The South Asia Channel

Bombay High Court Removes Maggi Ban; PM Sharif Refuses MQM Resignations; Afghani Drops 10 Percent

India Bombay High Court removes Maggi ban, orders additional tests On Thursday, the Bombay High Court lifted a government ban on Nestle’s popular Maggi noodles, but ordered fresh tests before the product can go back on sale (BBC, WP/AP, Reuters). Nestle had challenged the ban ordered by the country’s food safety regulator in June, after ...

An Indian shopkeeper removes packets of Nestle 'Maggi' instant noodles from the shelves in his shop in Siliguri on June 5, 2015. India's food safety regulator on June 5 banned the sale and production of Nestle's Maggi instant noodles over a health scare after tests found they contained excessive lead levels. AFP PHOTO/Diptendu DUTTA        (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian shopkeeper removes packets of Nestle 'Maggi' instant noodles from the shelves in his shop in Siliguri on June 5, 2015. India's food safety regulator on June 5 banned the sale and production of Nestle's Maggi instant noodles over a health scare after tests found they contained excessive lead levels. AFP PHOTO/Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

India

Bombay High Court removes Maggi ban, orders additional tests

On Thursday, the Bombay High Court lifted a government ban on Nestle’s popular Maggi noodles, but ordered fresh tests before the product can go back on sale (BBC, WP/AP, Reuters). Nestle had challenged the ban ordered by the country’s food safety regulator in June, after some tests found lead levels beyond statutory limits. The Swiss food multinational has always said its products are safe.

Thursday’s ruling came a day after India separately sued Nestle for $100 million over “unfair trade practices.”

The complaint against Nestle is that it caused damage to consumers through misleading advertisements related to its Maggi noodles product. On Thursday, the Bombay High Court called June’s ban on the popular noodles “arbitrary” and said it violated the “principles of natural justice.”

Parliament closes monsoon session without passing GST bill

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reform agenda suffered a major blow on Thursday when lawmakers ended the monsoon parliament session without approving a tax reform bill aimed at boosting economic growth (Reuters, HT). The Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill was considered relatively easy to pass through the parliament as it has rare bipartisan support. But it fell victim to a political impasse over allegations of impropriety against Modi’s cabinet and party colleagues.

Modi’s failure to secure parliament’s backing for the measure could push back politically contentious bills such as labor and land legislation, which businesses and economists say are critical to create jobs for millions entering the workforce. The delay in the passage of the GST bill will make it tougher for the government to meet a self-imposed deadline of next April for its launch.

Pakistan foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz will visit India on Aug 23

Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz announced on Thursday that he will visit India for security talks on August 23, in an attempt to restart efforts to improve ties, despite sporadic violence on the India-Pakistan border (Reuters, PTI, Dawn). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, agreed to a new round of talks when they met in Russia last month. As part of the rapprochement effort, the nuclear-armed neighbors agreed that India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, would hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz. However, since the prime ministers’ meeting, a series of militant attacks and border skirmishes have raised the tension between the neighbors. Aziz downplayed high expectations for the visit cautioning that it is “not a breakthrough in terms of composite dialogue and all the issues but at least it is an ice breaking on some issues.”

— Shuja Malik

Pakistan

PM refuses to accept MQM resignations

On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and parliamentary leaders from a variety of parties decided to refuse to accept the resignations of MQM lawmakers (ET). Finance Minister Ishaq Dar called MQM leader Farooq Sattar requesting that he take the resignations back. Dar stated: “The government does not want [to] see the MQM out of parliamentary politics.” The meeting tasked Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur with bringing the MQM back into the legislature (Dawn).

Zarif: Iran does not see Gwadar port, CPEC as threat

On Thursday, during a visit to Pakistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif dismissed reports that Iran opposed the development of the Gwadar port and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (ET). Zarif replied to a question regarding the project stating: “We certainly support growth and development anywhere in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan.” The comment comes amidst reports that Iran saw the project as a threat to its development of the Chahbar port. Zarif also discussed plans to expand Iranian economic cooperation with Pakistan (Dawn). Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz stated: “We agreed that enhancing bilateral collaboration in the energy sector was one of the major areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.” Iran and Pakistan are already working on a shared energy project along their border.

China, Pakistan sign $20 billion worth of MOUs

On Wednesday, China and Pakistan signed 20 memoranda of understanding for projects valued at $20 billion (ET). Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan stated: “History will not forget what accomplished today from the two days moot of this historic forum. This is sure to bring everlasting prosperity to the region.” The memoranda cover the energy, communication, social services, agriculture, health, education, and infrastructure sectors.

Afghanistan

Afghani drops 10 percent

The value of the Afghan currency, the afghani, has dropped 10 percent against the dollar in just two months (TOLO News). On Thursday, the afghani was valued at 63.50 afghanis to the dollar whereas on June 13 it was valued at 57.78 afghanis to the dollar. Reports indicate that Pakistani rupees are being used by major businesses in Afghanistan’s eastern and southern provinces while businesses in the western provinces are using the Iranian rial. Khalil Sediqi, the head of Afghanistan’s central bank warned against overly-pessimistic reactions stating: “The process needs time and the central bank is working in it.”

Odierno: Stay in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno urged the United States to stay in Afghanistan during a Pentagon press conference (Pajhwok). Odierno stated: “Things are still on a path where I think it can be successful. We have to continue to support the Afghan forces.” Odierno sounded an optimistic tone on the capacity of Afghan forces saying “The Afghan forces, in my mind, are doing a pretty good job of going after that [protecting the country]. I think the Pakistanis have done some good work against the Taliban here lately.”

Afghan appointed new special representative to Liberia

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Farid Zarif, an Afghan, as special representative for Liberia and head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Zarif is currently the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. He previously headed the Europe and Latin America Division of the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations. Zarif was also Chief Elections Officer with UNMIL from 1994-1996. Zarif also held numerous positions within earlier Afghan governments. In 1991-1992, he was Secretary General of the Economic Advisory Council for the Afghan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He also served as Principle Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Afghanistan from 1989-1991, and Deputy Foreign Minister from 1987-1989.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images

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