The South Asia Channel

India Blocks Leaked War Report; U.S. Spent $53 Billion Training Afghan Forces; Briton Sentenced to Life in Pakistani Prison

Editor's Note: The New America Foundation's International Security Program is looking for Pakistani fellows to participate in its New Voices Program, an initiative to bring Pakistan's next generation of leaders to meet with policymakers and persons of influence in Washington, DC. For more information about the six-week fellowship, as well as application requirements, please check out the fellowship listing here.

Bonus Read: "Churchill's First War," Con Coughlin (SouthAsia). 


India blocks access to '62 war report

Indian media are calling on the government to declassify an Indian army report analyzing the reasons for the country's defeat in the 1962 war with China over disputed borders areas (BBC, India Today). Neville Maxwell, the Delhi correspondent for the Times of London during the war, recently posted 126 pages of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report on his website (inaccessible as of press time). Access to the site was blocked hours later, sparking speculation on Twitter of interference by Indian censors.

The report, written by two Indian army generals in 1963, is still classified, and the Indian government has resisted making it public. Maxwell, 87, wrote on his website of the frustration of not seeing the report declassified after half a century. "The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial," he wrote. Maxwell said he has attempted to give the report to five Indian newspaper editors since 1992, but all refused.

The report criticizes the government -- then led by Jawaharlal Nehru -- the military, and intelligence agencies for assuming the Chinese would not escalate hostilities (New Indian Express). The assumption that China would not use force, which was based on intelligence that was more than two years old, ultimately led to India's humiliating defeat (Tribune). Nehru's "Forward Policy," in which Indian troops were directed to patrol aggressively and raise outposts in areas claimed by China, increased the chance of conflict, the report said. The Indian Ministry of Defense refused to comment, reiterating that the document had been classified as top secret. Officials cautioned that the report could be a draft or contain gaps.  

Indian editorials responded to the story by arguing for more transparency, urging the government to adopt a policy of declassifying secret documents after a period of 25-30 years, and reviewing mistakes that may have been committed in the past (Times of India, Indian Express).

Sources: India will not support Russia sanctions

Unnamed sources in the Indian government said the country will not support Western sanctions against Russia following the country's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Indian media reported Wednesday (NDTV, IBN). While an official position has not yet been taken, India never supports sanctions as a principle, the sources said. India must attempt to manage a balancing act in the region, since New Delhi does not favor referendums or support a referendum as the only basis for breaking up a country. 

National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon said in a speech last week that Russia has "legitimate" interests in Ukraine and that India hoped the interests involved could reach a satisfactory resolution (Economic Times).  

-- Ana Swanson


U.S. has spent $53 billion training Afghan forces

Col. Jane E. Crichton, the director of public affairs for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, told Afghanistan's Pajhwok Afghan News on Wednesday that the United States has spent around $53 billion funding the Afghan security forces (Pajhwok). Speaking to the paper a day after the Washington Post reported that Pakistan could receive up to $7 billion in U.S. equipment currently in Afghanistan, Crichton said the United States has given the Afghan forces the latest military gear, including 160 aircraft, 100,000 vehicles, 500,000 weapons, and 200,000 other tools, from communication systems and cameras to generators. However, Crichton added that a final decision had yet to be made on whether or not the U.S. Army would leave its mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles -- the equipment Pakistan is most interested in -- with the Afghan military.

Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Defence, insisted the Afghan army had the capability to use such advanced equipment, dismissing U.S. concerns that the equipment needed to be either destroyed or given to someone else to prevent it from falling into the hands of militants.

Qanuni lacks stature among Tajiks

A day after Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, announced that he had appointed Mohammad Younus Qanuni, a leader of the Jamiat-i-Islami political party, to succeed Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim as first vice president, the New York Times profiled Qanuni and noted that while the two men shared similar backgrounds, "there was little expectation that Mr. [Qanuni] could fill the void left by Mr. Fahim, who was among the country's most powerful and influential figures before he died of a heart attack on March 9" (NYT). Both Qanuni and Fahim rose to prominence through the old Northern Alliance, which resisted the Taliban in the 1990s, but only Fahim "commanded loyalty from elements in the army and intelligence service." However, despite Qanuni's apparent lack of connections, Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst, says he "is a member of the opposition who could help reach a compromise in case of a political crisis after the election" (WSJ). 

Qanuni, who will serve in the position until Karzai's successor takes office later this year (elections are scheduled for April 5), has not commented publicly on his nomination, though he is expected to be confirmed by Afghanistan's lower house of parliament shortly.  


Briton sentenced to life in prison for drug smuggling

Khadija Shah, a 26-year-old British woman of Pakistani descent, was sentenced to life in prison in Pakistan on Tuesday after being convicted of trying to smuggle 63 kilograms of heroin out of the country (AFP). According to reports, Shah was arrested at the Islamabad airport in May 2012 after the heroin was discovered in several suitcases in her possession. She has claimed that she was carrying the cases for someone else and was unaware of their contents. Her lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said they would appeal the conviction -- given by the Special Narcotics Court in Rawalpindi -- next week.

Maya Foa, the director of legal charity Reprieve's Death Penalty team, said the conviction was "a terrible outcome" for Shah and her baby girl, who was born in prison; Shah was six-months pregnant at the time she was arrested. Foa urged the British government to "ensure that Khadija gets the urgent assistance she needs to appeal her sentence so that her baby doesn't grow up behind bars" (BBC). A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they were aware of the case and providing Shah and her family with "consular assistance."

Jury will not hear KSM testimony in Ghaith case

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled on Tuesday that jurors in the terrorism trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, won't her testimony from alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (WSJ). Ghaith's lawyers had argued that Mohammed's testimony should be heard by the jury and would help prove their client's innocence, an argument Kaplan struck down as Mohammed - currently in prison at Guantanamo Bay - did not "have direct knowledge of the relevant questions at play in Mr. Abu Ghaith's case, and what he did know didn't exculpate the defendant." According to Kaplan, there wasn't even evidence that Ghaith and Mohammed were in the same country during the relevant time period.

Ghaith's attorneys had presented 451 questions to Mohammed about Ghaith, and his 14-page response was submitted to the court late on Sunday. While he praised Ghaith as an eloquent preacher, Mohammed said he had no military role in al Qaeda and likely had no knowledge of future operations. Ghaith, an alleged former al Qaeda spokesman, is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and of providing material support to the militant organization.

Bomb blast in North Waziristan kills six

Six people were killed in North Waziristan early Wednesday morning when a mortar shell exploded in the Shawal region (ET, Pajhwok). Reports indicate that the explosion occurred when a man tried to cut the shell with a saw, though it is unclear what his intentions were. 

Elsewhere in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, five people were injured when a bomb exploded outside the city's Sarki Gate district. While no fatalities have been reported, at least two of those injured are in critical condition. No one has claimed responsibility for the incident. 

-- Bailey Cahall 

Edited by Peter Bergen.