South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 44

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

    Old man in Bhutan

    Source: Aymaan Ahmed

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Afghan President meets Indian PM, FM

    President Ashraf Ghani met with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on 24 October in New Delhi. Ghani also held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on furthering the shared objective of promoting security and stability in Afghanistan, and efforts to combat the menace of terrorism. They also discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest.

    For more information, see: “Sushma Swaraj calls on Afghan president, discusses bilateral, regional issues”, Live Mint

    Tillerson stops over, meets Ghani

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on his way to Pakistan and India, calling on President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on 23 October. Tillerson and US General John Nicholson, who is the top US commander in the country met with Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah in the Bagram air-field, an our away from the capital. Tillerson said that the new US strategy for South Asia is committed to working with the Afghanistan and other partners across the region to achieve peace in the country.  National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar and some other high-level government officials were also present at the meeting.

    For more information, see: “Tillerson stops in Afghanistan on way to India”, Pajhwok Afghan News

    Bangladesh

    Sushma pays tw0-day visit

    India and Bangladesh relations got a major boost with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visited Bangladesh this week. Swaraj, during her two-day official visit, participated in the fourth round of joint consultations between the foreign ministers of the two countries that reviewed the state of the bilateral relations. She also met various leaders of the country including Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chief Begum Khaleda Zia. During her visit, she informed that Bangladesh is a priority for India’s neighbourhood policy.

    For more information, see: “Myanmar must take them back”, The Daily Star, 23 October 2017;  “BNP delegation meets Sushma”, The Daily Star

    Working group on Rohingyas’ return

    In a major breakthrough, Myanmar has agreed to form a joint working group by 30 November for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. The decision was taken during the visit of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to Myanmar to discuss security cooperation between the two countries.  During the visit, the two countries also signed two memorandums of understanding (MoU) on security cooperation and the establishment of Border Liaison Office.

    For more information, see: “Return of Rohingyas: Jt working group by Nov 30”, The Daily Star, 25 October 2017; “Bangladesh waits for goodwill from Myanmar”, The Daily Star

    Record FDI

    In a major good news to economy, foreign direct investment hit an all-time high of $2.45 billion in fiscal 2016-17. To Bangladesh Bank inflows increased upto 22.54 percent from a year earlier.

    For more information, see: “FDI hit record $2.45b last fiscal year”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    Five hotels in top 25

    Five high-end hotels from Bhutan have made it to the list of Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s top hotels in Asia, this year. The travel and vacations magazine contains features that provide in-depth coverage of notable tourist destinations around the world including the locations’ tourist attractions, culture and political issues.

    For more information, see: “Five Bhutanese hotels among Asia’s top 25”, Kuensel

    King at Thai funeral

    His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen attended the Royal cremation ceremony of the late King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. Their Majesties offered last respects to the late King along with members of royal families and dignitaries from 42 other countries.

    For more information, see: “Their Majesties attend Royal Cremation Ceremony of Thailand’s revered late King”, BBS

    India

    Gujarat polls in December

    Chief Election Commission (CEC) A.K. Joti on Tuesday announced the schedule for a two-phase Assembly election in Gujarat. Accordingly, polling will be held on 9 and 14 December, with results being announced on 18 December. The term of the 182-member House comes to an end on 23 January 2018. The EC had come under attack from Opposition parties for not announcing the dates for Gujarat Assembly elections along with the Himachal Pradesh poll-date announcement, earlier, saying it was to help the ruling BJP at the Centre and in the State.

    For more information, see: Gujarat Assembly elections on December 9, 14, The Hindu

    HC notice on ‘gag’ law

    The Rajasthan High Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and the State government, returnable by  November 27, on a batch of writ petitions challenging the controversial ordinance that has extended protection to public servants against investigation. The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, promulgated on  September 6, provides immunity to the serving and retired public servants, judges and magistrates from probe and prosecution on the complaints about their alleged offences without prior sanction. It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction is given.

    For more information, see: “Rajasthan High Court issues notice to Centre, Rajasthan on pleas against 'gag' ordinance”, The Hindu

    Tillerson meets Modi

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during his maiden visit to India, discussed strengthening Indo-US partnership, India's leadership on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and its vital role in Trump administration's South Asia strategy. In Delhi, Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

    For more information, see: “Rex Tillerson's visit to India highlights emerging Indo-US ties”, The Economic Times

    Defence ties with France

    India and France held wide-ranging talks aimed at further boosting defence and security ties, with a focus on co-development of military platforms, and enhancing cooperation in the maritime sphere. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her French counterpart Florence Parly deliberated on a host of key issues, including the regional security situation, transfer of critical technology for various defence projects and ways to ramp up overall strategic ties, an official said. All aspects of defence and security cooperation between the two countries as well as ways to enhance maritime cooperation were discussed in the meeting, the official added.

    For more information, see: “India, France Discuss Ways To Ramp Up Strategic Ties”,  NDTV

    Maldives  

    Apolitical candidate?

    With MDP’s Mohammed Nasheed proposing a common ‘transitional presidential candidate’, the four-party Opposition combine has reportedly commenced talks in this regard. President Yameen’s camp, meanwhile, claimed that the Opposition was planning to field former Election Commission president, Fuwad Twaheed as their common candidate, though he said that none had approached him in the matter.

    For more information, see: “Opposition in talks over non-politician for presidential candidate”, Maldives Independent, 25 October 2017; “Umar Naseer talks with JP regarding the presidential elections”, Miadhu

    No terror-hit: Govt

    There has not been any terror-attack in the country, Maldivian Ambassador to India, Ajmed Mohamed, has said. This, despite the fact that the nation’s sea-borders were quite porous and it was ‘next to impossible’ to have check-posts at every point, he told a UN conference.

    For more information, see: “Anti-terror fight under fire after ambassador’s remarks”, Maldives Independent

    Opposition boycotts vote

    The four-party Opposition boycotted parliamentary voting for a supplementary budget for MVR 493 m ($ 32 m) over the earlier decision, increasing the quorum for all main measures at 43, or half the total membership of 85. The House however passed the supplementary demands, which included both additional spending and new revenue-earning measures.

    For more information, see: “Majlis approves supplementary budget”, Maldives Independent, 26 October 2017; “Finance minister submits US$32m supplementary budget for 2017”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    US plans sanctions

    The United States is taking steps and considering a range of further actions over Myanmar’s treatment of its self-identifying Rohingya Muslim minority, including targeted sanctions under its Global Magnitsky law, the State Department said on Monday.

    For more information, see: “US Says it is Considering Sanctions Over Myanmar’s Treatment of Self-Identifying Rohingya”, The Irrawaddy

    No accord, yet

    Myanmar and Bangladesh on October 24 agreed to cooperate to restore stability in restive Rakhine State but failed to reach an agreement over the repatriation of refugees.

    For more information see: “Myanmar-Bangladesh Meeting Fails to Reach Repatriation Agreement”, The Irrawaddy

    India for coastal shipping

    India has pitched for a coastal shipping agreement with Myanmar on the lines of the agreement it signed with Bangladesh. This will bring down trading and transport costs sharply, and lead to a reduction of turnaround time which again impacts on costs.

    For more information, see: “India wants coastal shipping with Myanmar”, Mizzima

    Nepal

    EU observers for polls

    The European Union has positioned an Election Observation Mission (EOM) in the country to monitor the upcoming federal parliament and provincial assembly polls. European Parliament’s member Željana Zovko has been appointed as the chief observer. An all-inclusive report shall be prepared at their end to document the entire process of election. This also enhances the chances of a smooth and fair balloting mechanism.

    For more information, see: “EU deploys poll observation mission to Nepal”, Republica

    Left alliance, peril: PM

    Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has pointed out the portentous nature of left alliance to democracy while speaking at a programme organized to mark the 64th establishment day of Tarun Dal, a sister wing of NC. This was more of a set target that the PM declared for the upcoming elections.

    For more information, see: ”Left alliance is threat to democracy: PM Deuba”, The Kathmandu Post

    Revenue target met

    The first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year 2017/18 has been going steady as the Inland Revenue Department has accomplished its objective revenue collection. According to IRD’s data, it has collected a total of Rs 51.63 billion in revenue in the first quarter compared to the quarterly target of Rs 51.34 billion. This is 101 percent success in revenue collection.

    For more information, see: “Inland Revenue Department meets revenue collection target in Q1”, Republica

    Pakistan

    US’ Afghan mission ‘failure’

    Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif, said that the US military mission in Afghanistan has been a “failure” given that Rex Tillerson on his visit to the country could not move out of a military bunker for talks. Briefing the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs in the capital, Asif said that, Islamabad was seeking "transparent" relations on "equal terms" with the United States and is ready to offer its "full cooperation" in fighting terrorism, but "without compromising its sovereignty".

    For more information, see: “Pakistan mocks US military mission in Afghanistan”, VOA

    Warrant for Sharif’s arrest

    A Pakistani court has issued arrest warrants for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption. Sharif was removed from office in July as he was indicted on corruption charges. He has been in London since, with his wife who is undergoing cancer treatment there. Sharif’s defence lawyer said that “the accountability court issued bailable warrants for the former prime minister in two cases of alleged corruption today and adjourned (the) hearing until November 3.

    For more information, see: “Arrest warrant issued against Nawaz Sharif by Pakistan court: lawyer”, NDTV,

    Sri Lanka

    Local government polls in January

    With political parties agreeing to have the much-delayed nation-wide local government (LG) elections in November, the relevant gazette notification will be issued on 1 November, Minister Faiszer Musthafa has said. Meanwhile at a Cabinet meeting, President Maithiripala Sirisena is reported to have said that owing to rising cost of living, the Government will find it difficult to face elections even as reports claimed that the Joint Opposition identified with predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa was even more ill-prepared for a January poll.

    For more information, see: “LG polls gazette on Nov. 1: ‘I was preparing the pitch, not meddling with balls, Faiszer tells Deshapriya”, The Island, 28 October 2017; “Govt may not be able to face elections: President”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 October 2017; “PM shifts to election mode, opposition scrambles”, The Island

    PM to consult prelates

    With Buddhist monks and groups opposing the need for a new Constitution when other pressing matters existed before the nation, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has indicated his plans to meet with the prelates and discuss the Government’s proposals in this regard. With Parliament acting as the Constitutional Assembly scheduled to discuss the Steering Committee Report on the new proposals, President Maithiripala Sirisena-led faction of the SLFP reiterated its position against a new statute in favour of select amendments that do not require a referendum.

    For more information, see: “PM promises to consult prelates:  Proposed Constitution”, The Island, 23 October 2017; “MPs comment on Constitution without knowing facts: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 October 2017; “SLFP against new Constitution, agrees only to amendments: Isura”, Daily Mirror Online

    Sovereignty over probe: Govt

    In a significant reiteration of known position in the matter, the Foreign Ministry has said that the Government would not surrender the nation’s sovereignty in matters of war-crimes probe, which the predecessor Rajapaksa regime had surrendered. The statement came even as visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Promotion of Justice and Reparation, Pablo de Greiff, urged the Government to speed up the promised domestic probe into accountability issues, which had been stalled for long.

    For more information, see: “Govt won’t act on Lord Naseby’s statement”, The Island, 27 October 2017; “Govt yet to capitalise on Lord Naseby’s call to UK parliament: Request to lower death toll from 40,000 to 8,000”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal, New York regarding participation of the Foreign Secretary in the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security and his meeting with the President of General Assembly”,  Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 28 October 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok on the visit of Hon’ble Minister of Defense to participate in the Royal Cremation of the Late Monarch of Thailand”, Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 27 October 2017

    Press Release regarding congratulatory message to President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Ministry of External Affairs, Nepal, 25 October 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Jyoti Malhotra, “With Rex Tillerson comes hope for all-new relationship”, The Indian Express, 25 October 2017

    Mosharraf Zaidi, “Pakistan stuck between Afghan rocks and Indian hard places”, The Indian Express, 27 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

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

    Editorials

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

    Opinion Pieces

    Needrup Zangpo, “What’s unsocial about social media in Bhutan?”, Kuensel, 21 October 2017

    Editorials

    The Bhutanese, “Driglam Namza”, 21 October 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    ‘Manoj Joshi, “What the End of the Deng Era and the Beginning of Xi’s ‘New Era’ Means for China”, The Wire, 25 October 2017

    Ritika Passi, “The belt and road to China’s “new era” of global power”, www.orfonline.org, 25 October 2017

    Maldives  

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Will Maldives see a ‘Sirisena model’ presidential candidate?”, www.orfonline.org, 27 October 2017

    Fathimath Isha and Ibrahim Mohamed, “Environmental sustainability: A tale of two Presidents”, Maldives Independent, 23 October 2017

    Hassan Moosa, “Mixed blessings for Maafushi’s guesthouse boom”, Maldives Independent, 23 October 2017

    Myanmar

    Editorials

    The Irrawaddy, “Seizure of Firearms Raises Security Concerns for The Lady”, 23 October 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Gunjan Upadhayay, “Crime does pay”, Republica, 28 October 2017

    Suresh Neupane, “Shoot oneself in the foot”, The Kathmandu Post, 27 October 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post, “The right bills”, 26 October 2016

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Anjum Altaf, “Rotten tomatoes”, Dawn, 27 October 2017

    Jonah Blank, “Despite Tillerson, US won’t abandon Pakistan for India”, The Indian Express, 27 October 2017

    Mohammed Hanif, “Pakistan, Land of the Intolerant”, The New York Times, 19 October 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Rajan Philips, “Making and unmaking constitutions: National obsession and ad hominem compulsions”, The Island, 29 October 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Constitution-making and Catalonia referendum”, The Sunday Leader, 29 October 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Constitutional reforms in the eyes of Tamils and Muslims”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 October 2017

    Gomin Dayasiri, “Coalition is a foul word: It is ‘Me before you’ or ‘After you’ – on MR and Gota”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 October 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Not a foreign hand, but a local one who planned a new Constitution?”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 October 2017

    Basil Fernando, “Sri Lanka: That the Constitution allows enforced disappearances is false”, The Island, 25 October 2017

    Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “Sri Lanka-China relations and the rules-based international order”, The Island, 25 October 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Constitutional obstructionism”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 October 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Community divisions continue to dominate Sri Lanka’s political debate”, The Island, 24 October 2017

    Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, “Unitary state and state protection for Buddhism”, The Island, 24 October 2017

     Interviews

    Kelum Bandara, “We fear Muslim representation will be reduced: Rauff Hakeem”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 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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