Sanjeev's Feed
Nov 12, 2012
via India Insight

India stepping up to the challenge of post-2014 Afghanistan

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Racing through the deserted streets of Kabul at nighttime, you are likely to be stopped at street corners by policemen once, twice or even more. If you are a South Asian, as I am, their guard is up even more. “Pakistani or Indian?” the cop barks out as you lower your window. When I answer “Indian”, he wants me to produce a passport to prove that, and as it happens, I am not carrying one. So I am pulled out of the car in the freezing cold and given a full body search, with the policemen muttering under his breath in Dari that everyone goes around claiming to be an Indian, especially Pakistanis.

To be an Indian in Kabul is to be greeted warmly wherever you go, whether it is negotiating a security barrier or seeking a meeting with a government official. There is an easing of tensions (in Afghanistan, the fear uppermost in the mind is that the stranger at the door could be an attacker and you don’t have too long to judge), Bollywood is almost immediately mentioned, and your hosts will go out of their way to help.

Nov 8, 2012
via Pakistan: Now or Never?

Russia warming up to Pakistan

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The impending withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has seen increased efforts being made by Russia and China to gain influence in the region. As a part of their strategy to secure its interests in Central Asia, Russia has been attempting to foster a relationship with Pakistan.

Oct 18, 2012
via Pakistan: Now or Never?

Pakistan’s economy, the hidden threat

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Not too long ago, if you were travelling from India to Pakistan, you couldn’t help but notice how well the modern airports, the six-lane motorway linking Islamabad to Lahore, and the well-planned tree-lined capital city compared to the sprawling chaos of New Delhi.  Indeed that motorway was South Asia’s first, long before India started to build its expressways, and in some ways Pakistan, which was a more open economy than India’s Licence Raj system and grew faster for decades until the 1990s, looked more like the developed Islamic states on its west than the poor cousins of South Asia.

But the tables have turned and the one-time economic star of the region is slipping behind its neighbours as it struggles with militant Islam, a near breakdown in ties with its greatest benefactor, the United States, and a civilian leadership that is struggling to hold its own under the boot of the powerful military while an assertive judiciary snaps at its heels.

Jul 5, 2012
via Pakistan: Now or Never?

Afghan economy: a hard landing ahead

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If you go to the run-down Desh bazaar in central Kabul – which sells everything from widescreen Samsung televisions to used shoes - it doesn’t matter what currency you use to pay for your shopping. They will accept the afghani, the US dollar or the Pakistani rupee. 

But if you were to go further east to Jalalabad near the border with Pakistan, you will probably end up paying for everything in the Pakistani currency,  or kaldhar, as it is known in Afghanistan from the Taliban period.  In fact,  the shopkeeper – who buys all his goods from Pakistan – might even insist you pay in  rupees rather than afghanis. An Afghan colleague who was coming through Jalalabad on his way back from Pakistan said the restaurant where his family stopped for lunch refused the afghani. And just as a large swathe of Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan uses the rupee, in the west the Iranian rial  competes with the afghani.

Jul 2, 2012

Voice of Mumbai attacks points finger at Pakistan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Forty-eight hours into the bloody assault on Mumbai in November 2008, smoke was billowing from the wreckage of the Taj Mahal hotel and commandos were flushing out the last gunmen holed up in the opulent landmark of India’s financial capital.

A short distance away in the city’s southernmost peninsula, security forces were still battling at Nariman House, a Jewish centre where two of the Islamist militants had taken half a dozen people hostage, including a rabbi and his pregnant wife.

Jul 2, 2012

Insight: Voice of Mumbai attacks points finger at Pakistan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Forty-eight hours into the bloody assault on Mumbai in November 2008, smoke was billowing from the wreckage of the Taj Mahal hotel and commandos were flushing out the last gunmen holed up in the opulent landmark of India’s financial capital.

A short distance away in the city’s southernmost peninsula, security forces were still battling at Nariman House, a Jewish centre where two of the Islamist militants had taken half a dozen people hostage, including a rabbi and his pregnant wife.

Jun 27, 2012

Afghanistan wants its cultural heroes back

KABUL (Reuters) – - Interred a quarter century ago in Pakistan, the remains of Afghan poet Ustad Khalilullah Khalili now lie in a forlorn corner of Kabul University, brought here to be reburied so that no one else can lay claim to the revered poet-philosopher.

He has no epitaph; only a few wilted bouquets lie at the grave of Afghanistan’s most prominent 20th century poet. Three policemen guard the site.

Jun 27, 2012

Feature: Afghanistan wants its cultural heroes back

KABUL (Reuters) – - Interred a quarter century ago in Pakistan, the remains of Afghan poet Ustad Khalilullah Khalili now lie in a forlorn corner of Kabul University, brought here to be reburied so that no one else can lay claim to the revered poet-philosopher.

He has no epitaph; only a few wilted bouquets lie at the grave of Afghanistan’s most prominent 20th century poet. Three policemen guard the site.

Jun 22, 2012

Afghan forces need reading lessons before security transfer

KABUL (Reuters) – A third of Afghan national security forces are taking basic lessons in reading and counting as NATO commanders accelerate their training ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops in 2014, the coalition has said.

More than 95 percent of recruits in the Afghan national army and police are functionally illiterate, having never been to school, so are sent on a beginner’s course to teach them how to write their name and count to 1,000 in their mother tongue.

Jun 20, 2012

Afghans slow to warm to their stable currency

KABUL (Reuters) – Abdullah Kakar, an employee in the agriculture department in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, converts most of his wages into Pakistani rupees each month except for a small amount to pay his electric bill, school fees and top up his phone card.

Everything else he pays for in the Pakistani currency, from tomatoes to the rent for his house, like millions of people in a swathe of provinces stretching from Nangarhar in the east down to Zabul and Kandahar in the south.