Ghani Thanks US for Support; Indian Supreme Court Upholds Free Speech Online; Pakistan Needs More Nukes, Says Advisor
Afghanistan Bonus read: “High Stakes for President Ghani’s Visit,” Scott Smith (SouthAsia) Ghani thanks U.S. for support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started his first visit to the United States as president on Monday with a clear message of gratitude for U.S. support (NYT, BBC). Ghani also declared a new phase in relations between Afghanistan and ...
Bonus read: “High Stakes for President Ghani’s Visit,” Scott Smith (SouthAsia)
Ghani thanks U.S. for support
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started his first visit to the United States as president on Monday with a clear message of gratitude for U.S. support (NYT, BBC). Ghani also declared a new phase in relations between Afghanistan and the United States, stressing his commitment to combating militancy and making Afghanistan a stable democracy. “It’s time for Afghanistan to reciprocate the gift that the United States has so generously provided over the years,” Ghani told reporters, adding: “Reciprocating the gift means owning our problems, solving them and asking of ourselves what we must do for ourselves and for the region.” Ghani began his trip at the Pentagon, speaking to American troops and their families; then, after meetings with U.S. officials, he held a news conference at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
It is expected that, during the trip, Ghani will urge U.S. President Barack Obama not to withdraw American military forces from Afghanistan as quickly as planned. “The question is how much flexibility is there in the drawdown between where [the United States] stand[s] today and that end point in early 2017,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters at the White House on Monday (NYT). He added: “President Ghani has indicated a desire to bring that up and discuss that personally with the president.” Ghani and Obama are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House and will hold a news conference afterward.
Afghan gunmen kill 13, suspected drone strike kills nine
Gunmen in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 13 people during a midnight assault on Tuesday (NYT, BBC). According to reports, the gunmen opened fire on three separate vehicles on a highway in Wardak province’s Sayad Abad district. Although the Taliban hold much of the territory in that area, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, two intelligence officials in Pakistan told the New York Times that a suspected U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province killed at least nine militants associated with the Laskhar-e-Islam group (NYT). That group recently announced that it was joining the Pakistani Taliban.
Supreme Court upholds free speech on the Internet
The Indian Supreme Court struck down legislation that allows the police to make arrests over contentious social media posts, according to news reports on Tuesday (WSJ, NDTV, Indian Express). The court ruled that the controversial Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which considered statements that could cause “annoyance, inconvenience,” and “enmity, hatred or ill will” a crime, violated constitutional guarantees of free expression. Justice R. F. Nariman said in court: “Section 66A is unconstitutional and we have no hesitation in striking it down… The public’s right to know is directly affected by section 66A” (BBC). The law was initially challenged by a law student after two girls were arrested for commenting on Facebook about a shutdown in the western city of Mumbai, following the death of a politician in 2012.
Indian home minister pledges to protect minorities
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh pledged on Monday to protect minorities in India, questioned the practice of conversion, and recommended a national debate on an anti-conversion law while addressing a conference of state minority commissioners in New Delhi (Economic Times, Livemint, NDTV). Singh said: “There is a feeling of insecurity among minorities, and it is necessary that a sense of security should be instilled in them. There are a lot of misconceptions… But the government cannot do everything” (Indian Express). Singh’s comments came at a time when there have been numerous attacks on churches in India. Further, Hindu nationalist organizations have been allegedly converting Muslims and Christians to Hinduism under under what it calls the “Ghar Wapsi” (returning home) program.
India to export defense materials
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that India was planning to train military personnel from at least 38 countries and export defense materials, according to news reports on Sunday (Livemint). Parrikar told reporters: “At least 38 countries are sending their defense personnel for training in India. We are encouraging them. We are giving them more slots. We are also considering to supply some sort of defense materials through export or through line of credit to the countries so that they can depend on India for their defense” (NDTV). Addressing India’s relations with its neighbors, Parrikar further said: “We want to create an atmosphere of peace. We want to build the position of togetherness from strength and friendship and not by threat. That is our target of strengthening our relationship” (The Hindu).
Pakistan needs short-range nukes to deter India, advisor says
Pakistan needs short-range “tactical” nuclear weapons to deter India, Khalid Kidwai, a top adviser to the Pakistani government, said on Monday (AP). Kidwai dismissed concerns that it could increase the risk of nuclear war and the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. He insisted that adequate safeguards are in place to protect the weapons. Pakistan’s development of smaller warheads built for battlefield use, coupled with the ongoing militant threat in the country, has increased international concerns that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Underage convict’s execution halted for 30 days
Shafqat Hussain’s execution has been postponed for 30 days, according to a formal letter to jail authorities on Tuesday (Dawn, ET). Hussain was supposed to be hanged on the morning of March 19, but was given a reprieve when his lawyers and activists asserted that he was only 14 years old at the time he was convicted. He was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old who went missing from an apartment building where Hussain worked. After a seven-year moratorium, Pakistan reinstated the death penalty in December 2014.
— Emily Schneider and Neeli Shah
Edited by Peter Bergen
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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