South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 48

     Afghan National Army troops

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    ADB commits $ 223 m

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has promised to contribute $223 million to Afghanistan over the next five years. The bank has said that the aid will go towards improving a number of sectors, including agriculture, energy, infrastructure, natural resources and spend money on improving the living conditions of Afghans. According to officials, the aid will also support the private sector and help boost economic growth in the country.

    For more information, see: “Afghanistan to get $223 m a year over 5 years from ADB”, Tolo News

    ISIS beheads 15 fighters

    The Islamic State, according to officials, beheaded a dozen of its own fighters on November 23 in eastern Afghanistan. The ISIS made no official claim to have killed its own members, and Afghan authorities provided no additional details about the ISIS beheading of its own fighters, or the context of the incident. It has been reported previously that the ISIS has executed its own fighters in territory under its control, in parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, largely after they tried to escape or were accused of working with enemy forces.

    For more information, see: “ISIS beheads 15 of its own fighters in Afghanistan”, Newsweek

    Bangladesh

    Agreement on Rohingyas’ return

    Aiming repatriation of Rohingya refugees, a deal had been signed with Myanmar. The repatriation of refugees is likely to begin in two months. The breakthrough was achieved during Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali visit to Myanmar. More than 6 lakhs of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh due to conflict in the Rakhine province of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh.

    For more information, see: “Rohingya repatriation will start in two months, Bangladesh says after deal with Myanmar”, Bdnews24.com, 23 November 2017; “Experts not optimistic”, The Daily Star

    China to help speed growth

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country would extend full support to Bangladesh to become a middle-income country by 2021. Wang Yi opined that Bangladesh’s priority is to speed up development to deliver a better life to its people and become a middle-income country by 2021.  Wang Yi further added China supports Bangladesh’s efforts and will continue to contribute to the countries development. He also informed that China has already built 8 bridges and planning to construct 3 more bridges in Bangladesh and have provided $5 billion concessional loans. Wang Yi made this observation during his visit to Bangladesh in the week.

    For more information, see:  “China to support Bangladesh in earning middle income status”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    Consulate in Guwahati

    Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Bhutan-India relationship, Bhutan will open office of the consulate general in Guwahati next year. Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said this in the National Assembly on November 21.

    For more information, see: “Bhutan to open consulate office in Guwahati”, Kuensel

    Assembly endorses tax deal

    The National Assembly endorsed the double taxation avoidance agreement between Bhutan and Bangladesh yesterday. Signed during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Bhutan in April 2017, the agreement plans to do away with double taxation of incomes between the two countries.

    For more information, see: “NA passes Bhutan-Bangladesh double tax avoidance agreement”, Kuensel

    National Council ratifies multilateral pact

    The National Council ratified the Multilateral Agreement for the Establishment of an International Think Tank for the Landlocked Developing Countries.

    For more information, see: “NC ratifies Multilateral Agreement for Establishment of International Think Tank”, Bhutan Broadcasting Service

    India

    Parliament winter session from Dec 15

    The Winter Session of Parliament will commence from December 15, a day after the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections, and conclude on January 5. Justifying the government's decision to call the Winter Session after the assembly polls, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said it was also done by governments in the past, including Congress dispensations headed by Indira Gandhi, P V Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.

    For more information, see: Parliament's Winter Session To Be Held From December 15 To January 5 , NDTV

    Israeli PM coming in January

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to India on a four-day visit in January to meet the country's top leadership, six months after his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi made a maiden visit to the Jewish state, informed sources said. His visit would be happening almost 15 years after the first visit by then prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003, and he will be received by Modi at Ahmedabad.

    For more information, see: Israeli PM to visit India in January, The Times of India

    Maldives  

    Former Defence Minister’s term upheld

    The High Court Bench in Male has upheld the 10-year jail-term for former Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim Kalefaan in the ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case’. Former President Mohammed Nasheed was handed down a 13-year sentence in the case, and is now away in the UK, after obtaining political asylum after going there on ‘prison leave’ for spinal surgery.

    For more information, see: “High Court upholds 10-year prison term for ex-defence minister”, Maldives Independent, 21 November 2017; “Maldives integrity chief sacked days after ‘obstruction’ tweet”, Maldives Independent

    One-million tourists

    After missing the same target over the past two years, the Government hopes for 1.5 million tourists to visit the country in 2017, on the strength of one million of them having been recorded by October, nine per cent more in the month against the same period in the previous year. Tourism in a mainstay of the nation’s economy, but the central bank has however cautioned against dwindling national reserves in the light of increasing foreign borrowings and decreasing domestic borrowings.

    For more information, see: “Tourist arrivals surpass one-million mark”, Maldives Independent, 23 November 2017; “Foreign debt warning from Maldives central bank boss”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    Repatriation deal with Bangladesh

    The repatriation of thousands of Muslims from Northern Rakhine, who fled to Bangladesh to escape the recent spate of violence there, would start soon following the signing of a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh on November 23, officials said. In a separate development, India called the deal as a “major breakthrough”.

    For more information, see: “Refugee deal inked, repatriation to begin”, Myanmar Times, 24 November 2017; “India welcomes Myanmar-Bangladesh MoU on refugee repatriation”, Mizzima

    Two more ministries to be set up

    The President has proposed the establishment of two new government departments, which he named as a Ministry of International Cooperation and a Ministry of Union Government Office.

    For more information, see: “Burmese president proposes 2 new ministries”, DVB, 20 November 2017; “Two new ministries established”, Mizzima

    China for economic corridor

    China has proposed building an economic corridor with Myanmar to further enhance bilateral pragmatic cooperation, with observers saying the corridor could maximize revenue for both countries and contribute to the stability of Myanmar and the China-Myanmar border.

    For more information, see: “FM proposes China-Myanmar economic corridor”, Mizzima

    Nepal

    Energy collaboration with China

    The Butwal Power Company Ltd (BPC) declared its conjunction with three Chinese Companies for the development of hydropower in the country. The collaboration is aimed at starting the energy project at the Lower Manang Marsyangdi Hydroelectric Project (100 MW) located in Gandaki zone. This provides us with the hint of many such future areas of partnership involving the two countries.

    For more information, see: “BPC joins hands with three Chinese firms for hydropower development in Nepal”, Republica

    Pakistan

    HC releases Hafiz Saeed

    Hafiz Saeed, the accused mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks was freed from house arrest on 24 November. Saeed who has been under house arrest since January 2017, was released overnight by the Lahore High Court, and celebrated with his exultant supporters. Both India and the US accuse Saeed of being responsible for the attacks in Mumbai and strongly condemned his release. The State Department describes Jamaat-ud-Dawa's mission as the establishment of Islamist rule in India and Pakistan and is offering as much as $10 million for any information that might lead to his arrest or conviction.

    For more information, see: “Accused Mumbai attack mastermind freed from house arrest in Pakistan”, CNN

    91 percent revenues from Gwadar to go to China

    The Federal Minister of Ports and Shipping disclosed to the Senate on November 24 that 91 per cent of the revenues generated from the Gwadar port, as part of the China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor would go to China while Pakistan would get nine per cent of the income for the next 40 years. The minister said that the agreement was based on a build-operate and transfer model spread over 40 years. That means that Pakistan will take over the operation of the port along with the infrastructure to be built on it during the period to enhance the port’s cargo-handling capacity.

    For more information, see: “China to get 91 pc Gwadar income, minister tells Senate”, Dawn

    Protests continue

    Protests outside Islamabad by hard-line group Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan continued as Pakistani forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas on protestors. Roughly 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear disperse an Islamist sit-in that has virtually paralysed the country's capital for weeks. The protesters are demanding that Pakistan's law minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear, claiming the oath was softened to enable the participation of Ahmadis, a long-persecuted Islamic minority sect.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan police fire rubber bullets to disperse Islamist sit-in”, The Times of India

    Sri Lanka

    Differences in the ruling coalition comes to the fore again

    The simmering differences within the ruling coalition came to the fore yet again with SLFP President Maithiripala Sirisena declaring that the people would not approve of faults committed by the UNP partner under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. With UNP back-benchers joining issue with the President, and the SLFP too opening fresh negotiations with the Joint Opposition under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, apprehensions are on, over the stability of the Government ahead of the much-delayed local government polls, which have since been stalled by a court stay.

    For more information, see: “If UNP commits faults, people won’t approve: President”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 November 2017; “JO offers unconditional support to President to bring bond scam fraudsters to book”, The Island

    Ranil meets Modi

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called on Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi and held bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, discussing cooperation in ports and shipping, trade and education sectors. Talking to newsmen before returning home, Wickremesinghe described the discussions as successful, and said that they had made progress on the ETCA, which has been held up for years now.

    For more information, see: “Modi meets Ranil in New Delhi”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 November 2017; ”Indian technical assistance to SL’s education sector”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 November 2017; “Discussions with Indian leaders successful: PM”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok on the ‘2nd Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration”, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 23 November, 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Muscat regarding a courtesy call”, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 21 November, 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Sophia Jones, “The dangers of forcing gender equality in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, 21 November 2017

    Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla, “Trump’s Afghan policy goes wrong”, The Wall Street Journal, 16 November 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Farhaan Uddin Ahmed, “Rohingyas' dignified return to their homeland”, The Daily Star, 21 Novemebr 2017

    Aiman R Khan, “Simple technology for a modern Bangladeshi court”, The Daily Star, 21 November 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Leaving the LDC group”, Kuensel, 18 November 2017

    Bhutan has no choice but to regulate regional tourism”, The Bhutanese, 18 November 2017

    India

    Maya Mirchandani, How India Beat UK For Major Win At World Court (ICJ), NDTV, 22 November 2017

    Anchal Vohra , Lebanon PM drama is over, but can war be resisted for too long?, www.orfonline.org, 23November 2017

    Maldives  

    Aung Zaw, “Big Brother to the rescue”, The Irrawaddy, 24 November 2017

    “‘ASEAN Member States stand ready to help’ on Rakhine crisis: Singapore FM”, Mizzima, 24 November 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, “When giants clash”, Republica, 23 November, 2017

    Shiv Raj Bhatt, “Election economics”, The Katmandu Post, 24 November, 2017

    Hari Bansh Jha, “Nepal-India relations: Ramayan circuit”, The Himalayan Times, 23 November, 2017

    Editorials

    Republica,Sound and fury”, 21 November 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Piecemeal process”, 23 November 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Zahid Hussain, “The flames of bigotry”, Dawn, 22 November 2017

    Asad Hashim, “Social media crackdown stifles dissent in Pakistan”, Al Jazeera, 24 November 2017

    Dr. Shaista Tabassum, “India is more of hybrid democracy”, The Express Tribune, 24 November 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Rajan Philips, “PM at the Commission: Questions that may or may never be asked”, The Island, 26 November 2017

    C V Vivekananthan, “Tale of two Constitutions”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 November 2017

    Uditha Devapriya, “The New Left: A new hope?”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 November 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Presidential predicament For a patch up he would have to grant some drastic concessions to Rajapaksa”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 November 2017

    Amrit Muttukumaru, “Final testimony at Bond Commission: A reality check”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 November 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “Unity between MR, MS is unlikely unless President makes great compromises”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 November 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “Yahapalayana divested of lajja and baya”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 November 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilekka, “SLFP crisis, Tamil politics and ‘Election Judgment’ day”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 November 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Bond Commission and parliamentary privileges”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 November 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Govt needs to close the space for hate-speech”, The Island, 21 November 2017

    Akhilan Kadirgamar, “Constitutional politics”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 November 2017 


    Contributors

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

    India: Ketan Mehta

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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