The South Asia Channel
India and Pakistan Agree to Renew Peace Talks; Afghanistan to Join WTO; Chinese Company Wins Karachi-Lahore Motorway Bid
Event Notice: “After Paris: The Refugee Crisis,” Friday, December 11 (New America). India Bonus Read: “Come together on the Abe road,” (Economist) Bonus Read: “For Indians, Smog and Poverty Are Higher Priorities Than Talks in Paris,” by Ellen Barry (NYT) India and Pakistan agree to renew peace talks India and Pakistan agreed on Wednesday to ...
Event Notice: “After Paris: The Refugee Crisis,” Friday, December 11 (New America).
Bonus Read: “Come together on the Abe road,” (Economist)
Bonus Read: “For Indians, Smog and Poverty Are Higher Priorities Than Talks in Paris,” by Ellen Barry (NYT)
India and Pakistan agree to renew peace talks
India and Pakistan agreed on Wednesday to restart comprehensive peace talks (WSJ, BBC, TOI). The agreement represents a significant breakthrough in bilateral relations after years of tension and cross-border violence. The development was announced during the Indian foreign minister’s visit to Islamabad. “Let me take this opportunity to extend our hand to Pakistan,” said Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday at a conference on security in Afghanistan in Islamabad. “For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with,” she said. A key sticking point in the process has been the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, which were planned by terrorists based in Pakistan. Pakistan has said it will expedite the early conclusions of trials of the planners of the attacks. The two sides also agreed to discuss Kashmir, which has been a flash point for conflict between India and Pakistan over the last 60 years. Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, with each country controlling a portion of the territory.
Opposition protests continue parliamentary gridlock
Members of the opposition Congress party halted debate in India’s parliament for the third straight day on Thursday, protesting what they claim is a “political vendetta” by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (The Hindu, TOI, Indian Express). Congress members were upset over a court case against its two top leaders, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, who face allegations that the party illegally acquired the National Herald, a defunct newspaper, under their leadership in 2010. The case has been filed by Subramanian Swamy, a member of the BJP. After blocking debate in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday and Wedneday, the protests on Thursday spilled over into the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, where the BJP does not have a majority. The house was forced to adjourn twice during its morning session. Prime Minister Narendra Modi decried the disruptions, telling a crowd at a Delhi event that “democracy cannot function at the whims and fancies of anyone.”
— Udit Banerjea
Bonus Read: “‘Serial’ Season 2 Lets Bowe Bergdahl Tell His Side of Afghan Story,” by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and John Koblin (NYT)
Afghanistan to join WTO
Afghanistan is expected to receive approval to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) next week during a ministerial conference of the trade organization in Nairobi, Kenya (NYT). Roberto Azevêdo, the director general of the WTO, stated: “This is really positive news for Afghanistan and the W.T.O.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani commented that membership would provide “a catalyst for domestic reforms and transformation to an effective and functioning market economy that attracts investment, creates jobs and improves the welfare of the people of Afghanistan.” Yet Afghanistan continues to wrestle with the challenges of an economy largely dependent on foreign aid and illegal opium production.
Death toll in airfield attack rises to 50
According to Afghan officials, the death toll in the Taliban attack on Kandahar airfield has risen to 50 (VOA, RFE/RL). The attack ended on Wednesday after lasting more than 24 hours. Eleven Taliban soldiers were involved in the attack. No NATO casualties have been reported.
Doctors Without Borders petitions White House over hospital strike
On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders delivered a petition with 547,000 signatures to the White House demanding an independent investigation into the U.S. air strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on October 3rd (RFE/RL, Pajhwok, TOLO News). At least 30 people were killed in the strike. The U.S. and NATO have initiated their own investigations. However, Jason Cone, executive director of the group’s U.S. branch, stated: “It is not sufficient for the perpetrators of attacks on medical facilities to be the only investigators.”
Chinese company wins Karachi-Lahore motorway bid
On Wednesday, China Railway Construction Corporation, a Chinese company, announced that it had secured secured a $1.46 billion contract jointly with a Pakistani company to build the Karachi-Lahore motorway (ET). In March, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the project. The announcement of the contract comes months after an agreement between China and Pakistan to initiate a $46 billion project to connect Gwadar port in Balochistan to China’s Xinjiang region.
Pakistan seeks German weapons for terror fight
On Tuesday, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif stressed the need for more weapons to enable Pakistan’s fight against terrorism during a meeting with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (ET). Asif commented: “above all, weapons of a defensive nature, and weapons useful for the war against terror.” Von der Layen confirmed that the German government is looking into further cooperation and commented: “Together, we will chalk out how we can intensify our cooperation in the war against terror … We are together with Pakistan in the war against terrorism.”
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen