First phase of voting sees high turnout
Day one of voting in the Indian election saw a high turnout in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura. As of 5 PM on April 7, a 75 percent turnout in five constituencies in Assam and an 85 percent turnout in Tripura (Indian Express, Mint). Even though the turnout in Tripura appears high by any election standard, it falls short of the 93 percent recorded in assembly elections held in the state last year . The elections were held peacefully with no major attacks or threats by anti-faction forces such as the United Liberation Front of Assam. While northeastern India has historically largely voted for the Congress, a poll released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies predicts an overall win for the Bharatiya Janata Party LED by Narendra Modi but expects them to fall short of a majority of 270 seats, paving the way for a BJP-led coalition (The Economic Times).
Additionally, a stronger rupee and steady imports indicate that the prices of vital food commodities such as oil and pulses will be kept low throughout the period of the Indian election (The Economic Times). Rising food prices have often seen incumbents voted out of power, both at the state and national level.
Mirwaiz seeks to resolve Kashmir issue ‘once and for all'
The leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has put forth his ideas to resolve the conflict in Kashmir "positively and constructively" irrespective of which party comes into power in the ongoing Indian election (The Hindu). In an open letter addressed to ‘the people of India,' Dr. Umar Farooq does not detail the likely agenda of the Hurriyat Conference, but rather, exhorts the people of India to make Kashmir an issue they address with their prospective leaders. While framing the Kashmir problem as a pan-India issue, he says: "successive governments in New Delhi have continued to waste your taxes and precious economic resources to pursue a militaristic policy on Kashmir." In an attempt to reach a ‘time-bound' and ‘result-oriented' resolution, Mirwaiz recommends a period of year-long talks to take place after the Indian election to find enough partners to end the conflict ‘once and for all.'
Russia offers to develop supercomputer with India
Russian supercomputing group RSC along with the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) have approached Indian scientists with the intention of developing a supercomputer to rival China's Tianhe-2 (Economic Times). RAS's Boris Shabanov has extended an invitation to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore to explore setting up a computing facility in the city while the RSC has offered to share its software with the collaborators. While the Tianhe-2 ranks as the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Indian Param Yuva-II is at 82nd place and Russia's Lomonosov is ranked 37. India's scientific advisor CNS Rao was yet to weigh in on the impact a potential collaboration would have on developing a faster supercomputer, he did acknowledge that the "Chinese were way ahead." The Indian Space Research Organization has thus far invested Rs. 12,000 crore ($200 million) to develop a faster supercomputer by 2018.
Bomb blasts following election
A roadside bomb killed at least 13 people traveling in vehicles that had been diverted from a main road in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on Monday (NYT, VOA, AP, Pajhwok). The traffic was rerouted from the main road due to an earlier attack that same day on a NATO convoy by a suicide bomber (AP). The suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a minivan in front of the NATO convoy - causing confusion and blocked roadways, but no casualties. Two of the vehicles that were forced to take the detour as a result of the attack on the NATO convoy were struck by the roadside bomb. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack on the NATO convoy but denies any involvement in the attack on the vehicles carrying civilians, saying the foreign forces are trying to make it look like the Taliban are killing civilians. The two attacks follow a relatively quiet election.
Let the tallying begin
Votes are being tallied from the weekend's presidential elections and rough counts suggest two former ministers - Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani - are vying for the lead (WSJ, Guardian, AJE). Noticeably absent from the top is President Hamid Karzai's favorite and former foreign minister, Zalmaai Rassoul. The U.S. Department of Defense said on Monday that it will encourage any government leaders who emerge from the election to "quickly engage" with the United States and sign the Bilateral Security Agreement. Official results won't be announced for weeks, since votes are still being collected from remote parts of the country where donkeys were used to transport ballots to and from the polling stations. But many journalists and campaign teams took advantage of a new anti-fraud measure that required each polling station to post a copy of their results the day after the vote to provide a snapshot of the results.
Train blast in Baluchistan
An explosion on a Jaffar Express train at Sibi railway station on Tuesday has left at least 12 dead and 40 others injured (ET, AP, Dawn). According to an unnamed railway official, the explosives were planted inside the passenger train at the railway station and exploded ten minutes after the train left the station. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Sibi is in Baluchistan province, home to Baluch separatists and sectarian groups.
Just the day before, Pakistani security forces killed 30 separatist militants in one of the biggest offensives in months in Baluchistan (NYT, Dawn, ET). The provincial interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, said that a large quantity of weapons was seized during the raids and 10 members of the government forces were wounded during the operation.
Artists in northwest Pakistan have installed a huge poster of a young child in a field to help raise awareness for the victims of drone attacks in the region (AP, Dawn, RT) The image is of a Pakistani girl whose parents were allegedly killed in a drone strike. The work is titled #NotABugSplat - a reference to the term "bug splat" used by the U.S. military to refer to victims of drone attacks. Artists hope that drone pilots who see the image will think twice before firing.
-- Emily Schneider
Edited by Peter Bergen
BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images