TIME India

Military Action, Diplomatic Threats Between India and Pakistan in Kashmir

Villagers sit on the debris of their house after it was damaged during the recent exchange of fire between Pakistan and India at the Pakistani border town of Dhamala Hakimwala
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters Villagers sit on the debris of their house after it was damaged during the recent exchange of fire between Pakistan and India at the Pakistani border town of Dhamala Hakimwala on Oct. 8, 2014

Border skirmishes are common between the South Asian neighbors, but the weeklong confrontation is the most serious such escalation in nearly a decade

India and Pakistan exchanged multiple warnings and even subtle hints of a nuclear retaliation on Thursday, as military action from both sides continued on the Kashmir border in what is the worst standoff between the two countries in nearly a decade.

Heavy shelling on the border over the past week has resulted in the deaths of at least eight Indian and nine Pakistani civilians, and thousands of villagers have been forced to flee their homes, according to Reuters.

Tensions between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since the former was liberated and the latter created in 1947, have long convulsed South Asia. Border skirmishes between the nuclear-armed neighbors are relatively common in spite of a 2003 cease-fire agreement, but a sudden escalation of violence, stronger-than-usual posturing from both governments, and a departure from the usual methods of resolution are what sets the current conflict apart.

“This conflict is different first of all in that it’s prolonged and escalating, and secondly in that civilians are getting killed,” says Radha Kumar, director general of the Delhi Policy Group. “It’s never gone on for this long in the past 10 years.”

In August this year, there were cease-fire violations along the Indian-Pakistan border in Jammu, Indian-administered Kashmir’s winter capital. Some civilians were killed and around 2,000 villagers fled their homes to ramshackle camps. Toward the end of the month, a flag meeting was held between the two forces and peace had prevailed, only to be shattered early this week.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, in response to his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley’s warning that Indian forces would render any “adventurism” by Pakistan “unaffordable,” said Islamabad has the ability to counter Indian aggression, followed by what could be perceived as a veiled threat. “We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbors to escalate into confrontation,” Asif said on Thursday.

The border standoff marks a downturn in India-Pakistan relations under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose invitation to Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration ceremony in May sparked hopes of closer ties between the historic adversaries. The recent flash floods in Kashmir, which claimed hundreds of lives on both sides of the border, also saw exchanges of support and goodwill between the two leaders.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the Washington, D.C.–based Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, says the current conflict is fairly typical in terms of the force used by either side and that civilians have been caught in the cross fire. However, “what makes it different is that you have two new governments and they are not following the standard operating procedures of resolving this at the military level,” he tells TIME.

The Indian Express reported that India’s Border Security Force has refused to engage in another flag meeting with Pakistani officials, instead asking the Ministries of Home and External Affairs to use diplomatic channels to resolve the conflict.

“All our efforts to secure peace and tranquility on the Line of Control and the Work Boundary have elicited no cooperation from the Indian side,” said a statement from Sartaj Aziz, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Sharif. On Friday, the Pakistani leader called on New Delhi to honor the pre-existing cease-fire agreement.

Certainly, the steadily escalating conflict could not come at a more inopportune time for Sharif, as he faces widespread protests over allegations of corruption that have rocked his government for over two months amid rumors of a potential military coup. “He is trying to show that he and the military are on the same page,” says Nawaz.

However, analysts are split on the long-term consequences of the current escalation. According to a high-ranking Indian army official in Kashmir, who spoke to TIME in August on condition of anonymity, border confrontations with India will only increase as political instability deepens in Pakistan.

“The fact of the matter is that Nawaz Sharif is not in charge, he’s not even in charge of the capital,” agrees former Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy, who served as the high Commissioner to Pakistan between 1998 and 2000. “The [Pakistani] army is primed to see how the Modi government will react to this infiltration.”

But Hamayoun Khan, a lecturer in the Strategic Studies Department at Islamabad’s National Defence University, says that Indian politics have just as much of a role to play in the conflict, pointing to upcoming state-assembly elections in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Khan says the border situation works to the advantage of nationalist parties like Modi’s BJP, which is not shy about courting anti-Pakistan views to get votes. “Once they are over, once the rhetoric from the other side stops, this conflict will abate,” he says. “They [India] will mellow down and so will we.”

Khan also disagrees with claims that the Pakistani Prime Minister has no control of his government. “The political situation that has been going on for over 60 days has put Nawaz Sharif under a lot of pressure, but he’s bearing the burden of that pretty well and is pretty much in control,” he says.

The question of the possibility of rapprochement, meanwhile, is yet to be answered. “My fear is that the escalation ladder is very steep, particularly in Kashmir. You can go quickly from exchanging words to exchange fire,” says Nawaz. “It’s not in the best interests of either government to let this issue fester.”

— With reporting from Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi

TIME Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi Win Nobel Peace Prize

The prize was awarded to them for their efforts in the education of women and against the exploitation of children respectively

Exactly two years and a day after Taliban gunmen shot her in the head for daring to speak up for the rights of a girl to get an education, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan was awarded the Nobel Peace prize Friday. She shares the award with veteran children’s rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, from neighboring India.

Both Yousafzai and Satyarthi were lauded “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” according to the Nobel Committee’s statement. Though it may not have been intentional, the joint award evokes certain symmetry: Yousufzai, who has since moved to England to continue her education in a safer environment, is at the beginning of a life she has repeatedly said will be spent furthering her cause. Satyarthi is looking back on a career studded with achievements and dedicated to protecting children from exploitation. His work on developing international conventions for children’s rights is what enabled Yousufzai to launch her own campaign, first in her native Pakistan, and then around the world.

That the two come from rival countries and oft-clashing faiths only strengthens the message that the need for children’s education trumps both nation and creed. “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” said the Peace Prize statement.

For Yousufzai, who continues to receive threats from the Pakistani Taliban who attempted to silence her demands to be educated two years ago, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize offers no better, and no louder, rebuttal.

TIME Thailand

The Investigation Into Thailand’s Backpacker Slayings Is Officially a Farce

Two workers from Myanmar, suspected of killing two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao last month, stand during a re-enactment of the alleged crime, on the island
Reuters Two Burmese workers, wearing helmets and handcuffs, suspected of killing two British tourists on the Thai island of Koh Tao last month, stand near Thai police officers during a re-enactment of the alleged crime on Oct. 3, 2014, on the spot where the bodies of the tourists were found on the island

Allegations of torture, procedural irregularities and wild speculation in the press: Thai authorities are botching a high-profile murder probe

Murdered British backpacker Hannah Witheridge was finally laid to rest in England on Friday. But 6,000 miles away in Thailand, the investigation into her tragic death, and that of her friend David Miller, whose funeral took place Oct. 3, spiraled further into farce.

The main suspects in the killings, which took place on the Thai Gulf island of Koh Tao, have reportedly claimed that they were tortured into a confession, and public prosecutors rejecting the police report.

“The two victims and their families deserve justice, which will only be possible if there is a fair and transparent process,” says Kingsley Abbott, Bangkok-based adviser for the International Commission of Jurists. Above all, he adds, “the burden of proof rests on the prosecution,” as the “two men must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

On Sept. 15, the bloodied bodies of Witheridge, 23, and Miller, 24, were discovered on the island that is famous among scuba divers and sandal-clad tourists for its pristine beaches and coral reefs.

Burmese nationals Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, were arrested last Friday and quickly confessed to the double murder. They had apparently worked illegally on the island for a number of years and were driven, say police, by a desire to rape Witheridge after seeing the young British couple canoodling on the white sand.

The Thai authorities then dragged the two suspects to the rocky outcrop where the tourists’ bodies were found for a grisly re-enactment. Wearing helmets and body armor, they demonstrated for assembled media how the bludgeoning, using a garden hoe and wooden stake, took place and prayed for forgiveness. Both could face a death sentence if convicted.

Yet a litany of questions and inconsistencies hang over the investigation. Other than the apparent retraction, proffered by an official at the Burmese embassy, there has been a rejection of the police’s investigation report, with public prosecutors on Wednesday asking the authors to supply “more crucial information,” “fix certain flaws” and make the 850-page document “more succinct.”

Numerous character witnesses have come out to defend Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun and they have no criminal record. Essentially, the case against them hinges on five strands of evidence:

  1. Their Confessions. The most damning evidence in any case is a confession. However, reports have since emerged that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were beaten and threatened with electrocution during interrogation. (Other irregular workers questioned have alleged they were alternately offered bribes and doused with boiling water.) It also emerged that the translator used was a Rohingya — a member of a distinct Burmese ethnicity that suffers periodic pogroms at the hands of west Burma’s Rakhine majority, to which the accused both belong. There are unconfirmed rumors that the interpreter, who has since even given interviews, actually participated in the beatings. In addition, upon initially being picked up, neither the accused were apparently provided with a lawyer as they were being questioned under the Immigration Act rather than as part of a murder inquiry. (It is unclear at what stage a legal counsel was eventually provided.)
  2. Three DNA Samples. These were found on two cigarette butts close to the crime scene, two of which — from Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun — are purportedly matches for samples recovered from Witheridge’s body. The third is apparently that of Maung Maung, a friend of the accused who says he was with them drinking beer and playing guitar on the beach shortly before the attack. However, Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunan, director general of the Central Institute of Forensic Science and the country’s leading forensics authority, on Thursday decried the collection of evidence as a “weak point” and said the police committed a major error when they failed to involve a forensic pathologist.
  3. Maung Maung’s Testimony. This forms the third strand of evidence, although it is no slam dunk. He admits being with his two friends on the beach but leaving them at around 1 a.m. They wanted to keep on drinking, he said, so he went to see his girlfriend. He claims not to have seen any evidence of a crime, according to media reports.
  4. CCTV Footage. This shows the three Burmese riding a motorbike by a convenience store, where they apparently bought cigarettes and three bottles of beer. It corroborates Maung Maung’s version of events, but is circumstantial at best.
  5. Miller’s Cell Phone. It was discovered at lodgings of Zaw Lin, according to police. The device, a black iPhone 4, was apparently smashed and discarded as it did not work inside Thailand. But why would Zaw Lin do that when he could have sold it for at least a month’s salary? And if he was concerned about possible incrimination, why keep it at home?

But there are numerous other threads to tug. Given that Burmese migrants were in the spotlight from the outset, and this pair were well-known on the island and frequently seen in the vicinity of the crime scene, why were they not hauled in for DNA tests and questioning sooner?

In addition, there have been significant procedural irregularities, including allowing tourists into the crime scene before all evidence was collected. CCTV footage has been produced, but with significant gaps, and only from a selection of the many sources available. The defense team will want to examine this all. There is also no complete, undisputed timeline of Witheridge and Miller’s movements prior to the attack. Considering the notoriety of the case, and the victims’ sociable nature in this small community, that is very odd.

Finally, there has been rampant press coverage of the unsubstantiated remarks made by local officials. In the latest, the chief of the prison where the suspects are being held told a reporter Thursday he “is afraid they may commit suicide” because they are “feeling guilty for the crime.”

Thailand does not have jury trials and so the press has free reign to report on ongoing investigations, with the presumption that the sitting judge will be able to discount all speculation and concentrate on the evidence in hand. Even so, it is clearly prejudicial to the suspects to have individuals from such diverse sources as Burmese embassy, the Myanmar Migrant Labour Association and the Thai police, among others, talking openly to the media about what the suspects supposedly think and feel.

“That all these people are coming out and making these statements is incredibly detrimental to a fair trial,” says British labor-rights activist Andy Hall, who, as part of a monitoring mission, has met with the accused, the police, the prosecution team and British Ambassador Mark Kent.

Abbott agrees that normal procedure for a defense counsel would be to stop any further comment. “Our primary concern at this stage is to ensure the two suspects are provided with the assistance of a competent lawyer of their choosing,” he says, adding that whoever is chosen must have “adequate time and facilities to review the evidence.”

Otherwise, we may have to mourn not two, but four lives senselessly lost that night on Koh Tao.

TIME Hong Kong

A Tourist’s Guide to the Hong Kong Protests

Travelers, families and office workers rub shoulders with students and democracy activists in Hong Kong's city center protest site

Tens of thousands of people, mostly students, have occupied key locations in downtown Hong Kong over the past two weeks in order to demand democratic reform.

But surrounding the protest camps are some of the city’s most famous landmarks. Around the Central Government Complex in Admiralty thousands of yellow ribbons, banners and posters have been plastered all over the streets and buildings. Families, tourists and workers in their spare time are flocking to the protest site to soak up the creative atmosphere.

While the protest areas are currently safe, please be aware that the situation can change rapidly. Follow the travel advisories of your home government and pay attention to the news if you are planning to visit.

TIME ebola

The Economic Costs of Ebola Are Rising Too

BELGIUM-LIBERIA-AVIATION-HEALTH-EBOLA
Dominique Faget—AFP/Getty Images Picture taken on Aug. 28, 2014, inside a plane of the Brussels Airlines bound for Monrovia, Liberia, one of the West African countries hit by the Ebola outbreak

The longer the outbreak lasts and the farther the disease travels, the harder it will hit global growth

A few days ago I was about to board a flight from Beijing to Moscow and I called my mother in New Jersey to tell her I was going on the road. “Be very careful!” she exclaimed, with more angst in her voice than usual. I told her that even though relations between the U.S. and Russia were strained that I’d be perfectly fine in Moscow. But that’s not what she was worried about. “Be careful of Ebola!” she said.

I was, of course, traveling nowhere near any Ebola-hit region — the disease has so far been generally confined to far-off West Africa. Her fear, though, is very real, and to a certain extent, rational. When an epidemic of a disease as deadly as Ebola infects the world’s headlines, it is only natural for people to consider curtailing their travel and other usually normal activities in an attempt to avoid the virus. As the disease spreads, people will become more likely to postpone business trips or cancel family vacations.

And that ultimately could have serious economic consequences. Nothing of course is more tragic than the human cost of the Ebola outbreak. But as the crisis persists, economists are beginning to look at what the toll might be for the global economy as well. In a world still climbing out of the financial meltdown of six years ago, we can hardly afford any new disruptions to investment and consumer spending that could further drag down growth.

That, however, is exactly what a sustained Ebola epidemic could do. We can get a pretty good idea of what can happen from looking at the impact of SARS in East Asia in 2003. Wherever the disease went, people stopped doing what they would normally do, in order to protect themselves, and that had an immediate effect on demand. Restaurants that would usually be jam-packed in central Hong Kong appeared abandoned; flights almost always crammed took off nearly empty; hotels emptied. Though the overall economic damage from SARS was in the end minimal, since it was contained relatively quickly, if the disease had spread more widely or become more entrenched, the cost would have risen precipitously.

We can already see that happening in West Africa. A recent World Bank study estimated that if the epidemic is not contained quickly, it would cost Liberia 12% of its GDP by the end of 2015, and Sierra Leone 8.9% — a loss these poor nations can ill afford. If the outbreak spreads more widely to neighboring countries with larger populations and economies, the World Bank figures the two-year financial cost could reach $32.6 billion. Travel to the region has already plummeted. John Grant, executive vice president of aviation-information provider OAG, recently calculated that the number of scheduled flights out of the worst-hit countries have dropped by 64% since May. Major carriers including British Airways and Delta Air Lines have suspended flights. The president of Dubai-based Emirates noted that the Ebola outbreak has dampened demand in Asia for flights to Africa.

What makes these losses even more unfortunate is that Africa has been in the middle of a major economic revival. For much of the past half-century, poor governance, bad policy and recurring conflict kept Africa on the sidelines of a major surge in growth and wealth throughout much of the developing world, especially in Asia. But in recent years Africa has finally joined the growth party. The International Monetary Fund expects the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa to jump 5.1% in 2014 — faster than any other region of the developing world except for emerging Asia. For now, the IMF sees the impact of Ebola on Africa overall as limited. But if the disease spreads, it could derail what was becoming one of the most encouraging stories in the emerging world.

From a purely economic standpoint, the fact that the countries with the most severe Ebola outbreaks (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) are small and play a relatively minor role in world trade has minimized the impact the disease has had on the global economy. That, however, would change dramatically if Ebola spreads to larger economies that are more integrated into global finance and manufacturing. Imagine the chaos that could ensue if the empty restaurants and airplanes experienced in the SARS outbreak are repeated in New York City or London for any significant period of time and you’ll get an inkling of the damage Ebola could inflict on the world economy. That’s why the Ebola deaths recorded in the U.S. and Spain are of great economic significance.

“A sustained outbreak of a high mortality disease like Ebola in any large or important economy in the global supply chain would imply significantly larger impact than SARS caused,” Barclays analyst Marvin Barth wrote in a recent report. Such a situation, he added, “remains a tail risk, but has jumped in probability to one that can no longer be ignored.”

Predicting where Ebola might spread and how long the outbreak could last is, of course, impossible, and so is gauging its potential economic impact. What is clear, however, is that containing the disease is not just a humanitarian necessity but an economic imperative.

TIME Hong Kong

Jackie Chan ‘Worried’ Pro-Democracy Protests Harm Hong Kong’s Finances

2014 Bazaar Charity Night
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Actor Jackie Chan attends the 2014 Bazaar Charity Night in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2014

The Hong Kong superstar was widely expected to come down on the side of Beijing and the Hong Kong government, who say that protesters are wounding the financial hub's economic future

Jackie Chan, Hong Kong’s famous action hero, has weighed in on the side of Beijing over the ongoing pro-democracy protests in the world financial hub.

Chan, writing on the China’s Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo on Thursday, said he is “worried” about damage to Hong Kong’s financial markets during the occupation of key commercial districts, calling for a “return to rationality,” Channel News Asia reports.

Chan’s pro-Beijing comments — his first on the Hong Kong protests — were widely expected, as the actor, well known for scaling buildings on film, has become perhaps just as notorious locally for professing fealty to China’s ruling Communist Party.

“I found out through the news that Hong Kong’s economic losses reached HK$350 billion [$45 billion] and I’m really worried,” Chan wrote.

“I believe every Hong Kong resident loves Hong Kong and wishes it well! Hong Kong’s bright tomorrow requires everyone’s support and hard work,” added the 60-year-old.

“In the song ‘Country,’ one line goes: ‘There is no prosperous home without a strong country.’ I am willing to work hard with everyone and return to rationality, to face the future, love our country, love our Hong Kong.”

Chan has been no friend to Hong Kong’s democracy movement in the past. In a 2012 interview with a Chinese newspaper, he expressed woes that Hong Kong had become a “city of protest,” referring to an annual pro-democracy rally on July 1, plus numerous demonstrations throughout the year on myriad social issues.

“People scold China, they scold leaders, or anything else they like,” said Chan. “They protest against everything.

“There should be rules to determine what people can protest about and on what issues they can’t protest about.”

TIME U.K.

How the Brighton Bombing 30 Years Ago Portended Peace

Not only did Irish terrorists fail to kill Margaret Thatcher. Their movement has been absorbed into Britain's resilient democracy

In the early hours of Oct. 12 1984, a bomb packed with 20lb of gelignite gouged a ragged O of surprise—or outrage—in the frontage of Brighton’s Grand Hotel. The intended target, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, escaped the blast, but not everyone proved so fortunate. Most guests had come to the English seaside town for the annual convention of Thatcher’s U.K. Conservative Party; five died and 31 were injured, including Norman Tebbit, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and his wife Margaret, a nurse, left permanently paralyzed.

Later the same day, the Prime Minister gave her keynote speech to delegates as planned. But it was not the speech she had planned. The attack, Thatcher said, “was an attempt not only to disrupt and terminate our Conference; it was an attempt to cripple Her Majesty’s democratically-elected Government. That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

From the distance of three decades, the Iron Lady turns out, as so often, to have been both right and wrong. The group responsible for the attack, the Provisional IRA, has disarmed and disbanded. The bomber, Patrick Magee, jailed for life in 1986, regained his freedom fourteen years later as part of the Northern Ireland peace process his murderous act disrupted, but failed to derail.

That same process has quelled, but not completely extinguished, Irish republican terrorism. Magee has become an advocate for reconciliation and is scheduled to appear at an event in Brighton to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing. Tebbit feels less conciliatory. Invited in 2007 to participate in a radio reunion of figures involved in the events of that day, including Magee, he replied: “The only reunion I’d be happy to attend was the one where Magee was reunited with a bomb.”

Just as hard for old adversaries to stomach has been the rehabilitation—and rise—of Sinn Féin, the party that once acted as the political wing of the Provisional IRA. In 2007, Sinn Féin won the second largest number of seats in the Northern Irish Assembly, installing Martin McGuinness, a former member of the Provisional IRA, as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister. The party’s popularity south of the border, in the Republic of Ireland, is also surging. An Oct. 9 poll puts it at level pegging with the governing and hitherto most popular party, Fine Gael. The ranks of Irish republicans have not been vanquished but empowered.

Britain, meanwhile, is grappling with a new wave of terror that continues to build, from adversaries who appear implacable. Defenders of civil liberty worry that measures to counter the threat from militant Islam risk damaging the democracy they are designed to protect. Such an outcome would ignore the hard lessons of Brighton and its aftermath. The remodeling of republicanism as an electoral force may not be the triumph Thatcher envisaged as she stood at the podium hours after the bomb blast, outwardly calm, her helmet of hair immaculate. Nevertheless democracy has prevailed, as she said it would.

TIME Peace

See the 20 Most Famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

On Friday, the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Since 1901, the Norwegian committee has bestowed 101 awards to individuals and 22 to organizations. Here are the 20 most famous figures who have received the prestigious honor

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 3 – Oct. 10

From the first Ebola death in the US and rising tension on the Turkish Syrian border, to the blood moon and Putin’s surprising selfie, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Mexico

Authorities Find More Graves at Site of Presumed Mexico Student Massacre

Federal police atop a vehicle stand guard near clandestine graves at Pueblo Viejo
Henry Romero—Reuters Federal police atop a vehicle stand guard near clandestine graves at Pueblo Viejo, in the outskirts of Iguala, southern Mexican state of Guerrero Oct. 9, 2014.

Police have discovered a total of 28 bodies on the outskirts of Iguala

Authorities have found four more graves containing burned human remains at a site where officials believe dozens of missing students were murdered by gang members and police, Reuters reports.

Forty-three students went missing in the violence-plagued state of Guerrero on Sept. 26. Since then authorities have found a total of 28 bodies in 10 graves on the outskirts of Iguala, a town within the same region. Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, his wife and the local head of security have gone missing. Attorney General Jesus Murillo said Thursday that they do not yet know the motive for the suspected massacre of the teachers and students who went missing and that the search for Abarca and the other fugitives is underway. Meanwhile, police are testing the bodies using DNA from family members of the missing.

Thousands of protestors marched through Mexico City on Wednesday, demanding answers. President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed on Monday that whoever murdered the students will be brought to justice. Twenty-two police have already been arrested in connection with the incident, and four more people have been detained in connection with the case.

[Reuters]

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