South Asia weekly report | Vol. X Issue 50

     Afghan, NATO, SAW, South Asia, South Asia Weekly, Sri Lanka, Maldives

    Afghan, NATO forces help bring supplies to build Afghan orphanage

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    More foreigners join IS

    International and Afghan reports state that a number of French and Algerian fighters have joined the ranks of the Islamic State in Afghanistan as the militant group attempts to establish more bases in the northern part of the country. It is the first time that the presence of French IS fighters has been recorded in Afghanistan, and comes as analysts suggested foreigners may be heading for the war-torn country after being driven from Syria and Iraq.
    For more information, see: “French fighters appear with Islamic State in Afghanistan”, The Economic Times

    Paper-ballot for polls

    Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has submitted a proposal on the upcoming parliamentary election’s paper-ballot system. The IEC has previously planned to digitize the elections and a digital voters’ list. However, now the voters’ list will be prepared based on the paper-type identity cards that people currently hold. On the election day, people holding paper type identity documents will be allowed to vote.

    For more information, see: “IEC prepares outline to hold paper ballot election”, Tolo News 

    Bangladesh

    No poll talks with BNP

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has categorically said that she would not take any effort to convince opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to participate in the next general election. She further added that BNP would have to decide for itself if it would run in the election. Parliamentary election are likely to take place by end of 2018. BNP did not participate in 2014 election resulting which some doubts about the impartiality of the election.

    For more information, see: “No talks to bring BNP to polls”, The Daily Star

    Export targets up

    Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed has expressed hope that annual income from export of the country will hit $60 billion by 2021. “After independence Bangladesh used to earn just $348 million annually from export. But now the country earns $38.5 billion annually and we hope to raise it to $60 billion by 2021,” the Minister observed.

    For more information see: “Export earning to hit $60b by 2021”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    Talks on with Thailand

    The third annual bilateral consultation between Bhutan and Thailand was held on December 1 in Thailand. Foreign secretary Sonam Tshong led the Bhutanese delegation while Permanent secretary Busaya Mathelin led the 20-member Thai delegation.

    For more information, see: “Bhutan–Thailand hold third bilateral consultation”, Kuensel, 6 December 2017

    Decision on LG funds

    In order to minimise the misuse of funds, the local governments or gewogs have to deposit the revenue collected from the public in the official account, the joint sitting of the Parliament decided on December 5.

    For more information, see: “Ministries top unresolved irregularities”, Kuensel

    Mountain communities in Hindu-Kush

    More than 300 experts from 26 countries have come together in Kathmandu, Nepal to identify and recommend possible resilient solutions for mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH).

    For more information, see: “The challenges of sustaining mountain ecosystems”, Kuensel

    India

    UNESCO recognition for Kumbh Mela

    Kumbh Mela has been recognised by UNESCO as an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity", a tweet by the international organisation has said. The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage under the UN body inscribed Kumbh Mela on the "Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" at its 12th session in Jeju, South Korea.

    For more information, see: “UNESCO Recognises Kumbh Mela As "Intangible Cultural Heritage", NDTV

    China protests ‘UAV crash’

    An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the Indian Army that crashed into the Chinese side of the border was on a regular training mission and lost contact with ground control due to technical problem, the Ministry of Defence said in New Delhi. In a statement, it also claimed that “as per standard protocol, the Indian border security personnel immediately alerted their Chinese counterparts to locate the UAV”.

    The Indian clarification came in the wake of China’s defence ministry accusing India of violating its airspace. “The Indian move violated China's territorial sovereignty. We strongly express our dissatisfaction and opposition," deputy director of the Chinese Army’s western theatre combat bureau Zhang Shuil, said in a statement.

    For more information, see: “India clarifies on UAV crash as China protests ‘violation of airspace’”, The Hindu

    WA approves India membership

    In a significant development, elite export control regime Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) on Thursday decided to admit India as its new member, which is expected to raise New Delhi's stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies. The decision was taken at the two-day plenary meeting of the grouping in Vienna.

    For more information, see: “India joins elite multilateral export control regime” ,The Times of India

    Support for Palestine

    India’s position on Palestine was “consistent and independent” and not determined by a third country, India said on Thursday within hours of US President Donald Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, dealing a huge blow to the peace efforts in West Asia.  “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

    For more information, see: US recognition of Jerusalem: India says position on Palestine consistent, The Hindustan Times

    Maldives  

    Yameen in China, defends FTA

    In Beijing on a two-day State visit, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and other senior leaders. The two sides also signed 12 agreements, including those on bilateral FTA and multilateral OBOR. Maldives said that there was nothing for nation’s neighbours to fear from the FTA while China’s Global Times said India should ‘calm down’ on Maldives FTA.

    For more information, see: “China-Maldives FTA among 12 agreements penned during Yameen’s visit”, Maldives Independent, 9 December 2017; “Key Agreements signed between the Maldives and China”, SunOnline

    Nasheed meets Ranil  

    Self-exiled former Maldivian President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo and discussed the current political situation in his country. According to a senior leader of the Joint Opposition in Maldives, Nasheed has arrived in Colombo on an ‘important mission’, but he did not elaborate.

    For more information, see: “Ex-President Nasheed meets Sri Lankan PM to discuss free election”, SunOnline, 6 December 2017; “Umar decides to join JP again”, SunOnline, 6 December 2017; “Gasim’s Villa laying off staff”, Maldives Independent, 6 December 2017; “Well-being poll could hold clues to Maldives presidential election”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    UNHRC resolution opposed

    The Myanmar government has expressed its opposition against a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with regard to the Rakhine issue, but pledged efforts to address the challenges of Rakhine state.

    For more information, see: “Myanmar rejects UN Human Rights Council resolution over Rakhine issue”, Mizzima

    SSA, TNLA clash

    The Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), a member of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), clashed with Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Namtu, a town in northern Shan State, according to Lower House MP Nan Kham Aye representing Namtu constituency on December 6.

    For more information, see: “Ethnic groups clash in Namtu”, Eleven

    Thai family killed

    Five Myanmarese migrant workers are suspected of killing four members of a Thai family, including a five-year-old child, over an unpaid debt. All were working on a rubber plantation in the central Thai province of Prachuap Khiri Khan when the incident happened on Tuesday, according to Channel 7 TV in Thailand.

    For more information, see: “Burmese migrants suspected of murdering Thai family”, DVB

    Nepal

    PM Deuba successfully completes polls

    Back in the days of his second tenure, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had quite the allegation of not being competent enough for holding the elections on time and also dissolving the Parliament in 2002 leading to an autocratic framework by the then King. However, this year has been different and he has been able to successfully hold the local as well as the Provincial and Parliamentary polls within the stipulated constitutional deadline. This has set a new chapter in political transition and Constitutional amendment in the country.

    For more information, see: “With successful polls, PM Deuba finally redeems himself”, Republica

    Help for industrial villages

    As the country is progressing towards better economic development, the government has assured to provide all necessary help to the local bodies for the establishment of industrial villages. The Ministry of Industry (MOI) has been quite proactive in this regard and has asked for the provision of local land for such an implementation.

    For more information, see: “Government to help local bodies to establish industrial villages”, Republica

    Pakistan

    Mom & wife to meet Jadhav

    Pakistan has allowed the wife and mother of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the alleged Indian spy, to meet him on 25 December. They will be accompanied by an Indian embassy official, as requested by the Indian government. Mr. Jadhav, who India claimed was a former Navy official, was apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies on 3 March 2016. Over a month later he was sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court. His clemency appeal is pending with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for the past four months. Pakistani officials said there are still two forums of appeal left even if the Army Chief rejects his mercy plea.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan clears visit to jail by Jadhav’s mother, wife”, The Hindu

    Devaluation on the cards

    Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached an agreement to allow the rupee to depreciate. The State Bank of Pakistan will now let the currency exchange rate to adjust to the market conditions after years of resisting expectations. The timing of the agreement with the IMF was planned to ensure that $2.5 billion worth of receipts from international bonds will materialise. It allowed the Pakistani rupee to touch Rs110 to a dollar, before settling down to Rs.107.

    For more information, see: “In talks with IMF, Pakistan agrees to depreciate rupee”, Dawn

    Sri Lanka

    China hands over Hambantota port

    Sri Lanka has formally handed over the southern Hambantota Port to China, accepting in turn, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seeking to give a positive spin, declaring that the first tranche of $ 292-m of the $ 1.2-b agreement was the single largest inflow in four decades. In a separate development, the IMF completed the third review of the nation’s extended facility and approved $ 251.4-m credit to Sri Lanka.

    For more information, see: “H'tota port officially handed over to China, receives $292 mn”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 December 2017; “China Merchant Group pays US$ 300mn advance on Hambantota Port: Biggest foreign payment received after lapse of four decades”, The Island

    SLFP, Joint Opposition fail to reach agreement

    With President Maithiripala Sirisena-led SLFP faction and the Joint Opposition (JO) identified with his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa failing to come to any agreement, the two sides are expected to contest the upcoming nation-wide local government polls, which is said to benefit Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP. This, even as the UNP-SLFP got another round of massive parliamentary vote, this time for Budget-2018, with a 155-56 vote-tally in the 225-member House.

    For more information, see: “UNP in front due to SLFP-JO split: Amaraweera”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 December 2017; “Tie-up with SLFP failed as ministers reluctant to give up perks: JO”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Bhutan

    Third bilateral consultation between Bhutan and Thailand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 December 2017

    Nepal

    Press Release regarding delegation led by the Member of European Parliament (MEP) Ms. Zeljana Zovko, Chief Observer of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) to Nepal”

    “Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok on Business/Tourism Promotion Programme in Vientiane, Lao PDR.”

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Dr. Huma Baqai, “China’s peacemaker role in Afghanistan”, The Pakistan Observer, 9 December 2017

    Tabiah Forugh, “Can we fix the election commissions?”, Tolo News, 12 November 2017

    Bangladesh

    C R Abrar, “Silencing Dissent”, The Daily Star, 8 December 2017

    C R Abrar, “Silencing Dissent”, The Daily Star, 8 December 2017

    Bhutan

    An opportunity and a challenge”, Kuensel, 6 December 2017

    Opinion Pieces

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

    India

    Deepak Sinha , “Move the wheels of justice”, The Pioneer, 7 December 2017

    Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, “Military-mullah nexus wins another round in Pakistan”, www.orfonline.org, 6 December 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Renaud Egreteau, “Burma’s legislature is missing link in Rakhine crisis”, DVB, 8 December 2017

    Editorials

    The Irrawaddy, “Under Pressure Aung San Suu Kyi to seek Chinese Investment”, 5 December 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, “SCO and Nepal”, Republica, 7 December 2017

    Shyam K C, “Challenges ahead”, The Kathmandu Post, 8 December 2017

    Editorials

    The Himalayan Times, “For prosperity”, 8 December 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Found in transition”, 8 December 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Cyril Almeida, “Shahbaz in trouble”, Dawn, 10 December 2017

    Ihtasham Ul Haque, “Pak-US relations: A glimmer of hope”, The Express Tribune, 9 December 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “A nation still on the national mode”, The Sunday Leader, 10 December 2017

    M S M Ayub, “LG elections with national importance Alliances without policy basis”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 December 2017

    Kusal Perera, “What is ‘media freedom’ in the South?”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 December 2017

    Arun Tambimuttu, “Sri Lankan Tamils as victims of global Tamil aspirations”, The Island, 8 December 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “Intermediaries struggle to unite JO, SLFP”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 December 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “Who is afraid of whom, and why?”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 December 2017

    Amrit Muttukumaru, “Whitewashing will boomerang on Yahapalayana and the country”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 December 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Rather than cowering down, the President should face off the Joint Opposition”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 December 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Movement unlikely before local government elections”, The Island, 5 December 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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