South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 41

     SAW, South Asia, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar

    Teacher and schoolchildren in Bhutan

    Source: World Bank

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    US asks for 1000 NATO forces

    The US has asked its NATO allies for 1,000 additional troops to be deployed to Afghanistan. US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchinson said that since the US had sent 3,000 troops, allies were expected to send around 1,000, “benchmark” figure. This was the first public disclosure of NATO troop increase in the country.

    For more information, see: “Trump wants 1,000 soldiers from NATO allies for Afghanistan”, Politico

    Trump to ‘remove limits’

    US President Donald Trump has “removed all limits” placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan. In a meeting with his national security team, Trump allowed for US commanders in the country to have more authority on the battlefield, indicating a change from the earlier US strategy. Trump said, “As I said during our last meeting my number one priority as Commander-in-Chief is to keep our people safe and to empower you, our senior military leaders to do what you do best.”

    For more information, see: “Limits on US troops in Afghanistan removed: Trump”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    $4.5-b credit from India

    The government has signed a $4.5-billion credit agreement with India for developing its infrastructure, health and education. The agreement was signed during the visit of India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to Dhaka this week. The money will be used for funding 17 infrastructure projects including electricity, railways, roads, shipping, and ports.

    For more information, see: “$4.5b credit deal signed with India”, The Daily Star

    CJ on leave

    Politics in Bangladesh has boiled up over the month-long leave of Chief Justice of Supreme Court Surendra Kumar Sinha. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party alleged that the Chief Justice was forced to go on leave to refrain him from carrying out his duties. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) also raised questions about the “sudden leave” of the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice had run into controversy following the Supreme Court’s judgment over the 16th amendment. The court ordered the amendment illegal, resulting in the Parliament losing power to impeach judges of the Supreme Court on grounds of incapability.

    For more information, see: “CJ forced to go on leave”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    Savings grow

    From a negative growth of 16.02 per cent in 2015, the country’s gross national savings saw a growth of 65.64 per cent in 2016, an increase of almost 82 percentage points.

    For more information see: “National saving increases by Nu 19 billion”, Kuensel

    India

    EC not fully ready

    Simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State assemblies may not be possible in the near future even if legal requirements are met as the Election Commission of India will not be equipped with enough EVMs and VVPAT machines for the exercise anytime soon. The Election Commission had on Wednesday said that it was “logistically equipped” by September 2018 to hold simultaneous polls. Nirvachan Sadan insiders pointed to a letter that the EC had sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice on May 5, 2016, where it said that the commission would need at least 25 lakh VVPAT units for simultaneous polls.

    For more information, see: Election Commission not fully ready yet for simultaneous polls: Officials , Economic Times

    Slowdown, aberration: Bank

    The recent slowdown in India's economic growth is an "aberration" mainly due to the temporary disruptions in preparation for the GST, the World Bank said on Thursday, pointing out that it will get corrected in the coming months. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also said that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is going to have a hugely positive impact on the Indian economy.

    For more information see: India's Economic Slowdown An Aberration, Says World Bank , NDTV

    Single-engine jets for IAF

    In a major move, the Indian Air Force will start this month the process to acquire a fleet of single engine fighter jets which are expected to significantly enhance its overall strike capability. Chief of Air Staff B S Dhanoa said having a new fleet of single engine jets was a “priority” for the IAF and the request for information (RFI) for it is likely to be issued “very soon”. Another top official of the IAF told PTI that the RFI, kick starting the acquisition process, will be issued this month.

    For more information, see: IAF to start process to acquire single engine jets this month , The Indian Express

    UK urged to fast-track Mallya’s extradition

    Three days ago, when the UK authorities arrested Vijay Mallya on the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the agency strategically clubbed its request for extradition of the fugitive liquor baron with that of the CBI’s. The CBI’s request has already been pending there since April. The clubbing of requests is a move to expedite the extradition of the embattled 61-year-old businessman, who has been living in the UK on a self-imposed exile since he left India on March last year. The CBI officials feel the ED’s move will eliminate the chance of any further procedural delay in bringing him back to India, believe CBI officials.

    For more information see: ED, CBI to jointly seek Vijay Mallya’s extradition from UK to fast-track his deportation, Hindustan Times

    Maldives 

    EU charges ‘baseless’

    The Maldivian Government has dismissed as ‘baseless’ the ‘democracy charges’ made against the leadership of President Abdulla Yameen, contained in a resolution of the European Parliament. This, even as the Maldivian delegation, returning from the bi-annual UNHRC session, where again the Government faced the flak, said that they had ‘fruitful’ discussions with international agencies.

    For more information, see: “Maldives hits out at ‘baseless’ European Parliament allegations”, Maldives Independent, 6 October 2017; “Government: EU resolution against the Maldives is biased”, SunOnline

    Police asked to get Gasim

    The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) has asked the police to ensure the return of jailed Opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, overstaying his ‘extended’ prison-leave in Singapore for and after a heart surgery. Gasim’s lawyers said that doctors and airlines have not cleared him for air-travel and his aides said forcibly bringing him back would anger the Maldivian people.

    For more information, see: “Prisons authority asks for police help to bring back Gasim”, Maldives Independent, 4 October 2017; “Public will be angered when Qasim is intimidated and harassed: Dr.Mausoom”, Miadhu

    Myanmar 

    Prince Charles not coming

    Britain’s Prince Charles will tour South-East Asia and India later this month, but the heir to the throne will not visit Myanmar after a spate of violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country and allegations that authorities are carrying out ethni-cleansing.

    For more information, see: “UK Prince Charles’s tour of Southeast Asia leaves out Burma”, DVB

    Suu Kyi for Brunei

    State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on October 6 left Naypyidaw for Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei Darussalam, where she will attend lavish celebrations to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Sultan of Brunei.

    For more information, see: “Suu Kyi attends Sultan of Brunei’s Golden Jubilee”, DVB

    New minimum wage

    The National Minimum Wage Committee has tentatively suggested that the new minimum wage in the country should fall between 4,000 and 4,800 kyats (US$2.93-3.53) for an eight-hour working day.

    For more information, see: “Proposed New Minimum Wage Between 4,000 to 4,800 Kyats a Day”, The Irrawaddy

    OK for upgrade

    India’s Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Myanmar on upgrading of the Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin. The MoU was signed between the two countries on 6 September.

    For more information, see: “Indian Cabinet approves upgrade of Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin”, Mizzima

    Nepal

    No more cabinet reshuffle, says EC

    The Election Commission (EC) of Nepal has issued a very clear statement asking for no further cabinet re-assembling at least until the commencement of the Parliamentary and Provincial Elections. This caution has been put forward at a time when Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had been taking steps to dismiss the Ministers representing the CPN (Maoist Centre) in the Cabinet. The primary idea is to bring about the proper implementation of the election process. However, the criticism levelled against the EC is with regard to its silence at the time of Cabinet expansion.

    For more information, see: “EC tells govt not to reshuffle cabinet”, Republica

    Financial Bills passed

    The Parliament has passed two bills on finance which are directly associated with the implementation of the new Constitution. ‘Bill on Intergovernmental Finance Management’ and ‘Bill on National Natural Resource and Finance Commission’ have been brought about for the balanced distribution of the governmental means and resources.  Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki tabled the passage and is aimed at enhancing the financial stability of the country.

    For more information, see:  “House passes two bills relating to finance”, The Himalayan Times

    Pakistan

    Suicide bomb kills 18

    A suicide bomber killed 18 people in Balochistan outside a Sufi shrine in the city of Jhal Magsi. Over 26 others were wounded, with three children and a police constable being amongst the dead. In a statement released by ISIS, the group claimed it had sent the bomber to strike the shrine. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abassi condemned the attack, saying in a statement that "terrorists have no religion” and that "we will not allow them to disturb our peace and values; they will be dealt with the full might of the state."

    For more information, see: “Suicide bomber kills 18 people at religious shrine in Pakistan”, CNN

    Pak army integrating militant groups to mainstream policy

    The Pakistan army said that it was trying to integrate militant-linked groups into mainstream policy on 5 October. While army spokesperson Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor did not comment on the military’s role, he said the plan was aimed at developing a constructive role for them. Last month the Milli Muslim League (MML), a new militant party led by Hafiz Saeed, stood for elections in Lahore.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan army says state exploring how to integrate militant-linked groups”, Reuters

    Sri Lanka

    President for ‘co-existence’ of all three Govt branches

    Addressing Parliament’s special 70th anniversary session, President Maithiripala Sirisena said that all three branches of Government should co-exist to achieve prosperity. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe lamented that “we have failed to come together as Sri Lankans” even as the TNA’s Leader of the Opposition, R Sampanthan, commended how the nation has preserved democracy.

    For more information, see: “Three branches of govt. should coexist to achieve prosperity – Prez”, The Island, 4 October 2017; “SLFP wants executive presidency, but President is for its abolition – Rajitha”, The Island

    UK satisfied with Govt’s ethnic reconciliation efforts

    Visiting British Minister for Asia and Pacific, Mark Field, has expressed satisfaction at the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to ethnic reconciliation and strengthening democracy. In his meeting with the visitor, Leader of the Opposition R Sampanthan sought British help for the re-merger of the North-East and pointed to the proposed ‘constitutional protection’ to check against future fears of ‘separation’. Field who met with Government leaders in Colombo also went to Jaffna, where he met families of ‘missing persons’ from the war era.

    For more information, see: “UK welcomes SL’s commitment to reconciliation”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2017; “TNA takes up NE re-merger with UK...promises ‘constitutional protection’ to prevent separation”, The Island

    Protests against GMR

    The Rajapaksa-centric Joint Opposition cadres, led by Namal Rajapaksa, MP, staged a protest near the Indian Consulate in southern Hambantota against the proposal for Indian infrastructure GMR Group running the Mattala Airport in the region. Coming at a time when the two Governments have begun talks on joint development of the Trincomallee oil tanks farm, the protests were beaten back by the police.

    For more information, see: “Police attack JO protesters near Indian consulate”, The Island, 7 October 2017; “Developing Mattala Int’l Airport: Top Indian player keen to throw hat into the ring:  ‘If proposition is feasible to do business’”, The Island 

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release on Presentation of Credentials”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 6 October 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Doha regarding a News in Kantipur Daily”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 5 October 2017

    Indian Foreign Secretary’s Visit to Bhutan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 October 2017

    Visit of the Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor to Bangladesh

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Michael Kugelman, “America’s inevitable war is now an invisible one”, CNN, 7 October 2017

    Anna Shea, “Europe is betraying Afghanistan by sending its refugees home”, Time, 5 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Gautam Sen, “Fallout of the Rohingya Issue on Bangladesh`s Domestic Politics”, idsa.in, 3 October 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Kuensel, “Recognizing Bhutan’s grand dream”, 5 October 2017

    Kuensel, “Set high targets”, 4 October 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Raghavi Sharma, Civil-military relations in Turkey: Lessons for Pakistan, www.orfonline.org, October 2017

    Harsh V. Pant, India's Ambitious African Outreach, The Diplomat, 4 October 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Phyo Wai, “How would Bengalis linked with ARSA terror group be re-accepted?”,  Eleven, 2 October 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, “The EPG muddle”, Republica, 5 October, 2017

    Navin Singh Khadka, “Acting on the Act”, The Kathmandu Post, 6 October, 2017

    Jabindra Bhandari, “Labour migration: Emerging challenges”, The Himalayan Times, 20 September, 2017

    Editorials

    Republica, “Guarded hope”, 5 October, 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Tables turned”, 5 October, 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post, “Reflection”, 28 September 2017 

    Republica, “Above the law”, 25 September 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Pamela Constable, “The US says Pakistan must work with Afghanistan on terrorism. It wont be easy”, The Washington Post, 6 October 2017

    Umar Farooq, “How war altered Pakistan’s tribal areas”, Foreign Affairs, 6 October 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Refugees and religion”, The Sunday Leader, 8 October 2017

    C A Chandraprema, “Constitutional gameplan of yahapalana govt”, The Island, 6 October 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “The rise of Sinhala fundamentalist new right”, The Island, 6 October 2017

    G H Peiris, “The devolution debate I & II”, The Island, 5-6 October 2017

    Lucien Rajakarunanakaye, “Parliament @ 70 in Asia’s oldest democracy”, The Island, 3 October 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: Sohini Nayak

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