The South Asia Channel

ISIS Finds Recruitment in Pakistan Difficult; India, Pakistan Hold High Level Talks in Bangkok; Germany to Keep Troops in Afghanistan

ISIS Finds Recruitment in Pakistan Difficult; India, Pakistan Hold High Level Talks in Bangkok; Germany to Keep Troops in Afghanistan


Bonus Read: “Tashfeen Malik Was a ‘Saudi Girl’ Who Stood Out at a Pakistani University,” by Declan Walsh (NYT).

ISIS finds recruitment in Pakistan difficult

Despite the Pakistani roots of Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the ISIS-inspired attack that killed fourteen people in San Bernardino, California, ISIS faces a difficult recruiting environment in Pakistan, according to a report in the Washington Post on Saturday (Post). According to the report, the Pakistani public has turned against extremism particularly after the attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than a hundred school children. According to Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Pakistan “simply doesn’t present many opportunities” for ISIS. Despite its difficulties, ISIS has made some inroads in Pakistan. Recently Turkey handed two men from Karachi who were arrested at the Turkish-Syrian border back to Pakistan. The men were reportedly part of a 53-member ISIS linked militant group. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that 500 Pakistanis have joined ISIS – a large number – but only a third of the number who have gone to Syria from France.

Supreme Court suspends two military death sentences

On Monday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued stays on two death sentences issued by Pakistan’s military courts (ET). The Supreme Court has previously suspended death sentences from military courts. In October, it suspended the death sentence in the case of Sabir Shah, who was convicted of involvement in the sectarian killing of a lawyer, Syed Arshad Ali, in Lahore. In April, the court stayed the execution of six individuals convicted of terrorism.

Indian FM to visit Pakistan

On Tuesday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj will arrive in Pakistan for talks on Wednesday (Dawn, ET). Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, stated: “Swaraj would meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tomorrow.” Aziz commented: “This is a good beginning, the deadlock that was present has to some extent been removed.” The visit will be the first ministerial level visit by an Indian official to Pakistan since 2012.

— David Sterman


Bonus Read: “Has the Indian parliament lost its relevance?” by Baijayant Jay Panda (BBC)

India and Pakistan hold high level talks in Bangkok

Senior diplomatic officials from India and Pakistan met in Bangkok on Sunday to discuss security and terrorism issues with the goal of reducing border tensions between the two countries (WSJ, BBC, NDTV). The talks, which were attended by the national security advisors and foreign secretaries of both nations, also covered the contentious issue of Kashmir, which has been a flash point for conflict between India and Pakistan over the last 60 years. The discussions come a week after Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi met with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit. India’s opposition criticized the government for keeping the meeting a secret. “Parliament should have been informed and still should be informed regarding the whole matter,” said former external affairs minister Anand Sharma, a member of parliament from the opposition Congress party. A joint statement released after Sunday’s meeting described a “candid, cordial, and constructive atmosphere,” and both sides agreed to maintain constructive engagement.

Chennai recovering from floods

The southern city of Chennai continues to recover from last week’s heavy rains and severe flooding (NYT, WSJ, BBC, NDTV). Rail service and flights to and from the city resumed over the weekend, and power has been restored to large parts of the city. India’s banks remained open on Sunday to help provide access to cash for victims of the flood. A massive relief operation to deliver food and medicine to tens of thousands of affected people remains underway. The central government has released about $300 million in aid to the region, and 1,800 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force remain on the ground in Chennai and other nearby affected areas in the state of Tamil Nadu. More than 260 people have died in what amounted to the heaviest rainfall in a century in the region.

Report: India’s digital commerce market to reach $128 billion in 2017

India’s digital commerce market is expected to reach $128 billion by 2017, up from the current level of $42 billion, according to a joint study by Assocham and Deloitte (NDTV). The increase will largely be driven by increasing mobile and internet penetration and higher mobile commerce sales, according to the study. A major government initiative may also help pave the way for greater commercial activity over the internet. India’s government has pledged $17 billion for its “Digital India” project, which aims to provide a centralized digital portal for government services while increasing internet access in remote areas of the country. The study calls for dedicated e-commerce laws and better definition of tax policies that apply to business conducted over the internet in order for the government’s initiative to succeed.

— Udit Banerjea


Bonus Read: “In Danger in Afghanistan, Unable to Flee,” by Rod Norland (NYT).

Germany to keep troops in Afghanistan

On Sunday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen commented that Germany would keep troops in Afghanistan while visiting German forces in Mazar-e-Sharif (RFE/RL). Der Leyen said: “The basic message must be: We’re staying.” Germany plans to increase its personnel in Afghanistan from 850 to 980 through 2016.

Study finds gains in Afghan maternal health implausible

A new paper commissioned by the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group found that reported gains in Afghan maternal health are implausible (NYT). While a 2002 study found that 1,600 women died for every 100,000 live births, a 2010 USAID study determined that the maternal mortality rate had dropped to 327. However, according to the paper’s authors: “A fall as steep as signified by these two surveys has never occurred in any country, except in industrialized countries related to the discovery of antibiotics.” The authors argue that the 2010 USAID study suffered from poor methodology, including the use of untrained personnel and lack of access to conflict areas. The report finds that a more plausible rate ranged from 885 to 1,600. A statement by USAID said the data was the best available at the time, and the agency now uses the World Health Organization’s estimate of a rate of 396.

Ghani to open Heart of Asia Conference

On Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will co-inaugurate the Heart of Asia Conference in Pakistan along with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to a government official, the delegation accompanying Ghani will include Afghan First Vice-President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.and the ministers of finance, commerce and refugee affairs. Richard Olson, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, commented: “We think this is an excellent opportunity for Afghanistan to play a lead role in developing regional cooperation, particularly in the field of counterterrorism.”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen