India is the fastest growing economy; Former ISI head: Pakistan likely shared bin Laden’s position; Ghani halts order for Indian arms
Editor’s Note: New America’s Fellows Program is looking for talented U.S.-based academics in the field of international affairs to apply for our annual fellowships. We’re seeking to fund and create a community of bold thinkers with fresh perspectives on the major challenges facing our nation and our world, and support them as they work on ...
Editor’s Note: New America's Fellows Program is looking for talented U.S.-based academics in the field of international affairs to apply for our annual fellowships. We’re seeking to fund and create a community of bold thinkers with fresh perspectives on the major challenges facing our nation and our world, and support them as they work on projects that can communicate their ideas to broad audiences.
Editor’s Note: New America’s Fellows Program is looking for talented U.S.-based academics in the field of international affairs to apply for our annual fellowships. We’re seeking to fund and create a community of bold thinkers with fresh perspectives on the major challenges facing our nation and our world, and support them as they work on projects that can communicate their ideas to broad audiences.
Applications for the 2016 class are due March 1, 2015. For more information about the fellowship program and application process, please see our information page here.
Bonus Read: “Amid Complaints in India, a Real Estate Deal in Manhattan,” Stephanie Saul and Louise Story (NYT).
India is the fastest growing economy
Based on a new calculation method, India’s statistics ministry on Monday forecast that India’s annual economic growth will accelerate to 7.4 percent in the year ending in March, making it the fastest growing economy (NDTV, Forbes, Indian Express). The new estimate is significantly higher than the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) growth projection of approximately 5.5 percent under the old method. The GDP figures for the last three months were also revised to 8.2 percent from an earlier figure of 5.3 percent. While India claims the new formula is closer to international standards, many analysts indicated that the new figures do not correlate with other economic indicators.
Some economists expressed skepticism over the newly calculated figures as the RBI has been talking about a slowdown, and said that the numbers should be “taken with a pinch of salt” (BBC). Ashish Kumar, director general of the Central Statistics Office, addressed the comparison between India and China while releasing the numbers, and said: “There’s no comparison between these growth rates because of the size of the economy of China… If this kind of growth continues and China continues to perform at a lower level, then still it will take 20 to 30 years to catch up” (WSJ). China’s economy is four times larger than that of India’s.
Facebook, Reliance launch free internet.org app in India
Facebook, Inc. and Reliance Communications Ltd. launched Internet.org in India to provide free basic internet access to people who are not yet connected, according to news reports on Tuesday (Economic Times). The companies issued a joint-statement, saying: “Users can can access these services in the Internet.org Android app, at http://www.internet.org, from the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, and using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi” (Indian Express).
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page on Tuesday: “To continue connecting the world, we have to connect India” (WSJ). Zuckerberg further said that without internet access, people in India “can’t enjoy the same opportunities many of us take for granted, and the entire world is robbed of their ideas and creativity.” With this newly launched app, over 100 million users in India will have free access to websites including Wikipedia, Facebook’s own social network and messaging services, Dictionary.com, TimesJobs, and Reliance Astrology. From eight million users in 2010, Facebook presently has over 108 million users in India.
SC worried about India’s secular future
The Indian Supreme Court expressed concern on Monday about India’s secular future while hearing a petition seeking approval on the decrees issued by ecclesiastical courts or tribunals (Indian Express, Times of India). Justice Vikramjit Sen said that the law should not be forced to recognize dictates of personal law in matters including divorce, marriage, and adoption. Sen further said: “India till now is a secular country… we don’t know for how long it will continue to remain secular. There are already too many problems because of this” (The Hindu). Using honor-killings as an example, the court talked of potential dangers if religious or self-styled socio-political institutions were given legal backing.
— Neeli Shah
Former ISI head: Pakistan likely shared bin Laden’s position
The former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. Gen. (ret) Asad Durrani, gave an interview on Al Jazeera where he said Pakistan most likely sheltered Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to the May 2011 U.S. raid in Abbottabad. (Al Jazeera, Dawn). While Durrani prefaced the comments by saying he did not know exactly what happened, he continued: “My assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know [bin Laden’s position] but it was more probable that they did. And the idea was that at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been, when you can get the necessary quid pro quo.” ISI’s official position is that it did not harbor bin Laden and had no part in the 2011 U.S. raid. Durrani was the head of ISI from 1990-1992.
Sharif holds regional gas pipeline meeting
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting in Islamabad with the petroleum ministers of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and India, urging the completion of the stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline (ET, Dawn). The pipeline is designed to transverse 1,680 kilometers (1,043 miles) in the region with a supply capacity of 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum. Sharif emphasized the importance of the project for the countries, adding that a delay would add to the cost. Pakistan is currently facing a gas shortage that Sharif said the TAPI pipeline would help alleviate.
Ghani halts order for Indian arms
Government sources confirmed that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani terminated an order for Indian heavy weaponry made by former President Hamid Karzai during his last months in office, according to TOLO News (TOLO News). The Ministry of Defense deputy spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said Afghanistan has not “received weapons from India for the national army… All the equipment available to us is American, only our officers and soldiers have traveled to India for training.” Some analysts have noted this move is a way to improve Afghanistan’s ties with Pakistan.
Asia Development Bank gives aid to Afghanistan
The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has pledged $130 million in aid to Afghanistan, the Ministry of Finance announced on Tuesday (TOLO News, Pajhwok). The money will be used to develop the national transportation infrastructure, including new railway lines, increasing facilities on transit routes, and a 108-kilometer (67-mile) road in northern Badakhshan province. The Afghan government will give $16 million from its own budget for the projects. The ADB has now provided Afghanistan with grant money for infrastructure development a total of four times, amounting to $1.2 billion total.
Militants killed in drone strike
Kunar police Chief Brig Gen. Abdul Habib Sayedkhel told Pajhwok Afghan News that two Khorasan Group commanders were killed overnight in a U.S. drone strike in Khas Kunar district of Kunar province (Pajhwok). Sayedkhel added that no civilians were injured in the attack. Pakistan’s Dawn news is reporting that a drone strike took place in Nangarhar province and killed three militants (Dawn). It is unclear if these reports are two separate strikes or the same incident with conflicting information.
Girls’ school torched in Kunar
A girls’ primary school in Dangam district of Kunar province was set on fire Tuesday night, inflicting huge amounts of damage to the property (Pajhwok). Pajhwok Afghan News is reporting that militants were to blame, however, a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the fire was the result of a dispute between local residents, not Taliban involvement.
Edited by Peter Bergen
DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images
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