South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 42

     SAW, South Asia, Myanmar, October, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives

    Myanmar's state counselor Suu Kyi with senior military officials

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Drone-strike kills 14

    A US drone strike has killed 14 ISIS militants in eastern Kunar province on 12 October. The strike targeted a meeting of ISIS commanders, according to the provincial governor, who were planning an attack. While US forces have not commented on the strike, there are certain reports that the strike killed civilians and not militants.

    For more information, see: “Drone strikes kills 14 in Afghanistan”, The Express Tribune

    Fruit exports up

    Since the launch of the Afghanistan- India air corridor three months ago, almost 900 tons of fresh fruit has been exported to India. According to the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there has also been an increase in fruit exports through trucks to Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia and India. Officials say that the increase in fruit exports has also doubled the price in foreign and domestic markets.

    For more information, see: “900 tons of fresh fruit air freighted to India: ACCI”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    CJ faces graft-charge

    A day after his leaving for Australia with a formal leave granted by President Abdul Hamid, the Government levelled 11 charges, including corruption and money-laundering, against Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, before the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. Separately, Law Minister Anisul Huq said that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), too could probe the charges against the CJ, if it wanted.

    For more information, see: “President raises 11 corruption charges against CJ Sinha”, bdnews24.com, 15 October 2017;  “ACC can probe allegations against Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha: Law minister”, Daily Star

    No hopes on EC talks: BNP

    The Opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has said that they have little hopes on the outcome of the Election Commission’s call for a dialogue to ensure free and fair elections. The political temperature in the country is expected to get heated up with the scheduled return of BNP leader, Begum Khaleda Zia, on 18 October after a three-month stay in the UK for medical treatment.

    For more information, see: “BNP has little hope on EC dialogue outcome: Fakhrul”, Daily Star, 15 October 2017; “Khaleda Zia returns to Dhaka on Oct 18”, bdnews24.com

    China deals prove ‘dud’

    Three-fourths of the 26 deals signed with China during last year’s Dhaka visit of President Xi Jinping have seen little or no progress, according to some reports. The list includes the dedicated economic zone for Chinese investors, promised by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during Xi’s visit.

    For more information, see: “Three-fourth deals with China show no progress”, Daily Star

    Bhutan

    GST hits trade still

    More than three months since the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in India, the anticipated benefit on the Bhutanese economy has not yet been ensued. From delay in passing goods through the customs office across the border to not implementing the ‘exempt on third country transit cargo services’ announced recently, GST appears to have arrested trade, leaving little space for consumers to gain from.

    For more information, see: “GST stifles trade flow in P/ling”, Kuensel

    India hands over funds

    The first secretary for economy and commerce Embassy of India, S Koventhan, handed over cheques for Nu 1.135 billion to Gross National Happiness Commission’s senior programme coordinator, Passang Dorji, on October 9.

    For more information, see: “India releases Nu 1.135B for PTA and SDP projects”, Kuensel

    New college

    Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay inaugurated the Yonphula Centenary College in Kanglung on October 8. He said that four colleges have been established in the east in last two years.

    For more information, see: “PM inaugurates Yonphula Centenary College and airport”, Kuensel

    India

    Gujarat poll notification delayed

    The Congress has accused the ruling BJP of pressuring the Election Commission to delay announcing dates for the Gujarat assembly elections, alleging this was done to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "announce sops" at a mega rally planned in state capital Gandhi Nagar next week. The Election Commission announced dates on Thursday for elections in Himachal Pradesh and said the Gujarat elections dates would be announced later, though it did say that they would be held no later than December 18, when votes will be counted for Himachal Pradesh.

    For more information, see: “Why No Gujarat Poll Date, Questions Opposition, Alleging Link To PM Visit”, NDTV

    100th in hunger-index

    Grappling with a "serious" hunger problem, India has been ranked 100th among 119 developing countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), behind North Korea, Bangladesh and even the besieged Iraq, but ahead of Pakistan, according to a report. India was ranked 97th last year. The country's hunger problem is driven by high child malnutrition, and underlines the need for stronger commitment to the social sector, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said in its report.

    For more information, see: “India ranked 100th among 119 as hunger gets worse”, The Economic Times

    High Court frees Talwars

    The Allahabad High Court on Thursday acquitted dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar and quashed their conviction in the 2008 murder of their teenage daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj in Noida. A Division Bench, comprising Justices B.K. Narayana and A.K. Mishra, pronounced the judgment on an appeal filed by the couple challenging their conviction by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Ghaziabad in November 2013.

    For more information, see: “Allahabad High Court acquits Talwars in daughter Aarushi, Hemraj murder case”, The Hindu

    Maldives 

    Probe into ‘lost funds’

    In what otherwise looks like yet another instance of political vendetta, the Government of President Abdulla Yameen has launched a probe into an estimated MVR 13.5 billion ($ 875 m) since the 1990’s, then under the rule of half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Opposition MDP’s Mohammed Nasheed. The political grand-standing continues even as a World Bank report said that at least 25 per cent of Maldivian youth are unemployed, indicating a serious cause for governmental concern.

    For more information, see: “US$875m lost or stolen from state coffers says Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 12 October 2017; “Opposition protest outside Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka”, Maldives Independent

    Second runway soon

    The second runway in the international airport in capital Male will be ready for inauguration by Independence Day next year, a Government Minister has said. Officials also said that the concrete work on the main pillars for the prestigious Maldives-China Friendship Bridge across the seas, connecting capital Male to the airport island of Hulhule will be completed in about ten days.

    For more information, see: “Second runway of the airport will be opened on the next independence day : Mohammed Saeed”, Miadhu

    Myanmar 

    New body for Rakhine

    State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will lead the newly-formed Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine, a mechanism to bring stakeholders, the Union government, and local and international aid organizations together to tackle the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Rakhine State. Also, in another development, the government earmarked $5.75 billion to provide electricity next year to more than 40 villages in the troubled northern Rakhine State townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung.

    For more information, see: “State Counselor Forms Enterprise on Rakhine State, Calls for ‘Unity’”, The Irrawaddy, 13 October 2017; “Suu Kyi announces new body to deal with latest Arakan State turmoil”, DVB

    Bangladesh minister coming

    Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said on October 12 that he will travel to Myanmar on October 23 for talks on the crisis that has seen more than half a million Rohingya refugees cross into his country in just six weeks.

    For more information see: “Bangladesh minister to hold talks in Myanmar on refugees”, Mizzima

    Call to reboot peace

    Ahead of a ceremony on  October 15 to mark the second anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), a leading member of the negotiating team for the eight signatories to the accord has called for the Myanmarese government to do more to move the peace process along.

    For more information see: “NCA signatories urge govt to reboot peace process”, DVB

    Nepal

    Cabinet expansion on cards

    Much to the dismay of the Chief Election Commissioner, Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, PM is all set to undertake a cabinet expansion. The primary idea is to make the Ministers of the CPN (Maoist Centre) resign from their designation and thereby reshuffle the cabinet. This will bring about the induction of eight new Ministers from the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party. If this augmentation takes place, it will lead the Cabinet to have 64 members in total.

    For more information, see: “Deuba forwards names of 8 new ministers to president”, Republica, 14 October 2017;”Deuba inducts eight ministers from RPP”, The Kathmandu Post

    Poll-spending hiked

    The Election Commission has set the expenditure limit for candidates for the federal elections under the first-past-the-post system at Rs2.5 million, raising the ceiling by 150 percent from that fixed during the Constituent Assembly candidates in 2013. The EC has been very clear in saying that the limitations are as per the conditions of practicality.

    For more Information, see: “Expenditure limit for candidates up 150pc”, The Kathmandu Post

    IMF lowers growth rate

    Nepal has been at the receiving end of low economic growth rate forecasts by both the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. To add to this, now the International Monetary Fund has also anticipated only 5 percent growth rate for the current Fiscal year of 2017/18. Nepal has been going through the crisis of tremendous flooding conditions that led to such a prediction. However, Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Sebedi said that the growth target of 7.2 percent was achievable this fiscal year.

    For more information, see: “IMF also lowers Nepal’s economic growth forecast to 5%”, Republica

    Pakistan

    Freed after five years

    An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children have been freed after being held captive by the Haqqani Network for five years. Caitlan Coleman and her husband Joshua Boyle were kidnaped in October 2012. Coleman have birth to three children in captivity before being freed by Pakistani forces on 11 October. After arriving in Toronto on 13 October, Mr. Boyle denounced his captors in brief remarks and gave more details of their horrific ordeal.

    For more information, see: “Gunshots, a cry of ‘kill the hostages’, then freedom for Canadian-American family”, The New York Times, 12 October 2017; “Canadian held hostage in Afghanistan says militants killed his child”, The New York Times

    EC bans MML

    Pakistan Election Commission rejected the application of the Milli Muslim League (MML) on 11 October, from participating in state and general elections. MML is a front organization for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, terror organisation that is part of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Saif Ullah Khalid, president of Milli Muslim League, dismissed the election commission’s decision and said the party will take the matter to the country’s judiciary.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan electoral body bars political party due to terror ties”, VOA

    Fence along Durand Line

    Pakistan is building a fence along the 2,500 Durand Line, or border with Afghanistan. Afghanistan has voiced its opposition to the fence as it ill run down the middle of so-called "divided villages" where few people have passports and Pashtun tribal loyalty often trumps allegiance to the state. In Balochistan, Pakistan is working on moving citizens to build the fence arguing that security concerns override concerns of breaking up communities.

    For more information, see: “Afghanistan-Pakistan border villages brace for Berlin wall style divide”, The Times of India

    Sri Lanka

    Protests over President’s visit

    The Tamil-majority Northern Province observed a protest on Friday, ahead of President Maithiripala Sirisena’s Jaffna visit a day later. TNA Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, R Sampanthan, too, stayed away from the President’s function after planning to accompany him after the protests demanding freedom for ‘political prisoners’ from the war-era.

    For more information, see: “Dispute over prisoners: TNA boycotts President’s functions in the north”, The Sunday Times, 15 October 2017; “President confronts protesters in Jaffna, Sivaji, Suresh demand action”, Colombo Gazette     

    Rajapaksa camp to fight local polls together

    Despite differences over the new Constitution, the Joint Opposition (JO) identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) will contest the promised local government polls together. With rebellion within the party becoming a reality ahead of the polls, President Maithiripala Sirisena has sacked many local organisers of the ruling SLFP partner under him who have otherwise identified themselves with the Rajapaksas and the JO.

    For more information, see: “New coalition under Mahinda led SLPJP to contest local polls”, The Island, 13 October 2017: “SLPP slated to win over 200 PSs – Basil”, Daily Mirror Online

    For peace in IOR

    Sri Lanka is for a peace in the Indian Ocean and a rules-based order that follows international norms and practices and freedom of navigation, Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam has said. However, the Government was also considering the setting up of a naval air force wing to secure the Sri Lankan waters, Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, said.

    For more information, see: “We are for peaceful settlement of disputes in Indian Ocean: SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 October 2017; “Naval Air Force Wing to secure SL waters: Defence Secy”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Dhaka regarding Foreign Office Consultations Meeting between Nepal and Bangladesh”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 9 October, 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Muscat regarding a courtesy call”, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 9 October, 2017

     Ministries departments urged to carry out reforms for private business sector development, President’s Office, 12 October 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Joel Shannon and Gordon Rago, “What were Caitlin Coleman and Joshua Boyle doing in Afghanistan”, USA Today, 14 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Muhammud Azizul Haque, “The Rohingya question: What does Bangladesh want from her friends?”, Daily Star, 15 October 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

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

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Niranjan Sahoo, “India’s political funding mess”, DNA India, 13 October 2017

    Deepak Sinha, “Downgrading the military: Conspiracy theory or fact”, www.orfonline.org, 12 October 2017

    Myanmar

    Bidhayak Das, “India Chooses Security Over Compassion in Rakhine Crisis”, The Irrawaddy, 10 October 2017

    Ewan Cameroon, “The EU-Myanmar IPA Threatens Emerging Democracy”, The Irrawaddy, 12 October 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, “Made in Nepal”, Republica, 12 October 2017

    Meera Rajbhandari Amatya, “Free press for development”, The Kathmandu Post, 13 October 2017

    Dilli Raj Khanal, “Election manifesto blues: For breakthroughs”, The Himalayan Times, 12 October 2017

    Editorials

    Republica, “Rich pickings”, 9 October 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Dark days”, 11 October 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Ankit Panda, “The Risks of Pakistan’s sea-based nuclear weapons”, The Diplomat, 13 October 2017

    Munir Akram, “Terms of re-engagement”, Dawn, 15 October 2017

    Cyril Almeida, “Much ado”, Dawn, 15 October 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    M L Wickramasinghe, “Lessons from the United Kingdom on Unitary State and devolution”, The Island, 15 October 2017

    Neville Ladduwahetty, “Fear of the words, ‘unitary’ and federal’”, The Himalayan Times, 14 October 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Basil’s Jaffna declaration”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 October 2017

    C A Chandraprema, “Constitution-making and yahapalana tricks”, The Island, 12 October 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Constitutional Conversation: What the Govt and the nationalists don’t get”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 October 2017

    Ajit Menon & Johny Stephen, “Is ‘deep-sea fishing’ the silver bullet?”, The Hindu, 11 October 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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