The South Asia Channel
China Agrees to Demarcate Border with India; Sharif to Pick New ISI Chief; Former Afghan Journalist Stabbed to Death in Home
India Modi-Xi meet; China agrees to demarcate border Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to quickly resolve the countries’ border dispute on Thursday, during a joint press conference held after their one-on-one meeting in New Delhi (Hindustan Times). Xi said: "China has the determination to work with India through friendly ...
Modi-Xi meet; China agrees to demarcate border
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to quickly resolve the countries’ border dispute on Thursday, during a joint press conference held after their one-on-one meeting in New Delhi (Hindustan Times). Xi said: "China has the determination to work with India through friendly consultation to settle the boundary question at an early date…. We also have the sincerity to work with India to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas before we are finally able to settle the boundary question" (Livemint). In his remarks at the press conference, Modi said: "I have expressed my concern on the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). We need to have a clarification on [the] LAC to maintain peaceful relations between the two countries and solve the border dispute at the earliest" (Indian Express). Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.
Besides border issues, Xi and Modi also discussed nuclear energy cooperation and the countries’ trade deficit. Modi further announced after the bilateral talks: "We will begin the process of discussions on civil nuclear energy cooperation that will bolster our broader cooperation on energy security" (NDTV, Reuters). During the bilateral talks, Xi pledged to give greater market access to Indian companies and goods in China. Both countries signed a five-year trade and economic cooperation pact, and China committed to invest $20 billion in India over the next five years. Modi said: "I raised the issue of trade imbalance between the two countries… The Chinese president assured [me] that he will take concrete steps in this regard." (Economic Times). In 2013, the bilateral goods trade between India and China was at $65.88 billion, with India exporting goods worth $14.50 billion to China, and importing goods worth $51.37 billion.
While a few Tibetan protesters staged a brief anti-China demonstration during the bilateral talks on Thursday, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama praised Xi, and said: "I have faith in the new leadership. He (Xi) is open-minded and his way of working is quite realistic" (Economic Times). The 79-year-old exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who has been living in India since 1959, after a failed rebellion against Chinese occupation, said further: "I think the Chinese president should learn some of India’s experience…. Look, east India, south India, west India, north India, different language, different script. But no danger of separation"(International Business Times).
Indian MP clarifies remarks on Vrindavan widows
Indian actress and Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian Hema Malini clarified her comments on Thursday that "widows from Bengal and Bihar should" not crowd the holy city of Vrindavan, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, tweeting: "I only want to say that sons should not throw their mothers out but arrange to take care of them and provide for them. This awareness is lacking. Also most are from W Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. My request was to these people to have a more humane approach and look after these poor widows properly (sic)" (NDTV, The Hindu). Malini further tweeted: "It is traumatic to see these poor widows begging on the streets even for their daily existence. Have all of you ever witnessed their plight? Of course I intend doing what I can to improve their condition but Vrindavan has a space limitation too. State govt too should contribute" (Indian Express).
Earlier this week, Malini had created a controversy by saying that widows from states like West Bengal and Bihar should not come to Vrindavan, home to thousands of destitute women, as there was no room for them. Vrindavan, a religious Hindu town, is known as the "City of Widows" as a large number of Hindu widows abandoned by their families move to the city, and live and beg on the streets.
Ikea to open 25 stores in 10 years in India
Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, announced on Wednesday that it plans to open its first store in India by 2016 or 2017, and set up about 25 stores in the country over the next 10 years (Hindu Business Line, Hindustan Times). Juvencio Maetzu, the chief executive officer of Ikea India, said at a retail summit in Mumbai: "We will continue to source products from India. At present, we source products worth $500 million (?3,000 crore). This will increase once we set up our stores here and we are tying up with local vendors and furniture players for the same." Maeztu also announced that the company will look at retail space between 350,000 square feet and 400,000 square feet for its stores in India. Ikea is expected to initially set up stores in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Sharif to name new ISI chief
The BBC’s Urdu channel reported on Thursday that a new director general for Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will likely be announced next week, along with the appointment of five new lieutenant generals in the Pakistan Army (Dawn). According to the report, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is considering several people for the slot, including Lt. Gen. Naveed Zaman, the Lahore corps commander, and Lt. Gen. Javed Iqbal Ramday, the president of Pakistan’s National Defence University. Media outlets noted that the development is expected as Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, the current ISI chief, is expected to retire the first week of October.
Professor at University of Karachi shot and killed
Shakeel Auj, the dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi, was shot and killed by unknown assailants in the city on Thursday, as he headed to an event at the Iranian consulate with fellow professor Tahir Maqsood (Dawn). The motivation for the attack is not known at this time, and no information was given concerning Maqsood’s health. Classes at universities across Sindh province — Karachi is the provincial capital — were suspended on Thursday, and an investigation into the incident is underway (ET). Pakistan’s Express Tribune also noted that: "Target[ed] killings are once again on the increase in the city, with professionals among the most likely targets."
Pakistan stays execution
RFE/RL reported on Thursday that a Pakistani court has postponed the hanging of a convicted murderer, which "would have been the country’s first civilian execution in six years" (RFE/RL). Shoaib Sarwar, convicted in 1998, was set to be hanged on Thursday in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala prison, following orders issued by another Pakistani court last week. That sentence has now been stayed until Oct. 13. RFE/RL notes that: "Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008," adding that "[o]nly one person — a soldier — has been executed since then." According to Amnesty International, more than 8,000 prisoners are currently on death row in Pakistan.
Former Afghan journalist killed in Balkh province
Palwasha Tokhi, a 27-year-old female student and a former journalist, was stabbed to death in Afghanistan’s Balkh province on Tuesday night, by an unknown attacker pretending to deliver a wedding invitation; she had reportedly received a death threat just the day before (Pajhwok, RFE/RL). Afghan officials said she was attacked inside her home in Mazar-e-Sharif, and that her assailant managed to escape. A motive for the killing is not clear at this time.
Tokhi spent about six years working for Bayan, a local radio station in Balkh, before leaving in 2012 to pursue her studies. Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported that she "had just returned to Afghanistan after completing her master’s degree in Thailand two months ago" (TOLO News). She is the second Afghan journalist to be killed in Mazar-e-Sharif in the past two months, and the fifth to be killed in Afghanistan in 2014. Two foreign journalists were also killed this year, making 2014 one of the deadliest years for journalists in Afghanistan since 2001, according to Nai, an Afghan media group (NYT). An investigation into the incident is underway, though most media outlets noted that these cases often go unsolved.
Casualties rising for Afghan security forces
Military analysts in Afghanistan on Wednesday blamed the ongoing stalemate over who will succeed President Hamid Karzai, an increase in militant offensives, and the lack of sufficient weapons and supplies for the increasing casualties among the country’s security forces (TOLO News). According to Mohammad Umer Daudzai, the minister of the interior, more than 1,500 police officers have been killed in explosions and clashes with militants over the past six months, while 800 soldiers have died in similar incidents. The families of the security forces told TOLO News‘s Sharif Amiry that they hoped a resolution to the political crisis would ease the country’s instability, but many observers expect the violence to remain steady as coalition combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of this year.
The Associated Press also reported this week that at least 2,203 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan since 2001, while nearly 20,000 have been wounded (AP).
Election talks stall once more
Negotiations between Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, stalled once again on Wednesday, with the men failing to reach an agreement on creating a national unity government (Reuters). It is at least the third time the talks have broken down since the men agreed to a power-sharing arrangement, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in August after the June 14 run-off election failed to produce a clear winner.
Reuters reported that: "One sticking point was that Abdullah did not want the results [on the run-off vote audit] as they now stand — widely assumed to show him losing — made public." Officials said he also wanted more ballots to be invalidated to narrow Ghani’s presumed margin of victory. According to a source for Pajhwok Afghan News, the results currently show Abdullah trailing Ghani by 800,000 votes (Pajhwok).
The latest breakdown in discussions prompted President Hamid Karzai to appeal to U.S. Amb. James B. Cunningham and Daniel F. Feldman, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, for more help in resolving the country’s political crisis (Pajhwok). While Cunningham met with Abdullah and Ghani on Thursday, it was not immediately clear if he had been able to bridge the difference between the two candidates (RFE/RL).
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.