By David Sterman
Modi calls of for calm after a night of rioting in Gujrat
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for calm after violence broke out at a rally being held by the Patel community, in Ahmedmabad, the capital of the western state of Gujrat, leaving at least three dead and dozens injured (BBC, Reuters, WP,PTI). The rally organized on Wednesday, turned violent after it’s fiery 22-year-old leader from the Patel community, Hardik Patel, was briefly detained in light of small clashes between the police and the protestors. After the detention, the violence escalated, with protesters pelting police with stones and torching numerous police vehicles – 70 according to police sources. A curfew was imposed in many parts of the state. In a televised speech, Modi said: “I appeal to the people of Gujarat to maintain peace. Violence will never achieve anything.”
The rally was organized demanding affirmative action for the Patel community with regards to jobs and education. The Patel community counts for nearly 20 percent of the 63 million strong state of Gujrat, and is known to be influential in the business community of the state.
Hindu ratio of population falls below 80 percent for the first time ever
According to newly released religion-data from the 2011 census, the percentage of self-identifying Hindus in India has fallen below 80 percent for the first time (WSJ,Reuters). At independence from the British in 1947, the figure was at approximately 84 percent. India’s total population according to the 2011 census is 1.2 billion and 79.8 percent are Hindu, a percentage which stood at 80.5 percent a decade earlier. Muslims are the only group to have grown in percentage terms from 13.4 in 2001 to 14.2. Conservative Hindu leaders have repeatedly expressed concerns over the rising Muslim population and have demanded that Hindu women bear more children. There is also speculation in the media that the Congress government consciously choose not to release this data during their tenure. According to a U.N. forecast, India is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2022.
Rajan: Devaluing the rupee is not the way forward
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said in an interview to theEconomic Times that he does not think “depreciating the rupee and joining a global wave of monetary measures that have weakened currencies” is that right way forward for the Indian economy (BBC, Reuters). The ruling BJP government and RBI have been at odds with each other over policy decisions during the past few months and the country is re-evaluating which office should set monetary policy in the country. Rajan said that he would like to see India stick with current exchange rates, and work on “making its economy more competitive, as it was quite healthy and in a better position to handle global turbulence than it was in 2013.” The falling price of the Chinese currency has caused concern in emerging markets with the rupee hitting a two-year-low against the dollar on Tuesday.
— Shuja Malik
2 NATO members killed in insider attack
On Wednesday, two NATO service members were killed in southern Afghanistan in an insider attack by men wearing Afghan security force uniforms (CNN, AP, TOLO News). Both attackers were killed. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the third insider attack this year.
Mullah Omar’s brother warns of Taliban infighting
On Tuesday, Mullah Abdul Manan, the brother of former Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, warned of infighting if the new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, does not settle his differences with his rivals soon (ET). Manan stated that Mansoor’s supporters seek to issue an edict against those Taliban members who do not accept his leadership. Manan commented: “The mujahideen should not trust any such edict, and wait until the religious scholars make a decision. If any one-sided decree is issued before the ulema’s decision, it could lead to severe differences.” He added: “I demand Mansoor and all the other sides to avoid internal rift, and support mediation by the religious scholars who are making efforts to remove differences.” Some members of Omar’s family have refused to accept Mansoor’s leadership.
Musa Qala faces collapse
On Wednesday, local officials warned that the Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province faces collapse at the hands of advancing Taliban forces (TOLO News, Pajhwok). One member of the Provincial Council of Helmand, Bashir Shaker, stated: “Currently, Nawzad district in Helmand is completely controlled by militants, and Musa Qala is also under big threat.” Dawlat Waziri, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defense (MoD), cautioned against pessimism stating: “Abdul Khaliq Khan, the first deputy of MoD who went to Helmand, said our forces are ready for a military operation. Our airstrikes continue to tackle the enemy.” Some council members, however, suggested that the district had already fallen to the Taliban. Twenty-five members of the Afghan security force reportedly died as the Taliban made advances in the district.
Pakistan and Kazakhstan agree to expand trade
On Wednesday, Pakistan and Kazakhstan agreed to expand cooperation on trade and energy policy announced Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a joint news conference (ET, Dawn). Prime Minister Sharif commented: “Pakistan wants strong economic and trade cooperation with Kazakhstan.” Sharif also invited Kazakhstan to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stating: “I have invited their [Kazakhstan] government to join CPEC and they have kindly accepted.”
Director General of Pakistan’s Anti Narcotics Force cancels India visit
On Wednesday, Pakistan decided to no longer send the director general of its Anti Narcotics Force to a regional meeting on the illegal narcotics trade in New Delhi to be held next month (ET, Economic Times). Indian officials commented: “Pakistan has sent a terse note, simply expressing regret over not being able to make it for the meeting.” The cancellation comes amid tension between the two countries following the calling off of national security adviser level talks due to Pakistan’s intent to meet with Kashmiri separatist leaders. One senior Indian official, who wished to remain anonymous, remarked: “The withdrawal has come after the cancellation of the [national security adviser] talks. It’s significant because this is, otherwise, a routine regional meeting.”