On 9 February, after ten years on death row, Mohammed Afzal Guru was judicially assassinated in Delhi. The BJP warmly supported and publicly celebrated the event. A veteran Kashmiri activist and a medical student (born in 1969), he had been picked up and accused of being part of a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. The evidence was totally circumstantial, the confession obtained under torture and a threat to kill his family. All this is well known. Had the Chinese regime behaved in this fashion towards a Tibetan, the media and political response in the West would have dominated the news. Kashmir remains invisible to the world. In India all the mainstream parties welcomed the hanging. The media was supportive of the government. In Kashmir a general strike shut down the province and the police opened fire on demonstrators.
This year, for the first time, the UK government will devote 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to foreign aid, finally meeting the target set in a 1970 UN General Assembly resolution. The budget of the Department for International Development has leapt from £8.8 billion in 2012 to £11.5 billion for 2013, about £183 per UK citizen. A report by Jonathan Foreman for the right-wing think tank Civitas has criticised the arbitrariness of the 0.7 per cent figure, and there has been a raft of scandals involving overpaid consultants, private equity firms and a lack of transparency at DFID last year, but the place of foreign aid in British politics appears assured. The big question, though, is who to give the money to.
The date of Burma’s forthcoming elections (7 November) was officially announced on 13 August. But the news trickled out slowly here: internet access has been even more unreliable than usual. It often gets bad around the time of public events or incidents, though there’s no way of knowing whether that’s because of deliberate government intervention or simply weight of traffic. Maybe it’s paranoid to suspect the former, but there’s a lot of that going around. The same day, the government imposed new restrictions on the movements of international staff working for NGOs.