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Scores killed in floods, landslides in Sri Lanka

At least 100 people were reported dead and more than 110 missing as record rainfall hit parts of the country on Friday, prompting calls by the government for international aid.

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At least 91 people killed in floods, landslides in Sri Lanka

At least 91 people were reported dead and 110 missing as record rainfall hit parts of the country on Friday, prompting calls by the government for international aid.

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Will Modi's Germany trip give thrust to free trade?

Prime Minister Modi will depart Monday, May 29, for Germany as part of a four-nation tour that takes him also to France and Spain as well as the strategically important Russia.

For his two-day sojourn in Germany, Modi will be accompanied by a number of his cabinet ministers as well as business representatives. The Indian premier will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, according to officials. Trade and investment are likely to be the main subject of their conversation.

"The focus of the Indian government is fully on development. Now that Prime Minister Modi is coming to Germany, you will witness how fruitful the meetings and discussions between the two countries are. There is intense cooperation between the two countries," India's Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar told DW.

Other topics that could come up in their meeting include cooperation in the defense sector, counterterrorism as well as promoting each other's languages.

"We have exchange programs for teachers, under which German teachers have come to India and trained Indian teachers on how to instruct the German language. Now, we will also send Indian teachers to Germany to train Germans on how to teach the Hindi language," said Javadekar. "We have decided to promote each other's languages in our countries. We have many other initiatives."

A key partner

After their talks, Modi and Merkel are scheduled to address a gathering of prominent business executives from both countries later in the day.

The event gives an opportunity for Premier Modi to brandish his credentials as an economic reformer and dangle in front of the CEOs the benefits of investing in a fast-expanding economy like India.

Germany is India's most important trading partner in Europe, with the overall exchange of goods and services between the two valued at 17.42 billion euros ($19.4 billion) in 2016. About 1,800 German firms are currently active on the Indian market. The economic potential of the South Asian nation is a major factor piquing the interest of an increasing number of German companies and driving them to invest there.

India's annual economic output is growing by around 6-7 percent, at a far rapid pace than the more highly developed economies in Europe and North America.

The Modi government has also been able to push through some long-awaited reforms such as overhauling the nation's arcane tax code to introduce a national sales tax, which would replace more than a dozen types of federal and state taxes. The measure is expected to improve ease of doing business on the Indian market and boost growth.

Attracting investment

When addressing German business tycoons, Modi is certain to extol about his government's achievements on the economic front and appeal to them to make India one of their top investment destinations.

Foreign investment is crucial to realize Modi's "Make in India" campaign that aims to transform the country into a manufacturing hub. The project forms a key pillar of the government's efforts to create jobs for the millions of young Indians

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Indian-Pakistani ties, a 'forced marriage,' and a friendly gesture

Indian national Uzma Ahmad, who claimed she was forced to marry a Pakistani at gunpoint and was kept in the Islamic country's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for weeks, returned to her home country Thursday after a Pakistani court ordered her release.

Ahmad, who is in her early 20s, broke down into tears several times while narrating her story to Indian media.

According to media reports, Ahmad met Pakistani Tahir Ali in Malaysia and fell in love with him. Ali forced her to marry him on May 3 when she visited Pakistan, a claim that cannot be verified. On May 12, she made a plea to Pakistani authorities to be allowed to return to India.

Indien | Sushma Swaraj und Uzma Ahmed (UNI)

Indian FM Swaraj thanked the Pakistani government and judiciary for acting swiftly on Ahmad's case

Upon her return to India on Thursday through the Wagah border near the northern Indian city of Amritsar, Ahmad prostrated and kissed the ground.

"It is easy to enter Pakistan, but leaving it is impossible. Pakistan is a well of death," Ahmad said, adding that she "would have been dead" had she stayed in Pakistan any longer.

"I went to Pakistan as a tourist. The situation changed there so rapidly that I couldn't figure that Ali was giving me sleeping pills. From my point of view, it was kidnapping," said Ahmad, adding that many women were facing a similar situation in Pakistan's northwestern Buner district.

Pakistani cooperation

Pakistani media does not endorse Ahmad's claims about forced marriage. Irrespective of the controversy surrounding Ahmad's arrival in Pakistan and her subsequent marriage, Indian officials admit that Pakistani authorities played a positive role in making sure that she returned to her country safely.

On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj thanked the Pakistani government and judiciary for acting swiftly on Ahmad's case.

"Political difference aside, Uzma's return is a result of the help provided by Pakistan's foreign ministry," Swaraj told a joint press conference with Ahmad.

"We did not expect that Uzma would be back this soon. We thank both India and Pakistan," Ahmad's brother Wasim told DW.

Indian-Pakistani ties, a 'forced marriage,' and a friendly gesture

Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, was sentenced to death in April by a Pakistani military court on spying charges

Peace still far off

Ties between India and Pakistan are extremely tense due to clashes along the Kashmir border and accusations by both sides that the other is supporting terrorism.

Ahmad's return to India is a positive development in these tense times, but diplomats do not foresee the incident to lead to the resumption of peace talks between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations.

"I hope for the best but I see this incident as a one-off affair. More positive efforts are needed to mend Indian-Pakistani ties," former Indian diplomat Lalit Mansingh told DW.

"Is there going to be a thaw in relations now? I seriously doubt it. There is still a lot of mistrust and suspicion on both sides," a foreign ministry official told DW on condition of anonymity.

Indian-Pakistani cooperation on Ahmad is in contrast

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The Islamization of Kashmir's separatist movement

DW: Recently, Zakir Musa, an influential Kashmiri leader, distanced himself from the separatist movement and aligned himself with al Qaeda. Some experts fear that the decades-old anti-India movement is increasingly moving toward Islamization. Do you agree with this analysis?

Agnieszka Kuszewska: Zakir Musa is no longer associated with the Hizb-ul-Mujahedin separatist group. The organization admitted that Musa's statement about "chopping off the heads of Hurriyat leaders" is unacceptable and reflects his personal views.

Musa said he wanted to "impose Shariah in Kashmir," and that it should be done by force and not through consensus. The possibility of radicalization and the potential emergence of the so-called "Kashmiri Taliban" should not be neglected. However, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's "muscular policy" in Kashmir is aggravating the situation. Some factions of the Kashmiri movement are likely to become more radicalized if India continues with its strong-hand policy in the valley.

Experts say that Pakistan's direct involvement in the Kashmir conflict began in the late 1980s, after which the somewhat liberal Kashmiri movement took on a more religious outlook. Do we now see it becoming more radicalized in terms of its possible alliances with global terror groups?

The rise of Islamic radicalism in the region, fostered by the Afghan War in the 1980s, had a direct impact on the Kashmir conflict. The anti-India movement became more Islamized in the 1990s with the influx of militants trained in Pakistan. Based on my interpretation of the available data and analysis of facts, I would say that the Kashmiri people do not support pan-Islamic, extremist outfits, and the majority of them are against the implementation of Shariah. Transnational terror groups do not enjoy big support in Kashmir.

When I see the "Welcome Taliban" graffiti in Srinagar, two things come to my mind: 1) Some young Kashmiris and militant groups show their support to these groups merely because they want to protest against grave rights abuses in the valley; 2) It may also be framed by the security establishment, which is notorious for enforced encounters and other human rights violations.

The new Kashmiri movement, driven mostly by angry youth, appears to be against both India and Pakistan. But how is it different from the pre-1990s movement that didn't pin hopes on Pakistan?

It is different because the geostrategic dynamics have changed in the past three decades. It is also different because the younger generation has experienced years of insurgency and has different memories, traumas, and experiences than the previous generations. The Kashmiri youngsters are tired, angry, and they desperately want solutions.

With continuing rights abuses by the security forces, the resistance attracts more and more people. The youth is prepared to risk their lives. The protesters now do not hide themselves; they record all abuses and share them with the world through social media. Burhan Wani, who was killed by the security forces in July last year, had perfected this new trend.

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