MonitorsPublished on Jan 24, 2017
South Asia Weekly | Volume X: Issue 4

Country Reports


IS kidnaps teachers

The Islamic State (IS) kidnapped at least 12 teachers of a religious school in Nangarhar on 14 January. While no group has officially claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, IS is suspected as they have a strong presence in the region. The education department in Jalalabad released a statement saying, “We are saddened by the news and ask security departments, local elders and prominent figures in the area to help us release our teachers.”

For more information, see: “Teachers kidnapped by suspected Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan”, Reuters, 16 January 2017

US removes ‘ghost soldiers’

The US military has taken steps to remove 30,000 suspected ‘ghost soldiers’ from its payroll in Afghanistan.  Ghost soldiers, or soldiers who are dead or are no longer in the army, continue to be on the payroll and senior army officials tend to their salaries adding to the high level of corruption in the country. The move is part of a broader effort by the U.S. military to take a more drastic approach to corruption in Afghanistan.

For more information, see: “U.S Military moves to clear ghost soldiers from Afghan payroll”, The Wall Street Journal, 19 January 2017

Marines back to Helmand

Over 300 US marines will return to Helmand province in the coming months to train and advise Afghan soldiers and police in the province. Helmand, which is know for its high levels on insecurity given that it is an opium rich province has seen some of the fiercest battles between international forces and the Taliban. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, said Thursday that the troops have "no delusions about the difficulty and the challenges they're going to face."

For more information, see: “Afghanistan: US Marines headed back to Helmand province”, CNN, 13 January 2017


Growth to cross 6 percent

The International Monetary Fund has projected country’s growth to be between 6.3 to 7 percent in  2017. The IMF made the new projection in the update of the ‘global economic outlook’ released this week.

For more information see: “IMF iterates below 7pc growth for Bangladesh”, Prothom Alo, 17 January 2017

Rohingya repatriation

Bangladesh has demanded return of the Myanmar’s Rohingya people living in the country and called for “durable solutions” to the crisis in the Rakhine State. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam made the call at an emergency meeting of the OIC foreign ministers in Malaysia.

For more information see: “Bangladesh demands Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar, crisis solution at OIC meeting”,, 19 January 2017


Offer for Korean tourists

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) on January 18 launched the Bhutan-Korea friendship offer to mark three decades of diplomatic relations between the two nations. As part of the offer, all Korean nationals visiting Bhutan this year starting June 1 will not have to pay the all-inclusive mandatory minimum daily package rate of $ 200 a person per night.

For more information, see: “Bhutan-Korea friendship offer launched”, Kuensel, 19 January 2017

Dzhonkha is court language: SC

The Bench five district court verdict on the Dasho Benji case created a stir not only for the case verdict and directions to investigate sedition charges, but also its assertion that Dzongkha is not the court language.

For more information, see: “Supreme Court says Dzhonkha will remain the court language”, The Bhutanese, 14 January 2017

Asia Cooperation Dialogue

Bhutan participated in the 15th ministerial meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bhutan’s delegation was led by ambassador to Kuwait, Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor and officials of the foreign affairs and economic affairs ministries.

For more information, see: “Bhutan participates in Asia Cooperation Dialogue meeting”, Kuensel, 19 January 2017


It’s core interests: China

Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at “Raisina Dialogue-II” on Tuesday, outlining his approach for an integrated neighbourhood, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying asserted that the differences over India’s NSG membership bid and designating of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist by the United Nations should not be “stumbling blocks” in bilateral ties.  She remarked that both sides must respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. “The key is to resolve these differences through friendly consultation, instead of pointing fingers at each other and accusing the other of neglecting core interests. For the two issues, are specific issues and they are not bilateral ones,” Hua said.

For more information, see: “After Modi’s speech, China says NSG, Azhar issues must not be ‘stumbling blocks’ ”, Hindustan Times, 18 January 2017

Obama calls Modi

Outgoing US President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank him for his partnership that enhanced the relations between India and America. Both leaders discussed the progress they have made on shared economic and security priorities, including recognition of India as a major defence partner of the United States and addressing the global challenge of climate change.

For more information, see: “Barack Obama calls PM Modi, thanks him for strengthening India-US relations”, The Times of India, 19 January, 2017 and “Barack Obama, in a farewell call to PM Modi, reviews ties”, The Asian Age, 20 January 2017

New CBI Director

The Narendra Modi government on Thursday appointed Alok Kumar Verma who is currently the Delhi Police Commissioner, as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The decision was taken at a meeting of a panel comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and leader of the largest Opposition party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday. Mr. Alok Verma has earlier held the post of Director-General of Tihar Central Jail, also served as DGP in Puducherry and Mizoram and had a five-year stint with the Intelligence Bureau.

For more information, see: “Delhi police chief named CBI director”, The Hindu, 20 January 2017

SC delays Jallikattu verdict

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to Centre's suggestion to halt the delivery of its judgment on the validity of the government's 7 January 2016 notification allowing Jallikattu for at least a week till the Centre and Tamil Nadu government resume talks to resolve the impasse amidst public volatility. A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra agreed to Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi's plea to hold the verdict in an unconventional move. People of Tamil Nadu are “passionate” about Jallikattu and the Centre and the State are trying to resolve the issue, said Rohatgi. This, even as massive but peaceful protests were staged across Tamil Nadu through the week, demanding a permanent legal framework to enforce the same.

For more information, see: “SC agrees to Centre’s plea to delay Jallikattu verdict”, The Hindu, 20 January 2017


Accountable: President

Addressing a rally of his PPM, President Abdulla Yameen said that foreign countries were closely watching Maldives, and his Government would accept their recommendations, and hence ‘accountable’. He also said that Maldives would treat other countries the same way they treated his country.

For more information, see: “Foreign parties will always monitor Maldives and government will be accountable: President Yameen”, Miadhu, 20 January 2017; “Maldives will treat others like how we are treated – Will attain development by increasing production: President Yameen”, Miadhu, 20 January 2017; “Fisheries Minister Dr.Shainee delivers Keynote speech at Raisina Dialogue”, Miadhu, 21 January 2017; “Indian assistance is huge, in infrastructure and business development of Maldives : Dr. Shainee”, Miadhu, 21 January 2017; “There should be no limit in spending to protect independence and sovereignty: Defense Minister”, Miadhu, 16 January 2017; “Saudi Arabia will provide more teachers to Maldives : Ambassador Badr Al-Kohail”, Miadhu, 16 January 2017; “Trial begins for Maldivian man ‘who fought in Pakistan for nine years’”, Maldives Independent, 15 January 2017; “Maldivian prosecuted; 9 years as a militant in Pakistan”, Sun Online, 15 January 2017

Takes over airport

The Government has taken over Jumhoore Party (JP) founder Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group-owned airport, after he began shifting and switching support between President Abdulla Yameen and the latter’s half-brother and predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom factions of the ruling PPM. The police separately also directed Gayoom to cancel his faction’s meeting, citing civil court verdict that ruled that he was no more the PPM chief even as First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim launched Yameen’s re-election campaign for 2018.

For more information, see: “Government takes over Gasim’s Villa airport”, Maldives Independent, 19 January 2017; “Police orders Gayoom to cancel meeting with PPM members”, Maldives Independent, 18 January 2017; “Yameen to free hundreds of inmates locked up for petty crimes”, Maldives Independent, 17 January 2017;  “First lady launches Yameen’s 2018 re-election campaign”, Maldives Independent, 15 January 2017


Transition incomplete: UK

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who arrived in Myanmar on Friday, said the former British colony’s transition to democracy was not yet complete but that Britain would offer its full support as a friend.

For more information, see: “UK’s Johnson visits Burma, says democratic transition not yet complete”, DVB, 20 January 2017

End Rohingya ‘tragedy’

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Burma on Thursday to stop all discrimination and attacks on Rohingya Muslims, and urged the world’s Islamic countries to act to end an unfolding “humanitarian tragedy.”

For more information, see: “As Muslims meet, Malaysian PM tells Burma to ‘stop the killing’ of Rohingya”, DVB, 19 January 2017; “Malaysia PM urges Myanmar to end Rohingya crackdown”, Mizzima, 20 January 2017

Army captures Kachin bases

Myanmar government forces say they have captured three bases from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), including its local base command in Bhamo District, southern Kachin State.

For more information, see: “Burmese army captures 3 bases from Kachin rebels”, DVB, 19 January 2017


Elections uncertain

The prospect of holding local elections has become uncertain, with the government tying up the constitution amendment bill tabled in parliament with the local elections. "The prime minister himself is in confusion. When he talks to the UML he talks about expediting the election-related bills. But then when he talks to the Madhes-based parties he seems to be talking about moving forward the constitution amendment bill," said former law minister Agni Kharel.

For more information, see: “Polls uncertain as govt ties up amendment and election bills”, Republica, 20 January 2017; “Caught between polls and statute amendment”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 January 2017

Nepal ‘crucial to OBOR’

The first edition of One Belt One Road Nepal Conference 2017 concluded with eight-point declaration in Kathmandu on January 19. Nepal is a gateway for China to enter the South Asia and hence it cannot be undermined. “The role of Nepal in fulfilling the core motive of One Belt One Road initiative is crucial. OBOR goal is to connect governments, infrastructure and people.” said Li Tao, Executive Director of South Asia Studies at Sichuan University.

For more information, see: “One Belt One Road conference concludes with 8-point declaration”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 January 2017

Postal highway

Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak and Indian ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae on January 19 jointly inaugurated the postal highway amid strong protests in Dhangadi, the headquarters of Kailali district. The highway was inaugurated despite incompletion of 18-km road section of the 62-kilometer highway. There are also six bridges yet to be constructed The postal highway was to be completed within three years after starting the construction in 2068 BS but majority of the road section is still undone.

For more information, see: “Postal highway inaugurated amid protests, 6 arrested”, The Kathmandu Post, 19 January 2017


World Bank approached  

Pakistan has called upon the World Bank to stop India from building water reservoirs on rivers flowing into Pakistan. Islamabad has also asked the World Bank to appoint the chairman of the court of arbitration and independent neutral expert to adjudicate water disputes between the two countries. While India has threatened to stop the flow of water to Paksitan, Islamabad warned New Delhi on 20 January that it would use all options available to safeguard its water rights in case Delhi revoked the Indus Waters Treaty.

For more information, see: “Pakistan urged WB to stop India from building dams”, The Express Tribune, 21 January 2017

Saudi defence important: Bajwa

Army Chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa, who made his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, has assured the Saudi ambassador that the “Pakistan army holds defence of Saudi Arabia at par with its own”. Bajwa who met Saudi envoy to Pakistan Abdullah Marzouk Al-Zahrani at GHQ on 20 January, stresses the strength of the Pakistan and Saudi relationship, particularly in the field of defence. The statement issued after the meeting by the military’s media wing said, “Issues of bilateral relations including defence and training cooperation remained focus of the discussion.”

For more information, see: “Saudi defence at par with our own”, The Express Tribune, 21 January 2017

Bomb blast kills 20

Over 20 people were killed on 21 January at a blast in a vegetable market in Kurram Agency’s Parachinar area. The blast which was caused by an IED was triggered by remote control according to the bomb disposal squad, and was hidden inside a box in the market. Government officials said that the blast took place when the market was crowded with a lot of people. So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

For more information, see: “Blast in Parachinar vegetable market kills 20”, Dawn, 21 January 2017

Sri Lanka 

Trinco for India?

Addressing the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, Sri Lanka’s Regional Development Minister, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has said that his Government will soon sign an agreement with neighbouring India for developing eastern Trincomallee, with the region’s deepest natural harbour, into an industrial zone. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke about plans to develop an economic region involving Sri Lanka, Singapore and the five south Indian States.

For more information, see: “Indo-Lanka accord on Trinco port soon: Field Marshal Fonseka at Raisina Dialogue”, The Island, 20 January 2017; “SL is in talks to offer the Trinco port to India: Fonseka”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 January 2017; “Economic region with SL, India and Singapore: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2017; “Trump is focused on Mexico, not China: Ranil”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 January 2017; “China says no country can win economic war: Sri Lanka key partner in One Belt, One road initiative - Xi Jinping, The Island, 19 January 2017; “China’s Alibaba eyeing SL-Finance Ministry”, Daily Mirror Online,  19 January 2017; “Sri Lankan airlines: Govt. identifies US Co. for PPP project”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 January 2017; “Coca-Cola interested in using SL as production hub”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2017

Human rights and emergency

President Maithiripala Sirisena has sought to distinguish the proposed National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights from the State’s power and right to proclaiming emergency, saying there should be no need for a two-thirds majority support in Parliament for approving the later. His camp from within the unity Government also sought to distance itself from PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s perceived claims to an easy return of EU’s GSP-Plus export facility for Sri Lanka, saying that the Government still needed to ratify 27 more international conventions, mostly centred on human rights.

For more information, see: “Prez rescinds a two-thirds majority for reimposition of Emergency: HR action plan”, The Island, 21 January 2017; “UNHR chief happy about Sri Lanka's HR record”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2017; “MS admits GSP plus depends on ratification and implementation of 27 int’l conventions: GoSL given time till May to meet obligations”, The Island, 20 January 2017; “Govt. gives the nod to 58 EU conditions to regain GSP+ facility: ‘Adverse and detrimental to the interests of Sri Lanka’”, The Island, 15 January 2017; “Regaining GSP+ facility will give new lease of life to SL’s export economy – PM”, The Island, 15 January 2017; “MR refused to pawn SL to regain GSP+: GL”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2017; “GSP: No promises given to the EU, says Ajith”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2017; “Don't imprison soldiers for GSP: Rathana Thera”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2017

Primary Documentation


Press Releases

Ambassadors of Switzerland, Pakistan, Cuba and UAE calls on Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 20 January 2017



Opinion pieces

Ahmed Mengli, “Obama’s Afghanistan Legacy: What Trump faces in America’s longest war”, NBC, 19 January 2017

Adnan Adil, “A balancing act in Afghanistan”, The News International, 21 January 2017


Tough times ahead for India in Afghanistan”, The Mint, 17 January 2017


Opinion Pieces 

Binodkumar Singh, “Bangladesh: Some success in containing extremism”,South Asia Monitor, 18 January 2017


“Unlock the country’s potential through special economic zones”Ambassadors of Switzerland, Pakistan, Cuba and UAE calls on Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Dhaka Tribune, 16 January 2017



No time for consultation, The Bhutanese, 14 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Raja Mohan, “The Trump discontinuity”, The Indian Express, 20 January 2017

Jayanth Jacob, “Left unsaid at Raisina Dialogue: Little chance of improvement in India-Pak ties”, Hindustan Times, 18 January, 2017

Sanjeev Ahluwalia, “Safeguard poor, bring India back on track...”, The Asian Age, 20 January, 2017


Opinion Pieces

Mohamed Junayd, “‘Even if I were to go to jail, I will come back as a journalist’: Journalists at risk in their own words”, Maldives Independent, 15 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Sithu Aung Myint, “Will we see peace in Rakhine State?”, Frontier Myanmar, 15 January 2017

Liu Yun, “The Northern Alliance: Fight For a Fault”, The Irrawaddy, 18 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Aditya Baral, “Bored by politics”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 January 2017

Satis Devkota “What about them?”, Republica, 18 January 2017


The Kathmandu Post, “Spay as you go”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 January 2017 Republica, “The long wait”, Republica, 19 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Touqir Hussain, “US-Pakistan relations: some inconvenient truths, The Express Tribune, 18 January 2017

Talat Masood, “Reforms, not military alliances”, The Express Tribune, 17 January 2017

Raza Rumi, “Bring Pakistan’s missing bloggers home”, The New York Times, 20 January 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Jehan Perera, “Yahapalana government needs to campaign harder for reconciliation”, The Island, 20 January 2017

M S M Ayub, “Executive Presidency: Forty years of deception, et tu?”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2017

Lasantha Kurukulasuriya, “The US and aid: Sri Lanka’s dangerous liaison”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 January 2017

Gomin Dayasiri, “Who holds power on election day is the loser”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 January 2017

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “A divided society; a divided self”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 January 2017

Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, “Defeat conspiracy against Sri Lankan judges”, The Island, 18 January 2017

Ranga Jayasuriya, “The perennial debate on executive presidency”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 January 2017

Izeth Hussain, “The moral factor in our politics”, The Island, 16 January 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Playing good cop, bad cop on war-crimes probe – but to what end?”, The Sunday Leader, 15 January 2017


Darshanie Ratnawalli, “"I can’t give up my interest in SL: Sri Lanka’s favourite foreign journalist becomes confidential”, The Island, 22 January 2017


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Sabah Ishtiaq

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee

Coordinator: Mihir Bhonsale

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