The South Asia Channel

U.S. Court Issues Summons for Modi; Afghan Taliban Retake Ajrestan District; Pakistani Investigator Survives Attack

India U.S. court issues summons for Modi With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to land in the United States on Friday, after a nine-year ban, the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York has issued a summons against him, stating that as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he ...



U.S. court issues summons for Modi

With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to land in the United States on Friday, after a nine-year ban, the Federal Court of the Southern District of New York has issued a summons against him, stating that as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he failed to stop the 2002 riots in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred (Economic Times, Livemint, NYT, WSJ).

According to news reports, the American Justice Center (AJC), a human rights group, on behalf of two riot victims, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Modi for "committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture, and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community" under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act (The Hindu). Modi has 21 days to respond to the summons. John Bradley, an AJC director, said: "The Tort Case against Prime Minister Modi is an unequivocal message to human rights abusers everywhere" (Times of India). The AJC plans to hold a press conference at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City on Friday to talk further about their case. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 15 other U.S. business associations on Thursday wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama, asking him to press Modi to remove fair trade barriers in India (NDTV). The Alliance for Fair Trade with India said in a letter, that since taking office, Modi has declared India to be "open for business," however, "the new Indian government has produced troubling policies of its own…. These actions send perplexing and contradictory new signals about India’s role in the global marketplace" (Indian Express). Modi’s schedule during his five-day visit to the United States includes an address to the U.N. General Assembly, discussions with Obama and other American political leaders, and meetings with CEOs. Modi will also address an audience of 18,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Indo-China standoff resolved

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters in New York City on Thursday that the two-week standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — had been resolved, and that both sides will retreat to their original positions on the Line of Actual Control by Sep. 30 (Livemint, BBC). Swaraj met Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi on Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the withdrawal of the troops from both sides. After the meeting Swaraj said: "I am happy to tell you that both nations have sat down and resolved the issue. Timelines have been decided. I believe this is a big accomplishment" (NDTV).

Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border. The Indian Home Ministry claims that there have been 334 "transgressions" by Chinese troops over the Indian border in the first 216 days of this year. Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visit to India earlier this month, pledged to quickly resolve the border dispute.

Indian minister blames Pakistan for ‘spoiling the game’

Swaraj also told reporters in New York City on Thursday that Pakistan "spoilt the game" by engaging with Kashmiri separatists before foreign-secretary-level talks between the two countries last month (Livemint). In August, after Abdul Basit — Pakistan’s high commissioner to India — met with Kashmiri separatist leaders, India called off talks with Pakistan. Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz, defending the Pakistani envoy’s meetings with the separatists, said earlier on Thursday that Islamabad would not make the first move, and that the ball was in New Delhi’s court for future talks. Aziz said further: "They [India] had suspended talks so talks will happen if they take the initiative. There were no violations… it has been normal practice for the past 20 years. It was an overreaction" (Times of India).

In response to Aziz’s comments, Swaraj said: "[The Modi] government has given a new signal. No question of first or second. As far as the question of our reaction goes, I have repeatedly said that if the reaction was to come, it should have come immediately. There was initiative from our side, but if you are calling Hurriyat leaders four days before we were to have talks, then who do you think has spoiled the game?" (NDTV).

Although Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week, an "informal handshake" has not been ruled out. NDTV reports that, according to sources, a handshake, an exchange of pleasantries, and an informal photo-op are possibilities when the two leaders meet each other in New York City; however, India will first closely monitor Sharif’s U.N. General Assembly speech on Friday. 

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Taliban fighters retake Ghazni province’s Ajrestan district

International media outlets reported on Friday that Taliban fighters had seized control of the strategic Ajrestan district in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province late on Thursday night, after a week of fighting (BBC, Pajhwok). According to Afghan officials, the militants burned about 60 homes in Ajrestan and killed about 20 villagers, at least 12 of whom were beheaded (AP). RFE/RL cited Qari Yusuf Ahmad, a Taliban spokesman, who denied that homes had been destroyed and people had been beheaded, but claimed 40 police officers had been killed in the fighting (RFE/RL). Bonus Read: "Lucky in Afghanistan," Richard Johnson (Post).

While Afghan security forces are trying to regain control of the district, some analysts fear that Ajrestan could be used as a launching pad for other attacks, increasing the vulnerability of nearby towns. Ajrestan, a small town in a predominantly rural area, is surrounded by about 100 villages.

Elsewhere, parliamentarians from Helmand province reported on Thursday that insurgent fighters were also close to regaining control of Sangin district, noting that the situation is "critical" (TOLO News). While the country’s security forces were able to push back the fighters when they launched an offensive on the district earlier this summer, local residents told Afghanistan’s TOLO News that they have only "moved closer."

Ghani seeks better relationship with Pakistan

Abas Noyan, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s president-elect, Ashraf Ghani, told Voice of America on Thursday that: "Ghani is determined to use his strong economic background to govern domestic and foreign relations, particularly with Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, such as Pakistan" (VOA). Noting that the new government does not want "any tension with any neighboring countries," Noyan suggested that energy could be one area, in particular, that Afghanistan and Pakistan could work together; Pakistan has long faced an acute energy and power crisis.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad on Thursday, Tasneem Aslam, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, said "her country is confident bilateral ties will strengthen under the new Afghan leadership." Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already invited Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who is expected to take office as Afghanistan’s chief executive, to visit him in the capital.

The statements come as relations between the two neighbors have hit one of their "lowest points in more than a decade" (Post). The Washington Post‘s Tim Craig notes that: "as Afghans at all levels of the country’s government and military assert that they are being systematically undermined by Pakistan, also a key U.S. ally, the tensions are serving as a sign of how hard it will be for U.S. forces to withdraw from the region without risking a future conflict." 


Pakistani police investigator survives assassination attempt

Two people were killed and at least seven others were injured in Karachi on Thursday night when a bomb targeting Farooq Awan, a senior police investigator, hit his convoy as it traveled through the city (BBC, ET). Pakistani officials said an initial investigation suggested an explosives-laden vehicle had been detonated by remote control as the convoy passed by. Jundallah, a militant group that primarily operates in Karachi, claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt (Dawn). Awan leads a police unit that tracks militant fighters and terrorists, and he "has been involved in the arrests of several high-profile militants, including Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted in the 2002 killing of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal correspondent" (NYT). This was the third attempt on his life.

Pakistan successfully test-fires Hatf-IX missile

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) office released a press statement on Friday that said the country had conducted a successful test-fire of the Hatf-IX, a short-range surface-to-surface missile. The missile has a range of 60 kilometers (approximately 37 miles) and in-flight maneuver capabilities. ISPR described it as "a quick-response system, with shoot and scoot attributes," and said it "contributes to the full spectrum deterrence against the prevailing threat spectrum" (ET). The flight test was witnessed by a number of military officials, including Gen. Rashad Mahmood, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, who "congratulated the scientists and engineers on achieving yet another milestone towards Pakistan’s deterrence capability" (Dawn). 

— 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. @neelishah

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