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Would have ‘thrown Afghanistan under the bus’: diplomats

Final straw: People shopping at a busy market in the old city of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.APEbrahim Noroozi

Criticising the United States for having carried out talks with the Taliban without involving the Afghan government or regional players, the Iranian Ambassador to India said here that Tehran is “worried” about the prospect of a Taliban-led government in Kabul. Iran’s worries matched Indian concerns over the deal, which Indian diplomats said would have “thrown Afghanistan under the bus.”

“Taliban doesn’t recognise a Republic of the people; it wants to establish an ‘Emirate’, where all orders will come from one centralised non-elected power. We hope that will not happen,” said Iranian Ambassador Ali Chegeni at an interaction organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC) on Monday.

Kabul excluded

Reacting to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the deal with the Taliban that was reportedly in its final stages, Mr. Chegeni said the main problem with the deal being negotiated between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha was that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government was not at the table for the talks.

Iran was invited to regional talks on the Afghanistan peace process in Beijing, attended by China, Russia, U.S. and Pakistan, but had declined to attend because the Ghani government was not represented.

India has yet to formally respond to the dramatic turn of events, which led to the U.S. cancelling a planned meeting with Taliban leaders and with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at ‘Camp David’ over the weekend to announce a peace deal. Officials said they would prefer to take a cautious approach, in the event Washington tried to salvage talks with the Taliban again.

Revival possible

“I don’t think the deal has been completely jettisoned yet,” said former Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, who is now a member of the National Security Advisory Board, and represented India in a “non-official capacity” at the Moscow talks with the Taliban.

“I think India should be happy that Afghanistan has been saved from being thrown under a bus for the moment. The deal would have put a question mark over everything from the government and constitution to the election process in Afghanistan,” Mr. Sinha said, referring to the Presidential elections in Afghanistan due on September 28.

It was clear, however that the two biggest losers from the development were Pakistan, that controlled various Taliban leaders, as well as Mr. Khalilzad, who had spent the last year preparing the deal, Mr. Sinha said.

Former diplomat Rajiv Dogra warned that the talks had only been put on “pause” and not cancelled as yet.

He said the main sticking point for the Taliban controlled by the Pakistani military, had become the U.S. desire to maintain intelligence operatives and a 5,000-strong contingent of troops in Afghanistan, which would have weakened the Pakistani military’s grip in a post-deal Afghanistan.

Former Special Envoy to the United Nations Chinmaya Garekhan said the “mindless acts of violence” perpetrated by the Taliban were the final straw.

PM needs to postpone it to 2020 unless he gets a deal; Parliament also likely to reject his snap poll plans

Tough talks: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, left, with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in Dublin on Monday.AFPLORRAINE O'SULLIVAN

A Bill demanding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson delay Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union on October 31 if he cannot get a divorce deal became law on Monday but his office insisted that Brexit would happen by that date, “no ifs and buts”.

Parliament was also likely to reject Mr. Johnson’s call on Monday for a snap general election, which he is seeking in order to break a deadlock over Brexit that has intensified since he took office in July pledging to get on with the departure.

“The Prime Minister is very clear that he will take this country out of the EU on October 31st no ifs or buts, he will not sanction any more pointless delays,” Mr. Johnson’s office said after the Bill became law.

Mr. Johnson was due to suspend Parliament for over a month from Monday after it votes on his latest demand for a snap election. He had set up the suspension — called a prorogation — last month in what opponents cast as an attempt to sideline lawmakers over Brexit.

The departure from the EU, the United Kingdom’s most significant geopolitical move in decades, remains in question more than three years since the 2016 referendum, with possible outcomes ranging from a no-deal exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.

An alliance of opposition lawmakers and rebels from Mr. Johnson’s own Conservative Party passed the Bill that became law on Monday having received the assent of Queen Elizabeth.

The law, which seeks to block a no-deal exit, will force Mr. Johnson to seek a three-month extension to the October 31 deadline unless Parliament has either approved a deal or consented by October 19 to leave without one.

It was unclear what Mr. Johnson’s next move would be: while the law will oblige him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal, EU leaders have repeatedly said they have received no specific proposals.

“I’m absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in Parliament,” Mr. Johnson said in Dublin.

“We must get Brexit done because the U.K. must come out on October 31, or else I fear that permanent damage will be done to confidence in our democracy in the U.K.,” Mr. Johnson said.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who played a key role in the Brexit crisis, took a veiled swipe at Mr. Johnson as he announced on Monday he would stand down from the role.

Irish border

Ireland told Mr. Johnson on Monday that he must make specific proposals on the future of the Irish border if there is to be any hope of averting a no-deal Brexit, saying Dublin cannot rely on simple promises.

“In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us,” Mr. Varadkar told reporters.

“We are open to alternatives, but they must realistic ones, legally binding and workable and we haven’t received such proposals to date.”

The blunt remarks by Mr. Varadkar indicate the difficulty of Mr. Johnson’s gamble of using the threat of a no-deal exit to convince Germany and France that they must rewrite an exit agreement struck last November.

John Bercow had branded suspension of the House by PM a ‘constitutional outrage’

John BercowReuters TV

John Bercow, the speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, announced on Monday that he would step down within weeks. The man at the centre of more than three years of fiery Brexit debates in Parliament, Mr. Bercow has been a controversial figure — much criticised by supporters of Brexit and praised by its opponents.

Mr. Bercow has served as speaker of Parliament’s lower chamber for 10 years.

“If the house votes tonight for an early general election, my tenure as speaker and MP will end when this Parliament ends,” Mr. Bercow told the chamber.

“If the house does not so vote, I have concluded that the least disruptive and most democratic course of action would be for me to stand down at the close of business on Thursday, October 31.”

Mr. Bercow, 56, is best known for presiding over debates, bellowing “Order! Order!” at unruly MPs and admonishing lawmakers who displease him.

Ever since the 2016 EU membership referendum, he has been influential in defending the right of Parliament to have its say on the tortuous Brexit process.

He branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, which runs from the end of Monday’s debates until October 14, as a “constitutional outrage” designed to “stop Parliament debating Brexit”.

Mr. Bercow was first elected as an MP for the centre-right Conservative Party, but he was elevated to the Speaker’s position in 2009.

However, his interventions in Brexit debates have prompted accusations from his former colleagues that he is biased both against the Conservative government and Brexit itself.

Overture comes after Pompeo said he wanted talks resumed

Kim Jong-un 朝鮮通信社

North Korea is willing to restart talks with the U.S. in late September over its nuclear programme, a senior North Korean diplomat said on Monday, following a protracted deadlock since a failed summit in February.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had set a year-end deadline in April for the U.S. to show more flexibility and agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump to reopen working-level talks when they met again in June, but that has not happened.

The latest overture came from Vice North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who said Pyongyang was willing to have ”comprehensive discussions” with the U.S. in late September at a time and place agreed between both sides.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped to return to denuclearisation talks with North Korea. But Ms. Choe highlighted that Washington should present a new approach or the talks could fall apart again.

“I want to believe that the U.S. side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Ms. Choe said in a statement. “If the U.S. side toys with an old scenario that has nothing to do with the new method at working-level talks which would be held after difficulties, a deal between the two sides may come to an end.”

Negotiations broke down at a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim in February.

Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar wrote a work, Acharya Hridayam, extolling Nammazhvar, said Kidambi Narayanan, in a discourse. Acharya Hridayam likens Nammazhvar to the Sun. When the Sun rises and spreads its light, we begin to see things around us clearly, and we can distinguish between what we need and what we do not need. Likewise, Nammazhvar helps us to distinguish between right and wrong; he gives us knowledge about the Supreme One. However, it is the Supreme One Himself who is said to be like the Sun. Rama is referred to as Rama Divakara and Krishna as Achyutha Bhanu. The Lord took avataras to get rid of our ajnana. If a child runs away from mother, she gives chase, to ensure that no harm befalls it. In the same way, because we move away from the right path, the Lord takes avataras, out of His compassion for us, and steers us towards Him. And of His many avataras, Rama and Krishna are considered the most complete avataras. And yet even among those privileged to live in the time of these avataras, and who were blessed to interact with them, many were caught in ajnana. Soorpanakha, Ravana, Indrajit, and even Dasaratha were such people. After the Kurukshetra war, Arjuna boasts to a group of hunters that he has just won a mega war, and so, defeating them is child’s play. But, Arjuna loses to the hunters. Vyasa tells him that he won the Kurukshetra war, because Krishna was with him. He has lost now, because Krishna is not beside him. So, despite the Lord’s advice, Arjuna did not realise that it was Krishna who had led him to victory. But Nammazhvar succeeded in achieving what even Rama and Krishna did not, by turning us towards God, and thus, he became principal preceptor to all. That is why Acharya Hridayam refers him as Vakula Bhushana Bhaskara.

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