The South Asia Channel
Pakistan Tests New Missile; Modi Makes Rounds Among Indian Ocean States; Afghan Refugees to be Legalized
Pakistan Pakistan tests new missile Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to India, the Washington Post reported on Monday (Post). The new missile, called the Shaheen-III, has a range of up to 1,700 miles, which would also enable it to reach the Middle East. “The test launch was ...
Pakistan tests new missile
Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to India, the Washington Post reported on Monday (Post). The new missile, called the Shaheen-III, has a range of up to 1,700 miles, which would also enable it to reach the Middle East. “The test launch was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system at maximum range,” the Pakistan military said in a statement. The missile is part of an effort to maintain a “credible deterrence” as neighboring India continues to invest in weapons.
Watch groups save lives ahead of natural disasters
Over the last three years, embers of local hazard watch groups have saved hundreds of lives in remote villages across Pakistan that are prone to flash flooding (Reuters). Hazard watch groups are financed by the U.N. Adaptation Fund, and were implemented by the United Nationals Development Programme and the Pakistani government during a project launched in 2011. The project aims to reduce the vulnerability of the country’s communities that reside in the mountains, where glacial lake floods are a common, and deadly, occurrence. In the spring of 2013, almost 900 people and hundreds of cattle were saved after a watch group evacuated them from Chirah Bala village.
Modi tours Indian Ocean states, sends signal to China
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began a five-day, three-country tour on Tuesday to the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka, a region of the Indian Ocean where analysts allege China has been seeking to increase its military presence (LiveMint, Zee News, VOA). Strengthening economic and military ties between India and the three countries are the goals of Modi’s trip, which is happening against the backdrop of an increasing defense budget, an expansion of India’s naval forces, and a budding maritime competition with China’s so-called “string of pearls” naval strategy in the Indian Ocean.
“Modi’s visit to the Indian Ocean reflects the heightened strategic significance of these island states in Indian thinking,” said David Brewster, a specialist in Indo-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra (LiveMint). “India takes great exception to the presence of extra-regional powers in the Indian Ocean and the reaction of New Delhi to the sub visits was an indication of that.”
In the Seychelles, Modi is expected to sign a water-mapping agreement and hold summit talks with President James Alexis Michel. During his second stop, in the small island nation of Mauritius, Modi will commission an Indian-built patrol vessel and meet Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth. Sri Lanka will be his last stop, where an Indian prime minister has not visited for 28 years. Colombo’s national elections in January ousted the China-courting Mahinda Rajapaksa, bringing in a government led by Maithripala Sirisena, who is reducing the country’s dependence on China (LiveMint). Modi’s trip is aimed at balancing China’s influence in the region, where it has invested in infrastructure and development in these nations.
India sets target to clean Ganges River by 2020
India’s National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) has set a target year of 2020 to ensure the Ganges River is free of sewage and industrial effluents (LiveMint, Business Standard). Reviving the Ganges, India’s largest waterway, which runs 2,525 kilometers, will happen in three, five, and ten-year phases, says Minister of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti, who spoke about the initiative on Monday in Parliament.
According to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board, untreated effluents from 764 industries, 56 cities, and 31 towns are discharged into the Ganges. The NGRBA will provide funding for pollution abatement projects on a 70:30 cost-sharing plan between states and the national government. Also contributing to the initiative are foreign entities such as the World Bank-assisted National Ganga River Basin Project and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is assisting with a sewage management project in Varanasi. Originating from a Himalayan glacier, the Ganges is the most sacred river for Hindus — reverently called ‘mother’ by many — and serves as a lifeline for millions of Indians.
Hindu groups threaten India’s beef boom
Right-wing Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have beefed up efforts over the past year to end the slaughter of cows and achieve a national beef ban in India, according to various news sources (LiveMint, VOA, Business Insider). Shafiullah Mohammad Sharif Shah, a meat transporter, was carrying buffalos to a slaughterhouse outside Mumbai in December when his truck was set ablaze by Hindu vigilantes. “The atmosphere in the [slaughterhouse] is very tense,” said Shah (LiveMint). “We’re being harassed everywhere and the attacks are worsening. The industry doesn’t know how to deal with this and everyone from transporters to dealers and farmers is scared.”
Since the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatyia Janata Party advocates tighter restrictions on cow slaughter, attacks have increased (LiveMint). In the past 10 months, 600 incidents of harassment were reported in Maharashtra compared to 200 to 300 over the previous five years, according to Khaliq Qureshi, chairman of the All Maharashtra Cattle Merchants Association in Mumbai.
Legitimate business, government-owned slaughterhouses, and meat transporters are often subject to attack in India. According to the association, transporters are often blocked on their routes and beaten. Last week, the state of Maharashtra imposed a beef ban in a move that was welcomed by Hindu groups, but slammed by mostly Muslim businesses (VOA). Fines for selling or consuming beef can lead to prison terms of up to five years. The beef dispute is centuries-old in a country dominated by one billion Hindus who hold dairy cows sacred and embrace vegetarianism (LiveMint). Globally, India’s beef exports rank second and its beef consumption ranks sixth.
Afghan refugees in Pakistan to be legalized
Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday agreed to form a joint committee that will legalize the stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan (Pajhwok, ET). The agreement came as a result of a meeting by an Afghan delegation, led by Alami Balkhi, the refugee and repatriation minister, with Pakistani officials, including Abdul Qadir Balock, the federal refugee and border minister. Both ministers agreed that a comprehensive plan for registering the Afghan refugees and legalizing their stay was needed. So far, there have been 5,000 Afghans detained and hundreds of others deported as a result of increased security measures in Pakistan after the deadly attack on a school in Peshawar, which killed 150 children.
ISIS members killed in Farah
At least 14 people, some of whom were members of ISIS, were killed during a clash in the Bala Baluk district of western Farah province on Tuesday (Pajhwok). Mohammad Hamid Rezayee, the spokesman for the 207th Zafar military corps, told Pajhwok Afghan News that a number of Taliban militants and ISIS members jointly attacked Afghan National Army posts Tuesday morning. Two soldiers were killed in the firefight.
ISIS is spreading to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya, according to Michel Coulombe, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CBC). During a Canadian Senate defense committee hearing on Monday, Coulombe said: “ISIS started in Iraq and Syria, but what we’re seeing now … it’s spreading in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan.” The Senate is considering two bills that would allow the Canadian intelligence service to gather intelligence outside of Canada, which they are barred from doing currently.
— Emily Schneider and Jameel Khan
Edited by Peter Bergen
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