Pakistan and the Taliban
- Pakistan’s incoming ruling party, the PML-N, has been compelled to include the largest religious party, the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl(JUI-F), in the ruling coalition in an apparent bid to bring greater legitimacy to the proposed negotiations with the Taliban. Express Tribune cities PML-N sources as saying that “the party wants JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on board so that he can carry out negotiations with the Taliban in order to ensure peace in the country”. According to the report, the JUI-F chief has asked for the ‘lucrative’ housing ministry, along with the chairmanship of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for his party, and leadership of the Kashmir committee for himself.
- According to a Dawn report, sources in the two parties have told the newspaper that both parties have decided the mechanism for talks, and that they would be held through a “grand peace jirga”, or a tribal conference involving 30 mainstream and religious parties. Maulana Samiul Haq, chancellor of the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary and considered to be the “godfather” of the Pakistani Taliban, has told the Express Tribune that “before accepting the role of go-between, I’d need an assurance that the future prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and Pakistan Army are on the same page on the issue”.
- Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry defended the US administration’s tentative moves to open talks with the Taliban leadership, saying it was better to try to bring people to the table to resolve issues rather than try to fight it out
Around the World
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Tokyo today, as he begins a three day visit to Japan. He is expected to announce progress in a civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement with Japan that had been delayed due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. The Japan Times says that the likely issues to be discussed are “civil nuclear energy, defense, counterterrorism, disaster management and infrastructure development”. Earlier this month, the two countries signed agreements on economic cooperation and investment, including plans for the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC). According to the Associated Press, the two sides are “also expected to discuss closer military ties”. The PM will next visit Thailand on May 30 and 31.
- Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who is on a global tour to attract foreign investment into India, assured his hosts in Abu Dhabi that the government would take concrete steps to address concerns about the UAE’s investments in India. According to Gulf News, Chidambaram “expressed confidence” that the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) between the two countries would be finalized at the earliest, while also seeking more UAE investment in greenfield projects in India’s infrastructure sector.
- As Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States next month, a New York Times editorial calls for both countries to address the issue of repeated Chinese cyber-attacks on US institutions. The editorial says that “despite Beijing’s denials, there is little doubt that Chinese hackers have taken aim at a range of government and private systems in the United States, including the power grid and telecommunications networks”. It adds that both countries “need to try to work together”, before attempting punitive measures and points to an East West Institute proposal on fighting spam and malware as “worth considering” by the two Presidents.
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