TIME India

Floods Have Killed 73 in India’s Northeast

People use cycle rickshaws to commute through a flooded road after heavy rains in Guwahati
People use rickshaws to commute through a flooded road after heavy rains in the northeastern Indian city of Guwahati on Sept. 23, 2014 Utpal Baruah—Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes

Around 73 people have been killed in India’s northeast, after flash floods and landslides hit two states in the region.

A senior government official in Meghalaya told the Associated Press on Wednesday that 35 bodies had been recovered over the past two days with 15 people still missing. Police in neighboring Assam said the floods had claimed 38 lives there.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in both states mere weeks after flash floods in Kashmir killed over 400 people, about half of them in Pakistan. Local news channel NDTV reported that the army and disaster-response forces have been evacuating people, with authorities setting up 162 relief camps in the worst-affected areas.

The Assam-Meghalaya floods have so far not seen the kind of backlash against alleged government inaction that marked the Kashmir floods.

“We are taking all relief and rescue measures in the flood-hit districts,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

TIME Pakistan

Two Pakistani Politicians Got Kicked Off a Plane by Furious Passengers

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik speaks during an interview with Reuters in lslamabad
Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik speaks during an interview with Reuters in lslamabad on Aug. 4, 2012 Faisal Mahmood—Reuters

Passengers mutiny after suspecting flight was delayed to accommodate a tardy MP and a former Interior Minister

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Karachi to Islamabad took off without two of its most high-profile ticket holders — a former Interior Minister and an MP from the ruling party — after an incensed group of passengers forced them to disembark.

The passengers were kept waiting on the tarmac for two hours before former Interior Minister Rehman Malik and legislator Ramesh Kumar Vankwani showed up to board, the BBC reported.

While PIA claims the hold-up was for technical reasons, the airline has in the past delayed departures to accommodate the schedules of politicians and high-ranking officials.

A video taken by one of the passengers shows Malik walking toward the aircraft door, being confronted by the angry mob shouting things like “You should be ashamed of yourself!” and “250 passengers have been put out because of you!” Malik tries, very briefly, to respond, but on realizing the passengers are having none of it, he turns around and walks off.

Malik later said he arrived late because PIA staff told him the flight was delayed. However, the incident has ignited a social-media storm in Pakistan and brought issues of favoritism or “VIP culture” into the spotlight.

[BBC]

TIME China

Xi’s India Visit Highlights Changing Power Dynamic

Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping, makes a joint statement with Maldives President Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, unseen, in Male, Maldives, on Sept. 15, 2014 Fayaz Moosa—Associated Press

Xi is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on trade, investment and the resolution of decades-old border disputes

(BEIJING)— Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India this week highlights subtle shifts in the regional power dynamic that are bringing warmer ties between the two Asian giants, challenging China’s traditional relationship with Pakistan, and opening a new chapter in Beijing’s ongoing competition for influence with arch-rival Japan.

Xi is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on trade, investment and the resolution of decades-old border disputes. With the world’s second-largest economy and a proven track record at building highways, railways, and industrial zones, China has much to offer India as it seeks to upgrade its creaky infrastructure.

The visit is the latest sign of easing suspicions between the two huge countries — which between them have 2.6 billion people — dating from a month-long border war in 1962 that left around 2,000 soldiers dead. That conflict ended in a standoff with both sides accusing the other of occupying its territory.

Xi’s visit “will definitely enhance the bilateral political mutual trust,” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing last week.

While ties have been steadily growing for years, they’ve been given a major boost under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s signaled he wishes to pursue a more vigorous foreign policy. Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit in eight years, while the country’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, made Indiahis first overseas visit shortly after taking office last year.

“Good relations with India are a key part of China’s regional strategy and Xi’s visit creates the opportunity for direct face-to-face communication on the problems that still exist, such as the border issue,” said Zhao Gancheng, Director of the Asia-Pacific Center of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

Modi spoke repeatedly to top Chinese officials in the first weeks of his administration, and during a recentvisit to India, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the new relationship as “the emerging tip of a massive buried treasure.”

There’s certainly plenty of room for growth. China may be India’s biggest trading partner, but commerce between them dropped to an anemic $65 billion last year, with China exporting $48 billion more goods than it imported. For Modi, boosting trade and foreign investment is critical to making good on his campaign promise of creating jobs for the 13 million young Indians entering the labor market each year.

China also has a strong vested interested in preventing India from drawing too close to the West and especially to Japan, which has enthusiastically courted Modi’s government.

Recently, Modi paid a five-day visit to Japan, bringing home pledges of billions of dollars in aid and investment and an agreement to strengthen their economic and security ties. Modi has emphasized the value of their shared commitment to democracy in contrast to China’s one-party authoritarian communist system.

In light of that visit, Xi is expected to make investment pledges matching or exceeding the $35 billion Modi received in Japan — a sign of how Modi has been able to leverage the rivalry between China and Japan to maximize gains for India.

“China, I think, is conscious that we have a good equation with Japan,” said Jayadev Ranade, president of the New Delhi-based think tank Center for China Analysis and Strategy.

Both sides have said the border disputes shouldn’t impede relations and recent years have brought regular consultations between both their diplomats and troops on either side high along the Himalayan frontier.

That’s despite the occasional Indian accusation of Chinese incursions and an increased Chinese military presence along the border that has prompted India to deploy more armored units, refurbish air strips, and construct new roads in the area.

China lays claim to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an immense territory of nearly 84,000 square kilometers (more than 32,000 square miles), while India says China is illegally occupying the region of Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty 37,000-square-kilometer (14,000-square-mile) region far to the east.

Talks have yet to produce a long-term solution, but until they do, China says its policy is to avoid conflict.

“We are all committed to tranquility and peace at the border. We will strive for an equitable and reasonable solution based on negotiation and consultation. We have confidence and capability for that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday.

While both Xi and Modi are strong leaders who’ve shown initiative, they’re constrained on the border issue by domestic sentiment, particularly rising nationalism in China, Ranade said.

“There will be many issues raised and discussed but I don’t see a major breakthrough on the border issue. These are difficult issues,” Ranade said. “But even if they are discussed in a tangible fashion, which I expect the Modi government will do, it will be a move forward.”

Xi’s visit comes during a swing through the region that also includes stops in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, where Chinese companies are at work on a major port and other infrastructure projects.

He won’t, however, be stopping in on long-time ally and Indian rival Pakistan amid an outbreak of violent political protests in the capital, Islamabad. That offers further evidence for those who see a growing Chinese ambivalence toward Pakistan, although Ranade said the fact that the country was included on the original itinerary shows Beijing still values the relationship.

“Under the circumstances, it’s inappropriate to have such a high-level visit,” said the Shanghai Institute’s Zhao. Beijing hasn’t commented on reasons for the visit’s cancellation and the Foreign Ministry says China and Pakistan remain friendly neighbors.

China and Pakistan had in the past found common cause in checking India’s growth as a regional power, but China’s own stratospheric rise has alleviated that need. Beijing also has grown increasingly concerned with the threat to stability in its northwestern region of Xinjiang posed by Islamic radicals hiding out in northwestern Pakistan.

At the same time, Pakistan’s political dysfunction and economic malaise also offer little incentive for Chinese companies to take on the sort of major projects there that they’re now eyeing for India.

TIME

See the Flooding in India and Pakistan, From Space

The state of Jammu & Kashmir was largely submerged after monsoons flooded the area earlier this month. The controversial state is split between India and Pakistan. Since flooding began on September 3, 1.9 million people have been affected and the death toll is 474 and rising.

Both India and Pakistan have been ramping up relief efforts. Pakistan has rescued nearly 30,000 people using helicopters and boats, while another 48,000 were rescued by civilian services. India sent out 80 medical teams to help the affected, and set up 19 relief camps in Srinagar.

The satellite photos provided by DigitalGlobe and Google show lakes where fields used to be, and in entire communities only the roofs are visible.

TIME Pakistan

Malala’s Attackers Arrested in Pakistan

UN-PAKISTAN-MALALA
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai meets with students August 18, 2014 at United Nations headquarters in New York. Yousafzai was attending a UN conference called "500 Days of Action for the Millennium Development Goals." Stan Hoda—AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan's military apprehended the Taliban members responsible for her 2012 shooting

Authorities have arrested the Taliban militants who shot Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage activist who was targeted by the group because of her campaign for women’s rights and equal education for girls.

Ten attackers were arrested, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s army told Reuters. The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting Malala and two other school girls in 2012. Until now, no arrests had been made following the incident.

Malala, now 17, survived the gunshot wound to the head after being airlifted to the U.K. for treatment. She has since written a book, I Am Malala, and become an emblem for defiance in the region and a leading advocate for girls’ education. She won the European Union’s human rights award, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and was named to last year’s TIME 100. She now lives in the U.K. and cannot return to Pakistan because of threats against her life and the lives of her family members.

[Reuters]

TIME India

Kashmir Floods Hampered Emergency Services, Says Chief Minister

Jammu And Kashmir Flood
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah arrives at the airport to inspect the rescue and relief operations following flooding on September 9, 2014 in Srinagar, India. Nitin Kanotra —Hindustan Times / Getty Images

State leader cites lack of communication lines and submerging of infrastructure as reasons why government couldn't respond

Responding to widespread public anger at his government’s handling of the recent Kashmir floods, chief minister Omar Abdullah said floodwaters paralyzed emergency services.

“My government couldn’t respond in the first 24 hours as we didn’t have a government,” Abdullah said in an interview with Indian news channel NDTV. “My secretariat, the police headquarters, the control room, fire services, hospitals, all the infrastructure was underwater,” he said, adding that he was only now able to get in touch with his ministers.

The New York Times had earlier reported widespread anger against the government as the floodwaters receded, with multiple instances of attacks on rescue services being reported.

More than 200 people have been killed over the past week in the worst floods the Kashmir region has seen in five decades, with an equal number perishing in neighboring parts of Pakistan. The Indian army and disaster response forces have collectively transported nearly 100,000 people to safety, but thousands more remain stranded on rooftops waiting for help.

In the state capital, Srinagar, meanwhile, people began taking advantage of receding water levels by looting abandoned homes, according to the Times of India.

More than 700,000 villagers in India and Pakistan have been forced to flee their homes as record flooding sweeps through their neighborhoods.

TIME foreign affairs

Soldiers From Poor Countries Have Become the World’s Peacekeepers

Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights.
Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights. AP

It is an unfair burden for troops who are less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped

On Aug. 28, rebels from the al-Qaeda-allied al-Nusra Front stormed the Golan Heights border crossing between Syria and Israel, home to one of the oldest U.N. peacekeeping operations. While two contingents of Philippine peacekeepers managed to flee the rebel attack, 45 Fijian troops were captured and taken away by the rebels to parts unknown.

The Fijians were finally released on Sept. 11, but the two-week crisis crystallized a persistent yet under-reported fact: while the U.N. calls upon the international community to act in times of crises, it is often soldiers from developing nations who shoulder the stiffest burden.

In 1994, on the heels of the Rwandan genocide, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.) provided 20% of all U.N. peacekeeping personnel.

But by 2004, Security Council nations contributed only 5% of U.N. personnel. This July, amid a tumultuous summer of violent conflicts, that figure had dropped to a miserly 4%, while the governments of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Philippines provided a staggering 39% of all U.N. forces.

Critics can counter this charge with stats of their own. After all, they say, the permanent members contribute 53% of the U.N.’s annual budget, far outstripping financial contributions made by countries of the global south. But recent years have also seen sluggish rates of payment from wealthier nations — delays that further strain an overburdened system supporting 16 peacekeeping missions around the world.

On balance, the troops contributed by developing countries are more likely to be less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped for the missions. Delays in financial contributions only complicate the challenges of modern peacekeeping.

So does the fractured nature of modern conflicts. Military experts, like General Sir Rupert Smith, have noted the shift from “industrial wars” of the past to today’s “war amongst the people.” Modern conflicts involve combatants whose ends are not merely the control of territory or the monopoly of politics. They wage war with their own rules, without concern for the U.N.’s mission to referee.

In response, peacekeeping has been hurriedly ramped up: more comprehensive mandates are issued and troops are cleared to use force in defense of civilians. But in the end, peacekeepers are redundant where there is no peace to keep.

The Golan Heights are no exception. The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force was set up 40 years ago precisely to observe the contentious border between Israel and Syria. Today, the threats aren’t even nation states. The peacekeepers in Golan must contend with spillover from Syria’s three-year-long civil war, and the aggression of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front. They are forced to become soldiers on the front lines of a perpetually asymmetrical conflict, treated as mere machine-gun fodder whenever the international community seeks to stem the spread of terror by piling blue helmets in its way.

In a New York Times op-ed of Aug. 29, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed U.S. intentions to use its position as president of the Security Council to coordinate a response to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East.

“The United States … will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters,” Kerry wrote, adding that “President Obama, addressing the Security Council, would construct a plan to deal with this collective threat.”

For observers, however, events in Golan should serve as a warning. If the U.N. and its leading members intend to tackle collective threats, it is time to address how best to equitably divide the collective risk. In service of international stability, leaders of the developed world have become far too comfortable asking developing countries to put their troops in the line of fire.

Adam McCauley is a Canadian writer and photographer currently based in Hong Kong. His work has appeared in TIME, the New York Times, Al Jazeera and online in the New Yorker.

TIME India

Hundreds Now Dead in India, Pakistan Floods as Rescue Efforts Slammed

India's Central Water Commission in charge of issuing flood advisories has come under fire for not warning the state

Updated: 3:06 a.m. EST

The devastating floods resulting from Kashmir’s worst rains in half a century claimed more lives on Tuesday, with the total death toll now breaching 400 and local people decrying officials for failing to adequately deal with the catastrophe.

Several thousand people are still trapped on rooftops in the restive Himalayan region waiting to be rescued, reports Reuters, and local residents have criticized both the Indian and Pakistani authorities for a lackluster response to the crisis. Indian news channel NDTV reported that some rescue workers were even attacked by furious locals.

Although India’s metrological department had forecast heavy rains in Kashmir last week, the Central Water Commission in charge of issuing flood advisories apparently did not warn the local authorities.

“We were all caught off guard because there was not a single warning issued by the weather office. The flash floods took us by surprise,” an official from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told Reuters in New Delhi on the condition of anonymity.

Mohammad Irfan Dar, a New Delhi-based independent filmmaker who originally hails from Srinagar, tells TIME that efforts to organize private relief donations have been thwarted by the authorities.

“In Delhi, most of us are focused on raising awareness, organizing relief and gathering supplies,” he said. “The biggest challenge we are facing is the lack of communication from the state.”

Dar’s says he knows of between 300 and 500 relief volunteers across the Indian capital, some of whom have been dispatched to Kashmir to coordinate efforts there. Air India has offered to take essential supplies for free but only has limited capacity. “Drinking water, especially, is a huge problem right now,” he adds.

India’s armed forces and the NDRF have commissioned 61 aircraft and helicopters along with 170 boats, 40 of which were flown to the affected area on Tuesday. Across the border, the Pakistani army and navy have 12 helicopters and more than 250 boats performing rescue and relief operations, according to local newspaper Dawn.

At least 217 Indians have been killed and more than 47,000 evacuated, say officials, while the Pakistani authorities report at least 231 fatalities.

Srinagar, the capital of both Kashmir and the north Indian state of Jammu, remains mostly submerged along with over 2,000 surrounding villages, although the Times of India has reported a few breakthroughs, such as the restoration of landline communications near the city’s airport and the clearing of the first road link since the floods began.

Several people are rescued from the high floodwaters in Srinagar, northern India.

TIME Disaster

See Dramatic Rescue Scenes from Floods That Killed Over 400 in Pakistan and India

The death toll from floods in Pakistan and India reached hundreds, and troops in both countries have been using boats and helicopters to drop food supplies for stranded families and evacuate victims, the Associated Press reports. The flash floods have put more than a million people in peril and left thousands of families homeless in the two neighboring states.

[AP]

TIME India

Kashmir Flooding Death Toll Rises to 175, India PM Modi Vows $180M Aid

A Kashmiri man evacuates an elderly woman to a higher ground at a flooded road in Srinagar
A Kashmiri man evacuates an elderly woman to a higher ground at a flooded road in Srinagar on Sept. 7, 2014 Danish Ismail—Reuters

Thousands more remain stranded as region experiences worst monsoon floods in 60 years

Large parts of Kashmir remain inundated by widespread floods that have rendered homes, hospitals and army bases completely submerged, prompting the New Delhi government to rush to the disputed territory’s aid. Some 175 people have so far died from the rising waters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over the Kashmir Valley and held meetings with Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and other state officials on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Srinagar, the capital and largest city of both Kashmir and the Indian state of Jammu, saw water levels continue to rise despite the halting on Saturday of the torrential rains that had thrashed the northern region all week. Indian news channel NDTV reported floods two or three stories high in parts of the city.

Most people living in low-lying areas were caught unawares, and thousands remained stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

“This is a national-level disaster,” said Modi, who announced more than $180 million in relief aid to the state, along with compensation to those who lost family members or were grievously injured in the flooding.

The region has been without electricity for several hours, and many important roads and phone lines have been damaged, causing widespread panic as people struggle to contact stranded relatives. Kashmiris have taken to social media in order to coordinate the relief efforts more effectively.

The overflowing of the Jhelum river that cuts through the region has also caused landslides and flooding in neighboring Pakistan, where the death toll has also risen to 170. Modi extended a helping hand to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, saying “the government of India is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to those areas if the Pakistan government needs it.”

Kashmir has long been a disputed region that both India and Pakistan claim, and its history has been marked by communal violence and border skirmishes between the two neighbors. Some 180 officers posted on the Indo-Pakistan border were evacuated on Sunday, according to the Times of India.

The Indian army and air force have rescued over 13,000 people from various areas, and the country’s National Disaster Response Force has deployed 70 boats and five rescue teams to aid the relief effort. Aircraft carrying food, water and medical supplies have also been dispatched.

Footage shows floodwaters destroying a bridge in Jammu and residents trying to go about their daily life in Srinagar on Sept. 7, 2014.

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