India and Bangladesh Sign Agreement to Swap Border Enclaves; Taliban Overrun District in Northeastern Afghanistan; 19 Militants, 7 Pakistani Military Members Killed in Clash
Bonus: “Bangladesh and India finally give people a nation,” Syed Tashfeen Chowdhury (Al-Jazeera)
India and Bangladesh sign agreement to swap border enclaves
India and Bangladesh have signed an agreement to swap more than 150 land enclaves along their 4000 km (2485 miles) border, in an attempt to resolve decades old disputes between the two countries (BBC). On Saturday prime ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina ratified the agreement in Dhaka, according to which residents from the exchanged areas will choose where to live and which nationality they would prefer. “We have resolved a question that has lingered since independence. Our two nations now have a settled boundary,” Modi said at a press conference on Saturday. The two leaders also agreed to initiate a bus service that will link the Indian cities of Kolkata, Agartala, Guwahati, and Shillong with Dhaka. The agreement is significant because it is the first step by Bangladesh to allow road transit to India, a long-running Indian demand which it hopes will eventually enable it to have better access to its north eastern states.
Greenpeace staff member prevented from entering India
Environmental campaigning organization Greenpeace alleged on Monday that an Australian staff member Aaron Gray-Block was prevented from entering India despite holding a valid visa (HT, TOI, ZeeNews, NDTV). The organization said that Gray-Block was on his way to meetings in India when immigration officials stopped him at the New Delhi airport on Saturday night and put him on a flight to Kuala Lumpur without offering an explanation. Greenpeace India Program Director Divya Raghunandan said: “Our colleague has a valid business visa, and yet he was prevented from entering India with no reason given … There is absolutely no reason why one of its (Greenpeace) staff members should be treated in such an arbitrary way.” Home ministry spokesman KS Dhatwalia said officials were looking into the matter after seeing media reports on it. In April, the government withdrew Greenpeace’s foreign funding license citing violations of rules by opening accounts for foreign donations without informing authorities. Greenpeace has accused the government of waging a “malicious campaign” against it due to claims of environmental damage caused by India’s heavy reliance on coal and the impact of deforestation and nuclear projects.
Indian Mars Orbiter eclipsed for the next 15 days
Officials from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on Monday that India’s Mars mission spacecraft Orbiter is now “eclipsed” with the sun blocking the Earth from Mars over the next 2 weeks (TOI). Speaking at a press conference in Bengaluru officials said: “Orbiter has entered into a 15-day blackout period, as the Earth is blocked by the sun from the Red Planet till June 22, snapping our communication links with it.” The 1,340-kg (2955 pounds) spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since Sept. 24, 2014 and is on extended life after completing its intended lifespan of six month. Officials admitted it was first time that the deep space network at Baylalu in southern state of Karnataka would be out of touch with the Orbiter for such a long time. They asserted the spacecraft had been equipped and programmed to undergo the transition as well as tested for similar conditions under a simulated eclipse. India was the first country to enter the Mars orbit on their first attempt and famously did it with an extremely low budget of 70 million dollars.
Event Notice: “War of Women,” Wednesday, June 10, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. (NewAmerica)
Bonus Read: “SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines,” Mark Mazzetti, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Serge F. Kovanski, Sean D. Naylor, John Ismay (NYT).
Taliban overrun district in northeastern Afghanistan
Hundreds of Taliban fighters overran a remote district in northeastern Afghanistan on Saturday, provincial officials said (NYT). Afghan security forces retreated about half a mile from their position in the administrative center of Yamgan District, according to the governor of Badakhshan Province, Waliullah Adeeb. The attack began early in the morning and involved as many as 300 Taliban fighters. By 11 a.m., the Taliban had control of the district center. Yamgan District is in the southern part of Badakhshan that has increasingly come under the Taliban’s control in the past two years; the Afghan military has not sent a large number of reinforcements to the area because of fiercer fighting in Kunduz, to the west.
Afghan teachers on strike
Teachers in Kabul are on strike in support for demands for higher pay and improved working conditions, a representative said Sunday (AP). Fazel Ahmad Fazel, the head of Afghanistan’s Teachers’ Council, said some schools in Kabul have been closed for a week and that teachers have held rallies. He explained: “All our demands are legitimate and we will not attend classes until we get our rights,” he said. “We are very sad because of our students, but this government has left us no other choice.” The strike began in 15 schools, but has spread to many more in the capital city. Teachers in Afghanistan are paid low wages and often do not receive their salaries for months on end because of government cash flow problems.
Pakistan military: 19 militants, 7 soldiers killed in clash
At least 19 militants and seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in a fierce gun battle early on Monday near Dattakhel in North Waziristan, military officials said (Reuters, VOA, ET). According to security officials, seven Pakistani soldiers were killed when one of the insurgents who was wearing a suicide vest blew himself up. Although militants and security forces have been clashing almost daily in tribal areas, the death toll in Monday’s clash is unusually high. The Pakistani military says it has cleared 80 percent of tribal areas held by militants as part of a major offensive launched a year ago.
Voting for Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly conclude
On Monday voting concluded for 24 seats in the legislative assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan (Dawn, ET). Voting began at 8a.m. and continued until 4 p.m. and somewhere around 600,000 people cast their votes in the first election in the region in six years. It was the second election since 2009, when the region’s name was changed from Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan and a local assembly was installed. Although Pakistan administratively controls the area, it has never formally been integrated into the Pakistani state and it does not participate in Pakistan’s constitutional political affairs. The area, along with Kashmir, is disputed between India and Pakistan. India reacted strongly to the elections last week, saying it was an attempt by Pakistan to “camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation” of the regions (EconomicTimes). Pakistan rejected India’s stand and said India should avoid “interference” in its internal affairs.
— Shuja Malik and Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen