South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 52

     SAW, South Asia Weekly, Chabahar, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, December

    Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Trilateral between Afghanistan, China and Pakistan

    Strengthening stability and enhancing trilateral cooperation for development of the region will be the thrust of the talks scheduled to be held between the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani, Wang Yi and Khawaja Asif, foreign ministers of China and Pakistan respectively, on  December 26. The trilateral-dialogue-mechanism will focus on discussing security cooperation involving counter terrorism, political trust and reconciliation and developing cooperation and connectivity to bring about regional harmony.

    Surprise visit by US Vice President

    In a surprise visit on the night of 21 December, Mark Pence the US Vice- President met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, to discuss the situation of Afghanistan where the US and Afghani troops are currently stationed. Earlier US President Donald Trump had declared several thousand more troops to Afghanistan. Out of this relation based on mutual strategic interests, Afghanistan hopes to end Taibani violence and harness peace in the country. Pence declared such hopes to be close to fulfilment.

    More Mi-35s from India

    Following Afghanistan National Security Advisor’s visit to Delhi, the Indian government is considering procuring more Mi-35 gunship helicopters to strengthen the Afghan air force. The US has welcomed this additional support to Afghanistan and addressed India as the former’s most reliable regional partner. The support also involves reconstruction and civil development projects. Though Afghan officials have refrained from making any formal comment in this regard and an Afghan defence team is scheduled to visit Delhi to follow upon the prior discussion.

    ISIS members killed

    The Nangarhar province in Afghanistan recently witnessed the killing of five ISIS militants, including a shadow judge, by Afghan security forces. The operation was part of the Silab-4 and 9 operations embarked upon to eliminate the terror group from the said province. Seven militants were also injured in the process. Four villages in the province have been eradicated of the ISIS presence so far.

    Bangladesh

    Awami League loses mayor poll

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed party leaders to find out why the ruling Awami League candidate lost the mayor polls in Rangpur city, even as the party conceded defeat to the Opposition Jatiya Party. Awami League leaders, however, said the results would have no impact on national-level parliamentary polls, due in 2019.

    Long march for Rohingyas

    Non-political Ideal Citizen Movement (ICM) has launched a long march from Dhaka towards Cox’s Bazar, demanding safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Myanmar. At the pre-march rally, speakers called upon the neighbouring Myanmar authorities to grant citizenship to the Rohingyas and urged the international organisations including the United Nations to intervene in ensuring safe repatriation of the Rohingyas.

    Bhutan

    Project grants from Japan

    Japan and Bhutan signed grant assistance for four projects amounting to 1,004 million (M) Yen in New Delhi, India, on December 19. The grant assistance projects are under Japan’s Official Development Assistance scheme, namely exchange of notes and the grant contracts for Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP).

    National day celebrated

    The 110th National Day celebrations were held across the country on December 15. The event had a special function in Haa where the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Gyalsteun were present. Bhutan’s Embassies also joined in the celebrations, where heads of missions highlighted the importance and significance of the day.

    India

    Border talks after Doklam

    The Special Representatives of the India and China on border issue met in New Delhi for the 20th round of talks, aimed at bringing closer development potential between the two countries. The representatives from the nations acknowledged that the contemporary India-China relations transcend bi-lateral dimensions and bear significance for peace, stability and development of Asia. While the MEA statement did not state whether Doklam issue was mentioned or not, a Chinese spokesperson affirmed the dialogue to be an important platform for strategic communication between the two. The Chinese delegation during the visit also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Ockhi’ storm in Parliament

    The Congress Party staged a walk-out over the debate on discrimination in Central allocation of relief for Ochki victims. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge demanded to know why seven teams of National Disaster Response Force was sent to Gujarat, while four teams were sent to Tamil Nadu and three teams to Kerala which was the worst hit by the cyclone. The Home Minister rejected the demands for an inquiry and allocation bias, explaining that deployment of NDRF force was made on the basis of requests by State governments. The Rajya Sabha was disrupted again over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on Congress predecessor Manmohan Singh.

    PMO call to use local products

    The steel and rail ministries have clashed with each other after the latter’s decision to buy rails from an overseas company. The steel ministry alleged that such a tender was against the “Make in India” campaign and PM Narendra Modi’s promise to generate employment. Nripendra Misra, PM’s principal secretary, in a letter to the head of various departments stated that tender conditions should be formulated by keeping in mind the interests of local Indian manufacturers like the SAIL or the Jindal Group. The letter was uploaded on Rail ministry’s website on  December 22.

    Maldives  

    India denies visa curbs

    India has denied allegations about imposing visa curbs on Maldivians, with MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also refuting pro-Government Maldivian web Vagathu’s sharp anti-India rhetoric, pointing to the ‘closer relationship’ between the two nations and how they have shared development and security interests”.   Incidentally, Vagathu has since pulled out the controversial report even as the Maldivian political opposition condemned the unprovoked statement, while a section of the Indian media claimed that by denying permission for Indian envoy Akhilesh Mishra to meet with politicians without prior clearance (a restriction imposed on all foreign diplomats), the Government of President Abdulla’s regime had made him a ‘caged parrot’.

    China-US take-over tie-up

    America’s Bain capital and China’s Tempus group have joined hands to buy up the US joint venture Trans-Maldivian Airlines (TMA), the largest seaplane operators in the world, for $ 500-m, the biggest such deal in the Maldives. Meanwhile, inaugurating the Maldives Investment Forum in Dubai, Vice-President Abdulla Jihad, a former Finance Minister, declared that the Government aimed at making the country an investment hub in South Asia.

    Nasheed cancels meet

    In the neighbouring Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, self-exiled ex-Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed cancelled meeting with fellow countrymen on  December 26, following death-threats to him. In distant Germany, ailing JP leader Gasim Ibrahim met with other Opposition leaders from Maldives and declared that they would fight together for the 2018 presidential polls.

    Myanmar

    US imposes sanctions

    The US, on December 21, imposed sanctions on 13 “serious human rights abusers and corrupt actors” including Myanmar Gen Maung Maung Soe, who oversaw this year’s brutal crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to reports, US diplomats and treasury officials kept busy for a year compiling evidence of the most brutal and cynical crimes senior figures of Myanmar and dozens of companies.

    Probe into mass-grave

    The Myanmar military will investigate of the complicity of security forces in the case of unidentifiable corpses unearthed in Inn Din village, southern Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State on December 19.

    Suu Kyi meets Indian FS

    State counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, met with the foreign secretary for India, S. Jaishankar, on December 20 in Naypyidaw. During the meeting, discussions were held on the US$ 25 million MoU signed by the two countries for socio-economic development in Rakhine state.

    Nepal

    CPN-UML gets 75 seats

    The Election Commission (EC) has announced the number of seats obtained by the political parties in the Provincial Assembly, through the Proportional Representation (PR) system. While the CPN-UML obtained 75 seats, the Nepali Congress bagged 72 and the CPN (Maoist Centre) got 35 seats. Similarly, the Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum has secured 13 seats and Rastriya Janata Party has got 12 seats.

    Hydropower scam

    Being a landlocked country, Nepal primarily boasts of its hydropower generation facilities. However, three of such projects are facing major crisis due to the lack of attention from the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).This is primarily the Kabeli Corridor Transmission Line, that would generate 57 MW of power by the next year. In this regard the investors are in a flux as they are complaining of the lack of attention in construction and how power would be wasted.

    Votes against US position

    Nepal voted in line with the UN General Assembly resolution that disparages the decision of the US to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There was further notification on the country’s end that such a support was in tune with its “historic position” on Israel-Palestine and not exactly against the US as such.

    Pakistan

    Hafiz Said for polls

    JUD chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of Mumbai attacks, will be running for office in the upcoming elections. He will be backed by the Milli Muslim League. The US State Department has expressed concern over the news.

    Support for Palestine

    Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, confirmed that Pakistan will continue to support the just cause of Palestinians.  Lodhi affirmed that despite pressure and threat from the United States, Pakistan will remain part of the UN coalition that has moved the UN resolution against US unilateral decision over Jerusalem. She also defended the use of UN platform to support the cause of the Palestinians.

    Concern over Pence’s remarks

    Foreign Secretary Tehmina Januja in a Senate Standing Committee Session expressed concern over American Vice-President Pence’s remarks that Pakistan has much to lose by harbouring terrorists and criminals. Pence made this comment on his unannounced trip to Afghanistan. The Foreign Secretary commented that Pakistan expects US to treat India and Pakistan on an equal footing.

    Sri Lanka

    ‘Second stage’ bravery

    Ahead of the year-end submission of the Central Bank scam probe report, President Maithiripala Sirisena has reassured his SLFP by reiterating his current resolve to launch his ‘second stage bravery’ after the earlier palace coup, rebelling against and then electorally defeating then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015. With this, Sirisena is believed to have hinted at getting rid of the UNP ally under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe without actually talking about a patch-up with the Rajapaksa faction in the SLFP ahead of the nation-wide local government polls in February.

    China ’biggest investor’

    China has emerged as Sri Lanka’s biggest trading and investment partner, outgoing envoy Yi Xianliang has said. Elsewhere in the national capital, British High Commissioner, Jame Dauris also talked about “exciting times for doing business in Sri Lanka “ yet claiming that the “ease of trade has to improve”.

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Patrick Wintour & Sarah Marsh, “Europe rebuked for removing Afghans to one of world's most dangerous countries”, The Guardian, 22 December 2017

    Syed Zabiullah Langari, “Ghani’s Anti-Graft War: What Has Changed So Far?”, Tolo News, 21 December 2017

    Mujib Mashal, Najim Rahim, “Afghan President Fires a Powerful Governor From Post He Held 13 Years”, The New York Times, 18 December 2017

    Editorials

    Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Afghanistan the Third Deadliest Country for Journalists”, 20 December 2017

    Daily Outlook Afghanistan,The Age of Enlightenment”, 18 December 2017

    Bangladesh

    Taqbir Huda, “Zero tolerance for fatwas that violate human rights”, The Daily Star, 21 December 2017

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

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Kuensel, “A memorable national day”, 18 December 2017

    Kuensel,The invincible”, 20 December 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Abhijnan Rej, “Trump’s new national security strategy: The good, the bad and the complicated for New Delhi”, Times of India, 21 December 2017

    Yashwant Raj, “India’s Jerusalem vote consistent with its position on Palestine”, Hindustan Times, 22 December 2017

    T C A Raghavan, “Another December in Pakistan: A legacy of accumulated history”, Hindustan Times, 22 December 2017

    Editorials

    The Hindu, “Wait and Watch: on U.S. security strategy”, 20 December 2017

    Hindustan Times, “Trump’s CDC word ban: Banning words won’t deny the science”, 21 December 2017

    The Times of India, “Hindutva Grinch: Right-wing groups must be prevented from disrupting Christmas celebrations” 22 December 2017

    Maldives  

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Stirring up ‘anti-India’ discourse in the neighbourhood?”, www.orfonline.org, 22 December 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Paskorn Jumlongrach, “Dawei torn between visions of progress”, The Myanmar Times, 19 December 2017

    Namali Premawardhana, “Myanmar forges ahead in ICT”, The Myanmar Times, 18 December 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Ghanashyam Bhushal, “The left alliance must strive to improve relations with India”, Republica, 21 December 2017

    Asim Khanal, “Provincial capitals: Well-thought-out plan needed”, The Himalayan Times, 21 December 2017

    Editorials

    Republica,Fueling doubts”, 21December 2017

    The Kathmandu Post, “Act immediately”, 19 December 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Sanaullah Khan, “Nuclearisationof Indian Ocean undermining South Asia's strategicstability: NCA”, Dawn, 21 December 2017

    Khurram Husain, “CPEC plan details still awaited”,  Dawn, December 21 2017

    Mani Shankar Aiyar, “Modi Ji, thank you for ending my has-been status”, Dawn December 22, 2017

    Editorials

    The Express Tribune, “Quetta Church Attack”, 19 December 2017

    The Express Tribune, “Foreign Policy Trump Style”, 20 December 2017

    Dawn, “India’s visa politics”, 22 December 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “When minorities continue to fail themselves again and again”, The Sunday Leader, 24 December 2017

    Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “Sri Lanka’s vote at the UN”, The Island, 23 December 2017

    Amrit Muttukumaru, “Bond Commission: Moment of Truth for the country”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 December 2017

    Lakisiri Fernando, “The Beijing Declaration on Human Rights: A closer look”, The Island, 19 December 2017


    Contributors

    Afghanistan: Sohini Bose

    Pakistan: Mayuri Banerjee

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

    India: Ketan Mehta

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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