The South Asia Channel

Sonia Gandhi Defends India’s Ex-PM; Evidence at Trial From bin Laden’s Abbottabad Compound; Female Parliamentarian’s Body Found in Kabul

India Sonia Gandhi defends Ex-PM Sonia Gandhi, the president of India’s main opposition Congress Party, led a march of approximately 100 senior party members from the party’s office in New Delhi to the residence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday to express solidarity with Singh a day after a court summoned him over ...

NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRAURY 05:   In this photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), (L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his wife Gursharan Kaur and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi are seen ahead of the state banquet at the official residence of the state president on February 5, 2014 in new Delhi, India. Gauck is in India for an official six day visit.  (Photo by Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRAURY 05: In this photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), (L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his wife Gursharan Kaur and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi are seen ahead of the state banquet at the official residence of the state president on February 5, 2014 in new Delhi, India. Gauck is in India for an official six day visit. (Photo by Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty Images)

India

Sonia Gandhi defends Ex-PM

Sonia Gandhi, the president of India’s main opposition Congress Party, led a march of approximately 100 senior party members from the party’s office in New Delhi to the residence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday to express solidarity with Singh a day after a court summoned him over ​a​ coal mining licenses scandal (BBC, NDTV). Gandhi told reporters: “He is our former prime minister and is known not only in our country but also throughout the world as being a person of integrity and probity… We are here to show our unstinting support, our solidarity… The Congress party [IS] fully behind him, we shall fight this legally and with all our means” (WSJ). Singh has been summoned for a number of offenses, including criminal conspiracy and breach of trust, in a case where coal blocks — located in the eastern state of Odisha — were allocated to Hindalco, a Mumbai-based aluminium manufacturing company.

India offers $500 million credit to Mauritius

India and Mauritius signed five bilateral agreements on Wednesday during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island nation (Indian Express, Economic Times). Modi also offered to create a $500 million concessional line of credit to Mauritius for key infrastructure projects, and said: “I consider our security cooperation to be a cornerstone of our strategic partnership. We intend to quickly build the petroleum storage and bunkering facility in Mauritius” (NDTV). On Tuesday, Modi visited Seychelles and gifted it a Dornier DO-228 aircraft, a highly fuel-efficient and low maintenance aircraft, to carry out surveillance and anti-piracy missions in the country, and received an island on lease for surveillance purposes. Both countries also signed an agreement on conducting a hydrographic survey for maritime cooperation (Economic Times). Modi is on a five-day, three-country tour to Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka, a region of the Indian Ocean where analysts allege China has been seeking to increase its military presence.

IMF raises India’s growth forecast to 7.2 percent

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently raised India’s growth forecast to 7.2 percent from its earlier prediction of 5.6 percent for the current fiscal year — which ends in March — according to news reports on Wednesday (WSJ, Reuters). In an annual report, the IMF also said that India’s growth for the coming fiscal year is expected to be 7.5 percent instead of 6.3 percent. However, the fund’s growth predictions are lower than those of the Indian government, which predicted a 8.5 growth rate earlier this year. Paul Cashin, the IMF mission chief for India, said: “The revised growth figures support our view that economic recovery in India is under way, albeit pointing to a somewhat faster pace than we, and others, previously believed” (Livemint).

Indian doctor designs self-defense weapon for women

Pavan Kohli, an orthopedic doctor based in the western city of Pune, released a baton titled “Samiidha Bhavani” (named after the Hindu goddess of valor) on International Women’s Day on Sunday (Deccan Herald, Independent). The collapsible baton has a Samurai sword design, and includes a panic button, pepper spray, a stun gun, a pen knife, a sewing kit, and a mirror. Kohli claims that it is the “first fully-legal and complete self-defense device for women,” and that: “For office going girls… it is a multipurpose device… it’s anything what a woman wants for her dignity” (WSJ). The baton was designed using several engineering technologies, including electrical, chemical, and mechanical, and with the collaboration of experts from Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Japan.

Pakistan

Evidence at trial shows bin Laden’s rise and fall

Several new documents that were collected from the U.S. Navy SEALs that raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound were introduced into evidence at the Brooklyn-based trial of Abid Naseer, an al Qaeda operative, Peter Bergen reported on Wednesday (CNN). The documents, which were entered into evidence last month, include letters to and from bin Laden in the year leading up to his death in May 2011. The documents reveal that the CIA drone program had a devastating effect on al Qaeda’s leadership and that the organization was struggling to carry out any operation against the West. Although there is nothing in the documents that suggest Pakistan knew that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, the documents do show that al Qaeda was trying to negotiate a ceasefire with the Pakistani government through intermediaries in the Taliban and former Pakistani intelligence officials. Bonus read: “Rare Photos Reveal Osama bin Laden’s Afghan Hideout,” Phil Hirschkorn and Peter Bergen (CNN).

27 suspects detained after MQM raid

One day after Pakistani soldiers raided the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) headquarters in Karachi and arrested dozens of activists, 27 suspects appeared before an anti-terrorism court on Thursday (ET). The suspects are being held for 90 days in preventative detention while a joint interrogation team is formed to investigate MQM. On Thursday, the spokesman for the Rangers, the military entity that raided the MQM premises, said that the operation was carried out on orders of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a case was registered over the death of Waqas Ali Shah, an MQM worker, who was allegedly killed by gunfire from the Rangers during the raid (Dawn).

Afghanistan

Body of former parliamentarian found in Kabul

The body of Shehla Atta, a former female parliamentarian, was found in Kabul, according to security officials on Thursday (Pajhwok). Brig. Gen. Faird Afzali, the city’s crime branch chief, said that Atta’s body had been found within the limits of the 10th police district and that investigations were ongoing to ascertain the cause of her death. Atta was a member of parliament in 2005 and also contested the presidential election in 2009.

Taliban ambush police in Kunduz

Afghan officials said on Thursday that Taliban militants killed at least seven police officers in an ambush in northern Kunduz province (AP, RFE/RL). Nasrudding Khan, the governor of Dashti Archi district, said the officers were traveling to a neighboring province to collect their paychecks when 30 Taliban fighters attacked them. Two Taliban members were also killed during the incident. Four police officers were also killed in Parwan province on Wednesday while manning a security checkpoint.

— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen

Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via 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

Emily Schneider is a program associate in the International Security Program at New America. She is also an assistant editor of the South Asia channel. @emilydsch

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