South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 43

     SAW, South Asia, Taliban, Afghanistan, Afghan, Maldives, BBIN, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar

    Taliban insurgents turning themselves in to Afghan National Security Forces

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Taliban attacks kill over 100 securitymen

    Four Taliban attacks over a span of five days have left over a 100 personnel of the security forces dead in Afghanistan. On  October 18, Taliban attacked a military base in Kandahar, killing over 50 soldiers. Suicide bombers denoted two bombs, after which insurgents stormed the base. The Taliban also attacked police headquarters in Paktia on 17 October and detonated bobs in front of the district council building in Ghazni on 16 October. On  October 20, 39 people were killed in Kabul at the Imam Zaman mosque in the city. Eyewitnesses said the suicide-bomber was in the middle of the mosque among the worshippers when he detonated the explosives embedded with his body.

    For more information, see: “Over 100 security force members killed in three Taliban attacks”, Tolo News, 19 October 2017; “Death toll rises to 39 in Kabul mosque attack”, Tolo News, 20 October 2017

    Taliban denies rape-charge

    The Taliban denied the claim made by the recently freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle that they killed the child and raped his wife while the couple was in their custody. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, rejected the accusations of rape as “fabricated claims” fed to Mr. Boyle. “From the beginning up to their freedom, the wife and the husband were not separated even for a few minutes — and the reason for that was to avoid any suspicions,” the spokesman said by telephone.

    For more information, see: “Taliban deny fighters raped American hostage and killed baby”, The New York Times, 15 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    PM for peaceful solution to Rohingya crisis

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week claimed the Rohingya crisis could be resolved in line with the five-point proposal she had placed in last month’s UN General Assembly session in New York. The five points include immediate end to violence and ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, a fact-finding mission by UN, protection of all citizens by Myanmar, the return of the Rohingyas and implementation of Kofi Anan’s report.  She further added that she supports resolution of the problem by discussion.

    For information, see:  “PM: 5-point proposal could resolve Rohingya crisis”, Dhaka Tribune, 16 2017; “Bangladesh foreign minister to visit Myanmar Nov 19”, Dhaka Tribune, 17 October 2017.

    Bail for Begum Zia

    Opposition Bangladesh National Party Chief Begum Khaleda Zia was granted bail in two of the corruption cases. However, the court has instructed her not to travel abroad without its permission. Anti-corruption Commission has filed cases against Begum Zia accusing her of inappropriation of wealth. Earlier in the week, Begum Zia returned to Dhaka after three months of stay in London. Her party workers gave her a warm welcome by outpouring into the streets of the capital and the gesture was considered as a major show of strength of the party. Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh is likely to be held next year.

    For more information, see: “Graft charges false: Khaleda”, The Daily Star, 20 October 2017; “Khaleda back home after 3 monthsBNP men stage huge gathering”, The Daily Star, 19 October 2017

    Bhutan

    BBIN not now: PM

    Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has said that it is up to the next government and parliament to pursue the motor vehicle agreement involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN). The prime minister reiterated that the government believes that the implementation of the BBIN agreement would benefit the country.

    For more informationm see: “Govt. will not pursue BBIN agreement: PM”, Kuensel, 16 October 2017

    No ‘foreign pressure’

    The government has denied foreign pressure in deferring the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded 68 km Dewathang-Nganglam highway project and the 98 km Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang highway. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay pointed out that the construction of highway has already started with 6 km already built.

    For more information see: “PM dismisses foreign pressure theory on southern highways”, The Bhutanese, 14 October 2017

    Drukair to resume

    Drukair would resume its domestic flights to Gelephu and Yonphula by December this year. The government in principle has decided to provide Drukair with a subsidy of Nu 0.30 million per flight.

    For more information, see: “Drukair to receive subsidy of Nu 0.30 million per domestic flight”, Kuensel, 16 October 2017

    India

    Jawans, my family, says PM

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with the jawans of the Indian Army and the BSF in Gurez Valley near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. Modi offered sweets and exchanged greetings with the jawans. In his address, the Prime Minister said that like everyone else, he too wished to spend Diwali with his family, and had visited the jawans whom he considers “his family”. This is the fourth successive Diwali that the Prime Minister has celebrated with jawans on the border.

    For more information, see: PM Narendra Modi celebrates Diwali in Kashmir, calls jawans ‘his family’,  Hindustan Times , 20 October 2017

    Air quality nosedives

    This year’s Deepavali was the quietest in recent history, but low-key celebrations across the country didn’t stop the pollution levels from spiking sharply. In Chennai, which celebrated the festival on Wednesday, pollution levels the following evening inched up to that of Delhi, a city where smog and pollution touch toxic highs during this season. Other cities in the south, such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad, also witnessed a sharp rise in air pollution. The Air Quality Index (AQI), a six-rung classification scale that rates air quality from ‘good’ to ‘severe’, downgraded air quality in Chennai from ‘satisfactory’ on October 16 to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ in the days leading up to Deepavali. As of 4 p.m. on Thursday, the AQI for Chennai was 302, just shy of Delhi’s 319.

    For more information, see: Air quality nosedives in spite of a quieter Deepavali, The Hindu, 20 October 2017

    Four nations in fray for mega-sub

    Japan and Spain have opted out of India's long-pending proposed project to build six advanced stealth submarines for an estimated Rs 70,000 crores ($10.9 billion) through a collaboration between a foreign ship-builder and an Indian shipyard. Sources said four ship-builders, Naval Group-DCNS (France), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau (Russia) and Saab Kockums (Sweden) had responded to the initial RFI (request for information).

    For more information, see: “4 contenders left in fray for India's mega submarine project after Japan, Spain opt out, The Times of India, 20 October 2017

    Tillerson coming

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to visit India this month on his maiden trip to India, close on heels of his colleague and Defence Secretary James Mattis’ trip, to expand bilateral strategic partnership in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific region. Tillerson will be here ahead of President Donald Trump's East Asia and South-East Asia visit and his daughter Ivanka Trump's trip to India for Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

    For more information, see: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may visit India in October The Economic Times, 12 October 2017

    Maldives  

    Call for ‘transitional leader’

    In a message to his MDP national council meeting, party chief and former President Mohammed Nasheed has called upon the combined Opposition to agree to a ‘transitional leader’ who would defeat incumbent Abdulla Yameen in next year’s presidential polls and clear the nation’s governances systems of the current ills. Alongside, the Jumhooree Party (JP), too, has expressed readiness to hold talks with other Opposition parties to prepare for the said polls.

    For more information, see: “Nasheed calls opposition to produce a transitional presidential candidate”, SunOnline, 21 October 2017; “JP ready to hold talks with other opposition parties to prepare for the elections!”, Miadhu, 21 October 2017.

    IS recruits back home

    Two Maldivians en route to join the IS terror organisation in Syria were arrested in Turkey and brought back to the country, the police have said.

    For more information, see: “Two Maldivians caught en route to Syria”, Maldives Independent, 21 October 2017; “2 Maldivians arrested attempting to cross border into Syria”, SunOnline, 21 October 2017

    Airport deal scrapped

    The Government has scrapped a deal for building five domestic airports at a cost of $ 57.5 m after the Malaysian company contracted for the purpose failed to obtain finances for the purpose. In a separated development, the Abu Dhabi Fund has cleared funds for the expansion of the nation’s main airport at Male, as promised during President Abdulla Yameen’s three-day visit to the country in March.

    For more information, see: “Government scraps domestic airports deal with Malaysian company”, Maldives Independent, 18 October 2017; “Abu Dhabi Fund approves loan for Maldives airport expansion”, Maldives Independent, 18 October 2017.

    Myanmar

    Port stakes for China

    China has agreed to take a 70 percent stake in a strategically-important sea port in Myanmar, at the lower end of a proposed range amid local concerns about Beijing’s growing economic clout in the country, a senior government official said.

    For more information, see: “China agrees to 70% share in Kyaukphyu sea port”, DVB, 18 October 2017

    EU suspends invitations

    The European Union on October 16 dealt a blow to what had been increasingly warm ties between the bloc and Myanmar’s military, saying it would suspend any invitations to the Tatmadaw’s top brass and “review all practical defence cooperation,” as well as maintaining an existing arms embargo.

    For more information, see: “EU suspends invitations to Burma’s generals”, DVB, 17 October 2017; “EU Mulls More Measures Against Myanmar Army Over Rakhine”, The Irrawaddy, 17 October 2017

    Five killed in mine-clash

    Five migrant workers trying to scavenge gems were shot dead and about 20 others were injured during a clash with security police on October 18 night at a jade mine in the resource-rich Hpakant township mining region in Kachin state.

    For more information, see: “Five killed in clash with security police in Hpakant”, Mizzima, 20 October 2017

    Nepal

    PM for poll-engagement

    Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has attached great importance to the successful implementation of the election procedures. This balloting to the House of Representatives and the State Assemblies are of extensive significance to the complete operation of the new constitution. Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav also informed the PM of the current developments and preparations, thereby receiving full support of the PM.

    For more information, see: “PM commits all kinds of support for elections”, The Kathmandu Post, 19 October 2017; “PM Deuba urges all parties to participate in elections”, The Himalayan Times, 20 October 2017.

    Four Bills cleared

    President Bidya Devi Bhandari has authorised four Bills endorsed by the Legislature-Parliament. These include, Cooperatives Bill-2074 BS, Health Insurance Bill-2074 BS, Direct Sale of Goods (Management and Regulation) Bill-2074 BS and Bill on Remuneration and Facilities of Province Chiefs-2074 BS in accordance with the article 113.2 of the Constitution of Nepal.

    For more information, see: “Prez enacts health insurance and other three bills today”, The Himalayan Times, 18 October 2017

    NRB Bonds for NRs 6 billion

    Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has promulgated seven-year development bond worth Rs 6 billion. This bond has been named, 'Development Bond 2081 Ka’ which can be subscribed by bank and financial institutions (BFIs), non-financial institutions, insurance companies as well as Nepali citizens, according to the central bank. It will mature on October 23, 2021. This seems to be a new progress towards economic development.

    For more information see: “NRB issuing development bonds worth Rs 6 billion”, Republica, 19 October 2017

    Pakistan

    PML-N fate unclear

    Pakistani political party PML-N has been in a bind post the ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ministers have voiced their concern for the fate of the party, stating their belief that Shahbaz Sharif should lead the party, since Nawaz Sharif was facing trial in corruption cases against him. Many in the party have voiced their support for Shahbaz, although they do not rule out the role, Nawaaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, may place in the next general elections.

    For more information, see: “PML-N in a bind over ex-PM’s fate”, Dawn, 21 October 2017

    Govt unlikely to extend Hafiz Saeed’s house-arrest: Media reports

    Pakistan will not extend the detention of Hafiz Saeed, who is under house- arrest, according to local media reports. Saeed, who is the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, that is responsible for the Mumbai 2008 attacks, is a wanted terrorist according to the UN Security Council. Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for JuD, said on October 14 that the government withdrew its application for a fifth detention extension for Saeed, but that he will remain under house arrest until the end of October under the current order.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan not to extend Hafiz Saeed’s detention”, The Hindu, 14 October 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Theras ‘approved Constitution’

    Joining issue with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who said that the Malwatte Mahanayake Thero was not in the country when the Karka Sangha Sabha decided against a new Constitution, the Asgiriya chapter secretary-general Ven Madgama Dmmananda Thera has clarified that the decision was taken only with the ‘full approval’ of the Mahanakayes of both chapters. From the Opposition, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa called upon the Government to abandon this ‘destructive proposal’ even as the row over early release of Tamil political prisoners continues to rage, both inside Parliament and outside.

    For more information, see: “Karaka Sangha Sabha Decision: "With full 'approval' and 'knowledge' of Mahanayake Theras", Daily Mirror Online, 20 October 2017; “MR urges Govt. to abandon 'destructive proposal'”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 October 2017; “GL asks if Sirisena, Wickremesinghe have already created a separate state”, The Island, 20 October 2017.

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal, New York regarding Nepal’s Election to Human Rights Council”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal”, 16 October, 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Irfan Yar, “The emerging blocs in the Afghan great game”, LiveMint, 16 October 2017

    Raja Mohan, “Possibilities amidst flux in South Asia”, The Indian Express, 18 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    M Shahidul Islam, “Bangladesh losing its geo-economic importance to Myanmar”, The Daily Star, 17 October 2017

    Editorial, “Deals with China moving at snail's pace: No signs of urgency palpable”, The Daily Star, 16 October 2017

    Interviews

    Lack of actionable evidence biggest barrier to prosecuting influential” interview of Iqbal Mahmood, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission in The Daily Star, 19 October, 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Kuensel, “Invest in agriculture”, 19 October 2017

    The Bhutanese, “Thimphu’s night crawlers”, 14 October 2017

    India

    Pushan Das, China in South Asia: New Delhi countering Beijing in unipolar Asia, www.orfonline.org, 13 October 2017

    Sanjeev Ahluwalia ,Sloppy CBI-police work gives a ‘licence’ to kill?, www.orfonline.org, 17 October 2017

    Myanmar

    Mark Farmaner, “The EU has failed the Rohingya, but it’s not too late to act”, DVB, 16 October 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Sharad K. Shrestha, “Facts on railways”, The Himalayan Times, 18 October, 2017

    Biswas Baral, “No country for Rohingya”, Republica, 19 October, 2017

    Birendra P. Mishra, “Fragile alliance”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 October, 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post, “Far from over”, 20 October 2017

    Republica, “Rise and shine”, 19 October 2017

    Editorials

    Republica, “Rich pickings”, 9 October 2017

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

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Khurram Husain, “Dar vs the general”, Dawn, 19 October 2017

    Reema Omer, “Human rights doublespeak”, Dawn, 21 October 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Rajan Philips, “Can CBK revive the 2015 common front to save yahapalanaya from electoral wreckage in 2018?”, The Island, 22 October 2017

    Gnana Moonesinghe, “Whither 70 years of parliamentary democracy?”, The Island, 22 October 2017

    Sanjana Hattotuwa, “Benevolent dictators”, The Island, 22 October 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Needed: A national discourse on strategic policy and politics”, The Sunday Leader, 22 October 2017

    Neville Ladduwahetty, “International Convention on Enforced Disappearances violates the Constitution”, The Island, 21 October 2017

    Kusal Perera, “Democracy without people”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 October 2017

    Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “UN Special Rapporteur and the Government’s duty”, The Island, 19 October 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “LG polls hanging in the balance again”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 October 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “PTA detainees: Why continued incarceration is bad for security and reconciliation”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 October 2017

    Harim Peris, “CBK returns to active politics from Attangala”, The Island, 17 October 2017

    S Navratne, “More devolution or more integration?”, The Island, 16 October 2017

    Ahilan Kadirgamar, “The myth of lazy Jaffna youth”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 October 2017

    Interviews

    Gayana Gallage, “We have nothing to do with this Government: JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 October 2017


    Contributors

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M Shah

    Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

    India: Pushan Das

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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