Modi, Obama Work to Deepen Ties; Twin Suicide Attacks Rock Kabul; U.S. Treasury Dept. Targets Pak Terrorist Groups
India Modi, Obama work to deepen ties Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama held a summit meeting in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and pledged to increase cooperation on a number of issues, including terrorism, trade, nuclear cooperation, and climate change (IBNLive). After their meeting, Modi said that India and the United ...
Modi, Obama work to deepen ties
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama held a summit meeting in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and pledged to increase cooperation on a number of issues, including terrorism, trade, nuclear cooperation, and climate change (IBNLive). After their meeting, Modi said that India and the United States are "natural global partners," and that the United States "is an integral part of our Look East, Link West policy." Modi, speaking on defense issues, added that: "We will further our defense ties; I invite U. S. defense companies to manufacture in India" (Economic Times). Obama told reporters that: "Throughout this conversation, I’m impressed with the Prime Minister’s interest in not only addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor in India and revitalizing the economy there, but also his determination to make sure that India is serving as a major power that can help bring about peace and security to the world" (NDTV).
Modi said they also discussed India’s position on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) trade facilitation agreement, which aims to make trade easier, faster, and cheaper by reducing red tape and making systems transparent. Earlier this year, India had decided not to endorse the pact unless the country’s concerns on food security and public stockholding were addressed. Modi said: "India supports trade facilitation. However, I also expect that we are able to find a solution that takes care of our concern on food security. I believe that it should be possible to do that" (NDTV). Modi and Obama agreed to boost bilateral trade between the countries from $100 billion to $500 billion (IBNLive). To read the joint statement released after the talk, click here.
After his meeting with Obama, Modi headed to a lunch organized in his honor at the U.S. State Department, which included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Drawing parallels between India and the United States, Kerry said: "We have two countries that begin the Constitution with ‘We the People’. Two countries that have created Hollywood and Bollywood. Two countries that have Bangalore and Silicon Valley. This moment is going to be the moment when the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy capitalize on ties" (NDTV). At the lunch, Modi used an energy analogy to discuss the differences in both countries, saying: "You use a system which is 120-volts, and we use 220-volt system in India. So 120 and 220 — when you have to bring them together and the difference in the energy, which is there, so we’ll have to undertake necessary steps in order to bring it together… I’m sure we’ll succeed in it. Then 120-volt and 220-volt systems — both the systems will start working together, and that is how I am standing here amidst you" (Business Standard).
On Tuesday, Modi also met U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and discussed ways to increase defense cooperation between India and the United States (Business Standard). On his last day in Washington, Modi visited the monument of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, located outside the Indian Embassy. He also visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial with Obama after their meeting (WSJ). Both leaders jointly wrote an editorial in the Washington Post, where they talked about deepening ties between India and the United States (NDTV).
Indo-China border standoff ends
The Indian External Affairs Ministry announced on Tuesday that both India and China had simultaneously withdrawn their troops from the Ladakh border — located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir — after a nearly three-week-long standoff (Livemint). In early September, China’s People’s Liberation Army moved around 500 soldiers onto the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh region. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release: "On Sep. 30, the frontier defense troops of the two countries completed simultaneous withdrawal according to the steps formulated by the two sides and restored peace and tranquility in the area" (Economic Times). A Indian statement said: "The two sides have also agreed that a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) will be convened in India on Oct. 16-17 to discuss various issues pertaining to the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas" (The Hindu).
On Monday, speaking about the Indo-China border dispute at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City, Modi said: "India and China are capable of resolving issues through talks. There is no need for any arbitration" (Economic Times). Last week, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City that the standoff had been resolved, and both sides would retreat to their original positions on the Line of Actual Control by the end of the month (Livemint, BBC).
Passenger trains collide killing twelve people
At least 12 people were killed and 45 were injured on Tuesday after two passenger trains collided in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (Times of India, BBC). Although the exact cause of the accident is unclear, the coaches were thrown off-track after a Krishak Express train rammed a Barauni Express train from behind. Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena said: "[Indian] Railways has suspended the drivers of [the] Krishak Express for overshooting the signal" (NDTV). The movement of all trains along this track was disrupted after the accident.
Hundreds of people have died in train accidents in India, where the national railway network runs 9,000 passenger trains carrying about 18 million passengers daily. Earlier this year, 23 people died in Uttar Pradesh when a derailed passenger train collided with a stationary goods train.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Twin suicide attacks hit Afghan army buses
At least seven Afghan army soldiers and one civilian were killed and 20 other people were wounded in Kabul on Wednesday in twin suicide attacks by Taliban fighters on the east and west sides of the Afghan capital (AFP, BBC, Pajhwok, Reuters, TOLO News). According to local police officers, both attacks targeted buses transporting Afghan army troops, though the bombing in the west, close to Kabul University, was the more serious of the two; reports suggest that is where all of the deaths occurred, though it is unclear how many of the injured victims were army personnel and how many were civilian bystanders. According to Agence France-Presse, there were also conflicting reports about how the attacks were carried out, with the suicide bombers reportedly being either on foot or driving explosives-laden vehicles (AFP).
The fresh violence came just one day after U.S. and Afghan officials signed the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), allowing 9,800 troops to remain in the country when the NATO combat mission ends in December, and train, advise, and aid the Afghan security forces, who are facing a resurgent Taliban (RFE/RL). Bonus Read: "Explainer: Key Points In U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement," Charles Recknagel (RFE/RL).
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attacks and said "the security pact with America has only motivated the group and given the Taliban ‘more morale’ to fight the enemy" (AP, VOA).
Afghan government finalizes NATO agreement
In addition to signing the BSA with the United States on Tuesday, Afghanistan’s newly inducted national security advisor, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Maurits R. Jochems (TOLO News). The SOFA, as it is commonly known, will allow at least 2,000 international forces to remain in the country after 2014 (NYT).
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani presided over the signing ceremony and, according to TOLO News, "emphasized that the agreements have been approved by the Loya Jirga [grand assembly] and added that, if needed, the terms of the agreements can be modified with the consideration of both sides." He also assured "the nation that these agreements are in our national interest." Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah was also present at the event, and promised that the new government would not allow Afghan soil to be used for plotting against anyone (Pajhwok).
Bonus Read: "Solving’s Pakistan’s Blasphemy Problem," Dawood I. Ahmed and John Hursh (SouthAsia).
U.S. Treasury targets those connected to Pakistani terrorist groups
On Tuesday, under Executive Order 13244, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Fazl-ur Rehman Khalil, the leader of Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, a militant group that operates throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), freezing any assets he may have in any U.S. jurisdiction and banning U.S. citizens from doing business with him (Treasury, AP).
According to its press release, the Treasury also designated Muhammad Naeem Sheikh and Umair Naeem Sheikh as SDGTs "for acting for or on behalf of, and for providing financial support to [Lashkar-e-Taiba], as well as their Lahore, Pakistan-based businesses." The Associated Press noted that Lashkar-e-Taiba is "a well-organized group based in Pakistan’s Punjab province that is suspected of having historical ties to Pakistani intelligence." David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told the wire service that "both groups are violent terrorist organizations that train militants and support extremist groups," including al Qaeda.
Report says online abuse in Pakistan turns into real-world violence
Bytes for All, a Pakistan-based human rights organization, published a new report this week titled "Technology Driven Violence Against Women," which details the "treacherous landscape of Pakistani social media" (VOA). While reviews of the report noted that using social media to harass women is not unique to Pakistan, they also highlighted the fact that "[women] run a unique risk in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where there is a tradition of men killing women seen as having injured a family’s honor, besides punitive laws against blasphemy" (Reuters). Lead researcher Gul Bukhari told reporters that Pakistan also differs from other countries in that there is no "proper cybercrimes law and that is why there have been no arrests."
With known cases of women being threatened with rape and death online and targeted in the real world, Bukhari has called on online giants such as Twitter and Facebook to move more forcefully against cyber-violence, but notes that Pakistan needs to do more itself, including signing international treaties that would help it better track this kind of harassment.
Man who filmed Pakistani politicians being barred from plane has been fired
Arjumand Hussain, a man who filmed angry passengers preventing Pakistani politicians Rehman Malik and Ramesh Kumar Wakwani from boarding a Pakistan International Airways (PIA) flight for being more than two hours late earlier in September, has been fired from his job (BBC, ET). Hussain said he was given no reason for his dismissal, though his employer, Gerry’s Group, a multinational courier and logistics company, has denied that it was over the video, which went viral shortly after it was uploaded to social media networks. The passengers were praised for standing up against Pakistan’s "VIP culture," and Hussain says he has no regrets about filming the incident.
Both Malik and Wakwani have denied being the cause of the delay. PIA initially said the cause of the delay was due to a technical issue, but later noted that there was a "further unnecessary delay," which resulted in the suspension of two PIA employees (Dawn).
— Bailey Cahall
Edited by Peter Bergen.
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.