The South Asia Channel

Naxal Attack Kills 16 in Chattisgarh; Foreign Journalist Shot in Kabul; Pakistan Army Bear Brunt of Fight with Militants

India

BONUS read: “The Numbers Story: List of MPs Facing Criminal Charges,” Leela Prasad, (The Indian Express)

Naxal attack kills 16 in Chattisgarh

Another Naxal attack in the state of Chattisgarh on Tuesday killed 16 people, including 11 from the Central Reserve Police Force (The Indian ExpressThe HinduBBC, Times of India). A police convoy, en route to provide security to workers building a road in the Sukma district in the tribal-dominated region of Bastar, was ambushed by the Naxals (who are rebels fighting for the rights of India's tribal poor). A similar attack took place on Feb. 28 in Dantewada, Chattisgarh, where six policemen also on their way to secure a road project, were killed. The Tongpal attack also took place close to the site of another gruesome ambush: in May 2013, a Naxal attack on a convoy of Congress party workers wiped out the state’s top party leadership (NDTV). Chief Minister Raman Singh cancelled his visit to Delhi and called an emergency meeting to review the attack (Business Standard).

Indian merchandise exports fall, may miss annual target 

For the first time in eight months, Indian merchandise exports fell 3.67 percent to $25.7 billion in February, sparking fears that it will be unable to meet its target for the year (WSJBusiness Standard). The trade ministry blamed weaker demand from Europe and the United States for the fall, but an industry expert quoted by the Wall Street Journal said it was the “inability of Indian exporters, particularly those in small enterprises, to stay competitive." Thus far, Indian merchandise exports have totaled $282.7 billion, but have a target of $325 billion for the fiscal year 2013-2014.

The wisdom of elders

At 94 years old, Reishang Keishang, A representative from the north-eastern state of Manipur, is set to retire at the end of the parliamentary session as India’s oldest parliamentarian (BBC). In an interview with the BBC, Keishang reminisced about his early days in the Indian parliament -- which he was first elected to in 1952 -- especially rubbing shoulders with Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. Of the present-day parliament, Keishang said that it “is a waste of time,” and that the increasing unruliness of conduct is in stark contrast to its early days where "it used to be quiet like a temple or a church, and the debates were listened to intently." The past five years of the Indian parliament have reportedly been the least productive in its history.

-- Shruti Jagirdar

Afghanistan

British-Swedish journalist killed in Kabul

Unidentified men gunned down a British-Swedish journalist in the embassy quarter of Kabul  on Monday, using a pistol with a silencer in an unusual attack (BBC, Guardian, Pajhwok, Post, Reuters). The journalist, Nils Horner, was on his way to interview the chef of the Lebanese restaurant Taverna du Liban, which was bombed by the Taliban on January 18, when men approached him and shot him in the head. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the fact that it was carried out in broad daylight in a neighborhood populated by western NGO’s and embassies has caused many to reflect on the growing danger for foreigners in Afghanistan. Horner was a correspondent for the Swedish radio station Sveriges Radio.

Fahim’s funeral

The funeral ceremony for Afghan Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died of natural causes at the age of 57, was held on Tuesday in Kabul (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). Afghan President Hamid Karzai was among those carrying Fahim’s coffin to the grave in a cemetery outside of Kabul, where thousands had gathered to pay their respects.  At the funeral, Karzai said, “I lost my best friend and my brother.”

Pakistan

Pakistan’s Army logs heavy losses

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 4,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and more than 13,000 have been injured since the army began moving into the tribal areas along the Afghan border to confront the Pakistani Taliban in 2004 (WSJ). By comparison, the United States has lost 2,315 service members, just over 1,800 of them killed in combat, in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.  Although currently in dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) over a peace deal, the Pakistani government has made it clear that it is perfectly poised to launch a full-scale offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan if the talks fail (AP, Dawn).  But such an offensive would surely increase their casualty rates as North Waziristan is the only one of Pakistan’s seven tribal regions on the Afghan border that has yet to be cleared by the military.

Meanwhile, peace talks with the Taliban seem to be stalling once again, according to Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz, one of the Taliban negotiators (Dawn).  Speaking to the media outside the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday, Aziz said the government and Taliban would have to come together and that it would be ordinary people who would suffer in the case of a military operation. The government has been preparing for the second stage of talks with militants  and is planning to open a direct channel with the Taliban this week. There is speculation that the army will be involved in the new negotiation team, but it’s still unclear whether that will be the case or not (Dawn).

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Afghan women boxers aim for 2016 Olympics

A small group of Afghan women are keeping their eye on the prize in a boxing studio in Kabul where they are training in hopes of participating in the 2016 Olympics (AP). The group used to have more participants, and more funding from international aid organizations, which provided them with monthly stipends and transportation to and from the training facility. Since the international funding has declined, Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee has stepped in, though it cannot provide any funds. But the women still get a place to train, boxing gloves, and transportation costs -- all they need to keep their Olympic dreams alive.

--Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

ASIT KUMAR/AFP/Getty Images