South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 49

     SAW, South Asia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Heart of Asia, Nepal

    Goat farming in Afghanistan

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Heart of Asia conference: ‘Bake Declaration’ adopted

    At the ongoing Heart of Asia conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, participant countries focused on ‘security and economic connectivity towards a strengthened Heart of Asia’ region. On December 1, the conference, in its seventh year, adopted the Bake Declaration. The document reaffirmed countries’ support for Afghanistan and called “on the international community to further strengthen international and regional cooperation towards sustained efforts for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, based increasingly on infrastructure connectivity within the Heart of Asia region and enhanced economic ties.”

    For more information, see: “Baku Declaration adopted at 7th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial”, AzerNews

    Abdullah at SCO meet

    Meeting CEO Abdullah Abdullah at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Sochi, Russia, on  December 1, Russia's Prime Minister Demitry Medvedev said the cooperation of Taliban and Daesh in the country has complicated Afghanistan's case. He said that Russia supports a stable, prosperous and independent Afghanistan and is prepared to have military and security cooperation with Kabul. Abdullah echoed a similar sentiment stating the Afghanistan wanted further trade cooperation with Russia.

    For more information, see: “Taliban-Daesh Cooperation ‘has complicated Afghanistan’s case”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    Court orders Khaleda’s arrest

    A court in Dhaka issued an arrest warrant against opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia.  The order followed as she failed to appear before the court over a corruption case.

    For more information, see: “Graft Cases: Arrest order for Khaleda Court scraps bail after she fails to appear”, The Daily Star

    Death for 139 mutineers

    In the country’s biggest-ever criminal case, 139 mutineers of the erstwhile defunct Bangladesh Refiles were sentenced to walk the gallows by the country's High Court. Besides this, life sentences for another 146 people were upheld by the court.  The verdict led to the closure of the BDR mutiny of 2009 that caused the death of 57 army officers and 17 civilians.

    For more information, see: “Revisiting BDR Carnage: Shots ring out, hell descends”, The Daily Star

    Naval exercise

    The 2017 International Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise (IMMSAREX) was held this week.  India had a dominant presence with four ships participating in it. Indian Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lamba participated in the exercise.

    For more information, see: “President inaugurates 32-nation naval exercise”, Dhaka Tribune

    Bhutan

    South Asian Satellite to improve mobile network

    Information and Communications Minister DN Dhungyel informed that the South Asia Satellite services would help to provide 3G services in the highlands and Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) I and BBS II channels in remote areas of the country. The minister made the observation at the National Assembly in response to a question from North Thimphu MP Tshering.

    For more information see: “Satellite service expected to improve network in remote areas”, Kuensel

    Bhutan, Switzerland meet for 2nd bilateral consultation

    The bilateral relations between Switzerland and Bhutan got a major boost following the second bilateral consultation between the countries at  Bern. During the consultations, the two sides reviewed the state of the bilateral relations and discussed ways and means to diversify and strengthen the existing relations, including the exchanges between academic institutions, cultural exchanges and private sector partnerships. Switzerland is a major development partner of the country.

    For more information see: “Bhutan, Switzerland meet for 2nd bilateral consultation”, Kuensel

    India

    Nurture Muslims: Obama

    India needs to cherish and nurture its Muslim population that is integrated and considers itself Indian, former US President Barack Obama said in New Delhi on Friday. It is an idea that needs to be reinforced, the former US president said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. Obama said he had emphasised the need for religious tolerance and the right to practise one’s own faith during the closed-door talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his last trip to India in 2015.

    For more information, see: “India needs to cherish and nurture its Muslims: Obama”, The Hindu

    Problems feared from non-citizens

    The Centre on Thursday told a bench of the Supreme Court hearing the updating of the National Register of Citizens of 1951 in Assam that the excluded people would create law and order disturbances after the draft register is published. The exercise is being undertaken to screen illegal Bangladeshi settlers in the State. Centre's fear arises from the fact that documents relating to parental linkages shown by 47 lakh persons, who have applied for inclusion of their names in the NRC to establish that they have settled in India before the cut-off date of 25 March 1971 (as decided in Assam Accord of 1985), have been found to be suspicious.

    For more information, see: “Non-citizens will create problem in Assam: Centre tells SC”, The Times of India

    Chinese subs for piracy ops “odd”

    Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Friday said that it is odd for China to deploy submarines for anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean and added that India has also carried out a threat assessment. Chinese submarines have been spotted in the Indian Ocean region repeatedly and China has claimed they were to assist in anti-piracy operations. Addressing the annual press conference ahead of the Navy Day, Admiral Lanba said Chinese PLAN submarines had been regularly visiting the Indian Ocean since 2013 and there were two deployments alternately - a conventional submarine and a nuclear propelled submarine.

    For more information, see: “Odd that China has submarines in Indian Ocean for anti-piracy ops: Navy chief”, The Hindustan Times

    Maldives  

    China FTA cleared

    Amidst the continuing boycott by the Joint Opposition at a short-notice special session, the Parliament passed the Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), after the House committee cleared it in 10 minutes a day earlier. This, even as President Abdulla Yameen continued to defend the nation’s rising debt as an investment on development.

    For more information, see: “Parliament green-lights Maldives-China free trade pact”, Mihaaru.com, 30 November 2017; “China-Maldives free trade deal rushed through parliament”, Maldives Independent

    World Bank apologises

    The World Bank has apologised to Maldivian citizens for a questionnaire in its Gallop-conducted nation-wide financial survey, including questions on the popularity of President Abdulla Yameen.

    For more information, see: “World Bank sorry for presidential popularity questions”, Maldives Independent, 29 November 2017; “Political queries in World Bank survey included opinions on Maldives pres”, Maldives Independent

    Gasim in Germany

    In Singapore, in violation of the medical leave from Maldivian authorities, jailed Jumhooree Party (JP) founder Gasim Ibrahim has since travelled to Germany for further treatment of his heart ailment. Nearer home, meanwhile, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by another jailed Opposition leader, Imran Abdulla, challenging the High Court’s confirmation of his conviction and 10-year jail term handed down by the trial court on ‘terrorism charges’.

    For more information, see: “Gasim defies travel ban to go to Germany”, Maldives Independent, 28 November 2017; “Supreme Court rejects appeal from jailed Adhaalath Party leader”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    Suu Kyi in China

    China is hosting around 300 foreign political parties and organisations in the ‘Communist Party of China (CPC) in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting’ to cater better and improved relations, of which Myanmar is also a part. In this regard, Aung San Suu Kyi has been invited. The time is also ripe to carry out bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    For more information, see: “Suu Kyi heads to China conference”, DVB, 30 November

    Military against Rakhine budget

    Despite the Parliament’s approval of the increased budget of the Rakhine state, there was apprehension on the part of the military representatives. There are high chances of the Union Government ignoring the entire idea.

    For more information, see: “Military Dissents as Rakhine Parliament Demands Fair Budget from Union Govt”, The Irrawaddy

    Pope calls them ‘Rohingyas’

    The highly sensitive word for addressing the persecuted minority, who fled to Bangladesh, was used by the Pope while addressing a small group of the refugees in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    For more information, see: “Pope calls refugees ‘Rohingya’ as he winds up Asia tour”, Mizzima

    Nepal

    PM promises statute-change

    With poll campaign in full swing, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba recently made a comment on the support that the Nepali Congress provides the Madhesis with and also positioned the Communists as an obstacle in amending the Constitution. He also claimed that the well-being of the Madhesis could only emerge through this amelioration of the Constitution. This was enlisted as one of the important promises framed by Deuba, to be fulfilled after re-election.

    For more information, see: “Only NC will safeguard rights of Madhesi people: Deuba”, Republica

    Indians held with explosives

    The security of the country is going through a rigorous check following the increasing circumstances of blast targeting the election candidates. The arrest of two Indians with explosives, travelling through a bus from Kathmandu to Kakarbhitta, deserves special mention here.

    For more information, see: “2 Indian men held with explosive materials”, The Kathmandu Post

    Chamber Expo commences

    The Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) organised the Nepal Chamber Expo to attract better investment and visitors from far and wide. The Expo was inaugurated by President Bidya Devi Bhandari and the country of prime focus has been declared as Thailand. Apart from this, Nepal, South Korea, Thailand, India, China, Japan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are participating in the Expo.

    For more information, see: ‘Nepal Chamber Expo’ kicks off in Kathmandu, Republica

    Pakistan

    Taliban kills nine in college

    Three gunmen disguised in burkhas attacked a college in Peshawar on  December 1, killing at least nine people. Reports state that three militants opened fire at the entrance gate of the Agricultural Training Institute before entering the campus and shooting students in their college accommodation. While all three were wearing suicide vests, security forces were able to kill them before they triggered them. Six students, a security guard and two civilians were killed in the attack. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility.

    For more information, see: “Taliban gunmen wearing burqas launch deadly attack on Peshawar college”, The Guardian

    Mattis coming next week

    US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis is expected to put further pressure on Pakistan to end its ties with militant groups as he visits the nation in the coming week. In October, Mattis had said the United States would try "one more time" to work with Islamabad before taking "whatever steps are necessary" to address its alleged support for the militants. U.S. officials have said Pakistan has not changed its behavior since President Donald Trump in August called out Pakistan for continuing to "harbor criminals and terrorists."

    For more information, see: “Mattis to pressure Pakistan ‘one more time’ on militant groups”, VOA

    Sri Lanka

    SLFP won’t quit Govt

    In stalled talks with the Joint Opposition identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the official faction of the ruling SLFP under incumbent Maithiripala Sirisena has turned down the condition for them to quit the Government of National Unity (GNU) for any reconciliation between the two, ahead of the nation-wide local government polls, due early next year. Possibly owing to this and other all-round developments, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, leading the UNP leader of the GNU, has indicated their willingness to work with any party or group ready to back their concept of ‘good governance’ and also declared his intention to probe dozens of Government bonds issued by the Rajapaksa regime, for possible frauds, in possibly retaliation for the just-concluded Central Bank bonds scam probe against his team.

    For more information, see: “SLFP declines to quit Govt., talks on hold”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 November 2017; “Unity only on basis of SLFP quitting Govt: GL”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2017; “Death knell of government imminent: JO”, Daily Mirror Online

    UNHRC can ‘revisit’ toll

    Only members of the Geneva-based UNHRC can revisit British peer, Lord Nasbey’s parliamentary revelations on the alleged fudging of the number of war-victims from around 8000 to 40,000 by the Darusman Commission, appointed by the UN Secretary-General. For its part, the Opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has declared that it was still studying the House of Lords debate, indicating that it was not closed on the subject.

    For more information, see: “Naseby revelations: UNSG Spokesman: Decision to revisit resolution in the hands of UNHRC members...TNA still studying House of Lords debate”, The Island, 1 December 2017; “British MPs bat for those remembering dead Tigers”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Brussels regarding Twenty- Second Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal 30 November, 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Brasilia on the establishment of Brazil-Nepal Parliamentary Group”, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 29 November 2017

    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

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Pamela Constable, “Afghanistan’s ‘American Idol’ is the voice of a new generation- and Muslim clerics aren’t happy about it”, The Washington Post, 1 December 2017

    Shailaja Tripathi, “Women in Afghanistan want their life back”, The Hindu, 30 November 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Badiul Alam Majumdar , “Will the EC live up to its mandate?”, The Daily Star, 27 November 2017

    ABM Nurul Islam, “Safeguarding our interests in Rooppur”, The Daily Star, 26 November 2017

    Mostafiz Uddin, “China's shift to high-tech: Can Bangladesh keep up?”, The Daily Star, 28 November 2017

    Eresh Omar Jamal, “China's peace plan and where things now stand”, The Daily Star, 29 November 2017

    Editorials

    The Daily Star, “Arrangement for Rohingya repatriation”, 27 November 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Kunesel, “Leaving the LDC group”, 18 November 2017

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

    Opinion Pieces

    Chimi Seldon, “Replenishing Himalayan Springs, a lesson from Sikkim”, Kuensel, 2 December 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, 23 November 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

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

    Angshuman Choudhury, “Resolving northern stalemate is key to peace in Burma”, DVB, 29 November 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral; Mahabir Paudyal, ‘"It is wrong to say we have no money for federal infrastructures. We have plenty"”, Republica, 30 November 2017

    Deepak Thapa, “Horsing around”, The Kathmandu Post, 30 November 2017

    Editorials

    The Himalayan Times, “Adjust prices”, 1 December 2017

    Republica, “Good omen”, 27 November 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “End the monopoly”, 28 November 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Qasim Rashid, “Trump is acting like Pakistan’s former dictator”, The Washington Post, 1 December 2017

    Farah Jain, “Who benefits from Pakistan’s sit-ins?”, The Diplomat, 1 December 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    D B S Jeyaraj, “Tamil secessionism and Dravida state demand in India”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 December 2017

    Sanjana de Silva Jayatilleka, “Human rights, economic development & Sri Lanka’s foreign policy”, The Island, 1 December 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Why should the public care about the ‘bondgate’?”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 November 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Too much at stake for government to split”, The Island, 28 November 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “The deadly ignorance of the Sinhala Alt-Right”, The Island, 27 November 2017

    Prof Siri Hettige, “When the State fails”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2017

    Interviews

    Kelum Bandara, “We have to be strategic enough to engineer a political explosion: Wimal Weerawansa”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 November 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “UNP, as a party, protects President: Hector Appuhamy”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 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

    Coordinator: Kriti M Shah

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