South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 40

     Deuba, SAW, South Asia Weekly, October, Nepal

    Under fire Nepali PM Sher Bahadur Deuba

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Trump’s new strategy

    During his visit to Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis spelled out the new Trump strategy in the country, criticising Russia and Iran for providing support to the Taliban in the country. Mattis met with President Ashraf Ghani, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US commander, Gen. John Nicholson. A bomb blast near the Kabul airport was orchestrated by the Taliban to coincide with the Mattis’ visit.

    For more information, see: “Mattis, in Afghanistan, criticizes Iranian and Russian aid to Taliban”, The Wall Street Journal

    Kids fight in Syria

    Humans Right Watch has reported that Afghan children are being recruited to fight in the Syrian civil war by Iran. The report states thati Revolutionary Guards Corps to fight in the war. The report said that HRW researchers reviewed photographs of tombstones in Iranian cemeteries where the authorities buried combatants killed in Syria, and identified eight Afghan children who apparently fought and died in Syria.

    For more information, see: “Watchdog claims Iran recruiting Afghan children to fight in Syria”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    Refugee influx up

    With the continuous arrivals from across the Myanmar borders, the number of Rohingya refugees now sheltered in Bangladesh has crossed the half-a-million mark, forcing the World Food Programme (WFP) to call for an emergency relief assistance of $ 75 m. With an aide of Myanmar leader Aung Suu Kyi arriving for talks on the subject, Dhaka hopes for a diplomatic way out even as a minister has hinted at a role for China and Russia in finding a solution.

    For more information, see: “507,000 in 5 weeks: IOM-led group’s estimate on influx”, Daily Star, 1 October 2017; “Bangladesh minister: We are cutting forests to shelter the Rohingyas”, Dhaka Tribune, 2 October 2017; “World Food Programme seeks $75 million for Rohingya crisis”, bdnews24.com

    Bhutan

    Govt halts limestone export

    At a time when the government is trying to boost the country’s export, limestone export to Bangladesh is slowing down because of changes in bilateral trade agreement protocol between the two countries.

    For more information, see: “Export of limestone powder halted for almost two years”, Kuensel

    Aircraft on lease

    Bhutan Airlines (Tashi Air Pvt. Ltd) signed aircraft lease agreement for two Airbus A319 aircraft (2010 vintage) with AerCap on September 28 in Thimphu. AerCap is a global leader in aircraft leasing and aviation finance with its headquarters in Dublin.

    For more information, see: “Bhutan Airlines signs lease agreement for two aircraft”, Kuensel

    India

    Full-time Governor for TN

    President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed five governors for the States of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Lieutenant Governor for Andaman and Nicobar Islands was also appointed. A statement from the President Office said that the President has appointed Banwarilal Purohit as the Governor of Tamil Nadu. Mr Purohit will succeed Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who held additional responsibility for Tamil Nadu along with Maharashtra. There had been demands for appointment of a full-time governor in view of the political situation in the southern state.

    For more information, see:  “President Kovind Appoints 5 New Governors, Tamil Nadu Gets Its Own After A Year”, NDTV

    New Defence Minister at Siachen

    Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, visited forward areas in Leh and Ladakh, including the Siachen base camp on Saturday. The defence minister was received by Lt Gen S K Upadhyay, General Officer Commanding of Fire and Fury Corps. She paid tribute to fallen soldiers by laying a wreath at the war memorial on the forward area base.Along with interacting with troops and the top brass of the Indian Army, Sitharaman also inaugurated ‘Pratham-Shyok’ bridge in Leh over river Shyok on the road between Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The bridge will connect the region to the Karakoram in northeastern Ladakh.

    For more information, see: “Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visits forward base in Siachen, inaugurates bridge in Leh”, Indian Express

    23 die in bridge-collapse

    The death toll in the stampede on a foot over-bridge (FOB) linking two railways stations here has gone up to 23 with a critically injured person succumbing at the KEM hospital. The tragedy took place when the over-bridge, linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations, became overcrowded with people taking shelter from a heavy downpour. The bridge is used by lakhs of people to commute to the commercial area with high-end corporate and media offices.

    For more information, see: “Death toll in Ephinstone stampede in Mumbai rises to 23”, The Times of India

     Joint call to end terror

    Effectively combating terrorism was one of the major focus areas during the talks Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah had with Indian leaders as both sides emphasised the need to dismantle terror safe havens in the region. Abdullah, who arrived here on Thursday, held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj during which a wide-range of issues were discussed.

    For more information see: “Myanmar is key pillar in India's 'Act East' policy: PM Narendra Modi”, Hindustan Times

    Maldives 

    ‘Safest’ for tourists

    The Government has denied a British ‘travel-advisory’ of a ‘very likely’ terrorist-attack, and said that Maldives “remains one of the safest destinations in the world”. With the figure put at 100,000, the UK ranked third among tourist-arrival nations for Maldives in 2016, up from 90,000 a year earlier.

    For more information, see: “Maldives downplays UK warning of ‘very likely’ terror attack”, Maldives Independent, 27 September 2017; “Rising European tourist numbers offset dwindling Chinese market”, Maldives Independent

    Gasim not returning now

    With jailed Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim undergoing a heart surgery in Singapore, his family said that he would not be able to return home on Tuesday, at the end of 20 days, after the Maldives Correctional Service doubled the originally sanctioned 10-day prison-leave. “He actually cannot leave. As doctors have not authorised for him to fly, the airlines are refusing to sell tickets for him. We also requested that the MCS medical board review their decision,” Gasim’s lawyer Hisaan Hussain said.

    For more information, see: “Gasim unable to return after 20-day medical leave, says family”, Maldives Independent, 25 September 2017; “The state did not want to reach to a peaceful solution through dialogue regarding Qasim’s treatment : Hisaan”, Miadhu

    Myanmar 

    US for sanctions

    US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on September 28 called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims until the military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.

    For more information, see: “US Envoy to UN Demands Myanmar Prosecutions, Weapon Curbs”, The Irrawaddy, 29 September 2017; “US envoy to UN demands Burma prosecutions, weapons curbs”, DVB

    Exhumed bodies cremated

    Hindu religious leader Nimar said that the dead bodies found in mass graves were cremated September 28 with traditional Hindu rites. The two mass graves were found on September 24 and the bodies exhumed.

    For more information, see: “Exhumed Hindu bodies cremated”, Mizzima, 29 September 2017; “Hindus cremated in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw”, The Irrawaddy

    Protesting UNESCO project

    Thousands of locals took to the streets in Kachin State’s Putao, Machanbaw and Naungmon townships to protest an expansion project in Mt. Hkakabo Razi National Park headed by UNESCO.

    For more informationm see: “Thousands Protest UNESCO Project at Mt. Hkakabo Razi”, The Irrawaddy

    Nepal

    PM back from UN

    Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has been quite active in maintaining flowing connectivity of Nepal with regard to other countries and also pacts and organisations. One such event of importance was the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. After the successful completion of the affair, the PM also concluded his three-day formal visit to the Sultanate of Oman before returning home.

    For more information, see: “PM Deuba returns home”, Republica

    ADB fixes 4.7- pc growth

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has fixed a 4.7 per cent regarded as growth rate for Nepal. This slow growth rate in the current fiscal year (2017-18) is primarily due to the heavy rainfall that hit the country during the monsoons and adversely affected the cultivation of paddy in the Tarai region. Apart from this, delays in the implementation of development programmes are also of great concern, along with problems of inflation.

    For more information, see: “ADB forecasts 4.7 percent economic growth for Nepal”, Republica

    ‘Dashain’ celebrated

    The Bijaya Dashami Festival was observed with full pomp and glory in the country with President Bidya Devi Bhandari receiving ‘tika’ at the Rashtrapati Bhavan of Nepal. This is one of most important festivals of the country that the people look forward to and also invite wishes from the leaders of the country.

    For more information, see: “Veep Pun extends best wishes on Dashain”, The Kathmandu Post, 30 September 2017; “Dignitaries receive Dashain tika and jamara”, Republica

    Pakistan

    US calls for ‘behaviour-change’

    The US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford, has said that the US will be unable to make progress and achieve its “objectives” in Afghanistan unless there is a change in behaviour from Pakistan. Dunford said that it was unacceptable that Pakistan provides sanctuary to groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban. Pakistan argues that it has done a great deal to help the US in tracking down militants, and has suffered hundreds of deaths in attacks in response to its crackdowns.

    For more information, see: “US cannot attains objectives in Afghanistan, without change of behaviour by Pakistan: Gen Dunford”, The Express Tribune

    Not ‘responsible’ for Afghan peace

    Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has said that his country cannot be expected to be responsible for peace and security in Afghanistan. Speaking at a seminar in New York, Asif addressed US concerns of terrorism in Pakistan, saying that the only solution to peace in Afghanistan is a negotiated settlement as well as effective border management. He also accused India of sponsoring terrorism against Pakistan through Afghanistan.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan cannot owe responsibility of peace in Afghanistan: Asif”, The News International

    Graft-charge against FM

    Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been indicted on corruption charges in case filled by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau. The case was filed against the incumbent minister after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Panama Papers case. Dar is expected to contest the case.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan court indicts Finance Minister Ishaq for corruption”, Economic Times

    It’s not ‘federal’: MS

    Declaring that he will not allow anyone to draft a Constitution that harmed the ‘unitary’ status of the nation, President Maithiripala Sirisena has said that the draft report of the Steering Committee submitted to the Constitutional Assembly recently did not project a ‘federal State’. For his part, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that ‘minority parties’ were ready to accept the ‘unitary character’ of the Sri Lankan State, based on the common stand taken by the ruling SLFP-UNP combine.

    For more information, see: “Draft report does not project a concept of Federal State-MS”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 September 2017; “Minority parties ready to accept unitary status – PM”, The Island, 25 September 2017; “Maha Nayaka, Buddhist organization express reservations”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 September 2017; “Fmr. CJ Silva files a petition in SC”, Daily Mirror Online

    Death for seven

    A three-judge, trial-at-bar Bench of the Jaffna High Court unanimously sentenced all seven accused to death, over the gang-rape and murder of S Vidya, an 18-year-old Tamil schoolgirl. The incident in May 2015 whipped up ethnic emotions until the CID arrests showed that most of the accused, including A-1 ‘Swiss’ Kumar, were fellow-Tamils, who had committed the heinous crime under the mistaken belief that videos of such incidents fetched a huge price in overseas markets.

    For more information, see: “Vidya’s murder: Seven sentenced to death”, The Island

    ETCA at SL’s pace

    A senior Indian official told a team of visiting Sri Lankan journalists in Delhi that the two nations could sign the much-delayed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) whenever Sri Lanka was ready for the same.

    For more information, see: “‘Sri Lanka can proceed on proposed ETCA at its own comfortable pace’”, The Island, 1 October 2017; “Enchanting India: A journey into the fascinating diversity of an ‘endless’ country”, The Island, 1 October 2017; “Hambantota Port development stuck at Framework Agreement”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Nepal

     “Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Muscat on establishment of bilateral consultation mechanism between Nepal and Oman”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 27 September, 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Harsh V Pant, “Expanding the common ground”, The Hindu, 29 September 2017

    Ajai Shukla, “India does not need boots on Afghan ground”, The New York Times, 22 September 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Saifur Rashid, “Is there a solution?”, Dhaka Tribune, 29 September 2017

    Julian Francis, “Reflections on refugees: 1971 and 2017”, bdnews24.com, 27 September 2017

    Editorials

    Daily Star, “UNSC fails to deliver”, 1 October 2017

    Dhaka Tribune, “A shameful denial”, 1 October 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Kuensel,Culture and rights”, 29 September 2017

    India

    Manoj Joshi, Here’s why India did the right thing by refusing to send troops to Afghanistan, ORF, 28 September2017

    Sanjeev Ahluwalia, Lighting for all by Deepawali 2018, The Times of India, 28 September 2017

    Myanmar

    Kyaw Zwa Moe, “Will Intl Condemnation Bring Down Myanmar’s Democratic Transition?”, The Irrawaddy, 27 September 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Narayan Manandhar, “Rules of engagement”, Republica, 27 September 2017

    Thira L Bhusal, “Implementation of the constitution is an inter-generational process”, Republica, 27 September, 2017

    Pawan Roym Saurav Raj Pant, “Water bomb”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 September 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post, “Reflection”, 28 September 2017 

    Republica, “Above the law”, 25 September, 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Kamran Yousaf, “New script’ of Indo-Pak ties”, The Express Tribune, 1 October 2017

    Munir Akram, “The nuclear dimension”, Dawn, 1 October 2017

    Hasaan Khawar, “CPEC and China’s food market”, The Express Tribune, 29 September 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Sarath Wijesinghe, “Do we have a foreign policy?”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 October 2017

    Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “Foreign Ministry’s shocking silence in Geneva”, The Island, 2 October 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “’After-me-the-deluge’ moment”, The Sunday Leader, 1 October 2017

    Neville Ladduwahetty, “Presidential rule of Provinces”, The Island, 30 September 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Why oppose federalism for Sri Lanka”, The Island, 29 September 2017

    Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan, “Federalism sees the light of day”, The Island, 28 September 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Troubles still ahead for a new Constitution”, www.orfonline.org, 28 September 2017

    Dr Palitha Kohona, “Rajapaksa opted for war only when repeated efforts to negotiate were rebuffed”, The Island, 26-27 September 2017

    Sushil Premajayantha, Minister for Science, Technology and Research, “Do not misunderstand the voice of SLFP coalition partner”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 September 2017

    Interviews

    Kelum Bandara: “Governor rule in PCs not something new: Rohitha”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 September 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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