The South Asia Channel

Drone Strikes Continue in N. Waziristan; India and Pakistan Trade Warnings; USAID Announces Loans to Afghan Finance Institutions

Pakistan Drone strikes continue for fifth day A U.S. drone strike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan on Thursday killed at least three people, according to multiple media outlets (ET, DAWN, AJE). Pakistani security sources said the strike targeted a vehicle and foreigners were in the area at the time. The strike is the latest ...

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Pakistan

Drone strikes continue for fifth day

A U.S. drone strike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan on Thursday killed at least three people, according to multiple media outlets (ET, DAWN, AJE). Pakistani security sources said the strike targeted a vehicle and foreigners were in the area at the time. The strike is the latest in a sharp uptick in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The strike is the fifth to occur since Sunday, and according to data collected by New America, the recent strikes account for more than a third of the 14 American drone strikes to occur in Pakistan this year (NA).

Prime Minister visits North Waziristan

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Miramshah on Thursday, becoming the first Pakistani prime minister to visit North Waziristan (ET, DAWN). Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (no relation) accompanied Sharif and briefed him on Pakistan’s ongoing military operation in the region. Referring to the operation, the prime minister stated: "This is war is being won. This war, under Gen. Raheel’s leadership, will make Pakistan successful."

Toxic-liquor-related deaths rise

Six people died in Karachi on Thursday after consuming toxic liquor, bringing the death toll from related incidents over the Eid holidays to 29 (ET). Though the death toll falls short of a full-blown crisis for a city the size of Karachi, it has raised concern among officials (Post). A police official told the Washington Post: "Investigations are underway, and, hopefully, we’ll get the culprits who sold this life-taking liquor."

Polio worker injured in IED attack dies

Muhammad Agul, a Union Council Polio Worker who was injured in an IED attack in Mohmand agency on Wednesday, died later that evening (Dawn). Agul’s death brings the attack’s death toll to three people; two of Agul’s relatives were also killed in the incident. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

— David Sterman

The Indo-Pak Border

India and Pakistan trade warnings

As both Indian and Pakistani troops continued to exchange fire along the Line of Control, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday that while "Pakistan has clearly been the aggressor, they must realize our deterrence will be credible. If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable" (NDTV, BBC). Jaitley reinforced India’s tough stand, and said that talks with Pakistan will occur only after the firing stops completely. He further commented: "India is a responsible state. It’s never an aggressor but at the same time, it has a paramount duty to defend its people and territory."

In response to Jaitley’s comments, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said: "Pakistan has the ability to reply to Indian aggression" (ET). Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs and national security, Sartaj Aziz, said on Thursday: "[The] Pakistan government has been exercising utmost restraint and responsibility… Unfortunately, all our efforts to secure peace and tranquility on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary have elicited no cooperation from the Indian side" (DAWN).

When asked about the continued firing on the Indo-Pakistan border on Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: "Everything will be fine soon" (Livemint). The Congress party was quick to criticize the Modi government for its inability to manage the border issue. Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said: "When we have such a serious issue at our borders, we should not have an absentee Prime Minister" (The Hindu).

So far, at least 19 civilians have died, dozens have been injured, and hundreds have fled their homes on both sides of the border (BBC). India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years. Although New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to a truce in 2003, ceasefire violations have continued across the borders.

India

China objects to Indo-U.S. reference to South China Sea

China on Wednesday said that third parties do not have the right to interfere in its region, and expressed displeasure about a joint Indo-U.S. statement that referred to the tension in the South China Sea (Hindustan Times). When questioned about the reference in the joint Indo-U.S. statement, Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said: "Our position is the dispute in the South China Sea should be resolved by countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, and any third party should not be involved in the dispute" (Times of India).

During Modi’s visit to the United States in September, a joint statement issued at the end of his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama said: "The leaders [Obama and Modi] expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes, and affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea." Maritime disputes over the South China Sea involve several countries in the region, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei (Economic Times).

Government takes notice of ‘Big Billion Day’ sale

After receiving "many complaints" from traders about the Flipkart — India’s biggest online retailer — "Big Billion Day" sale, the Indian government said on Wednesday that it will examine whether additional clarity is required on e-commerce retail business (Business Standard, The Hindu). Numerous traders and retail businesses complained that the undercutting of prices by e-commerce retailers was adversely affecting competition. On Wednesday, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said to reporters in New Delhi: "We have received many inputs. Lot of concerns have been expressed. We will look into it" (NDTV).

Although the government is taking notice of Flipkart’s massive sale, other e-commerce players like Amazon and Snapdeal are also providing significant discounts, at times pricing products that even dealers cannot afford. Flipkart’s "Big Billion Day" sale on Monday, which offered steep discounts on various products, attracted 1.5 million people to shop on their portal, and sold goods worth $100 million in 10 hours. However, the company also issued an apology to its customers on Tuesday, as the rush of customers online caused technical glitches, and within minutes most of the products were "out of stock" (BBC).

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

USAID announces $13.5 million in loans

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Wednesday that it would provide $13.5 million in micro-loans for financial institutions in Afghanistan (Pajhwok). The First MicroFinance Bank of Afghanistan, OXUS Afghanistan and FINCA Afghanistan will receive loan guarantees, according to the announcement. The acting USAID/Afghanistan Mission Director Sepideh Keyvanshad stated: "These agreements help reduce the risk of capital lending, enabling Afghan entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth in the country."

Deputy minister says counternarcotics effort not working

Afghanistan’s deputy minister of counternarcotics, Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, called current counternarcotics efforts unsuccessful, according to a report in Afghanistan’s TOLO News on Thursday (TOLO News). The deputy minister stated: "The government and the ministry [of Interior] have put efforts to bring the level of narcotic cultivation down. But unfortunately, the programs have not succeeded." According to Ahmadi, 50 percent of Afghanistan’ poppy cultivation occurs in southern Helmand province. Gen. Assadullah Shirzad, who commands Afghanistan’s special police forces, announced the arrest of 53 people and the destruction of tons of narcotics in Helmand province, TOLO News also reported.

NDS: Car bomb prepared in Pakistan thwarted

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) claimed on Wednesday that it had foiled a car bomb plot in Kabul that had been plotted in Pakistan (Pajhwok). According to the NDS, the car had been packed with 150 kilograms (319 pounds) of explosives and NDS engineers were able to detonate it precisely after failing to defuse the bomb.

Paghman rapists executed

Five men convicted of gang rape in the Paghman district near Central Kabul in September were executed on Wednesday, along with Habib Istalif, who had been convicted of murder and kidnapping, and once was the country’s most wanted man (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The corpses of the executed men were handed over to their families on Thursday (Pajhwok). Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had approved the death sentences in the Paghman case, but the sentences received criticism from human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for the rushed nature of the trial.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

 Twitter: @Dsterms
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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