The South Asia Channel

UN Asks India, Pakistan for Peaceful Dialogue; Cleric 'Ready to Die' in Islamabad; Abdullah Threatens Afghan Audit Withdrawal


UN chief asks for peaceful dialogue between India and Pakistan

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked India and Pakistan to resolve their issues peacefully and through dialogue on Tuesday, after continued ceasefire violations along their shared border, and the recent cancellation of foreign-secretary-level talks between the two countries (IBNLive, Indian Express, The Hindu). In August alone, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire agreement 23 times, and there have been 90 infiltration attempts into India this year. The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of both India and Pakistan met on Tuesday to discuss the repeated ceasefire violations along the border and decided that field commanders will hold regular flag meetings to defuse the situation.

Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley will be meeting with ?three service chiefs to discuss the repeated ceasefire violations on Tuesday. NDTV reported that D.K. Pathak, the chief of the Border Security Force, said in response to the ceasefire violations that: "It is unprecedented to target civilian areas to this extent," and this is "the heaviest cross-border firing I've seen since the 1971 war" (NDTV). India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the two countries were partitioned in 1947, and two of them were over Kashmir. Both countries have claimed Kashmir in its entirety, and the dispute has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years. 

India discusses cooperation with Vietnam

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held meetings with her Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi on Monday to discuss a number of key bilateral and regional issues (NDTV, Economic Times, DNA). Syed Akbaruddin, a ministry spokesperson, discussed Swaraj's visit to Vietnam, and said this was her third visit to an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) country in August, after visiting Myanmar and Singapore earlier this month. "She [Swaraj] has said it is not enough to look east but act east. This is act east in action. We began with the focus on neighbourhood and this has now moved on with focus on Asean. Our Prime Minister is going to Japan, so it further moves eastwards," Akbaruddin said.

Addressing the Third Round Table on Asean-India Network of Think-Tanks -- a seminar where ASEAN countries and India will discuss topics of economic integration, development, linkage infrastructure, and investment cooperation -- Minh said the cooperation between India and ASEAN "needs to be more effective and efficient as the security and development landscape is experiencing swift and complex conversions" (Times of India). On the second day of her visit in Vietnam, Swaraj chaired a session with 15 Indian Heads of Mission in South East and East Asia to establish India's foreign policy initiatives (Economic Times). While India is keen to engage with Vietnam's oil sector and deepen defense ties, Vietnam wants to strengthen relations to maintain freedom of navigation, maritime safety, and security in the disputed South China Sea. During her visit, Swaraj is also assessing whether India should take up exploration of ?five new hydrocarbon blocks offered by Vietnam. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who is expected to visit Vietnam in September, is likely to sign key bilateral agreements on defense, trade, and culture issues.

Jewish center reopens six years after Mumbai attacks

The Jewish Chabad Center in Mumbai's Nariman House -- home to the ultra-orthodox Jewish movement Chabad-Lubavitch -- opened again on Tuesday, nearly six years after it was destroyed by terrorists in the brutal 2008 Mumbai attacks (NDTV, BBC, Livemint). Approximately 25 rabbis from across Asia gathered at the newly renovated center, and announced plans to convert the top two floors of Nariman House into a $2.5 million museum. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivky, who ran the Chabad House in 2008, were killed with four others in the attack at Nariman House. Their two-year old son Moshe was saved by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel.

Chintan Sakariya, a local jeweller who lives near the Chabad Center -- and who also witnessed the militants "showering bullets everywhere" during the attacks -- said he has "mixed" reactions about the reopening. Sakariya told reporters that: "They're coming back strongly and we support that," but given the recent events in Gaza, he wondered if the center might be a target again. "Just pray nothing happens this time around," he said. During the Mumbai attacks,166 people were killed in the three-day onslaught by heavily-armed militants, who targeted luxury hotels, Nariman House, a popular cafe, a hospital, and a train station.

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Marchers remain in Islamabad, Qadri ‘ready to die'

Protestors continued to clog Constitution Avenue in Islamabad on Tuesday after the Supreme Court asked the parties to clear the road (Dawn). Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had also directed law enforcement to implement the court's order by physically removing the protestors, but no police officials took action against the crowd. Meanwhile, cleric Tahir al-Qadri, the leader of one of the anti-government protests, said on Monday that he is prepared to die if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not resign within 48 hours (RFE/RL). Qadri showed thousands of protestors outside the parliament building a white burial shroud and said that it would either be for himself or for the Sharif government. Qadri's ultimatum came hours before the expiration of political opposition leader Imran Khan's deadline; Khan gave Sharif 24 hours to resign on Sunday. It is not clear what Qadri or Khan plan to do if Sharif refuses to resign, but a confrontation between Pakistani soldiers and the protestors is feared.

Sharif met with Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif on Tuesday to discuss the security situation in the country, including the protests in the capital (Dawn). According to a statement released after their meeting, "there was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest."

Khyber's most wanted

The local administration of Pakistan's Khyber tribal region made public on Tuesday a list of seventy wanted militants who the authorities say were involved in terrorist activity (Dawn). Officials say that the list, which is posted at the political authorities' offices in Jamrud, is intended to help locals identify those who may be involved in militancy. Tribal elders were warned that failing to hand over suspected militants whose names were on the list would trigger strict action against their entire tribes under the country's collective responsibility laws.


Abdullah threatens to withdraw from audit

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened on Tuesday to withdraw from the audit of the disputed presidential run-off election (AJE, RFE/RL). Fazel Ahmad Manawi, a senior member of Abdullah's campaign, demanded that the U.N.  Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission accept Abdullah's proposals for vote invalidation or they would withdraw from the audit process. Manawi said the audit had been politically high-jacked and listed examples where what he claimed were fraudulent votes being counted as valid (Pajhwok).  Since the runoff voting on June 14, Abudullah has twice boycotted the election process, but resumed his cooperation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened to broker a deal.

Clashes in Faryab kill 60 militants

Some sixty Taliban insurgents were killed in clashes in northern Faryab province this past week, Afghan officials said on Tuesday (Pajhwok, TOLO). Provincial governor Mohammadullah Batash said the clashes started when hundreds of insurgents attacked the districts of Qaisar and Ghormach and additional security forces were deployed to bolster the Afghan National Security Forces already fighting there. At least five members of the Afghan security forces were killed in the fighting.

--Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen