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Pakistan should commit to end terror for talks: India

NEW DELHI, March 22: The Indian Government on Wednesday clearly put the onus on Pakistan for resumption of dialogue, asserting that it should commit to end the state-sponsored terrorism.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh also said in the Rajya Sabha that the government was ready to talk to all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir to normalise the situation there.

"Pakistan should at least make a beginning and say it is willing to talk and end the terrorist activities and seek the support of any country in the world (in ending terrorism). Pakistan should take an initiative," he said.

Singh was responding to questions by members as to why talks are not being held with Pakistan.

"The previous (UPA) government had also placed a condition for Pakistan to give a commitment to end state-sponsored terrorism," he added.

To questions over the situation in Kashmir, the Home Minister said, "We are ready to talk to everyone... The entire nation wants the situation to normalise in Kashmir. We are ready to cooperate with everyone and have taken all initiatives in this regard."
He noted that he had visited the Kashmir valley thrice during the unrest last year.

"When there was unrest, I went to the Kashmir valley thrice. I have spoken each time. The government wants the Kashmir situation to improve. We have taken every initiative," he said.

"I also want to inform the House that there has been no dearth of official communication," he said.

While talking about steps and schemes initiated to normalise the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the home minister said he does not, at the same time, dismiss the work done by the previous governments.

"We never want to take credit of anyone. We don't claim that we alone can improve the situation and solve the Kashmir problem. The support of every political party and every citizen is required to solve the Kashmir problem," he said.

He said the Modi government was trying to take forward the initiatives taken by previous governments.

Listing some of the intiatives taken, he said the selection process for the armed police forces is over and job opportunities for Kashmiri youth have increased.

He added that never before have there been recruitment of as many as 10,000 SPOs in Kashmir valley and five new India Reserve Battalions have been raised there with as many as 4,500 personnel.

Besides, he said, central armed police battalions have been raised in J&K with 1200 personnel.

Referring to the visit of an all-party delegation to Kashmir during the unrest last year, Singh said Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had even written a letter, "inviting all such (separatist) forces to talk to the visiting delegation. However they still did not turn up."

Mentioning about the snub given by separatist Hurriyat leaders to some members of the delegation when they tried to meet them, he said, "These people (the delegation comprising Yechury and others) were forced to beat a hasty retreat. What do they expect from us?"

The home minister said there were 322 incidents of terrorist violence in 2016 and 150 terrorists were killed, but in 2017, as many as 32 terrorists were killed.

The home minister, while talking about the benefits given to the soldiers, mentioned out-of-turn promotions and honour to soldiers involved in surgical strike.

"We have decided that under any circumstances the family of a jawan martyred will get overall financial support of more than Rs 1 crore," he said.

He said although sacrifices of the jawans cannot be measured in monetary terms, "they got less money earlier".

He added, "Whenever our soldiers are martyred, we take full precautions to send his body to his village and the district authorities as well as the MLAs and MPs concerned are informed to be present in the funeral ceremony."

Earlier, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asked what the government has done in the Kashmir valley to normalise the situation.

Sharad Yadav (JD-U) asked why the government is not engaging in a dialogue with Pakistan to normalise the situation in Kashmir.

"Why have you closed the road? Why don't you talk? Why do you want to suppress everything with the force of gun? Why has the agenda of governance not been implemented, as the demand has been made by the state chief minister also? The process of dialogue is shut and there are no talks (with Pakistan)," he asked.

Sitaram Yechury (CPM) said Jammu and Kashmir situation is not just a law and order problem. He said the trust deficit is growing by the day in the Kashmir Valley.

"Why not the commitment of starting a dialogue with all stakeholders? Merely tackling terrorism is not going to solve the problem," he said, adding that talking to Pakistan was also raised by the chief minister.

Sushma Swaraj makes impactful comeback to Lok Sabha

NEW DELHI, March 15: Making an impactful comeback on her first day in Parliament since undergoing kidney transplant in December, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday dismissed Congressman Mallikarjun Kharge's charge that the Centre was silent on hate attacks against Indians in the US and said the issue had been taken up with the US government at "very high levels".

"That we've been silent on the attacks is far from reality. That is not how this government works. In fact, even if one Indian living abroad is aggrieved, we try and solve his problem within 24 hours.

"The government is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the Indian diaspora," said Swaraj, showing flashes of the oratorial skills she is well known for.

Making a detailed statement in Lok Sabha on the recent attacks against Indians in the US - which killed engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla+ in Kansas and Harnish Patel in South Carolina, apart from injuring Deep Rai+ in Kent, Washington state, and Ashok Madasani (in the Kansas incident) - Swaraj cited the separate statements by US President Trump, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, Kansas governor Sam Brownback and secretary of homeland security John Kelly condemning the incidents as well as ongoing investigation by agencies including the FBI to highlight the "prompt and clear response of the US political leadership and the law enforcement authorities".

"The widespread messages of sympathy and support from all quarters in the US give us confidence that these incidents are acts of individuals and do not represent the overwhelming sentiments of the American people towards India," she said.

Congratulating Swaraj, who was received at the Parliament entrance by five to six party MPs including Yogi Adityanath and Uma Bharati, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she was happy to hear her "powerful voice" once again in LS.

This drew applause from both the treasury and opposition benches, with MPs cutting across party lines walking up to Swaraj's desk to greet her and inquire about her health.

Dressed in a crisp green silk saree and with Bharati by her side, Swaraj kept standing through her 15-minute speech, seamlessly switching between reading from a prepared text and making extempore observations, stopping only to take sips of water.

Stating that safety and security of the Indian diaspora was a top priority of the Modi government, she said, "The PM was busy with campaigning when these incidents occurred but made it a point to ask the MEA every single day what it was doing. I personally oversaw the MEA's response while still recuperating from my medical condition."

Explaining how she was clued in to happenings related to her ministry in Parliament, Swaraj said she had watched the entire debate on the racial attacks in the US on TV.

No change in US policy on high-skill visa programmes: Sushma Swaraj

Sushma SwarajNEW DELHI, March 11: The new US administration under President Donald Trump has so far not announced any comprehensive policy changes impacting high-skill visa programmes, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said.

She was replying to a written question in the Rajya Sabha yesterday on the impact of new visa and travel policy of the US on Indian professionals.

She also said the government has been engaging with the US administration and the US Congress at the senior levels regarding movement of skilled professionals.

Asked about the foreign aid received or donated by India, Swaraj said India has been providing more aid to foreign countries than it has been receiving annually in the last three years.

As against Rs 2,150.52 crore received by it, India has given Rs 4,478.84 crore to other countries, the minister said.



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