The South Asia Channel

Above Average Monsoon Rains Expected in India; Taliban Announce Spring Offensive; Pakistan Bans Protests in Capital

Afghanistan Taliban announce spring offensive On Tuesday, the Taliban announced the start of their spring fighting season in an email to the media (NYT, Reuters). The email said the spring offensive had begun at 5 a.m., dubbing the campaign “Operation Omari” in honor of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, who died three years ago. “The ...

Afghan former Taliban fighters are photographed holding weapons before they hand them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on February 8, 2015. Over twenty former Taliban fighters from Achin district of Nangarhar province handed over weapons as part of a peace reconciliation program. AFP PHOTO / Noorullah Shirzada        (Photo credit should read Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan former Taliban fighters are photographed holding weapons before they hand them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on February 8, 2015. Over twenty former Taliban fighters from Achin district of Nangarhar province handed over weapons as part of a peace reconciliation program. AFP PHOTO / Noorullah Shirzada (Photo credit should read Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Taliban announce spring offensive

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced the start of their spring fighting season in an email to the media (NYT, Reuters). The email said the spring offensive had begun at 5 a.m., dubbing the campaign “Operation Omari” in honor of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, who died three years ago. “The present operation will also employ all means at our disposal to bog the enemy down in a war of attrition that lowers the morale of the foreign invaders and their internal armed militias,” they said in the email. The weather patterns of the seasons have long shaped violence in Afghanistan with fighting easing off in the winter, when mountain passes get snowed in, and picking up again in the spring and summer.

Suicide bomb kills 12 army recruits

A suicide bomber struck a bus of army recruits in eastern Afghanistan on Monday killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens (NYT). The Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement that all those killed in the attack in the Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar Province were army recruits, and that at least 26 people were wounded. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

India

Above average monsoon rains expected in India

India’s only private weather forecaster, Skymet, predicted on Monday that 2016 annual monsoon rains in the country are likely to be above average (Reuters). The statement issued by the company said that monsoon rains are expected to be 105 percent above a long-term average, with a 35 percent probability of above average rainfall. July to September monsoon accounts for nearly 70 percent of annual rains in India and is the only source of water to half of India’s farmlands. Almost 70 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people live in rural areas and are heavily dependant on the agriculture sector, which accounts for about 14 percent of India’s $2 trillion economy.

Seven temple administrators detained after fireworks blast

Police officials in the southern Indian state of Kerala have confirmed that the seven administrators of the Puttingal temple, who had fled over the weekend, surrendered themselves to the authorities late Monday night (NYT, BBC, Guardian). These officials were among those wanted by the police after a fireworks display at the temple in the town of Paravur caused an explosion and a fire that killed more than 110 people and injured 400 others. Thousands of people were gathered at the temple to watch the fireworks display as part of a local Hindu new year festival when the incident took place. Previously, police had arrested five other people and a judicial committee is going to investigate the incident. Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Kollam district administration had denied the temple authorities permission for the display.

U.S. and India agree “in principle” over military coordination

Addressing a press conference with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday that the two countries have reached a preliminary agreement on how the two countries’ militaries can coordinate their efforts in disasters or other emergencies (NYT, NDTV). U.S. defense officials said the first agreement will help the two militaries coordinate better, including in exercises, and also allow the U.S. to more easily sell fuel or provide spare parts to the Indians. Earlier on Monday, Carter, who is on a three day visit to India to discuss bilateral military cooperation, visited the Karwar Naval Base in Karnataka.

Pakistan

Pakistan bans protests in capital

Pakistan’s interior minister announced on Monday a ban on demonstrations in Islamabad (NYT). The ban comes two weeks after tens of thousands of Islamic radicals held rallies that led to the destruction of property and four days of road closures in the capital. The protests were against the execution of a security guard who had assassinated his boss, a secular governor, over his opposition to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the ban at a news conference, saying the ban will not be extended to other parts of the country.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

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