India Pledges $600 Million in Aid to Africa; Militant Linked Charity Provides Pakistan Quake Relief; Afghan Government Mobilizes Militias
- By Udit BanerjeaUdit Banerjea is a South Asia Research Fellow at New America and a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He focuses on economic and foreign policy issues in South Asia.
Bonus Read: “In India, it’s time for Africa!,” by Constantino Xavier (FP).
India pledges $600 million in aid for Africa
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would provide $600 million in assistance for development projects to African countries on Thursday, the final day of the third India-Africa Forum Summit (BBC, CNBC). Modi also pledged $10 billion in new credit in the form of soft loans. India’s trade with Africa has more than doubled since 2007 to $72 billion a year, but it lags significantly behind China, which has more than three times that volume in trade with Africa. The summit involved 54 African leaders, which included 40 heads of state or government, meeting with Indian leaders in New Delhi to discuss multilateral diplomatic and economic issues with the goal of deepening ties between African countries and India. The summit is the largest gathering of foreign dignitaries in India since 1983 and is thought to be the largest ever gathering of African leaders outside of Africa. The two previous summits were held in New Delhi in 2008 and in Addis Ababa in 2011.
India bans foreigners from surrogacy clinics
The Indian Council of Medical Research, a government body, issued a notice on Thursday banning foreigners from hiring surrogate mothers in India (WSJ, Guardian). Medical professionals working at surrogacy and infertility clinics expressed confusion over the sudden decision, noting that a large number of foreign couples who were already in the multi-year process of undergoing medical and administrative procedures would be left in limbo. India is a popular destination for foreign couples seeking a surrogate pregnancy because of its cheap medical technology costs, skilled doctors, and large supply of local surrogates. Critics of India’s for-profit surrogacy policies claim that it is a form of exploitation, while many healthcare professionals defend the practice as entirely voluntary and ethical. The Indian surrogacy market is estimated to be $138 million and is growing at a rate of 20 percent per year.
Report: Internet freedom in India improves for second consecutive year
According to a new report released on Thursday by United States-based internet watchdog Freedom House, India’s internet freedom rating improved slightly in the past year, marking the second consecutive year of improvement (WSJ, TOI, BGR). Freedom House attributed the improvement in India’s rating to an Indian Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that struck down controversial censorship measures in the Information Technology Act. Despite India’s improvement, however, the report notes that India’s regulatory and legal framework remains extremely opaque on the issue of governing surveillance.
— Udit Banerjea
Militant-linked charity aids earthquake victims
According to the United Nations a Pakistani charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which has provided significant aid to earthquake victims, is a front for militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (Reuters, Dawn). The United Nations and United States sanctioned JuD and its sister organization, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, because the groups exploit disasters to raise volunteers and funds for militants. In the three hours after Monday’s earthquake, a single Lahore-based JuD worker, Muhammad Zubair, told Reuters he raised 1,000,000 Pakistani rupees (nearly 10,000 USD) for relief supplies. Earlier this week, Pakistani Information Minister Pervez Rashid announced that banned groups would not be allowed to provide aid.
28 militants, two commanders surrender in Balochistan
On Thursday two commanders of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and 28 militants surrendered to authorities at a press conference in Balochistan province held by provincial minister Nawab Changaiz Marri (Dawn). “We appreciate that the militants have surrendered and have announced their decision to join peaceful lives,” said Marri. The militants who surrendered were involved in attacks on civilians and security forces, according to a security official. This summer the Balochistan government announced amnesty for militants who ceased armed activities against the state, pledging to integrate surrendered militants back into society (ET).
The surrender came on the same day as a roadside bomb killed a tribal leader and six others in Balochistan (NYT, Dawn). According to tribal police official Abdul Wali, the attack on Thursday night killed tribal elder Mir Gul Khan Marri and six others as they were traveling in a convoy on the outskirts of the city of Quetta. Security has been increased in the city following the incident.
Pakistan loses re-election bid for United Nations Human Rights Council
On Tuesday, Pakistan failed to win re-election to the top United Nations human rights body (Khaleej Times, Pakistan Observer). Pakistan ran for one of the five seats vacant this year for Asian and Pacific nations on the Council for which there were seven bids. United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea and the Philippines were elected from the Asia-Pacific region. A total of 18 countries were elected on Tuesday representing various regions. Pakistan’s current term ends on December 31, 2015.
Bonus Read: “Afghan exodus grows as Taliban gains ground and hope for future diminishes,” by Sune Engel Rasmussen (The Guardian)
Afghan government mobilizes militias to combat Taliban
With its forces straining to combat the spreading Taliban insurgency, the Afghan government is partially outsourcing the war to militias, many of them U.S.-funded, according to a report by the Washington Post on Thursday (Post). In Qala-e-Zal district, militia commander Nabi Gechi — profiled in the article — acts as police and judge and also collects taxes. “I am the government here,” he stated in an interview with the Post. The Afghan government pays the salaries of 100 of Gechi’s fighters from money provided by the U.S. military. It has also supplied his militia with ammunition, Ford Ranger pickup trucks and Humvees. “Commanders like Nabi Gechi are very important,” said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Sabur Nasrati. He continued, “Without their support, the Afghan security forces cannot do anything.” Gechi was unable to protect his territory from the Taliban during their Kunduz offensive. Even after the withdrawal, insurgents remain in the district. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani previously pledged to disarm militias due their lack of accountability and human rights violations.
— Alyssa Sims
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Edited by Peter Bergen
MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images