The South Asia Channel

40 Indians Kidnapped in Iraq; U.S. Drone Strike Kills 5 in Pakistan; Abdullah Accuses Karzai of Fraud in Run-off Election

Event notice: "A Common Peace: Women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India Map the Way Forward," Today, 10:30 a.m., U.S. Institute of Peace.

India

40 Indians kidnapped in Iraq

The Indian government confirmed the abduction of 40 Indian construction workers in the Iraqi city of Mosul, Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the external affairs ministry, said on Wednesday (Hindustan Times, BBC, Times of India, NDTV). "It is with deep, deep sadness we would like to inform you 40 workers of the Tariq Noor al-Huda construction company have been abducted," Akbaruddin told a press gathering. "We will not spare any efforts to help the Indians in Iraq... International Red Crescent has confirmed that they have been kidnapped, but is unaware of their location," he said. Akbaruddin added that India had not received any ransom demands yet. The Indian government on Tuesday was able to contact 46 Indian nurses who are stranded in a hospital in Tikrit.

India's former ambassador to Iraq, Suresh Reddy, is expected to travel to Iraq to help plan safety arrangements for Indian citizens. The external affairs ministry set up a 24-hour control room on Tuesday to monitor the situation and provide information for the families. The Indian embassy in Baghdad has also set up a 24-hour helpline. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Syria) -- referred to as ISIL or ISIS -- is a heavily armed jihadist group that has seized Mosul among other cities and towns in a series of violent attacks that have occurred in Iraq since last week. ?

Russian Deputy PM arrives in Delhi, holds talks with Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry O. Rogozin held extensive talks on Wednesday on crucial bilateral issues, such as trade and energy security, in the first high-level engagement between India and Russia since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government came to power (Business Standard, Indian Express, Economic Times, DNA). Swaraj and Rogozin also discussed issues concerning the long-pending deal for the third and fourth reactors of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP). Two units of KNPP have been set up by Russia in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and the first unit has already been made operational. India and Russia signed a general framework agreement on the third and fourth reactors in April of this year, after Russia in-principle agreed to the Indian nuclear liability law.

Swaraj and Rogozin also discussed preparations for the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Putin scheduled later this year. Rogozin, who arrived in New Delhi early on Wednesday on a two-day visit, is also expected to meet with Modi, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

India's Reliance set to launch 4G broadband services in 2015

India's Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) announced on Wednesday it will invest $30 billion across its businesses in the next three years and launch the much-anticipated fourth-generation (4G) broadband services in 2015 (Economic Times, Livemint, NDTV). RIL's chairman and India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, told shareholders at the company's 40th annual shareholder's meeting that RIL intends to invest $11.7 billion in its telecommunications business and will launch 4G services in phases across India under the Reliance Jio brand. Ambani said it will initially cover 5,000 towns and 250,000 villages, adding: "Reliance Jio will be one of the largest job-creating and wealth-creating business initiatives in India." Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. is the only company to have nationwide permits for 4G services.

?As India's third-most valuable company, RIL also plans to expand its other businesses including retail, petrochemicals, energy, and telecommunications. Ambani said further that the company's investments "will propel us closer to our aspiration of being a Fortune 50 company as we complete 40 years of our corporate journey."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Pakistan

U.S. drone strike kills five

A drone strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region killed at least five militants on Wednesday: it was the first strike since Pakistan launched a full-scale military operation (WSJ, AP). For the second time in two weeks, the strike targeted members of the Haqqani network, the group that held Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive for five years.  Wednesday's drone strike targeted a compound in the Danday Darpakhel area around 4:00 a.m. local time, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The drone strike is only the third strike by the United States this year, according to data collected by the New America Foundation, and follows an almost six month pause in the drone campaign.

Clashes in Lahore

At least seven people were killed and 100 others were wounded in Lahore on Tuesday in violent clashes between local police and followers of Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a preacher turned political activist who has called for a mass movement against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (NYT). Late Monday night, a large contingent of police officers arrived at the headquarters of Qadri's party, the Pakistan Awami Tehrik, and demanded that his supporters remove barricades that they deemed illegal outside the office and residence. The barricades were set up four years ago after Qadri issued a decree against the Taliban and received death threats from the militants. Qadri's supporters resisted the police demands and the situation turned violent. The Lahore police registered a First Information Report against 3,000 of Qadri's supporters on Wednesday, charging them with murder, attempted murder, and terrorism (ET).

Twitter allows "blasphemous" content

Twitter restored access inside Pakistan to dozens of tweets and accounts after blocking them last month following complaints by the Pakistani government about "blasphemous" content (AFP). Twitter said that it changed its earlier decision -- to restrict access to material from within Pakistan in order to comply with local laws -- because "in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, [we] have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted," according to a statement posted on the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse website. Most of the material that was considered offensive related to anti-Islam accounts and caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, but accounts belonging to U.S. porn stars were also suspended.

Afghanistan

Abdullah accuses Karzai of backing his rival

Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah accused President Hamid Karzai of supporting his rival, Ashraf Ghani, in Saturday's runoff election at a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday (Pajhwok). Abdullah demanded an immediate stop to the vote-tallying process and, saying he no longer trusted the electoral bodies, moved for the removal of Ziaul Haq Amarkhel, the secretary of the Independent Election Commission. He added that his supporters would not accept the election commissions' decisions until his demands were met. Abdullah's announcement comes at a critical time for Afghanistan, when many are wondering whether supporters of either candidate would accept final determinations about the outcome of the election amidst allegations of widespread fraud and ballot stuffing. 

Afghan couple reunited after arrests

Zakia and Mohammad Ali, an Afghan couple whose story the New York Times has been following closely and married for love despite death threats from her family and criminal charges by the authorities, were reunited on Tuesday after they were both released from Afghan custody (NYT).  The couple eloped in March, but Zakia's father pressed bigamy charges against them, claiming she had already been married to her nephew; both were arrested in early June.  While they were in custody, their case received extensive coverage by Afghan news sources and caused a stir on social media sites. Arranged marriages are the norm in Afghanistan, but love matches are becoming increasingly common among young people. 

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images