The South Asia Channel

U.S. Intensifies Bombing in Afghanistan; China to Build Railway Into Nepal; Modi: No Change in Quota for Dalits; Rangers Arrest MQM Deputy Convener

Afghanistan U.S. intensifies bombing against IS in Afghanistan The United States has intensified its air campaign in Afghanistan as the Islamic State widened its reach in the country, according to a report by the New York Times on Friday (NYT). According to Air Force data, the United States conducted three times as many strikes in ...

A US soldier walks near an F-16 fighter aircraft at Kandahar air field on December 29, 2008. More than 290 international soldiers serving in Afghanistan have lost their lives in 2008, according to the independent "icasualties.org" website that tracks casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the soldiers have been killed in insurgent attacks but the figure includes those killed in accidents and from natural causes.  AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A US soldier walks near an F-16 fighter aircraft at Kandahar air field on December 29, 2008. More than 290 international soldiers serving in Afghanistan have lost their lives in 2008, according to the independent "icasualties.org" website that tracks casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the soldiers have been killed in insurgent attacks but the figure includes those killed in accidents and from natural causes. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

U.S. intensifies bombing against IS in Afghanistan

The United States has intensified its air campaign in Afghanistan as the Islamic State widened its reach in the country, according to a report by the New York Times on Friday (NYT). According to Air Force data, the United States conducted three times as many strikes in January and February this year as it did in the same period last year. The increase in strikes follows a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to grant more leeway for strikes on the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The rate of strikes is the highest since 2013.

End of Badakhshan operation raises concern

On Sunday, provincial council members and activists in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province raised concerns regarding the end of military operations in the province (TOLO News). Jawed Mojadedi, a provincial council member, warned, “If we don’t make use of this short opportunity, we will face a huge problem in the coming spring.” Others expressed worry that the militants would return. Sakhidad Haidari, security chief at the police headquarters, cautioned against fear, however, commenting, “It does not mean that we are not allowed [to fight]. We are waiting. Once we pave the ground for ourselves, then were going to take action.” Badakhshan police also noted plans to launch a forthcoming large-scale operation against militants in the province.

— David Sterman

Nepal

China agrees to build railway into Nepal

On Monday, China and Nepal signed ten bilateral agreements including a commitment from China to build rail links to the landlocked country (PTI, Reuters). Nepal has struggled to decrease its dependence on its southern neighbor, India, and last year, as Nepal put in place its first post-monarchy constitution, protesters blocked trucks coming in from India, leading to acute shortages of fuel and medicine. Nepal blamed New Delhi for supporting the protesters. Other agreements between China and Nepal include a feasibility plan for a free trade agreement, as well a concessional loan for a new airport in Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara.

India

Modi: No change in reservations for Dalits

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that there will be no change in the quota reservations for Dalits, accusing the opposition of spreading rumors on the subject (Hindu, HT). Delivering the Ambedkar Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, Modi said that the “BJP has ruled in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Haryana for many years and the quota policy never suffered a scratch. Yet untruths are being spread.”

Dalits were previously considered outside the caste system in India and were labelled as untouchables. The first constitution of India, written in part by a Dalit leader, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, classified them as a “backward class” and reserved preferential access to government jobs and educational institutions as an affirmative action program. Quota reservations have often been used as a tool of political bargaining in India and last year, the Patel community in Gujrat and Jat community in Haryana state, both held protests demanding similar quota reservations. Modi’s renewed promise on quota reservations comes ahead of assembly elections in the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry, beginning in April.

Indian jewelers call off strike

Mohit Kamboj, the president of India Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA) announced on Sunday that the organization has called off their strike after receiving assurances from the government over the collection of new tax (Reuters). A one percent excise duty was introduced on gold imports earlier this month and triggering a strike by IBJA which closed down numerous jewellery stores in various cities. India remains the the world’s second-biggest gold consumer and successive governments have attempted to reduce demand by placing import duties. Annual imports of up to 1,000 tonnes of gold, account for about a quarter of India’s trade deficit. On Saturday, administrators from a 200-year-old Mumbai temple has said they will deposit a portion of its gold holdings in a bank by the end of the month symbolically helping the government campaign to monetise some of the country’s privately owned stocks of gold (Reuters).

Pakistan

Rangers arrest MQM deputy convener

On Monday, Pakistan’s Rangers, a paramilitary group tasked with providing security in Karachi, arrested Shahid Pasha, a deputy convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s governing Rabita Committee (ET, Dawn). MQM released a statement reading, “Rangers arrested MQM Rabita Committee Deputy Convener Shahid Pasha during a raid at his apartment in the Gulistan-i-Jauhar area of the metropolis.” Pasha was presented before an administrative judge in an anti-terrorism court to inform the court of his 90-day detention.

TV host warned of possible attack

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry warned TV host Amir Liaquat Hussain regarding a possible militant attack on him last week, according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune on Monday (ET). The Interior Ministry warned “It has been learnt that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) miscreants are planning to target Amir Liaquat Hussain, former minister for religious affairs Sindh and a renowned TV anchor/host mainly due to his statements against ‘moulvis.’”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

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