Asia is a goldmine of opportunities and choices for the major powers. Significant location of Pakistan in the region attracts major powers as well. Change in geopolitics with opportunities and choices leads regional states towards decisive shift in their foreign policy. Russia is opening eyes and looking to be a regional hegemon. Although Pakistan and Russia have no history of good relationship but the strategic realities gave birth to the current shift which is much positive for both Islamabad as well as Moscow.
Pakistan-Russia has past of adversary but today, both are welcoming the idea of building and stimulating strategic relationship. Pakistan wants to build better relationship with Russia to reduce dependency on United States. Islamabad wants to prove to Washington that it has as another strategic option if there is any tension happens between Pakistan and United States. Washington never likes Moscow’s influence in Islamabad. There are differences between Pakistan and the United States over drone attacks. According to some analysts American hegemony is near to end in the region and Pakistan does not like to become overly ally of United States and dependent on it. In fact, the increasing relationship between India and America motivates Pakistan to look for new friends and alliances. Pakistan also likes to drive wedge between India and Russia by improving relations with Moscow. Pakistan also has an eye of Russian military equipment supply and technology assistance that is better than China. Pakistan wants to gain much commercial incentive from Russia for example Karachi to Lahore Pipeline and Russia is also interested in renovation of Pakistan Steel Mill. According to some reports Russia may join CASA-1000 energy project providing electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On the other hand, today Russia is interested in Pakistan by its strategic location being very next to Afghanistan and Central Asian states. Although both the countries do not share borders but have same geopolitical space. Moscow has long considered Islamabad as a troublemaker for Russia and supporter of terrorism in the region. Russian motivation is to convince Pakistan to be moderate and subdue Islamic radicalization and militancy in the region. Pakistan is a Muslim state which has great influence in the Muslim world and Russia also has a large number of Muslim populations. Russia thinks that Pakistan can play vital role for the stable Afghanistan. Moscow hopes, after the withdrawal of American forces, Russia will find the strategic place in the region and then it will be able to play better role in the Indo-Pacific region. Russia also hopes that its understanding with Pakistan will decrease terrorism in Afghanistan and the region. It is also building relations with Pakistan to counter alignment between India and United States. Pak-Russia relationship can impede India from getting close United States. Indian tendency toward Israel and United States for advance weapons and technology encourages Russia to look for new markets for her arms sale. Moscow’s proposition to Islamabad, Pakistan can be a part of Russian strategy to play significant role in the region. On the issue of Ukraine, Russia is being isolated and has few friends in the international sphere. The aftermath Ukraine issue Russia is looking for new friends who may help her and challenge the West.
Islamabad and Moscow first time noticed each other in 2009 when Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan floated to promote regional security and economics. This quadrilateral idea held three meetings and did not take off due to cancelation of Putin’s expected visit of Pakistan for the fourth meeting in 2012. President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari had visited Russia in 2011 and Army Chief visited Moscow during 2012. There were reciprocal visits continued by ministers and high level officials of both the countries. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pakistan in 2014 since the last 45 years. During this visit the both countries agreed on information exchange on politic-military issues; cooperation for promoting international security, counterterrorism and arms control actives; collaboration in various military fields and other areas of education, medicine, topography, hydrography, cultural and experience sharing in peacemaking efforts were signed. In August 2015, Moscow agreed to provide Mi-35Mhelicopter to Pakistan. Pakistan wished to buy 20 Mi-35Ms over the next year and got four helicopters in 2017. In addition, both the countries enhanced military relations and joint military exercises were made between the two armies under the slogan of Druzhbha (Russian word meaning friendship). Russian naval forces also participated in Aman-17 international exercise in Arabian Sea, hosted by Pakistan in 2017. Further both countries agreed about coordination against terrorism and drug trafficking. Russia had already cooperated in outer-space exploration and helped in launching Pakistani telecommunication satellite Al-Badar in 2001. It also had refurbished the only Pakistani steel mill.
An agreement of $2 billion for the North-South gas pipeline was signed in October 2015 which would connect Lahore to Karachi terminal. This agreement was signed on the first visit of Pakistan by Russian energy minister. 1100 kilometer pipeline is anticipated to be completed in 2018. The Russian company will complete this project and will use for 25 years. In the energy sector, both states are collaborating as well and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Moscow between Russia’s Gazprom International and Pakistan’s Oil and gas Development Company Limited on July3, 2017. The project will fulfill the energy requirement of Pakistan. This understanding was for mutual cooperation and joint ventures and use of state of art technology that would aid exploration and development in Pakistan. This is the beginning of commercial ties between these two countries.
The increasing cooperation between Pakistan and Russia should be viewed in the context of Afghan scenario which had created challenges for Moscow. Pakistan is considered an important country for the stabilization in Afghanistan. Without constructive involvement of Pakistan, the problems of Afghanistan and stability are a dream. During the Last six decades, very few Pakistani leaders and officials visited Russia. Whenever whoever visited yielded positive result; Tashkent declaration in 1966 and Pakistan Steel mills in 1970s.Pakistan has revisited her foreign policy during the 21st century and gave impotence to neglected states. When president of Pakistan visited Russia in 2002, a joint work group on strategic stability, counterterrorism and inter-governmental Commission were established. Regular meetings of these groups have been held since then. Russia also seems accommodating Pakistan. Russia condemned the Salala Post attack by NATO on November26; 2011and issued the friendly public statement. And it also supported Pakistan on closure supply to NATO in Afghanistan through Pakistan. Russia has supported Pakistan to be a member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) and to be part of Russian security mechanism. Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an important initiative to counter American influence and to bring peace and stability in the region. The membership of SCO will enhance the strategic and regional importance of Pakistan.
There is a strong potential of Pak-Russia relations in steel production, communication, and space technology and energy sector. Pakistan should embrace these choices because it has much learnt from past errors and mistakes. There is common perception in Pakistan that its policy of ignoring nearer countries and aligning the distant ones cost her politically, economically and strategically. These alliances could not become successful to achieve all ideals of Pakistan such as Kashmir issue and security against India. Washington has enhanced relationship with India and is projecting it as a regional power. It did not fulfill the promise which it had made in the beginning of the relations. It also did not make Pakistan a progressive and modern society but turned in to radical and fragmented society. In fact, the ideal of choosing the democratic west against the authoritative east resulted in long and consistent spell of dictatorship in Pakistan. Comparatively India chose the other way round always had a stable and functional democracy in the country.
Although Pakistan and Russia are being close but Pakistan will never jeopardize its relations with Washington. Washington is providing military aid and financial assistant to Pakistan but getting tension by Pak-Russia romance. Russia understands Indian concerns and believes that Moscow and Islamabad rapprochement will normalize the hostile situation between India and Pakistan. The historical back ground of India-Russia relationship is very strong and Russia will never like to lose India. However, it is expected that there will be a period of much more intensive and extensive interaction between these two countries. Pak-Russia rapprochement should not surprise the regional powers due to current geopolitical churn in global politics. Pak-Russia relationship may become true strategic partnership in future. If Russia improves strategic relations with Pakistan it might be able to influence Pakistan to play constructive role in Afghanistan and not to act against India. This would be a regional interest as regional powers like to see stability in Afghanistan. If Russia goes ahead to defense cooperation with Pakistan it would be detriment to Indo Russia relationship and Pakistan is a smaller market than India for Russia. Russia may lose some major contract which it has made with India recently. Both India and Russia have the history of relationship and India has never openly criticized Russian policies over Ukraine. And both the countries are members of several multilateral organizations like BRICS, RIC and SCO. Although India has expressed its concerns about Pak-Russia growing cooperation on several times but Russia believes that Pak-Russia rapprochement will normalize Indo-Pak hostile attitude. It seems that Pakistan and Russia are going to forge true strategic partnership.
Did India invade Kashmir?
Pakistan has decided to observe 27th October as Black Day. This was the day when, according to India’s version, it invaded the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State. India says that Pakistan had earlier entered a lashkar (irregular forces) into Kashmir on 22nd October. But, it is eerie that India never approached the International Court of Justice, as pointed out by Josef Korbel (the author of the Danger in Kashmir), or the United Nations (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) to get Pakistan declared an aggressor. It approached the UN under Chapter VI of the UN charter (mediation). India’s invasion of Kashmir is based on myths .
India claims that ‘Maharaja Hari Singh signed the treaty of accession with the Indian Dominion on October 26, 1947’. As such, India was justified in marching invading Srinagar. . As for the ‘accession instrument’ argument, curious readers may refer to Alastair Lamb’s ‘Incomplete Partition, Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990’, and ‘Birth of a Tragedy’.
On the question of who the ‘aggressor’ was, the factual position is that India marched its troops into Kashmir without Maharajah’s permission – a blatant act of aggression (Alastair Lamb, ‘Incomplete Partition , Chapter VI: The Accession Crisis. Lamb concludes: ‘According to Wolpert, VP Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of October 26 with no signed Instrument of Accession. Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of October 27 did VP Menon and MC Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh [if signed at all] after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar.
Lamb regards the so-called Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent. He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for the safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Lamb points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place.
The UN outlawed the ‘accession’; the accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’ is void. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions, Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951, and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957, to forestall the ‘foreseeable accession’. It is eerie to note that the ‘Instrument of Accession’ is not registered with the United Nations. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 under article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes on Jammu and Kashmir State, not under Chapter VII dubbing Pakistan as ‘aggressor’. India knew at heart that she herself was an aggressor.
In his books, based on Nehru’s declassified papers, speeches and correspondence, Avtar Singh Bhasin debunked Nehru’s perfidious failure to hold a plebiscite. In Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation (pages 51-64) of his book India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odd he makes a startling revelation. Nehru discarded Maharajah’s and Kashmir assembly’s ‘accession’; in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, he shrugged off ‘accession’. He said in the letter, ‘after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices’ (p. 28 ibid..). He reiterated in New Delhi on November 3, 1951, that ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked if the proposed the constituent assembly of Kashmir ‘decides in favourof acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?’ he reiterated, ‘We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question, and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimately flow from the Security Council proceedings’. He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on November 3, 1951. He said ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’. Bhasin points out, ‘at a press conference on July 24, 1952, when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got [accession by] the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them assurance and we stand by it. Bhasin points out Nehru made a ‘tactical error’, one ‘of committing himself to the UN’.Accession documents are un-registered with the UN.
India’s prime minister Modi cartographically annexed the disputed state, spurning the UN resolutions and the Simla Accord. Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Mushtaqur Rehman elaborated why Kashmir is the most dangerous place in the world (Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People, 1996, pp. 162-163).No talks, no mediation. That is an open invitation to war, perhaps a nuclear Armageddon.
Bangladesh violence exposes veneer of Indo-Bangladesh bonhomie
Protests in Chittagong, Comilla and elsewhere left 10 dead, besides loss of property. The protests were sparked over an allegation of desecration of the Holy Quran in a temple. The Holy Quran was found resting on the thigh of a Hanuman statue in a Durga Puja pandal near a pond in Comilla called Nanua Dighi. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship. Let us look at some of them. Broken promises indicate that India looks to its own interest.
India’s Citizenship Act and the national Register of Citizenship does not confer citizenship on the Bengali immigrants at par with non-muslim refugees. In one of his speeches, India’s minister Amit Shah even called Bangladesh immigrants “termites”. The BJP leaders quote from Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s book to say that Mujib, as an East Pakistani national, wanted to annex Assam into East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Telangana T. Raja Singh Lodh demanded `Illegal Bangladeshi settlers and Rohingya should be shot if they do not return to their countries like gentlemen’. He made the statement in the context of the Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam. A legislator from Goshamahal in Hyderabad, in similar vein, roared in a video message on a social networking site: “If these people, illegal Bangladeshis and Rohingya, don’t go back with ‘sharafat’ (like gentlemen) then there is a need to talk to them in their own language. They should be shot. Only then India will be safe. Such illegal settlers were “shot and driven out” from some other countries.
YS Chowdary of the Telugu Desam Party Said illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had settled in Assam as part of a “conspiracy to destroy India”. It is the responsibility of the government to send them back to Bangladesh, he added.
“Shoot on sight”
Indian Border Security force has orders to “shoot on sight” if any Bangladeshi citizen living near the 4,096 kilometer (2,545 mile)alluvial/shifting border, happens to cross over. Regarding border killings, Brad Adams, Executive Director of the Asia Department of Human Right Watch state that, “Routinely shooting poor, unarmed villagers is not how the world’s largest democracy should behave” (Adams, Brad “India’s shoot-to-kill policy on the Bangladesh border” The Guardian. London). According to a report published by Human rights organisations, around 1,000 Bangladeshi civilians have been killed by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in a period of 10 years (from 2001 to 2010). The report also states that Indian paramilitary forces routinely threaten, abuse arbitrarily detain and torture local Bangladeshi civilians living along the border and Bangladeshi border guards usually don’t help the Bangladeshi civilians. Odhikar, a Bangladesh-based human right organization, allege that acts of rape and looting have also been perpetrated by BSF at the border areas.
Bangladesh Border Guards hate the BSF so much that a soldier, accompanying his commander for a flag meeting with DG was shot dead.
Onion export banned
India suddenly stopped exporting onions to Bangladesh. While addressing India-Bangladesh Business Forum, in Delhi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina expressed grief on the onion crisis in her country. She taunted that she asked her cook not to use onions in her food. Hasina said, ‘We are facing crisis on the onion issue. I don’t know why you have banned onion export. Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo.” Indian Government had banned export of Onions on September 29 (Times of India ).
India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.
Vaccine export contract cancelled
India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.
Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.
The ruling Awami League itself is mired in charges of corruption and nepotism. Its army chief also is being besmeared. It cracked down hard on its opponents with the army chief’s help. The persecution of Muslims in India and laws like the citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship turned Bangladesh into a simmering cauldron of resentment.Demand for expelling all Bangladeshis from various Indian states is gaining momentum. The onslaught against Bangladeshi Muslims in India is part of Hindutva (perverted Hindu nationalism) frenzy to harass Muslim community.
Bangladesh is tight-rope balancing China and India. Many cabinet ministers think that Bangladesh’s future lies with stronger rapport with China. During her visit to China, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister discussed a broad spectrum of issues and signed several memorandum of understanding. They cover the power sector, riverine matters including Brahmaputra River, commercial loans and formation of various working groups. Bangladesh has also accepted the Belt and Road Initiative.
Bangladesh has contracted Chinese in a proposed $300 million project downstream of Teesta River. Turkey also is improving relations with BD.
Changing complexion of “militancy” in the occupied Kashmir
Two teachers, Supinder Kaur and Deepak Chand, were shot dead in Srinagar on October7, 2021.The Resistance front owned the killing. The name implies that this organisation like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front does not have religious moorings. The front explained that “they were killed because they harassed and warned the parents with dire consequences if the students did not attend the school function on August 15 (India’s Independence Day).
In a tweet, the Inspector general of Kashmir police disclosed that 28 civilians had been killed din the valley during 2021”. Five persons belonged to local Hindu and Sikh communities. . Two persons were non-Hindu labourers (pic.twitter.com/j5R2MVWrT3).
Each killing follows massive crackdowns, cordons and searches, and rounding up of innocent people as suspects mostly members of Jammat-e-Islami now banned, and Hurriyat members.
Who the Resistance Front is?
Very little is known about the Front. The Resistance Front publicly emerged in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, when the Central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories. The Article 15-A also was abrogated. This article guaranteed special protections to Kashmiri people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Front came into limelight when it owned a grenade attack in October 2019. Eight civilians on Srinagar’s busy Hari Singh High Street were injured in the attack. The Front is shy of social posts. But, it did announce its debut on the chat platform, Telegram.
India attributes the April intense gunfight between with security forces in the Keran sector (Kupwara district) to this Front. It left five personnel of the army’s elite Special Forces dead.
Another encounter has continued for five days until October 19 in Mendhar sector. India admits having lost several soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer, in the fight The Indian forces dared not enter into the forest. They were content to use heavy guns from the outside. The Indian forces’ initial impression was that the front uses only pistols and improvised explosives. That has been proved wrong.
To disguise their ignorance about the Front, the forces say, ‘These acts are committed by newly recruited terrorists or those who are about to join terrorist ranks’.
IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar says, ‘A total of 28 civilians have been killed by terrorists in 2021. Out of 28, five persons belong to local Hindu and Sikh communities and two persons are non-local Hindu labourers.’
The non local Kashmiri migrants have no faith in police protection. They are returning to their home towns. The remaining persons are being shifted to army camps.
India’s home minister has planned a visit to Srinagar to familiarize himself with the situation. Indian prime minister Modi is being blamed at home and abroad for emergence of the Resistance Front. The critics point out that Kashmiriat had been the crucible of several civilizations. But India’s reign of terror compelled the native Kashmiri to become xenophobic.
Modi ventilated his ire at rights criticism in his speech before the National Human rights Commission.
He stressed that welfare measures like providing electric connection, alleviating poverty were more important than human rights.
The NHRC is a statutory body that was constituted on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act. It takes cognisance of human rights violations, conducts enquiries and recommends compensation to victims from public authorities besides other remedial and legal measures against the erring public servants. However its present chairman is believed to be BJP stooge.
Kashmir, a Guantanamo Bay
Even Mehbooba Mufti, a former BJP ally, has been compelled to call Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay prison. She called for lifting ban on Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Jama’at-e-Islami, withdrawal of `sedition’ or `terrorism’ cases against Kashmiri leaders or ordinary folk. Her voice proved to be a voice in the wilderness. What else could Mehbooba call Kashmir _ `Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders’ (A.G. Noorani, Kashmir, a prison, Dawn January 12, 2019). Trade across the Line of Control has been stopped and `terrorism’ charges slapped on some traders. Even the tyrannical Dogras and their British overlords facilitated Kashmir trade with Central Asian and other states. Kashmiri markets used to be flooded with foreign traders and their merchandise _books, shawls, gold tillas, Russian textiles, Kokandi silk, Bukharan rumals (handkerchiefs) and coral. Trade from British India would flow through Kulu via the Chang Chenmo route to Yarkand, bypassing the maharaja’s customs officials in Leh. In 1870, Maharaja Ranbir Singh signed a special treaty in Sialkot with Viceroy Lord Mayo to accept this route as a ‘free highway’, later known as Treaty Route. Central Asians intending to perform hajj used to travel through this route to Karachi or Bombay sea-ports to board ships. To facilitate pilgrims, highway provided rest houses, and supply depots jointly supervised by British and Kashmir officials. Now, even the Kashmir Highway stands closed to civilian traffic during military-convoy movement.. A minor, violating road closure, was brutally crushed by an Indian army vehicle.”
Mehbooba revealed her government was dismissed for expressing ennui at central-government atrocities, not returning dead bodies of `encounter’ victims and burning them, not allowing funeral prayers, demanding talks with Pakistan, registering an FIR against an army officer, resisting change in Kashmir’s special status, and so on (Indian Express dated April 18. 2019). A cursory look at Kashmir press is horrifying _ Sedition cases were slapped on three Aligarh- university Kashmiri students for trying to hold prayers for Hizb militant Wani, Kashmiri students and traders at Wagah border are forced to chant anti-Pakistan slogans and post them to face book. Kashmir students and traders were attacked or looted throughout India. About 700 students, including girls, fled to Valley. Even holders of PM Modi’s merit-based competitive scholarships had to rush back to Valley for safety. Kashmiri journalists in Indian states were roughed up, mercilessly beaten, and told to go back Meghalaya governor officially directed to boycott everything Kashmiri. Some Kashmiris petitioned Supreme Court to intervene. In its order, the Supreme Court directed 10 states and various institutions to take remedial steps, but in vain.
People have lost trust In India’s claims of success in “encounters”, mostly fake. In July last year, security forces in Kashmir claimed to have killed three “unidentified hardcore terrorists” in a gunfight in Amshipora village of Kashmir’s Shopian district. They had last made phone calls to their families on July 17, 2020, a day before the purported gunfight had taken place.
An army inquiry and a police probe into the encounter established that the three suspected militants killed in Amshipora were shot dead in a fake encounter.
Indian army stages such encounters to earn reward of Rs. 20 lac per encounter. A year has gone by but the captain accused of masterminding and executing the fake Amshipora encounter is still unpunished. He abducted three labourers from their homes and shot them dead as “terrorists”. Those killed in Shopian in July 2020 were Mohammed Ibrar of Tarkasi village, Imtiyaz Ahmad of Dharsakri village, and Ibrar Ahmad.
It is obvious that it is not all hunky dory in Kashmir as India claims. The changed dimension of “militancy” is an incurable headache for the Modi’s government.
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