The South Asia Channel

India Launches Rocket; Pakistani Court Grants Bail to LeT Commander; Abdullah Calls for Action Against Terrorists

The South Asia Daily Brief for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.

In this photograph taken early December 18, 2014, The Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III rocket lifts off from The Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island, some 80kms north of Chennai.  India successfully launched its biggest ever rocket, including an unmanned capsule which could one day send astronauts into space, as the country ramps up its ambitious space programme. The rocket, designed to carry heavier communication and other satellites into higher orbit, blasted off from Sriharikota in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. AFP PHOTO/STR        (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photograph taken early December 18, 2014, The Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III rocket lifts off from The Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island, some 80kms north of Chennai. India successfully launched its biggest ever rocket, including an unmanned capsule which could one day send astronauts into space, as the country ramps up its ambitious space programme. The rocket, designed to carry heavier communication and other satellites into higher orbit, blasted off from Sriharikota in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

India

India launches its largest rocket

The Indian Space Research Organization successfully launched its heaviest and largest rocket from Sriharikota, located in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, on Thursday (The Hindu, WSJ, NDTV, BBC). The launch marked India’s first step towards sending astronauts in space. The 630-​ton and three-stage rocket was launched with an experimental crew module, which is the size of a small bedroom, fit to accommodate two to three people. After the launch, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Successful launch of GSLV Mk-III is yet another triumph of brilliance & hard work of our scientists. Congrats to them for the efforts.” In September, India became the first Asian country to reach Mars in its first attempt after the successful launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission into the red planet’s orbit.

Modi to fast-track projects worth $300 billion

In order to boost manufacturing in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken over the Project Monitoring Group (PMG, a project-monitoring body managed by the Cabinet Secretariat) to fast-track investments worth almost $300 billion, according to news reports on Thursday (Reuters, Indian Express). The prime minister’s office will directly oversee project clearances, which could assist companies planning to invest in steel, power, coal, and infrastructure projects. PMG, set up by Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, has so far cleared 197 projects valued at $110 billion. Industrial output in India declined in the month of October, impacting Modi’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign, an initiative designed to make India a manufacturing hub.

Supreme Court to monitor Bangladesh border

The Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday criticized the central government and the state government of Assam, located in northeastern India, for doing “precious little to stem this tide” of illegal migrants from Bangladesh (Indian Express, Economic Times). The 70-page judgment expressed concern over the large influx of Bangladeshi immigrants, and directed the government to expedite deportation of the migrants, and to complete the National Population Register — a database of Indian residents — in Assam in 11 months.

Pakistan

Pakistan court grants bail to LeT commander

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court granted bail to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi on Thursday (Dawn, Times of India). Lakhvi was among the seven people charged with planning, financing, and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. However, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of LeT. The court set bail at Rs. 500,000 ($7,930), but it has yet to be paid.

Hussain rejects death penalty appeals

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday rejected appeals for mercy from 17 criminals convicted of terrorism (Dawn). The appeals came shortly after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism after the deadly attack on the Army Public School on Dec. 16. Of the 17 inmates who are currently on death row, 10 are from Punjab province, six are from Sindh province, and one is from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to reports, their executions will be carried out soon. Mamnoon and Sharif met at the president’s house on Thursday and Mamnoon said that no mercy appeal of any convicted terrorist would be accepted.

Afghanistan

Abdullah calls for urgent action against terrorists

Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said on Wednesday that Afghanistan has never made any distinction between good and bad terrorists and advocated for strong actions against all militant fighters (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Abdullah also said there was no proof to the claim that the perpetrators of the Dec. 16 attack on a school in Peshawar were based in Afghanistan. “If there is one lesson in what has happened in Pakistan is that these terrorists … at the end of the day, will turn against every state and every state institution,” Abdullah said.

Following the attack on the school, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif traveled to Kabul to discuss sercurity and anti-terrorism measures with Afghan leadership. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, attended the discussions between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Sharif, and afterwards said that he was encouraged by both leaders’ resolve (Pajhwok).

Suspects arrested in Supreme Court Chief Secretary murder

Kabul police arrested several suspects in the assassination of Atiqullah Raoufi, the Supreme Court chief secretary, who was killed by armed motorists on Dec. 13 (TOLO News). Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said on Wednesday at a press conference in the capital that a “group” of suspects was now in the custody of the police and that in the past two weeks, 76 people have been arrested and charged with criminal and terrorist activities.

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. @neelishah

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