Commentary from the South Asia Center on the most relevant news from the region, and suggested “must-read” analyses from the week.

US Defense Sectary Chuck Hagel is on a visit to New Delhi to boost defense and strategic relations with the new administration led by Prime Minister Narenda Modi. The most pressing issue on the agenda is US defense sales to India, which have grown from the low hundreds of millions of dollars in the decade leading up to 2008 to greater than $9 billion since that year. Indian officials have reportedly offered to expand an order for US apache gunships and chinook helicopters, both built by Boeing. India offered a follow-on order of 39 apache helicopters in addition to the 22 already being negotiated. The initial deal was estimated to be worth $1.4 billion, but the two sides have squabbled over the price. According to defense research firm HIS Jane’s, India was the top foreign buyer of US arms last year. Given that India is now the largest arms importer in the world and the US’ own defense budget is shrinking, there are significant opportunities for American defense companies to tap the Indian market. There are concerns, however, that the Modi government’s decision to raise the foreign direct investment cap on defense spending from 26% to 49% will not be enough for American companies to directly transfer sensitive technology that Indian officials fervently desire.

Relevant News Stories
India offers to buy more U.S. helicopters, hopes to drive down costs (Reuters India)
Time is right for U.S. to boost India ties (CNN)
Modi’s Offer to Defense Companies Not Enough for Lockheed (Bloomberg)

Political tensions are souring in Pakistan as the government is anxiously preparing to face protests led by opposition leader Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahirul Qadri in the days leading up to August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), announced the protest movement due to its demand to audit four constituencies from last year’s election for irregularities, which was not met by the government. Qadri, a Canada based religious cleric with a popular following in Pakistan, has set out to topple the government and begin a “revolution” since arriving in Pakistan in June. His promises to overthrow the government have been met with skepticism on numerous occasions. While Qadri’s movement has no representation in Parliament, Khan’s party is the third largest party in Pakistan’s National Assembly and the ruling party of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. His demands for the government to resign and hold midterm elections clearly created immense anxiety in the government, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently ordered the army to maintain security in Islamabad. Sharif has been praised for consulting a wide range of Pakistani political parties and building a consensus that the democratic political system must continue without interruption, but has also been advised not to use force against protestors who are merely exercising their democratic rights.

Relevant News Stories
[Azadi] march madness: 6 days to go (Dawn)
Five officials injured as police, PAT activists clash in Punjab: Live Updates (Express Tribune)
Government shows flexibility (The News)

US Major General Harold Greene was killed at a military training facility in Kabul on Tuesday. The attacker was an academy member of Afghanistan’s military, who shot from a nearby building. Greene is the highest ranking member of the US military to die in the line of duty since the 9/11 attacks. Pentagon officials maintained that this attack would not change the US-Afghanistan relationship. “I’ve seen no indication that there’s a degradation of trust between coalition members and their Afghan counterparts,” stated Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman. However, the attack does raise concerns about the Afghan soldiers as the US prepares to withdraw forces and handover security to Afghanistan. “I think it is very difficult for the administration to say that everything is going according to plan, as if this is just an isolated incident and we can just leave,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.

Relevant News Stories
Helmand’s Golden Age (BBC)
U.S. general killed in Afghanistan; gunman shot from 100 yards, officials say (CNN)
U.S. general killed in Afghanistan was key figure in training effort (Washington Post)

Talks on Iran’s nuclear program continued in Geneva on Thursday. The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns had a constructive discussion, according to the US State Department. This marked the first round of negotiations between Iran and the US since the Vienna negotiations with the P5+1 group where it was decided that the deadline to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement would be extended till November. Talks are set to continue and take place ahead of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York in September.

Relevant News Stories
Geneva talks on Iran nuclear program constructive: US (Payvand)
Senior Negotiator Describes Bilateral Iran-US Talks as “Good, Useful” (Fars News)

An alleged perpetrator of genocide in Bangladesh, Motiur Rahman Nizami, is expected to face trial before the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka, Bangladesh for violence that he committed in the 1970’s. His party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, worked with Pakistan’s army to suppress Bangladesh’s separatist movement in 1971. Charges against him include crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, torture, rape, and property destruction. Members of the Jamaat claim that he is being targeted for his political affiliation, leading to fears that they might react violently to his expected punishment. The US Ambassador-at-large on global criminal justice Stephen J Rapp advised the government to focus on individuals responsible for committing acts of mass violence rather than the party that they are associated with. This, he says, “allows reconciliation” and “allows other people to rejoin the society and participate and reject those leaders who have done bad things.”

Relevant News Stories
Justice Pending for Bangladeshi Accused of War Crimes (The Diplomat)
Jamaat: Transfer war trials to another country  (Dhake Tribune)
‘Target individuals, not party’ (bdnews24)