Karzai Wants to Delay Signing of BSA, U.S. Says ‘Impossible’

Editor’s Note: In the near future, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel on foreignpolicy.com.  While we will continue to provide you with news and commentary from and about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New America Foundation has partnered with the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International ...

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's Note: In the near future, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel on foreignpolicy.com.  While we will continue to provide you with news and commentary from and about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New America Foundation has partnered with the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies to provide our readers with key stories and insights from India as well.  Beginning this week, the daily brief will include an India section, with India-related posts to appear on the redesigned brief and site in the coming weeks. 

Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: In the near future, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel on foreignpolicy.com.  While we will continue to provide you with news and commentary from and about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New America Foundation has partnered with the South Asia Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies to provide our readers with key stories and insights from India as well.  Beginning this week, the daily brief will include an India section, with India-related posts to appear on the redesigned brief and site in the coming weeks. 

Afghanistan

Timetable disputed

Afghan President Hamid Karzai caused a stir at the Loya Jirga (grand council) on Thursday when he urged the elders to delay signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the U.S. until after the 2014 elections (Reuters, BBC, Pajhwok, VOA). The BSA, which will ultimately determine the size and scope of U.S. presence in Afghanistan after 2014, is before the jirga in draft form for their approval.

The U.S. responded to Karzai’s request to delay signing the agreement by saying it was neither "practical nor possible" to delay the signing (NYT, Pajhwok). In a White House briefing, administration officials said they were seeking clarification of Karzai’s statement and emphasized that he had already agreed to the one-year timetable for signing the agreement last November.

If the jirga agrees with Karzai’s suggestion to delay signing the agreement until after the elections, it would prevent the United States and its allies "from being able to plan for a post-2014 presence" in Afghanistan, according to White House officials. Karzai’s surprise move also puts international funding for Afghanistan in jeopardy.

Loya Jirga delegates are now meeting in smaller groups to look at the deal in detail. They will read over each article in Dari and Pashto and allow time for debate over each point. The jirga, originally scheduled to last three days, has now been stretched to four with the option to continue if necessary. The jirga must give its approval before the agreement can go before the Afghan parliament.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, a delegation of senior Afghan officials from the country’s High Peace Council met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday to discuss the country’s security situation (Dawn, Pajhwok). An anonymous Afghan official also confirmed to the Express Tribune that the Peace Council met with Mullah Baradar, a former high-level Taliban commander on Friday (ET). Baradar is thought to be important for peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Pakistan

Friendship in question

Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan questioned the sincerity and motives of U.S. dealings with Pakistan on Friday in light of the most recent drone strike (ET, Dawn). Speaking to members of the press outside the parliament, he asked, "How can we consider U.S. as our fiend after this drone strike?"

The strike killed at least six people at an Islamic seminary in Khyber in Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday (AJAM, AP, BBC, ET, Pajhwok, Post, Reuters).  Two of those killed were members of the Haqqani militant network. The suspected U.S. strike occurred just a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, assured the Pakistani Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that the United States had promised not to carry out any drone strikes in the country during the ongoing peace talks with militants (Dawn, ET, NYT). 

The interior minister said he failed to understand why Aziz believed the U.S. assurances, and said he did not have confidence in "such fairy tales." He went on to say that Pakistan would have to choose between honor and U.S. dollars, and claimed that American financial aid had not brought any positive change to the country. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif added his own opinion, saying that Pakistan was "really upset by the strikes" but reminded the press that he had brought up the issue of drone strikes with President Obama, who acknowledged the issue "with a nod" (ET).

Security across Pakistan was on high alert on Friday after religious groups called for protests against last weeks sectarian clashes in Rawalpindi that killed 11 people (ET, Dawn).  Schools and markets were closed in some cities and thousands of police and paramilitary troops were deployed to mosques and other sensitive areas. Lawyers boycotted court proceedings on Friday in protest.  The call for protests came
from different organizations, including the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) and the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM).

On Tuesday, a Pakistani judge imposed restrictions on the screening of Indian movies in theaters, citing the supposedly masked identity of the sponsors of movies shot in India as the basis for his decision (LAT). The ruling, which requires any film to have the sponsorship of a Pakistani national, was in a response to a petition filed by controversial Pakistani television talk show host Mubashir Luqman, who is among the critics fearing a "cultural onslaught." Although the Pakistani film industry is seeing somewhat of a resurgence, it is still dwarfed by neighboring India’s booming Bollywood. The ruling came just after Pakistan’s broadcast regulator fined 10 television channels a total of $90,000 for airing "excessive Indian and foreign content" (Times of India). Private TV channels in Pakistan are allowed to broadcast only a maximum of 6% Indian content and 4% other foreign content for a total of 10% non-Pakistani programming.

Pakistani literature on the shortlist

Two Pakistani authors have been shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which prides in pioneering the initiative of highlighting the richness and diversity of South Asian writing (ET). How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid and The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam are the two pieces being considered for this year’s prize. Along with receiving a $50,000 award, the recognition given to the winning authors allows them to reach a global audience. The winner will be announced at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival on January 18, 2014

Emily Schneider

India

Cyclone Helen hits Andhra Pradesh

Cyclone Helen made landfall at 1:15 p.m. in Machallipatnam in Andhra Pradesh and is expected to bring heavy rainfall over the next 48 hours. Strong gales have swept away electric poles, uprooted trees, and cut off transportation in some areas (The Hindu). So far two people have been reported dead. The National Disaster Management Authority began preparing to evacuate over 100,000 people living in Andhra Pradesh’s coastal area on Thursday, specifically the districts of West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna, and Guntur (New York Times, Deccan Chronicle). Thus far, 15,000 people have been evacuated and are in over 65 shelters across the state (WSJ India Realtime). The first pictures sent by India’s Mars orbiter Mangalyaan captured the approaching cyclone off the east coast of India (Times of India).

A sting in the tale

An online news portal, Media Sarkar carried out a ‘sting operation’ on Delhi’s Aam Admi Party  (AAP) and allegedly found irregularities in its system of funding. The operation, caught on tape, shows eight candidates and party leader Shazia Ilmi accepting cash without receipts. The party’s response was to form an internal team to probe the matter and IT has promised to revoke THE election tickets of guilty candidates (Indian Express). The AAP, formed less than a year ago after nationwide anti-corruption protests, has been vocal about its commitment to transparency. Party officials claim details of donors are on its website and have been insisting major political parties be more transparent about their sources of funding. A June study claims 75 percent of campaign money to major political parties like the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party comes from unexplained sources (The Hindu). 

Meanwhile, the two accused in a ‘sting operation’ inside the Indian Parliament in 2008 have been let off by a Delhi Court. The operation took place during a vote of strength, which determines whether the governing coalition is still in a majority, where members of the BJP voted against party lines and later held up rupee notes to say they had been bribed to do so. The two "masterminds" behind the distribution of cash for votes, Amar Singh and Sudheendhra Kulkarni, were previously charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (The Hindu).

Security lapses  

Security issues were under discussion in New Delhi on Thursday as officials attended a meeting of the director generals of the police, an annual conference organized by the Intelligence Bureau. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon warned that India’s southern coast could be a potential target for terrorists to infiltrate the country, according to sources quoted by the Daily Bhaskar (Daily Bhaskar). Not much has been done to tighten security in coastal states since the deadly attack on Mumbai in November 26, 2008, sources quoted Menon as saying. Intelligence Bureau Chief Syed Asif Ibrahim blamed Pakistan for fueling terror in India and pushing terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir in order to project the state as a "disturbed area" (Economic Times). Also at the conference, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde charged the militant Islam group Indian Mujahideen (I.M.) with three of the four major blasts in India this year (The Hindu). Shinde stopped short of naming Pakistan outright, but said that the I.M. draws its motivation and sustenance from forces operating "across the border."  

A bitter fallout

The government of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest cane producer, is struggling to reach a compromise with local sugar millers, who have shut down operations indefinitely amid sharply rising costs (The Hindus). Factories are squeezed between ultra-low sales prices and high costs due to state-set prices for India’s 50 million cane farmers, a powerful voting bloc as national elections approach in May 2014 (Bloomberg). Facing a cash crunch, more than 60 private sugar mills in the state said on November 19 that they would not start crushing operations until the government sets viable prices. Sugar millers have asked the state to bear about 20%
of the cane costs. 

No peace for the ‘peace clause’ 

On Wednesday, India’s farmer’s lobby, the All-Indian Kisan Sabha and Third World Network agreed to an interim period of four years to try to resolve issues with the "peace clause" with the World Trade Organization (WTO) (The Economic Times). The two parties have opposed India’s signing of the clause, saying it does not offer a permanent solution (The Hindu). The WTO restricts agricultural subsidies to 10 percent of production, which would hinder India’s plans to provide food security to 67 percent of its population. India’s food ministry has recently hinted it may include subsidized pulses (a type of grain) and oil in India’s Public Distribution System (Times of India)

Halcyon days

Indian cricket stalwart Sachin Tendulkar has been enjoying his first days of retirement in India’s hill station of Mussoorie.  Locals have spotted him hanging out at the Tip Top Shop, a tea stall, where he reportedly enjoys Nepalese Noodles with Masala tea and has apparently enquired about the recipe for the latter (it’s made with fresh ginger, honey and lemon) (Times of India).

— Shruti Jagirdar

 

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. Twitter: @emilydsch

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