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BIMSTEC nation heads invited to Modi’s swearing-in, Pakistan plays down being left out

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BIMSTEC nation heads invited to Modi’s swearing-in, Pakistan plays down being left out

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Signalling a change in its approach, India has invited BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing in on Thursday, May 30, leaving out Pakistan.

The BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Pakistan downplayed the rebuff, with its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as quoted by Dawn news, saying, “His (Prime Minister Modi’s) entire focus (during the election campaign) was on Pakistan-bashing. It was unwise to expect that he can get rid of this narrative (soon).”

Qureshi said a dialogue over the Kashmir issue and other disputes like Siachen and Sir Creek would represent a significant improvement in ties  instead of an invitation to the swearing-in ceremony.

For his swearing-in in 2014, Modi had invited leaders of all Saarc countries, the highlight being then Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif’s presence at the event.

For Modi’s swearing-in for his second term, Delhi has decided to keep Pakistan out of its engagement with the region.

On Imran Khan’s gesture to congratulate his Indian counterpart Modi for winning the elections and expressing his desire to work together, Qureshi said, “Relations between the countries were based on reciprocity and PM Khan had congratulated Mr Modi as a goodwill gesture.”

“Finding a new way (to resume dialogue) is also essential for them (India). If he (Modi) wants development of this region… the only way is to sit with Pakistan to find a solution.

“It is in the interest of Pakistan to defuse tensions… Pakistan did not create tension,” Qureshi added.

After the initial bonhomie of 2014, but repeated terror attacks from Pakistan froze bilateral relations. This year, terror from Pakistan was a potent campaign issue and inviting the Pakistani PM at this point has no takers within the government.

Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in aerial combat and captured IAF wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India. The PAF also lost a F-16 jet which was shot down by commander Vathaman.

Confirming invitations to other neighbours, the MEA said on Monday evening that the invitation was “in line with the government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy”, reported The Times of India (TOI).

“The president of the Kyrgyz Republic, who is the current chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the prime minister of Mauritius, who was the chief guest at this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, have also been invited,” the MEA spokesperson said. The invitations were signed by the Prime Minister himself.

MEA’s chief of protocol Nagesh Singh held a meeting with the ambassadors of these countries to discuss the invitations, the TOI report said. The presidents of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan will come for the event. Kyrgyzstan is the SCO chair and its President Sooronbay Jeenbekov will use this occasion to formally invite Modi for the group’s summit in mid-June.

Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid will represent his country. For the second time, PM Sheikh Hasina will miss Modi’s inauguration. In 2014, Bangladeshi parliament speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury came in her place. Hasina is on a four-nation tour from Tuesday, which will take her to Japan and Finland, among others, said the TOI report. She is expected to return only after celebrating Eid with her family.

It’s not yet clear whether Aung San Suu Kyi or President Win Myint will come from Myanmar.

Thailand will be sending a special envoy, either the agriculture or the transport minister. Gen Prayut Chan-Ocha will be in the midst of his own election as prime minister on that day. Nepalese PM K P Sharma Oli will come for the inauguration. Bhutan will be represented by its new PM Lotay Tshering.

Maldives has not been invited since it is not a member of BIMSTEC but the very next week, Modi will make his first visit to the archipelago and Sri Lanka.

No formal meetings will be held on the day of swearing-in. The next day, however, the foreign leaders will call on Modi and have short bilateral meetings with him.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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