India probes Kashmiri students for cheering Pakistan cricket win

SRINAGAR: Police have launched an investigation after several hundred students in India-occupied Kashmir celebrated India’s recent defeat to Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, officials said on Wednesday.

Around 300 students in two top Srinagar medical colleges gathered in two hostels watching the match on Sunday and burst into celebrations when Pakistan crushed India in the high-octane contest in Dubai.

Videos of the students shouting “Long live Pakistan” went viral. Footage also showed thousands of people in the city and several other towns cheering on the streets and setting off firecrackers in support of Pakistan.

On Tuesday, police opened two investigations under the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act (UAPA) and raided one of the hostels, but no one was detained, a police officer said.

“The videos are being closely scrutinized to identify cheerleaders who raised pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian slogans at the end of the match and indulged in anti-national activities,” the officer said.

India has used the vaguely-worded UAPA legislation against thousands of Kashmiri residents, journalists, and dissidents, according to activists.

It allows people to be held for six months — often rolled over — without being charged and bail is virtually impossible.

In a separate similar incident, police detained six residents in the Jammu region of the territory for questioning after a video showing them supporting Pakistan’s cricket team emerged on social media.

“Why is loyalty to the Indian cricket team being demanded from us? Is it a crime to cheer the victory of your favorite side? Many of us are petrified for being charged under terrorism laws or even being arrested or dismissed from college,” a medical student said.

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter criticizing the police action, saying “Instead of trying to ascertain why educated youth choose to identify with Pakistan, GOI (Government of India) resorted to vindictive actions.

On Monday, a group of Kashmiri students in the northern state of Punjab reported being attacked after they celebrated Pakistan’s victory, and an Indian schoolteacher in Rajasthan was dismissed after she posted celebratory messages on social media.

Anger against New Delhi has simmered since August 2019 when Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi’s government canceled the occupied region’s semi-autonomy and brought it under direct rule.

Since then, over 2,000 people have been arrested under the UAPA, with almost half of them still in jail, according to officials and rights activists.

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US issues the first passport with ‘X’ gender

The United States on Wednesday announced its first passport with “X” for gender, a landmark step for people outside the binary male or female categories.

The State Department said it had issued the first passport with “X” for gender and would make the option routinely available by early 2022 both for passports and birth certificates of Americans abroad.

“I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the Department of State’s commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people — including LGBTQI+ US citizens,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised to address the issue in June but said that there were technological hurdles that needed to be addressed.

Under Blinken, the State Department has also allowed US passport holders to select their gender on passports.

Previously, Americans required medical certification if they sought to mark gender on their passports differently than on their birth certificates or other documents.

At least 11 other countries already have an “X” or “other” option for passports, according to the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, a London-based advocacy group.

The countries include Canada, Germany, and Argentina as well as India, Nepal and Pakistan, a legacy of South Asia’s historic concept of “hijra” intersex or transgender people.

The State Department made the announcement on the week of Intersex Awareness Day as it vowed to support people who face discrimination over their gender identity.

President Joe Biden has promised to make advocacy of LGBTQ rights a top priority of his administration.

It is a major shift from the previous administration of Donald Trump, during which Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo barred US embassies from flying rainbow Pride flags.

India tests nuclear-capable missile amid tensions with China

India has test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers from an island off its east coast amid rising border tensions with China.

The successful launch on Wednesday was in line with “India’s policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no first use”, said a government statement.

The Agni-5 missile splashed down in the Bay of Bengal with “a very high degree of accuracy”, said the statement issued on Wednesday night.

Beijing’s powerful missile arsenal has driven New Delhi to improve its weapons systems in recent years, with the Agni-5 believed to be able to strike nearly all of China.

India is already able to strike anywhere inside neighboring Pakistan.

India has been developing its medium and long-range nuclear and missile systems since the 1990s amid increasing strategic competition with China in a major boost to the country’s defense capabilities.

The tension between them flared last year over a long-disputed section of their border in the mountainous Ladakh area. India is also increasingly suspicious of Beijing’s efforts to heighten its influence in the Indian Ocean.

Talks between Indian and Chinese army commanders to disengage troops from key areas along their border ended in a stalemate earlier this month, failing to ease a 17-month standoff that has sometimes led to deadly clashes. India and China fought a bloody war in 1962.

Chinese hypersonic test like a ‘Sputnik moment’: US general

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon’s top general said on Wednesday that China’s recent test of an earth-circling hypersonic missile was akin to the Soviet Union’s stunning launch of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, which sparked the superpowers’ space race.

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed for the first time the Chinese test of a nuclear-capable missile that would be very difficult to defend against.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley told Bloomberg TV.

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,” he said.

“It’s a very significant technological event that occurred … and it has all of our attention.” The Pentagon had previously declined to confirm the test, first reported by the Financial Times on October 16.

The newspaper said the August test launch caught the United States by surprise.

The missile circled the Earth at a low altitude and a velocity of more than five times the speed of sound, although it missed its target by more than 30 kilometers (19 miles), according to the Financial Times.

Hypersonics are the new frontier in missile technology because they fly lower and so are harder to detect than ballistic missiles, can reach targets more quickly, and are maneuverable.

That makes them more dangerous, particularly if mounted with nuclear warheads.

The United States, Russia, China, and North Korea have all tested hypersonics and at several others are developing the technology.

China unveiled a hypersonic medium-range missile, the DF-17, in 2019, which can travel around 2,000 kilometres and can carry nuclear warheads.

The missile mentioned in the FT story is a different one, with a longer range. It can be launched into orbit before coming back into the atmosphere to hit its target.

Pakistan needs to unapologetically tell its narrative to the world, says NSA Moeed Yusuf

National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf on Thursday said that Pakistan needed to “unapologetically” share its narrative with the world.

Speaking at a seminar in Islamabad on national narratives, Yusuf outlined three words that encapsulated his approach to narratives: proactive, unapologetic, and pragmatic.

“Virtually every time we communicate, these three principles can get us anywhere we want to go. There is no reason for Pakistan to be shy because we have nothing to hide.

“The fact of the matter is that we have absorbed Western narratives of Pakistan to the point that even internally, there is a debate on whether Pakistan’s narrative is the correct one,” he said.

Yusuf said this was “mindboggling” for him since according to him, Pakistan had a “real story” to tell based on what the country was doing and stood for. “There is absolutely no reason to be apologetic about it,” he added.

The NSA outlined his experience when he came into government and elaborated on what he had found to be different, saying that for the first time he “realized that Pakistan has a real positive story to tell the world”.

“We actually have a story that is compelling, logical [and] true, which we must put out to the world for them to understand who we are and what we stand for.”

Outlining the problems he had identified, Yusuf said the most “important one … which bothered me the most and continues to” was a supposed element in Pakistan’s culture of communication — more internationally than domestically — of being “shy in presenting our view unapologetically”.

He questioned that when Pakistan had a story to tell and knew how to tell it, then why wasn’t this conversation being done “far more unapologetically — not emotively — to clarify that Pakistan is going to do XYZ because it’s in our strategic interests”.

Explaining the other problems, Yusuf said Pakistan was lagging behind other countries in rapid strategic communication using modern platforms and mediums such as social media.

“We were living in the world — and to some extent maybe even today — of public relations, press releases [and] responding to things at our own time. The world has moved on.”

Another problem, according to him, was “speaking our language to others and expecting them to understand what we’re saying”. Yusuf said the same narratives and talking points couldn’t be used everywhere in front of every audience on every occasion.

Apart from just the content, he added that it also mattered who was delivering the message and how they were delivering it.

The NSA also questioned why Pakistanis weren’t being heard more and why more people were not presenting their point of view through writing or public appearances.

“How many Pakistanis who understand Pakistan are in think tanks in key capitals?” he asked.

He said people with an understanding of the country’s internal context were needed instead of an outsider’s perspective.

‘One national narrative’

The NSA also elaborated on his perspective of a national narrative, saying that he didn’t believe in striving towards a singular narrative.

“I think there are multiple narratives that have to come together to create a whole which is what Pakistan stands for as a country and as a nation. Narratives always have to reflect reality.”

He said there was a difference between how Pakistan and other countries — pointing out India in particular — approached the narrative building.

“Our model is to project our rightful reality to the world. Their model is to create a whole global network of fake news to malign others,” Yusuf said, referring to the EU DisinfoLab report that uncovered a vast network of coordinated fake local media outlets in 65 countries serving Indian interests, as well as multiple dubious think tanks and NGOs.

“When you show planes flying over the UK as planes belonging to Pakistan flying in Panjshir then you will be debunked and humiliated for that.”

Policy prerequisites for creating narratives

The NSA said certain prerequisites were needed for creating narratives. One of them was having a “whole-of-government-coordinated-approach”.

“You can’t have narratives in which you are inherently contradictory about what you’re telling the world,” he explained, adding that better coordination would mean better results.

Yusuf also said that national narratives which didn’t have public support could not be achieved. He said national dialogue was required on the following key areas to pull this off:

  • Character as an Islamic country
  • Unity in diversity
  • Human welfare for everyone
  • Pakistan’s democratic and federal nature
  • Pakistan’s stance for peace within and in its neighbourhood

“Essentially a charter of economy, national security and identity — these three national dialogues are necessary … to bring this public buy-in to our national narratives.”

Yusuf reiterated that Pakistan needed to convince itself of its story that the world has to hear. These stories included sacrifices made by Pakistan, losses borne which were not of the country’s making, and Pakistan’s “unique” utility to the world as a “nuclear power, geoeconomic location and trade, and transit hub”, he added.

“We just need to make sure we are convinced of our own strengths,” the NSA stressed.

Yusuf said that over time “every critique would be defeated because there is not a single thing that Pakistan should not be conveying to the world [and] nothing that we should be apologetic about or hold back on.”