The South Asia Channel

Modi Gives Independence Day Speech; Afghan Commander Says He Orders Execution of Prisoners; March to Islamabad Continues

 

India

PM Modi's Independence day speech: growth, women security, toilets

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first Indian prime minister born in independent India, addressed the nation on India's 68th Independence Day from New Delhi's Red Fort on Friday (Livemint, Indian Express, NDTV, BBC). Unlike his predecessors, Modi gave an extempore speech without consulting notes and free of a bulletproof shield. Although the Independence Day celebration is typically reserved for VIPs, more than 10,000 members of the public were present at the Red Fort. Wearing a cream short-sleeved kurta (shirt) and a red safa (turban), Modi spoke of the economy, security, women's safety, growth, communal harmony, and foreign relations.

Against the backdrop of rising cases of rape, Modi said that such incidents make "our heads hang in shame," and called for parents to take responsibility for their son's actions (NDTV). Modi said further: "Even when they are only 12, young girls are always being asked so many questions by their parents, like 'where are you off to?'. But do these parents ask their sons where they are going?" Addressing female infanticide, Modi said: "Don't kill daughters in the womb. It is a blot on 21st century India." Modi also raised sanitation and the dignity of women in his speech. He said: "Why is that women still have to go out of their homes (to defecate)?... we must ensure that all schools for girls will have toilets."

In his more than an-hour-long speech, Modi talked about improvements in the manufacturing sector, and invited the world to "Come, make in India. Sell anywhere, but manufacture here. We have the skill and the talent." Modi also indicated that the Planning Commission -- a government institution that formulates India's Five-Year Plans -- will cease to exist, and a new institution will takes its place where the prime minister and chief ministers will work as a team. Addressing the nation as Pradhan Sevak (prime servant) not Pradhan Mantri (prime minister), Modi announced Jana Dhyan Yojana (people wealth scheme) to ensure all Indians have bank accounts.

In his first Independence Day speech, Modi reached out to the youth who have turned to violence, and said: "You can sling a weapon on your shoulder and leave a bloodstained ground but if the same shoulders carry a plough, you will see green fields around you...violence has never given anything." Modi also called for a 10-year moratorium on caste and communal violence. India gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, resulting in the partition of India and Pakistan into two separate countries. To read the prime minister's full speech, click here.

President's Independence day speech says 'Intolerance Is Betrayal of Democracy'

President Pranab Mukherjee addressed the nation on Thursday, on the eve of India's 68th year of independence (Livemint, NDTV, Business Standard). In his speech, Mukherjee spoke about the need to eliminate poverty and said: "Poverty is not a mere statistic, it has a face. The poor cannot and will not wait for another generation. The benefits of economic development must percolate down to the poorest of poor." Referring to communal tensions, Mukherjee said, "Intolerance and violence is a betrayal of the letter and spirit of democracy," and said further that India was a "a beacon of democracy, equilibrium, inter-and-intra faith harmony. We must defend our secular fabric with vigour."

Mukherjee also spoke about the increase in parliament disruptions and said it pained him to see that India's Constitution was "becoming increasingly vulnerable to rash excess," and emphasized that "the nation has to be placed above parties and differences." On Friday, Mukherjee awarded the "certificate of honor" to 19 scholars of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and Prakrit (middle Indo-Aryan language) for their contribution in these languages. To read the president's full speech, click here.

India's trade deficit widens; WPI inflation at 5-month low

India's export growth slipped to 7.3 percent in July after witnessing growth rates at 10.2 percent in June and 12.4 percent in May, pushing up the trade deficit to a one-year high of $12.2 billion, according to reports on Friday (Times of India, Livemint, WSJ). Last year in July, the trade deficit was $12.4 billion. Merchandise exports stood at $27.7 billion in July 2014, as compared to $25.8 billion in July 2013. The rise in imports in July was primarily due to oil and electronic goods

The wholesale price inflation (WPI)-based index slowed to a five-month low of 5.19 percent in July from 5.43 percent in June, according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Thursday (Economic Times, The Hindu, Indian Express). The dip in WPI was partly due to the drop in fuel prices and moderation in prices of certain food items like cereals and vegetables. Unlike the WPI, the consumer price index for July, released earlier this week, had increased to 7.96 percent from 7.46 percent in June.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan

Afghanistan

Afghan Commander says he orders execution of prisoners

Aminullah Amarkhail, an Afghan regional security chief in northern Baghlan Province has ordered his forces to kill militants detained in battle rather than transfer them to prosecutors to stand trial, in clear violation of international law (RFE/RL). Amarkhail told RFE/RL that several militants who had been detained, tried, and imprisoned in recent months had then been suspiciously set free and many of them returned to militancy.  Amarkhail said his order, which violates the Geneva Convention, was his "own, personal" decision. Kandahar's security chief, Abdul Razzaq gave similar instructions earlier this month, according to RFE/RL.

Drone strike kills 10

An International Security Assistance Force airstrike in eastern Kunar province killed ten militants on Friday (Pajhwok). NATO-led troops conducted an overnight attack on hideout in the Sangar area of Watapur district as part of a recently-increased drone campaign in the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan. Brig. Gen. Abdul Habib Syedkhel said that the Taliban chief for Watapur district and three commanders were killed in the strike (TOLO).

Internal clash among police kills 8

Eight policemen, including the chief for the Spin Boldak district in southern Kandahar, were killed in an internal clash on Friday (Pajhwok, TOLO). The incident began with a verbal altercation between Police Chief Shayesta Khan and Mohammad Reza, the police commander, which then escalated when they began shooting at one another. Dawa Khan Menapal, the provincial spokesman, said the incident was not political but was related to a private matter.

 

Pakistan

March continues, despite difficulties

Imran Khan's "independence march" continued on Friday, his supporters making slow progress over the 160 miles towards Islamabad (NYT). The march, which consisted of thousands of Pakistanis joining in a motorcade towards the capital, was also joined by a smaller group of cleric Muhammad Thair-ul Qadri supporters.  The march has not been without difficulties thus far: 300 people reportedly threw stones and fired guns on the March in the Gujranwala in Punjab province (Dawn). Khan's vehicle was shot six times and four of the protestors were wounded in the attack. Khan has claimed on his Twitter that the incidents took place in front of police, who did nothing to stop the attackers (ET).

Taliban gunmen attack airbases

Gunman attacked two air bases, the Samungli Air Base and the Khalid Military Air Base in Quetta in Bolochistan late Thursday night (RFE/RL, ET).  Officials say they killed eight of the attackers, who were armed with automatic weapons and grenades and were wearing suicide vests. Seven policemen were also wounded in the attacks. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan Navy takes command

The Pakistan Navy took command of the multinational counter-terrorism coalition force from the U.K. Royal Navy on Thursday (Dawn). The ceremony handing command of the Combined Task Force-150 to Pakistani control took place at the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command headquarters in Bahrain and was attended by senior officers from foreign navies who are all a part of the coalition. Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States are all part of the coalition. The command, which is rotated among the nations for four to six months' terms, has been held by Pakistan six times already.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

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