South Asia Weekly | Volume X; Issue 10

     Kerala, SAW, South Asia

    Backwaters of Kerala

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Suicide bombs claim sixteen

    The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Kabul that took place on 1 March. The group attacked different police, military and intelligence targets in Kabul, killing 16 people. Suicide bombs went off near the police headquarters and at the gate of the Afghan intelligence agency branch in the city. At a number of other areas, security forces clashed with militants. The UN Security Council "condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks," and urged states to cooperate with Afghan authorities to bring "perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors" of such acts to justice.

    For more information, see: Taliban claim attacks in Afghan capital, at least 16 dead

    Twenty militants killed

    The Afghan security forces have dealt a blow to Taliban fighters in Mehterlam, the provincial capital of Laghman by killing over 20 militants. Provincial Governor announced that the army had taken control over key check post that they had lost to the Taliban earlier. Security officials say at least 20 Taliban were killed and 13 others wounded in the two-day encounter thus far.

    The battles also led to the killing of at least two army officers and several others were wounded.

    For more information, see: ANDSF deal major blow to Taliban in Laghman, 20 fighters killed

    Reopening Pak border?

    The Afghan government has formally requested Pakistan's Ambassador to Kabul to reopen border crossing points between the two countries and has called for a de-escalation of tensions between Kabul and Islamabad. Pakistan had closed border crossings along the Durand Line after a series of attacks across the country. General Murad Ali Murad, Deputy Chief of Staff at Afghan Ministry of Defence spoke of the sufferings of Afghans due to closure of the border and cross-border shelling from Pakistan, and promised action against terrorists on the basis of information Pakistan has shared with them.

    For more information, see: Afghanistan requests Pakistan to reopen border, de-escalate tensions

    Bangladesh

    Kosovo recognised

    The Bangladesh Government has granted diplomatic recognition for The Republic of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent country. With this approval, Bangladesh has become the 114th country to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

    For more information, see: Bangladesh officially recognises Kosovo as an independent state

    Marriage age row on

    The Samajik Protirodh Committee (SPC), a platform of 70 women, rights and development organisations, denounced the enactment of the Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017 since it retained the provision for "special circumstances." According to this provision, a boy and a girl can get married before reaching the minimum age fixed for the purpose.

    For more information, see: Child Marriage Act: Rights bodies decry special provision

    Bhutan

    $1.5 million for climate resilience

    The government and the World Bank have signed into effect the preparation of the Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR) Grant of $1.5 million, which will support Bhutan to formulate a long-term plan to improve climate resilience, according to a press release issued by the World Bank.

    For more information, see: World Bank provides USD 1.5M to improve Bhutan’s climate resilience

    Japan gives $ 551 million

    Japan has signed an exchange of notes under the Japanese Grant Aid amounting to 551 million Yen to Bhutan. The signing, on behalf of both the governments, was carried out between Ambassador V. Namgyel and Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu in New Delhi.

    For more information, see: Government of Japan grant aid of 551 million Yen to Bhutan

    India

    Unit to tackle hacking

    In a bid to enhance its combat capabilities in the virtual domain, the defence ministry is working towards establishing a new cyber agency to tackle attempts by Chinese and Pakistani hackers to break into its systems and networks.

    For more information, see: India to set up new defence unit to tackle Chinese and Pakistani hackers 

    Maldives 

    Yameen defends Saudi deal

    Ahead of King Salman’s visit, President Abdulla Yameen has said that there was no cause for concern over the proposed $ 10-b Faafu Atoll project with Saudi Arabia. The negotiations were yet to be completed, and the Government would come out with the full details if it came through, he said, even as Opposition MDP said it was ‘Saudi colonisation’ of Maldives.

    For more information, see: “No cause for concern over ‘US$10bn Faafu atoll project,’ insists Yameen”, Maldives Independent, 2 March 2017; “MDP warns of ‘creeping colonialism’ by Saudi Arabia”, Maldives Independent, 4 March 2017; “MDP meeting hall raided over protests planned for Saudi king’s visit”, Maldives Independent, 2 March 2017; “Statement on ‘protective custody’ for journalists in Faafu atoll”, Maldives Independent, 2 March 2017; Maldives plan to sell atoll to Saudi Arabia has India worried”, Times of India, 3 March 2017; “Will Saudi Arabia Purchase an Entire Atoll From the Maldives?”, The Diplomat

    Runway work by China

    President Abdulla Yameen has launched work on the $ 400-m second runway project in Male international airport, and the conversion of the existing runway into a taxiing bay for 150 jets. Unlike the GMR project earlier, which involved Maldivian money being given to the Indian construction major, his Government was looking at generating foreign funds for infrastructure projects in the country, Yameen claimed.

    For more information, see: “President launches US$400m airport runway project”, Maldives Independent, 27 February 2017; “The airport of the Maldivians will be the greatest airport in the world! : Minister Saeed”, Miadhu, 27 February 2017; “Once the second runway is completed 150 jets can be parked at once!”, Miadhu, 27 February 2017; “China and Maldives are geographically located far away but in relations strong and close: Wang Fukang”, Miadhu, 28 February 2017; “President Xi Jinping prioritizes the development of Maldives – We are ready for more projects : China”, Miadhu, 27 February 2017; “Chinese tourist arrivals to Maldives in January increase by 16 percent”, Miadhu, 3 March 2017; “Assistance from Indian Airforce requested to find the missing fishing boat”, SunOnline, 27 February 2017; “A delegation from the Civil Service Commission of the Maldives departs to Pakistan !”, Miadhu, 27 February 2017; “Maldives calls on Israel to leave Palestine lands”, SunOnline

    Depoliticising MNDF?

    In a bid to keep political influences off on the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel, the Government was considering the legal option to bar soldiers from voting. Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar said that Article 20 of the Armed Forces Act may be deleted to facilitate the same.

    For more information, see: Government wants to bar soldiers from voting, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    UNFC okays nine-point agenda

    The UNFC and the government agreed in principle on the proposal which could be acceptable by both parties after discussion of a 9-point proposal presented by United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).

    For more information, see: Government agrees on UNFC’s 9-point proposal

    UN seeks probe

    The United Nations Rapporteur on human rights in Burma has called for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), the UN's highest-level probe, to investigate abuses in the country. Rights envoy Yanghee Lee made the appeal in a report submitted to the UN rights council, currently holding its main annual session in Geneva.

    For more information, see: UN envoy calls for highest level probe in Burma

    Big-spend on urban development

    The Yangon regional government plans to spend about Ks 32 billion to develop 12 townships on the outskirts of the city’s municipal area, the Yangon Chief Minister has said. Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein revealed the news in a video that detailed the Region Government’s work for the public.

    For more information see: Billions to be spent developing towns on outskirts of Yangon

    Nepal

    Political leaders pitch for increasing investment

    Top political leaders, including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have made a strong pitch for foreign investment in Nepal and expressed commitment to a good business environment. Delivering the inaugural speech at the Nepal Investment Summit 2017, PM Dahal said: "Our peace process is a success story of our times. The political transformation is remarkable. Then why should not we multiply our efforts in creating an economic success story of our time." Thus, after completing the peace process, it’s time for economic progress.

    For more information, see: Investment Summit 2017: Making case for investing in Nepal; Jaitley sees great investment potential in Nepal

    Containers stranded

    Nearly 1,000 Nepal-bound cargo containers have been stranded at India’s Kolkata port after one of the railway tracks at the port that links Birgunj’s Sirsiya Dry Port was damaged some two weeks ago. Also, 300 containers laden with export goods have been stuck at Sirsiya Dry Port, according to Pradip Kedia, president of BCCI. CONCOR has requested to shift the containers from Sirsiya Dry Port, which is likely to result in additional costs for Nepali traders.

    For more information, see: Nepal-bound containers stranded at Kolkata port

    China hands over road

    China and Nepal exchanged delivery and acceptance certificate for handover of the China-aided Project of Araniko Highway Long-term Opening Maintenance Project. Dhana Bahadur Tamang, the secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, and Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong signed the certificate of handing over the project on March 3 in the presence of Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak.

    For more information, see: China, Nepal exchange certificate for handover of Araniko Highway Maintenance Project

    Pakistan

    War-of-words at Geneva

    India and Pakistan traded barbs at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 1 March. Zahid Hamid, the Pakistani law and justice minister, alleged the "Indian claim" that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was about terrorism was a false narrative and a "desperate attempt" to divert attention from alleged rights violations." The Indian claim that the deteriorating human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir is an internal affair of India is factually incorrect, legally untenable and in violation of the UN Security Council resolution," Hamid said. India’s permanent representative at the UN, Ajit Kumar, responded to saying that it was ironic that a country which had earned a reputation as the global epicentre of terrorism was holding forth on the issue.

    For more information, see: Pakistan created terror outfits, the ‘monster’ now devouring the creator

    Demonstrations on anniversary of Qadri hanging

    Over 3,000 people took to the streets of Islamabad on 1 March to celebrate the one year anniversary of the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, accused of killing Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Police clamped down rallies in Islamabad, which were in support of Qadri, who killed Taseer for calling to reform the country’s blasphemy laws. After the assassination, Qadri became a hero to many religious hardline factions in Pakistan.

    For more information, see: Thousands rally in Pakistan to celebrate blasphemy murder

    India frees thirty nine Pak prisoners

    India released 39 Pakistani prisoners and handed them over the Wagah border on 1 March as a good will gesture. The Border Security Force handed over 21 people who had served their sentence in India and 18 fisherman who had crossed into Indian waters by mistake. Over two months ago, Pakistan had released 217 Indian fisherman as well.

    For more information, see: In goodwill gesture, India releases 39 Pakistani prisoners

    Sri Lanka 

    UNHRC sticks on 'hybrid court'

    In his report to the biannual Council meeting in Geneva, UNHRC chief Prince Zeid has complimented the Sri Lankan Government for the progress on the constitutional reforms front, but has stuck to the 2015 co-sponsored resolution for a 'hybrid court' into war crimes and other accountability issues. Back home, President Maithiripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have pooh-poohed the possibility even as the Opposition TNA has welcomed the UNHRC recommendation.

    For more information, see: “Zeid 'positive' but wants hybrid court”, Daily Mirror Online, March 3, 2017; “Truth-Seeking Commission legislation in two months: Mangala”, Daily Mirror Online, February 28, 2017; “No need for hybrid court – PM”, The Island, March 4, 2017; “War Crimes : Govt. requests UNHRC more time for investigations”, The Island, March 5, 2017; “I have backbone to reject foreign judges: MS”, Daily Mirror Online, March 4, 2017; “Not ready to govern the country on NGOs’ opinions: MS”, Daily Mirror Online, March 4, 2017; “TNA endorses Zeid’s report on 2015 UNHRC resolution implementation”, The Island, March 5, 2017; “Extension of Geneva deadline irks TELO”, The Island, March 4, 2017; “Sampanthan thanks President for prompt action taken on Mullaithivu district land issues”, The Island, March 5, 2017; “Giving Police powers to PCs is not the solution: Champika”, Daily Mirror Online, March 3, 2017; “Sampanthan, Sumanthiran accused of appeasement”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Bhutan

    UN Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme, Resident Representative, Mr. Gerald Daly presents his credentials

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, South Africa on presentation of Credentials

    Press Release: 34th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, 01 Mar 2017

    Press Release: Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs’ address to the High-level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Copenhagen regarding participation in Danish Travel Trade Show (FERIE FOR ALLE)

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Anders Corr, Pakistan’s Duplicity and Broken Promises on Afghanistan, Forbes, 1 March 2017

    Steve Chapman, If Trump wants to win wars, do it in Afghanistan, Omaha World-Herald, 3 March 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces 

    Abdul Matin, The economics of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, The Daily Star, 2 March 2017

    Aiman Rahman Khan, Child marriage in Bangladesh: Not so sweet 16, Bdmews24.com, 27 February 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Looking back, Kuensel, 25 February 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Makarand R. Paranjape, What Ramjas taught, Indian Express, 4 March 2017

    Sanjeev Ahluwalia, Can Modi revise social compact? 2019 will tell

    Shubh Soni, #Budget 2017 and #demonetisation — The PM’s 2019 pitch

    Maldives

    Opinion Pieces

    Azra Naseem, Muizzing Maldives, Dhivehisitee.com, 4 March 2017

    Azra Naseem, Of myths and monsters, Dhivehisitee.com, 3 March 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Courtney Wittekind, Taking the Long View of Burma’s Conflicts, The Irrawaddy, 3 March 2017

    Editorials

    The rule of Wa, The Irrawaddy, 2 March 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Gopal Thapa, Downplaying diplomacy, The Kathmandu Post, 3 March 2017;
    Anjali Subedi, The male pantheonRepublica, 2 March 2017

    Editorials

    Credit where it is dueThe Kathmandu Post, 3 March 2017
    Republica; The easy bit, Republica, 2 March 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Owen Bennett-Jones, Defining jihadists, Dawn, 2 March 2017

    Raza Khan, What needs to be done in FATA, The Express Tribune, 2 March 2017

    Imtiaz Gul, Stereotyping Pashtoons, The Express Tribune, 1 March 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Ranjan Philips, “Geneva pilgrimage: Over-promising at UNHRC and under-achieving at home”, The Island, 5 March 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “Claims and counter-claims of intransigence”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 March 2017

    Dayan Jayatilleka, “TNA’s trap referendum for exit”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 March 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Influencing the polity for constitutional reform”, The Island, 28 February 2017

    N. Sathiya Moorthy, “Devolution without de-merger?”, The Sunday Leader, 26 February 2017

    Contributors:

    Afghanistan and Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

    Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan and Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

    India: Subh Soni and Pushan Das

    Maldives and Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee

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