IAF Chief responds to Al Qaeda threat; Rain Claims Dozens of Lives in Pakistan; Afghan Contenders Committed to Unity Government

 India Bonus Read: "India’s Fake ‘Love Jihad’," by Siddhartha Mahanta (Passport) IAF Chief responds to Al Qaeda threat Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha said that India was ready to tackle outfits like al Qaeda while talking to reporters on Friday (Indian Express). Attending a seminar on the role of the Indian Air Force in ...

RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

 India

Bonus Read: "India's Fake ‘Love Jihad'," by Siddhartha Mahanta (Passport)

IAF Chief responds to Al Qaeda threat

 India

Bonus Read: "India’s Fake ‘Love Jihad’," by Siddhartha Mahanta (Passport)

IAF Chief responds to Al Qaeda threat

Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha said that India was ready to tackle outfits like al Qaeda while talking to reporters on Friday (Indian Express). Attending a seminar on the role of the Indian Air Force in the 1965 war with Pakistan, Raha said: "There is a threat perception from such agencies but the nation is prepared for it" (DNA). On Thursday, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri promised in a video posted online to spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the "Indian subcontinent" (NDTV).

While the Indian government is still verifying the authenticity of the video, many experts have downplayed the video. Peter Bergen, CNN‘s national security analyst, described the video as "hyperventilation and posturing." As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has overshadowed al Qaeda in recent months, Bergen said: "It’s al-Zawahiri’s obvious way of getting some of the limelight back" (CNN). Bruce Riedel, an ex-CIA analyst said: "This video, the first from (al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-) Zawahiri this year, should be taken very seriously. Al Qaeda wants to portray Prime Minister Modi as an enemy of Islam" (Indian Express). Riedel said further that India, with the United States and Afghanistan, should increase its counterterrorism cooperation efforts.

Zawahiri’s video is seen as an attempt to recruit militants from the Indian subcontinent. Indian investigating agencies recently said that social media is being used by terror groups to recruit young Indians. Four students from Hyderabad — the capital city of the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — were returned to their families on Friday after they were caught trying to travel to Iraq to allegedly join ISIS (NDTV). The four engineering students said they were tempted by propaganda they discovered on social media. Recently, a young Muslim from Mumbai lost his life in Iraq, where he was fighting with ISIS.

India set to sign nuclear deal with Australia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed on Friday Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was given a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official home of the president of India (The Hindu). The two leaders are expected to sign a nuclear deal on Friday evening. Ahead of his meeting with Modi, Abbott met with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (Economic Times). In a meeting organized by industry members, including the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Abbott said: "Prime Minister Modi and I will today sign a nuclear cooperation agreement that will finally allow Australian uranium to India" (Business Standard).

During his meeting with Modi, Abbott plans to hand over two antique Indian statues, which were allegedly stolen from temples located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and displayed in Australian museums earlier this year. Abbott’s office said that returning the objects "is testimony to Australia’s good citizenship on such matters and the importance with which Australia views its relationship with India" (NDTV).

Rahul Gandhi to PM Modi: Stop Drumming

Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi attacked Modi during a tour to his constituency Amethi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, noting to reporters: "The PM is playing drum in Japan while there is no electricity here and prices are rising" (Times of India). During his recent visit to Japan, Modi had played a traditional Taiko drum. The 44-year-old Gandhi said further: "100 days of this government are over…it has forgotten its promises" (NDTV). The Modi government completed 100 days in office this week after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the national elections in May.

The BJP hit back on Gandhi’s attack. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said: "Why should we listen to him when his own party members are not listening to him?" (NDTV). BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli said: "The Prime Minister enthralls audiences in Japan but Rahul Gandhi and Congress have lost their rhythm" (Indian Express). He also added: "These problems will be solved as Prime Minister Modi is serving the country, not ruling it."

— Jameel Khan and Neeli Shah

Pakistan

Heavy rains claim dozens of lives

More than 70 people have been killed in Pakistan over the past few days, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority, as heavy rains caused river-water levels to rise abruptly and flash floods (BBCDawnRFE/RLVOA). With the rains expected to continue, the Pakistani army has asked people to vacate their homes as many of the deaths so far have been caused by roof collapses (ET). Reuters noted on Friday that most of the "deaths occurred in the city of Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s powerbase, further damaging the government’s standing after weeks of protests aimed at forcing the premier to step down" (Reuters). At least 40 people have been killed in Punjab province, and 30 have died in Kashmir in recent days.

Unrest prompts Sharif to cancel visit by Chinese president

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tweeted on Friday that the upcoming visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping had been cancelled due to the ongoing protests in Islamabad (AP). Xi had been scheduled to visit the country from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16, but Pakistani officials "decided to cancel the visit after discussing all aspects of [Xi’s trip,] including the situation" in the capital (Dawn). It would have been Xi’s first trip to Pakistan since taking office in 2013. He is still expected to visit India and Sri Lanka later this month.

Afghanistan

Presidential candidates committed to creating a national unity government

In a joint message sent on Thursday to the NATO summit currently occurring in Wales, Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani wrote: "We believe in an inclusive political vision. We will form a government of national unity and will honor the participation of our people in the election process," indicating an easing of tensions over the country’s disputed run-off election (RFE/RLVOA). NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that the military alliance’s leaders had received the message, but reiterated the fact that NATO needs a security agreement to be signed by the next Afghan president, allowing a small coalition force to stay in the country after the bulk of international troops withdraw in December (AP). While President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement with both NATO and the United States, both Abdullah and Ghani have said they would approve and sign the security pacts. Bonus Read: "The Limits of U.S. Aid in Afghanistan," Nematullah Bizhan (SouthAsia).

Media outlets also reported on Friday that a senior Afghan military official claimed asylum upon arriving in London for the NATO summit (PajhwokRFE/RL). According to the reports, Col. Enayatullah Barack was supposed to be Afghanistan’s flag bearer at the summit, which began on Thursday. It is unclear, however, why Barack applied for asylum, and Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, who is leading the Afghan delegation, disputed the claims that he was a member of their team (Pajhwok).

IEC says vote audit is now complete

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced on Friday that the U.N.-supervised recount and audit of votes cast in the June run-off election had been completed the night before (Pajhwok). The IEC told Pajhwok Afghan News that at least 23,000 ballot boxes had been investigated and recounted. While the IEC has not yet announced the results of the audit, an official said they would be revealed in the next few days. However, U.N. observers said it would take about another week to finalize the results.

Six men arrested in connection with Kabul gang rape

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that six men had been arrested in Kabul this week in connection with a gang rape that occurred on the morning of Aug. 23 (WSJ). The Journal quotes local police officials who said that: "a group of men wearing police uniforms and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles stopped a convoy of cars that was driving back to the city from a wedding in the district of Paghman on the night of the rape." The men then dragged four women to the side of the road, robbing them, beating them up, and raping three of them, including one woman who was pregnant. Jamshid Totakhil, a senior police official, said all six of the men who had been arrested confessed to being involved in the rape; police officials also said they were not officers.

News of the arrests "sparked an outpouring of rage in Afghanistan, with social-media campaigns calling for a harsh punishment of the culprits." Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said the president had called for the prompt executions for those to be found guilty of the crimes. Bonus Read: "Development Needs to Look Beyond Afghan ‘Women and Children’," Morwari Zafar (SouthAsia).

— Bailey Cahall 

Edited by Peter Bergen.

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Twitter: @neelishah

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