The South Asia Channel

Gun Battle at India’s Pathankot Air Base Continues; Seven Injured in Attack on Indian Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif; Pakistan Arrests 42 ISIS Supporters

India Gun battle continues for the third day at Pathankot air base A gun battle between Indian security forces and armed militants entered the third day on Monday, at the Indian air force base in Pathankot in Punjab province, near India’s border with Pakistan (Guardian, WP, NYT). Seven Indian security personnel, including a lieutenant colonel ...

An Indian Army truck transports troops to the air force base in Pathankot on January 4, 2016. Indian troops backed by helicopters searched an air force base January 4, after a weekend of fierce fighting with suspected Islamic insurgents in which seven soldiers and at least four attackers were killed. AFP PHOTO/ NARINDER NANU / AFP / NARINDER NANU        (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian Army truck transports troops to the air force base in Pathankot on January 4, 2016. Indian troops backed by helicopters searched an air force base January 4, after a weekend of fierce fighting with suspected Islamic insurgents in which seven soldiers and at least four attackers were killed. AFP PHOTO/ NARINDER NANU / AFP / NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

India

Gun battle continues for the third day at Pathankot air base

A gun battle between Indian security forces and armed militants entered the third day on Monday, at the Indian air force base in Pathankot in Punjab province, near India’s border with Pakistan (Guardian, WP, NYT). Seven Indian security personnel, including a lieutenant colonel of the National Security Guard, and four attackers, have been killed so far. India’s Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi told reporters on Sunday that at least two more gunmen were still inside the base. Eight air force personnel and 12 members of the National Security Guard have also been wounded in the attack. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack comes as India and Pakistan attempt to improve their bilateral relationship after a surprise visit to Lahore last week by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi where he met his Pakistani counterpart. This was the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian prime minister in 12 years. Foreign secretaries from both countries are scheduled to meet in Islamabad later this month, however, Indian official sources indicated that the final decision on the talks will be reviewed after the operation at Pathankot is completed (Reuters, NDTV).

Earthquake hits northeastern India, 6 killed

A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit northeastern India, killing at least six people and injuring more than 30 in the state of Manipur, early Monday morning (NYT, WSJ, BBC). Tremors were also felt in the neighboring regions of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Numerous building in the Manipur’s state capital of Imphal were severely damaged and disruption to the power lines has left many parts of the city without power. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 18 miles west of Imphal at a depth of 34 miles. Prime Minister Modi tweeted that he spoke to chief ministers in the region about “on the situation arising in the wake of the earthquake.” Disaster response teams were sent to Manipur from the neighboring state of Assam.

Manufacturing in India declines for the first time in 2 years

For the first time in two years, the manufacturing sector in India contracted in December 2015, falling to 49.1 from November’s 50.3 on the Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (Reuters). This is also the first time since October 2013 that the index has fallen below 50. Weakening domestic demand and heavy rainfall along with flooding in the southern part of the country in November are cited as the causes for this decline. It also puts pressure on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to ease monetary policy. RBI already reduced the interest rates by 125 basis points in 2015, but has been under consistent pressure from the business community to reduce the rate further. The benchmark interest rate from RBI is currently at 6.75 percent.

— Shuja Malik

Afghanistan

Bonus Read: “Beheadings send a chill through Afghanistan,” by Pamela Constable (Post).

At least seven injured in attack on Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif

At least seven people have been wounded in an ongoing attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Afghanistan’s Balkh province, according to officials on Monday (Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to the provincial governor’s spokesman, at least six attackers assaulted the consulate from a nearby house. Mazar-i-Sharif Civil Hospital Director Khwaja Noor Mohammad Faiz confirmed that the hospital received six injured in the attack – five police officers and two civilians. The attack began on Sunday night. Afghan special forces surrounded a building opposite the consulate where the attackers are holed up but are proceeding cautiously to avoid civilian casualties (TOLO News). No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Government to disarm militias in Nangarhar

On Saturday, Afghan Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qadam Shah Shahim commented that private militias in Nangarhar province would be disarmed (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Shahim made his comments during a visit to Nangarhar’s Achin district. He noted that 200 men had been armed in the area commenting: “These militiamen are sometimes linked to an uprising and sometimes to a respected Wolesi Jirga member, but we don’t allow unauthorized militias to operate.”

Pakistan

Pakistan arrests 42 ISIS supporters

Pakistan arrested 42 ISIS supporters in Punjab province, according to reports on Monday citing Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah (ABC, Fox, Dawn). Sanaulla stated that among those arrested were Amir Mansoor, the group’s chief in Islamabad, Mansoor’s deputy Abdullah Mansoori, and the group’s chief in Sindh province, Umer Kathio. The arrests followed a raid last week in which 13 additional ISIS supporters were arrested. On Monday, Sanaulla also stated that around 100 Pakistanis have left to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq (ET). Sanaulla commented: “Hundreds of people from different countries have fled to Iraq and Syria to join Da’ish. However, only a very few Pakistanis have left the country in hopes of joining the militant organization.”

Blackberry to remain in Pakistan

Blackberry will continue to operate in Pakistan after resolving a dispute with the Pakistani government over its request for access to user data that would have required the company to cease operations on Dec. 30 (CNN). BlackBerry CEO Marty Beard said: “After productive discussions, the Government of Pakistan has rescinded its shutdown order, and BlackBerry has decided to remain in the Pakistan market.” In July, Pakistan had asked Blackberry to provide all encrypted data moving through its servers to the government, which the company refused to do. Beard further commented: “We are grateful to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistani government for accepting BlackBerry’s position that we cannot provide the content of our customers’ BES traffic, nor will we provide access to our BES servers.”

PM Sharif visits Sri Lanka

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on Monday staying until Wednesday (Dawn). Prime Minister Sharif will meet with Sri Lankan Pre­sident Maithri­pala Sirisena and address Sri Lankan parliamentarians and businessmen during the visit.

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

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