Archive for the ‘ Kashmir ’ Category

Pakistan Seeks Resolution of India Water Dispute

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan told India it wants to begin formal arbitration proceedings over an Indian dam project in Kashmir, threatening to heighten tensions ahead of high-level bilateral talks. Pakistan says India’s planned hydropower dam on the Kishanganga River would violate a 50-year-old water-sharing treaty between the two neighbors by diverting water Pakistan needs for agriculture and power generation.

India denies its project would violate the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. It has received Pakistan’s request for arbitration and is examining it, an Indian official said. Water disputes have become a growing point of controversy between the rivals in recent months, and could become an impediment as they seek to re-establish diplomatic ties. India cut off dialogue with Pakistan after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, but has shown an interest in restarting talks if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists on its soil.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met last month at a regional summit and agreed to move forward with dialogue. The countries’ chief foreign-policy bureaucrats will meet in late June to prepare an agenda for mid-July, when their external affairs ministers are expected to meet in Islamabad. In previous rounds of diplomacy, India and Pakistan have discussed issues ranging from trade to the fate of Kashmir, the disputed territory that is two-thirds controlled by India and over which the countries have fought two of their three wars. India has said it is open to discussing all issues in the current talks, though shutting down terrorist groups and getting Pakistan to more aggressively prosecute Mumbai suspects are its core objectives.

 India has said river-sharing disputes should be settled through the 1960 treaty, rather than in the bilateral talks. The accord split six Himalayan rivers between the countries, with the three Western ones going to Pakistan, the three Eastern ones to India, and each side retaining the right to the other side’s resources for uses such as run-of-river hydropower and irrigation. Under the treaty, the countries nominate commissioners who share data and try to resolve problems as they arise. If the commissioners can’t agree, they can seek a World Bank-appointed expert to intervene, which happened in 2005 when Pakistan objected to another big dam.

India was told to make minor changes to its design. Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan’s Indus waters commissioner, said the country is now seeking formal arbitration proceedings—a treaty mechanism that neither side has used before—because it feels India is stalling on the Kishanganga dispute. Pakistan on Wednesday named two members that would sit on a seven-person arbitration panel. Under the treaty, India has 30 days to name its own two members, and the countries are supposed to jointly name the three other participants. If they can’t agree, the World Bank would step in to name them.

Pakistani farmers and Islamist groups have staged protests against India’s 330-megawatt hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga, which is a tributary to one of the rivers Pakistan was allotted under the treaty. Water availability in Pakistan has fallen 70% since the early 1950s to 1,500 cubic meters per capita, according to a report last year by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. India says Pakistan’s poor water management is responsible for the water shortages it is experiencing in some regions.

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Pakistani Muslim Rocks Against Extremism

By Richard Allen Greene for CNN

Salman Ahmad is a devout Pakistani Muslim on jihad — but his holy war is a rock ‘n’ roll battle against intolerance, he says. He’s the frontman of the band Junoon. He’s sold 30 million albums. And he says music is a powerful weapon against extremism. “My own personal narrative tells me that arts and culture is mightier than the sword,” he told CNN during a tour of the United Kingdom Thursday.

Ahmad, who was born in Pakistan and grew up in New York, has set himself an ambitious goal — not only fighting Muslims’ own misconceptions about their religion, but reclaiming the very word “jihad” from extremists.

It’s come to mean violent holy war of the kind waged by al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Ahmad says that’s not its true meaning”There has been a sinister case of identity theft where the extremists have hijacked not only language but culture,” he said. “Jihad means to strive, to overcome your ego, to work for social justice and peace.” That may be why his new book and album are called “Rock & Roll Jihad.”

He insists his long-haired, guitar-driven rock music is entirely compatible with Islam.

“Anybody who says that music is un-Islamic is a poser,” he said. “Muslims have expressed their faith, their lives, their hopes, through music, through poetry, for 1,400 years.”

His own music is a fusion of the wildly disparate influences he grew up with, he said. “I was a 13-year-old from Pakistan (when I) arrived in a suburban cocoon like New York,” he recalled. “My exposure to rock-and-roll was watching Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden.” Frontman Jimmy Page “had a two-headed guitar and dragons painted on his pants, and I said: ‘That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.'”

“My music takes equal inspiration from classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles and also Sufi poetry,” he said, citing a mystical Muslim tradition. “We are in the same tradition of musicians who are sending out a message of love, a message of joy. “And while he may seem like a trailblazer — and be one — he said he is not alone. South Indian Muslim composer A.R. Rahman won an Academy Award for best song for “Slumdog Millionaire’s” anthemic “Jai Ho,” Ahmad observed. And Ahmad’s mentor, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, performed with Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. “He said to me, “The Quran promotes cultural diversity, so why not play with rockers?'”

Ahmad’s done some high-profile collaborations of his own, including recording a song with American rocker Melissa Etheridge. “I saw him perform at the concert and was amazed by his vocal and guitar abilities. Here was this traditional Eastern sound that was rocking hard at the same time,” Etheridge writes in the introduction to Ahmad’s new book. They traded ideas, resulting in the song “Ring The Bells.”

She remembers listening to some tunes he recorded to kick off their collaboration: “I found in one track a haunting guitar part that I kept playing over and over until finally the words started to come. ‘Whose God is God? Whose light is light? Whose law is wrong? Whose might is right?'” The message is resonating, Ahmad said.

He has played rock concerts in the disputed territory of Kashmir, with “thousands of kids braving death threats going to hear concerts,” he said.

“It’s a way for people to vent their emotions. Junoon’s sold over 30 million albums,” he said. “That music wasn’t bought by a fringe. That’s a mainstream majority.”

Pakistani-Americans and Police Sharing, and Trying to Spread, Trust

By Anne Barnhard for The New York Times

STRATFORD, Conn. — Last month, a resident of Avon, Conn., received a threatening letter full of religious references. The police chief there, Mark Rinaldo, wondered whether the letter implied a broader threat from a Muslim militant.

He called Dr. Atique A. Mirza, a Pakistani-born Muslim cardiologist, who studied the letter for cultural, religious and political clues. They concluded that the threat probably involved a narrow dispute between neighbors.

Now that a Pakistani-American man from Connecticut, Faisal Shahzad, stands accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, setting off soul-searching and unease among the state’s thousands of residents of Pakistani descent, Mr. Rinaldo and Dr. Mirza are holding up their relationship — built over three years of meetings and cooperation between Pakistani-Americans and law enforcement — as a model for communities across the state and the nation.

The comfort level is such, said Mr. Rinaldo, that Dr. Mirza “wouldn’t be insulted and say, ‘Why are you calling me,’ “ nor would the chief doubt Dr. Mirza’s analysis. “That’s the trusting relationship we are looking for,” said Dr. Mirza, who has formally assumed the role of Avon’s police-community liaison for the Pakistani American Association of Connecticut (Paact), which has similar representatives in 13 towns and hopes to increase the number to 70.

Paact’s work makes Mr. Shahzad’s case all the more upsetting to Dr. M. Saud Anwar, a pulmonologist who founded the group. He has played a role in the investigation, acting as liaison between the authorities and a Pakistani friend of Mr. Shahzad’s who feared talking to them. The friend provided e-mail messages that may shed light on Mr. Shahzad’s views on violence.

But Dr. Anwar wishes the attempt could have been stopped before it began, something he calls possible in future cases if cooperation between his community and the authorities increases by another “order of magnitude.”

“This is not, God forbid, to spy on people, but just to live your life the way it is and if you notice something that concerns you, speak up,” he said, speaking to about 100 Connecticut residents of Pakistani descent and representatives of the F.B.I., the State Police and a dozen police departments who gathered Saturday at the Ramada Inn in Stratford. “This is someone who lived among us and under the radar without anybody in the community knowing he was radicalized.”

Paact moves beyond reminding law enforcement not to unfairly paint all Muslims as terrorists — though it still strongly takes that position. It also calls on Pakistani-Americans to acknowledge that people of Pakistani descent have been implicated in high-profile terrorist attacks, to probe the causes and in the process to remind the public that they want security as much as other Americans do.

Dr. Mirza’s wife, Faryal, an endocrinologist, took a similar approach when her son was called “terrorist” in school several years ago. She began giving annual diversity classes, in which she offered Pakistani food and talked about her culture and religion. She also goes out of her way to let patients know she is Pakistani, so they associate the country with something other than terrorism.

Although she could have argued that the burden of explaining culture should not fall on her, she said, “We have to be proactive.”

Now Paact hopes to franchise its approach to other states. On June 19, the group is holding a national conference in Hartford on radicalization and prevention, featuring the Pakistani ambassador, representatives of the National Counterterrorism Center, theologians and others.

Saturday’s meeting focused on the narrower question of how it could have been that people did not seem to remember Mr. Shahzad from a mosque or a dinner party, let alone alert the authorities about him.

Dr. Mirza said it pointed to a need to rethink the atomization of suburban culture: “Know your neighbors; say hi; help them when they need you; be attentive.”

Mr. Shahzad may have isolated himself from mosques and Pakistani organizations, but he must have had some connections; he was married to a Pakistani-American and lived in Bridgeport, where there is a relatively large Pakistani-American population, said Jaleel Rahman, a retired real estate agent.

“We have to be more vigilant,” Mr. Rahman said.

Zaheer Sharaf, Paact’s president, said that many Pakistanis were afraid of the police, because they believe that police officers in their original country are corrupt.

Add to that the post-9/11 fear that reporting a suspicion about a Muslim might lead to an overreaction by the authorities, and it made for a wide gulf between Pakistani-Americans and the police forces that Mr. Rinaldo, the police chief of Avon, said he was unaware of until he began meeting with Dr. Mirza and others.

His reaction: “Wait a minute. We’re the good guys. We have to open up to this community.”

This month, he said, he was upset to see negative reactions to Pakistani-Americans after Mr. Shahzad’s arrest.

“It seems to be one individual, yet a whole community is suffering for the crime,” Mr. Rinaldo said. “It’s not fair.”

Mateen Haider, 56, an engineer from South Windsor, said that Pakistanis, like all immigrants, simply want to fit in, so they are loath to do anything that could draw attention, including call the police.

“That is no longer enough,” he said, telling the meeting: “Today is a great day. We have spoken out. We are all united together as citizens, and we will fight this to the end.”

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

By Siggharth Varadarajan for The Hindu.com

Forget Kashmir and terrorism or even Afghanistan and water, the current stalemate between India and Pakistan is all down to one word. Both countries publicly say that Dialogue is the only way forward. Yet each is paralysed by the name Composite’. New Delhi is so allergic to it that it will not accept its use, while Islamabad has become so attached to the C word that it insists there can be nothing else.

This Indian allergy and Pakistani attachment is paradoxical, since the composite dialogue approach has suited India more than it has Pakistan. Under the guise of moving ahead simultaneously on all issues, the framework has allowed progress on trade and other subjects considered important by New Delhi, even as the status quo on major disputes like Kashmir and Siachen key concerns for Islamabad has held. Of course, the dialogue did not end cross-border terrorism or extinguish the links between the Pakistani security agencies and violent extremism as some on the Indian side might have hoped. But that was always an improbable shot given the DNA of the Pakistani establishment. Over time, India has realised the best way to deal with the threat of terror is by strengthening its internal capabilities while utilising engagement as a lever for influencing Pakistan’s behaviour over the long run.

The two most important issues for the Pakistani side today going by its public statements are Kashmir and water. But here’s the paradox: the composite dialogue, from its point of view, has produced no forward movement whatsoever on these two fronts. In four and a half rounds of talks within that framework, the total amount of time spent by the two foreign secretaries in discussing the Kashmir dispute has perhaps been 10 hours. During which neither side did anything beyond restating its national positions. As for water, it does not even figure as a separate head under this format. The only water-related dispute covered by the composite dialogue is the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wullar barrage. There, too, progress has been insignificant.

In contrast to the composite dialogue framework, the back channel between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz was far more effective and productive. Between 2004 and 2007, the two special envoys, who reported directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf respectively, discussed Kashmir for hundreds of hours. More significantly, their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the chief justice forced Musharraf to back off. As for water, the Indus Water Commissioners have been meeting continuously for more than 40 years and their forum represents the best platform for Pakistan because all the Indian projects it opposes on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers can be referred to an outside arbitrator whose decisions are final and binding. Compared to such a powerful dispute resolution mechanism, the existing dialogue framework is surely inferior. And yet, even though Islamabad’s best shot at making progress on water and Kashmir lies outside the composite dialogue, it has got locked into a situation where it is refusing any form of engagement or talks other than that.

Now let’s consider India. The Indian position has been in a state of flux since it suspended the composite dialogue following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Broadly speaking, however, India has maintained that there can be no resumption of the composite dialogue till Pakistan moves to punish the Mumbai conspirators and dismantles the infrastructure of terror on its soil. In September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a distinction between meaningful dialogue on disputes, which would have to await Pakistani action on terrorism, and talks on humanitarian and other issues. Since then, the Indian position has evolved further. When Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir, was invited to Delhi in February 2010, India clarified that while its own priority was terrorism, it was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. That is still the official Indian position. At a press conference on April 22, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said dialogue represents a concrete method to move forward in our relationship It is always useful. It helps clear the atmosphere and especially between neighbors, such as India and Pakistan. Dialogue is really the only way forward.

But if India believes dialogue is really the way forward, why is it unable to accept Pakistan’s call for the composite dialogue to be resumed? The paradox here is that from the traditional Indian perspective, the composite dialogue has worked pretty well. Discussions on Kashmir have not led to any change in the territorial status quo but have provided a cover for India to move ahead with other parts of the bilateral agenda that suit it more, like trade and cross-border confidence-building measures. And if the Indian side is opposed to talks on the water issue’, the composite framework of dialogue is ideal because water does not figure as a standalone topic under any of the subject heads. Despite this, India is the one saying no to composite’ dialogue.

India suspended the composite dialogue in order to get Pakistan to take action against terrorism. Some action has been taken but the Manmohan Singh government rightly believes that Pakistan can and must do more. It also knows the continued absence of dialogue is unlikely to produce greater action on the terrorism front and might even be counter-productive. Yet it fears the resumption of the suspended dialogue will be seen as a sign of weakness by the Opposition.

India’s options have been further complicated by the hardening of the Pakistani position on cooperation and dialogue since November 2009, when Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy dealt the military establishment in Rawalpindi a stronger hand in the Afghan endgame. Even as the Pakistan army has stepped up its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and, to a lesser extent, anti-American extremists on its border with Afghanistan, it has played up the India threat’ card to balance the perception that it is too subservient to the U.S. The rhetoric on water, the Azm-e-Nau III exercises, the loosening of the leash on Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the increase in infiltration across the Line of Control are all evidence of the hardening of the Pakistani military’s attitude. At the same time, the domestic political situation in Pakistan is fluid. The 18th amendment to the constitution has opened up the possibility of the civilian government and the provinces strengthening themselves vis-a-vis the military. The revival of the Benazir Bhutto assassination case in the wake of the recent U.N. report could also provide political ammunition against the establishment.

In the run up to this week’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines, Indian officials are resigned to keeping the bilateral relationship in a holding pattern.’ Their logic is that if relations cannot improve, then they should not be allowed to deteriorate either. As a short-term strategy, the holding pattern strategy works fine. There are always small things that can be done at that level too. But an aeroplane cannot circle the runway endlessly. The longer it is up in the air, the greater is the likelihood of a disastrous descent. That is why planning for an orderly landing is a much better strategy.

In Thimphu, Dr. Singh must try and find a way of doing that. One possibility is for the two prime ministers to task their foreign secretaries with reviewing what has been accomplished on the terrorism front as well as in the last few rounds of the composite dialogue, with a view to expediting the resolution of existing problems and disputes. Such a mandate would foreground the necessity of a dialogue addressing all outstanding issues while sidestepping, for the moment, any nomenclatural disagreement. It would accomplish the stated Indian objective while allowing Mr. Gilani to return without having surrendered Islamabad’s stand on the resumption of the composite dialogue.

Parallel to this process, the Prime Minister should meet with the leaders of all major political parties in order to explain the reasons why India and Pakistan need to end the current stalemate. Finally, a strict moratorium on grandstanding and posturing, finger-pointing and name-calling is necessary. When the Prime Minister is directly crafting India’s approach to Pakistan, ministers, officials and anonymous sources’ must not confuse the public with contradictory messages and statements.

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension

By Peter Spiegel and Matthew Rosenberg for The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

Pakistani Rangers (L) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform the daily retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Border at Wagah on December 26, 2009. The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.

The U.S. has invested heavily in its own relations with Pakistan in recent months, agreeing to a $7.5 billion aid package and sending top military and diplomatic officials to Islamabad on repeated visits. The public embrace, which reached a high point last month in high-profile talks in Washington, reflects the Obama administration’s belief that Pakistan must be convinced to change its strategic calculus and take a more assertive stance against militants based in its western tribal regions over the course of the next year in order to turn the tide in Afghanistan.

A debate continues within the administration over how hard to push India, which has long resisted outside intervention in the conflict with its neighbor. The Pentagon, in particular, has sought more pressure on New Delhi, according to U.S. and Indian officials. Current and former U.S. officials said the discussion in Washington over how to approach India has intensified as Pakistan ratchets up requests that the U.S. intercede in a series of continuing disputes.

Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as providing “strategic depth”—essentially, a buffer zone—in a potential conflict with India. Some U.S. officials believe Islamabad will remain reluctant to wholeheartedly fight the Islamic militants based on its Afghan border unless the sense of threat from India is reduced.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken the political risk of pursuing peace talks with Pakistan, but faces significant domestic opposition to any additional outreach without Pakistani moves to further clamp down on Islamic militants who have targeted India.

U.S. and Indian officials say the Obama administration has so far made few concrete demands of New Delhi. According to U.S. officials, the only specific request has been to discourage India from getting more involved in training the Afghan military, to ease Pakistani concerns about getting squeezed by India on two borders.

“This is an administration that’s deeply divided about the wisdom of leaning on India to solve U.S. problems with Pakistan,” said Ashley Tellis, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has discussed the issue with senior officials in the U.S. and India. “There are still important constituencies within the administration that have not given up hope that India represents the answer.”

India has long resisted outside involvement in its differences with Pakistan, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir. But, according to a U.S. government official, a 56-page dossier presented by the Pakistani government to the Obama administration ahead of high-level talks in Washington last month contained a litany of accusations against the Indian government, and suggestions the U.S. intercede on Pakistan’s behalf.

The official said the document alleges that India has never accepted Pakistan’s sovereignty as an independent state, and accuses India of diverting water from the Indus River and fomenting separatism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled that Washington isn’t interested in mediating on water issues, which are covered by a bilateral treaty.

The White House declined to comment on Mr. Obama’s directive or on the debate within the administration over India policy. The directive to top foreign-policy and national-security officials was summarized in a memo written by National Security Adviser James Jones at the end of the White House’s three-month review of Afghan war policy in December.

An Indian government official said the U.S.’s increasing attention to Pakistani concerns hasn’t hurt bilateral relations overall. “Our relationship is mature—of course we have disagreements, but we’re trying not to have knee-jerk reactions,” the Indian official said.

According to U.S. and Indian officials, the Pentagon has emerged in internal Obama administration debates as an active lobbyist for more pressure on India, with some officials already informally pressing Indian officials to take Pakistan’s concerns more seriously. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. government’s prime interlocutor with the powerful head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has been among the more vocal advocates of a greater Indian role, according to a U.S. military official, encouraging New Delhi to be more “transparent” about its activities along the countries’ shared border and to cooperate more with Pakistan.

In interviews, U.S. military officials were circumspect about what specific moves they would like to see from New Delhi. But according to people who have discussed India policy with Pentagon officials, the ideas discussed in internal debates include reducing the number of Indian troops in Kashmir or pulling back forces along the border.

“They say, ‘The Pakistanis have this perception and you have to deal with the perception’,” said one foreign diplomat who has discussed India’s role with Pentagon officials. An Indian defense ministry spokesman said his country’s army has already moved about 30,000 troops out of Kashmir in recent years.

The State Department has resisted such moves to pressure India, according to current and former U.S. officials, insisting they could backfire. These officials have argued that the most recent promising peace effort—secret reconciliation talks several years ago between Indian Prime Minster Singh and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf—occurred without U.S. involvement.

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

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