South Asian Affairs

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Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Q&A on Global Implications and Responses

In December 2019, hospitals in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province began seeing cases of pneumonia of unknown origin. Chinese health authorities ultimately connected the condition, later named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus. The disease has spread to almost every country in the world, including the United States. WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020; raised its global risk assessment to “Very High” on February 28; and labeled the outbreak a “pandemic” on March 11....

Indo-Pacific Strategies of U.S. Allies and Partners: Issues for Congress

China’s growing confidence in asserting itself regionally and internationally, combined with longstanding concerns about whether the United States has the capacity or commitment to remain the region’s dominant actor, is leading U.S. allies and partners to adjust their strategic posture. This report seeks to outline some of these changes and to outline the perspectives of Indo-Pacific nations seeking to navigate a changing geopolitical environment, including by recasting their conception of the region to draw in new potential counterweights to China such as India, prioritizing new defense...

Kashmir: Background, Recent Developments, and U.S. Policy

In early August 2019, the Indian government announced that it would make major changes to the legal status of its Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state, specifically by repealing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and Section 35A of its Annex, which provided the state “special” autonomous status, and by bifurcating the state into two successor “Union Territories” with more limited indigenous administrative powers. The changes were implemented on November 1, 2019. The former princely region’s sovereignty has been unsettled since 1947 and its territory is divided by a military...

India’s 2019 National Election and Implications for U.S. Interests

India, a federal republic and the world’s most populous democracy, held elections to seat a new lower house of parliament in April and May of 2019. Estimates suggest that more than two-thirds of the country’s nearly 900 million eligible voters participated. The 545-seat Lok Sabha (People’s House) is seated every five years, and the results saw a return to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of the west Indian state of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Modi’s party won decisively—it now holds 56% of Lok Sabha seats and Modi became...

The Trump Administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”: Issues for Congress

The Trump Administration has outlined a goal of promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), seeking to articulate U.S. strategy towards an expanded Indo-Asia-Pacific region at a time when China’s presence across the region is growing. The FOIP initiative is identified through a number of statements by the President and senior Administration officials. Insight into the initiative’s context and perspective is also offered by the Administration’s National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. The FOIP concept represents a significant change in U.S. strategic thinking towards...

India: Religious Freedom Issues

India is the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people and is the birthplace of four major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. It is also home to about 180 million Muslims—only Indonesia and Pakistan have more. A small Christian minority includes about 30 million people. An officially secular nation with thousands of ethnic groups and 22 official languages, independent India has a long tradition of religious tolerance (with periodic and sometimes serious lapses). Religious freedom is explicitly protected under its constitution. Hindus...

India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

India will soon be the world’s most populous country, home to about one of every six people. Many factors combine to infuse India’s government and people with “great power” aspirations: the Asian giant’s rich civilization and history, expanding strategic horizons, energetic global and international engagement, critical geography (with more than 9,000 total miles of land borders, many of them disputed) astride vital sea and energy lanes, major economy (at times the world’s fastest growing) with a rising middle class and an attendant boost in defense and power projection capabilities...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 113th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone, or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 351 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 113th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

Information for each department is presented in tables. The tables include full-time positions confirmed by the Senate, pay...

India-U.S. Economic Relations: In Brief

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R43741 Summary As the world’s 3rd largest economy, India is an important trade and economic partner for the United States. The upcoming September 29-30 visit by recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his first to Washington, DC, has heightened congressional interest in the current status of the relationship. Modi’s visit provides the Obama Administration with an opportunity to advance the U.S.-India strategic partnership, including by discussing ways to foster greater trade and investment between the two nations. May 2014...

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purposes of exploitation is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary international criminal activity and is of significant interest to the United States and the international community as a serious human rights concern. TIP is both an international and a domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, and criminal law.

In general, the trafficking business feeds on conditions of vulnerability, such as youth, gender, poverty, ignorance, social exclusion, political instability, and ongoing...

Turkmenistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

When Turkmenistan gained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the former republic’s president and head of the Turkmen Communist Party, Saparamurad Niyazov, retained power. He was reelected president in another uncontested race in 1992, and a referendum in 1994 extended his term until 2002. Before facing reelection, however, constitutional amendments approved in 1999 proclaimed him president for life. The country’s May 1992 constitution granted Niyazov overwhelming powers to rule by decree as head of state and government. According to several...

Tajikistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Tajikistan is a significant country in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location bordering China and Afghanistan and its ample water and other resources, but it faces ethnic and clan schisms, deep poverty, poor governance, and other severe challenges. Tajikistan was one of the poorest of the new states that gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The new country was soon plunged into a devastating civil conflict between competing regional and other interests that lasted until a peace settlement in 1997. Former state farm chairman...

Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects

The potential for terrorist use of chemical agents is a noted concern highlighted by the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995. The events of September 11, 2001, increased congressional attention towards reducing the vulnerability of the United States to such unconventional attacks. The possibility that terrorist groups might obtain insecure chemical weapons led to increased scrutiny of declared Libyan chemical weapon stockpiles following the fall of the Qadhafi regime. Experts have expressed similar concerns regarding the security and use of Syrian chemical weapons, reportedly including stocks...

Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Kazakhstan is an important power in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location, large territory, ample natural resources, and economic growth, but it faces ethnic, political, and other challenges to stability. Kazakhstan gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s president at the time, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was one of the top leaders of the former Soviet Union and was instrumental in forming the successor Commonwealth of Independent States. He has been reelected president of Kazakhstan several times and in June 2010 was...

Recent Protests in Muslim Countries: Background and Issues for Congress

Muslims in a number of countries have responded in recent days with anger at the United States that many observers describe as a response to a privately produced film circulating on the Internet that denigrates Islam and the prophet Mohammed. In some cases, this outrage has taken the form of public expressions by relatively small groups of demonstrators, and in other countries the demonstrations have been larger. In the most extreme cases, such demonstrations have been accompanied by violent attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and diplomatic facilities. Pre-existing anti-U.S....

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

South Asia emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core U.S. foreign policy interests. India, the region’s dominant actor with more than 1 billion citizens, is often characterized as a nascent great power and “indispensable partner” of the United States, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to China’s growing clout. Since 2004, Washington and New Delhi have been pursuing a “strategic partnership” based on shared values and apparently convergent geopolitical interests. Numerous economic, security, and global initiatives, including plans for civilian nuclear...

Osama bin Laden’s Death: Implications and Considerations

The May 1, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden (OBL) by U.S. forces in Pakistan has led to a range of views about near- and long-term security and foreign policy implications for the United States. Experts have a range of views about the killing of OBL. Some consider his death to be a largely symbolic event, while others believe it marks a significant achievement in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Individuals suggesting that his death lacks great significance argue that U.S. and allied actions had eroded OBL’s ability to provide direction and support to Al Qaeda (AQ). For these analysts, OBL’s...

Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S. Policy

Al Qaeda (AQ) has evolved into a significantly different terrorist organization than the one that perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks. At the time, Al Qaeda was composed mostly of a core cadre of veterans of the Afghan insurgency against the Soviet Union, with a centralized leadership structure made up mostly of Egyptians. Most of the organization’s plots either emanated from the top or were approved by the leadership. Some analysts describe pre-9/11 Al Qaeda as akin to a corporation, with Osama Bin Laden acting as an agile chief executive officer issuing orders and soliciting...

Flooding in Pakistan: Overview and Issues for Congress

Pakistan experienced a catastrophic natural disaster that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. Widespread flooding affected about 20 million Pakistanis and inundated an area the size of Florida within the country. Congressional interest in the flooding stems from the significant humanitarian and economic implications for the country, and the security implications for U.S. interests in the region. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have estimated that the flooding has caused $9.7 billion in damages. While this figure might still be preliminary, it is almost...

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Security Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

The South Caucasus region has been the most unstable in the former Soviet Union in terms of the number, intensity, and length of ethnic and civil conflicts. Other emerging or full-blown security problems include crime, corruption, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and narcotics trafficking. The regional governments have worked to bolster their security by combating terrorism, limiting political dissent they view as threatening, revamping their armed forces, and seeking outside assistance and allies.

The roles of neighbors Iran, Russia, and Turkey have been of...

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and Current Issues

Public diplomacy is defined in different ways, but broadly it is a term used to describe a government’s efforts to conduct foreign policy and promote national interests through direct outreach and communication with the population of a foreign country. Public diplomacy activities include providing information to foreign publics through broadcast and Internet media and at libraries and other outreach facilities in foreign countries; conducting cultural diplomacy, such as art exhibits and music performances; and administering international educational and professional exchange programs. The...

FY2009 Spring Supplemental Appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations

On June 11, 2009, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees announced a conference agreement on H.R. 2346, a bill providing supplemental appropriations for the remainder of FY2009. The House passed the conference report (226 to 202) on June 16; the Senate passed it (91 to 5) on June 18. President Obama signed it into law (P.L. 111-32) on June 24.

On key issues, the agreement includes: $5 billion, as in the Senate bill, to support U.S. loans to the International Monetary Fund, does not include a Senate provision allowing the Secretary of Defense to exempt photos of military detainees...

Presidential Appointments to Full-time Positions in Executive Departments During the 108th Congress, 2003-2004

During the 108th Congress, the President submitted to the Senate 166 nominations to executive department full-time positions. Of these 166 nominations, 120 were confirmed; eight were withdrawn; one was returned to the President at the end of the first session; and 37 were returned to him at the end of the second session of the 108th Congress. For those nominations that were confirmed, an average of 98 days elapsed between the time of the nomination and the nomination’s receipt and confirmation. The median number of days elapsed was 83. These statistics do not include the days during which...

Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 110th Congress

The 110th Congress will face a number of pressing foreign affairs, defense, and trade issues in the opening days of its tenure. This report identifies major issues most likely to be on the legislative agenda, discusses critical policy choices at stake, and summarizes some of the major alternatives that Congress may consider. The report lists Congressional Research Service reports that address these issues, and it identifies key analysts and their areas of responsibility.

A major issue confronting the new Congress is what to do in Iraq. The Baker/Hamilton-led Iraq Study Group recommended...

Terrorism in South Asia

This report reviews the recent incidence of terrorism in South Asia, concentrating on Pakistan and India, but also including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The existence of international terrorist groups and their supporters in South Asia is identified as a threat to both regional stability and to the attainment of central U.S. policy goals. Al Qaeda forces that fled from Afghanistan with their Taliban supporters remain active on Pakistani territory, and Al Qaeda is believed to have links with indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups that have conducted anti-Western attacks...

H.R. 10 (9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act) and S. 2845 (National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004): A Comparative Analysis

This comparative analysis of H.R. 10 (9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act) and S. 2845 (National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004) is an assessment of major similarities and differences between the two bills as passed by the House (October 8, 2004) and Senate (October 6, 2004) and under conference consideration.

References to the two bills are to engrossed versions. The presentation is organized to follow the basic construct of the House bill, because its coverage remained more stable through the legislative process to date. For purposes of clarity, we refer to the House-passed bill as...

Elections in Kashmir

The United States welcomed the successful October conclusion of 2002 elections in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where nearly half of the electorate cast ballots. The elections resulted in the ousting of the long-dominant National Conference party, allies of the national coalition-leading Bharatiya Janata Party, thus bolstering the credibility of the process and dampening criticism from some quarters that the elections were flawed or "farcical." The opposition Indian National Congress and the regional People's Democratic Party (PDP) won a combined 36 seats in the state...

Nuclear Sanctions: Section 102(b) of the Arms Export Control Act and Its Application to India and Pakistan

Section 102(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) requires the President to impose sanctions on any country that he has determined is a "non-nuclear-weapon state" and has received or detonated a "nuclear explosive device." Sanctions include prohibitions on foreign assistance; munitions sales and licenses; foreign military financing; government credits, guarantees, and financial assistance; U.S. support for multilateral financial assistance; private bank lending to the affected government; and exports of certain specific controlled goods and technology. Specific exceptions exist...