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The South Asia Channel
Obama Accepts Modi’s Invitation; Afghan Suicide Bombing Kills 50; PM Sharif Not Addressing Nation
India Obama accepts Modi’s invitation U.S. President Barack Obama accepted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation on Friday to be the guest of honor at India’s 66th Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2015 in New Delhi (WSJ, Reuters, NDTV). Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted: "This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over… ...
Obama accepts Modi’s invitation
U.S. President Barack Obama accepted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation on Friday to be the guest of honor at India’s 66th Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2015 in New Delhi (WSJ, Reuters, NDTV). Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted: "This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over… invited President Obama to be the 1st US President to grace the occasion as Chief Guest." Hours later, an official White House release accepting the invitation, said: "This visit will mark the first time a US president will have the honor of attending Republic Day, which commemorates the adoption of India’s constitution. The President will meet with the Prime Minister and Indian officials to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership" (Economic Times).
Obama visited India in 2010, and will be the first U.S. president to visit India twice while in office. After accepting the invitation, Obama spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the trip to India, and said that he will visit Pakistan after the "situation normalizes in the country" (NDTV). A statement released from the Pakistani prime minister’s office said: "The [Pakistani] Prime Minister also urged President Obama to take up the cause of Kashmir with the Indian leadership, as its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia" (Dawn).
Special envoy appointed for Indo-China border talks
India named National Security Adviser Ajit Doval as a special envoy to lead negotiations with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi on the disputed Indo-China border issue, on Monday (NDTV, Livemint). The Indian prime minister’s office released a statement, which said that Doval will conduct strategic consultations and boundary negotiations with China. In September, India and China had their biggest military standoff this year, with both countries mobilizing troops along the border. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.
India approves purchase of 814 mounted guns
India approved the purchase of 814 mounted gun systems for the army costing $2.55 billion on Saturday, according to a defense ministry spokesman (Livemint, Reuters, Indian Express). While some of the guns will be imported, most of them will be manufactured in India. The purchase was part of India’s $100 billion defense upgrade, and the country, the world’s largest arms importer, has already cleared projects over $16 billion this year. On Sunday, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that there will be "zero tolerance to error" in defense-related issues (Economic Times). Parrikar also spoke of a strong, yet non-offensive India, and said: "My task of strengthening India, the position where people should not dare see eye to eye with India" (NDTV).
Human skulls recovered in India
At least 20 human skulls were recovered from under a bridge in the Puri district — located in the eastern state of Odisha — according to a police official on Sunday (BBC, IBNLive). Subash Mohanty, a police officer, said: "We have recovered 20 human skulls from the bridge. Besides, three buffalo skulls and some bones were also recovered from the river bed" (NDTV). Dry flowers and vermillion powder, typically used in Hindu ceremonies, were also found near the bones. The police are questioning a local tantrik (witch doctor), and fear that the deaths were due to black magic rituals or human sacrifice. Black magic is popular in some parts of India, where people believe it helps to produce rain, cure illnesses, and assist women to bear children.
— Neeli Shah
Afghan suicide bombing kills 50
A suicide bomber detonated his bomb at an inter-district volleyball tournament in the Yahya Khel district of Paktika province on Sunday, killing at least 50 people and wounding 60 others (NYT, AP, TOLO News). Most of the casualties were civilians, primarily children, but 10 Afghan Local Police members were also killed. Ghazi Khan, one of the volleyball players said: "Around 500 people had gathered there to watch the match. A local police commander and his men also came an hour later…. Soon after they arrived the suicide bomber came and detonated his explosives attached to his body. He [the police commander] was the target," (Reuters). The local police commander, Bawar Khan, was killed in the attack. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
NYT reports Obama extended Afghan combat operation
On Friday the New York Times reported that U.S. President Barack Obama issued a secret order extending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2015, past the Dec. 31, 2014 withdrawal deadline (NYT). The order reportedly approved of planes, bombers, and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions, and will allow U.S. forces to conduct missions against the Taliban and other militants targeting U.S. troops or the Afghan government.
A White House official responded to the report on Saturday, telling the New York Times that "the United States’ combat mission in Afghanistan will be over by the end of the year," (NYT). The official also said that the mission in 2015 will primarily be advising, assisting, and training, and added: "As part of this mission, the United States may provide combat enabler support to the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] in limited circumstances to prevent detrimental strategic effects to these Afghan security forces." The Washington Post reported on Saturday that President Obama approved earlier this month the use of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for combat operations until the end of 2014 under specific circumstances: assisting Afghan forces, protecting U.S. forces, and operations again al Qaeda and other groups (Washington Post).
Afghan Parliament approved security agreements
On Sunday the Wolesi Jirga (the lower house of parliament) ratified the bilateral security agreements with both the United States and NATO, signed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sept. 30 (RFE/RL, VOA). The agreements permit the United States and NATO to leave 12,000 troops in Afghanistan in 2015 to aid local forces. The vote was 149 representatives in favor of approval and five opposing approval (TOLO News). The Wolesi Jirga had to approve of the deal under the Afghan constitution.
Nighttime raids permitted again
President Ghani lifted the ban on nighttime raids by Afghan National Army Special Forces on Saturday (NYT). According to Afghan military officials and U.S.-led coalition officials, Afghan special forces units are planning on resuming raids in 2015, with U.S. special operations forces occasionally accompanying them in an advisory role. Already, 200 Afghan special forces soldiers have been transferred to Kandahar to train for night raids. Nighttime raids were mostly banned in 2013 by former President Hamid Karzai.
PM Sharif not addressing nation
Media outlets widely reported on Monday that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would address the nation that evening, speaking about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s election fraud allegations and the current security situation in Pakistan (ET, Dawn). Sharif’s spokesman, Mussadiq Malik, told Dawn: "A meeting was taking place regarding the prime minister’s address to the nation, during which a bureaucrat informed PTV [Pakistan Television] to be prepared for the address." Malik added that a time for the speech could not be set so the address was canceled.
Imran Khan accused of using public money
Pakistan’s Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid accused PTI chairman Imran Khan of using public money for his ongoing political activism (ET). At a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday, Rashid said that Khan uses an airplane that belongs to JWD Sugar Mills, a public limited company, to travel across the country for his political campaign. According to Rashid, the PTI secretary general, Jahangir Tareen, owns 29.76 percent of the company while the remaining 70.24 percent is owned by other shareholders and institutions, and Pakistani "company laws say any public company limited company cannot give donations to a political party and cannot contribute in monetary terms." Tareen denied Rashid’s claims saying: "Whenever Imran Khan has traveled in the plane, I have paid all the expenses myself."
Pakistan-China rail project to occur
The Pakistani Ministry of Railways will collaborate with China’s state-run rail corporation to upgrade the ML-1 track, running from Peshawar to Karachi, in a joint infrastructure project that will be funded through a soft loan by a Chinese bank (ET). The project will increase the traveling speed of trains from 90 kilometers per hour (kph) to 140 kph, and is expected to be completed by 2017. An advance team from China has arrived in Pakistan to finalize the terms of the memorandum of understanding between the two countries.
— Courtney Schuster
Edited by Peter Bergen