Pakistan says naval drill with Iran was ‘unplanned’

Pakistan says naval drill with Iran was ‘unplanned’
Naval ships from various countries are pictured during the multinational naval exercise ‘AMAN-21’ in the Arabian Sea in this Feb. 15 file photo. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 April 2021

Pakistan says naval drill with Iran was ‘unplanned’

Pakistan says naval drill with Iran was ‘unplanned’
  • Navy spokesman reiterates that passage exercises are ‘routine’

ISLAMABAD: A day-long sea exercise conducted by Pakistan and Iran’s navies in the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday was unplanned and part of a “goodwill gesture,” a spokesman for the Pakistan navy has said, rejecting media reports that it was based on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries.

“There was no planned exercise between the two countries. This was a passage exercise as a goodwill gesture,” the spokesman, requesting anonymity, told Arab News on Tuesday.

A passage exercise is a routine drill involving the navies of friendly foreign countries that occurs while visiting each other’s ports or during a rendezvous at sea.

The spokesman added that Pakistani ships were returning from Dubai via Qatar and took part in the exercise with Iran as a gesture of goodwill.

“As a routine, Iranian ships were to accompany us up until Pakistani waters. Then, this passage exercise took place,” he added, explaining that maritime transfers and passage exercises were meant to streamline communication and cooperation in the event of a war or humanitarian crisis.

The statements from the spokesman follow international media reports that the naval exercise was based on an MoU between Islamabad and Tehran.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that the day-long drill was aimed at “promoting military cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad,” without providing more details, while a news portal in Turkey quoted Iranian officials as saying that the drill was to “bolster the combat capabilities” of the two navies and “share information and expertise.”

“There is no MoU between the two countries, and these exercises were part of no such thing,” the spokesman said.

“These passage and peace exercises are routine between countries, and the purpose is to learn from each other’s experiences,” he added.

Tuesday’s exercise comes nearly two months after the Pakistan navy conducted its seventh biennial multinational “Aman” (peace) exercise in its waters to foster international cooperation to fight piracy, terrorism and other crimes threatening maritime security.

Around 45 navies, including those of the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and China, took part in the Arabian Sea exercise with ships and observers.

Pakistani ships recently participated in an exhibition in Dubai, traveling onward to Qatar and Bahrain. They stopped at the Bandar Abbas port in Iran on their way back, the spokesman said.

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Australia to end ban on citizens returning from India
  • Scott Morrison this week barred all travel from India, fearing a large number of COVID-positive arrivals
  • The prime minister’s move stranded an estimated 9,000 Australian citizens

SYDNEY: Australia will not extend a controversial ban on citizens returning from COVID-hit India, the prime minister said Friday following widespread public outrage.
Scott Morrison this week barred all travel from India, fearing a large number of COVID-positive arrivals would overwhelm Australia’s already strained quarantine facilities.
The move stranded an estimated 9,000 Australian citizens and threatened them with large fines and jail time if they tried to dodge the ban and return on non-direct flights.
The conservative prime minister on Friday said that the measures would remain in place until May 15 as planned, but then repatriation flights could resume.
“The determination was designed to be a temporary measure and the medical advice... is that it will be safe to allow it to expire as planned on 15 May,” he said.
Three flights are being planned to return the most vulnerable Australians still in India, bringing them to a remote Outback quarantine facility.
No decision has been taken yet on whether commercial flights will also resume.
Morrison’s ban caused widespread outrage, with even allies describing it as racist and an abandonment of vulnerable Australians overseas.
He had already walked back the threats to prosecute returning Australians, saying it was “highly unlikely” the punishment would ever be meted out.
The legality of the ban is being challenged in federal court, with a hearing set to take place on Monday.
Australia has no widespread community transmission of COVID-19, but has seen several outbreaks emerge from hotel quarantine facilities, causing disruptive city lockdowns.
Since March 2020, Australians have been barred from traveling overseas and a hard-to-get individual exemption is needed for foreign visitors to enter the country.


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  • On Friday, India recorded a new record of 414,188 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours

NEW DELHI: With coronavirus cases still surging to record levels, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing growing pressure to impose a harsh nationwide lockdown amid a debate whether restrictions imposed by individual states are enough.
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On Friday, India recorded a new record of 414,188 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. Its tally has risen to more than 21.4 million since the pandemic began with faint hopes of the curve going down quickly. The Health Ministry also reported 3,915 additional deaths, bringing the total to 234,083. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
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Over the past month, nearly a dozen out of India’s 28 federal states have announced less stringent restrictions than the nationwide lockdown imposed for two months in March last year.
Modi, who held consultations with top elected leaders and officials of the worst-hit states on Thursday, has so far left the responsibility for fighting the virus to poorly equipped state governments.
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Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, also suggested that a complete shutdown in India may be needed two to four weeks to help ease the surge of infections.
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He said it appears there are at least two types of virus variants circulating in India. He said B117, which is the UK variant, tends to be concentrated in New Delhi and that the 617 variant is concentrated in the worst-hit western Maharashtra state.
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Man charged with stabbing two Asian women in San Francisco

Man charged with stabbing two Asian women in San Francisco
  • Patrick Thompson, 54, was also was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse for Tuesday's attack
  • The victims, aged 65 and 85, were both seriously injured but were expected byt hospital authorities to survive

SAN FRANCISCO, US: A man who allegedly stabbed two elderly women without warning at a San Francisco bus stop was charged with attempted murder in an attack that follows a number of others against Asian Americans nationwide, authorities announced Thursday.
Patrick Thompson, 54, of San Francisco also was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse for Tuesday's attack, with sentencing enhancements for great bodily injury, great bodily injury on elders and personal use of a deadly weapon, the district attorney's office said in a statement.
Thompson, who has a history of mental illness, could face a potential life sentence if convicted. He was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Friday. A message left for the San Francisco public defender's office seeking comment about the case wasn't immediately returned after hours Thursday.
A witness told KGO-TV that the man was carrying a large knife with knuckles on the handle and without warning attacked the women as they waited for a bus on Market Street.
“The knife punctured one victim’s lungs, requiring extensive surgery,” the district attorney’s office said. “A knife had to be removed from another victim at the hospital.”
Authorities initially said the women were 65 and 84 years old and didn't immediately identify them. But a family member said the elder victim was 85-year-old Chui Fong Eng.
Victoria Eng said her grandmother was stabbed in the right arm and the blade entered her chest. She underwent successful surgery.
“We were able to visit grandma today! It was so emotional walking in and seeing her," Eng posted Thursday on a GoFundMe page that had raised more than $98,000 to cover medical expenses. “The staff have been providing exceptional care to her and extremely supportive to our family. She wants to thank everyone for their generosity and well wishes!"
Some of the fundraiser money raised was offered to the family of the other victim, “but they politely declined," the post said.
Both women were expected to survive, authorities said.
Authorities haven't said whether the women were targeted because of their ethnicity. But the District Attorney's office said prosecutors were working with police to determine whether there was evidence to support hate crime allegations.
Police Chief William Scott initially said the attack appeared to be “totally random."
On Thursday, the FBI’s San Francisco office launched a publicity campaign to encourage the victims of hate crimes to come forward. The effort comes amid a wave of attacks against Asian Americans — many of them elderly — in San Francisco and across the country.
Thompson has a criminal background that includes assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury, according to KGO-TV.
He was arrested in 2017 and sent to a state mental hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial, the district attorney's office said.
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“What happened is a devastating tragedy, and we will use the full force of our office’s resources to prosecute this case. We also need to work hard to stop the next crime from happening, and that involves prevention and treatment," the District Attorney’s office statement said. “Mr. Thompson needed intensive supervision and services — which he received during Mental Health Diversion and which prevented new criminal behavior."
“We also must implement stronger responses to addressing the mental health crisis in our streets in order to keep our community safe," the statement said. “For over 40 years, we have failed to invest resources into treatment, supportive housing, and other necessary services for those who are mentally ill and their families. We are all less safe as a result of that legacy."