The South Asia Channel
White House Denies Assertions About Bin Laden Raid; Another Earthquake in Nepal; Blogger Killed in Bangladesh; Chinese Smartphones in India; Bomb Blast Kills 5 Afghans
Pakistan White House denies journalist’s assertions on bin Laden raid On Monday, the White House responded to a controversial report by journalist Seymour Hersh, dismissing it as “baseless” (CNN, RFE/RL). Hersh wrote in the London Review of Books on Sunday that the U.S. government secretly cooperated with Pakistani intelligence officials to kill bin Laden, and ...
White House denies journalist’s assertions on bin Laden raid
On Monday, the White House responded to a controversial report by journalist Seymour Hersh, dismissing it as “baseless” (CNN, RFE/RL). Hersh wrote in the London Review of Books on Sunday that the U.S. government secretly cooperated with Pakistani intelligence officials to kill bin Laden, and that top Pakistani Army intelligence officials knew about the raid. Ned Price, the White House National Security spokesman, said on Monday that “the notion that the operation that killed Osama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false.” He added: “As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The president decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred.” During the daily press briefing on Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest again dismissed the report, citing CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen’s comment that “what’s true in this story isn’t new, and what’s new in the story isn’t true” (CNN).
Pakistani PM, Officials Arrive in Kabul
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Kabul today for key talks on increasing cooperation between the neighboring countries in fighting militant groups (AP, Pajhwok, VOA). Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif and the head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Gen. Gizwan Akhtar are also part of the visiting delegation. This is the first time Sharif is visiting Kabul after the installation of the National UnitY Government, and the delegation is holding separate meetings with both Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
Another earthquake in Nepal, India prepares aid
A second major earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday, with dozens of deaths reported and thousands more injured. The U.S. Geological Survey assigned the new earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, compared to 7.8 assigned to the April 25 earthquake. (New York Times). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with top Indian officials to monitor the situation. Modi’s office tweeted that he has “directed all concerned authorities to be on alert for carrying out rescue and relief operations, as required” (NDTV). Per initial reports, at least two people were killed by the earthquake in the Indian state of Bihar, which borders Nepal (Times of India). Tremors from the earthquake were felt as far away as Delhi, where Metro services were briefly suspended (India Today).
Atheist blogger killed in machete attack
Ananta Bijoy Das, a Bangladeshi atheist blogger, was murdered in the city of Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh (The Guardian, CNN). Das was hacked to death by four masked attackers with machetes, according to the police. This is the third such murder in Bangladesh this year. Das wrote blogs for the Mukto-Muno website, which used to be moderated by Avijit Roy, who was himself stabbed to death in February in Dhaka, the capital. While Kamrul Hasan, the commissioner of Sylhet police, declined to offer a motive for the attack, the previous two attacks have been attributed to Islamic militants opposed to the victims’ secular views.
Chinese smartphone makers eye Indian market
The New York Times reported on Monday that Chinese smartphone manufacturing companies are increasingly shifting their focus towards India (New York Times). The Chinese smartphone market has become more and more saturated, with 800 million smartphone users in the country. Fewer new buyers, coupled with a slowing economy, has diminished growth prospects within China. Instead, Chinese smartphone makers are targeting the Indian market, which is sized at $14.5 billion and rapidly growing. Indians are expected to buy 111 million smartphones in 2015 and 149 million in 2016. Chinese companies like Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Gionee are planning to set up research and development facilities in India.
Modi set to be first Indian PM to visit Mongolia
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit East Asia this week, and his meeting with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing will be a highly anticipated event. Following his visit to China, Modi will also visit Mongolia on May 17, the first such visit by an Indian Prime Minister (Times of India). Noted South Asia scholar C. Raja Mohan argues that there is a strategic element to Modi’s Mongolia trip, as India and China compete for influence within each other’s neighborhoods (Indian Express).
Roadside bomb kills 5 civilians
A roadside bomb killed five civilians and wounded three others in Kandahar province on Tuesday (RFE/RL, TOLO). Samim Akhplwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor, said that two women and one child were wounded in the blast and that an investigation is underway to determine if it was an old mine or a bomb planted by the Taliban (AP). The Taliban have not yet claimed responsibility for the bomb, but Kandahar province is the staging ground for their insurgency.
Taliban, security forces battle in Herat
Skirmishes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Herat province continued on Tuesday, as dozens of insurgents attacked a number of security checkpoints in the Shindand district (Pajhwok, TOLO). Abdul Rauf, a police spokesperson, said that 20 rebels were killed during the fighting, but other officials declined to give a count of casualties. On Saturday, Taliban insurgents attacked and gained control of Jawand district in western Badghis province. The recent uptick in fighting is attributed to the beginning of the Taliban’s spring offensive last month.
— Udit Banerjea and Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen