The South Asia Channel
Pakistan Celebrates Republic Day for First Time in Seven Years; Ghani Says ISIS Targeting Afghanistan; India, China to Hold Talks
Pakistan Pakistan’s military holds first Republic Day in seven years Pakistan held its first Republic Day parade in seven years on Monday (Reuters, Dawn). The parade, a symbolic show of strength that started with a 31-gun salute at dawn, included personnel from all three military branches: the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The parade had ...
Pakistan’s military holds first Republic Day in seven years
Pakistan held its first Republic Day parade in seven years on Monday (Reuters, Dawn). The parade, a symbolic show of strength that started with a 31-gun salute at dawn, included personnel from all three military branches: the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The parade had been cancelled in previous years because of security concerns, and this year, security around the event was tight, with cell phone networks blocked in an attempt to prevent attacks. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the parade and issued a statement on the threat from militants and terrorists, saying: “Pakistan is resolved to redeem its pledge given to its founding fathers that it will protect the homeland.”
As part of the celebration, Pakistan unveiled its first locally-manufactured armed drone (AP). State television coverage showed Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, and army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif applauding as the unmanned aerial vehicle took off. According to data collected by New America, there are now 46 countries producing drones domestically (NewAmerica).
Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi greeted Sharif on Republic Day; he tweeted: “I have written to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif, conveying my greetings on the National Day of Pakistan,” adding further: “It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror & violence.” However, India also reacted on Monday to the Pakistani Embassy inviting Indian separatist leaders to their Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi (ET). Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of external affairs, said: “The Government of India prefers to speak for itself. There should be no scope for misunderstanding or misinterpretation on India’s position on role of ‘so-called’ Hurriyat [separatist]… Let me reiterate there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in resolution of India-Pakistan issues” (NDTV).
Pakistan says 80 militants killed in Khyber agency
Pakistani troops killed 80 militants in the past few days in heavy clashes near the mountainous border with Afghanistan, a spokesman said on Sunday (Reuters). While the Pakistani Taliban did not confirm the number of their fighers killed, the militant group did say that six Pakistani soldiers had died in the fighting. Fighter jets have been focusing on positions in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region over the past few days, dislodging terrorists from bases and forcing many to flee towards the border. “Operations will continue with full force till total terrorist elimination from these areas,” said gen. Asim Bajwa, the head of the army’s media wing, on his Twitter account.
Bonus read: Why U.S. troops need to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2016,” Peter Bergen (CNN)
Ghani says ISIS is targeting Afghanistan
In an interview with NBC News’ Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell that will air Monday at noon, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that ISIS views Afghanistan as a key component in its broader goal to establish a caliphate in the Middle East (NBC). He also said that there is evidence that ISIS is already organizing inside the country. “Fortunately, we’ve prevented them from acting,” Ghani told Mitchell, adding: “But we have sufficient evidence that they were targeting us because to their narrative, to their story line, Afghanistan is central.” In response to a question about whether or not he would push President Barack Obama to keep U.S. troops in the country past 2016, Ghani said: “We need to examine the situation together, reach a common understanding, and on the basis of that, make decisions on those critical questions.” Bonus read: “For Obama, Ghani Offers Hope of a Less Fracticious Relationship,” Michael D. Shear and Matthew Rosenberg (NYT).
Afghan women bury ‘daughter of Afghanistan’
On Sunday, black-clad women broke Afghan funeral customs by carrying the coffin of Farkhunda, a woman who, after being accused of burning pages of the Koran, was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul last week (Post). Farkhunda, who went by only one name, was attacked by a mob of mostly men and beaten to death; her body was then thrown off a roof and run over by a car before being burned. Much of the incident was caught on video and circulated widely on social media. Hundreds of people attended the funeral, demanding justice for Farkhunda, who, according to an interior ministry official, was “totally innocent” (BBC). Funeral goers chanted: “Farkhunda is a daughter of Afghanistan. Today it is her, tomorrow it could be us,” according to freelance journalist Courtney Body, who attended the funeral. Gen. Mohammad Zahir told reporters that 13 people, including eight police officers, had been arrested in connection with the case.
India, China to hold border talks
Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval will hold talks with Yang Jiechi, China’s special representative, in New Delhi this week, in the hope of resolving an ongoing border dispute, according to news reports on Monday (BBC, WSJ, Economic Times). This will be the first discussion between the two countries since Modi came to power in 2014. This meeting on the Indo-China border dispute comes ahead of Modi’s scheduled visit to China in May. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014, India and China had their biggest military standoff in decades, with both countries mobilizing troops along the border.
Modi delivers radio address
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his monthly radio speech — titled “Mann ki Baat” (A talk from the heart) — on Sunday and said that opposition parties were misleading the people about a land acquisition bill (NDTV, Indian Express). In his 30-minute-address, Modi spoke about the controversial bill, which is facing challenges in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) — where the Modi government has a minority — and said: “There is a conspiracy to not allow development of farmers and stop development of the country. I am surprised at the kind of myths being spread by people. I appeal to farmers not to believe these myths, it is only for political gains. The government will always work for the benefit of the farmers” (Livemint). While opposition parties have united to oppose the bill, stating that it will force farmers and the poor to lose their lands, the government says it will expedite pending infrastructure projects.
— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images