South Asia Theater
Last month's US-India nuclear deal obviously signaled a rise in Sino-Indian tensions, seen by Beijing (accurately) as part of an encirclement strategy. The deal called for inclusion of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which drew immediate criticism from China. The NSG is comprised of 46 nuclear supplier states, including China, Russia and the US, that have agreed to coordinate export controls on civilian nuclear material to non-nuclear-weapon states. The group has up to now been made up of signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—which, as China was quck to note, does not include India (or Pakistan, or the "secret" nuclear nation Israel). More to the point, India is not a "non-nuclear-weapon state." (The Diplomat, Feb. 14; Arms Control Association)
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on Feb. 18 convicted and sentenced Islamist leader Abdus Subhan to death. Subhan, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) political party, was charged and convicted of of mass killing, looting and arson during during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Subhan is the ninth senior leader of his party to be convicted of war crimes since the tribunal opened in 2010.
Nepal created two commissions Feb. 10 to investigate allegations of war crimes and disappearances that occurred during the nation's 10-year civil war, announced Nepali Law Minister Narahari Acharya. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will investigate abuses committed during the conflict, and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing after the conflict ended in 2006. This agreement by the coalition government to address the war-time accusations comes just two weeks after Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed its concern regarding the government's delay in the formation of the commissions. The commissions will start their investigations within six months of their creation and will operate on two-year tenure.
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) sentenced (PDF) Islamist leader ATM Azharul Islam to death on Dec. 30 for war crimes committed during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Azharul Islam is the assistant secretary general of the nation's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). He was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, including mass murder, rape and torture, while fighting for Pakistan during the war as a member of the student party Islami Chhatra Sangha. The defense argued that Azharul Islam was only charged with these crimes for "political victimization," but the court stated that it did not find any evidence proving prosecution for political purposes.
Pakistani police have detained the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on abduction charges a day after a court ordered his release. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was detained in Pakistani custody since 2008 for heading the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (CFR backgrounder), which was held responsible for the Mumbai attacks that killed 165 individuals. Earlier this month, Lakhvi was granted bail, but the government immediately imposed a three-month detention order to keep him in prison. Lakhvi successfully challenged the order with the Islamabad High Court, and was conditionally released on Dec. 29. Hours after his release, Lakhvi was in police custody again for the alleged kidnapping of a man. The Pakistani government has stated plans to challenge the original decision to grant Lakhvi bail.
A Pakistani court on Dec. 26 issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Red Mosque (BBC backgrounder) in Islamabad. The court order comes after Aziz was accused of threatening protestors who were unhappy with his support of the Peshawar massacre that resulted in the deaths of around 150 people, most of them children. The cleric stated publicly that the massacre was an understandable action against the army's "un-Islamic operation," and roused further suspicions of alleged pro-Taliban leanings during a sermon when he stated "O rulers, O people in power, if you will commit such acts, there will be a reaction." The issuing of the arrest warrant was met with much public support, but leaders of the Red Mosque are adamant in their resistance, citing a lack of grounds for arrest. Execution of the warrant might be difficult because of reluctance by the police to arrest Aziz following his promise to instigate a country-wide protest should he be taken into custody.
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants shot dead at least 50 adivasis, or tribal people, at five different places in India's northeast state of Assam Dec. 23. Many women and children are among the dead. The attacks took place at remote rural villages, where residents were pulled out of their huts and summarily shot. The death toll is expected to rise. The coordinated attacks followed the killing of two Bodo rebels in a skirmish with Assam police troops earlier in the week. Authorities blamed the Songbijit faction of the NDFB, which is seeking statehood for the Bodoland region of Assam. (Times of India, Al Jazeera, BBC World Service, Dec. 24)
A massive oil spill from a stricken tanker is threatening endangered dolphins and other rare wildlife in the world's largest mangrove forest, Bangladesh officials warned Dec. 11. Rescue vessels have now salvaged the tanker, but the slick had already spread to a second river and a network of canals in the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which straddles India and Bangladesh. "It's a catastrophe for the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans," the area's chief forest official Amir Hossain told the AFP news agency. "The oil spill has already blackened the shoreline, threatening trees, plankton, vast populations of small fishes and dolphins." The tanker was carrying more than 350,000 liters of oil when it collided with another vessel and sank in the Sundarbans' Shela River, home to the endangered Ganges dolphins. Forest and security officials are on high alert amid fears the spill may cross over to the Indian side of the Sunderbans, home to Bengal tigers, ridley turtles, and other rare flora and fauna. The Sunderbans is also an important feeding area for migratory birds from Siberia. (Radio Australia, Al Jazeera, Business Standard, India, Dec. 11)