The South Asia Channel

Pakistan, India Trade Blame on Border Firing; U.S. Strikes Increase in Afghanistan; India Softens Foreign Direct Investment Restrictions

Pakistan Bonus Read: “New Project Sheds Light on Pakistan’s Lesser Known Feminist History,” Sanam Maher (NYT)  Pakistan accuses India of cross-border firing, drone-flying India and Pakistan traded blame on Thursday for a series of firefights and shelling over the past two days along their border in the disputed Kashmir region that killed five civilians and ...

Pakistani Rangers patrol along the Pakistan-India border area of Wagah on October 16, 2014. Cross-border firing re-erupted in the disputed region of Kashmir October 14 wounding four children, as senior Pakistani and Indian military officials spoke by phone following more than a week of deadly skirmishes.  At least 20 civilians have been killed and thousands on both sides of the de facto border have fled their homes since October 6, which marked the beginning of some of the worst frontier shelling in years.  AFP PHOTO/ Arif ALI        (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani Rangers patrol along the Pakistan-India border area of Wagah on October 16, 2014. Cross-border firing re-erupted in the disputed region of Kashmir October 14 wounding four children, as senior Pakistani and Indian military officials spoke by phone following more than a week of deadly skirmishes. At least 20 civilians have been killed and thousands on both sides of the de facto border have fled their homes since October 6, which marked the beginning of some of the worst frontier shelling in years. AFP PHOTO/ Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “New Project Sheds Light on Pakistan’s Lesser Known Feminist History,” Sanam Maher (NYT) 

Pakistan accuses India of cross-border firing, drone-flying

India and Pakistan traded blame on Thursday for a series of firefights and shelling over the past two days along their border in the disputed Kashmir region that killed five civilians and wounded nine people (Dawn, Hindu, IBT, BBC). Pakistan said four civilians were killed and five were wounded in artillery fire that struck villages Thursday near the border with India and blamed India for the casualties (AP, Dawn). The shelling occurred in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and the border villages near the Pakistani city of Sialkot, according to a Pakistani army statement. Meanwhile India’s paramilitary Border Security Force blamed Pakistan for shooting at an Indian border post and for firing mortar shells that landed in a border village on Wednesday, killing one woman and wounding four people, including a soldier at a border post.

Islamabad summoned India’s diplomatic envoy to its Foreign Office over Thursday’s incident, as well as over what it said was a violation of airspace on Wednesday. That alleged violation involved the Pakistani military claiming to have shot down an Indian spy drone on Wednesday (Reuters). India rejected the allegations, saying that none of its drones “crossed into the Pakistani side.” “None of our unmanned aerial vehicles has been shot down by them,” said Col. S.D. Goswami, an Indian army spokesman. In a photo provided by the Pakistani military, the drone appeared to be a Chinese-made DJI Phantom 3, which is used for close reconnaissance and security work, according to industry experts. Bonus Read: World of Drones, (NewAmerica)

UNICEF to launch mobile birth registration

UNICEF, in cooperation with provincial governments in Sindh and Punjab, along with Telenor Pakistan, is planning to launch a pilot mobile registration project that will allow parents to register the births of their newborns online (ET). Sarah Coleman, the UNICEF child protection chief, stated that, according to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-13, the national birth registration rate of children under the age of five was a mere 33.6 percent. The mobile registration project’s goal is to grant newborns an identity from birth, which is a fundamental right. “The main reason behind the low birth registration rate in Pakistan is lack of accessibility, no availability of required services and most of all tedious and lengthy document filling procedures,” said Coleman.

Afghanistan

U.S. increases airstrikes in Afghanistan

The American military intensified airstrikes in Afghanistan in recent weeks, including a bombing campaign against ISIS in some parts of the country (NYT). U.S. drones and warplanes fired on militants in Afghanistan in June more than twice as much as they had in previous months this year, according to military statistics. Although the vast majority of strikes appear to be focused on Taliban forces, several have also targeted ISIS members in the country. “The department anticipated a summer uptick in insurgent activity, and we were prepared to protect our forces,” said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Henrietta Levin, accounting for the increase in airstrikes. She added, though, that the United States was closely monitoring the growth of the Islamic State in Afghanistan to see if it has a “meaningful impact.”

Afghan parliament attack ‘hero’ freed from jail

An Afghan soldier who was hailed as a hero for defending parliament but was subsequently arrested for his involvement in a car crash has now been freed from prison (BBC). Sgt. Esa Khan killed six Taliban fighters who attacked parliament on June 22, receiving praise from the Ghani administration and a new home and car as a reward. However, he was arrested in July after a deadly crash involving the car he was given. He has now been freed while authorities investigate the crash, police say. Legal proceedings against Khan continue.

India

India softens foreign direct investment restrictions

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said India has simplified rules for foreign investment in companies by clubbing together different categories, effectively giving equal treatment to global capital entering Asia’s third largest economy (Reuters). “One of the most important decisions in relation to the investment is the introduction of composite caps for simplification of foreign direct investments,” Jaitley told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Jaitley said foreign direct investment, foreign portfolio investment and investments by non-resident Indians would be “clubbed together under a composite cap.” The move will make it easier for banks to raise capital up to a foreign ownership limit of 74 percent. Previously, foreign capital had been subject to varying restrictions, a legacy of India’s socialist past and its lingering reluctance to allow capital to move freely across its borders.

Citizens being asked to choose India or Bangladesh as their home country

Tens of thousands of people living in the bordering region of India and Bangladesh are being given the option of choosing either India or Bangladesh as their home country of citizenship (BBC). In May, India’s parliament approved a key agreement with Bangladesh enabling the two countries to exchange control of areas of land on each other’s territory. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis live in 51 enclaves in India, while Indians live in 111 areas within Bangladesh. The residents lack access to public services. Under the new agreement, more than 50,000 villagers from both sides will be given the option to choose where they want to live and which nationality they would prefer. The enclaves will cease to exist on 31 July. Earlier this month officials of two countries began asking the residents of the enclaves which nationality they want to opt for after the exchange of enclaves. Reports say the two sides will finalize the list by the end of July and arrange for the rehabilitation of the citizens in the country of their choice. 

— Emily Schneider and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen

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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