The South Asia Channel
Nations Offer Help to Nepal as Quake Death Toll Rises; Indian Upper House Passes Transgender Rights Bill; Weinstein Family Paid Failed Ransom
Nepal South Asian nations offer help as Nepal quake toll rises above 3,200 More than 3,200 people were declared dead after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday (NYT, WSJ, Times of India, BBC). The earthquake, which also resulted in casualties in India and China, triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest. By Saturday, ...
South Asian nations offer help as Nepal quake toll rises above 3,200
More than 3,200 people were declared dead after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday (NYT, WSJ, Times of India, BBC). The earthquake, which also resulted in casualties in India and China, triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest. By Saturday, India had sent four Indian aircraft carrying a mobile hospital, approximately 300 disaster-response workers, medical aid, and food supplies (WSJ). India also rescued 2,500 Indians from Nepal. All members of the lower house of the Indian Parliament agreed on Monday to donate a month’s salary for the relief work in Nepal.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his monthly radio speech — titled “Mann ki Baat” (A talk from the heart) — on Sunday, spoke about the devastating earthquake. Modi said: “I did not feel like conducting the Mann ki Baat today. I felt anguished… India is with Nepal in this hour of crisis” (NDTV). Modi further said: “We will wipe tears of every citizen of Nepal. Many Indians were also killed in the earthquake but the impact in Nepal is of absolute devastation. India will stand with the people of Nepal. I can understand the sufferings of people of Nepal” (Livemint).
Pakistan also reacted swiftly to the earthquake and sent a medical team of doctors and paramedics, a search and rescue team with equipment, 30-bed hospital, medicines, tents, water, and dry food on Sunday (ET). Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a telephonic conversation with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala, and offered humanitarian assistance. Pakistani Director General Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted: “Urban search & rescue team of Pakistan Army, equipped with ground-penetrating radars, concrete cutters, sniffing dogs and other equipment sent to help rescue teams” (Dawn).
India’s Rajya Sabha passes bill on transgender rights
India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) unanimously passed a private member’s bill — a bill introduced by a legislator who is not a member of the cabinet — to promote the rights of transgender individuals, in New Delhi on Friday (Indian Express, Times of India). The bill will provide remedies to transgender individuals against violence and abuse, and will offer them social security, rehabilitation, and employment opportunities. Tiruchi Siva, a Rajya Sabha member who introduced the bill, said: “The constitution guarantees political rights and benefits to all citizens of this country, but the transgender community continues to be ostracized” (Livemint).
India to set up panel for legacy tax issues
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in an effort to woo foreign investments, said that the government plans to set up a panel to address legacy cases, according to news reports on Monday (Livemint, Reuters). Jaitley said: “Even though it is only the legacy issues (concerning taxation) that haunt us, we recognise that we must put a quick end to them… I am considering a high-level committee to explore what can be done to resolve the past, and move beyond it in a way that would provide real predictability and certainty to investors” (NDTV). Earlier this year, foreign investor groups asked the Indian government to clarify its tax regime for foreigners, after tax inspectors attempted to collect money on years of previously untaxed gains. Tax experts claim that international funds and banks may have to pay as much as $8 billion, as the Indian tax department attempts to levy the minimum alternative tax on foreign investors’ profits.
— Neeli Shah
Weinstein family paid ransom in failed effort to secure his release
The family of Warren Weinstein, who was held hostage by al Qaeda in Pakistan until he was killed along with another hostage in a January drone strike, paid $250,000 in ransom in a failed effort to free him (FP, WSJ, CBS). One anonymous individual close to the Weinstein family told Foreign Policy: “The family was in touch with people who, they have reason to believe, had contact with, or control over, Warren until very recently,” continuing: “Because of that they believed he would come home.” The ransom was carried by a Pakistani intermediary who told the Wall Street Journal: “The money was delivered, but he [Weinstein] didn’t show up.” A spokesman for the Weinstein family said he had no information about the payment. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to comment on any details of a ransom payment restating the long-held American policy: “It is the policy of the United States government not to make concessions or pay ransom to terrorists who are holding hostages.” American policy regarding hostage situations is currently undergoing a review. The Weinstein family released a statement that thanked Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin and “specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation” while continuing: “Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years.” Similar criticisms have been leveled by other family members of Americans held hostage abroad. Bonus Watch: “Abducted Abroad” (New America).
China trade deal enabled Pakistani Yemen policy
China’s $46 billion deal with Pakistan to develop a trade corridor through the country enabled Pakistan’s dismissal of its traditional ally Saudi Arabia’s call for assistance in Yemen according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune on Monday (ET). One anonymous official told the Express Tribune that Yemen and the potential fallout from a refusal to assist the intervention were discussed during meetings over the trade deal. Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly told Pakistani officials China would support Pakistan if its relations with Arab countries soured. One official told the Express Tribune: “There were other factors too but the assurance and friendly advice from the Chinese president really helped us to face the blowback of the parliamentary decision [to not intervene].”
44 dead as storm hits northwest Pakistan
A mini-cyclone that hit northwest Pakistan late Sunday has left at least 44 people dead and injured more than 200 according to Pakistani officials (ET, Dawn, Guardian, RFE/RL). Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani stated: “At least 44 people have been killed and 202 wounded. The storm followed by heavy rain and hailstorm has severely damaged wheat crops and orchards.” The storm resulted in electricity suspensions in Peshawar and parts of Nowshera and Charsadda as well as the suspension of all flights from Peshawar’s airport. Lutfur Rehman, a local disaster management official, said winds reached up to 75 miles per hour.
Ghani delays India trip to discuss Kunduz security situation with NATO
On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delayed his state visit to India by a few hours to discuss the ongoing security situation in Kunduz province with NATO’s Gen. John Campbell (TOLO News). Over the past three days Kunduz has been the site of bloody clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban. According to officials, 12 Afghan soldiers have been killed in the clashes so far. Officials also say that 40 insurgents have been killed including six foreigners (four Tajiks and two Chechens). Afghan forces deployed reinforcements to the area on Monday (TOLO News). 1,800 families have reportedly been displaced by the fighting.
Growing number of measles cases raises alarm
On Sunday, Afghan health officials announced that 445 cases of measles had been registered across Afghanistan in just three months (Pajhwok). In a joint statement, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF called the numbers alarming as last year Afghanistan registered only 581 cases in the entire year. Deputy Public Health Minister Ahmad Jan Naeemi pointed to parental negligence as one cause of the high numbers and announced that the second round of an anti-measles vaccination campaign would launch on May 25 in fifteen provinces.
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
Omar Havana/Getty Images
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