News Timeline: South Asia 2021

January 16 – India

Global Health, coronavirus, or COVID-19

India launches a coronavirus vaccination program, planning to inoculate more than 1.3 billion of its citizens.  The country will use its election system to deliver and track doses to recipients, as well as digital platforms and apps to enable people to register for the doses of one the two approved vaccines, Oxford-AstraZeneca developed in the UK and Covaxin developed locally. With more than 10 million cases, India has the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world, after the United States. India plans to vaccinate 300 million people by August.[1]

March 3 – Afghanistan

Islamic State (IS) militants take responsibility for killing three women that worked for a TV station in eastern Afghanistan. A fourth woman is in a critical condition. This is another assassination by terrorist groups in Afghanistan in recent months that target rights activists, judges, journalists, and others with progressive ideas. The largest terrorist group in Afghanistan is Taliban, which is behind many of these kinds of attacks.[2]

More on the Taliban including a map showing parts Afghanistan under control of the Taliban

April 28 – India

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

India is struggling with a violent second wave of the coronavirus with the official death toll of over 200,000, but the official number is assumed higher as many fatalities are not being reported.  Hospitals are overstretched and many people are dying waiting for beds and oxygen.  Crematoriums are operating around the clock, with makeshift pyres in parking lots.  There have been at least 300,000 new infections every day in the past week, with more than 17.9 million cases registered overall.  Also, the new Indian variant of the virus is said to have a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, suggesting increased transmissibility.  India is carrying out the world’s biggest vaccination drive, but with population of 1.3 billion less than 10 percent has so far received it.[3]

Why has the situation been allowed to escalate so much?

April 30 – Afghanistan

After 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, the United States begins the withdrawal process under the President Biden’s orders, which is supposed to be completed by September 11.  This includes 2,500 US troops, several hundred special operations forces, as well as US contractors and government workers.  While the U.S. lawmakers express concerns that the U.S. withdrawal will allow the Taliban and other rebel groups reverse the gains made for Afghan women, democracy, and civil society, President Biden argues the original purpose of going after al Qaeda terrorists and Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks has been achieved.[4]

Timeline of U.S. war in Afghanistan: 1999-2021

Progress in women education in Afghanistan

Progress in democratic process in Afghanistan

More on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

May 27 – India

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

India records 4,529 coronavirus deaths in one day, the highest known daily death toll for a single country.  Overall, India has had more than 25 million cases and more than 280,000 deaths so far.  Experts point out that the true number of deaths and infections in India are higher as many deaths are not officially counted.  Infections are slowing down in some big cities, but the virus is now spreading in the countryside where testing is limited and the hospitals are underfunded and overwhelmed.[5]

Just How Big Could India’s True Covid Toll Be?

August 4 – South Asia

Global Health: Coronavirus, or COVID-19

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpasses 200 million worldwide due to the spread of more infectious delta variant and low vaccination rates, especially poor countries.   The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine boosters until at least 10 percent of the population in every country is vaccinated.

The United States, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Iran represent about 38 percent of all global cases each day.  The United States accounts for one in every seven infections reported worldwide.  Florida with its low vaccination rates becomes new epicenter of Covid cases.  Unvaccinated people represent nearly 97 percent of severe cases.[6]

More on Covid’s Toll Compared With Other Things That Kill Us

August 15 – Afghanistan

The fall of Afghanistan

After a lightning 11-day offensive on cities across Afghanistan, the Taliban fighters capture the country’s capital, Kabul, taking the U.S. and other countries by surprise.  The Afghan government surrenders with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing into exile to the United Arab Emirates.  The Taliban declares that the war is over, giving foreign forces until the 31st of August to leave the country.  Remembering the oppressive rule of Taliban before the U.S. invasion combined with rumors of reprisal killings by the insurgents, thousands of Afghan civilians try to leave the country in panic.  The U.S. and other countries are hastily evacuating all their diplomatic staff and their citizens.[7]

(Aug 26): In the chaos of rushed evacuations, a suicide bomb at Kabul airport kills at least 182 people, including 13 U.S. service members.  The attack was planned by a terrorist group, Islamic State.

(Aug 30): The United States withdraws its last remaining troops from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of operations there and efforts to create a stable democracy.  Since August 14, the U.S. has managed to evacuate about 130,000 people out of Afghanistan.  They include U.S. citizens and their families, permanent residents, and Afghans who worked for the American military or NATO, as well as others vulnerable under the Taliban rule such as journalists.[8]

Why Afghan forces proved no match for the Taliban

The U.S. War in Afghanistan: How It Started, and How It Ended

The Taliban takes over Afghanistan

President Joe Biden’s speech after Afghanistan withdrawal

Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar emerges as victor of 20-year war

‘People are afraid’: Kabul deserted and women in tears as city falls to Taliban

The fall of Afghanistan (scroll down for video)

November 8 – India

Global Health: coronavirus, or COVID-19

More than 250 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported globally and more than 5 million people have died from it since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020. The United States, India and Brazil account for more than 40 percent of all reported cases.  It is believed that actual case numbers are much higher than what is officially reported.   About 4 billion people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine worldwide, and about 3.1 billion people are fully vaccinated.[9]


[1] “Coronavirus vaccine: India begins world’s biggest drive.” BBC News. January 16, 2021. Accessed February 25, 21.

[2] “Afghan war: Female TV workers ‘shot dead by IS’ in Jalalabad.” BBC News. March 3, 2021. Accessed April 14, 21.

[3] “India Covid: Hospitals overwhelmed as deaths pass 200,000.” BBC News. April 29, 2021. Accessed May 23, 21.

[4] Barbara Starr, Veronica Stracqualursi and Oren Liebermann. “US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun.” CNN. April 30, 2021. Accessed May 11, 21.

[5] Mujib Mashal. “Covid News: India Reports Highest Daily Death Toll of Any Country.” The New York Times. May 28, 2021. Accessed June 18, 21.

[6] Reuters. “Covid cases surpass 200 million around the globe as delta variant spreads.” NBC. August 4, 2021. Accessed September 20, 21 from

[7] Emma Graham-Harrison and Luke Harding. “The fall of Kabul: a 20-year mission collapses in a single day.” The Guardian. August 15, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.

[8] Ben Fox and Ellen Knickmeyer. “US expects to admit more than 50,000 evacuated Afghans.” AP News. September 3, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021 and Amanda Macias. “U.S. winds down Kabul mission after helping evacuate 116,000 people in just over 2 weeks.” CNBC News. August 30 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021.

[9] Deidre McPhillips. “Global Covid-19 cases surpass 250 million.” CNN. November 8, 2021. Accessed February 8, 2022.