The South Asia Channel

US Criticizes India’s Crackdown on NGO’s; US Due to Stop Managing Afghan Airspace; Pakistan Seizes Hashish Bound for Europe

India U.S. criticizes India’s recent crackdown on NGOs U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma on Wednesday criticized India’s recent crackdown on non-governmental organizations, calling out the “potentially chilling effect” on civil society in India (Economic Times, NYT, Hindustan Times). In a rare public rebuke, Verma said: “I read with some concern the recent press reports ...

US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma leaves the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on May 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGH        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma leaves the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on May 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

India

U.S. criticizes India’s recent crackdown on NGOs

U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma on Wednesday criticized India’s recent crackdown on non-governmental organizations, calling out the “potentially chilling effect” on civil society in India (Economic Times, NYT, Hindustan Times). In a rare public rebuke, Verma said: “I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by N.G.O.s operating in India” (Hindustan Times). Verma’s comments coincide with reports that India is investigating the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a major donor to central and state governments, local charities, and academic institutions.

Also on the “watch list” among many dozens are Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation, who was added last month and is now required to request approval before making grants to Indian organizations. The Ministry of Home Affairs claimed it was acting to prevent donations from threatening national security. Last month, the ministry cancelled nearly 9,000 registrations on the basis of unfiled annual returns. According to the Economic Times, the Modi-led government has cancelled more than 10,000 NGO registrations, frozen the bank accounts of 34 associations, blocked 69 groups from foreign contributions, and has placed 16 foreign donor agencies under the ‘Prior Permission’ category (Economic Times).

India passes Bangladesh land deal

India’s Rajya Sabha, the country’s upper house of parliament, passed on Wednesday a long-pending land boundary bill that will enable the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh (LiveMint, Times of India, The Hindu). In a move that is expected to improve bilateral relations, the unanimous passage revives the May 1974 agreement, which stipulates the acquisition of territories by India and the transfer of others to Bangladesh. “This is a historic situation,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said (LiveMint). She continued: “We are going to implement the agreement after 41 years [and] I am happy that everyone supported the bill.”

Swaraj, who won support from the opposition by crediting former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his leadership on the bill, publicly thanked him. “[He] is the one who started the whole thing. I have merely completed the task,” she said, thanking the former prime minister who was present in the House (Times of India). The bill will go to India’s lower house on Thursday for a vote. Modi is expected to visit Bangladesh next month.

Afghanistan

U.S. due to stop managing Afghan airspace in June

The United States is due to stop managing Afghan airspace by the end of June after its air-traffic control contract with the government in Kabul expires, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday (WaPo). The expiration of the contract could lead to interntational airlines cancelling flights into and over the country, which would cost the Afghan government millions of dollars in revenue. The Afghan airspace has become a key air corridor between Europe and Asia and has been managed the U.S.-led international military coalition or foreign companies paid by donor countries since 2001. The air traffic over Afghanistan, as well as to and from the Central Asian country generates about $33 million a year, according to Mohammad Qassim Wafayezada, the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority’s deputy director general on policy and planning.

Afghan government battles ISIS, Taliban in Kunduz

The Afghan government launched a major offensive against the Taliban near the north-eastern provincial capital of Kunduz on Thursday in an attempt to regain territory seized by militants at the end of April (RFE/RL). Afghan officials say that foreign jihadists trained by the Islamic State (ISIS) are fighting alongside the Taliban in Kunduz province, and that the bodies of 18 foreign fighters were recovered, two of whom were women. In other parts of the country, the Taliban and ISIS have clashed, but according to Mohammad Omar Safi, the provincial governor, in Kunduz, ISIS fighters are “supporting the Taliban, training the Taliban, trying to build the capacity of the Taliban for a bigger fight” (BBC).

Pakistan

Pakistan seizes hashish bound for Middle East, Europe

Pakistani authorities seized more than 3 tonnes of hashish bound for the Middle East and Europe on an oil tanker, one of the country’s largest hauls of the drug ever, officials said Wednesday (Reuters). The drugs were found late Tuesday after a tip-off. The tanker had set sail from Karachi, and the hashish was kept in secret compartments specifically built for smuggling, according to police officer Chakar Khan. The drugs were estimated to be worth around $50 million on the international market.

U.S. arms Pakistan with used weapons

The United States has provided Pakistan with 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets, and 374 armored personnel carriers, which were earlier used by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service and media reports on Thursday (EconomicTimes, ET). As the United States withdraws its forces from Afghanistan, some of the weapons being left behind have been offered to allies in the region, including Afghanistan. Further, according to the report, Pakistan has either made or will make full payments from its national funds towards the purchase of 18 new F-16C/D Block 52 Fight Falcon combat aircraft, worth $1.43 billion.

— Jameel Khan Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

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. Twitter: @emilydsch
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