South Asia Weekly | Volume X; Issue 20

     Afghanistan, Buzkashi, Horsemen, SAW, South Asia

    Peace doves fly on the grounds of the historic Hazrat-i-Ali mosque

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

     US likely to send more US troops

    The Trump administration is likely to recommend sending several thousand more American troops to Afghanistan. While President Trump is still mulling the final decision, senior members of the administration and military officials have made the recommendation in order to break through the military stalemate in the country. The added troops would allow American advisers to work with a greater number of Afghan forces, and closer to the front lines in order to defeat the Taliban and pressurize them to negotiate with the Afghan government.

    For more information, see: “Trump advisers calls for more troops to break Afghan deadlock”, The New York Times

    Poor security predicted

    US Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that the political and security situation in Afghanistan is most likely to deteriorate in 2018 at a hearing for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Coats said that, “Afghanistan will struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban. Unless we change something… the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains that we’ve invested in over the last several years.”

     For more information, see: “Security in Afghanistan likely to deteriorate: US Intel Chief”, Tolo News

    China to extend OBOR to Afghanistan

    China is planning to extend its Belt and Road Initiative to include Afghanistan. Under the $50 billion project, China plans to create a road linking Peshawar in Pakistan to Kabul and Kunduz, carrying on deeper into Central Asia. The road will help bring “more Pakistani and Chinese economic interests into Afghanistan”. However many have said that the project will help China increase its regional power and security.

    For more information, see: “China to extend silk road plan to Afghanistan”, VOA

    Bangladesh

    Largest-ever poll pact

    Jatiya Party (JP), a major political party, has formed the country’s biggest-ever electoral alliance, comprising of 58 political parties. General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, JP Chief and former military dictator, informed that their goal is to contest the next parliamentary elections and form a government together.

    For more information, see: “Ershad pulls off ‘largest’ polls alliance”, The Daily Star

    BNP’s vision 2030

    In a run up to the parliamentary election to be held in early 2019, main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) this week unveiled ‘Vision 2030’ — a vision document that elaborates party’s roadmap for governance and development if elected. Maruf Kamal Khan, BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia’s press secretary, claimed that the vision 2030 is a thorough plan for how the party plans to govern.  Ruling Awami League ‘s  general secretary Obaidul Quader observed that it is  nothing but a joke and an attempt to deceive the nation.

    For more information, see: “BNP chief Khaleda vows to curb PM’s sole executive powers in Vision 2030”, Bdnews24.com, 10 May 2017; “Vision 2030 is nothing but a joke: Says AL”, The Daily Star, 11 May 2017; “Difficult, but not impossible”, The Daily Star, 11 May 2017 ; “AL’s take on Vision 2030: Khaleda president, Tarique PM‎”, Bdnews24.com

    Counter terror drive

    The week has seen some major development in countering terrorism. In a major counter terror operation five militants and a fire-fighter died at  Rajshahi, country’s north-western region. In a separate incident 2 militants died during an encounter with the security forces.

    For more information, see: “Five ‘militants’, one fire-fighter die in Rajshahi ‘suicide blasts’”, The Financial Express, 11 May 2017; “2 ‘militants’ killed in Jhenidah den”, The Daily Star, 8 May 2017; “Three JMB suspects held in Sirajganj”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    BBIN talks put off

    In a sign that the Parliament is still trying to resolve the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor vehicles agreement (BBIN) quandary, the  May 4 joint sitting for BBIN was postponed to 15th June.

    For more information, see: “Focus on amending rules to allow withdrawal or deferment of BBIN”, The Bhutanese

    Agenda ratified

    The 19th session of the National Council has begun with deliberations on follow-up reports on the resolutions of the 18th session. The session will deliberate on ratification of two international agreements – the Paris Agreement on Environment Protection and Conservation and the Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between Bhutan and India. The National Assembly passed both these agreements last session.

    For more information, see: “Council’s 19th session begins today”, Kuensel

    27th in graft survey

    Bhutan has been ranked 27 of 176 countries, scoring 65 out of 100 by the Corruption Transparency Survey 2016 report. This is the same position as 2015.The ACC annual report 2016 states that 149 cases are complaints against abuse of function, which is misuse of one’s official position or title ACC’s Principal Integrity Promotion officer, Kin Dorji.

    For more information see: “Bhutan ranks 27 of 176 countries in 2016 corruption survey”, The Bhutanese

    India

    ICJ stays Pak execution

    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on May 9 stayed the execution of India’s Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “spying”. India, in its appeal to the ICJ, accused Pakistan of “egregious” violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and asserted that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he was involved in business activities after retiring from the Indian Navy but Pakistan claimed to have arrested him from Balochistan on 3 March 2016.

    For more information, see: “Is International Court of Justice stay on Kulbhushan Jadhav hanging binding on Pakistan? All about how ICJ functions”, India Today

    CRPF zonal HQ shifted

    Following the killing of 25 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Chhattisgarh last month, the central zone headquarters of the Force have been shifted out of Calcutta to Raipur. Considering how Chhattisgarh is the worst hit among the Maoist-affected states, this shift is meant to improve the operational performance of the country’s largest paramilitary force and strengthen its anti-Maoist actions.

    For more information, see: “From comfort to hot zone – CRPF central zone base shifted from Calcutta to Raipur”, The Telegraph

    Maldives 

    MDP claims victory

    With the Election Commission not providing detailed results of the local council polls across the country as yet, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed landslide victory for the combined Opposition. The MDP has won the urban councils of capital Male, Addu and Fuvamulah for sure. The ruling PPM of President Abdulla Yameen, said that the MDP victory was not as much as claimed, and commenced preparations for 2018 presidential polls, without giving out details of the LG poll results.

    For more information, see: “Opposition declares landslide victory”, Maldives Independent, 7 May 2017; “Council elections outcome ‘satisfactory’ for ruling party”, Maldives Independent, 7 May 2017; “2 Komandoo MDP candidates tie; go to 2nd round of voting”, SunOnline, 13 May 2017; “PPM council discusses about 2018 presidential elections”, Miadhu

    ‘Stiff’ bail for Gasim

    The criminal court released Opposition Jumhoree Party founder Gasim Ibrahim, after 20 days in police custody for alleged bribing of MPs on the lost no-trust vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh. Apart from usual conditions directing him to cooperate in police investigations, the court also ruled that Gasim should not involve with those sowing discord in the society, a reference this to MDP and other Opposition parties.

    For more information, see: “Gasim released with conditions”, Maldives Independent, 11 May 2017; “JP headquarters closed after court’s ‘unconstitutional’ conditions”, Maldives Independent, 11 May 2017; “UN rights experts call for public inquiry into Yameen’s murder”, Maldives Independent, 10 May 2017; “Yameen’s family petitions UN for international investigation”, Maldives Independent, 11 May 2017; “Human rights commissioner resigns”, Maldives Independent

    Tourist arrivals up

    In a significant reversal to old times, tourist arrivals from the old European markets went up during the first quarter of 2017, offsetting the continuing decline in arrivals from China. The increase was put at 4.3 percent over the corresponding period in the previous year.

    For more information, see: “Tourist arrivals increase 4.3 percent in first quarter”, Maldives Independent, 13 May 2017; “Maldives Wins the ‘Best Sea Destination’ at the Italia Travel Awards 2017”, Miadhu

    Myanmar

    Chinese envoy meets militants

    China’s Special Envoy on Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang met with five armed ethnic groups in Kunming on Thursday, a senior Ta’ang official has said. The ethnic armed groups that attended the meeting with Sun Guoxiang were the United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army, the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army.

    For more information, see: “China’s Special Envoy meets with the Wa and Northern Alliance in Kunming”, Eleven

    Statutes for ethnic States

    Myanmar’s seven ethnic states have won the right to draft their own constitutions, an unprecedented breakthrough in their fight for equality and self-determination, according to the leader of an armed ethnic group.

    For more information see: “Ethnic States Win Right to Draft Constitutions”, The Irrawaddy

    ANP for talks before talks

    The Arakan National Party (ANP) Chairman Dr Aye Maung said that they would demand national-level political dialogue in Rakhine State before the second Union Peace Conference or 21st Century Panglong Conference scheduled for 24 May.

    For more information, see:” ANP to demand national-level political dialogue before 21st Century Panglong”, Mizzima, 12 May 2017; “ANP mulls skipping Panglong summit”, DVB

    Nepal

    Signs in for OBOR

    Nepal and China on May 12 signed a framework agreement on China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, days ahead of a summit in Beijing where an ambitious plan to build a modern-day Silk Road trade routes and lead a new era of globalisation would be unveiled. The MoU aims at promoting cooperation on promoting connectivity of facilities, trade connectivity, financial integration and connectivity of people.

    For more information see: “Nepal, China sign framework deal on OBOR”, The Kathmandu Post

    Election fever

    The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has formed a high level monitoring team led by Chairman Anup Raj Sharma to make the election monitoring work more effective and credible. The team consists of former Chief Justice and NHRC former Chairman Kedarnath Upadhyaya, former Speaker Daman Nath Dhungana, former Election Commissioner Birendra Mishra, Professor Shree Surya Dhungel and advocate Mira Dhungana. Similarly, NHRC, chiefs of security agencies and Home Secretary of the Nepal government have discussed preparation of the security management for the local level polls.

    For more information, see: “NHRC forms high-level polls monitoring panel”, Republica

    MoS sworn in

    Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on May 12 has administered the oath of office and secrecy to the newly-appointed Minister of State at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, Janakraj Chaudhary.  Also present on the occasion were, DPM and Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development, Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Sita Devi Yadav, Minister for Education, Dhaniram Poudel, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jitendra Dev, government secretaries and high level government officials.

    For more information, see: “Newly appointed state minister takes oath”, Republica

    Pakistan

    Pak terror groups continue to attack Afghanistan, India: US

    At a congressional hearing in the Senate, US Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coasts said that Pakistan had failed to curb militancy and terrorism in its country and that such groups continue to plan attacks on India and Afghanistan. Painting a grim picture of the expected Afghan security situation in 2018, Coasts said that, “Pakistan is concerned about international isolation and sees its position of India’s rising international status including India’s expanded foreign outreach and deepening ties to the United States. Pakistan will likely turn to China to offset its isolation, empowering a relationship that will help Beijing to project influence into the Indian Ocean.”

    For more information, see: “Pak-based terror groups plan to attack India, Islamabad has failed to counter terrorism: US”, The Indian Express

    Iran warns of hits

    After ten Iranian border guards were killed by militants last month, Iran has warned Islamabad that it would target terrorist bases inside Pakistan if the government failed to crack down on the militants. The Iran-Pakistan border has been plagued by drug smugglers and militants on both sides. On his visit to Islamabad last month, Iranian foreign minister had asked Sharif to improve border security.

    For more information, see: “Iran warns will hit militant safe haves inside Pakistan”, Dawn

    Sri Lanka 

    Security indivisible: Modi

    On land and Indian Ocean waters, India-Sri Lanka security was indivisible and India’s rapid growth could help the entire region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared, inaugurating the UN Vesak Day celebrations, commemorating Lord Buddha, in Colombo. Modi also inaugurated the India-aided hospital in Dekoya, for the benefit of the Upcountry Tamil estate labour, and met with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and also TNA leaders, separately, during his overnight stay in the country.

    For more information, see: “Modi: Security of India and SL indivisible”, ‘India’s rapid growth can bring dividends for the entire region, especially in Sri Lanka’, The Island, 13 May 2017; “India for ‘quantum jump’ in Sri Lanka ties amidst China threat”, The Island, 14 May 2017; “Direct Varanasi-Colombo flight from August: Modi”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017; “‘Chai Boy’ Modi’s tea diplomacy in Sri Lanka”, The Island, 14 May 2017; “Modi assures construction of 10,000 houses in upcountry”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017; “‘Nothing controversial’ in Modi-Mahinda meet: Report”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 May 2017; “Tight lips on Mahinda-Modi talks”, The Island, 14 May 2017; “Mahinda on Modi visit”, The Island, 12 May 2017; “PM Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka comes 158 days after his last foreign trip”, The Island, 13 May 2017; “SL Mission setting up first ever Vesak Pandal in New Delhi”, The Island, 14 May 2017; “Indian naval ship completes surveys in Sri Lanka”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 May 2017; “Modi addressing one ethnicity a slight on Buddhism: NJC”, Daily Mirror Online

    Ranil in China

    A day after Indian Prime Minister’s Sri Lanka visit, counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe flew down to the Chinese capital of Beijing for participating in the first summit of the China-funded OBOR. Ahead of the Ranil visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry stepped aside Sri Lankan media reports on denial of permission for their submarine to stop over at Colombo port, en route to the Gulf of Aden.

    For more information, see: “Ranil arrives in China for One Belt One Road summit”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 May 2017; “China defends military ties with SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 May 2017; “China mum over SL rejecting submarine docking”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017; “SL-Dutch MoU on arms storing facility in Galle…Anti-piracy operations”, The Island

    Primary Documentation

    Bhutan

    Hon’ble Prime Minister’s statement at the launch of South Asia Satellite (G-SAT9) by Government of India”, Cabinet Secretariat, 9 May 2017

    Nepal

    Press Release on signing ceremony of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative”,Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal, 12 May 2017

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok regarding the programmes organized by the Embassy on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti in Bangkok”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 11 May 2017

    Press Release regarding Visit of Rt. Hon. President to Sri Lanka”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 11 May 2017

    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing on celebration of Buddha Jayanti/Lumbini Day at the Embassy of Nepal, Beijing”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 10 May 2017

    Sri Lanka

    “Address by Prime Minister at International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo”, High Commission of India, Colombo, 12 May 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Philip Carter, “Welcome to the forever war, Mr. President”, Slate, 11 May 2017

    Michael Kugelman, “Escalating the war in Afghanistan would be the wrong decision”, CNN, 13 May 2017

    Gary Anderson, “A tie game in Afghanistan”, The Washington Times, 11 May 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Taj Hashmi, “What’s so “interesting” in Bangladesh today?”, The Daily Star, 8 May 2017

    Aasha Mehreen Amin, “When in doubt bring Ershad out”, The Daily Star, 11 May 2017

    Editorials

    Majority boat migrants Bangladeshis!”, The Daily Star, 8 May 2017

    Bhutan

    Opinion Pieces

    Pasang, “Bhutan’s economy and trade balance”, Kuensel, 6 May 2017

    Editorials

    Free Press”, The Bhutanese, 6 May 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Gopalkrishna Gandhi, “Breathe in the spirit of 1967”, The Hindu, 6 May 2017

    Vinod Patney, “Unity of the services”, Indian Express, 10 May 2017

    Soujanya Shridharan, “What is the ICJ’s role in the Kulbushan Jadhav trial?, The Hindu, 10 May 2017

    Gautam Bhatia, “Triple talaq and the Constitution”, The Hindu, 11 May 2017

    Maldives 

    Opinion Pieces

    Shamsul Falaah, “Abusive judicial discretion in Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 13 May 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Angshuman Chowdhury, “New fissures in Myanmar’s Peace Process”, The Irrawaddy, 12 May 2017

    Editorials

    Where Does Burma Stand on China’s ‘One Belt, One Road?”, The Irrawaddy, 12 May 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Jagannath Adhikari, “Local elections in Pokhara”, The Kathmandu Post, 12 May 2017

    Ananta Raj Luitel “Justice done”, Republica, 10 May 2017

     Editorials

    Nepal’s licence Raj”, The Kathmandu Post, 12 May 2017

    Be prepared”, Republica, 11 May 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Sikander Ahmed Shah and Abid Rizvi, “ICJ’s limited jurisdiction”, Dawn, 13 May 2017

    Saving Jadhav”, The Hindu, 13 May 2017

    Ayesha Siddiqa, “Bilateral silence!”, Kashmir Observer, 12 May 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Rajan Phillips, “Modi’s Vesak Day visit goes well despite fear of being dogged by controversies”, The Island, 14 May 2017

    Kumar David, “Is the Communist Party a step ahead?”, The Island, 14 May 2017

    Snjana Hotottuwa, “On India”, The Island, 14 May 2017

    Bandu de Silva, “Modi’s Lanka visit, a bilateral affair, not an international religious engagement”, The Island, 13 May 2017

    Izeth Hussain, “Is there an Islamophobic hate campaign in Sri Lanka?”, The Island, 13 May 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Mullivaikkal Day: To commemorate or not to…”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017

    Kusal Perera, “Nature, rationale and need for security”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017

    Kelum Bandara, “May Day: A catalyst of future politics?”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “May Day 2017: Tipping point”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 May 2017

    Jehan Perera, “The battle for the minds of the people can be won”, The Island, 8 May 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Policing for powers”, The Sunday Leader, 6 May 2017

    Contributors:

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

    India: Falguni Tewari

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee

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