China, Pakistan, Afghanistan ask Taliban to join peace process

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, center, is flanked by Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, left, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif during the First China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Islamabad)
Updated 27 December 2017
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China, Pakistan, Afghanistan ask Taliban to join peace process

ISLAMABAD: China hosted the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Tuesday, in a bid to improve the neighbors’ historically fractious relationship.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani of Afghanistan and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif led delegations from their respective countries.
According to a joint communique, the three countries agreed to strengthen counterterrorism coordination and cooperation. “The three sides will communicate and consult on developing a memorandum of understanding for counterterrorism cooperation,” it read.
All three countries urged the Taliban to join the peace process “as soon as possible,” calling a broad-based and inclusive peace and reconciliation process, which is Afghan-led and fully supported regionally and internationally the “most viable solution to end violence in Afghanistan.”
In the first trilateral dialogue between the three countries, the foreign ministers reiterated their “strong determination not to allow any country, organization or individual to use their respective territories for terrorist activities against any other countries,” according to their joint statement.
Speaking at a joint press briefing after their meeting, Asif said: “It was agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential for our shared objective of development, deepening connectivity and economic prosperity.”
“Pakistan emphasized the importance of border management, the return of Afghan refugees, and intelligence sharing for effective counter-terrorism cooperation.”
Afghanistan’s Rabbani said: “Terrorism is growing by the day and to turn around this trend will require full, sincere and practical cooperation among states in our own region and beyond to defeat this common menace.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment, but the Taliban have previously rejected any offer to participate in the peace process.
China has serious concerns about the often-tense relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in view of its huge investment in the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
Pakistani experts believe China has now adopted a proactive regional diplomatic approach to promote peace and reconciliation in war-torn Afghanistan, in cooperation with Pakistan, which would also help ensure security in China’s Xinjiang province, which borders both countries.
China has already hosted a meeting between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government officials in 2015, and a delegation of Qatar-based Taliban political representatives traveled to China earlier this year, according to a Taliban official.
Sen. Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Defense Committee, said China is uniquely positioned to play an active role not only in economic development, but also in peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“Unlike others, China carries no extra-baggage, having stayed out of the internecine civil strife in Afghanistan,” Hussain told Arab News. ”Beijing enjoys the confidence of both the Afghan government and the Taliban, as well as Pakistan and the US, which has a diminishing military presence without China’s political and economic clout.”
“China’s economic growth southward, especially the CPEC, is directly impacted by Afghanistan,” said Ishaq Ahmed Khattak, director, intelligence and international security studies, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI).
And, given the investment China has made in Afghanistan, it has to play a “predominant role in bringing peace through economic development and negotiations,” he explained.
Foreign Minister Yi visited Kabul and Islamabad in June this year to mend ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. During that visit, the three countries agreed to establish a mechanism for regular interaction.
In their meeting on Tuesday, the foreign ministers decided that their next gathering would be held in Kabul in 2018.


Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.

People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.