* Foreign

Pak. PM says his overtures were turned down; warns of crisis escalating between the nuclear powers

A file photo of Pakistan PM Imran Khan in Islamabad.NYTSAIYNA BASHIR

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan intensified his criticism of India on Wednesday over its Kashmir crackdown, saying he would no longer seek dialogue with Indian officials and raising the threat of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Khan complained bitterly about what he described as repeated rebuffs from Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his entreaties for communication, both before and after the August 5 decision to end Kashmir’s special status.

“There is no point in talking to them. I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement,” Mr. Khan said during the interview at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad. “There is nothing more that we can do.”

Mr. Khan has repeatedly denounced the Modi government for terminating the autonomy of Kashmir. India deployed thousands of troops to quell any possible unrest and severed nearly all communications in the region.

There was no immediate comment from the Indian side on Mr. Khan’s remarks. But India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was visiting The New York Times Editorial Board, rejected criticism.

“Our experience has been that every time we have taken an initiative toward peace, it has turned out badly for us,” the Ambassador said. “We expect Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action against terrorism.”

Internal matter

Mr. Khan’s interview with The Times was his first with an international news organisation aimed at publicising his anger over what is happening in Kashmir — and it appeared to reflect his frustration at what he views as India’s intransigence.

Indian officials have described their new policy on Kashmir as a legal and internal matter that was part of an effort to improve the region’s economic prospects. They have said the deployment of armed forces was precautionary, preventive and temporary.

Echoing what he and his subordinates have said on social media and in Pakistani news outlets, Mr. Khan described Mr. Modi as a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus.

“The most important thing is that 8 million people’s lives are at risk. We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen,” Mr. Khan said.

Last month, Mr. Khan visited Washington and met with Mr. Trump, who said he would be willing to mediate the conflict. His offer was welcomed by Mr. Khan but has not been accepted by India.

Mr. Trump reiterated his offer on Tuesday, telling NBC News: “I’ll do the best I can to mediate or do something.”

Mr. Khan expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive “false-flag operation” in Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan. And Pakistan, he said, would be forced to respond.

Eyeball to eyeball

“And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen,” he said. “My worry is that this can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now.”

Mr. Khan’s warnings of a wider nuclear conflagration reprised comments from Islamabad shortly after Indian warplanes infiltrated Pakistani airspace in March. Indian government officials have dismissed such warnings, claiming that Pakistan is using the threat of nuclear war to push the international community to mediate and force India into talks.

Shortly after taking office last summer, Mr. Khan reached out to India in an attempt to revive talks between the countries. But Indian officials rejected Mr. Khan’s efforts with a long-standing response that they will negotiate only after Pakistan cuts ties to militant groups. NY Times

‘President did not comment on Kashmir in meeting’

Maithripala Sirisena

Refuting a recent press statement issued by the Colombo-based Pakistani High Commission, the President’s office on Thursday said Maithripala Sirisena did not comment on issues pertaining to India and Pakistan during his recent meeting with the Pakistani High Commissioner. Mr. Sirisena told him that “both India and Pakistan have excellent friendly relations with Sri Lanka”, his media division said.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Pakistani mission said High Commissioner Shahid Ahmad Hashmat met President Sirisena on August 20 “to apprise him about the current situation” in Jammu & Kashmir. The High Commissioner, according to the mission’s press statement, briefed the President about “India’s illegal and unilateral actions” seeking to alter the status of Jammu and Kashmir and its demographic structure by revoking Article 370 and 35A. “He also apprised the President of the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation” in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under lockdown and curfew since August 5. “He added that these steps were in contravention of the UNSC resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and the International Law.”

The release further said that the “President acknowledged that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and expressed his desire that this dispute should be resolved according to wishes of Kashmiris under UN Resolutions. He also offered Sri Lanka’s mediation and facilitation of dialogue between Pakistan and India to re-activate the SAARC forum. He further said that resolution of Kashmir issue is essential for permanent peace and stability in the region.”

Patient hearing

Referring to the press release, the President’s Media Division on Thursday said the meeting took place “at the request of the High Commissioner of Pakistan and during which he briefed the President about the recent developments with regard to India’s abrogation of Section 370 and annulling of Article 35A .”

“The President gave a patient hearing to the Pakistan High Commissioner’s views and stated that both India and Pakistan have excellent friendly relations with Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s interest is to see the growth of regional cooperation and friendship. The President did not make any other comment on the issues pertaining to India and Pakistan,” his office clarified.

Presidential sources told The Hindu that the Indian High Commissioner too had called on Mr. Sirisena some days ago, to brief him on the development. “The President gave him a patient hearing,” a source said.

The development comes in the wake of New Delhi ending Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcating it into two Union Territories. The Sri Lankan government or its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not officially commented on the development so far. When contacted, a senior Foreign Ministry official in Colombo told The Hindu: “It is India’s internal matter and we do not comment on countries’ internal affairs.”

South Korea said on Thursday it will scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a decision that could escalate a dispute over history and trade and undercut security cooperation on North Korea.

With the decision not to extend the pact, the political and trade disputes between South Korea and Japan now extend into some of the most sensitive national security issues in the region.

The arrangement was designed to share information on the threat posed by North Koreas missile and nuclear activities.

The decision to end it comes after North Korea launched a series of short-range ballistic missiles in protest against what it sees as military build-ups in South Korea and Japan.

The General Security of Military Information Agreement was due to be automatically renewed on Saturday.

The decision was announced after an hour-long discussion within the presidential National Security Council (NSC). South Korean President Moon Jae-in approved it.

Japan created a “grave change” in the environment for bilateral security cooperation by removing South Korea’s fast-track export status, said Kim You-geun, a deputy director of the NSC.

Japan cited security concerns without providing evidence for its decision on South Korea’s trade status.

Members of the community say he is fuelling anti-Semitism

Donald TrumpCarolyn Kaster

U.S. President Donald Trump has been hit by a wave of criticism for accusing Jewish Democratic voters of “disloyalty,” but his comment also highlighted the unease of some in the community with its traditional party of choice.

Mr. Trump, who has positioned himself as a staunch ally of Israel, made the remark on Tuesday night while criticising Democratic politicians who support a boycott of the Jewish state.

“Where has the Democratic party gone?” Mr. Trump said, adding: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Members of America’s more than five million-strong Jewish community — 80% of whom voted Democratic in the 2018 mid-term elections, according to the Pew Research Center — have blamed the President for fuelling anti-Semitism.

“It’s a bit unclear what the President was trying to say in terms of who Jews are disloyal to... While he wasn’t exactly clear about that, I will be exactly clear on what that was: anti-Semitic,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said.

The President “has no right to tell Jewish Americans he knows what is best for us or to demand our loyalty,” said Halie Soifer, of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

Except for those in whom self awareness is dominant, a majority of beings are bound to samsara as in a giant wheel ride and are subject to a wide range of experiences. As one is spun around, everything appears topsy-turvy and there is always dread and fear, whether when taken up to the heights or when brought to ground level. Once committed to the ride, no matter how frightening it may be and no matter how much one would like to get out of it, one is compelled to one’s seat with no other alternative, pointed out Nochur Sri Venkataraman in a discourse.

There are many portions in the Ramayana wherein the plight of the jivatma who is deluded by the ineffable power of maya is analysed. When the grief torn Bharata tries to persuade Rama to come back and rule Ayodhya, their conversation is full of philosophical wisdom on the ephemeral nature of human existence and the stress and strain inbuilt in it. Bharata realises Rama’s divine self which the Lord holds perfectly under wraps when He plays the role of Rama. He points out to Rama that though like all beings He is caught in samsara, He is beyond the torment of sorrow or the exhilaration of joy owing to His equanimity. The Bhagavata Purana shows Akrura advising Dhritarashtra, whose mind is tilted strongly by affection to his children, to be fair in his dealings with his brother’s sons. Dhritarashtra’s reply in this context is marked by profound wisdom. He tells Akrura that he cannot be influenced by any advice just as a streak of lightning on the mountainside does not leave any permanent mark. He asks, “Is there any one or any way by which the Supreme Lord’s Sankalpa can be altered? Has He not incarnated as Krishna for the specific purpose of eradicating the pressures of evil forces in the world?”

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