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India seeks Pak’s permission for opening visa camp in Karachi
Islamabad, February 3
India has asked Pakistan to permit it to open a visa camp in Karachi for issuing visas to those opting to travel by the Khokhrapar-Munabao Thar Express train running from February 18. A man looks at a ticket for the Thar Express train at the Karachi Cantonment Station on Friday. The process of booking for the Thar Express, which will ply between Pakistan and India, began on Thursday.
A man looks at a ticket for the Thar Express train at the Karachi Cantonment Station on Friday. The process of booking for the Thar Express, which will ply between Pakistan and India, began on Thursday. — AFP photo

Pak militant groups in Kashmir threat
to S. Asia: US

Washington, February 3
Pakistan-based militant groups operating in Kashmir pose a persistent threat to stability in South Asia, the United States’ top intelligence official has warned, even as he called India a “reliable ally” in the fight against global terrorism.


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Prophet’s cartoon sparks protests
Islamabad, February 3
Hundreds of protesters today held demonstrations all over Pakistan, condemning the recent publication of sacrilegious cartoons in the European media depicting Prophet Muhammad.

India, Philippines to sign four accords
Manila, February 3
India and the Philippines are set to take bilateral ties to a qualitatively higher-level by signing four accords, including the first one ever on defence cooperation envisaging among other things exchange of Air Force planes, Navy ships and military instructors during President APJ Abdul Kalam's three-day official visit here.

Kalam on charm offensive
Manila, February 3
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who became the first Indian head of state to visit the Philippines in 15 years, today charmed a cross section of this country’s population with his deep observations about a range of issues including nursing, female foeticide, population, corruption and women’s empowerment.

Belarus to buy 18 Sukhois from India
Moscow, February 3
In an estimated $ 300 million deal, Belarus is to buy 18 second-hand Sukhoi Su-30K fighters from India for the modernisation of the aging air force of this former Soviet Republic.


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India seeks Pak’s permission for opening visa
camp in Karachi

K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, February 3
India has asked Pakistan to permit it to open a visa camp in Karachi for issuing visas to those opting to travel by the Khokhrapar-Munabao Thar Express train running from February 18, as reopening of its Consulate in the southern port city has been delayed.

“We have written to the Pakistan Foreign Office seeking permission to conduct a visa camp for the passengers of Thar Express and are awaiting a reply,” Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Shivshankar Menon, who is currently touring Karachi, said over phone.

The reopening of the consulates of India and Pakistan in Karachi and Mumbai, respectively, has been delayed indefinitely because Pakistan is having difficulties in finding a suitable accommodation for its mission. As per the earlier plan, both Consulates and the train service were expected to start functioning around the same time to meet the visa rush from Karachi.

Pakistani Railway authorities, however, opened a counter yesterday to formally sell tickets for Thar Express.

The enthusiasm over the commencement of the train service was such that Governor of Sindh Isratul Ibad was the first to buy the Rs 195 ticket followed by a number of activists from his party Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).

A large number of Sindh-based politicians, along with local journalists, are expected to travel by the first train to Munabao. However, it would be the second train service between the two countries after the Lahore-Delhi Samjhota Express.

Jaswant too raises issue

The demand for opening of Indian visa camps in Karachi was also raised by former External Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh during his meeting with MQM leaders in Karachi yesterday. Singh is currently on a nine-day tour of Sindh province.

The enthusiasm generated by the train service in Sindh — from where over 65 per cent of the 12,000 visa seekers from Pakistan apply for visas every month — may prompt Pakistan to permit India to open a visa camp in Karachi though such a request was not granted in 2003. — PTI

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Pak militant groups in Kashmir threat to S. Asia: US

Washington, February 3
Pakistan-based militant groups operating in Kashmir pose a persistent threat to stability in South Asia, the United States’ top intelligence official has warned, even as he called India a “reliable ally” in the fight against global terrorism.

“Pakistani militant groups, primarily focussed on the Kashmiri conflict, represent a persistent threat to regional stability and US interests in South Asia and the Near East. They also pose a potential threat to our interests worldwide,” National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told US lawmakers yesterday.

In prepared remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee examining a range of threats to the USA, Negroponte stressed that New Delhi will continue to be a “reliable ally” against global terrorism “in part because India has been a frequent target for Islamic terrorists, mainly in Kashmir.”

He also observed that India was seeking to play a key role in fostering democracy in the region, particularly in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Even while referring to Pakistan as a frontline state in the war on terror, Negroponte said Islamabad also remained “a major source of extremism” that poses a threat to Gen Musharraf, the USA India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan is the place “where many of our most important interests intersect” the top official pointed out, however, adding that Musharraf had made only “limited progress” in moving his country down a democratic path.

Negroponte maintained that India was seeking better relations with its two main rivals, Pakistan and China, recognising that its regional disputes with them were “hampering” the larger goals in the international arena.

“Nevertheless like China, India is using its newfound wealth and technical capabilities to extend its military reach,” he said.

“Since India and Pakistan approached the brink of war in 2002, their peace process has lessened tensions and both appear committed to improving the bilateral relationship.

A number of confidence-building-measures, including new transportation links, have helped sustain the momentum. Still the fact that both have nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them entails obvious and dangerous risks of escalation,” Negroponte told law makers.

In the realm of economics and business, Negroponte said India was emerging as a “new pole of greater Asia’s surging economic and political power”.

He said New Delhi’s rapid economic growth and increasing technological competence will securing its lead role in South Asia even while helping the country to realise longstanding ambition of becoming a global power. — PTI

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Prophet’s cartoon sparks protests

Islamabad, February 3
Hundreds of protesters today held demonstrations all over Pakistan, condemning the recent publication of sacrilegious cartoons in the European media depicting Prophet Muhammad.

President General Pervez Musharraf also joined the nation in abhorring the blasphemous caricatures, which, he said, inflamed the sentiments of the Muslims.

‘’I condemn it in the strongest terms,’’ President Musharraf said, while talking to local TV channels in Islamabad, fearing that such acts would encourage those who speak of the clash of civilisations.

‘’I am deeply hurt (with the publication of the cartoons) and those who did it should have realised the sensitivities of Muslims,’’ said Mr Musharraf, in the first-ever reaction that came from the highest level in the country since the controversy triggered over the issue.

The protesters took to the streets in all major cities and towns, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar, where local religious leaders delivered sizzling speeches condemning all those who published the caricatures.

Hundreds of people led by their local MMA leaders urged the government to expel diplomats of the European countries where the cartoons were published. — UNI

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India, Philippines to sign four accords
Pallab Bhattacharya

Manila, February 3
India and the Philippines are set to take bilateral ties to a qualitatively higher-level by signing four accords, including the first one ever on defence cooperation envisaging among other things exchange of Air Force planes, Navy ships and military instructors during President APJ Abdul Kalam's three-day official visit here.

The President arrived here today and was received at the airport by Philippines Vice-President Nolid de Castro.

The two countries will tomorrow ink separate Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in agriculture, tourism and in pharmaceutical as the Philippines looks at India as a major source of quality drugs at affordable prices.

In another significant gesture that recognises the impeccable character of India's secular fabric, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to urge Dr Kalam, who arrived here today, that India play a lead role in promoting inter-faith dialogue and understanding in South East Asia to address the conditions giving rise to religious extremism and intolerance.

The defence cooperation agreement also envisages exchange of military training expertise and information, defence technology cooperation and collaboration in other spheres of defence sector, according to an official statement.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary, Mr Alberto G Romulo, said the defence agreement would deepen naval and maritime cooperation with India and give substance to the annual security dialogue between the two countries.

Under the MoU on agriculture, the Philippines will be able to tap Indian expertise in buffalo breeding, dairy development and will seek to promote exchange of agriculture scientists. Buffalo meat is a key export item from India to the Philippines.

The accord on tourism envisages joint marketing and promotion of each others' tourism products and exchange of expertise in management of tourism ventures, besides seeking to increase flow of tourists from the Philippines to India.

The MoU on pharmaceutical is aimed at giving the Philippines greater access to Indian drugs as this country views India as a major source of affordable and quality medicines, in keeping with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's initiative to bring healthcare to the poor.

The Philippines is highly appreciative of the fact that India, being a multi-religious society and home to the second largest Muslim population in the world, can play a leading role in promoting inter-faith dialogue and understanding.

After a ceremonial reception and guard of honour at the Malacanang, the Presidential Palace, Dr Kalam will hold talks with Philippine President Arroyo for 15 minutes which will be followed by delegation-level discussions for nearly an hour and signing of agreements.

During his stay in Manila, Dr Kalam will have talks with President of Asian Development Bank, scientists of International Rice Research Institute. — PTI

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Kalam on charm offensive

Manila, February 3
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who became the first Indian head of state to visit the Philippines in 15 years, today charmed a cross section of this country’s population with his deep observations about a range of issues including nursing, female foeticide, population, corruption and women’s empowerment.

Kalam started with a visit to the Nursing College of University of the Philippines where he interacted with several students who waved Indian and Filipino national flags and mesmerised the audience with his observations on the nursing profession.

About an hour later, he was the toast at the interactive session with the Indian community in the Philippines.

At both places, Kalam had an answer for questions fired at him by the students, businessmen and Indians working as executives with multinational companies here.

When time constraints prevented him from answering some questions or going into the details, he urged his audience to write to him on his website and assured quick replies.

“I have never seen the President of any country inviting commoners to get in touch with him through e-mail. It’s simply amazing. We are highly impressed,” said a Filipino nursing student. — PTI

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Belarus to buy 18 Sukhois from India

Moscow, February 3
In an estimated $ 300 million deal, Belarus is to buy 18 second-hand Sukhoi Su-30K fighters from India for the modernisation of the aging air force of this former Soviet Republic.

According to influential financial daily "Vedomosti", 18 Su-30K fighters with limited capabilities were supplied to the Indian Air Force in 1997-98 at the initial stage of $ 4.9 billion Sukhoi deal for the development of a multi-role war bird Su-30MKI specially tailored for its specific requirements.

Cash-strapped Belarus will modernise the Su-30K jets to the Su-30KN at its facilities with the help of "Russkaya Avionika" (Russian avionics) company, a subsidiary of original manufacturer "Irkut" Corporation. Sources in the aviation industry and Russian air force have confirmed the report, according to "Vedomosti".

Under the deal for the supply of 50 Su-30 multi-role fighters signed in 1996, Russia had initially supplied 18 Su-30K fighters with the limited capabilities, which were mainly used by the Indian Air Force. — PTI

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