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Diplomacy

Bhutan Accepts India’s SAARC Proposal On Coronavirus, Hails PM Modi’s Leadership

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership while accepting India’s proposal to the members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to formulate a “strong strategy” to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Tshering took to Twitter to support the call of Prime Minister Modi and urged the SAARC nations to coordinate in this fight. Bhutanese PM raised concern about smaller economies and displayed confidence in PM Modi’s leadership to achieve “immediate” and “impactful” outcome.

This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi had proposed that the SAARC countries could discuss the ways, via video conferencing, to keep citizens healthy. Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also thanked Prime Minister for taking the initiative and welcomed the proposal.

I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji @narendramodi for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with SAARC Member States to protect our citizens from this deadly disease.

Thank you PM @narendramodi for taking the initiative on this important endeavor. Covid 19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi’s proposal and quick response from SAARC members could revive the regional intergovernmental organisation which has been dormant since the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan hit the nadir.

Diplomacy

‘Will never accept this solution’: Palestinian prez threatens to sever ties with Israel, US

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League's foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League’s foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo. (REUTERS)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cut security ties with both Israel and the U.S. on Saturday, in a lengthy speech delivered at an Arab League meeting in Egypt’s capital that denounced a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

The summit of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo was requested by the Palestinians, who responded angrily to the American proposal.

Abbas said that he told Israel and the US that “there will be no relations with them, including the security ties” following the deal that Palestinians say heavily favors Israel.

There was no immediate comment from US or Israeli officials.

The Palestinian leader said that he’d refused to take US President Donald Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the US as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position.”

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

President Trump unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday in Washington. It would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.

Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the Tuesday unveiling in Washington, in a tacit sign of support for the US initiative.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states that are close US allies, said they appreciated President Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

Egypt urged in a statement Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favors a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Egyptian statement did not mention the long-held Arab demand of east Jerusalem as a capital to the future Palestinian state, as Cairo usually has its statements related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan, meanwhile, warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.

Diplomacy

U.S. presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren come out in support of Pramila Jayapal

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar refused to meet Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal who introduced a Congressional resolution on Kashmir urging India to lift all the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir

Leading Democratic presidential aspirants — Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — and two other U.S. lawmakers have came out in support of Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who claims External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar cancelled his meeting with a Congressional committee as she was invited to be a part of that group.

Mr. Jaishankar refused to meet Ms. Jayapal who introduced a Congressional resolution on Kashmir urging India to lift all the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir imposed after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.

“I am aware of that [Congressional] resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing. And I have no interest in meeting [Ms. Jayapal],” Mr. Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters in Washington on December 19.

“I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and open to discussion but not the people who already made up their minds,” Mr. Jaishankar said in response to a question.

Unacceptable crackdown’

Senators Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and other lawmakers tweeted on December 20 to express their support for Ms. Jayapal, accusing Mr. Jaishankar and India of trying to silence the voice of a U.S. lawmaker.

“Shutting out U.S. lawmakers who are standing up for human rights is what we expect from authoritarian regimes — not the government of India. Ms. Jayapal is right. She must not be excluded for being outspoken about the unacceptable crackdown on Kashmiris and Muslims,” said Mr. Sanders, who was the first Democratic presidential candidate to oppose India’s abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The U.S. and India have an important partnership — but our partnership can only succeed if it is rooted in honest dialogue and shared respect for religious pluralism, democracy, and human rights,” Ms. Warren said in a tweet.

She said the “efforts to silence” Ms. Jayapal “are deeply troubling”.

India has defended the restrictions in Kashmir on the grounds that they were imposed to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370 which ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race early this month said in a tweet.

The first U.S. Senator of Indian-origin, Ms. Harris said she stood with Ms. Jayapal.

“I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too,” she said, responding to a news report in The Washington Post which said that Mr. Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting of House Foreign Affairs Committee because Ms. Jayapal was also scheduled to attend that meeting along with other lawmakers.

“No foreign government should dictate who is or isn’t allowed into meetings on Capitol Hill,” Congressman Jim McGovern said in a tweet.

“I stand with” Ms. Jayapal and “applaud” Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee “and others for doing the same”, he said.

“The partnership between the U.S. and India must be grounded in open, honest conversation between friends,” Mr. McGovern said.

Abruptly cancelled meeting’

Earlier, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Jaishankar “abruptly cancelled a meeting with senior members of Congress this week after U.S. lawmakers refused demands to exclude” Ms. Jayapal from the meeting.

“This only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all. The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty,” Ms. Jayapal was quoted as saying by the leading American daily.

However, eminent Indian-American Bharat Barai, who has engaged with Ms. Jayapal in the past on her Kashmir resolution, said the Democratic Congresswoman “with ulterior motives” tried to force herself into the meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which she is not a member.

“Reality is that she is not part of House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is a highly biased person. My feeling is that she wanted to indulge in a heated argument with Jaishankar and then go to The Washington Post and get propaganda out of it,” Mr. Barai told PTI.

‘Not falling into the trap’

Mr. Barai, a major fund raiser, has been in close communication with Ms. Jayapal and her office over the past few months on the issue of Kashmir resolution.

Mr. Barai said Mr. Jaishankar took the right call in “not falling into the trap” being laid out by Ms. Jayapal and members of the “so-called progressive group”.

“She is not even a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, leave alone part of the HFAC leadership,” he said, adding that the meeting was sought with the leadership of House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Does [U.S.] Secretary [of State] [Mike] Pompeo meet every Indian parliamentarian when he goes to India? At the most, he will meet those MPs who handle foreign relations committee,” Mr. Barai said.

“Her position on Kashmir issue is well known. She has already made up her mind, which she is not willing to change,” he asserted.

Another Indian-American, who requested anonymity, said it was not India which put conditions for the meeting but the House Foreign Affairs Committee that insisted on unilaterally bringing in a non-member.

“No Foreign Minister of any independent country should be pressured into meeting such politicians with their own agendas,” he said.

“A distorted narrative” is being put out by some about Mr. Jaishankar’s meeting with the U.S. Congress, he said.