US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

Indian soldiers examine the debris after a suicide attack on a military convoy on Thursday killed 44 paramilitary policemen. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019

US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

  • India’s government said it had evidence the group Jaish-e-Mohammad, had the backing of Pakistan and demanded Islamabad take action
  • India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The United States has told India it supports its right to defend itself against cross-border attacks, the government said on Saturday, as New Delhi considers retaliation against a car bombing in disputed Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based militants.

Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have risen again after New Delhi, incensed by the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades, demanded that Pakistan act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group behind the bombing.

Pakistan condemned Thursday’s attack in which 44 paramilitary police were killed when the bomber slammed into a military convoy and denied any complicity.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Friday night, promising to help bring those behind the attack to justice, the Indian foreign ministry said in a readout of the phone call.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“They resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under UN resolutions,” it added.

India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced calls for retribution from Indians on social media as well hardline groups demonstrating in the streets, said on Saturday he had given a free hand to the military to respond to acts of violence.

“The country understands the anger simmering within the soldiers,” he said at a political rally in western Maharashtra state.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling group faces a tough general election in April-May.

India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947. In 2001, an attack on its parliament building prompted New Delhi to mobilize the military along the border with Pakistan in a standoff that lasted a year.

On Friday, India withdrew trade privileges to Pakistan in what it said was the first step to isolate Pakistan for not acting against Islamist militants operating from its soil.

As the bodies of the policemen who died in the car bomb reached their homes in small towns across India, crowds waving the Indian flag gathered in the streets to honor them and demand revenge.

Others held flowers as they walked behind the coffins in the towns of Jabalpur, Varanasi and Moga, television showed.

Tens of thousands of troops, paramilitary police and state police are deployed across scenic Kashmir to quell the nearly 30-year revolt there, India’s only Muslim-majority region.

In Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, authorities imposed a curfew for a second day after mobs attacked vehicles and pelted stones at the homes of Kashmiris.

Sanjeev Verma, the divisional commissioner of Jammu, said that the curfew will remain until further orders to maintain law and order. An army column staged a flag march.

In New Delhi, leaders of political parties met and said they stood behind the government in its resolve to tackle terrorism.

The attack comes at a difficult time for Pakistan, as it struggles to attract foreign investment and avert a payments crisis, with foreign currency reserves swiftly diminishing.

On Friday, it summoned India’s deputy envoy in Islamabad to reject the accusations against the country.

Saudi Arabia, UAE sow seeds for agri-trade deals with Philippines

Updated 4 min 19 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, UAE sow seeds for agri-trade deals with Philippines

  • Saudi Arabia to explore investment opportunities during bilateral talks
  • In Manila, the UAE agriculture officials held talks with senior counterparts and other stakeholders in agribusiness

MANILA: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are sowing the seeds for a major program of investment in the Philippines’ agriculture and food security sectors.

The two nations are exploring avenues for possible cooperation and trade deals with the southeast Asian country, its Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Monday.

Saudi officials are due to visit the Philippines later this year for bilateral talks, and the UAE’s Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al-Mehairi has just concluded a two-day trade mission there to look into tie-ups in agriculture and food sciences.

Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto recently met with Piñol to discuss how their country’s agricultural industry could benefit from developments in the Saudi economy.

According to Alonto, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) had expressed an interest in investing in the sector, and several project proposals are due to be considered.

Piñol said that the Philippine  Embassy in Riyadh and its Department of Agriculture will join forces to conduct an agri-investment mission and develop links with agencies in the Kingdom.

Representatives from the Philippines and Saudi Arabia had already reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral cooperation at a high-level meeting held in the capital Manila in November last year. 

As well as trade, investment, labor and health services, other possible areas of collaboration include security, technical training, and technology.

In January this year, the former president of the Philippines and current Lower House speaker, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, led a trade delegation to Saudi Arabia to promote business in Mindanao.

The trip included a presentation to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) on investment opportunities in cacao plantations and processing, and seaweed production, along with projects to rebuild and expand several hospitals destroyed during the five-month Marawi siege. Oil and gas production from reserves in the Sulu Sea was also discussed. 

Relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia span 49 years and since 1980 the two countries have signed a number of agreements on economic, trade, commercial, investment, and technical cooperation. Meanwhile, Al-Mehairi’s trip from March 25 to 26 included a visit to the Philippine Rice Research Institute in the city of Muñoz, in Nueva Ecija province, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna province.

In Manila, the UAE agriculture officials held talks with senior counterparts and other stakeholders in agribusiness.