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Pakistan will not open airspace until India withdraws fighter jets from IAF forward airbases

Pakistan has told India that it will not open its airspace for commercial flights until New Delhi removes its fighter jets from forward IAF airbases, Pakistan's Aviation Secretary Shahrukh Nusrat has informed a Parliamentary committee.

Pakistan fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir.

Aviation Secretary Nusrat, who is also the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on Thursday informed the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation that his department has intimated Indian officials that Pakistani airspace would remain unavailable for use by India until the country withdraws its fighter jets from forward positions, Dawn News reported.

"The Indian government approached asking us to open the airspace. We conveyed our concerns that first India must withdraw its fighter planes placed forward," Nusrat told the committee.

This is probably the first time a senior Pakistani official has publicly stated Islamabad's precondition for reopening its airspace after the Balakot air strikes.

He further apprised the committee that Indian officials have contacted Pakistan requesting it to lift the airspace restrictions.

"However, Indian officials have been told that Indian airbases are still laden with fighter jets and Pakistan will not allow resumption of flight operations from India until their removal," said Nusrat.

Last month, the CAA had extended the airspace ban till July 12. It had earlier extended the airspace restriction until June 30.

After the restrictions, all the passenger flights are being diverted to alternative routes by India, The Express Tribune reported.

The CAA official also contested India's claim that Delhi had opened its airspace for Pakistan, the report said.

"Pakistani flights from Thailand have not been restored since the closure of the Indian airspace. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights for Malaysia also remain suspended," the CAA DG informed the committee.

Last month, Pakistan gave special permission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's VVIP flight to use its airspace for his official trip to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

However Prime Minister Modi's VVIP aircraft avoided flying over Pakistan. Earlier, Pakistan had allowed India's former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to fly directly though Pakistani airspace to participate in the meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Bishkek on May 21.

India aviation industry has suffered huge losses due to the airspace ban by Pakistan.

On Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament that due to the closure of Pakistan airspace, Air India had to spend an extra Rs 430 crore on longer routes.

Do you think Pakistan is scared of India?

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US Ready To Offer India Wide Range Of Defence Equipment

The US is ready to help India's defence needs with the latest technologies and equipment, but New Delhi purchasing long-range S-400 missile defence system from Russia would limit cooperation, the Trump administration has cautioned.

The statement came weeks after an identical warning from a senior State Department official who had said that New Delhi's deal to procure the lethal missile system from Moscow will have "serious implications" on India-US defence ties.

The S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 for the system.

India and Russia signed a USD 5 billion S-400 air defence system deal in October last year after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senior State Department official (South and Central Asian Affairs) Alice G Wells told House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation on Thursday that the US now does more military exercises with India than any other country.

"Under the Trump administration, we've been very clear that we're ready to help meet India's defence needs and we are seeking a very different kind of defence partnership building on the 'Major Defence Partner' designation that India has received from Congress," Ms Wells said.

She was replying to the Congressional sub-committee on India buying S-400 from Russia and how to make India-US ties as robust and as meaningful as possible.

Just a few weeks ago, India, the United States, the Philippines and Japan did a sail by in the South China Sea, she said.

"In both our bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral formats, we're working together in ways that we didn't even conceive of 10 years ago. And so we''d like all aspects of our military relationship to catch up to this new partnership," Ms Wells said.

Noting that India has a historical dependence on Russian arms, she said what causes concern with the S-400 is that it effectively could limit India's ability "to increase our own interoperability".

At a certain point, she argued, a strategic choice has to be made by India about partnerships and a strategic choice about what weapon systems and platforms it is going to adopt.

"It is the case that 10 years ago we did not offer the range of military equipment to India that we're prepared to offer today. We're very much engaged in a conversation with India over how we can broaden our defence relationship," Ms Wells said in response to a question.

Signing of COMCASA agreement between the two countries, she said, was a key step forward which allows for the classified sharing of information, which is one of the basic foundational agreements that foster military interoperability.

"So we're making significant strides forward in our military relationship," she said.

"There is no a blanket waiver or country waiver when it comes to an S-400. We have serious concern about a possible S-400 purchase (by India) and we're continuing our conversations on what the United States or other defence providers could assist India," Ms Wells said.

Over the last 10 years, she said India-US defence trade has increased from zero to USD 18 billion, as New Delhi has started to diversify its weapons sources.

"We expect continued progress and expanding that defence relationship. But it's still the case that about 65 or 70 per cent of India's military hardware is Russian origin," she said.

And when Russian President Putin visited India last October, there were additional announcements of big ticket military items that were potentially under consideration, she said.

Responding to another question, Ms Wells alleged that India has the highest tariff barriers of a G-20 country.

"Historically it has been a protected market. So, our failure to negotiate an agreement over the course of the last year and a half led to the decision to suspend the GSP benefits," she said.

However, GSP or asking India to stop purchasing oil from Iran is unlikely to push India into the China camp, she said when asked about it from a lawmaker.

"I don't think so. We are India's largest and best market. Twenty per cent of India's goods come here. There is Indian Foreign Direct Investment in the US. There's a huge interest by US firms in India. As Prime Minister Modi begins his second term. he's preoccupied with job creation and attracting Foreign Direct Investment is going to be a key part of that strategy.

Do you think India should make all Defence Equipments from its own rather than buying from US?

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India-Pakistan talks on Kartarpur corridor

Between the stressful atmosphere, the second round of the officials of India and Pakistan regarding the Kartarpur Corridor is being held on the Zero Line across the Kandiala wire, in the presence of the corridor, in addition to the completion of the work of the corridor. being done. At the same time, the work of Integrated Check Post, which is being made on behalf of India, is going to start on Tuesday.

A crucial meeting of the technical officers of the two countries regarding the Kartarpur Corridor has started on the India-Pak border on the Zero Line in Dera Baba Nanak. Officials of the two countries are meeting in the tent on the Zero Line and are seen flags of both countries on the outskirts.

Pakistan had said last week that in Kartarpur, to hold a meeting with India on 16th April to discuss the modus operandi of Kartarpur corridor linking Gurdwara Durbar Sahib in Gurdaspur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine. A meeting is going on in this context on Tuesday. Kartarpur is in Pakistan where the founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak spent many years of his life.

India and Pakistan had last month met a technical expert on the Kartarpur corridor in which several aspects were discussed. In a joint press statement issued after the meeting between the two countries last month, it said that both sides discussed detailed provisions on the provisions of the proposed agreement and on many aspects and agreed to work towards the rapid development of Kartarpur corridor. Before this, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Ravish Kumar tweeted that talks between India and Pakistan to finalize the practices of the Kartarpur corridor have started, from which the pilgrims visit the holy Gurudwara Durbar Sahib Kartarpur. Will be easy.

Do you think Kartarpur will link a new beginning for India-Pakistan ties?

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Bill Introduced In US Congress Aims To Put India On Par With NATO Allies

A bipartisan group of half a dozen influential American lawmakers has reintroduced important legislation in the House of Representatives which seeks to advance the US-India strategic relationship.

If enacted, the legislation would ensure that the US State Department treat India as a NATO ally for the purposes of the Arms Export Control Act.

It would send a powerful signal that defense sales to India should be prioritized according to US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, which had worked on this important legislation.

The bill HR 2123 was introduced this week by Congressman Joe Wilson, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"India is the world's largest democracy, a pillar of stability in the region, and has shown strong commitments to export control policies," said Mr. Wilson.

"This adjustment to US law will further allow the US-India partnership to flourish in line with our security commitment to the Indo-Pacific region. I am grateful for the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), led by Dr. Mukesh Aghi, and their support for this legislation," he said.

The original co-sponsors of the legislation are Congressman Ami Bera - the longest-serving Indian-American in the US Congress - and the House India Caucus Co-Chairs, Congressmen George Holding, Brad Sherman, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Ted Yoho.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2017 included special language recognizing the unique US-India defense relationship that designated India as a "Major Defence Partner" of the United States.

 

The language seeks unique consideration for trade and technology sharing with India and increased attention and support to advance this relationship in the areas of defense trade and technology sharing.

"The legislation bolsters national security and helps ensure full alignment between the Department of Defense and the Department of State."

"Such a change will institutionalize the gains made in the relationship and provide a more stable foundation upon which both countries can solidify this unique defense partnership," USISPF said.

Although powerful in its own right, the NDAA FY 2017 has no legal bearing on the State Department's body of legislation, nor does it compel the State Department to view defense with India more favorably, USISPF said in a statement.

To fulfill the spirit and intent of the NDAA 2017, the US-India Enhanced Cooperation Act would amend the Arms Export Control Act to put India on par with NATO allies and Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

"We applaud Congressman Wilson's leadership in reintroducing this important bill. We are confident the US Congress will continue to enact legislation that bolsters the bilateral. The great power competition is not lost on Members of Congress, who understand the strategic imperative for a deeper relationship with India," said Mr. Aghi, president and CEO of USISPF.

Should this legislation be a major breakthrough for the US-India defense relationship?

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UAE will honor PM Modi with Zayed Medal for highest civilian award

The United Arab Emirates will honor Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the relationship between the two countries to a new height. UAE's crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced on Thursday. He said that there is our historic and comprehensive strategic relationship with India, which has strengthened my dear friend the important role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has given a big boost to these relations. To encourage their efforts, the President of the UAE will honor him with Zayed Medal.

Last month Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had visited India. During that time the two countries had said that there is a need to create 'every possible pressure' in such countries which support terrorist activities. India and Saudi Arabia also agreed to the formation of biennial summit meetings and strategic partnership council.

However, in a joint dialogue with the media after the delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who came to India on tour, none of the two leaders gave a reference to Pakistan.

In his remarks, Prince Mohammad described extremism and terrorism as a matter of concern for both the countries and said that Saudi Arabia would cooperate fully with India. He said, "As far as terrorism and extremism are concerned, it is a concern for both of us. We want to tell India that we are ready to cooperate with you in every way. We are ready to work with not just India but all the countries of the neighborhood so that the future of future generations is secure.

Prince Mohammed said that India has offered an investment of more than $ 100 billion and its country will work to make an investment for both countries beneficial. He said that the relations between the two countries are 'older than history' and are involved in our blood.

The growing number of Hindi speakers in the United Arab Emirates can also be used to assess relations between the two countries. Official figures show that the total UAE population is 9 million. There are two-thirds of the migrants. There are 26 lakh Indians in these migrants. It is 30 percent of the total population and it is the largest part of the migrants. It is also important that the Hindi language has become the third official language used in Abu Dhabi. Before that, it was Arabic and English, but now Hindi has also been added to it. 

Has India's foreign relationship with Islamic countries improved during his tenure?

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