Asia

Your Monday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering the political fallout of India’s coronavirus crisis, a suicide bombing in Afghanistan and questions about accountability after a stampede in Israel.l

As India recorded 401,993 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, a global record, Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to win a desperately wanted prize.

On Sunday, his party handily lost crucial and highly watched state elections in West Bengal, a stronghold of opposition. One of India’s feistiest parties cruised to victory, despite the heavy investment Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, made in the state. The B.J.P. still won more seats than it took in the last election — a sign of how dominant it has become nationwide.

Even with cases soaring, Modi and other politicians held enormous rallies up and down the state, which critics said helped to spread the disease. Many Indians are stunned that these elections were even held, and blame Modi for mishandling the pandemic in the service of his own political power.

Amid all of this, families are reaching out across the diaspora, trying to save their loved ones. The U.S. will start restricting travel from the country on Tuesday. And the outbreak is overflowing India’s borders: Nepal’s hospitals have run out of beds, the health minister said, calling the situation “unmanageable.”

With U.S. troops beginning to leave Afghanistan, a suicide bomber blew up a truck in Logar Province on Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 100 others.

If the Taliban is responsible, as the Afghan government asserts, the bombing would be the most overt signal to date that insurgents planned to reject the peace deal they reached with the Americans in February 2020. The Taliban has not yet claimed responsibility.

The Taliban has threatened retribution if the U.S. military stays beyond May 1, the mutually agreed-to withdrawal date, claiming an extension would violate the agreement. Two weeks ago, President Biden shifted the withdrawal to Sept. 11. It is yet unclear whether the blast was retaliation for that extension.

A deal in jeopardy: The Taliban has tested gray areas of the agreement over the past year, by carrying out targeted assassinations of journalists, officials and intellectuals. The blast, if enacted by the Taliban, would be in direct violation of a secret annex to the deal that bars them from conducting suicide attacks, which had been in sharp decline.


The disaster during an annual Jewish religious pilgrimage, which killed 45 people, is one of Israel’s worst civil disasters. But the tragedy at Mount Meron, didn’t come as a surprise. For years, local politicians, journalists and ombudsmen had warned that the site had become a death trap.

Background: Israeli governing coalitions have long courted ultra-Orthodox voters, a critical voting bloc that can turn the tide of an election. Politicians have long turned a blind eye to safety issues at the event, which falls under the jurisdiction of four competing religious institutions, and other ways in which parts of the ultra-Orthodox community resist state control.

Byron Bay — once a bohemian surf spot — has become a luxe enclave with the highest median house price in Australia. Now, as Netflix seeks to chronicle its “hot Instagrammers living their best lives,” the town is caught in a struggle between protecting and capitalizing on its image.

Eric Kim, a cooking writer at The Times, spent nine months back home in Atlanta to write a cookbook with his mother, Jean.

“All my life, I thought I knew how my mother cooked because she had done it for my brother and me every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he writes. “And I had watched.”

“But there were so many details I missed, like how, when making her signature kimchi jjigae, she blanches the pork ribs first with fresh ginger to remove any gaminess. Or how she always blooms gochugaru in a little fat before starting red pepper-based stews. Or how she adds a small handful of pine nuts to her baechu kimchi, because that’s what her mother did. (I wish I could interview my grandmother and ask her why she did that.)”

Anyone who loves food — anyone who loves their family — will enjoy his reflections. Here’s his essay.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Jeffrey Gettleman, our South Asia bureau chief, joined CBS News from New Delhi to discuss the pandemic’s rapid spread in the country.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is from a four-part series on a mental health crisis in a high school in Odessa, Texas.

You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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