South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 29

     South Asia, SAW, July

    People playing Bhutan's national sport archery

    Source: Göran

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    US intensifies airstrikes

    The United States and Afghan security forces have stepped up their attacks on the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The US has consistently targeted IS hideouts in the eastern Nangarhar province, particularly Achin, Haskamena and Kot districts with ground and air operation. While they have been conducting their operations for a while now, there in an intensification in the air strikes which are launched from the US air base in Jalalabad. Local residents in areas under IS control have welcomed the rocket attacks which they say are more accurate and effective. Ground operations by Afghan security forces, they say, result in civilian casualties at times.

    For more information, see: “American, Afghan forces intensify anti-IS fight in Afghanistan”, VOA

    All terrorists are bad: CEO

    Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah has called for a regional consensus against terrorism at the 4th Afghan-Central Asia dialogue in Bamiyan. The CEO said that there was no difference between the Taliban, Daesh and al-Qaeda, unlike other countries in the region that differentiate between terrorist groups, calling it a big mistake. Representatives from more than 10 Asian and European countries, the United States, the United Nations and NATO attended the conference to discuss mechanisms to improve Afghanistan’s trade and political ties with the Central Asian countries as well to talk on improving regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

    For more information, see: “Abdullah calls for regional consensus against terrorism”, Tolo News

    Taliban kidnaps soldiers

    The Taliban have kidnapped eight Afghan National Army soldiers from a check post in Badgis province on July 14, according to local officials. While there remains no information about their whereabouts, the Governor of Badghis, Mohammad Anwar Ishaqzai, confirmed the incident. A Taliban commander, along with a number of his fighters, attacked the check post in Abkamari district on July 14, capturing the soldiers and taking away their weapons.

    For more information, see: “Taliban kidnaps eight soldiers in Badghis”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    10 pc solar power by 2020

    To meet the rising energy demands, the government is planning to set up some large-scale solar power projects to generate 2000 megawatts (MW) of electricity in next three years. The project, once implemented, will produce 10 percent of country’s electricity demand. With this Bangladesh will take a major leap is exploiting renewable energy. Currently, only 2.87 is energy requirement comes from the renewables.

    For more information, see: “Bangladesh plans to meet 10pc electricity need from solar power by 2020’’, The Financial Express

    OBOR will help: Chamber

    Bangladesh’s elite business body, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has said that the country is to benefit enormously from the China’s One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR). The chamber suggested that Bangladesh should not go for policies that undercut the country's opportunities to benefit from the Chinese OBOR initiative.

    For more information, see: “Bangladesh to benefit from China's belt, road initiative: MCCI”, The Daily Star

    Ban on film JVs

    The government has decided to ban the production of films with other countries until the passing of a proper guideline. The decision made at a meeting held between the Ministry of Information and film industry representatives. The decision followed with an aim on promoting the domestic film industry.

    For more information, see: “Bangladesh govt bars joint movie production with foreign countries”, Bdnews24.com

    Bhutan

    Govt studying GST impact

    Even as the GST regime in India has already affected many sectors of the Bhutanese economy, the government is yet to thoroughly understand the system before making any move. Some industrialists and traders have received notifications from Indian counterparts that prices of goods would increase after the application of GST.

    For more information, see: “Govt. still studying the impacts of GST system”, Kuensel

    Two new political parties yet to register with EC

    The two newly-formed political parties, Druk Gaki Tshogpa and Druk Kuenphen Tshogpa, are yet to register with the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). According to the ECB, the promoters of the political parties are in the process of carrying out preparatory work such as mobilising members and support.

    For more information, see: “ECB prepares for 2018 elections”, Kuensel

    New envoys meet PM

    Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met the Ambassadors of Turkey, Spain and Myanmar to Bhutan at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang this week.  Lyonchhen welcomed the Ambassadors to Bhutan and congratulated them on presenting their credentials to His Majesty The King and being appointed as the new Ambassadors to Bhutan.

    For more information see: “Ambassadors call on Prime Minister”, Kuensel

    India

    FM launches new E-access facility

    The Income-Tax department has launched an online facility that will enable payment of taxes, tracking of tax deducted at source and filing of applications for permanent account numbers (PAN). The facility known as 'Aaykar Setu’, launched by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, will also help people link their 12-digit biometric identifier Aadhaar with PAN. Central Board of Direct Taxes will make it available as a desktop service and as an app for Android mobile phones, providing a range of informative and useful tax services.

    For more information, see: Arun Jaitley launches 'AaykarSetu' to enhance e-access of taxpayers, Economic Times

    ‘Malabar Exercises’ on

    Frontline warships and submarines of India, the US and Japan on Thursday sailed out from the Chennai harbour to participate in the sea phase of the Malabar joint naval exercise at an undisclosed location in the Bay of Bengal, navy officials said. Sixteen ships and more than 95 aircraft from the three countries are participating in the exercise. The sea phase would be held deep in the Bay of Bengal, the exact location of which has not been revealed.

    For more information see: Warships, subs of India, US, Japan sail out to Bay of Bengal for Malabar, Economic Times

    Myanmar ‘key pillar’: PM

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described Myanmar as a "key pillar" of India's 'Act East' policy and expressed his firm commitment to strengthen the bilateral relationship in all areas. He made the comments when Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Defence Services Sr Gen. U Min Aung Hliang called on him in Delhi, according to a PMO statement.

    For more information, see: Myanmar is key pillar in India's 'Act East' policy: PM NarendraModi, Economic Times

    Opposition briefed on stand-off

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj briefed leaders of opposition parties on the stand-off with China and the situation in Kashmir on Friday. Leaders of prominent opposition parties were invited for the meeting where the two senior ministers gave a detailed presentation on the prevailing situation along the Sino-Indian border and Jammu and Kashmir and the government action.

    Maldives 

    SC ‘no’ to defection

    In a politically significant judgment, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that floor-crossing by elected MPs will cost them their seats. The ruling, citing the existence of constitutional amendments and relevant laws in countries such as India, comes after 10 MPs from President Abdulla Yameen-led faction of the ruling PPM signed in for an Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh.

    For more information, see: “MPs will forfeit seat for leaving party, Supreme Court rules”, Maldives Independent, 13 July 2017; “Supreme Court ruling: Parliamentarians will lose seat if they switch party”, SunOnline

    Judge transferred

    In yet another decision of an independent institution being identified with the Government, the Judicial Service Commission has transferred out the nation’s Criminal Court chief judge, Abdul Bari Yousuf and another, at the instance of the Supreme Court. Bari chaired the three-judge Bench that sentenced former President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed on terrorism charges, but also more recently threw out cases against another Opposition leader, Jumhooree Party founder, Gasim Ibrahim, on two occasions.

    For more information, see: “Criminal court chief judge transferred to juvenile court”, Maldives Independent, 11 July 2017; “Court throws out bribery case against Gasim”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar 

    Rohingyas: US for UN probe

    The United States on July 10 called on Burma to allow a United Nations fact-finding mission to investigate widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.

    For more information, see: “US calls on Burma to accept UN Rohingya investigation”, DVB

    Army rebuffs CM

    The Myanmar Army said Yangon’s chief minister is not suitable for “constructive, long-term relations” with the army and called his comments about the military chief an “insult” on Wednesday following its first complaint to the government since it took office.

    For more information, see: “Minister’s Comments Insult Myanmar Army”, The Irrawaddy

    No peace talks with alliance of ethnic armed groups: Govt

    The government has rejected the idea of holding peace talks with an alliance of seven ethnic armed groups based in northeast Myanmar as a single entity and will only negotiate with them separately, according to the government’s peace commission.

    For more information, see: “Govt refuses to deal with Wa-led alliance as a bloc”, The Irrawaddy

    Nepal

    PM to visit India next month

    Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit to India has been scheduled on August 17-19t as per the proposal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal.  The underscore of this visit has been the arrival of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in New Delhi after the Cabinet was formed. As a response to the invitation of Prime Minister NarendraModi, this visit aims at strengthening the bilateral ties and addressing several pressing political issues.

    For more information, see: “PM Deuba’s India visit proposed for Aug 17-19”, The Kathmandu Post

    Call for economic diplomacy

    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, has highly prioritised economic diplomacy for the country. Thus, the diplomatic missions would chiefly aim at reiterating this agenda and creating a stronger economy.

    For more information, see: “Economic diplomacy will be given priority: DPM Mahara”, Republica

    Trade pact with Aussies

    Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Nepal and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia on the establishment of bilateral consultation mechanism has been signed in the Australian capital city, Canberra. It is based on mutual interest and investment opportunities between the two countries.

    For more information, see: “MoU on bilateral consultation mechanism between Nepal and Australia”, The Himalayan Times, 14 July 2017; “MoU on bilateral consultation mechanism between Nepal and Australia signed”, Republica

    Pakistan

    Pressure on Sharif to quit

    Pakistani opposition parties have increased the pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down after corruption allegations. Supreme Court probe into the financial dealings of the Sharif family found significant disparities between their declared wealth and sources of income. Sharif has been under pressure since the Panama-gate scandal that disclosed that his family had offshore accounts. Babar Awan, a leader of cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan’s party, said on Tuesday that Sharif’s only option is to quit. SirajulHaq, the leader of opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, also demanded Sharif’s resignation.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan opposition parties urge PM to quit amid allegations”, The Washington Post

    Stiff law on US aid

    A US Congressional panel is considering imposing tougher riders on civilian and military aid to Pakistan until the country can demonstrate satisfactory progress in the fight against terrorism. As per the draft of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations draft bill, the Secretary of State is asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed and al Qaeda. This includes taking effective steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighbouring countries.

    For more information, see: “Congressional panel to consider tougher rides on US aid to Pakistan”, The Times of India

    Facebook ‘no’ to Govt

    Facebook has rejected Pakistan’s request to link all Facebook accounts with phone numbers. Pakistan had made the request when Facebook Vice President Joel Kaplan met with Interior Minister ChaudhryNisar Ali Khan. The reason for the request was to curb the usage of fake profiles to post blasphemous content and make it easy for authorities to trace users. However, Facebook stated that it has decided to not comply with the request, in order to continue protecting its customers' rights.

    For more information, see: “Facebook rejects Pakistan request to link all accounts with phone numbers”, Dawn

    Sri Lanka 

    Pressure on Sirisena

    With a section of the SLFP veterans in his faction pressing for parting ways with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP partner, pressure is building on President Maithiripala Sirisena to split before the nation-wide local government elections, delayed over the past two years. Making things difficult for Sirisena is 19-A barring him from dissolving Parliament six months before the term becomes due in August 2020, and also the fact that the UNP could still muster a majority, where the two SLFP factions would be short by 16 votes.

    For more information, see: “President battles to keep coalition, ultimatum backfires”, The Island, 16 July 2017; “President tells SLFP members to hold on till Dec. 31”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 July 2017; “Stay with Govt. till Dec.31: Duminda”.

    UN envoy raps Govt

    Visiting UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, has expressed concern over the Government tying the hands of the nation’s judiciary through the Attorney-General’s powers, criticised the security establishment and ‘their allies’ in power, and asked for the implementation of the UNHRC resolutions or face consequences. Separately, the South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) claimed that the abduction and torture of Tamils in Sri Lanka remained ‘systematic’.

    For more information, see: “UN expresses concern over judiciary’s hands being tied by Attorney General”, The Island, 16 July 2017;  “Implement Geneva resolution or face consequences – UN”. The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Bangladesh

    Press Releases

    Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali, MP urged the UNHCR to call upon the Government of Myanmar to take meaningful measures to ensure return of all Myanmar nationals staying in Bangladesh to their homeland in Rakhine State.”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 July 2017

    Bhutan

    Press Releases

    Ambassadors of Argentina, Myanmar, Spain and Turkey calls on Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 13, 2017

    Nepal

    Press Releases

    “Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Canberra regarding Establishment of Bilateral Consultation Mechanism”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 July 2017

    “Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal, Geneva on the Courtesy call on by Secretary of Commerce to the DG, WTO”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 July 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Marvin G. Weinbaum and Mohd. Sayed Madadi, “With more troops in Afghanistan, focus on reintegration, no reconciliation”, National Interest, 12 July 2017

    Dominic Dudley, “War of words heats up between Iran and Afghanistan over water resources”, Forbes, 12 July 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    John Tripura, “The development paradox in the CHT”, Dhaka Tribune, 13 July 2017

    Shubhrastha Shikha & Guru Prakash, “A brave new world”, Dhaka Tribune, 11 July 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    The cost of delayed projects”, Kuensel, 15 July 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Manoj Joshi, India’s standoff with China is not about helping Bhutan – but in its own national interest, Scroll, 14 July 2017

    Harsh Pant, Could an Indo-Pacific ‘Quad’ Counter China’s Rising Aggression?, The Quint, 11 July 2017

    Maldives

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “In Maldives, the fight again moves to court”, Maldives Independent, 13 July 2017

    Myanmar

    Khaing Hsu, “The construction of BCIM Economic Corridor vs. Myanmar”, Mizzima, 15 July 2017

    Sanjay Pulipaka, “Why the visit of Myanmar’s military chief is important to New Delhi”, The Mint, 14 July 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Kul Chandra Gautam, “Democracy, revitalized”, Republica, 12 July 2017

    Mahendra P. Lama, “The 1950 treaty”, The Kathmandu Post, 12 July 2017

    Editorials

    Republica, “High hopes”, 11 July 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Take the long view”, 13 July 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Modern day slavery”, 7 July 2017

    Pakistan

    Jacob Kastrenakes, “A Microsoft font may have exposed corruption in Pakistan”, The Verge, 12 July 2017

    Irfan Husain, “Here we go again”, Dawn, 15 July 2017

    Salaar Khan, “Of Serifs and Sharifs”, The Express Tribune, 15 July 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Rajan Philips, “The vicious political triangle: Blatant Mahinda, Betraying Ranil, and Blame-master Maithri”, The Island, 16 July 2017

    Tissaranee Gunaratne, “From a Government in crisis to crisis of democracy”, The Island, 16 July 2017

    Gnana Moonesinghe, “Will Sri Lanka be in a state of conflict all the time?”, The Island, 16 July 2017

    M M Zuhair, “Counter terror law ridiculous in a country which has eradicated terrorism!”, The Island, 15 July 2017

    Laksiri Fernando, “Minority complex of some Sinhala leaders and advocates”, The Island, 14 July 2017

    M S M Ayub, “An inverted promise”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 July 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “Let’s define ‘national interest’ as a ‘sustainable nation”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 July 2017

    Sanjeeva Fernando, “This elusive thing called democracy”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 July 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “Anti-corruption drive left for dead now”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 July 2017

    S Ratnajeevan H Hoole, “Hate Talk Continues: Those from whom we expect the least outdo those we expect more from”, The Island, 13 July 2017

    Jehan Perera, “President represents litmus test for political reform”, The Island, 12 July 2017

    Gomin Dayasiri, “Why and how MR lost in 2015!”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 July 2015

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Dangerous gamble: Shielding Rajapaksas from investigations”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 Julyl 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Wigneswaran fronting for Ananthi?”, The Sunday Leader, 9 July 2017

    Interviews

    Kelum Bandara, “Enforced disappearances Bill must be enacted forthwith as a step for reconciliation: Sumanthiran”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 July 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “Sri Lanka will be submitted to jurisdiction of ICC: G L Peiris”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 July 2017

    Contributors:

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

    India: Pushan Das

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee & Sohini Nayak

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