The South Asia Channel

Mixed Reports on Bergdahl Charges; Obama, Modi Give Radio Address; Pakistan Criticizes Indian Inclusion in Nuclear Security Group

Event Notice: “Interrogation in the 21st Century,” Thursday, January 29, 12:15 (New America) Afghanistan Mixed reports on possible Bergdahl charges On Tuesday, NBC reported that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange, would likely face charges of desertion (NBC). The report cited ...

Idaho Town Awaits Return Of Taliban Hostage Bowe Bergdahl
HAILEY, ID - JULY 13: A sign hangs taped to the outside of a store window, one of the few public displays of support for freed Afghan POW Bowe Bergdahl remaining downtown in his hometown on July 13, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Yellow ribbons that lined Hailey's Main Street constantly for the nearly five years Bergdahl was held captive are now mostly gone as are most of the signs of support that appeared in the store windows along the street after the town learned of his release. The national euphoria following Bergdahl's release quickly faded as a bitter debate ensued over whether he had deserted his post and whether his freedom was worth the risk of swapping five high-level Taliban prisoners being held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A celebration scheduled for June 28, in Hailey was cancelled over security concerns after the town received hundreds of complaints and threats of protest. Bergdahl, who has been getting help reintegrating to life after captivity at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, has not yet returned to Hailey. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Event Notice: “Interrogation in the 21st Century,” Thursday, January 29, 12:15 (New America)


Mixed reports on possible Bergdahl charges

On Tuesday, NBC reported that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange, would likely face charges of desertion (NBC). The report cited anonymous senior defense officials. The charges would have a maximum sentence of five years, and NBC’s sources say the government is considering crediting Bergdahl with the five years he was held by the Taliban. Army officials have strongly denied the report (Fox, Army Times). Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby stated: “No decision has been made with respect to the case of Sgt. Bergdahl,” continuing “None. There is no timeline to make that decision, and Gen. [Mark] Milley is being put under no pressure to make a decision.” Maj. Gen. Ronald F. Lewis, the Army’s chief of public affairs called NBC’s report “patently false.” CNN, however, reported that while no charge sheet has been signed a decision is likely in the next few days (CNN).

Voting on cabinet nominees begins

On Wednesday members of Afghanistan’s lower legislative house, the Wolsei Jirga, began voting on 18 cabinet nominees after a long and drawn out process lasting more than three months after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took office (Pajhwok, TOLO News). As of this writing, the Wolsei Jirga had approved eight of the nominees (Pajhwok). The Wolsei Jirga approved Ghani’s nominee to head the National Directorate of Security, Rahmatullah Nabil, as well as his nominees for minister of interior, minister for public health, finance minister, minister of foreign affairs, minister of refugee affairs, minister of mines, minister for rural rehabilitation, and minister of haj and religious affairs. However, Ghani’s nominees to be minister of defense and minister of the economy both failed to garner the votes necessary. The Wolsei Jirga also rejected the nominee for minister of women’s affairs (Pajhwok).

Thousands of girls prevented from receiving education

Masooma Anwari, the director of women affairs for the western part of Ghor province, told Pajhwok Afghan News that thousands of Afghan girls are being prevented from receiving education in an interview published Wednesday (Pajhwok). According to Anwari, armed groups have prevented girls from attending school in Dolina, Pasaband, Shahrak, Chahar Sada, and other northern regions adding that 70 percent of the schools were closed. Anwari also called for greater inclusion of women in governance stating: “We have great concern about the deteriorated situation of women. A number of women have participated in the election process but they could not work in offices. We demand increase of women officers in government offices.”

Wave of judicial assassinations prompts call for action

A wave of judicial assassinations in the past week has prompted calls for action from the Association of Afghan Lawyers and other members of Afghanistan’s legal community (TOLO News). On Monday, a Kabul Primary Court judge was killed by armed men following another attack in late December when armed men killed the head of the Supreme Court Secretariat. On Tuesday, Afghanistan Lawyers Association Deputy Abdul Subhan Misbah suggested the threat to judges was impacting the judicial system stating: “If a judge doesn’t feel safe, it will be difficult for him to conduct a transparent legal session.” Kabul police claim they have the individual who committed the murder on Monday in custody.

— David Sterman


Obama, Modi share values on radio address

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama’s pre-recorded show titled “Mann Ki Baat” (Words from the Heart) was broadcast on the state-owned All India Radio on Tuesday evening in India, hours after Obama concluded his three-day visit (WSJ, Economic Times, Indian Express). During the radio address which lasted a little over 30 minutes, both leaders answered questions on issues including gender bias and public health. When both leaders were asked whether they had ever imagined they would reach such high positions, Modi said he had “never imagined it,” and Obama said: “the notion that a tea-seller or somebody who’s born to a single mother like me, could end up leading our countries, is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries” (Hindustan Times). Mann Ki Baat is Modi’s monthly radio address to the nation. To read the full transcript of the joint radio address, click here.

India wants to resolve all issues with China

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that India has “honest intentions” to resolve the Indo-China border dispute, while addressing the media after inaugurating a battalion camp of the Indo Tibetan Border Police — a force which guards the India-China border — in the city of Kanpur, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday (Economic Times). Singh said: “There is a perceptional difference along the Sino-Indian border. China says here is the border. We say no, here is the border. We have been trying to resolve the border problem. China should come forward. India wants a peaceful resolution of all disputes” (NDTV). He further added: “We are not expansionist. India’s history says that we have never been expansionist. We have never attacked any country. We are worshippers of peace. China should understand this. We want to resolve all issues with honesty (imaandari ke saath)” (DNA). Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.

New Delhi may take six hours off President Obama’s life

According to an article published by Bloomberg on Monday, Obama may lose six hours from his expected lifespan after inhaling toxic air in New Delhi during his three-day visit to India (Bloomberg, Post). A World Trade Organization report from last year states that the air quality in New Delhi is the worst in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 — toxic particles that cause respiratory ailments and other diseases. In preparation for Obama’s visit, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi ordered 1,800 Swedish air purifiers (PRWeb). Speaking to reporters at a briefing in New Delhi on Monday, John Podesta, Obama’s climate counselor, said: “We weren’t concerned about bringing the president here for these meetings… The president has traveled to many places where the air is bad for one reason or other” (Economic Times).

— Neeli Shah


Pakistan criticizes Indian inclusion in Nuclear Suppliers Group

On Tuesday, Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz issued a particularly strong criticism of India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a multinational group that monitors and regulates civilian trade in nuclear material to prevent proliferation (NYT). Aziz’s statement read: “Pakistan is opposed to yet another country-specific exemption from N.S.G. rules to grant membership to India, as this would further compound the already fragile strategic stability environment in South Asia.” The statement followed President Barack Obama’s visit to India and criticized American support for an Indian seat on the United Nations Security Council, saying: “A country, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on matters of international peace and security, such as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, by no means qualifies for a special status in the Security Council.”

Pakistani ISIS operative says funded via United States

Yousaf al Salafi, an alleged ISIS commander in Pakistan who was arrested last week, confessed that he received funds via the United States according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper on Wednesday (ET). An anonymous source stated: “During the investigations, Yousaf al Salafi revealed that he was getting funding – routed through America – to run the organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.” The Express Tribune’s source added that the information had been shared with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Pakistan and that: “The matter was also taken up with CENTCOM chief General Lloyd Austin during his visit to Islamabad earlier this month.”

Government finalizing emergency steps against power breakdown

Pakistan’s government is finalizing emergency steps to prevent further breakdowns in power provision in the aftermath of a nation wide blackout that affected 80 percent of Pakistan earlier this week (Dawn). On Tuesday, Water and Power Secretary Younas Dagha told journalists that such a plan had been finalized and would be presented to the cabinet committee on energy in two to three days. Dagha identified the central problem for Pakistan’s electricity grid as a mismatch in demand and supply stating: “the basic flaw in the country’s power system is in the tight demand and supply situation so the system always remained on the edge because the national grid faced overloading and under-loading, in both cases leading to tripping.”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

Scott Olson/Getty Images

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. @neelishah

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