The South Asia Channel
Obama Wraps Up India Visit; Banned Pakistani Militant Leader Gives Speech; USAID Suspends Major Contractor for Afghanistan
Event Notice: “Interrogation in the 21st Century,” Thursday, January 29 at 12:15 (New America). India President Obama wraps up three-day India visit U.S. President Barack Obama urged Indians to address climate change, overcome religious divisions, and promote gender equality, while addressing an audience largely consisting of 1,500 students in New Delhi on Tuesday (NYT). Obama ...
Event Notice: “Interrogation in the 21st Century,” Thursday, January 29 at 12:15 (New America).
President Obama wraps up three-day India visit
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Indians to address climate change, overcome religious divisions, and promote gender equality, while addressing an audience largely consisting of 1,500 students in New Delhi on Tuesday (NYT). Obama referenced the freedom of religion laid out in India’s founding documents, and said: “India will succeed so long as it is not split along the lines of religious faith” (WSJ). Obama also addressed the issue of women’s safety and dignity in his speech. He said: “Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons… And every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity. She deserves that” (Reuters). Speaking of Indo-U.S. relations, Obama further said: “India and the United States are not just natural partners – I believe that America can be India’s best partner” (BBC).
Obama announced a $4 billion financial package at an Indo-U.S. CEO summit hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (Economic Times, CNBC). Under the newly-announced package, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will commit $2 billion for renewable energy, the U.S. Export-Import Bank will finance $1 billion in exports of ‘Made-in-America’ products, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation will lend $1 billion to small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural India. As Obama concluded his three-day visit to India, Modi tweeted: “Farewell @WhiteHouse! Your visit has taken India-USA ties to a new level & opened a new chapter. Wish you a safe journey.”
India’s ‘Common Man’ cartoonist dies at 94
Indian cartoonist R. K. Laxman, 94, whose “You Said It” cartoon featuring the ‘Common Man’ appeared in the front-page of the Times of India since 1951, died of multi-organ failure on Monday (Reuters, Economic Times, WSJ, Times of India). Through the bald, bespectacled, and dhoti (a traditional Indian wraparound garment)-wearing ‘Common Man,’ Laxman satirized Indian life and commented on numerous issues in India, including corrupt politicians. Laxman was quoted saying: “I wouldn’t say politicians represent the country. I don’t think they do. They have forgotten the common man, they think the common man belongs to them, to serve them” (BBC). Modi tweeted: “India will miss you RK Laxman. We are grateful to you for adding the much needed humour in our lives & always bringing smiles on our faces.” Laxman was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan as well as the Padma Vibhushan, the second and third highest civilian awards in India.
PM Modi’s pinstripes creates waves
Modi’s navy blue Indian jacket and pants with yellow pinstripes, which he wore during bilateral talks with Obama on Sunday, created a storm on Twitter, according to news reports on Monday (NDTV, WSJ, BBC). The pinstripes were not simple stitching; they had “Narendra Damodardas Modi” repeatedly stitched into the fabric. Damodardas, was Modi’s father, a tea seller. While Modi’s fans expressed their love for the look on Twitter, many users criticized the suit, with one user saying the outfit was the “height of narcissistic behaviour,” and another describing it as “a case of crazed self-obsession.” Further, a user on Twitter called Modi’s outfit a “vanity-striped suit” and tweeted: “Maybe he was afraid that someone would steal his clothes?” Shehzad Poonawalla, a supporter of the Congress party, said: “The levels of megalomania and narcissism are unparalleled… it reveals a lot about the mindset of the man” (Reuters). The Daily Mail reported that then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had similarly appeared in a suit with his name inscribed into the pinstripes in 2011.
Banned leader speaks at rally, opens ambulance service
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organization listed by the United Nations and the United States as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba and reportedly banned by Pakistan this month, spoke before a rally of thousands in Karachi on Sunday (WSJ). During the speech, Saeed stated: “They call us terrorists, but I tell you that the United States, the biggest terrorist in the world, is meeting India, the terrorist’s disciple, today.” The rally appears to have had government permission and security personnel diverted traffic for the rally. On Monday, the charity wing of Jamaat-ud-Dawa launched an ambulance service in Karachi (Dawn). Saeed spoke before reporters telling them: “This [welfare work] is our key area for which we are known across Pakistan.” Saeed also rejected any implication that Pakistani governmental action was constraining the group stating: “So we are not going to abandon these projects. A certain class and a certain group are targeting our organisation for a certain agenda. We are not a political party so any propaganda to malign us would not prevent us from our actual job, which is not to win votes but to win the hearts of people through social services.”
Pakistan accuses India of terrorism
Pakistan accused India of supporting terrorism, handing a dossier of evidence of the claim to the United States, according to information revealed during an on-camera meeting of Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Defense on Monday (ET). During the meeting defense officials accused India of using Afghanistan to attack Pakistan. The accusation comes amid increased American pressure on Pakistan to confront terrorism as well as renewed Indian demands for action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa. According to Pakistani officials, this is the first time the country has shared evidence of its accusations with U.S. officials.
Fog, pipeline leakage causes electricity suspension
Fog and leakage from a gas pipeline tripped eleven units at the Guddu Thermal Power Plant suspending power to parts of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab according to official statements on Tuesday (Dawn). The failure at the Guddu plants follows a nationwide blackout on Sunday that affected 80% of Pakistan. The nationwide blackout was blamed on a rebel attack on a transmission line in Balochistan.
MQM stage walkout of Sindh assembly
On Tuesday the Muttahida Qaumi Movement walked out of the Sindh assembly during a speech by Sindh’s Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, who belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party (ET, Dawn). The walk out came as Shah alleged that members of the MQM party had attacked the chief minister’s house during a protest resulting in the deaths of members of the Pakistan People’s Party. Faisal Sabzwari, the MQM deputy parliamentary leader, criticized Shah’s speech stating: “We only brought bodies of our innocent workers to protest. Can we not even protest outside your palace?”
USAID suspends major nonprofit contractor in Afghanistan
On Monday the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it had suspended International Relief and Development (IRD), one of the largest federal nonprofit contractors for “serious misconduct” (Post, NYT, Pajhwok, TOLO News). A statement from USAID read: “The Agency’s review revealed serious misconduct in IRD’s performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility. USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds.” The suspension follows a year of investigation into IRD’s activities by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Over the past eight years, IRD received $2.4 billion in contracts most of which were aimed at Iraq and Afghanistan.
Taliban confirm China visit
The Taliban confirmed on Tuesday that a Taliban delegation had attended renewed peace negotiations in China but rejected reports that China was acting as a mediator (Pajhwok). The confirmation follows reports last month that a two-man delegation had visited China for negotiations. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated: “We are in contacts with the global community, specifically neighbouring countries. We are in touch with other states as well” continuing, “We are in favour of peace talks and our delegations have travelled to other countries also to ensure peace in the country. However, reports that we have asked China to play a mediator’s role are baseless and concocted.”
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images