east and an unstable Afghanistan on our west, the region remains captive due to historical baggage and negative competition,” said Bajwa.
He stressed that Pakistan had worked hard toward making a “deliberate and concentrated effort to pacify the western border through a multitude of diplomatic, military and economic initiatives.”
Gen. Bajwa’s remarks come nearly a week after the former chiefs of Pakistan and India’s prime intelligence agencies said that diplomatic communication channels were essential and must remain open for the sake of both countries’ national interests.
Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) former Director-General Ehsan ul Haq, and former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) spymaster, Amarjit Singh Dulat, took part in a debate at the London School of Economics in which both underlined that talks were the only option for resolving long standing issues.
Ehsan, responding to a question, said: “Interaction must be such that even when there is a breakdown in diplomatic relations between states and entities, the intelligence channel must continue because that becomes the last resort for venting and pre-empting crisis; the initiative for this has to come down from the political level.”
Ehsan’s former counterpart agreed and said that India should not cut ties with Pakistan as it made no sense to him. Pointing to history, he explained that even in the worst days of the Cold War, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Russian Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) talked to each other.
On the other hand, Aqab Malik, security and strategy analyst at Pakistan’s National Defense University, believes that “India doesn’t want to engage because Americans are angry at Pakistan” and they (the Americans) are seeking a greater role for India in ending the Afghanistan conflict.
“It’s also mutual interest,” he said speaking to Arab News, and referring to the uncanny relationship between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He stressed that even in “100 years” India would not be friends with Pakistan. “Thinking otherwise would be living in a fool’s paradise.”
“We can’t compete in any way with India except when it comes to nuclear weapons. India has long term aims but we don’t and that’s why they don’t care about opening communication channels,” said Malik, explaining the large differences between both countries and noting that Pakistan is on the weaker footing.
Over the last 15 months the militaries of both countries have violated the cease-fire agreement — India claiming over 600 and Pakistan countering with a claim of 700 violations. The trust deficit has only grown over several decades with a dimming of hopes for a viable solution to end the Kashmir and eastern border dispute.
Pakistan’s foreign secretary, briefing the heads of missions of the permanent members of the UN Security Council in Islamabad, stressed the unprecedented escalation by Indian occupation forces at the line of control and the working boundary in 2017. She expressed grave concern over the increased frequency and duration of indiscriminate firing/shelling from the Indian side, deliberately targeting villages and civilian populated areas. This has resulted up to now in the deaths of 45 civilians and injuries to 155, including women and children.
Pakistan said it has displayed exemplary restraint but has been compelled to respond.
Malik painted a grim picture and said: “We are a thorn in their side and an obstacle to India’s ambition to become a regional power. That’s why there will never be a solution to the conflict between Pakistan and India.”


Russian ‘agent’ held on charges of seeking to infiltrate US govt

Maria Butina. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 min 9 sec ago
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Russian ‘agent’ held on charges of seeking to infiltrate US govt

  • Maria helped arrange visits by Torshin and other Russian officials to major political events
  • The arrest was announced Monday hours after Trump finished a summit and a press conference with Putin in Helsinki

WASHINGTON: A Russian gun rights enthusiast who built a network of powerful Republican contacts under the direction of a Kremlin power-broker was ordered held without bond Wednesday after FBI counterintelligence agents accused her of conspiring to infiltrate the US government.
US prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, exploited her close links with the powerful NRA gun lobby while posing as a visiting graduate student to endear herself with senior Republicans, guided by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s major political supporters, Alexander Torshin.
Butina was charged in the Washington federal court with acting illegally as an unregistered agent for the Russian government while she lived in Washington over the past three years with her boyfriend, a veteran Republican operative.
They called Butina a “covert Russian agent” who maintained contacts with Russian spies and pursued a mission “to penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”
That included offering sex to get a job in a US lobbying group, according to documents filed in court by the Department of Justice.
Butina pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges of conspiring to act as a foreign agent without registering, and acting as a foreign agent. The first charge brings a maximum five years in prison, while the second carries a maximum 10 years.
“This is not a spy case,” her lawyer Robert Driscoll said after Butina appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit.
“The government is speculating that someone is a Russian spy, but thousands of Russians met intelligence operatives” in the United States, he said.

Butina’s arrest Sunday added to the political turmoil in Washington over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign collaborated with the Russians.
The arrest was announced Monday hours after Trump finished a summit and a press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where the US leader rejected the US intelligence community’s verdict that the Russians meddled to support him over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race.
Trump reversed that stance a day later under heavy attack from US politicians of both parties.
FBI agents described a long-term operation stretching back as far as 2011 when Torshin met then-National Rifle Association president David Keene and Butina launched a mirror Russian gun rights group named The Right to Bear Arms.
She befriended the Republican operative, unnamed in the indictment but widely identified as Paul Erickson, 56, who opened doors to NRA and Republican circles.
Butina began visiting the United States and was regularly hosted by the NRA and other groups, and became a “life member” of the American gun rights lobby.
Pictures of her meeting prominent Republican governors and congressman, and the powerful leaders of the NRA, are splashed across her social media accounts.
In July 2015, Butina was selected to ask Trump a question about his plans for ties with Russia at a rally in Las Vegas.
“I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin.... I don’t think you’d need the sanctions,” he said, in possibly his first campaign trail pronouncement on the issue.
Her activities ramped up after she moved to the US capital on a student visa in 2016, attending American University graduate school while she lived with Erickson.
Hardly masking her networking efforts, she told colleagues at the school that she had a nearly direct line to Putin.
She helped arrange visits by Torshin and other Russian officials to major political events like the National Prayer Breakfast, as they sought to construct a “back channel” with sympathetic, influential Americans.
Meanwhile Erickson, citing his Russian connections, tried to arrange a meeting between Putin and Trump in early 2016.
And that year Butina reportedly met Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner in Louisville, Kentucky during the NRA annual convention.

The FBI’s investigation of Butina began before the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the indictment did not involve Mueller’s team.
But the two investigations clearly overlapped, and Butina has already been interviewed by the Senate committee studying Russian meddling.
On Wednesday Moscow said the arrest was a political move seeking undermine the gains of the Helsinki summit.
“This happened with the obvious task of minimizing the positive effect,” of the Trump-Putin meeting, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“There is an impression the FBI is simply carrying out a clearly political order,” she said.