The South Asia Channel
Delhi Sees Worst Dengue Outbreak in Five Years; AfPak Trade Down 40 Percent; Pakistan, China Joint Military Exercise Concludes
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Editor’s Note: Check out the new Editor’s Roundtable (The E.R.) episode, posted today on iTunes and foreignpolicy.com. In this week’s conversation, FP Group’s CEO and editor David Rothkopf sits down with guests Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake, and Robert Kagan to discuss why we are at a crossroads for American power and whether or not Barack Obama is the exception or the rule when it comes to American exceptionalism. Download and subscribe here: http://atfp.co/1N5rv3Z
Delhi sees the worst dengue outbreak in five years
According to health officials in the Indian capital New Delhi, the city is suffering from the worst outbreak of the dengue fever in the past five years (BBC, Hindu). The BBC reports that more than 1,800 cases have been recorded in recent weeks, compared to 1,695 cases for all of 2010. The emergency services in the city are reported to be under tremendous pressure while the government has been severely criticized for not managing the situation well enough. Last week, a couple committed suicide when their seven-year-old son died after allegedly being denied admission to five hospitals. Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain ordered 1,000 extra beds and the setting up of “fever clinics” in emergency rooms. Dengue virus is a water-borne virus that is transmitted through mosquito bites. The number of dengue cases rises in India towards the latter half of the monsoon season every year.
World Bank ranks Gujarat as the best Indian state to do business in
A World Bank report released on Monday ranks Gujarat as the best state in India to do business in, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh (Reuters, NYT, LiveMint). The report prepared in conjunction with the firm KPMG, measured difficulty of setting up businesses, getting bank loans or government permits, compliance with environmental and labor regulations, enforcing contracts, and property registration. The World Bank is set to release a global ease of business report next month and did the domestic Indian study at the request of the Indian government. Internationally India does not fare very well in terms of ease of business ranking, coming in at 142 out of 189 countries, according to Reuters, but improving this rank has been a top priority for the Modi government with an ambitious target of reaching top 50 by 2017.
Air India grounds 125 cabin crewmembers for being overweight
India’s national carrier, Air India announced last week that they will ground 125 flight attendants, mostly women, for being overweight (WP, Time). The company claims the measure comes out of safety concerns, arguing that agility is vital in emergency situations. Last year 600 flight attendants were given a six-month probationary period to drop their body weights to an acceptable range. Air India has taken similar measures in the past and has successfully defended them in court (BBC).
Indian government to launch its own operating system
Reports suggest that the Indian government is all set to launch its own custom built operating system called the “Bharat Operating System Solution” for use in all government offices within the next few months (ZeeNews, Deccan Chronicle). The Linux based operating system has been developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and Gujarat Technical University. The Indian government currently relies on Microsoft Windows operating system across its offices and the transition can expected to take up to two years.
Bonus read: “Afghan Refugee Named UN Award Winner for Girls School,” (VOA)
AfPak trade down 40 percent
On Monday, officials from the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that trade in the last three months between the two countries has dropped by 40 percent (TOLO News). In 2014, the total trade volume between Afghanistan and Pakistan was $9 billion; this year’s projections are expected to barely reach $5 billion.
The officials say that Afghan businessmen have reduced the number of products that they import, especially food, with many informally boycotting Pakistani products, particularly in Kabul. Other factors in the decrease include transit issues, increased customs tariffs, and the worsening economy.
Ministry of Interior probe into jailbreak
The Ministry of Interior spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, announced on Monday an investigation into the Taliban’s attack on a jail in Ghazni that resulted in the escape of 355 inmates (TOLO News). “A team of investigators has been sent to Ghazni to probe the incident and to find out what happened,” Sediqqi said. Ministry officials have said that a search for the inmates is underway but lawmakers have criticized the government’s handling of the incident. “According to our information a manhunt wasn’t launched immediately to track down the prisoners. This shows government’s fifth pillar planned the break,” an Afghan member of parliament said. The “fifth pillar” of government in Afghanistan is the belief that double agents are working against the national interest.
New election laws in place
On Monday, the Ministry of Justice announced that new election laws based on the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Commission and on the legislative decree of the president are now in place (TOLO News). Sayed Mohammad Hashemi, deputy minister of justice for administrative affairs, said that the implementation of the law is now the responsibility of the National Unity Government. The government must now form a selection committee of seven members — down from nine — that will then choose the date of the parliamentary elections.
Bonus read: “In Pakistan solar water heaters help a town move away from wood,” (Reuters)
Pakistan, China joint military exercise concludes
At the close of joint military exercises between Pakistan and China on Tuesday, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif said that the military relations between the two “will grow to unprecedented heights” (Dawn, ET). Gen. Sharif visited Bahadur Ranges (Attock), in Punjab province, where the seven week-long Joint Field Exercise Warrior-III was held with the People’s Liberation Army under Gen. Li Fayi to train forces in counterterrorism.
Farm relief package announced
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Tuesday a Rs 341 billion ($3.27 billion) relief package for farmers that has already been approved by his cabinet (Dawn, ET). Addressing farmers at a ceremony in Islamabad, Sharif said: “The relief package has been designed in four parts, with the first part being direct financial cooperation for farmers, second being relief in agricultural costs, third being provision of agricultural loans and fourth being facilitating the process of obtaining loans.” Small rice farmers and cotton growers will also receive Rs 5,000 ($47.94) in cash assistance per acre, the government will pay the insurance premiums for 700,000 small farmers, and interest-free loans will be given to small farmers for installing solar-powered tube-wells. The falling prices of commodities and the increase in the prices of agriculture inputs has raised the cost of production causing financial problems for many small farmers.
Women in Upper Dir vote for first time in 45 years
On Tuesday, the women of Upper Dir III in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province voted for the first time since the 1970 election after which the district banned women from voting (ET). Out of the 148,076 registered voters in the area, 57,708 are women. At the 120 polling stations, 7,000 police officers have been posted to prevent violence, however, no incidents of violence have been reported yet.
— Shuja Malik and Courtney Schuster
Edited by Peter Bergen
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images