New Delhi, May 28 (AP/UNB) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a second term in office after responding to a suicide attack on Indian paramilitary forces in troubled Kashmir with an airstrike inside Pakistan, allowing him to turn voters' attention away from the country's highest unemployment rate in decades.
Now, after his swearing-in on Thursday, he will need to deftly navigate a trade war between the United States and China and rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, an important source of cheap oil for India's fast-growing economy. Modi will also face pressure to protect India's traditional sphere of influence in South Asia.
Many Modi supporters credit the 68-year-old leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party with India's growing status abroad, and messages from U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulating him on his party's victory even before all results were in seemed to bolster that belief.
Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to Washington, said foreign policy has been one of Modi's most pronounced achievements, as he pursued it with vigor "that we have not seen in any other prime minister so far."
As Modi returns to power for another five years, global leaders are looking to India to take on a larger burden of responsibility in the world, acting as a security buffer in the Indo-Pacific, opening its markets and responding to climate change, even though Modi struggled to manage many of India's domestic issues in his first term.
"Maneuvering in the current international situation will be quite a challenge for Modi," said Dilip Sinha, a retired Indian diplomat.
The U.S. wants India to act as a counterweight to Beijing to prevent the rise of Chinese hegemony in Asia, but it also wants the Modi administration to lower barriers to trade.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross complained to leaders in New Delhi earlier this month that American companies struggle to access India's markets because of tariffs and myriad regulations. To help reduce the trade imbalance, India has signed more than $15 billion in U.S. defense contracts.
According to the World Economic Forum, India is poised to become the world's third-largest consumer market, growing from $1.5 trillion this year to $6 trillion by 2030.
At the same time, with the Trump administration scaling up sanctions on Iran and ending waivers for countries including India that import Iranian goods, India must replace its third-largest source of imported oil.
The fear of a further conflagration in the Gulf region could make oil more expensive and threatens the security of 7 million Indians working as migrant laborers. "It's an extremely difficult and challenging position for India," Sinha said.
During the Cold War, India didn't have open relations with Israel, leaning heavily in favor of the Palestinians. But over the last 25 years, ties between the two countries have warmed.
Trade between them has skyrocketed from $200 million in 1992, when India and Israel established diplomatic ties, to $4.16 billion in 2016. The growing ties risk upsetting India's longstanding relationship with other Middle Eastern countries.
The U.S. weapons purchase agreements, coupled with Russia's improving ties with Pakistan and China, also pose a challenge to Russia-India relations, which date back to the Cold War.
"India's Russian ties are also beginning to fray. The recent fighter aircraft deals with France and other military hardware purchases from the USA have resulted in sidelining India's usual defense partner," the opposition Indian National Congress party said in a statement.
India faces perhaps its biggest challenge with China at its northeastern border, as Beijing invests billions in infrastructure development in South Asia.
India takes years to execute projects, whereas China delivers quickly on what it promises. India needs to maintain close ties with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives, its traditional sphere of influence. But delays by Indian companies have led to cost overruns, prompting India's neighbors to look toward China for speedy development.
Modi has carefully cultivated ties with President Xi after a 2017 border standoff over Chinese construction of a road in Doklam near a tri-border area with Bhutan. India and China fought a bloody war in 1962 over a border dispute that continues to simmer.
But their relations have thawed recently, with Beijing deciding against blocking the U.N. designation of Masood Azhar, the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group that claimed responsibility for the February suicide bombing in Kashmir, as a global terrorist.
Though Modi invited then-Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian leaders to attend his swearing-in ceremony in 2014, the neighbors were at the brink of nuclear war in February. Modi has refused an official dialogue with Islamabad until it ends support for what India calls terrorism emanating from its territory.
They have fought two of three wars over control of divided Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947.
In Kashmir, the majority Muslims see Modi's reelection as causing more hardship. In the past five years, Modi's government gave the military a free hand to crush resistance to Indian rule, targeting not just armed militants but also civilians supporting their cause, to keep Kashmir a part of India at any cost.
Some in Kashmir see Modi's win as "a blessing in disguise," saying his tough approach could energize the movement for self-determination in the region.
"The fog around India's policies on Kashmir is increasingly getting removed thanks to Modi and Co.," said Sajjad Ahmed, a schoolteacher.
Lucknow, May 28 (AP/UNB) — At least six villagers died and five others were hospitalized after drinking tainted liquor in northern India, police said Tuesday.
The deceased bought the liquor from a shop in a village in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh state on Monday night, police officer Ajay Sahni said.
They started vomiting after drinking it and were rushed to a district hospital, Sahni said.
Six people died and another five were being treated at the hospital, he said. The deceased were a father and his three sons and two neighbors.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked to increase potency.
In February, 150 people, mostly tea plantation workers, died and about 200 were hospitalized after drinking tainted liquor laced with methyl alcohol in two separate incidents in Assam state in India's remote northeast.
Rio De Janeiro, May 28 (AP/UNB) — Forty-two inmates were killed at three different prisons in the capital of Brazil's northern Amazonas state Monday, authorities reported, a day after 15 died during fighting among prisoners at a fourth prison in the same city.
The Amazonas state prison agency said all 42 prisoners found dead in Manaus on Monday showed signs of asphyxia.
The killings across the city's prisons recalled early 2017 when more than 120 inmates died at the hands of other prisoners during several weeks of fighting among rival crime gang members at prisons in northern states. Many of those victims had their heads cut off or their hearts and intestines ripped out.
On Sunday, 15 inmates were killed during a riot at Manaus' Anisio Jobim Prison Complex, where 56 prisoners died in the violence two years earlier.
Local authorities said prisoners began fighting among themselves before noon Sunday, and security reinforcements were rushed in and managed to regain control within 45 minutes.
Little information was released about Monday's killings.
Brazil's justice and public security ministry said it was sending a federal task force to help local officials handle the situation.
"I just spoke with (Justice) Minister Sergio Moro, who is already sending a prison intervention team to the State of Amazonas, so that he can help us in this moment of crisis and a problem that is national: the problem of prisons," Amazonas state Gov. Wilson Lima said.
Several drug-trafficking and other criminal gangs in Brazil run much of their day-to-day business from prisons, where they often have wide sway. The 2017 slayings were largely gang-related, prompting authorities to increase efforts to separate factions and frequently transfer prisoners.
Authorities have not yet said whether gang wars were behind the latest blood-letting.
Moro had to send a federal task force to help tame violence in Ceara state in January that local officials said was ordered by crime gang leaders angered by plans to impose tighter controls in the state's prisons.
kawasaki, May 28 (AP/UNB) — A man carrying a knife in each hand and screaming "I will kill you!" attacked a group of schoolgirls and adults near a bus stop just outside Tokyo on Tuesday, killing two and injuring 16 before killing himself, officials said.
Most of the victims were schoolgirls who were lined up at a bus stop near Noborito Park in the city of Kawasaki when a man in his 50s began slashing them with knives. City officials, quoting police, said that the suspect was captured but died from a self-inflicted cut to the neck.
Police wouldn't immediately confirm specifics about the attacker.
Masami Arai, an official at the Kawasaki city office, said 16 people, most of them schoolgirls at a local Catholic school, were injured and three others, including the attacker, were believed killed. Arai said three of the injuries were serious and 13 others were not life-threatening.
Kanagawa prefectural police only confirmed the death of sixth-grade schoolgirl Hanako Kuribayashi, 11, from Tokyo. Hospital officials at a televised news conference confirmed the 11-year-old's death as well as that of a man in his 30s, saying both of them had been slashed in the head, chest and face.
Separately, doctors at St. Marianna University School of Medicine, said a man in his 50s died at the hospital after being brought in from the crime scene with neck injuries. City officials and the media said the man is the suspect.
Most of the victims attended Caritas Gakuen, a well-known private school founded by Soeurs de la Charite de Quebec, an organization of Catholic nuns in Quebec City in Canada.
All but two adult victims are in elementary school, according to city and hospital officials, and their ages are believed to be from 6 to 12. The school runs from elementary through high school.
A witness told the Mainichi newspaper that he heard children shrieking after walking past a bus. He said that when he turned around, he saw a man wielding a knife in each hand, screaming "I will kill you!" and several children were on the ground.
NHK, citing police, said that a bus driver told officials that a man holding a knife in each hand walked toward the bus and started slashing children, then the attacker ran away when the driver yelled at him, "What are you doing?" then cut himself. NHK also interviewed a witness who said he saw the suspect trying to force his way onto a bus. A third witness said he saw a school boy with scratches on his face, hands and legs, sitting on the ground of a parking lot, looking frightened.
The attacker's identity and motive weren't immediately known.
Television footage showed emergency workers giving first aid to people inside an orange tent set up on the street, and police and other officials carrying the injured to ambulances.
Although Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, it has had a series of high-profile killings, including in 2016 when a former employee at a home for the disabled allegedly killed 19 and injured more than 20 others.
In 2008, seven people were killed by a man who slammed a truck into a crowd of people in central Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district and then stabbed passers-by.
Also in 2016, a man stabbed four people at a library in northeastern Japan, allegedly over their mishandling of his questions. No one was killed.
Damascus, May 28 (AP/UNB) — Syria said an Israeli attack against a military post in the country's south on Monday killed a soldier and injured another. Israel, in a rare statement acknowledging firing into Syria, said it was responding to an anti-aircraft fire from Syria against one of its combat planes.
The back-to-back statements come amid heightened regional tension over Iran's role in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. They also follow a number of reported Israeli strikes on Syria in the past ten days, according to state run media.
Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its strikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there.
Syrian state TV al-Ikhbariya quoted a military official saying that the Israeli attack came shortly after 2100 local time (1800GMT) and targeted a military outpost east of Khan Arnabeh, a town in Quneitra on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. An earlier statement on state media said one military vehicle was also damaged when a rocket landed in Tal al-Shaar in Quneitra.
Israel said it was responding after an anti-aircraft fire from Syria targeted one of its combat planes in Israeli airspace.
A statement from the Israeli army said that earlier Monday a Syrian anti-aircraft system fired at one of its aircraft "as it was carrying out a routine flight in Israel. The projectile landed in Syrian territory. In response, we targeted the Syrian launcher that was responsible for firing it."
The Israeli military "sees any threat against its aircraft with great severity and takes measures to defend them."
Israel's prime minister said in statement shortly afterward that the Syrian army "tried to harm an Israeli plane, it didn't succeed."
"Our policy is clear — we are not prepared to tolerate any aggression against us, we will retaliate against it forcefully and decisively," the statement said.
Syrian media had reported earlier this month two incidents in which Israeli strikes hit inside southern Syria.