Pakistan PM receives mixed signals from New Delhi

In this photograph released by the Press Information Department (PID) on Aug. 18, 2018, newly appointed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (C) meets with members of the 1992 Cricket world cup team and former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu (top R) in Islamabad. (AFP)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Pakistan PM receives mixed signals from New Delhi

  • Modi congratulates Khan, but BJP slams hug between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Pakistani Army chief
  • I felt too much love and affection from Pakistan when I was there, says Sidhu

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated Imran Khan on becoming Pakistan’s premier.
In a letter to his counterpart, Modi expressed the need for constructive and meaningful bilateral engagement.
He also expressed his commitment to peaceful, neighborly relations, and stressed the need for a terror-free South Asia.
But Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu for visiting Islamabad to participate in Khan’s swearing-in ceremony.
The BJP demanded Sidhu’s sacking from the post of Cabinet minister in Punjab province, and asked the opposition Congress Party to “sack him from the party for hugging” Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani Army chief.
The hug “is not an ordinary thing,” said BJP spokesman Sambit Patra, adding that Sidhu “is not an ordinary man but a minister in the Punjab government, and every Indian has taken this issue very seriously.”
Sidiq Wahid, a Kashmiri scholar and senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, told Arab News: “The muscular nationalism practiced by the Hindu right-wing BJP treats other nationalists as the enemy.”
He said: “I see hope for meaningful talks with Pakistan only when there’s a dramatic change in the current trajectory of Indian politics.”
When contacted by Arab News, Sidhu declined to comment, but upon his return to India he said: “I pray for the people who criticized me, but I felt too much love and affection from Pakistan when I was there.”
Vinod Sharma, political editor of the Hindustan Times, told Arab News that “it’s unbecoming of a mature democracy” to raise the issue of Sidhu visiting and hugging Bajwa.
“India isn’t that weak as to not let an Indian be hugged by the Pakistani Army chief. The paranoia of the right-wing fringe is a gross misrepresentation of a great democracy that India happens to be,” Sharma said.
“The Hindu right wing is adept at creating India-Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim binaries for political-electoral gains,” he added.
“It’s a dangerous game, and in the name of defending India they’re hurting its time-tested, inclusive character.”
But Robin Singh, a Punjab-based journalist and civil rights activist, said: “Sidhu crossed his brief while visiting Pakistan. He forgot that he is a public representative, and should have kept in mind the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan. By hugging the army chief, he has hurt the sentiment of people in India.”
The Congress Party has refused to comment on the issue, terming it “a personal visit of Sidhu to meet his friend.”
Sharma said this “polarizing debate is disturbing and aimed at sheer electoral dividends,” blaming “a section of the Indian media for the propagation of binaries to enhance their market share.”
He added: “It’s a self-defeating pursuit as it doesn’t leave the audience educated on complex foreign policy issues.”


Thousands evacuated as Guatemala volcano erupts again

A view of the Fuego Volcano erupting, as seen from El Rodeo municipality, in Escuintla department, 45 km southwest of Guatemala City on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 33 min 5 sec ago
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Thousands evacuated as Guatemala volcano erupts again

  • The Volcano of Fire is one of the most active in Central America and an eruption in June killed 194 people
  • Hundreds of families heeded the call of disaster coordination authorities to evacuate 10 communities, piling into yellow school buses for trips to shelters

GUATEMALA CITY: About 4,000 residents fled Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire Monday as red-hot rock and ash spewed into the sky and cascaded down the slopes toward an area devastated by a deadly eruption earlier this year.
Guatemala’s volcanology unit said that explosions from the 12,300-foot (3,763-meter) high mountain shook homes with “constant sounds similar to a train locomotive.”
Incandescent material burst as high as 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) above the crater and flows of hot rock and ash extended nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) down one flank of the volcano. Hot blasts of pyroclastic material pushed down canyons on the slopes, while a column of ash rose nearly 23,000 feet (7,000 meters) above sea level and drifted toward Guatemala City to the east.
Hundreds of families heeded the call of disaster coordination authorities to evacuate 10 communities, piling into yellow school buses for trips to shelters. The national disaster commission said 3,925 people had been evacuated by early Monday.
The Volcano of Fire is one of the most active in Central America and an eruption in June killed 194 people. Another 234 are officially missing, although organizations supporting the communities have insisted there are thousands of missing persons.
It spewed more ash and hot rock in October, prompting warnings for the nearby communities.
The biggest danger from the volcano are lahars, a mixture of ash, rock, mud and debris, that can bury entire towns. However, by Monday, there had been no reports of such flows reaching populated areas, though authorities were taking no chances; they were harshly criticized for not calling for evacuations earlier in June.
Four shelters have been set up for evacuees. Dora Caal, 26, and five members of her family took refuge under a nylon tent at a sports stadium in the nearby town of Escuintla.
“Last night we heard the volcano roar, you could see fire, we couldn’t sleep,” said Caal, whose town of El Rodeo was largely evacuated.
“At dawn we said we’d better get out, we were afraid,” Caal said as the sun beat down fiercely at the improvised shelter. People like Caal are still reeling from the effects of the June eruption.
“Back then I lost my job at a farm that was on the slopes of the volcano. They closed it and we can’t work there anymore,” she said.
Enma Hernandez, 42, left her home in El Rodeo to evacuate, but her 20-year-old son stayed behind to protect the family home from looters. In fact, many men stayed behind in the town; there were mainly women and children at the shelter.