Recently elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently made headlines for a speech given and statements made during this week’s visit to India’s restive northern region of Jammu and Kashmir. The region, which still maintains a strong Indian military presence due to separatist activity in the region, has recently been afflicted by a series of attacks carried out by Islamic militants. The most recent attack took the lives of eight Indian soldiers and three police officers, and constituted the most violent such attack carried out in the region since 2007.
The visit by Modi has, nevertheless, been unique in its effectiveness. A speech given by the Indian prime minister at a cricket stadium in Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital, generated praise among regional occupants, led to positive headlines in press typically critical of Delhi, and marked the first visit by an Indian national politician in many years. As to be expected, the visit was criticized due to the security crackdown and disablement of all internet activity while Modi was in Srinagar, but nonetheless demonstrated the prime minister’s willingness to be seen and heard in Kashmir, something his most recent predecessors generally avoided. The visit has also been described as unique due to the relatively low amount of visible unrest and general passivity of the Kashmiri populace
- Russia and Uzbekistan came to terms on an $890mn debt settlement following meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan has long skirted Russian conditions for debt repayment, opting instead for an agreement to the liking of both sides. The total amount of debt accrued stands at $500mn, while the interest constitutes the remainder. The deal is expected to allow Uzbekistan to request and receive new loans from Russia in the future, and came amid wider talks concerning Uzbek-Russian collaboration.
- The eight alleged perpetrators of knife and bomb attacks in China’s Xinjiang province have been sentenced to death for the act. Continued violence in the region has bred fierce opposition amongst Chinese government officials as well as ethnic Han Chinese, who have often been the targets of the violence. The latest sentences were handed down on Monday, and were accompanied by five “suspended death sentences” for other alleged accomplices.
- Kazakhstan announced its desire to significantly improve trade relations with India. The Business Standard reports that recently appointed Kazakh Ambassador Bult Sarsenbayev will soon present his credentials to the Indian president and engage in discussions surrounding economic and commercial ties. The Kazakhstan-India economic relationship is currently valued at $800mn USN with that number expected to rise through the trade of petroleum-derived products and other commodities.
- The United States and NATO officially brought its activities in Afghanistan to a close, commemorating the act through a brief ceremony. The official conclusion to military operations in Afghanistan comes amid Taliban resurgences throughout the country and rampant poppy cultivation and opium production. The United States will remain involved in the country for the next few years, though in a much reduced capacity.
- The World Health Organization reports on the success of a Russian-funded project which has seen pediatric treatment in the Tajik region of Khatlon improve markedly. The report outlines a variety of steps taken to improve treatment, including the consistent dissemination of training materials used to implement improved triage and emergency care facilities, as well as educate an additional 250 health care workers and academic faculty. The program also increased access to healthcare region-wide and added an additional “340 items of equipment and 7000 necessary supplies to 10 pilot hospitals.”
- Heavy snows have racked Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, resulting in the closure of schools and businesses in the Kazakh capital of Astana for at least two more days. Kyrgyzstan has also been affected by the snow, which has rapidly surpassed one meter with more expected. Avalanches as a result of the snow have also been provoked, causing uncertainty among high-altitude Kyrgyz communities.