The South Asia Channel

McCain Meets Modi in New Delhi; Pakistani Parliament Approves Antiterror Bill; Refugees Flood Into Afghanistan

Editor's note: We will not be publishing a brief tomorrow, Friday, July 4, 2014, in honor of Independence Day. We will return to the regular publishing schedule on Monday, July 7, 2014.

India

U.S. Senator John McCain meets Modi

U.S. Senator John McCain met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday and conveyed the desire of the United States to revitalize the U.S.-India partnership (Times of India, DNA, The Hindu). Modi said at the meeting that he was looking forward to his result-oriented visit to the United States in September. Modi stated further that cooperation between democracies and their success will lead to peace, stability, and prosperity in the world. Modi and McCain also discussed the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"[The] Prime Minister conveyed his desire to further deepen and expand the strategic partnership, based on our shared values and interests, sensitivity to each other's concerns and tangible progress across the full spectrum of bilateral relations," said a statement by the Prime Minister's Office after the meeting.

McCain's visit to India was overshadowed by reports on Wednesday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2010. The CNN-IBN reports that during an interview on the television channel, in response to the NSA spying on BJP, McCain said: "It is very embarrassing because we are friends but we know that these things go on, but it seems to me now that the BJP is in power, we do not have to do that anymore, we are friends now and we can speak openly and honestly with each other" (IBNLive).

Jen Psaki, U.S. state department spokesperson, was asked by reporters at her daily news conference on Wednesday whether NSA's alleged spying on the BJP would impact bilateral ties between India and the United States (Livemint, Indian Express). Psaki said: "We certainly hope not" and further said: "We will discuss any concerns that we need to discuss through our private diplomatic channels."

Modi leverages social media for governance; meets Facebook COO

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's use of social media has created opportunities for companies, who are sending executives to forge relations with the Modi government. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg met Modi on Thursday and discussed how the social networking platform can be used to connect the Modi-led government with the people (Indian Express, The Hindu Business Line). After the meeting, Modi posted on Facebook that he had a fruitful meeting with Sandberg and that: "Being an avid user of social media myself, I talked about ways through which a platform such as Facebook can be used for governance and better interaction between the people and governments. I also talked about how Facebook can be used to bring more tourists to India."

Modi's post also stated that the government intends to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary year with a special focus on cleanliness, and Modi discussed with Sandberg how "Facebook can assist us in this endeavor." Sandberg also wrote on her Facebook page after their meeting: "He [Modi] told us how he believes that direct communication with people all over the world is critical to effective governance and he plans to continue using Facebook and other social media to communicate with the people of India and the world."

Modi has given Twitter groundbreaking access to his administration in an effort to put social media at the heart of government, the company said on Thursday (NDTV, Business Today). Raheel Khursheed, head of news, politics and government at Twitter India, said Twitter has been given direct access to ministers and their staff to advise them on social media usage, and organize workshops to train ambassadors and other diplomats on tweeting. Khursheed said further that the level of interaction between the Modi-led government and Twitter was "unmatched" globally. Modi is the fourth most followed world leader on Twitter with 5 million followers. On Facebook, he has 18.8 million "likes."?

India's stock exchange shuts down due to technical glitch

Asia's oldest stock market, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), resumed trading after being disrupted for three hours due to a network outage on Thursday (BBC, Economic Times, Hindustan Times). The BSE had risen to a new record high on Wednesday and was trading high on Thursday before the outage. Ashishkumar Chauhan, BSE CEO, said only 2,000 live connections were working compared to the usual 8,000 to 10,000 live connections to the server every day, which forced the exchange to shut down trading.

Shares listed on the BSE and its indices were not updated during the shutdown. According to experts, day traders were affected most by the shutdown because they buy and sell shares between stock market indices. The last technical glitch the BSE experienced was in June of this year.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Pakistan

Parliament approves sweeping antiterror bill

Pakistan's parliament on Wednesday approved the Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 that gives broad new powers to the country's security forces.  Saba Imtiaz, a recent New America Carnegie fellow, writes with Salmood Masood in the New York Times that the bill allows the security forces to: "shoot suspects on sight, arrest suspects without a warrant and withhold information about where detainees are being held or what they are being charged with" (NYT).  Zahid Hamid, a cabinet minister, said the bill would "send a message that the government stands with the military in the operation against terrorists," and added that it offers "statutory cover to armed forces which are fighting against the enemies of the country."

However, civil rights groups say the legislation will put many liberties at risk in a country with an already poor record of rights violations, and will essentially provide legal cover for practices that have, in the past, been denounced as human rights abuses and embarrassed the military in the media.

HRW asks Sri Lanka not to deport Pakistanis

Human Rights Watch, in a report released on Wednesday, asked Sri Lanka not to deport members of Pakistan's minority communities until the U.N. Commission for Refugees is able to access them and assess their needs (Dawn).  The detainees -- at least 142 Pakistanis were arrested in police sweeps in Sri Lanka in June -- are at risk of deportation: many of those arrested are members of the persecuted Ahmadi community, though some are Shia Muslims and Christians, as well. "Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan," said Bill Frelick, the U.N. refugees director. Under international law, governments are prohibited from forcibly returning refugees to places where they would be at serious risk of persecution or other serious harm.

Afghanistan

Refugees flood Afghanistan

More and more people are seeking refuge across the border in Afghanistan as the Pakistani military continues its offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan. The United Nations estimates that there are more than 75,000 refugees now living in Khost province, mostly in a single field that is a day-long walk from their home across the border in Pakistan (Post). Khost has historically been one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan -- the local U.N. office closed a year ago -- and it will be difficult to begin a development effort to aid those who are living there now. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is currently assisting the displaced population, as many of them wonder just how effective the military offensive has been. Some officials have suggested that members of the Pakistani Taliban might have even found shelter in villages in Khost

Afghan delegation visits Pakistani border

A high-level delegation of the Afghan military arrived in Islamabad on Thursday and visited the Pakistani army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi (Dawn, Pajhwok). The delegation, which includes security and intelligence officers, is expected to visit the Pak-Afghan border with Pakistani military officials to assess the situation, as Pakistan continues its military operation against militants in North Waziristan and militants flee the area. At a press briefing on Wednesday, a Pakistani foreign office official said that Pakistan would urge Afghan authorities to take action against the Pakistani Taliban who are hiding in Afghanistan.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images