India: Talks With Pakistan Only If It Takes Action; World Bank Warns Pakistan of Substantial Fiscal Risk; Afghanistan Calls for Saudi-Iranian Resolution
- By David StermanDavid Sterman is a program associate at New America and Assistant Editor of the South Asia Channel. He tweets at @DSterms
Event Notice: “Guantanamo Bay: Year 14,” Washington DC (New America)
Talks with India only if Pakistan takes action
India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Thursday that the upcoming foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan will take place only if Pakistan takes action against militants responsible for the recent attack on the Pathankot air base (BBC). The spokesman said the “ball is in Pakistan’s court.” The talks are a part of the latest detente initiative launched after Indian Prime Minister Modi paid a surprise visit to Pakistan last month, and are expected to take place in Islamabad next week.
On Saturday, six militants attacked the Pathankot air force base in Punjab province, near India’s border with Pakistan, all of whom were killed by security forces in a four day long operation. Seven Indian security personnel were also killed in the operation. A coalition of militant groups from Indian administered Kashmir, the United Jihad Council, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Government lifts ban on the Jallikattu
The Indian government has lifted a ban on Jallikattu, a traditional version of bullfighting popular in the southern state of Tamil Nadu (BBC, Time). The Supreme Court in India banned the Jallikattu festival in 2014 after protests from animal rights activists. On Thursday, India’s Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar announced that festival would resume this month, though the Animal Welfare Board of India said they will challenge the government’s decision.
In Jallikattu, the bull is released from the pen and participants attempt to hold on to its hump for three jumps of the bull. Over the years, numerous participants and spectators have been killed or injured at such events.
Government to introduce crop damage insurance for 2016
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Friday that the government will launch a major agricultural insurance scheme to protect against crop damage for the fiscal year 2016 (Reuters). Unseasonal rains and consecutive years of drought have been cited as causes of distress in the agricultural sector, and the Modi government has been criticized for its response to the crisis over the past two years. According to the World Bank, nearly half of India’s population is employed in the agriculture sector (World Bank).
— Shuja Malik
World Bank warns Pakistan of substantial fiscal risks
On Thursday, the World Bank warned that sovereign guarantees against the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and an expected increase in spending ahead of elections place Pakistan at substantial fiscal risk (ET). A new World Bank report states: “Sovereign guarantees associated with CPEC could pose substantial fiscal risks over the medium term.” Similar concerns were also expressed by State Bank of Pakistan Governor Ashraf Wathra and former Pakistani Finance Minister Hafiz Pasha.
Afghan Taliban: Senior commander assassinated in Balochistan
On Friday, two Afghan Taliban officials said that a senior Afghan Taliban commander, Maulvi Muhammad Alam, was shot dead in Pakistan’s Balochistan province (ET, Pajhwok). Alam had been loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. One of the Taliban officials, who requested anonymity, stated: “I can confirm that Maulvi Muhammad Alam has been killed. Investigations are underway but we do not have details as to who is behind the incident.” Alam had reportedly recently led Taliban forces against dissident Taliban forces opposed to Mansoor’s leadership.
Afghanistan calls on Iran, Saudi Arabia to resolve dispute
On Friday, the Afghan presidential palace released a statement expressing concern over recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran urging the two countries to resolve their dispute (TOLO News). The statement comes as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalate following Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shi’a cleric Nimr al Nimr which was followed by a mob attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran and a severance of ties between the two countries.
Officials: Helmand security expected to improve
On Friday, local Afghan officials expressed that they expect security to gradually improve in Helmand province (Pajhwok). Maj. Gen. Mohammad Moin Faqir told reporters that while the province was vulnerable, the military had drawn up plans to improve the security situation. He noted that Marjah district, which the Taliban recently overran, had been recaptured and reopened and said other districts would soon follow.
Afghan anti-polio team to arrive in Pakistan
On Sunday, an Afghan anti-polio team will arrive in Pakistan to monitor a polio vaccination campaign set to begin on Jan. 11 (Pajhwok). On Thursday, the two countries’ polio teams held a video conference to coordinate their efforts. The teams agreed to monitor nomadic movement across the border to enable vaccination.
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images