Ghani Shocked Over US Senate Report; US Says Pakistani Operation Disrupted Militants; Modi Meets Putin
The South Asia Daily Brief for Thursday, December 11, 2014.
Ghani expresses shock over U.S. Senate report
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday that he was astounded by the new revelations of CIA torture in Afghanistan and elsewhere that were revealed by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released on Tuesday (NYT, RFE/RL). Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani said: “The report shows that the principles of human rights, as well as the Constitution of the United States and universally accepted ethics, had been violated by the CIA and its contractors.” He was careful to point out that the abuses listed in the report were from an earlier era and that Afghans should know “we are entering an era of national sovereignty where we will be the only legitimate authority.”
U.S. military closes Bagram prison
The United States said on Thursday that it has closed Bagram prison, the notorious detention facility in Afghanistan’s central Bagram province (Pajhwok, Reuters). The U.S. Defense Department said it recently transferred the last detainees from Bagram Airfield: two Tunisian prisoners were transferred to Afghan authorities and a Jordanian prisoner is being resettled with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The closure comes two days after the release of the U.S. Senate report on torture at former CIA-run prisons, like the one in Bagram. However, the U.S. embassy in Kabul said the closure was linked to a deadline to end the detention program this year, not the Senate report.
Six Afghan soldiers killed in Kabul suicide attack
Six Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded in a suicide attack in the Qasaba area of Kabul on Thursday morning (Pajhwok). A statement from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said the bomber’s target was an ANA vehicle, although three civilians were also wounded in the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
U.S. says military operation in North Waziristan disrupted militants
The United States affirmed on Wednesday Pakistan’s claim that the military operation in North Waziristan has disrupted militants in the country (Dawn). At the 23rd meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group — a working group under the Strategic Dialogue framework — both delegations agreed to “continue providing Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency requirements which will inform the provision of security assistance,” according to a joint statement.
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi collect Nobel peace prizes
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi received their Nobel peace awards from the Norwegian Nobel Committee at the Oslo City Hall on Wednesday before an audience of royals, dignitaries, and family members (NYT). Yousafzai, who is from Pakistan, said that the peace prize was “for those forgotten children who want education…those frightened children who want peace.” Satyarthi, who is from India, said that he represented “the sound of silence, the cry of innocence, and the face of invisibility.” Thorbjorn Jaland, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, said that if their shared award could contribute to bringing Indians and Pakistanis closer to one another, it would add an extra dimension to the prize.
Putin meets Modi, attempts to revive ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday during a short summit where they discussed issues concerning trade, defense, and broader strategic ties (Hindustan Times). Atop Putin’s agenda was advocating trade deals spanning nuclear power, oil, natural gas, and diamonds in an effort to aid Russia’s economy, staggering from Western-imposed sanctions — which India refuses to join — for Putin’s annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine. One fruitful deal was an agreement in which Russia will commit to providing at least nuclear reactors over the next 20 years (NDTV). For his part, Modi offered friendly rhetoric and highlighted the historic relationship between the Cold War allies while also voicing his priority on development. “The bond between the people of Russia and India is very strong,” Modi said at a joint press conference. “Our nations have stood by each other through thick and thin” (NDTV). High-level talks between the two countries have been taking place since 2000 (Times of India).
While Putin and Modi have met before at two international summits, this was the first meeting between the two leaders in one of their own countries. Ahead of his trip on Tuesday, Putin said: “India is a reliable and time-tested partner [and that] Russia and India have a huge potential of bilateral trade and economic cooperation” (NDTV). On Thursday, Putin will join Modi in Delhi to inaugurate the World Diamond Conference, which is expected to yield a trade deal for India’s diamond polishers (Post). While these talks mark an attempt to revive ties between India and Russia, Modi is also striving to move the U.S.-India relationship forward. In January, U.S. President Barack Obama will visit India to join the Republic Day celebrations with Modi.
RBI ‘comfortable’ with widened deficit in Q3
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Chief Raghuram Rajan said on Thursday that the bank is comfortable with the country’s larger current account deficit despite its growth during the last quarter to 2.1 percent of GDP ($7.8 to $10.1 billion) [Economic Times, Bloomberg]. Speaking at a news conference after the RBI’s board meeting, Rajan said that cutting interest rates alone will not lead to higher economic growth, but offered other possible measures. Two examples are reassessing priority sector lending norms for foreign banks in India and limits on foreign investments in government bonds. Risks remain to the current deficit, Rajan acknowledged, but he did not express major concern.
Parliament row continues over forced religious conversions
India’s Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) was rocked for a second day on Thursday as opposition members voiced frustration and called for debate on the recent conversions of Muslims in Agra (The Hindu). Although the government expressed interest in debating and considering legislation on religious conversations, a “war of words” ensued and the opposition said riots could be a grave consequence. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the “Government is ready to discuss and build a consensus on having a legislation on (religious) conversion.”
Opposition members came from the Congress Party, All India Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Aam Aadmi Party, which have all demanded the suspension of the Question Hour — the first hour of the Lok Sabha’s sitting session in which members of parliament can raise questions — to discuss this issue. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan declined the request and said she would allow Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to address the issue during the Zero Hour, a period directly after Question Hour that is devoted to discussing issues.
— Emily Schneider and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen
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