MonitorsPublished on May 08, 2015
Much has already been written about both the drawdown of US troops from the region, and the recent Iranian nuclear deal and the possible impact it could have on Iran-US relations.
Afghanistan: Iran, the Taliban and the US drawdown
< class="heading1">Analysis Much has already been written about both the drawdown of US troops from the region, and the recent Iranian nuclear deal and the possible impact it could have on Iran-US relations. These developments could also have an impact on Iran’s policy towards Afghanistan. Given the long and porous border between Iran and Afghanistan and the deep historical, cultural and civilisational ties shared by the two, Tehran’s policy towards its neighbour is driven by certain long-term objectives. However, for much of the past decade and a half of American troops-presence in the neighbourhood and Iran’s acrimonious relations with the US since the late Seventies has driven its Afghan policy. These latest developments could consequently encourage Iran to make adjustments to this policy, especially as its long-term interests vis-a-vis Afghanistan remain the same. The balancing act Since 2001, Tehran has been an active participant in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Having contributed more than US $ 1 billion, it is among the top bilateral donor nations and its assistance has focused on infrastructure development, education, agriculture, business and economic development. The bulk of its investments lies in western Afghanistan and has been majorly responsible for the relative stability in Herat, Nimruz and Farah provinces. It has also sought to engage with other regional countries - India, Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics - in an effort to promote cooperation on Afghanistan. It is no surprise that the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai hailed Iran’s contribution calling it "a helper and a solution". However, for all its constructive engagement with Afghanistan, Iran’s reaction to the US troop presence in the region has compelled it to pursue actions that are conducive only for certain narrow and short-term interests. The substantial US troop presence in Afghanistan, and for most of the past decade in Iraq, along with access to military facilities in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman was seen as a deliberate US strategy by Tehran to encircle and contain it. This threat perception shaped Iran’s short-term objective of balancing the US presence in its neighbourhood and keeping the US tied down in Afghanistan and distracted from launching any attack against Iran. It has sought to use its influence among Afghan parliamentarians and media institutions to ramp up propaganda against the US and subvert the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. The most intriguing aspect of this strategy, however, has been Iran’s tactical support for the Taliban. Iran has been accused of providing weapons and training to the Taliban as well as operating space on its own territory. This arrangement was intended to escalate the costs for the Americans in Afghanistan without actually engaging in a direct military confrontation with it. Short-term goals vs long-term objectives There is no love lost between Iran and the Taliban. Both belong to opposing ideological camps and in the 1990s, when the Taliban had come to power, the Shia-Sunni schism had created tensions between the two. Both perceived the other as posing security threat and in 1998 nearly went to war against each other. Iran’s opposition to the Taliban was such that it welcomed the US intervention in 2001 and even offered the use of its airspace to the Americans in a bid to overthrow the Taliban regime. Iran’s concerns about the Taliban continue to exist. It is still opposed to the prospect of the Taliban returning to power in Kabul and prefers the current broad-based representative government that can provide adequate representation to the non-Pashtun groups in Afghanistan - its traditional support base in the country. Support for the Taliban, thus, was a calculated risk by Iran as it considered the US presence to be a much bigger threat. Support for the insurgency also goes against Tehran’s stated objective of a stable Afghanistan. The prolonged insecurity in Afghanistan over the past three decades has led to a constant influx of refugees and opium into Iran, which have posed a major socio-economic challenge domestically for Tehran. Successive Iranian leaders have stressed the importance of Afghanistan’s stability for its own security. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, for instance, during President Ghani’s visit in April 2015 claimed that "Iran regards the security and progress of its neighbour, Afghanistan, as its own security and progress". Although the support provided by Tehran to the Taliban was limited - and not enough to propel the insurgents to power - it did play a part in prolonging the instability in Afghanistan. What is going to change? The international military drawdown has led to a substantially reduced residual US force in Afghanistan. The US bases are now restricted to the Pakistan border in Kandahar and Herat with the Shindand Airbase in Herat province under the control of the Afghan Air Force. Shindand is only 70 kilometres from the Iranian border and was used by the CIA to conduct surveillance operations against Iran. The capture of the American drone RQ-170 Sentinel, part of a fleet of stealth aircrafts used to spy on Iran, in December 2011 by Iranian forces was also operated from Shindand. The reduction in the US presence in its neighbourhood, along with progress over the nuclear talks, may also remove the need for Tehran to continue its military assistance to the Taliban. The Taliban insurgency continues to remain a military potent force. 2014, in particular, was extremely violent. It may not be in a position, for a number of reasons, to mount a successful military campaign as compared to the 1990s, its resiliency alone is likely to be a huge concern for Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. Moreover, the inability of either the Taliban or the Afghan National Security Forces to break the military stalemate means that Afghanistan can be expected to remain unstable for the foreseeable future, a scenario that is detrimental to Tehran’s interests as well. The spectacular rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has also thrown up a new security challenge in the region. ISIS has made an appearance in Afghanistan as well and built up ties with some of the former Taliban commanders. The ISIS right now may not be a significant force in Afghanistan. However, as speculations about differences within the Taliban movement grow and the possibility of more low-level and mid-level Taliban fighters defecting to ISIS remains high, a working arrangement between the ISIS and the Taliban could be a new threat for Tehran to contend with as well. This is something that came up during President Ghani’s visit to Iran with both countries agreeing to enhance security cooperation against ISIS. The ISIS challenge in the Middle East, no end in sight for the Syrian civil war and general chaos on Iran’s west, may have also led to a reprioritisation of interests in Tehran’s calculus vis-a-vis Afghanistan. As Kabul grapples with the various challenges thrown up by the drawdown, such a readjustment of policy on Tehran’s part may just be one of the few silver linings. (The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi) < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan: On shaky ground Mihir Bhonsale The tremors that caused unforeseen damage to life and property in Nepal is a wake-up signal for the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan which also lies in the active Himalayan fault zone. Its disaster preparedness also remains to be much desired. In 2009, Bhutan had experienced an earthquake of a 6.1 magnitude. A national emergency was declared to cope up with relief and reconstruction. However, the earthquake was not as massive as the one that was recorded in Nepal. Quake-prone Records suggest that four great earthquakes of magnitude exceeding 8 on the richter scale have occurred in the Himalayan belt -- 1897, 1905, 1934 and 1950. It also had 10 earthquakes exceeding magnitude 7.5 in the last 100 years. An earthquake in 1980 that had a magnitude of 6.1 on Richter scale with its epicentre in Sikkim had caused cracks in several buildings in the capital Thimphu and four other major towns. It has been pure chance that Bhutan has not suffered seismic disaster by the mega earthquakes feel seismologists. The Himalayan belt is highly susceptible to seismic activity and active faults exist throughout the region including within Bhutan. If a Japanese expert is to be believed, the tectonic condition of Bhutan is similar to that of Northern Japan. Disaster management On the national level a National Disaster Risk Management Framework was endorsed in 2006 and a draft National Disaster Management Bill was formulated in 2008. But, only in 2013 was the bill passed, something having parallels in only SAARC nations like India to respond legally to disasters. The Disaster Management Act, 2013 aimed at establishing and strengthening of institutional capacity for disaster management, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and integrated and coordinated management focussing on community participation. A National Disaster Management Authority was formed under the Act, where the Prime Minister is the chairperson. One of the functions of the Authority is to approve hazard zonation and vulnerability map and approve and direct structural and non-structural measures and direct its implementation. However, after the March Nepal earthquake, a critical component of the disaster management system, the national emergency operation centre, though approved has not yet been built. Work to set-up six seismic stations in Thimphu, Samstse, Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Trashigang and Bumthang, but construction only at Samdrupjonkar has begun and that too in April. Seismologists have rued the fact that there is no earthquake hazard map. Active fault map needs to be drawn for Bhutan, suggest seismologists. Tardy enforcement of laws to ensure community safety against disasters and response to multiple hazards situations have not been well considered. Strength of buildings (especially schools) has not been fully checked and coding for building is not done, because of pending zonation. A matter of concern is the gap between rural and urban areas when it comes to disaster management. The director of the Disaster Management Department, Chhador Wangdi who was quoted by Kuensel as saying "No, we’re not prepared", when asked if Bhutan was ready for the big one, sums up the disaster preparedness of Bhutan. Seismologists say Nepal has its own seismic stations and information in place and the quake was a alarm for Bhutan to intensify its preparation. "We’re like Nepal and we’re not prepared", Jamyang Chophel, officiating chief seismologist was quoted by Kuensel. (The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata chapter) < class="heading1">Country Reports < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Afghanistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban, govt officials meet Representatives of both the Taliban and the Afghan government met over two days this week in Doha. The meeting was characterised as a non-official meeting between the representatives to explore the possibility of peace talks at a subsequent stage. Although the talks ended without any agreements being reached, both sides have agreed to hold another meeting in the coming months. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Doha Talks Could Pave Way For Peace Negotiations", Tolo News, 5 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Death for Farkhunda killing Four accused in the brutal mob killing of Farkhunda, a 27-year old Afghan woman, have been sentenced to death. Another eight suspects have been given imprisonment for 16 years, charges against another 18 have been dropped and the decision about the remaining 19 suspects would be announced later. While the UNAMA has welcomed the decision, a number of Human Rights group have expressed concern over the swift nature of the trial. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Farkhunda Murder: 4 Sentenced To Death", Tolo News, 6 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chabahar MoU with India India this week signed an MoU with Iran on the development of the Chabahar Port. The Port located in Iran is the most viable point for India to access Afghanistan. India intends to lease two berths at Chabahar for 10 years and through an investment of US$ 85 million will convert these births into a container terminal. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, Iran sign pact on developing Chabahar port; will give sea-land access route to Afghanistan", The Economic Times, 6 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-Taliban uprising There has been a massive public uprising against the Taliban in the northern province of Kunduz, where the security situation has deteriorated in recent weeks. The security agencies have been supporting these uprisings. In operations carried out by the security forces as many as 200 insurgents were killed. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Public Uprising Against Taliban in Kunduz", Tolo News, 6 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visit by PPP team A delegation of senior leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party led by former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited Afghanistan this week. The delegation included former Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani and senior leader and former diplomat Sherry Rehman. The delegation explored the prospects for enhanced bilateral ties in the economic, trade and strategic relations. They met with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the current Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and current President Ashraf Ghani. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Zardari-led delegation meets Afghan president, CEO", The News International, 8 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bangladesh < class="heading12boldGeorgia">India clears land border pact The week saw passing of the historic 119 amendment of the constitution bill to operationalise the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 protocol by unanimously by the Indian Parliament. This new development has paved way resolution of the entire boundary dispute between the two countries that included exchange of lands close to the border. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina soon after the bill was passed and congratulated her. Sheikh Hasina termed the passage of Land Boundary Agreement bill by Indian parliament a new milestone in the long-standing relationship between the two countries. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Indian parliament clears land swap deal with Bangladesh", The Daily Star, 8 May 2015; After decades of deprivation, enclave people getting rights back through Indo-Bangla land deal implementation", The Daily Star, 8 May 2015; "PM hails India’s ratification of land boundary deal", The Daily Star, 8 may 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">AQIS kills blogger Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for the killing of secular blogger Avijit Roy. The claim has come after two months of the murder; hence, it raised doubts about the s authenticity of the claim. AQIS leader Asim Umar in a video message stated that members of his organisation had killed Avijit. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Al-Qaeda unit claim responsibility for Avijit murder",, 3 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bhutan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 1-m aid for Nepal Bhutan Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay has handed over a cheque of 1 Mn USD to Nepal Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala towards rehabilitation efforts. Lyonchhen conveyed the King, Jigme Keshar Namgyal Wangchuck’s concern and anguish for the people of Nepal. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bhutan Helps Nepal With 1 Mn USD And Relief Team", Kuensel, 4 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stranded reach home Citizens in Nepal reached Phuentsholing on 4 May after a 20 hours long drive. Most of the 27 who reached their homes were monks and were evacuated from Kathmandu. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Stranded Bhutanese in Nepal reach home", Kuensel, 5 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jobs-priority sought Through a Press release, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has urged the upcoming Parliament session to prioritise employment. The government had recently asked the employment creation task force to come up with more recommendations, but DNT said that is doing so, the government is overlooking the reports, studies already available on the basis of which adequate actions could be taken. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "DNT urges Parliament to prioritise employment", Kuensel, 6 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">India < class="heading12boldGeorgia">LST clears GST Bill The Lok Sabha cleared the Good and Services Tax (GST) on 6 May. The Congress staged a walkout, leaving the AIADMK as the only party to vote against the Bill. The Bill proposes to subsume the plethora of existing taxes and duties into the GST which will be jointly levied by central and state governments. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "GST Bill sails through Lok Sabha, Congress walkout helps", The Hindu, 6 May 2015; "GST Bill slated for Rajya Sabha test: Rahul Gandhi shouldn’t block this key tax reform", First Post, 7 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">President visits Russia President Pranab Mukherjee travelled to Russia to attend the Victory Day parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. He joins leaders of other BRICS countries at the face of the event’s boycott by much of the western world. He is also expected to meet President Vladimir Putin during his visit. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Pranab’s visit to Moscow signals ’strategic autonomy’", The Hindu, 5 May 2015; "President Pranab Mukherjee Heads for Russia to Attend Victory Day Celebrations", NDTV, 7 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Reviving Chabahar project India and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding to renew development of the strategically important Chabahar port in Iran, during Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s visit on 6 May. The project is revived despite US pressure to stall bilateral ties till on-going negotiations over the country’s nuclear program are finalised. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : India, Iran sign pact on developing Chabahar port; will give sea-land access route to Afghanistan", The Economic Times, 6 May 2015; "Nitin Gadkari in Iran today, Chabahar deal likely", The Asian Age, 6 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">NSCN ambushes patrol Eight personnel of the security forces were killed in Nagaland on 2 May after their patrol was ambushed by National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) rebels. Seven of the deceased belonged to the Assam Rifles, and one was from 164 Territorial Army Battalion. Insurgent activity has increased after the government called off a ceasefire agreement in April. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nagaland: 8 security personnel killed in NSCN ambush", The Indian Express, 4 May 2015; "Eight Assam Rifles Men Killed in Nagaland Militant Attack", NDTV, 4 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Akash missile inducted The first regiment of Akash, an indigenously developed surface-to-air missile, was inducted into the army on May 5. The missile, whose development began in 1984 along with five other projectiles, can target aerial threats up to a range of 25 km. Another variant of the weapon for the Air Force has already entered service. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Army gets Akash missile", The Hindu, 6 May 2015; "Surface-to-air missile Akash to be inducted into Indian Army today", India Today, 5 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN body to discuss Mumbai mastermind Lakhvi A committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) assured India to discuss Pakistani judiciary’s decision to grant bail to Lashkar-e-Tayeeba leader Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. According to India, as a listed terrorist whose financial assets are to be frozen, submission of bail money to secure release violates UN sanction regulations. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "UN assures taking up Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi release issue after India expresses concern", IBL Live, 3 May 2015; "UN security council assures India of taking up Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi’s release issue", The Economic Times, 3 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disasters claim $9.8 b Annual losses due to multi-hazard disasters amount to $9.8 billion, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s ’Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction-2015’. The report noted that more than three-fourth of the loss results from flooding, and that 58.6 percent of India is prone to earthquakes. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : India loses $9.8 billion every year due to disasters", IBN Live, 4 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Clueless about Dawood Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told the Lok Sabha on May 5 that the government is unaware of the location of drug lord and terror suspect Dawood Ibrahim, contradicting the government’s official position that Ibrahim is being protected by state agencies in Pakistan. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Haribhai Chaudhary rejects smokescreen over whereabouts of Dawood, politicos react", Business Standard, 6 May 2015; "Don Dawood Ibrahim location unknown, ’bank trail’ in Pakistan", The Indian Express, 6 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Maldives < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen in Pakistan On a two-day visit to Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Nawaz Shairef, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen and team signed four bilateral agreements for mutual cooperation in healthcare, education, sports and combating drug-abuse. After the visit, the government claimed that there was no concern in Pakistan about the Maldivian domestic situation. Pakistan also offered to renovate/repair the nation’s Parliament complex, earlier funded by it, at $ 2 million. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Four bilateral agreements signed with Pakistan", Minivan News,7 May 2015; "Pakistan to aid in repairs to the parliament building with two million USD", SunOnline, 7 May 2015; "President Yameen extends invitation to Pakistani President to visit Maldives", SunOnline, 7 May 2015; "No concerns in Pakistan regarding Maldives political situation- Mohamed Hussein Shareef", Miadhu, 8 May 2015; "Maldives seeks Sri Lanka’s support", Colombo Gazette, 7 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Invest in democracy: FM Defending her government’s democracy record while responding to specific criticisms at the once-in-four-year Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights front, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon asked member-nations at UNHRC-Geneva to stop criticising her country, and instead invest in strengthening institutions in the infant-democracy. Nearer home, meanwhile, a visiting European Union (EU) team, after meeting Maldivian political stake-holders called for an internal dialogue to break the current deadlock even as their bosses at EU Parliament in Brussels, passed a non-binding resolution for issuing ’travel advisories’ for their citizens from travelling to Maldives. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maldives appeals for ’investment’, not ’criticism’ to strengthen democracy", Haveeru Online, 7 May 2015; "Maldives defends death penalty and flogging", Minivan News, 7 May 2015; "’Maldives will not back down on religious stand’", Haveeru Online, 7 May 2015; "Maldives facing questions on judiciary and religion at UPR", Haveeru Online, 4 May 2015; "Maldives democracy under threat, says John Kerry", Minivan News, 2 May 2015; "Government dismisses US secretary of state’s comments as ’personal views’", Minivan News, 3 May 2015; "Canada condemns crackdown on protesters", Haveeru Online, 4 May 2015; "EU calls for political dialogue to resolve crisis", Minivan News, 5 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gasim shows white-flag? Faced with a $ 90-million claim from the Government, Jumhooree Party founder Gasim Ibrahim has revived suggestions for a negotiations-based settlement to the current political impasse in the country. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Gasim always believes in dialogue and mutual discussions- JP Registrar", Miadhu, 8 May 2015; "AP will not let the people be disappointed- Dr. Mauroof", Miadhu, 8 May 2015; "Sheikh Imran appeals all to continue the protests against tyranny", Miadhu, 8 May 2015; "Islamic Minister resigns from the cabinet", Minivan News, 5 May 2015; "Ziyad appointed Islamic Affairs Minister", SunOnline, 6 May 2015; "Islamic Ministry is a bait on the hook- Sheikh Mohamed Didi", Miadhu, 8 May 2015; "’Disappointed in opposition for not accepting negotiation invitation’", Haveeru Online, 5 May 2015; "Opposition protesters were ’brutal,’ says Gayoom", Minivan News, 3 May 2015; "Injured Maldivian cops flown to Colombo for medical violent clashes erupt at Opposition May Day rally", The Island, Colombo, 3 May 2015; "MVR 50,000 donation for police officers injured in protest", SunOnline, 7 May 2015; "President ratifies law stripping Nasheed of MDP presidency", Minivan News, 5 May 2015; "Nasheed calls on prosecutor general to appeal terror charges" , Minivan News, 4 April 2015; "Case from Ali Waheed and Imran has been accepted by the High Court", SunOnline, 7 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Myanmar < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Summit strikes deal The ethnic nationalities summit that was held in Panghsan, the Wa headquarters reached a 12 point agreement. The United Wa State Party’s demand for an independent state received support from some ethnic armies. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Panghsan summit releases 12-point agreement", Eleven Myanmar, 6 May 2015; "Ethnic Rebel Conference in Wa Region Wraps Up", The Irrawaddy, 6 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">USDP alliance not ruled out: Suu Kyi Opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has not ruled out alliance with the Union Solidarity Development Party. Suu Kyi praised the cooperative spirit of political rival and speaker of Lower House, Shwe Mann, who had said that he is open to an alliance with the opposition leader. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Suu Kyi does not rule out alliance with Shwe Mann", Democratic Voice of Burma, 8 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU not behind crackdown The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Myanmar, Roland Kobia, has regretted the violent crackdown on student protestors in Letpadan town in March. However, he denied EU’s role in it, saying the EU has trained only 4,000 of the 70,000-strong police force of Myanmar. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "EU not responsible for Letpadan police crackdown, says ambassador", Democratic Voice of Burma, 8 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Nepal < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Differences over reconstruction The Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN(M)’s bid to come up with a reconstruction plan has hit a snag as the ruling and opposition parties differ on the grant amount to be provided to earthquake victims. The three parties were supposed to endorse the common programme on Thursday and table it as a resolution in Parliament. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Three parties differ on details", eKantipur, 8 May 2015; "Major parties preparing resolution motion on earthquake", Republica, 7 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Survivors face threat Tens of thousands of young women from regions devastated by the earthquake in Nepal are being targeted by human traffickers supplying a network of brothels across south Asia, campaigners in Kathmandu and affected areas say. The UN and local NGOs estimate 12,000 to 15,000 girls a year are trafficked from Nepal. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal quake survivors face threat from human traffickers supplying sex trade", The Guardian, 25 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rebuilding after the quake Mourners took ritual baths in the Bagmati River and offered prayers for the loved ones they lost in the earthquake. The cost of reconstruction in one of Asia`s poorest countries could run to $5 billion, according to estimates, setting the economy back years, just as it was emerging from a decade-long civil war. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "As time for mourning ends, Nepal turns focus to repair and recovery", CNN, 7 May 2015; "Prayers and ritual baths as Nepal ends earthquake mourning", IBN Live, 8 May 2015; "Victims start rebuilding quake-damaged homes", eKantipur, 8 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Everest may have shrunk The devastating earthquake has not only killed thousands but may have also shrunk the height of the world’s tallest peak - Mount Everest - by about 2.5 cm, according to analysis of satellite data. Satellite images showed that a broad swath of ground near Kathmandu lifted vertically, by about 1 metre, which could explain why damage in the city was so severe. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal earthquake shrunk Mount Everest?", Firstpost, 7 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Pakistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two envoys killed in copter crash A Mi-17 helicopter crashed on a school which was closed at that time and the passengers included Norwegian envoy Leif H Larsen, Philippines ambassador Domingo D Lucenario Jr, wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors and two pilots were killed in the incident while Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink sustained injuries. The delegation was on its way to inspect a project on a three-day visit to Gilgit and was supposed to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif there. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Norway, Philippines ambassadors among 8 killed in Gilgit helicopter crash", The Express Tribune, 3 8 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Stand vindicated on Dawood’ Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said, with India admitting that it was not aware about Dawood’s whereabouts is a vindication of Pakistan’s stand that he was not hiding in their territory. He also said that to the best of his knowledge India has never requested in writing the extradition of Dawood. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan’s stand vindicated on Dawood Ibrahim issue: envoy", Dawn, 7 May, 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consultations with Tajikistan Bilateral consultations between Pakistan and Tajikistan were held today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. Mr. Nizomiddin Zohidi Shamsiddinzoda, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, paid a courtesy call on Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs. The two sides agreed that they should achieve the target of US$ 500 million bilateral trade as was agreed during the June 2014 visit by Prime Minister Sharif to Tajikistan. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Bilateral Consultations under the Cooperation Programme between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and Tajikistan", Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, 4 May 2015. < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka < class="heading12boldGeorgia">President, former President meet again In only the second such meeting of its kind after the 8 January polls, President Maithripala Sirisena received predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa at his Parliament House office, to discuss the affairs of their SLFP leader of the ’Opposition’ UPFA combine. While the discussions remained inconclusive, in his message to yet another edition of ’Bring back Mahinda’ rally, this one at Kurunagela, reportedly attended by a high 55 UPFA parliamentarians, Rajapaksa said that he would re-enter the UPFA stage when people wanted him, thus keeping his options on the upcoming parliamentary polls open - even as the Government disbanded the Presidential Security Division (PSD) providing specialised security cover for President Rajapaksa since his days in office. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Fielding MR as PM candidate among five issues discussed...SLFP CC to make final decision", The Island, 6 May 2015; "Maithri-Mahinda talks inconclusive", Daily Mirror Online, 6 May 2015; "MR-MS Talks: Maithripala Shoots Down Mahinda’s Prime Ministerial Hopes", Colombo Telegraph, 7 May 2015; "MS-MR talks confined to ’SLFP matters’", The Island, 6 May 2015; "MS-MR meet signals bad news for RW", Colombo Mirror, 6 May 2015; "SLFP tells UNP not to be misled by attendance at its May Day rally", The Island, 6 May 2015; "Mahinda vows to come on UPFA stage shortly...55 UPFA MPs join mammoth rally", The Island, 8 May 2015; "UPFA MPs to crossover to Govt?", Ceylon Today, 9 May 2015; "Dayasiri Jayasekara Is Likely To Be SLFP Prime Ministerial Candidate", Colombo Telegraph, 8 May 2015; "Ranil appointed PM with people’s consent - UNP", The Island, 6 May 2015; "Ranil to urgently meet minor parties", Colombo Gazette, 6 May 2015; "STF to provide security to incumbent...PSD contingent formed to guard previous President disbanded", The Island, 8 May 2015; "Mahinda: Commando accompanying Namal was not armed", The Island, 6 May 2015; "AG’s advice sought in alleged abduction of underage girl by Minister’s son", The Island, 7 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR to seek legal advice Denying Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s reiteration of his family stashing away $ 18 billion in foreign banks as defamatory, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a statement, said that he would seek legal advice in the matter. "When the Foreign Minister makes such a statement, it is also picked up by foreign news agencies," he added. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Mangala’s claim prompts MR to seek legal advice...’USD 18 Billion stashed overseas’", The Island, 8 May 2015; "Mangala: Four countries helping trace USD 18 bn stashed away overseas", The Island, 7 May 2015; "Mahinda says Ranil behaving like Hitler", Colombo Mirror, 7 May 2015; "Basil re-remanded, sent back to prison hospital", The Island, 5 May 2015; "Alleged coup attempt on the night of election proving to be a mirage...Gammanpila says project meant to ’fix’ former CJ", The Island, 3 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kerry hails progress On the first visit by a senior US official to post-poll Sri Lanka, Secretary of State John Kerry noted the ’enormous progress’ made by the country, and praised the new government leadership for reaching out to the Tamil community, over the decades-old ethnic issue. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Kerry hails ’enormous progress’ in new-look Sri Lanka", The Island, 3 May 2015; "Kerry Tells Lanka: Find The Truth...US Offers Legal Assistance On Stolen Assets", The Sunday Leader, 3 May 2015; "US working with SL to oppose intimidation to assert territorial claims", Daily Mirror Online, 8 May 2015; "President says no pressure from US", Colombo Gazette, 5 May 2015; "Kerry meets TNA leaders", Daily Mirror Online, 3 May 2015; "Alleged killing of 40,000 civilians on Vanni front: Mangala, too, wants truth established", The Island, 7 May 2015; "Mangala denies existence of secret detention centres", The Island, 8 May 2015; "President revokes Sampur land agreement", Daily Mirror Online, 8 May 2015; "Sri Lanka to relocate Navy camp from Sampur", Colombo Mirror, 7 May 2015; "TNA demands ’special arrangement’ for Northern Province ...won’t compromise the number of elected members to facilitate electoral reforms", The Island, 3 May 2015; "Rift in TNA", The Sunday Leader, 3 May 2015; "President Given Copy Of No Fire Zone", The Sunday Leader, 3 May 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Primary Documentation < style="font-size: medium;">Bangladesh Speech by H.E. Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP, Hon’ble Foreign Minister, Government of Bangladesh at the Inaugural Session of the International Conference on ’Bangladesh’s Engagement with India and Myanmar’ organized by Dhaka University and Maulana Abul Kalam Institute of Asian Studies, Dhaka, 12 Apr 2015 Foreign Minister Press Release of the meeting between US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Ms. Wendy Sherman with Foreign Minister,1 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Awareness and Consultative Workshops on Intellectual Property and TISCs,, Bhutan Ministry of Economic Affairs, 6 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India P Chidambaram (former Home and Finance Minister), "Across The Aisle: Even to the causing of death", The Indian Express, 3 May 2015 Interview with Sitaram Yechury (general secretary, CPI(M)), "It’s the class for which you work that is the defining character", Caravan, 5 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Myanmar, Yunnan Province to cooperate in peace and stability in border areas, Myanmar President’s Office, 7 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 May 2015 Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Dhaka, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 May 2015 Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 May 2015 Press Release on Briefing to Diplomatic Community, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 May 2015 Press Release issued by Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 3 May 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Bibliography < style="font-size: medium;">Afghanistan Opinion Pieces Hekmatullah Azamy and James Weir, "Islamic State and Jihadi Realignments in Khorasan", The Diplomat, 8 May 2015 Patrick Knapp, "Afghanistan: Where Warlords Fear to Tread", The Diplomat, 7 May 2015 Emilia Christoforou, "Are peace talks in Afghanistan slowly taking shape?", The Interpreter, 7 May 2015 "An Opening for Afghan Peace Talks", The New York Times, 6 May 2015 Olof Blomqvist, "Is ISIL in Afghanistan?", Al Jazeera, 6 May 2015 Abdullah Sharif, "Al Qaeda in Afghanistan Four Years After Bin Laden", The Huffington Post, 5 May 2015 Harsh V Pant, "Can India and China Both Court Afghanistan", The Diplomat, 4 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bangladesh Opinion Pieces Smruti S Pattanaik, "The signing of land boundary agreement: ’Neighbour first’ back on track", The Daily Star, 8 May 2015 SM Shahrukh, "A dream that hasn’t come true ", Dhaka Tribune, 8 May 2015 C Raja Mohan, " Beyond the Boundary: Modi’s new agenda in Bangladesh", The Indian Express, 8 ay 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Opinion Pieces Kuensel, Signs of an economy in good shape, Kuensel, 6 May 2015 The Bhutanese, The Many Lessons of NRDCL, The Bhutanese, 4 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Reports Praveen Donthi, "Talk Of the Town: How Arun Jaitley wins friends and influences people", Caravan, 1 May 2015 Opinion Pieces Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "On shakier ground", The Indian Express, 2 May 2015 Ashok Malik, "Rahul, Modi and Gorbachev", The Asian Age, 3 May 2015 C Raja Mohan, "The Great Game Folio: Mukherjee in Russia", The Indian Express, 5 May 2015 Hartosh Singh Bal, "Modi May Be Faltering, But He Still Has the Advantage of Facing the Same Old Rahul", Caravan, 6 May 2015 Basharat Peer, "When messengers shoot the message", The Hindu, 7 May 2015 Rajeev Bhattacharyya, "Why the Formation of a Common Platform by Insurgent Groups from the Northeast Should Give the Government Cause for Worry", Caravan, 8 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Maldives Opinion Pieces N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives slipping into pressure-cooker mode?",, 8 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Opinion Pieces Kyaw Zwa Moe, "In Panglong, ’Union Spirit’ Monument Lies in Chauvinistic Shadow", The Irrawaddy, 7 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Opinion Pieces Bishwambher Pyakuryal ’Emergency Planning’, Republica, 6 May 2015 Shambhu Ram Simkhada, ’Disaster Diplomacy’, Republica, 6 May 2015 Rohit Karki, ’Aid and Interests’ eKantipur, 8 May 2015 Navin Singh Khadka, ’Shaken and Stirred’ eKantipur, 8 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Pakistan Opinion Pieces Farooq Hameed Khan, "MQM’s options", The Nation, 8 May, 2015. < style="font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka Opinion Pieces Dr Kalana Senaratne, "19-A & the continuing power-struggle", The Island, 8 May 2015 Kelum Bandara, "UNP buoyed, SLFP haggled with divisions", Daily Mirror Online, 7 May 2015 Dr N Sivapalan, "What went wrong with the Tamil struggle?", The Island, 5 May 2015 Jehan Perera, "Hopeful prospects of new relations with the US", The Island, 4 May 2015 N Sathiya Moorthy, "President Sirisena keeps his word", The Sunday Leader, 3 May 2015 < class="brown12verdana">Contributors: Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar; Bangladesh : Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; Bhutan & Myanmar : Mihir Bhonsale; India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti and Shruti Gupta; Maldives & Sri Lanka : N Sathiya Moorthy; Nepal : Pratnashree Basu ; Pakistan : Sridhar Ramaswamy
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