Riaz Haq writes this data-driven blog to provide information, express his opinions and make comments on many topics. Subjects include personal activities, education, South Asia, South Asian community, regional and international affairs and US politics to financial markets. For investors interested in South Asia, Riaz has another blog called South Asia Investor at http://www.southasiainvestor.com and a YouTube video channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkrIDyFbC9N9evXYb9cA_gQ
Monday, January 19, 2009
Obama's Kashmir Focus
Even before Barack H. Obama assumes the US presidency tomorrow, the American president-elect has been actively working on his South Asia policy, with Kashmir as its centerpiece. Not only did he send his vice president-elect Joe Biden to visit Pakistan, he has also reached out to his defeated presidential rival John McCain upon Mr. McCain's recent return from a Pakistan trip. In an unprecedented move, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration’s potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues — in one case relaying back a contender’s answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested, according to the New York Times. More recently, Foreign Policy journal reported of a secret dinner meeting in Washington's Ronald Reagan Building where Obama listened to several key figures including Ahmed Rashid who flew in from Lahore specially for the occasion.
It is widely known that Obama believes the situation in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. “The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan,” Obama said in an interview on October 30 with MSNBC. “And we’ve got work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.”
Obama reiterated his emphasis on Kashmir in a December 7 interview on NBC's Meet The Press. He said, "...as I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran. And part of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, direct diplomacy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives. And that's al-Qaeda and, and, and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come."
During recent Senate confirmation hearings, the US Ambassador-designate to the UN, Susan Rice, identified Kashmir as one of the "hot spots" and included it with conflict-torn regions, including the Balkans and Golan Heights.
Earlier in September, Mr. Bruce Riedel, recently formally appointed as Pakistan adviser by Obama, told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relation, "We can't expect Pakistan to behave like a normal state, unless it has normal borders. And we can't expect Pakistan to behave the way we would like it to while it's obsessed and fixated on its neighbor and the problem in Kashmir. The problem in Kashmir has been in the doldrums for the past several years. It is now starting to boil really quickly, and when Kashmir boils, the result is Indian-Pakistani tensions that can produce war. We've seen that over and over again," he said.
The Mumbai attacks have only served to strengthen Obama's Kashmir thesis and sharpen his national security team's focus on resolving the biggest obstacle to peace in South Asia. This fact has recently been underlined by his British ally, Foreign Secretary David Miliband. After his recent trip to India and Pakistan, Mr. Miliband wrote for the Guardian as follows: "Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders."
The Indian government and media have been protesting the statements by Obama and Miliband in the hope of averting a serious intervention by the West to force a resolution of the long-standing Kashmir dispute that can potentially trigger a nuclear holocaust. Former president of the United States and the husband of the incoming US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, Bill Clinton, on the eve of his 2000 visit to the subcontinent, called the ceasefire line that divides Kashmir "the most dangerous place in the world". In spite of the angry noises from New Delhi, there are reports that former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be tapped as Obama's special envoy to South Asia.
Miliband has called the war on terror "mistaken". Obama has refrained from the indiscriminate use of the label of "war on Terror" as a way to avoid solving fundamental issues. What Obama and Miliband are setting out to do will not be easy, either in South Asia or in the Middle East. There will be powerful opposition from the Indian and Israeli governments and their lobbyists and friends in US Congress. There will also be some concerns in Pakistan about imposing a Kashmir solution without taking Kashmiri leaders on board. But, to distance themselves from the misguided Bush policies and to leave a legacy of international peace of prosperity, Obama and his allies need to show tough love to their friends in India and Israel. The kind of tough love that makes two of America's best friends see what is truly in their own best interest.
Here are two videos to explain Kashmir. The first is on the Obama vision of solving the Kashmir issue. The second is a comprehensive video on the origins of Kashmir dispute and the positions of various parties as presented by Pakistani Peace Activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy:
Obama's South Asia Policy
Military Occupation of Kashmir
Bruce Riedel Interview
Clues to Obama's South Asia Policy
Labels: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, South Asia
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In an unprecedented move Obama has appointed Prof. Neal Kumar Katyal as principal deputy general solicitor. See the details http://in.rediff.com/news/2009/jan/20-obama-appoints-neal-katyal-to-top-post.htm. Looking at the details of work done by Prof. Neal, it seems a good move for the masses of India and Pakistan and a direct bad news for the extremists in general.
I hope that our hopes are well-founded, insha'Allah!
Here's the latest from Washington Post:
Inside a chandeliered ballroom Thursday, Indian diplomats and business leaders and American officials held forth about a new "Cooperation Triangle" for the United States, China and India. But little mention was made at the Asia Foundation's conference on Indo-U.S. relations of the Indian government's recent diplomatic slam-dunk.
India managed to prune the portfolio of the Obama administration's top envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard C. Holbrooke -- basically eliminating the contested region of Kashmir from his job description. The deletion is seen as a significant diplomatic concession to India that reflects increasingly warm ties between the country and the United States, according to South Asia analysts.
Indian diplomats, worried about Holbrooke's tough-as-nails reputation, didn't want him meddling in Kashmir, according to several Indian officials and Indian news media reports. Holbrooke is nicknamed "the Bulldozer" for arm-twisting warring leaders to the negotiating table as he hammered out the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia, a peace that has stuck.
"I think it is time for us -- having fobbed off Holbrooke -- to sit quietly and ask where are we and how do we manage the situation," said C. Raja Mohan, an Indian strategic analyst who served on India's national security advisory board in 2006.
From The Daily Times today....
Why not have a joint Kashmir?’
* PDP president calls for having ‘dual currency’ to encourage trade
* Says LoC should be made ‘irrelevant’
NEW DELHI: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Indian-held Kashmir has called for unifying both Kashmirs and having a “dual currency” to encourage trade.
Speaking at an Indo-Pak conference on Sunday, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said, “Can’t there be any joint mechanism between the two Kashmirs? Why can’t we have a joint council consisting of representatives from both sides?”
LoC: She said the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir should be made “irrelevant”. She said the recent militancy-related incidents in IHK should not influence New Delhi’s decision to withdraw troops from the disputed territory. “We know that the aim of any terror attack is to sabotage the dialogue process. The Lal Chowk attack should not influence the intention of the Indian government to withdraw forces [from IHK],” she said. The PDP leader said wars between India and Pakistan had only resulted in accumulation of security forces in IHK. Mehbooba said the peace process should be de-linked from terror incidents, adding that resumption of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan was the need of the hour.
The situation in IHK “has improved over the period of time and the people are turning to peaceful means to raise their grievances”, she said. Mehbooba said India and Pakistan should engage themselves in a result-oriented dialogue, adding that Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone was killed because “he wanted dialogue”. The PDP president urged the two countries to make a policy shift on Kashmir by reaching out to the people and practicing peaceful and democratic ways to build a new South Asia.
Mufti said that Kashmir would be the “first and the worst victim” if something happens to Pakistan. iftikhar gilani
Here's an interesting survey of Kashmiris reported by the BBC:
A survey which a British academic says is the first systematic attempt to establish the opinions of Kashmiris has produced "striking results".
Robert Bradnock interviewed more than 3,700 people in Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to assess their views on various issues.
One of the key questions put to respondents was how they saw the future of the territory.
Nearly half of those interviewed said they wanted independence.
Another question asked for their views over the continuing insurgency.
Dr Bradnock - an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London - says that the survey has produced startling conclusions, especially in relation to the future of the territory.
No 'simple fixes'
It revealed that on average 44% of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43% in Indian-administered Kashmir.
"However while this is the most popular option overall, it fails to carry an overall majority on either side.
"In fact on the Indian side of the Line of Control [LoC] - which separates the two regions - opinions are heavily polarised," Dr Bradnock told the BBC.
The survey found that the "overwhelming majority" of people want a solution to the dispute, even though there are no "simple fixes".
Dr Bradnock said that in the Kashmir valley - the mainly Muslim area at the centre of the insurgency - support for independence is between 74% and 95%.
But in the predominantly Hindu Jammu division to the south, support is under 1%.
Other findings include:
* 80% of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC say that the dispute is important to them personally
* Concern over human rights abuses stands at 43% on the Indian side and 19% on the Pakistani side
* Concern over unemployment is strong across the territory - 66% on the Pakistani side and 87% on the Indian side
* Few are optimistic over peace talks - only 27% on the Pakistani side and 57% on the Indian side thought they would succeed.
Dr Bradnock said that it was "clear" that a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir - along the lines envisaged in UN resolutions of 1948-49 - is "extremely unlikely to offer a solution today".
"The results of the polls show that that there is no single proposition for the future of Kashmir which could be put to the population... and get majority support," he said.
"The poll offers no simple fixes but offers signposts - through which the political process, engaging India, Pakistan and wider Kashmiri representation - could move it towards resolution."
Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in The Hindu on Wikileaks cables showing growing US and Israeli influence in New Delhi:
The publication and analysis of the US embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks is ongoing, but what has been made available so far reveals a disturbing picture. The US has acquired an influential position in various spheres - strategic affairs, foreign policy and economic policies. The US has access to the bureaucracy, military, security and intelligence systems and has successfully penetrated them at various levels. The cables cover a period mainly from 2005 to 2009, the very period when the UPA government went ahead to forge the strategic alliance with the US.
The volte face by the Manmohan Singh government in voting against Iran in the IAEA in September 2005 was one such crucial event. The cables illustrate how the US government exercised maximum pressure to achieve this turn around. The Indian government was told that unless India takes a firm stand against Iran, the US Congress would not pass the legislation to approve the nuclear deal.
Other cables reveal how the United States succeeded in getting India to coordinate policy towards other countries in South Asia like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The close cooperation with Israel under US aegis is also spelt out.
The success achieved in getting India's foreign policy to be "congruent" to US policy is smugly stated in an embassy cable that Indian officials are ‘loathe to admit publicly that India and the US have begun coordinating foreign policies'.
One of the cables from the US ambassador to the American defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld spells out the agenda which the Americans hope to accomplish during the visit. The Defence Framework Agreement was the first of this type to be signed by India with any country. It envisages a whole gamut of cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. It is evident from the cables that the US government and the Pentagon had been negotiating and planning for such an agreement from the time of the NDA government.
The cables show the growing coordination of the security establishments of the two countries reaching a high level of cooperation after the Mumbai terrorist attack. The then National Security Advisor, M K Narayanan was seen by the Americans as eager to establish a high degree of security cooperation involving agencies such as the FBI and the CIA.
The cables also provide a glimpse of how the Americans are able to penetrate the intelligence and security apparatus. Among the forty cables which were first published by the British paper, The Guardian, there are two instances of improper contacts. In the first case a member of the National Security Advisory Board meets an American embassy official and offers to provide information about Iranian contacts in India and requests for his visit to the United States to be arranged in return. In another case the US embassy reports that it is able to get access to terrorism related information directly from a police official serving in the Delhi Police, rather than going through official channels.
The collaboration between the intelligence and security agencies of the two countries had already resulted in American penetration. Two cases of espionage had come up. During the NDA government, a RAW officer, Rabinder Singh was recruited by the CIA. When his links were uncovered, he was helped by the CIA to flee to the United States. During the UPA government a systems analyst in the National Security Council secretariat was found to have been recruited by the CIA, the contact having been established through the US-India Cyber Security Forum.
A new Wikileak revelation by The Hindu quotes BJP leader Arun Jaitly calling Hindutva as an Opportunistic issue for the party that exploits anti-Muslim sentiments and India-Pak tensions:
CHENNAI: Is Hindu nationalism the raison d'être of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or just another vote-catching device? In a private conversation with American diplomats in May 2005, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley articulated the view that Hindu nationalism was an opportunistic issue for the party.
Mr. Jaitley, who is now the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, met with Robert Blake, the Charge at the U.S. Embassy, on May 6, 2005, and provided him and the Political Counsel an insightful exposition on the politics of Hindutva. “Pressed on the question of Hindutva, Jaitley argued that Hindu nationalism ‘will always be a talking point' for the BJP. However, he characterized this as an opportunistic issue,” the Charge wrote in a cable dated May 10, 2005 ( 32279: confidential).
“In India's northeast, for instance, Hindutva plays well because of public anxiety about illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh. With the recent improvement of Indo-Pak relations, he added, Hindu nationalism is now less resonant in New Delhi, but that could change with another cross-border terrorist attack, for instance on the Indian Parliament,” Mr. Blake reported on the interaction with Mr. Jaitley.
On the basis of these remarks on Hindutva made by Mr. Jaitley, the diplomat concluded that his “credentials with the Sangh Parivar are weak, and he may not have what it takes to mobilize the BJP base.”
On the issue of revocation of the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Jaitley complained that he could not understand how the United States could take such an action against the party that began the transformation of U.S.-India relations.
When Mr. Blake explained the “rationale and legal basis” for the U.S. decision, “Jaitley agreed with the Charge's point that Modi was a polarizing personality, but argued that it would have been better for the US to let the Chief Minister visit the US, where he would have attracted a few demonstrators and then nothing more would be said.”
The Modi issue aside, the BJP leader was upbeat on U.S.-India relations, “emphasizing that ties with the U.S. were no longer a point of controversy in Indian politics.” Citing his own situation as typical, “Jaitley noted that he has several nieces and sisters living in the U.S., and ‘five homes to visit between DC and New York.'”
In private, Mr. Jaitley appeared more willing to give credit to his political rivals where due. “Putting on his hat as a former Commerce Minister, Jaitley confessed that the BJP's opposition to a Value Added Tax (VAT) at the state level was based on a narrow political calculus, and predicted that the BJP states would adopt the VAT soon in order to protect their revenue streams. He gave the Congress government generally positive marks for its handling of economic policy issues, but focused on the contradictions inherent in the UPA coalition.”
In response to the “Charge's pitch for opening of the Indian services sector,” Mr. Jaitley, a Senior Advocate, agreed that legal services should be opened to foreign competition, “noting that the performance of the Indian bar has begun to improve, even though the quality of judges suffers from a ‘Gandhian' mindset that leads to unreasonably low salaries.” On the retail sector, Mr. Jaitley “argued that foreign competition should not seriously hurt the mom and pop stores that form a BJP constituency.”
The arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai signaling US shift in position to favor India on Kashmir will not change the ground realities of Indian Occupied Kashmir.
India's military occupation of Kashmir will not last, and increasing brutality and repression of the people of Kashmir will only make the situation worse. And it'll continue to make a mockery of India's claim to "democracy".
Here's a piece by Ananya Vajpeyi on exceptions to Indian "constitutional democracy":
By enforcing extraordinary laws, by sending in armed forces, by granting impunity to soldiers and paramilitaries for their actions against armed or unarmed civilians, by denying citizens redress, justice or compensation, by creating a war-like situation for a population that has political, social, cultural and economic grievances possible to address without force, it is the state that sets aside the Constitution. The Indian state has done this too many times, in too many places, and for too long.
It is time for citizens in the so-called ‘normal’ parts of the country to consider how they want to defend their Constitution against such misuse and ill-treatment by the state, a procedure that leaves millions of people exposed to both everyday as well as excessive violence, and ultimately turns them against India. If the Indian Union sees any attrition to its territory in the coming years on account of separatism and civil strife (not such an unlikely scenario as hawkish policy-makers like to believe), this will have come to pass at least partly because the state allowed the cancer of exception to eat away at the body politic, and did not administer the medicine of constitutional reinstatement and restitution in time. It bears repeating that periodic exercises in the electoral process do not always prove to be a sufficient counterweight to the toxic effects of the AFSPA, even if elections are relatively free and fair (a tough challenge), and even if significant percentages of the relevant populations do turn out to vote.
The state’s reasoning for why military, paramilitary and police must replace civil agencies in the work of everyday governance, a step which can and does go horribly wrong, is that disruptive violence (from secessionist and insurgent groups) has to be met with restorative counter-violence (from the state) in order to ensure overall security for the population, and preserve the integrity of the Union of India. Defenders of the AFSPA insist that this is a sound rationale. But inevitably, questions arise: What are the limits of the immunity that such an extraordinary law grants to the armed forces, when does the justifiable control of terror become overkill, and when should a quantitative assessment about the necessary degree of force give way to a qualitative judgment about whether force is necessary at all, over and above alternative – peaceful – means of addressing the situation?
There appears to be a dire need for a system of checks-and-balances, perhaps also originating from the Constitution, to be instituted, so that the explicitly democratic mandate of the Indian republic may be strengthened against an always lurking authoritarian tendency (a legacy of the post-colonial state’s colonialist and imperialist predecessor).
Here's WSJ blog on Indian claims to Kashmir:
OK, so everyone knows that India, like Pakistan, claims the divided region of Kashmir in its entirety.
Everyone also knows that the seven-decade stalemate that has split the Himalayan territory between India- and Pakistan-administered portions is unlikely to change any time soon.
So, why does India get so upset every time a government, company or international body fails on a map of the region, however small, to show India’s territorial claims over the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir?
India’s Ministry of External Affairs lamented the “gross inaccuracies” in the map and said it had conveyed its displeasure to the Embassy. The whole of Kashmir is an “integral part” of India, it said, and maps “should depict the boundaries of our country correctly.”
It’s one thing for a customs official insisting on black-penning the Indian version of the border onto a child’s imported globe (yes, this happened.) But for it to reach the level of official, public MEA statements is absurd.
India has become increasingly militant over its cartographic claims. Editions of The Economist magazine, including the current one, have been held up by Indian customs over objections they showed the effective borders in Kashmir rather than only India’s claims.
Why India believes other countries and international publications must show its territorial claims and not the situation on the ground is unclear, and not matched by how map-makers deal with other disputed borders.
Take the 38th Parallel, for instance, the cease-fire line that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1945. Fighting between North and South Korea ended in 1953, but the border has never been formalized. Yet South Korea doesn’t yell publicly when Google Inc.’s maps show the 38th Parallel as the nation’s effective border with North Korea.
When Google did the same thing with India last year, showing its de facto rather than claimed border with Pakistan-administered Kashmir, it caused a furor here. (Google relented and, today, if you access its maps in India, you’ll confusingly see India sharing a border with Afghanistan, which might be India’s claim but is not reality.)
It is now customary to mark a map of Kashmir with dotted lines with labels that say “controlled by Pakistan and claimed by India” and “controlled by India and claimed by Pakistan.” (China controls a part which is claimed by India, but that’s another story.)
But the U.S. State Department map, part of an A-Z of thumbnail sketches of countries with whom America has diplomatic relations, was by no means meant to show this level of detail.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi acknowledged there were “inaccuracies” and said the State Department had removed the map. But he added it “was not meant to represent the same precision and intricacies of a scientific map.”
There was much gnashing of teeth in the Indian press. One Times of India report even went so far as to claim these cartographic missteps are starting to anger not only officials but also journalists.
It’s clear that India will have to move beyond this kind of petty griping if it’s going to take the lead in a peace deal with Pakistan, an unstable country that is fast losing the support of the U.S.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made peace with Pakistan a key plank of his administration, and a settlement on Kashmir will be key.
Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, contacted by the Times of India, went as far as to say the map showed a “pro-Pakistan cartographic tilt.”....
Here's a Fox News report on a new book alleging Indian agents killed foreign tourists in Kashmir:
A state human rights commission said Tuesday it will review records from the 1995 kidnapping of six foreigners in Indian-controlled Kashmir after a new book alleged that Indian intelligence agents were involved in the deadly crime.
The six tourists were trekking in a Himalayan meadow when they were kidnapped by a previously unknown militant group named Al-Faran. One American escaped, but the body of a Norwegian was later found in a remote village. Another American, a German and two Britons were never located.
India said the kidnappers were backed by Pakistan, and that some disappeared after the crime while others were killed in gunbattles with Indian troops.
However, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke suggest in a recently published book, "The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 — Where the Terror Began," that the Indian government deliberately undermined hostage negotiations and prolonged the crisis to damage Pakistan's reputation, and then used its own militants to take custody of the hostages before they were killed.
The Jammu-Kashmir State Human Rights Commission asked Tuesday for reports about the 17-year-old case from government and police authorities. Commission Secretary Tariq Ahmad Banday said it is also seeking access to two officers who were part of the original investigation.
The commission will discuss the case at its next meeting May 28, after being asked to look into it by a local rights group, the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice.
The group called for an inquiry into "why no action was taken on various points ... despite the authorities having knowledge of the location of the hostages, and then subsequently the burial site of the hostages."
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/17/kashmir-revisits-5-case-foreigners-abduction/
..when she (Robin Raphel) made her controversial comments on the Kashmir dispute and the suggestion of a referendum, the Indian government saw her as a formidable, antagonistic voice to contend with. “The U.S. was seen as pro-Pakistan at the time,” describes diplomat Satinder Lambah, who was India’s High Commissioner in Islamabad then, “And Ms. Raphel was a real obstacle in bettering ties between the US and India. They improved dramatically, later, but it was in spite of her.”
The Narasimha Rao government issued demarches, both in New Delhi and Washington, expressing unhappiness over the comments. While Ms. Raphel remained in the position for several years, the Clintons changed their public positions on Kashmir soon after. President Bill Clinton, who had even raised concerns over “human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir” at a White house function in 1994, no longer brought those up, even as a visit by Hillary Clinton in April 1995 to New Delhi paved the way for better relations.
#US report cites disappearances, dangerous jails, arbitrary arrests among rights' abuses in #India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Significant-rights-abuses-by-Indian-security-forces-US-report/articleshow/47823381.cms … via @timesofindia
"The most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption that contributed to ineffective responses to crime, including those against women and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe," the report said.
According to the State Department report, other human rights problems included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention.
"The judiciary remained backlogged, leading to lengthy delays and the denial of due process," it said.
Noting that there were instances of infringement of privacy rights, the report said the law in some states restricts religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws. Some limits on the freedom of movement continued.
Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious societal problems, it said.
Child abuse and forced and early marriage were problems, the State Department said.
Human trafficking, including widespread bonded and forced labour of children and adults, and sex trafficking of children and adults for prostitution were serious problems, it said.
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