South Asia Weekly | Volume X; Issue 11

     SAW, Kerala, South Asia

    Sunset in Kerala

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    ISIS fighters down

    U.S. military spokesman Brig-Gen Charles Cleveland has said that the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan have come down to 700 after US air-strikes. Over a year ago, the number was estimated to be 2000-3000. Cleveland praised the Afghan forces, saying that they had killed 12 of the top leaders of the terrorist group in 2016.

    For more information, see: “US Military: Number of IS members in Afghanistan reduced to 700”, VOA

    Pakistan reopens border

    Pakistan has temporarily re-opened the two border crossings, Torkham and Chaman, with Afghanistan, allowing visitors with valid visas to cross over. The border was closed on 16 February after a series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan that were attributed to Afghanistan-based groups. The borders were reopened for those travelling for business, medical and work purposes. A Pakistani official at Torkham said large numbers of Afghans were returning home, alongside smaller groups of Pakistanis, but that overland trade between the two countries was yet to resume.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan temporarily reopens border with Afghanistan”, Al Jazeera

    Karzai says will not accept Durand Line

    Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reiterated that Afghanistan does not and will not recognise the Durand Line as the border with Pakistan. In a post on Twitter, Karzai said, “The Govt of Pakistan has no legal authority to dictate terms on the Durand Line. While we wish freedom for the people of #FATA from FCR and other repressive measures, we remind the Govt of #Pakistan that #Afghanistan hasn’t and will not recognize the #Durand line.”

    For more information, see: “Afghanistan has not and will not recognize Durand Line: Karzai”, Khamma Press

    Bangladesh

     BNP to boycott national elections if held under Hasina again

    Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, standing committee member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has said that his party will not participate in the next general elections if it is held under Bangladesh Awami League (AL) leader Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Roy said BNP would much rather wait until doomsday for a party-neutral administration. The BNP did not participate in the last parliamentary election held in 2014.

    For more information see: “BNP won’t join polls under Hasina: Gayeshwar”, Prothom Alo

    Dhaka sees IORA as a vehicle to boost maritime cooperation

    Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali claimed that his country sees the action plan of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as a new avenue to make the organisation a vehicle to boost maritime cooperation in the region. He made the remarks while addressing the Council of Ministers (COM) of the IORA in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    For more information see “Dhaka eyes IORA action to boost maritime cooperation”, The Financial Express

    India

    BJP gets two-third majority in UP

    The BJP ruling the Centre has won a resounding, two-thirds majority in the prestigious 403-seat Assembly in the nation’s largest State of Uttar Pradesh. After the results were known, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a “new India” is emerging and it stands for development. He also asked the people to take a pledge and express their commitment to building a new India.

    For more information, see: “Day after UP win, Modi says new India is emergingThe Hindu, 12 March, 2017; BJP’s election strategy: 900 rallies, 67,000 workers, 10,000 WhatsApp groups and chopper landings, Indian Express, March 12, 2017; Prannoy Roy Explains Major Takeaways From Huge PM Narendra Modi Win, NDTV

    Congress takes Punjab     

    Captain Amarinder Singh will take the oath for chief minister of the border State of Punjab on March 16 after the party won a whopping 77 seats in an assembly of 117. The AAP came a distant second with 22 seat. The incumbent  ruling-kali Dal, BJP alliance got 18 seats.

    For more information see: “Amarinder Singh to take oath for CM of Punjab on March 16, promises ‘no vendetta politics’”,Times of India, March 12 2017; Punjab Election Results 2017: AAP One Of The ‘Toughest Competitors,’ Says Prashant Kishor, NDTV, March 11, 2017; Assembly Elections Result 2017: AAP Ka Kya Hoga? Second In Punjab, Zero In Goa, NDTV, 

    Hung Assembly in Manipur

    The National People’s Party (NPP), a regional party founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma will get to play king maker after the Congress and the BJP failed to get a majority in the Manipur assembly elections.

    For more information see: “In Manipur, Small Parties Hold The Key To Government Formation”,NDTV, March 12 2017; “BJP will have numbers to form govt in Manipur: Ram Madhav”, Times of India

    Parrikar for Goa?

    In a bid to bring up a majority in the 40-member Goa Legislative Assembly, BJP has decided to send the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was the CM before moving over to Delhi, to Panaji.

    For more information, see: “Goa BJP wants Parrikar as CM”, The Hindu

    Loan-waiver costs 8,000 crore

    The incoming BJP government’s promise to waive loans of small and marginal farmers in Uttar Pradesh looks impressive on paper and could go a long way in reducing farm indebtedness. However, experts feel a waiver of crop loans can have a negative impact on credit quality in farming.

    For more information see: “Poll promises: Crop loan waiver to cost Rs 8,000 crore”, Business Standard

    Maldives 

    No-trust move

    In a first of its kind, the Opposition MDP and the Gayoom faction of the ruling PPM have formally joined hands to move a no-trust motion against Parliament Speaker, Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, requiring a simple majority in the 85-member House. A victory for the motion could encourage detractors of President Abdulla Yameen to consider an impeachment motion, which however requires a two-thirds majority.

    For more information, see: “No-confidence motion filed to remove Speaker Maseeh”, Maldives Independent, 8 March 2017; “MP Areef loses MDA membership”, SunOnline, 9 March 2017; “Amir: No party in Maldives that can win Presidency without MDA”, SunOnline

    Saudis ‘not buying land’

    In the aftermath of Government’s efforts to attract a high $ 10-billion Saudi investment to develop Faafu Atoll, both sides have denied that it involved the sale of Maldivian land. Earlier, the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had announced a protest demonstration on 24 March as a part of their national/international campaign to stall the ‘sale’ of Maldivian territory.

    For more information, see: “Saudi: Rumors are false, no intention to buy land in Maldives”, SunOnline, 10 March 2017; “No intention of purchasing an atoll from Maldives : Saudi Embassy”, Miadhu, 10 March 2017; “Government denies ‘selling off’ atoll to Saudi Arabia”, Maldives Independent, 8 March 2017; “Will not lease islands like a gamble – will be leased after ensuring that it will be invested in : Muhammad Saeed”, Miadhu, 10 March 2017; “Opposition announces protest against Faafu deal as police crackdown intensifies”, Maldives Independent

    Prioritising trade with China

    Maldives has prioritised trade with China as the latter was the largest economy in the world, Economic Affairs Minister, Mohammed Saeed, has said. The Minister also disclosed that the two countries have successfully concluded talks on a free trade agreement between them.

    For more information, see: “Maldives prioritizes trade with China because China is the largest economy in the world: Economic Minister”, Miadhu, 10 March 2017; “China-Maldives free trade talks successful, next is to complete administrative works: Economic Minister”, Miadhu, 10 March 2017; “The world has recognized Maldives as the most suitable environment for doing business: Muhammad Saeed”, Miadhu

    Guards withdrawn

    Only hours after the ruling PPM faction led by him had signed in to move a no-confidence motion against Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, the Government reportedly withdrew military bodyguards accompanying former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, on a private visit to India. Following a fresh notification on national flag being flown only on official buildings and in the offices of political parties recognised by the Election Commission, police also ordered the bringing down of the same flying in Gayoom’s office.

    For more information, see: “Gayoom forced to leave without military bodyguards”, Maldives Independent, 9 March 2017; “Government orders to bring down state flag at Maumoon’s Office”, SunOnline, 10 March 2017; “New regulation requires permit to hoist national flag”, SunOnline

    Myanmar

    Refugees heading to China

    China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday more than 20,000 people from Myanmar are seeking refuge in the country. Fighting in northern Shan State of Myanmar is threatening Myanmarese leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s top goal of reaching peace with minorities.

    For more information, see: “Beijing says over 20,000 people from Burma seeking refuge in China”, DVB, 9 March 2017; “China Says More Than 20,000 from Burma Seek Refuge Across Border”, The Irrawaddy

    Dodging UN probe

    Myanmar looks set to escape an international investigation into alleged atrocities against its Rohingya minority, after the European Union decided not to seek one at the UN Human Rights Council, a draft resolution seen by Reuters showed on March 8.

    For more information, see: “Burma set to dodge full UN probe on Rohingya refuge”, DVB

    Wa withdraws from Mongla

    The United Wa State Army (UWSA) withdrew its troops from the Mongla region this week, signalling the end of a six-month-long standoff with the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), which controls the autonomous area in northern Shan State.

    For more information, see: “UWSA withdraws troops from Mongla territory”, DVB

    Nepal

    India denies killing

    A Nepali man was killed after an SSB inspector of Sampurnanagar Station opened fire following a dispute over the construction of a culvert over Sano Khola River in the district on 9 March. The country is upset and has urged India to take action. On the contrary, in a statement issued by the MEA, India has denied that its Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel opened fire at Nepalis near the border at Ananda Bazaar in Kanchanpur district the same day.

    For more information, see: “India denies firing by SSB in Kanchanpur”, The Kathmandu Post, 9 March 2017; “Nepali youths set fire to a motorbike with Indian plate at Gaurifanta checkpoint”, Republica, 10 March 2017; “Kanchanpur shooting: Nepal urges India to take action against culprit”, The Himalayan Times

    No trade yet on China border

    Although reconstruction work at Tatopani in Nepal and Nyalam in China has been completed, there is no sign of resumption of trade via the route. Nepal has also completed construction of basic infrastructure for trade, according to AntarBahadurSilwal, chief district officer of Sindhupalchok. It is being speculated that China might be expecting some sort of assurance from the Nepal side regarding border security before resuming trade.

    For more information see: “Tatopani-Nyalam border point: Reconstruction complete, but trade yet to resume”, The Kathmandu Post

    Central grid collapses

    Lack of proper protection system in Nepal-India power grids for electricity trade has been causing repeated technical glitches in the central grid. Currently, NEA has been bringing imported power to Kathmandu via Dhalkebar-Khimti transmission line without carrying out grid synchronisation between the power grids of India and Nepal. The repeated technical problems will pose a risk to the central grid which is collapsing.

    For more information see: “Lack of grid synchronisation affects power supply in Valley”, The Himalayan Times

    Pakistan

    Constitution extended

    The Pakistan government has approved a landmark plan to introduce drastic political and administrative reforms to its tribal areas in the north-west region of the country. The new plan will bring the tribal areas under Pakistan’s constitution and penal code and give the citizens living there, access to fundamental rights, including the right to vote. Until now, the tribal areas near the Afghan border were governed under the British era Frontier Crimes Regulation, which left them with no formal access to courts in the country. The lack of formal law in the tribal areas made them a haven for armed groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda, for decades.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan approves landmark reforms for tribal areas”, Al Jazeera

    Former NSA demands action against Saeed

    Former Pakistan National Security Advisor Mahmud Ali Durrani has said that strong action should be taken against Hafiz Saeed. Addressing a conference in Delhi, Durrani added that the 26/11 mastermind had no utility for Pakistan. Saeed is currently under house-arrest. The Interior Ministry has also placed him along with four other supporters on the Exit Control List, barring him from leaving the country.

    For more information, see: “’Strong action must be taken against Hafiz Saeed’, says former NSA”, The Nation

    US asked to cut support

    US Congressmen Ted Poe, who is the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s sub-committee on terrorism, has argued for a decrease in US support to Pakistan. In a newspaper article. Poe says that the US has “acquiesced in a toxic relationship” with Pakistan, putting up with “this nominal ally, whose military and security leaders play a lethal double-game”. This dangerous “game,” according to them “involves head-long nuclear-weapons production and exporting Islamist terrorism”. Poe has also argued that the US should rush to pay Pakistan’s balance of payments via the IMF, and that Pakistan should ask China pay it instead.

    For more information, see: “Legislator asks US to stop treating Pakistan as an ally”, Dawn

    Sri Lanka 

    Indian fisher killed

    An Indian fisherman, K Brijto, 21, was killed, reportedly in a mid-sea shooting incident, allegedly involving the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) on the night of Monday, 6 March 2017. The SLN has denied the allegations even as Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar, told agitated members from Tamil Nadu, Indian Parliament that the Sri Lankan Government had promised an investigation.

    For more information, see: “Rameswaram fumes at fisherman’s killing”, The Hindu, 8 March 2017”; “SL Navy denies allegations of shooting TN fishermen”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 March 2017; “TN fishermen demand prosecution of SL navy personnel”, Daily Mirror Online, 9 March 2017; “TN fishermen hit SL Navy water scooter, claim officials”, The Hindu, 10 March 2017; “SL assures full probe on fisherman’s killing: India”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 March 2017; “Fishing Disputes : Biggest obstacle to Indo-Lanka relations – Govt.”, The Island, 11 March 2017; “Indian fishermen to complain to UNHRC”, Daily Mirror Online, 9 March 2017; “SL releases 53 Indian fishermen as goodwill gesture”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 March 2017; “SL, India to release 104 fishermen to defuse tensions”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 March 2017; “No Indian devotees at Kachchathivu Feat”, Daily Mirror Online

    TNA divided on UNHRC?

    The Opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is said to be divided with 10 party MPs reportedly opposed to the leadership’s silence over the UNHRC granting two more years to the Sri Lankan Government on implementing the co-sponsored 2015 resolution on ‘independent, international investigations’ into ‘war-crimes and accountability issues’. However, some of the party MPs have claimed that their signatures had been forged in the protest petition sent to the UNHRC, and that they did not know anything about it.

    For more information, see: “TNA divided on granting time to SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 March 2017; “TNA in turmoil over relief to Sri Lanka:  MPs allege signatures forged in petition to Geneva”, The Island, 8 March 2017; “TNA asks armed forces to vacate land including LTTE runways”, The Island, 7 March 2017; “New OMP Bill coming soon- Paikiasothy: ‘Proposed Counter Terrorism Law worse than PTA, changes sought’”, The Island, 8 March 2017; “LTTE weapons falling into hands of criminal elements: Ranawaka”, Daily Mirror Online

    US navy at Hambantota

    A four-nation, ‘Pacific Partnership-2017’ naval exercise involving the US, Australia, Japan and Sri Lanka was held at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port, as if to prove that the host-nation would not give up security claims and operations in the strategic locale. On the home front, the SLFP-UPFA partners in the Government reiterated their position, not to let the transfer of stakes in the port to the Chinese firm, as announced earlier.

    For more information, see: “US Navy in H’tota port based exercise: Pacific fleet chief due”, The Island, 6 March 2017; President Sirisena tells IORA summit Lanka will never ignore her obligations to neighbours”, The Island, 8 March 2017; “SLFP, UPFA won’t let it be signed: Minister”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 March 2017; “Shangrila-La investment a case in point, says GR: Doing away with ‘red tape’ for the greater good”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Bhutan

    PM TsheringTobgay meets President of Bhutan Foundation, Cabinet Secretariat, 9 March 2017

    Nepal

    Press release on the killing of a Nepali national at Nepal-India border today”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 9 March 2017

    Press Release regarding brutal attack in the military hospital in Kabul”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 9 March 2017

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Brussels on the presentation of credentials by H.E. Mr. LokBahadurThapa, Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 8 March 2017

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Brussels on presentation of Credentials”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 8 March 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    May Jeong, “The Impossible Job of Afghanistan’s Attorney General”, The Atlantic, 9 March 2017

    Josh Rogin, “Selling Trump a new Afghanistan commitment”, The Washington Post, 26 February 2017

    Najib Sharifi, “Russia’s new game in Afghanistan”, Al Jazeera, 26 February 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces 

    Taj Hashmi, “CHILD MARRIAGE RESTRAINT ACT 2017:Another regression therapy for Bangladesh?”, The Daily Star,10 March 2017

    Selim Raihan, “Bangladesh Economy At A Crossroads: Looking for “breakthroughs”, The Daily Star, 6 March 2017

    Alok Sharma, “Britain and Bangladesh – bonded by a strong connection”, The Daily Star,6  March 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Hydro delays”, The Bhutanese, 4 March 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Mihir Sharma, “3 Big Take-Aways From BJP’s Uttar Pradesh Triumph, NDTV, 11 March 2017

    Ashok Malik, “Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election Results 2017: Does victory make Narendra Modi’s return in 2019 smooth?”, Financial Express, 12 March 2017

    Maldives

    Opinion Pieces

    Ibrahim Mohammed, “Development or environment: A dilemma for Maldivians”, Maldives Independent, 12 March 2017

    Shoka Noda, UN Resident Coordinator, “Reaching beyond the glass ceiling”, Maldives Independent, 8 March 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Currency-swap with India before big Saudi, China deals”, www.orfonline.org, 8 March 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Aung Zaw, “Is U Wirathu above the law?”, The Irrawaddy, 10 March 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Uddhab P Pyakurel, “Our basic needs first”, The Kathmandu Post, 10 March 2017
    Sukhdev Shah “Madhesh is wasting”, Republica, 9 March 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post “At long last”, The Kathmandu Post, 10 March 2017
    Republica, “Selective justice”, Republica, 9 March 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Sharjee lHussain, “A landmark achievement for FATA”, The Nation, 10 March 2017

    Asha’ar Rehman, “Zia, Imran and cricket non-diplomacy”, Dawn, 10 March 2017

    Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, “Enduring Durand”, Dawn, 10 March 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Izeth Hussain, “The tragic-comedy in Geneva and the Indo-Tamil problem”, The Island, 11 March 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Accountability: Government caught in the trap”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 March 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “The politics of script-flipping”, Daily Mirror Online, 9 March 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “SLFP contemplates quitting Govt”, Daily Mirror Online, 9 March 2017

    C A Chandraprema, “It’s It’s President Sirisena’s call now: JSC disowns Ramanathan Kannan recommendation”, The Island, 7 March 2017

    Jehan Perera, “The politics of foreign judges in the Geneva process”, The Island, 7 March 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Sri Lanka offers the first battle ground for a Neo-Cold War?”, The Sunday Leader, 5 March 2017

    Contributors:

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

    India: Shubh Soni & Pushan Das

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee

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