McCain-led delegation visits Pakistan for security talks

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, center, with US Senator John McCain, fourth left, at Prime Minister House in Islamabad on Monday.(AFP)
Updated 03 July 2017

McCain-led delegation visits Pakistan for security talks

ISLAMABAD: A US Senate delegation led by top Republican John McCain flew over Pakistan’s tribal areas Monday after meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss regional security, as Washington gears up to send more troops to neighboring Afghanistan.
The visit by members of the influential Senate Armed Services Committee came days after Islamabad slammed Washington’s decision to sanction a Kashmiri militant leader.
The relationship between the US and Pakistan has been strained at times with some in Washington believing Islamabad has not done enough to bring its influence to bear to persuade the Afghan Taliban to renounce violence.
McCain said “close cooperation between the US and Pakistan was essential for securing peace and stability in the region” at the meeting with Sharif and other top Pakistani officials in Islamabad, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.
He also “attached importance to (US) relations with Pakistan, which remained a close friend and ally,” the statement continued.
Sharif also called the Pakistan-US partnership “essential,” and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to an Afghan-led peace process in Afghanistan, with strong relations between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad a “prerequisite,” according to the statement.
Later Monday the senators flew with the military over South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to see progress on infrastructure built there with US assistance, including roads and border outposts, and dam and irrigation projects.
A statement from the military said they were also briefed on border security, including Pakistan’s bid to fence the frontier with Afghanistan.
Pakistan has received billions in US aid since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Washington is actively considering sending more troops to the war-torn country to help struggling Afghan forces beat back the resurgent Taliban, with American commanders requesting thousands of extra boots on the ground.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has legislative oversight of US military affairs. Other members of the delegation, which arrived Sunday and will leave Monday, included Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator David Perdue and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
On Sunday they met with Pakistan’s top foreign affairs official and the chief of its powerful military.
Last week, the US imposed sanctions on Syed Salahuddin, senior leader of the Kashmiri militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, to the dismay of Pakistan after a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.
Sharif stressed Pakistan’s belief in Kashmir’s right to self-determination in the meeting with the US senators Monday, the statement from his office said, calling on Washington to help find a resolution to the nearly 70-year old dispute.

Five dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

Updated 10 min 51 sec ago

Five dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

  • In Assam, three people died in hospital after being shot
  • Train services were also suspended in some parts of the east on Sunday after violence in eastern West Bengal state
GUWAHATI: Five people died, including three after being shot by police, following violent protests in northeast India over a contentious citizenship law, with authorities maintaining Internet bans and curfews in some regions.

Tension remained high at the epicenter of the unrest in Assam state’s biggest city, Guwahati, with a fresh demonstration expected Sunday over the legislation even as some shops opened amid an easing of the curfew during the day.

The legislation, passed by the national parliament on Wednesday, allows New Delhi to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighboring countries on or before December 31, 2014 — but not if they are Muslim.

In Assam, three people died in hospital after being shot, while another died when a shop he was sleeping in was set on fire and a fifth after he was beaten up during a protest, officials said.

Train services were also suspended in some parts of the east on Sunday after violence in eastern West Bengal state, with demonstrators torching trains and buses.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday called again for calm, saying local cultures in northeastern states were not under threat, amid fears the new law will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

“Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from northeast will remain intact,” Shah told a rally in eastern Jharkhand state, News18 television network reported him as saying.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights activists and others in India, the new law is seen as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies the allegation.

Rights groups and a Muslim political party are challenging the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s secular traditions.