Thursday, April 30, 2015

Modi govt slams US panel report on minorities, says it's based on 'limited understanding of India' - Press Trust of India - PTI

Modi govt slams US panel report on minorities, says it's based on 'limited understanding of India'

New Delhi: India on Thursday strongly reacted to a report by a US Congress-established panel claiming that minorities in the country have been subjected to "violent attacks" and "forced conversions" after the Modi government assumed power in 2014, saying it does not take cognisance of such reports.
External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, "Our attention has been drawn to a report of the USCIRF which has passed judgement on religious freedom in India.
PM Narendra Modi. Reuters
PM Narendra Modi. Reuters
"The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society."
He further said, "We take no cognisance of the report."
In its 2015 annual report, USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) said, "Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)."
The report further said, "In advance of the programme, the Hindu groups sought to raise money for their campaign, noting that it cost nearly 200,000 rupees per Christian and 500,000 rupees per Muslim. After both domestic and international criticism, the day was 'postponed' according to Mohan Bhagwat, an RSS leader."
The panel said Hindu groups also reportedly give monetary incentives to Hindus to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. In early December, hundreds of Muslims reportedly were forcibly "reconverted" to Hinduism in a mass ceremony in Agra.
"Members of the RSS allegedly tricked dozens of Muslims families into attending a meeting by telling them they would be provided financial help, but instead a Hindu religious leader performed a Hindu conversion ceremony; an investigation is underway," it said.
The USCIRF said in September 2014, the Dalit Seventh-day Adventists filed a report in Uttar Pradesh that they were forcibly converted to Hinduism and that their church was converted to a Hindu temple.
It is not known if a police investigation was conducted in the matter.
The nationalist groups also allegedly target Dalits if they are believed to be considering conversion away from Hinduism, it said.
According to the report, at an event honouring Indian Catholic saints in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated publicly, for the first time, that his government "will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence".
This statement is notable given long-standing allegations that, as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi was complicit in anti-Muslim riots in that state, it said.
"Moreover, religious minority communities voice concern that high-ranking BJP members protect or provide support to these groups. In light of these concerns, Prime Minister Modi's statement in support of religious freedom made after the close of the reporting period (discussed more fully below) was a positive development," it said.
The USCIRF said Indian courts are still adjudicating cases stemming from large-scale Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Uttar Pradesh in 2013 and in Gujarat in 2002, Hindu-Christian communal violence in Odisha in 2007-2008, and Hindu-Sikh communal violence in Delhi in 1984.
"NGOs, religious leaders, and human rights activists allege religious bias and corruption in these investigations and adjudications. A one-member special judicial inquiry commission is still investigating the 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh that left dozens, mostly Muslims, dead and tens of thousands, mostly Muslims, displaced.
"Cases stemming from the 2002 Gujarat violence also continue, including a special court case pertaining to the killing of 68 people, including former Congress Party Parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri," it said.
Incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence have reportedly increased for three consecutive years, the panel said in its key findings.
Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan tend to have the greatest number of religiously-motivated attacks and communal violence incidents.
USCIRF asked the Obama Administration to press the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory remarks about communities and to boost religious freedom standards in India.
It also said that despite the country's status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity.
It may be mentioned here that US President Barack Obama had twice made a strong pitch for religious tolerance in India.

Christians are leaving the faith in droves and the trend isn't slowing down - PEW Research

Christians are leaving the faith in droves and the trend isn't slowing down

pope francis
((REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi ) ) Pope Francis reacts as he leads a Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican January 15, 2014.

An extensive study done by the Pew Research Center has yielded some fascinating information regarding the trajectory of world religions over the next four decades. 
As of 2010, Christianity was the dominant world religion with roughly 2.2 billion adherents and Muslim's were second with about 1.6 billion adherents. If current demographic trends continue however, Islam is expected to catch up to Christianity midway through the 21st century.
Religion2((Pew Research Center) )
Furthermore, people are leaving Christianity in droves. About 106 million Christians are expected to switch affiliation from 2010 to 2050 while only about 40 million people are expected to enter Christianity.
The religiously unaffiliated (athiests, agnostics) are expected to see the largest net gains from switching, adding more than 61 million followers. 
Screen Shot 2015 04 28 at 9.45.17 AM
((Pew Research Center) ) Christians are expected to see the largest net losses from religious switching

In North America, the fastest growing religious groups are Muslims and followers of "other religions" (an umbrella category that includes Baha’is, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists and many smaller faiths). Christianity is expected to decline from 78 percent of the overall population in 2010 to 66 percent in 2050.
Here's what the dominant religious groups in the US are by county:
religion usa
((U.S. religious census) ) 
Unaffiliated religions are expected to rise over that same time from 16 percent of the population to 26 percent. By 2050, the United States will have more Muslims (2.1 percent of pop.) than Jews (1.4 percent).
In South America and the Caribbean, Christianity will see a slight dip over the next four decades, from 90 percent in 2010 t0 89 percent in 2050. Over that same time the religiously unaffiliated population will add 45 million followers increasing from 8 percent of the population in 2010 to 9 percent in 2050.
((Pew Research) ) If the current trends continue beyond 2050 - which is a big if considering unforeseen events that can happen over a 40 year span (war, famine, innovation etc.) - then by the year 2070 the world's population of Muslims would roughly equal that of Christians.
Here are other chief findings from the report:
1. Islam will grow faster than any other religion over the next 40 years.
2. The number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians around the world by 2050. 
3. Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
4. The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
5. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
6. India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
7. In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mumbai Congress on a mission to reconnect with Muslims - By Shubhangi Khapre - The Indian Express, Mumbai

Cannot fool all the people all the time

Congress in Maharashtra is in panic. MIM's wiping out both Congress and NCP in Aurangabad, had given nightmares to both the psuedo-secular parties, who has depended on Muslim votebank for a considerable number of seats, in corporations, assembly, Lok sabha. The Muslim support was the essential margin that tilted the balance in their favour, over the time, time and time again. Now as Indian Express notes, they are once again scurrying around to arrange for dinners and corner meetings; with the fond hopes that happy days are here just around the corners, once Muslim interlocutors are fed with Biryani and Sheesh Kababs. With the entry of MIM, the equations have changed. MIM follows the money trail. From the very beginning of its campaign in Assembly elections, it is comparing how a small minority in Telangana has secured big budget for the Muslim minority, while Congress and NCP coalition had in all its half a century of playing footsie with the Muslim voters, have never come around to admit that the treasure chest on which all these political parties are feeding their core vote-bank will even be shared with the Muslims. At each and every step, where government fiat was essential for any communities progress and development, Congress and NCP had convinced Muslims, that their doors will always remain closed to the Muslims. MIM has first time adopted the famous Nixon era catch-phrase: "Follow the cash". All Congress efforts to woo Muslim voters is like running around trying to close the stable after the horse has already bolted. The deficit in trust and confidence in the fake promises of Congress and NCP is hard to patch up now. Their game is up. Even Shiv Sena and BJP feel the game is lost, as Muslim voters have found a leader that can deliver majorities to its candidates, whether Muslims or Dalits. MIM is shown it can be generous and not stingy like Congress and NCP who had exploited leaderless Muslim voters with ludicrous promises of reservations, beef ban. They are still depending on sloganeering about reservation and beef ban to corral Muslims. It is not a question of patchwork development of the community. MIM appears to go for the jugular and work for balancing power equations that can be translated in to real empowerment of the Muslim community.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Mumbai Congress on a mission to reconnect with Muslims

mumbai congress, mumbai muslim, muslim, AIMIM, MPCC, MIM, AICC, Mumslim community, mumbai news, city news, local news, maharashtra news, Indian Express

The plan includes holding dialogues with Muslim leaders and organisations through lunch and dinner diplomacy to woo them back.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Published on:April 28, 2015 1:12 am
With the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) trying to make inroads in the state, and gradually succeeding, the Congress leadership in the state is worried.
Almost everybody at the party’s state headquarters here is of the opinion that they cannot take the Congress’s traditional Muslim votebank for granted and “have to aggressively reach out to the minorities with a definite plan”.
Making it apparent that they don’t want to wait for the 2019 elections, newly elected Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan has convened a meeting of select leaders and representatives from the Muslim community on May 4.
The plan includes holding dialogues with Muslim leaders and organisations through lunch and dinner diplomacy to woo them back.
Organising corner meetings in every assembly segment taking up their issues is also on the agenda.
Former MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said, “The first meeting is likely to take place in Bhiwandi. I admit there have been some mistakes made by our government. The issue of Muslim reservation should have been pursued earlier and not ahead of the 2014 elections. Yet, we would like to reassert that Congress is the only party that would work in their interest.”
Mohan Prakash, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader in charge of Maharashtra who is also scheduled to participate in the meeting, will try to gauge the reasons for Muslims’ anger against the Congress.
Thakre believes, “The MIM’s success in Aurangabad was a surprise. The MIM has done well in those areas where the Congress leadership has failed or was weak.”
The BJP-Shiv Sena government’s decision to ban beef is perceived as a readymade agenda that the Congress can now exploit to restore Muslim faith in the Congress.
The big question being debated in the party is how to counter the MIM in the civic elections coming up in 2017. And the larger concern is to retain its 10.6 per cent Muslim vote bank, which is critical in determining the fate of candidates in at least 35 out of the 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra.
Congress Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha Hussain Dalwai said, “We will initiate corrective steps to reach out to Muslims. Whether it is Sachar Committee recommendations or employment and education-related aspects, we have to aggressively revive the agenda.”
He added, “Muslims’ anger against the Congress also stems from its failure to keep promises made in the past. We failed to give Muslims representation in the state Legislative Council from Aurangabad, which was reflected in the civic polls as they switched to MIM. In the 2014 assembly elections, we could have fielded more Muslim candidates from seats where the community is dominant.”
The Congress is also grappling with the charge that Marathi Muslims confined to Konkan have been ignored and 
only those from Uttar Pradesh are appeased.
Both AICC and MPCC leaders believe the party cannot afford to lose Muslim support at a time when it is struggling to regain its foothold in the state.
Dalwai, however, said, “Muslims will be better off with a mainstream party. Fundamental parties will work against their well-being.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

US President Barack Obama offers 'chadar' at Ajmer Sharif - Yudhvir Rana, TNN, The Times of India, Mumbai

A very sinister move

USA, probably egged on by the heavy presence of Jews in State Department, is starting a new and very sinister conspiracy to make Ajmer a spiritual SMART city, where Jewish mystical traditions may be imbibed in an organised way through studies and practices. As a start a chaddar is presented to the Ajmer Dargah, in the name of US President Obama, through current US ambassador Richard Verma, of Indian origin. Like the British promoting Ahmediyas to sow seeds of division in Muslim Ummah under British Raj, US under the same old Jewish conspirators' tried and tested dirty tricks agenda, is probably once again trying to exploit religious fervor of Muslims, to promote another version of new spiritual concoction to challenge traditional Islam in India.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

P.S. TOI news on Ajmer is posted from Amritsar. Jews have already penetrated Sikh spiritual organisations to subvert them for US political agenda.


US President Barack Obama offers

 'chadar' at 

Ajmer Sharif

Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti's dargah at Ajmer in Rajasthan. (Getty Images photo)

AMRITSAR: United States has offered a 'chadar' (a ceremonial cloth inscribed with religious verses) at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer in Rajasthan on the occasion of 803rd annual urs of the saint. Talking to TOI on Friday, 'gaddi nasheen' (administrator), Dargah Khawaja Saheb and director, Chishti Foundation, Sayed Salman Chishti informed that the 'chadar' was given to him by the US ambassador to India Richard Verma on behalf of President Barak Obama and the US government.

He said, "This is for the first time that the head of any non-South Asian country has extended spiritual greetings of peace to Ajmer Dargah Sharif." Traditionally, the greetings of peace are received each year from the Indian sub-continent and South Asian countries, he said. The eight-day Urs will begin on Sunday and conclude on April 26, Chishti said.

Chishti, who returned from the US on Thursday, informed that he had held discussions with US state department in Washington about developing Ajmer as 'Sufi Smart City' having thought-provoking theological and spiritual reflections. "We have proposed to make Ajmer a clean and green city having spiritual environment," he said, adding that the proposal would also be given to Indian government. He said under the proposal, Ajmer would be connected to all spiritual centers in India and abroad.

He said he had also proposed to set up an international-level study and research centre on spirituality at Ajmer. "Peace is what the world needs. US has also given greetings of peace and spirituality in the form of 'chadar' to be offered at the Dargah," he said.

Pilgrims crowd outside an entrance to the dargah in Ajmer. (Getty Images photo)

Chishti also informed of connecting Amritsar with Ajmer. "We have lot of Sikhs coming to pay obeisance at the Dargah," he said. Many hymns of Baba Farid, second spiritual successor of Khwaja Gareebnawaz, were incorporated in the Sikhs' holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib, he added.

A young pilgrim carries a 'chadar' as he arrives at the dargah of 13th century Sufi Muslim saint Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Rajasthan. (Getty Images photo)

Flower sellers at the famous dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. (Getty Images photo)


Even This Good Deed Looks Like a Crime to Us -From Daily Inquilab Urdu

Urdu Media Monitor

Even This Good Deed Looks Like a Crime to Us

Seven Muslims in a village of Aligarh have been arrested because they have been accused of trying to convert Hindus to Islam. When investigated it turned out that they were very thirsty and had asked a Hindu for drinking water. That gentleman not only offered them water to drink but as it was time for their prayers he allowed them to pray in his house as well.
Hate mongers hate such displays of brotherhood
Hate mongers hate such displays of brotherhood
Communalists have polarised the atmosphere to such an extent that one cannot even express the natural human sympathy towards other people of a different faith. Helping others out of humanity is becoming improper.
Display of such a phenomenon was recently witnessed in Aligarh where seven Muslims were arrested for allegedly trying religious conversion. Within moments the news spread far and wide and the atmosphere became tense.
What in fact happened was that half a dozen of Muslims who, from their appearance and attire looked very religious were passing by Menth, a village few miles away from Aligarh. Thirsty and exhausted by the heat they knocked at the door of one Surajpal and asked him for some water to drink. As a gesture of human brotherhood he made them sit and offered them water to drink.
In the meanwhile it was time for prayers and they asked for Surajpal’s permission to offer their prayers. As they were praying a villager happened to see them praying and then spread the news that some Muslims were staying with Surajpal and were teaching Islam and how to pray and perhaps Surajpal was about to change his religion.
For the mischief mongers this was enough. They immediately rushed to the police station and filed a complaint that in the village of Menth Muslims are converting Hindus to Islam. Displaying [exceptional] efficiency some officials of police and district administration rushed to Surajpal’s house and brought the Muslims and the host to the police station.
Surajpal explained the whole story but the miscreants continued insisting that police register a complaint against and arrest the Muslims. In order to pressurise the police they also called the Mayor of Aligarh Shakuntla Bharti who needs not to mention that she belongs to BJP.
She and other BJP leaders pressurised the police as a result of which police registered a case against these seven individuals. They were charged with the offences of creating animosity between two groups on the basis of race, region, religion and place of birth. With that the police also registered a case against Surajpal for causing tension. This case was registered on the complaint of the village head Sateesh Singh.
Afterwards a group of Muslims arrived at the police station and informed the police that the detainees had nothing to do with the business of conversion of religion. All of these seven are the resident of the area that comes under the police station that happens to be in Aligarh.
Later Samajwadi Party MLA Zafar Alam phoned the police station and told them that all of the seven detainees were innocent. Finally they were released in the evening and the Superintendent of Police Aligarh Sansar Singh declared that all the seven men had been released. However, police has been deployed in Menth village.
According to the In-Charge of Mandrak police station the allegation of conversion of religion being levelled against them looked baseless at the very outset. Surajpal had himself stated that he knew these seven Muslims and they had gone to his house because of extreme heat and thirst. In the meanwhile it happened to be prayer time and they sought his permission to pray and he allowed them to pray.
When asked by the media Aligarh’s Mayor Shakuntla Bharti said, ‘The villagers had called me reporting that some people are trying others to convert their religion and when they complained to the police, they refused to file their complaint. It is for the reason that I have come here.’ They also told her that for the last six months Muslims had been coming to the village and trying to convert the villagers to Islam. According to them there was not a single Muslim in the village still they come there and were preaching Islam there.’
However, police has itself admitted that the allegations against these Muslims were baseless. This was a story fabricated by mischief mongers because of which a gentleman had to face such a difficulty who had given water and shelter to the travellers purely as a humanitarian gesture.
This gives an idea of how much even humanitarian relationship is abhorred by the miscreants. They do not want any Hindu to be sympathetic towards a Muslim or a Muslim to be friendly with a Hindu.
Translated from daily Inquilab, 23 April 2015, by Urdu Media Monitor.Com

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Farmer commits suicide at AAP rally in Jantar Mantar; CM Arvind Kejriwal blames police, Home Minister orders probe - Dipankar Ghose - The Indian Express

Farmer commits suicide at AAP rally in Jantar Mantar; CM Arvind Kejriwal blames police, Home Minister orders probe

farmer suicide, farmer hangs himself, farmer death, AAP rally, Arvind Kejriwal, Rajnath Singh, Rahul Gandhi
A photo showing Gajender Singh (extreme left) on a tree at the AAP rally at Jantar Mantar (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)
Written by Dipankar Ghose | Updated: April 22, 2015 4:47 pm
A farmer who hanged himself at an AAP rally on Wednesday to protest against the government’s land bill is dead, doctors said.
Doctors at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital said that the farmer, identified as Gajender Singh of Rajasthan, was brought dead from the site of the rally where he hanged himself from a tree.
The incident occurred at around 2 pm in the presence of Kejriwal prompting senior AAP leaders to allege that it was an attempt to “sabotage” the rally and slammed the police for being “mute spectators”.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed grief over the incident and directed a probe into the suicide.
Kejriwal said, “We kept asking the police to bring him down. Police may not be in our control but at least there should be a semblance of humanity among them. I am rushing to the hospital with Manish Sisodia”.
AAP leader Somnath Bharti, meanwhile, claimed a conspiracy behind the farmer’s suicide.

There was absolute pandemonium at the Aam Aadmi Party’s Kisan rally after the farmer attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree during the rally. The man was first noticed when he began climbing the tree at around 1:30 pm. Most people at the time thought that the man only wanted to get a better view of the dais, with the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal having arrived only a few moments earlier.
The man, however, proceeded to use a white cloth he was carrying to tie around his neck, and hung himself, with both his arms wrapped around the tree. By this time, however, many police personnel surrounded the tree, but stood in a semi-circle, and did not attempt to bring the man down.
Kumar Vishwas, who had taken to the mike as events unfolded, first exhorted the man to come down. As the situation became increasingly serious, Vishwas then said that the man could meet Arvind Kejriwal if that’s what he wanted, but asked him not to do anything dangerous. As Vishwas realised that the man was not motionless hanging from the tree, an irate Vishwas said, “Police vaha khadi hai. Aap apna kaam kyu nahi kar rahe (Police is standing there. Why are you not doing your work?).”
Indeed, as the police stood motionless for close to ten minutes, five civilians, one wearing an Aam Aadmi Party cap, went up to the tree, and tried to drag the man down. They succeeded in bringing him down to a point, but then had to drop him down to the ground. He was then rushed to a hospital. Some even said that as he was up on the tree, the man threw down a note, but this could not be independently confirmed.
The crowd grew increasingly irate at the police’s inaction, which then resulted in small skirmishes, and pushing and shoving between the police and the crowd.
The rally then resumed once the body was taken away, but Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia then said that he and Kejriwal would possibly go to the hospital.
There are unconfirmed reports that the man was a farmer from Dausa.
The Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday threatened to widen its stir against the Centre if it goes ahead with the contentious land bill as party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held a rally in New Delhi against the legislation.
(With inputs from PTI)
First Published on: April 22, 20152:31 pm

Monday, April 20, 2015

China's President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan - 3 articles from Economist, NYTIMES, Indian Express

China's President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan has invited a flurry of instant analysis by world press. Each reveal their own assessment, which may or may not be the objective reality attending the long-delayed meeting. Here 3 articles from UK, US and India.


The Economist



Pakistan’s “all-weather” friendships are under strain

Apr 18th 2015 | From the print edition

A scathing synopsis of Pakistan’s foreign policy might boil it down to four principles: provoke India, but not too much; say what America wants to hear; do what China wants done; and provide what rich Arab donors in the Gulf think they have bought. To the surprise of many, that last maxim has just been flouted. This month Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, referred to Parliament a request from Saudi Arabia to send soldiers to assist in the war in Yemen. Parliament decreed that Pakistan should stay neutral. It is not just governments in the Gulf that are cross with Pakistan. So are India (even more than usual), America and even China. But Mr Sharif may not be too worried: as so often, Pakistan’s international position is stronger than it looks.
Members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are certainly incensed. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, a minister from the United Arab Emirates, raised hackles in Pakistan by warning that it would pay a “heavy price” for its “ambiguous stand”. Saudi Arabia had even more reason to complain. Nawaz Sharif owes the kingdom a personal debt. It helped free him from prison and gave him a home in exile after a military coup in 1999 ended an earlier stint as prime minister. A gold-and-silver model of Mecca and Medina, a gift from the late King Abdullah, has pride of place in his plush living room in Lahore. And in March last year Saudi Arabia made Pakistan a “friendly gift” of $1.5 billion, a big boost to the government’s finances. It was an “unconditional” grant, but might have been expected to buy some security co-operation.
Yet not one MP spoke in favour of deploying troops in Yemen. It seemed a bad idea for many reasons. Despite the Pakistani army’s status as the Muslim world’s biggest fighting force, and its long experience of counter-insurgency warfare in rugged terrain, getting sucked into Yemen would be a dangerous gamble. Besides, the army is battling militant groups in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Nor is it in Pakistan’s interests to be caught up in a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The kingdom is an important friend and donor, but Pakistan also shares a 900-kilometre (560-mile) border with Iran. It stands to benefit if sanctions are lifted following a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme—especially if a long-mooted pipeline to supply much-needed Iranian gas becomes operational. Conversely, a hostile Iran could meddle dangerously in some of Pakistan’s internal conflicts. It borders the province of Balochistan, where an insurgency simmers. And there and elsewhere, Pakistan suffers frequent sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslim extremists. Like Saudi Arabia, it has a Sunni majority. But about one-fifth of Pakistanis are Shias, as are most Iranians. The last thing Pakistan wants is to take sides in a region-wide Sunni-Shia struggle.
Discussing Parliament’s decision, Mr Sharif chose to stress what it did agree to: that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territory would “evoke a strong response” from Pakistan. Its ties with the kingdom are deep enough to withstand this upset. And Pakistan has one asset which Saudi Arabia will surely regard as more precious than ever in the light of an Iranian agreement: the bomb. Many believe Saudi Arabia has an understanding with Pakistan that, if disaster threatens, it will help it acquire nuclear weapons.
As “The China-Pakistan Axis”, a recent book by Andrew Small, makes clear, Pakistan owes its nuclear capability in part to Chinese help. When they talk about this friendship, Pakistani leaders seem about to burst into a torch song: “deeper than the deepest ocean”, “sweeter than honey”, etc. But the romance has hit a rocky patch: witness the difficulty in scheduling a first visit to Pakistan by Xi Jinping, China’s president. Unrelated street protests in Islamabad, the capital, last year delayed one attempt. After Barack Obama attended India’s National Day parade in January, Pakistan hoped in vain that Mr Xi would attend its own last month. But China also hopes to get on better with India. Next month it will play host to its prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Moreover, Pakistan has irked officials in Beijing over China’s most pressing domestic-security concern (especially since a horrific knife attack at the railway station in Kunming in south-western China a year ago in which 29 people were killed): terrorism stemming from the grievances of China’s Uighurs, a mainly Muslim Turkic minority in its vast western region of Xinjiang. Some Uighurs have long fought in Afghanistan (22 Uighurs, all now free, were held in Guantánamo Bay) and a few dozen Uighur militants linger on in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Nothing suggests they can stage attacks in China. But Pakistan’s best friend forever wonders why the country’s army has not simply eliminated them.
The Chinese are coming
Mr Xi’s visit now seems about to happen, however. Besides the lovey-dovey speeches, it is likely to be marked by announcements putting flesh on the bones of a proposed “China-Pakistan economic corridor” involving tens of billions of dollars of Chinese investment. The perennial benefit of the relationship for China is that Pakistan preoccupies India, a potential rival to China, with its local difficulties. But there are many other advantages. One is a seaport on the coast near Iran, at Gwadar, which may be useful to China’s navy. Another is intelligence links and access to some of the militant groups that will help shape Afghanistan’s future as American troops withdraw.
So Pakistan can feel confident that China’s recent apparent snubs are blips in relations. India, meanwhile, is furious that a Pakistani court has this month freed on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed. America, too, has expressed “grave concern”. But neither country seems likely to retaliate. So far it has not, for example, affected Pakistan’s purchase of $1 billion-worth of high-tech American weaponry, approved this month. As even the irascible Mr Gargash may learn, Pakistan has a knack for getting away with angering friend and foe alike.




China’s President Heads to Pakistan With Billions in Infrastructure Aid


APRIL 19, 2015
    President Xi Jinping of China will sign accords for projects worth $46 billion during a visit to Islamabad on Monday. Credit Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

    BEIJING — China’s president, Xi Jinping, travels to Pakistan on Monday laden with tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure and energy assistance on a scale the United States has never offered in the past decade of a close relationship, a gesture likely to confirm the decline of American influence in that nation.

    Mr. Xi, making his first overseas trip this year, and the first by a Chinese leader to Pakistan in nine years, will arrive fortified from the robust reception to the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and is looking to show that China can make a difference in a friendly, neighboring country troubled by terrorism.

    Pakistani officials say that Mr. Xi will be signing accords for $46 billion for the construction of roads, rails and power plants to be built on a commercial basis by Chinese companies over 15 years.

    Just as the United States sought to stabilize Pakistan during the war in Afghanistan, so China wants to prevent the spread of militant groups in Pakistan into Xinjiang, the far western region of China with a large Muslim population.

    Washington tried to encourage the Pakistani government to try to stop terrorist groups from crossing the border into Afghanistan and attacking American troops, in part, by sending assistance intended to revive the gasping economy. Now, as China faces growing restiveness in Xinjiang, which has borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, Beijing is attempting to help stem the flow of radicalism into its own backyard by bolstering development in perhaps the most vulnerable part of Pakistan.

    To the increasing frustration of China, a Muslim separatist group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, founded by Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority concentrated in northwestern China, operates alongside several Pakistani terrorist groups inside Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas. A military operation was launched by the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan last June against the Taliban, also aimed at the Turkestan group, an action designed to please China.

    A significant amount of China’s new assistance, including a port facility at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, and rails and roads leading from the port across Baluchistan Province and into western China, will be in areas close to the tribal areas where the militant groups operate.

    The route from Gwadar to Kashgar, in Xinjiang — a project officially called the Economic Corridor — also serves as a shortcut for the shipment of goods from Europe to China, avoiding the Strait of Malacca farther east.

    “The Chinese are stepping in, in a much, much bigger way than the United States ever contemplated,” said Jahangir Tareen, a Pakistani businessman, and the secretary general of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. “The assistance is far, far more than the United States government offered under the United States Agency for International Development.”

    In advance of his trip, Mr. Xi wrote in a column distributed to the Pakistani news media over the weekend: “We need to form a ‘1+4’ cooperation structure with the Economic Corridor at the center and the Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to drive development across Pakistan and deliver tangible benefits to its people.”

    Most striking about the visit is the scale of Mr. Xi’s aid announcement compared with the American effort from 2009 to 2012 spearheaded in Congress by John Kerry, then a senator, and pressed in Pakistan by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then secretary of state. The program designated $7.5 billion for development projects over five years.

    That effort was a “dramatic failure” because the resources were scattered too thinly, and had no practical or strategic impact, said David S. Sedney, a former senior official at the Pentagon responsible for Pakistan during that period.

    The Chinese appear to have learned from the American program, including the notion that the American plan was designed to deliver a strategic result — deterring terrorism — but failed to do so, Mr. Sedney said.

    To do better than the United States, the Chinese have come up with “a much larger financial commitment — and it is focused on a specific area, it has a signature infrastructure focus and it is a decades-long commitment,” he said.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the projects in Pakistan would be the first initiatives of the $40 billion Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road plans, an ambitious network of roads, rails and ports designed to link China to Europe through Central Asia and Russia, and announced with considerable fanfare by Mr. Xi in November.

    China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Jianchao, declined to say how much of the Silk Road funds would go to the Pakistani projects, or how much the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would lend. “It needs huge financing. China stands ready to provide financing,” Mr. Liu said.

    Mr. Xi embarks on his visit to Pakistan after the Finance Ministry announced last week that 57 countries had signed to join the new development bank.

    Perhaps just as important as China’s economic assistance is a major military deal that is unlikely to be publicized during the Chinese leader’s visit, Pakistani analysts said.

    Pakistan has agreed to buy eight Chinese submarines to counter India’s naval dominance in the Indian Ocean, a $6 billion purchase approved by a parliamentary committee in Islamabad this month.The new submarines were “very quiet, capable and lethal,” and a step up from previous Chinese arms sales to Pakistan, said Lyle J. Goldstein, associate professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

    Yufan Huang contributed research.

    A version of this article appears in print on April 20, 2015, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Chinese President Heads to Pakistan, Bearing Gifts. Order ReprintsToday's Paper|Subscribe



    The Indian Express

    Reimagining the triangle

    Written by C Raja Mohan | Published on:April 20, 2015 1:25 am
    Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan this week presents a paradox. He is likely to unveil massive plans for the expansion of economic and strategic partnership between the two countries during the visit, as well as highlight the emerging vulnerabilities of a relationship that has long been celebrated as “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Indian Ocean and sweeter than honey”. Xi’s travel to Islamabad, coming three weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, raises interesting questions about New Delhi’s changing approach towards Beijing.
    During his two-day trip to Pakistan, Xi is expected to launch infrastructure projectsworth more than $40 billion.
    any of these are part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, considered one of the cornerstones of Xi’s ambitious “one belt, one road” initiative aimed at transforming China’s ties with its neighbouring regions. The “belt” refers to the overland industrialand transport corridors that will link China to the Eurasian landmass. The “road” is short form for the maritime silk road that will connect China’s industrial heartland in the Pacific to the resource-rich Indian Ocean.
    Beyond the economic, the leaders of the two countries could close a deal on the sale of eight submarines to the Pakistan navy. For its part, Islamabad is expected to hand over the Gwadar port on a 40-year lease to China. The port is likely to hostChinese facilities to service the ships and submarines of the PLA Navy operating in the IndianOcean.
    But there is a downside to the story as well. It has not been easy to arrange Xi’s visit to Pakistan. When Xi came to India in September last year, he was to have travelled to Pakistan too. But the trip was cancelled amidst political turmoil in Islamabad at that time. After US President Barack Obama’s presence at India’s Republic Day celebrations in January, Pakistan was eager to have Xi grace its national day parade on March 23. Xi did not show up.
    It is reported that security considerations have weighed heavily on China’s mind in preparing for Xi’s visit to Pakistan and in its reluctance to formally announce the dates of the visit. That in turn leads to a range of new problems that have begun to cast a shadow on the all-weather partnership between China and Pakistan.
    At one end is the simple question of security for Chinese personnel working on a variety of development projects in Pakistan. Over the last few years, Beijing has mounted relentless pressure on improving the security of its citizens who have become targets for the militant groups in Pakistan. Islamabad has reportedly agreed to set up a special security force of nearly 12,000 people to protect Chinese workers and projects.
    Even more important for China is the problem that we in India call cross-border terrorism.  The tribal areas in Pakistan’s western borderlands with Afghanistan have become a sanctuary for terror groups that mount attacks in Xinjiang, China’s restive Muslim-majority province that borders the subcontinent. 
    Security officials in Xinjiang and Beijing are no longer confident that the Pakistan army can take care of China’s concerns on terrorism. As the US withdraws from Afghanistan, Beijing worries that there could be more turbulence in Pakistan, which could worsen China’s internalsecurity challenges.
    China is no longer viewing the Af-Pak region through the eyes of the Pakistan army. Beijing has begun to make its own assessments of the region and over the last year, it has signalled an interest in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It might be too early to affirm that China and Pakistan are at odds in Afghanistan, but small cracks are appearing in the once-solid regional partnership between the two. Might that open up an opportunity for India?
    Until now, Delhi had assumed that their shared hostility towards India meant that the alliance between Beijing and Rawalpindi was immutable. Although the China-Pakistan alliance has been an enduring feature of our geopolitical landscape for many decades, some change is inevitable as circumstances in the region evolve. For Delhi, the question is about judging the extent of the change and finding ways to transform India’s triangular relationship with Pakistan and China.
    If Delhi is bold, it can influence the evolution of that relationship in two ways. For allthe grand talk about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, there are many constraints on a China-led industrial transformation of Pakistan. The experiences in Myanmar and Sri Lanka point to some of the problems associated with China’s silk road initiatives.
    Meanwhile, the potential for a sustainable economic partnership between India and China is much greater than that between Islamabad and Beijing. The problem so far has been Delhi’s reluctance.
    India is also in a much better position today to counter any new Chinese investments in its military alliance with Pakistan. As India deepens ties with other major powers and takes a more active role in Asia and the Pacific, Modi is in a position to credibly tell his Chinese interlocutors that the costs of Beijing’s alliance
    with Rawalpindi could soon exceed the benefits.
    Xi’s visit to Pakistan, then, must spur Modi to imagine a robust and self-confident strategy towards China that opens India to an expansive bilateral and regionaleconomic partnership. Modi must also articulate India’s readiness to cooperate with China on regional security issues ranging from counter-terrorism to Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
    If India is the glue that binds the Sino-Pak alliance, as many argue, Delhi should have the capacity to weaken that bond through its own policies. Over the last decade, Delhihas managed to alter the triangular dynamic with Pakistan and America by expanding its partnership with Washington. There might be similar possibilities awaiting Modi in Beijing.
    The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor for ‘The Indian Express’