The South Asia Channel

Reserve Bank of India Decreases Interest Rate to Five Year Low; Suicide Bomber Kills Six in Northern Afghanistan; Death Toll Rises in Northern Pakistan’s Flash Floods

Reserve Bank of India Decreases Interest Rate to Five Year Low; Suicide Bomber Kills Six in Northern Afghanistan; Death Toll Rises in Northern Pakistan’s Flash Floods

Event Notice: “Security Mom: Putting the Home in Homeland Security” with Juliette Kayyem Thursday, April 7, 2016, from 12:30 PM – 01:45 PM at New America.


Reserve Bank of India decreases interest rate to five year low

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decreased its repo interest rate by 25 basis points to 6.50 percent on Tuesday, bringing it to a five-year low (FT, BBC, Reuters, Post, WSJ). Repo interest rate is the rate at which the central bank lends to private banks in the country. India’s central bank governor, Raghuram Rajan, announced the policy, highlighting that “Retail inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) dropped sharply in February after rising for six consecutive months.” Analysts expect more interest rate cuts by the RBI in early summer.

Forty seven police officers sentenced to life imprisonment for Sikh killings

A special court from India’s Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday convicted forty seven police officers from Uttar Pradesh to life imprisonment in the 1991 Pilibhit case (CNN-IBN, BBC). The policemen were found guilty of staging a pre-arranged extrajudicial killing known as a fake encounter, in which 10 Sikh pilgrims were killed. Sikh pilgrims were travelling by bus through the state Uttar Pradesh in northern India after visiting holy sites when police officers stopped the bus in the town of Pilibhit and took some of the men to a nearby jungle and shot them. The motivation behind the killing was allegedly to present these pilgrims as “terrorists” and collect rewards for killing them. 10 more police officers were charged in the case but have since died.

India launches its “fastest” train

On Tuesday, Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu introduced India’s “fastest” train, the Gatimaan Express, which connects New Delhi to the northern city of Agra (WSJ, BBC). The train is capable of running at a maximum speed of approximately 100 miles per hour. According to a statement by the railway ministry, the Gatimaan Express will run six days a week, except on Fridays, and passengers will have options of different kinds of cuisines, free WiFi, and on board entertainment. Indian Railways is the third largest railway network in the world.

Bihar bans sale of all alcoholic beverages

The government of Bihar banned the sale of alcoholic beverages across the state on Tuesday (Post/AP, TOI, Hindu). Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced an end to sales of locally brewed liquor last week and said a complete ban would be introduced over six months. Previously women’s groups in Bihar have advocated for banning of alcohol as it is seen as a major contributor to domestic violence in the state. Enacting prohibition laws was one of the campaign promises that help Kumar win the November 2015 elections. There are almost 6,000 alcoholic beverage retailers in Bihar, and it remains unclear how the state intends to make up for loss of revenue due to prohibition, which is estimated to be 15 percent of the tax revenue (Telegraph). In the meanwhile, liquor manufacturers can continue manufacturing their products as long as they are not selling them in Bihar. The states of Gujarat, Nagaland, and Manipur also have bans on alcoholic beverages.


Bonus Read: “In President Ghani, Afghan Women Have a Champion Like No Other,” by Lael Mohib (Foreign Policy)

Suicide bomber kills six in northern Afghanistan

A suicide bomber on a motorbike detonated himself near a bazaar in Afghanistan’s northern Parwan province on Tuesday, killing six and wounding 26 others (NYT, Reuters). The bomber was targeting the police headquarters, according to Mohammad Sayed Seddiqi, administrative chief of Siagird district. No policemen were killed, but at least one officer was among the wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sons of late Taliban founder appointed to leadership council

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed on Monday as head of the group’s military commission for 15 provinces of Afghanistan (Reuters). According to Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, Yaqoob and his brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, were both called to sit on the Taliban’s leadership council, the Rahbari Shura. Members of the late founder’s family had initially claimed the leadership for Yaqoob after the discovery of Mullah Omar’s death, but agreed to swear allegiance to current Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour after he agreed to a list of their demands last year.

Afghan warlord changes conditions for peace in Afghanistan

Notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar dropped one of his conditions for ending his war with the Afghan government, according to an associate of his group, the Hezb-i-Islami Party (NYT). According to Amin Karim, an official of the party, Hekmatyar, the party’s leader, is no longer demanding that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the shift in a statement, noting if the warlord joins the peace process, Hezb-i-Islami will be “the first group to walk through the gate.” Hekmatyar has been at war with the Afghan government for over 40 years, and his followers are responsible for the deaths of thousands.


Bonus Read: “After Lahore, the Taliban’s Rise is Pakistan Continues,” Daud Khattack by (Foreign Policy)

Death toll rises in northern Pakistan’s flash floods

The death toll from torrential rains that started caused flash flooding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on April 4 rose to 71 on Tuesday, according to officials (RFE/RL, Indian Express). The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Authority said an additional 10 bodies were discovered since yesterday when the spokesman for the local disaster management authority said in a statement that “The number known to have died in rains so far in the northwest has now risen to 61 with over 350 houses damaged all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

U.S. Navy signs contract with Pakistan for delivery of attack helicopters

The U.S. Navy awarded Pakistan a $170 million contract for the delivery of nine AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement on Monday (Dawn). This shipment falls under the Foreign Military Sales Program with Pakistan, according to the statement, which the two governments established to enhance Pakistan’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities. The delivery is expected to be completed in September 2018.

–Alyssa Sims and Shuja Malik

Edited by Peter Bergen