South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 38

     SAW, South Asia, Rohingya, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives

    A Rohingya woman named Hamida mourning her dead infant in Bangladesh

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    New development partnership with India

    India launched a New Development Partnership, involving 116 new high impact development projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan on 11 September. The partnership was announced after the second Indo-Afghan strategic partnership council meeting in New Delhi by Sushma Swaraj and Salahuddin Rabbani, the foreign minister of Afghanistan. The meeting was held weeks after US President Donald Trump appealed to India to expand its presence in Afghanistan.

    For more information, see: “India to partner Afghanistan for 116 ‘high impact’ projects”, Economic Times

    US apologises for offensive leaflet

    The US has apologised for the “highly offensive” leaflet that was distributed by American forces in Parwan province. The leaflet showed the Taliban flag superimposed on a dog, with an Arabic passage from the Quran. Dogs are considered unclean by Muslims and the Taliban used the leaflet to propagate the idea that it showed American forces’ hatred of Islam. Senior US commander in Afghanistan, Major General James B. Linder said that, “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam” and that the US sincerely apologised.

    For more information, see: “US General in Afghanistan apologises for ‘offensive’ leaflet”, The New York Times

    Bangladesh

    India backing on Rohingyas

    As the country launches a major diplomatic initiative to resolve the problem of Rohingya influx from Myanmar due to conflict, Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has informed her country’s support to Bangladesh's stance over the issue. The Indian Minister revealed this during her telephonic discussion with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

    For more information, see: “New Delhi with Dhaka”, The Daily Star

    One-million refugees

    International Organisation for Migration has estimated that around 1million Rohingyas from Myanmar will enter Bangladesh by this year-end. There has been an influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar in past few weeks due to an outbreak of conflict in the Rakhine province of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh. Rohingyas are ethnic community residing in the Rakhine state with close linguistic similarities with people of Bangladesh. Myanmar government does recognize them as the citizen of the country and the community has been subject to persecution for decades. Bangladesh has received around 400,000 following the incident of violence there.

    For more information, see: “Endless influx: 1m by year end, predicts IOM”, The Daily Star, 15 September 2017; “Bangladesh FM: Violence against Rohingya 'is genocide'”, Aljazeera, 11 September 2017; “UNSC Meeting on Myanmar: Call for immediate steps to end violence”, The Daily Star

    Dhaka to sign pact on n-weapons ban

    Bangladesh is all set to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to sign the agreement during the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York this month. The cabinet this week has given its nod to the proposal.

    For more information, see: “Bangladesh to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, Bdnews24.com

    Bhutan

    Plan revenues hit

    The 12th plan’s revenue projections have been affected by the delay of the Punatsangchu I and II and also the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of India.

    For more information, see: “12th plan revenue projections hit after hydro delays and GST”, The Bhutanese

    Sunkosh DPR cleared

    The CEA has cleared the DPR even as both the Bhutanese and Indian sides are technically supposed to sit for talks and start discussions on the implementation of the project. However, this paper found that there has been proposal from India to discuss the Sunkosh project even after the clearing of the project.

    For more information, see: “CEA clears Sunkosh DPR but project implementation still up in the air”, The Bhutanese

    Indian strike affects potato-auction

    Farmers who have come to the auction yard in Samdrup Jongkhar to sell their potatoes have not been able to do so owing to the strike in the Indian State of Assam. The four-day strike began at 5 this morning and will go on till Monday morning.

    For more information, see: “Assam strike affects potato auction in SJ”, BBS

    India

    Japan backs ‘zero-tolerance’

    Strongly pitching for a "zero-tolerance" approach towards terrorism, India and Japan today agreed to strengthen cooperation against terror groups like Al Qaeda and Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe asked Islamabad to bring to book the perpetrators of terror strikes, including those involved in the Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot (2016) terror attacks, according to a joint statement issued after their annual summit.

    For more information, see: India, Japan Agree To Strengthen Cooperation Against Pak-Based Terror Groups , NDTV

    ‘No’ to Roghingya Declaration

    In a show of solidarity with Myanmar, India today refused to be a part of a declaration adopted at an international conference as it carried "inappropriate" reference to violence in Rakhine state from where 125,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh. An Indian parliamentary delegation, led by Speaker Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, dissociated itself from the 'Bali Declaration' adopted at the 'World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development' held here in Indonesia.

    For more information, see: India refuses to join declaration against Myanmar at international meet, Times of India

    Army officers move SC on ‘discrimination’

    Over 100 officers of the Indian Army have moved the Supreme Court alleging discrimination in promotions of members of the services corps. The petitioners, including lieutenant colonels and majors, have said that personnel from the Army's service corps are being deployed in operations, which they are not supposed to be part of, but are deprived of the promotions and benefits that should accompany it. The service corps handles the army's logistics support and has nearly 10,000 officers.

    For more information, see: Over 100 Indian Army Officers Move Supreme Court Complaining Of Discrimination, Huffington Post

    Govt against de-criminalising begging

    Begging will not be decriminalised, the Centre said on Thursday, changing its stance in the Delhi High Court, which termed the move as "unfortunate". The government, which had earlier informed the court that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had drafted a bill to decriminalise begging and rehabilitate beggars and homeless people, took a U-turn saying it has now dropped the proposal to amend the legislation.

    For more information, see: Won’t Decriminalise Begging, Centre Tells Supreme Court, The Quint

    Maldives 

    UN told to present ‘democratic reality’

    Reacting to UNHRC chief Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein’s opening remarks to the bi-annual session of the Council, the Maldivian Government has urged him to ‘present a more balanced view of the democratic reality of the country’. Earlier, Al-Hussein had expressed concern over “increasingly cracking down on critical views” and expressed concern about “reports of continued violations of the right to a fair trial and allegations of political bias by the judiciary and law enforcement authorities”.

    For more information, see: “Maldives decries UN human rights chief’s criticism over crackdown on dissent”, Maldives Independent, 13 September 2017; “Sri Lanka should ensure Nasheed’s safety: Amal Clooney”, The Hindu, 14 September 2017; “Party talks flounder over release of opposition leaders”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar 

    United on Rohingya issue

    If there’s one thing that unites Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the army that once tried to crush her, and the majority of people in mostly Buddhist Burma, it is their vehement dislike of Rohingya Muslims, seen as a threat to national security.

    For more information, see: “In a first, Arakan crisis unites NLD, army and public”, DVB

    Photo-journos in Bangladesh jail

    Two Myanmar photo journalists, working on assignment for Germany’s GEO magazine, have been detained since Sept. 7 by authorities in Bangladesh on suspicion of espionage.

    For more information see: “Myanmar Photojournalists Detained in Bangladesh”, The Irrawaddy

    Military clashes with TNLA

    Clashes between Tatmadaw troops and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) flared in three northern Shan State townships on September 13, the ethnic armed group has announced.

    For more information see: “Hostilities with Burma Army across three Shan State townships: TNLA”, DVB

    Nepal

    EC bars Cabinet expansion

    The expansion of cabinet brought about by Prime Minister Sher Bhadur Deuba has been disapproved by the Election Commission. It has been regarded as being opposed to the code of conduct of Provincial Assembly and House of Representatives. The primary intention behind making such a statement was to safeguard the free, fair and peaceful environment during elections. The EC has retaliated against any further such appointment in the Cabinet.

    For more information, see: “Cabinet expansion against election code of conduct: EC”, The Kathmandu Post

    $ 500-m aid from US

    The economic augmentation of Nepal has found expression through the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signing a $500 million compact with the former. This is not only a comprehensive framework for Nepal’s economic prosperity but also first of its kind in South Asia. This aims to bolster the country’s energy sector, along with regional energy connectivity and also the proper scrutiny of transport costs to embolden private investment as well.

    For more information, see:U.S. and Nepal Sign $500 Million Compact: MCC’s investment expected to benefit 23 million Nepalis”, Republica

    Polls this year

    The balloting of the new President and Vice-President of the country has been decided to take place after the conclusion of elections forming the new federal parliament and provincial assemblies, later this year, in tune with the new Constitution. The Head and the Deputy Head of the government shall be determined by the earlier part of 2018 and is likely to have contestants from diverse races, genders and professional backgrounds.

    For more information, see: New president a month after new parliament”, Republica

    Pakistan

    By-poll for Sharif seat

    In a major test for Nawaz Sharif and his family, polling is underway in a by-election to fill the parliamentary seat vacated by the former prime minister. Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Sharif will be running for the parliamentary seat, NA-120, despite having spent much of the campaign period undergoing cancer treatment in the UK. Political analysts have said that the by-poll will be a key indicator of the support that Sharif still has in Lahore.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan’s Sharif faces key by-poll after dismissal”, Al Jazeera

    Shiites shot dead

    Four Shiite Muslims were shot and killed in Quetta on 11 September. In what seems like a sectarian attack, the four Shiites, a Hazara minority group in Pakistan and Afghanistan were travelling to Quetta from Afghanistan when they stopped their vehicle for fuel. No one has claimed the shooting.

    For more information, see: “Gunmen kill 4 minority Shiites in Pakistan”, Associated Press

    Sri Lanka 

    Time for ‘universal jurisdiction’

    In his opening remarks at the UNHRC session, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein has called for application of ‘universal jurisdiction’ in Sri Lanka in the absence of credible action on ‘accountability issues’. This, even as Northern Province Tamil Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran wanted the army to surrender 85,000 acres of private lands in their possession close to a decade after the war.

    For more information, see: “UNHR Chief highlights need for universal jurisdiction in SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 September 2017; “War crimes: Exercise universal jurisdiction on Sri Lanka –UNHRC”, The Island

    Referendum on 20-A?

    With the Supreme Court expected to send in its mandatory ruling on the proposed 20th Amendment draft to Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, a referendum, or polls to three Provincial Councils look imminent. The Bill seek to amend the constitutional provisions concerned, to provide for simultaneous polls for the presidency, Parliament and the nine Provincial Councils, which have become staggered over the years.

    For more information, see: “Referendum looms on PC polls issue?”, The Island, 17 September 2017; “LG elections in January: EC Chief”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 September 2017; “Don’t hold polls this year: Govt. tells polls commission”, Daily Mirror Online

    US Senate against aid-cut

    The US Senate Appropriations Committee has opposed the Trump Administration’s proposal to effect a 92-per cent cut in aid to Sri Lanka, and has pointed to the latter’s strategic location as among the reasons. “The Committee recognises and supports the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to advance democracy and the rule of law, and encourages further steps to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict by promoting justice and reconciliation,” a report said.

    For more information, see: “US legislators oppose 92% cut in aid to SL”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Releases

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Dhaka regarding Interaction on Nepal Bangladesh Trade and Transit”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 September, 2017

    Press Note issued by the Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs at Tribhuvan International Airport upon completion of his official visit to the People’s Republic of China.”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 12 September, 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Varghese K. George, “New strategy, old game: on Trump and Afghanistan”, The Hindu, 12 September 2017

    David Elliot, “What Trump needs to learn from Vietnam”, The New York Times, 16 September 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz, “Putting people at the heart of development”, The Daily Star, 15 September 2017

    Zoheb Mashiur, “Stories that dictate the Rohingya genocide”, The Daily Star, 14 September 2017

    Shahidul Islam and John Richards, “Our children are in school: But can they read?”, The Daily Star, 14 September 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Operation drugs”, Kuensel, 14 September 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Kabir Taneja, How Deir Ezzor, former home of India–China cooperation, may become the final battle for the Islamic State, ORF, 12 September 2017

    Harsh V. Pant, China’s belligerence has cemented India-Japan relationship, DNA, 15 September 2017

    Maldives 

    Opinion Pieces

    Supreme Court lawyers, “Petition from lawyers for judicial reform”, Maldives Independent, 16 September 2017

    Myanmar

    Aung Zaw, “In the Wake of Rakhine State Crisis, Support for Suu Kyi is (Almost) Solid”, The Irrawaddy, 14 September 2017

    Mon Mon Myat, “Behind the Textbook Example”, The Irrawaddy, 15 September 2017 

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, Glocal concerns”, Republica, 14 September, 2017

    Srijan Bahadur Malla, Preparing for the next one”, The Kathmandu Post, 15 September, 2017

    Mahendra P. Lama, Plight of Rohingyas”, The Kathmandu Post, 13 September, 2017

    Editorials

    Republica, “54 jeers”, 12 September, 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Mucky business”, 12 September, 2017

    Republica, “Good vibes”, 10 September, 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Anas Saleem, “Is China’s friendship good for Pakistan in the coming decades?”, The Hindustan Times, 13 September 2017

    Khaled Ahmed, “Like Cold War”, The Indian Express, 16 September 2017

    Abhishek Parajuli, “Trump’s posturing on Pakistan is a gift to China”, The Guardian , 23 August 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Why and how of national unity”, The Sunday Leader, 17 September 2017

    Kumar David, “Government gasping; Rajapaksas dead-meat: A third-alternative is indispensable”, The Island, 17 September 2017

    Rajan Philips, “One more symbolic step: Wigneswaran’s audience with the Mahanayake Thera”, The Island, 16 September 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 September 2017

    Kusal Perera, “Oh! This crazy Sri Lanka”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 September 2017

    Gomin Dayasiri, “Assessment: Gotabaya enters politics”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 September 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “SLFP’S future: In Game of Thrones, game changes radically”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 September 2017

    Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s visit to the Mahanayakas”, The Island, 13 September 2017

    Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, “US rhetoric on ‘freedom of navigation’ Sri Lanka should beware of becoming another South China Sea”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 September 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Significance Of Vision 2025 Goes Beyond Economic Development”, The Island, 12 September 2017

    Contributors

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

    India: Pushan Das

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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