Pakistan, India exchange cross-border fire after UN meet on Kashmir

A boy dries corn on his house roof in Maddar on Pakistan’s Line of Control in Kashmir in this October 2, 2016 photo. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2019
0

Pakistan, India exchange cross-border fire after UN meet on Kashmir

  • The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan territory
  • New Delhi insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter

SRINAGAR, India: India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.
The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two countries and poisoned their relations since independence in 1947.
But the latest exchange follows India’s decision this month to rip up the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir, sparking protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighboring China.
“The exchange of fire is going on,” a senior Indian government official said, calling it “heavy.”
One Indian soldier was reportedly killed. Pakistan made no immediate comment on the violence.
Late Friday, Pakistan and China succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir — behind closed doors — for the first time since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday hailed the gathering, saying that addressing the “suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”
New Delhi insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter.
“We don’t need international busybodies to try to tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people,” India’s UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin said after the meeting.
US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals to come back to the negotiating table, speaking to Khan by phone on the importance of “reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue.”
India on Saturday meanwhile gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir, imposed hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise August 5 gambit.
Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored Saturday in the restive Kashmir Valley, the local police chief said.
But mobiles and the Internet remained dead in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir state in a 30-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands.
Fearing an angry and potentially violent response, India also sent 10,000 extra troops to the area, severely restricted movement and arrested some 500 local politicians, activists, academics and others.
The state’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said Friday there would be a “gradual” restoration of phone lines over the weekend, with schools to resume classes in some areas next week.
The transformation of Srinagar into an eerie maze of barricades, soldiers and concertinas of barbed wire has failed to stop public anger boiling to the surface.
“We want peace and nothing else, but they have kept us under this lockdown like sheep while taking decisions about us,” resident Tariq Madri said.
“Even my nine-year old son asked me why they had locked us inside,” he added.
Several hundred protesters clashed with police in the city on Friday, who responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.
People hurled stones and used shop hoardings and tin sheets as improvised shields, as police shot dozens of rounds into the crowd. No injuries were reported.
The clashes broke out after more than 3,000 people rallied in the city’s Soura neighborhood, which has witnessed regular demonstrations this month.
A week earlier around 8,000 people staged a protest which also ended in a violent confrontation with police, residents said.
“I want the government to know that this aggression and aggressive policies don’t work on the ground,” said 24-year-old Adnan Rashid, an engineering student.
Some people took to the streets on Saturday to buy essential goods but most shops in Srinagar remained closed.
Mohammed Altaf Malik, 30, said people remained angry about the stripping of Kashmir’s special status “and the way it was done.”
“There is widespread corruption and the police here have made it a business to pick up any people it wants and then ask for money to release them from detention,” Malik said as he went to visit a sick neighbor in hospital.
“We don’t see anything changing from this for ordinary people like us,” he added.


Japan court acquits energy bosses over Fukushima disaster

Updated 19 September 2019

Japan court acquits energy bosses over Fukushima disaster

  • The three former executives were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for failing to act on information about the risks from a major tsunami
  • No one was killed in the nuclear meltdown, but the tsunami left 18,500 dead or missing

TOKYO: A Japanese court on Thursday cleared three energy firm bosses of professional negligence in the only criminal trial stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
The three men were senior officials at the TEPCO firm operating the Fukushima Daiichi plant and had faced up to five years in prison if convicted.
“All defendants are not guilty,” the presiding judge said, ruling that the executives could not have predicted the scale of the tsunami that overwhelmed the plant and triggered the accident.
The decision is likely to be appealed, extending the legal wrangling over responsibility for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, more than eight years after the disaster.
Outside the courtroom, dozens of people staged a rally, including some who had traveled from the Fukushima region to hear the verdict.
“It is absolutely an unjust ruling. We absolutely cannot accept this,” one woman said angrily, addressing the crowd.
“We will appeal this and continue our fight,” shouted a man nearby.
TEPCO declined to comment on the verdict, repeating its “sincere apologies for the great inconvenience and concern” caused by the disaster.
The three former executives were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for failing to act on information about the risks from a major tsunami, but they argued the data available to them at the time was unreliable.
Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said the verdict turned on the “predictability” of the massive tsunami that swamped the nuclear plant in March 2011 after a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake.
He pointed out there had been no proposal from the government’s nuclear watchdog “that TEPCO should suspend operations until (safety) measures are taken.”


No one was killed in the nuclear meltdown, but the tsunami left 18,500 dead or missing.
The ex-TEPCO executives faced trial in relation to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who died after having to be evacuated following the nuclear disaster.
Prosecutors twice declined to proceed with the case, citing insufficient evidence and a slim chance of conviction, but were forced to after a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled that the trio should face trial.
All three defendants — former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73 — had pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutors said the men were present at meetings where experts warned of the anticipated height of a tsunami off the Fukushima coast and should have taken better safety measures.
They argued the executives were presented data warning a tsunami exceeding 10 meters (33 feet) could trigger power loss and a major disaster at the plant.
And a TEPCO internal study, based on a government report, concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters could hit after a magnitude-8.3 quake.
In the event, when a 9.0-magnitude quake hit offshore on March 11, 2011, waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems.
The resulting meltdown forced massive evacuations and left parts of the surrounding area uninhabitable — in some cases possibly forever.


The three defendants have apologized, but argued they could not have foreseen the disaster based on the available evidence and that they thought officials in the firm responsible for nuclear safety had taken appropriate measures.
“It is difficult to deal with issues that are uncertain and obscure,” Takekuro said during the trial.
Separately from the criminal case, dozens of civil lawsuits have been filed against the government and TEPCO.
Some district courts have granted damages to local residents, ordering TEPCO and the government to pay.
Before the verdict, protesters outside the court said the trial was a chance to hold someone accountable for the disaster.
“If we don’t hear guilty verdicts, our years-long efforts to bring this to court will not have been rewarded,” said Saki Okawara, 67, who came from Miharu in the Fukushima region to hear the verdict.
“And Japanese society’s culture of no one taking responsibility will continue.”