MonitorsPublished on May 02, 2017
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 18

Country Reports


Taliban kill 160 soldiers

In one of the deadliest attacks in the country, Taliban gunmen stormed an Afghan army base in the northern Balkh province on April 21 killing approximately 160 Afghan soldiers. The Taliban entered the army base disguised in military uniforms, just as the soldiers were exiting a mosque after offering their evening prayers. Suicide bombers exploded at the sight, killing dozens while gunmen opened fire on those trying to flee. Following the attack, the country’s defence minister General Abdullah Habibi, and the army chief, General Qadam Shah Shahim both resigned on April 24 after mounting public pressure.

For more information, see: “Taliban fighters attack Afghan army base, killing 140”, Al Jazeera, 22 April 2017; “2 top Afghanistan military officials resign after Taliban attack”, The New York Times, 24 April 2017

Two Americans killed

Two American Army Rangers were killed during a raid against the Islamic State in Nangarhar province on April 26. The Pentagon is investigating the nature of how the two soldiers were killed, with reports stating that they might have been stuck from friendly fire. The officials said the military was investigating whether the men had been killed by ground fire, either from American forces or Afghan commandos who were taking part in the raid.

For more information, see: “‘Friendly Fire’ May Have Killed 2 U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Raid”, The New York Times, 28 April 2017

Delay in prisoner-freedom

Over 70 prisoners who are members of the terrorist group Hezb-e-Islami’s release from prisoner has been delayed. Members of the group that have been jailed over the years were expected to be released following the group’s peace deal with the Afghan government. The group had announced on April 26 that the first group of its prisoners will be released on April 28 from Pul-e-Charkhi and Bagram prisons, however by the evening the prisoners had still not been freed for unknown reasons.

For more information, see: “Release of Hezb-e-Islami prisoners postponed”, Tolo News, 28 April 2017


Highest life-expectancy

Average life expectancy in Bangladesh is higher than world average. The average life expectancy of Bangladeshi citizens is now 71 years and six months, while the figure is 71 years and four months for the rest of the world. Life expectancy in the country is increasing steadily. It was 70 years and five months in 2013 that grew to 70 years and eight months in 2014.

For more information, see: “Life expectancy in Bangladesh higher than world average”, Dhaka Tribune, 25 April 2017

$2-b Chinese investment

Bangladesh has signed an MoU with China for $2 billion investment in the construction materials sector. The MoU was signed between Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and China Building Materials Federation.

For more information, see: “BIDA signs MoU for $2 billion Chinese investment in construction sector”,, 26 April 2017

Brexit won’t harm ties

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed Britain’s exit from the European Union would not harm its ties with Bangladesh. He made the comment during his meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during his visit to the country.

For more information, see: “Brexit will not harm ties with Bangladesh: Cameron to Hasina”,, 27 April 2017


Govt withdraws BBIN Bill

In an extraordinary move, the government has decided to withdraw its BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) motor vehicles agreement from the Parliament.

For more information, see: “With Numbers Stacked Against It, Govt Withdraws BBIN”, Kuensel, 22 April 2017

Norway opens visa centre

With the establishment of the Norway visa centre by the Bhutan Visa Application Centre in Thimphu, Bhutanese will not have to visit New Delhi or Kolkata to apply for visas to Norway.

For more information, see: “Norway visa centre opened in Thimphu”, Kuensel, 26 April 2017

BBIN sans Bhutan

The government has given green signal for the implementation of Motor Vehicles Agreement for Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between BBIN nations among the three-member countries only.

For more information, see: “Bhutan gives go-ahead to implement BBIN agreement in 3 countries”, Kuensel, 27 April 2017


Joint exercises with Russia

In a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley discussed the strengthening of engagement between the countries’ armed forces. Considering how India has been finding itself in the thick of things battling incidents of terror, Minister Jaitley expressed concerns over how terrorism stands to cause long-term damage to societies, and reiterated his faith in the potential of Indo-Russian cooperation extending to joint military exercises between the two countries.

For more information, see:  “Defence Minister Arun Jaitley meets Russian counterpart, hits out at Pakistan”, India Today, 26 April 2017

India objects to Pak raising Kashmir

Responding sternly to Pakistan’s hard-nosed attitude over Kashmir, India has objected to the latter having raised the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly session on April 25. Calling the mention of the region a bilateral issue, and hence unrelated to the UN forum, S Srinivas Prasad from India’s Permanent Mission to the UN interrupted Pakistan’s Masoor Anwar’s remarks about Kashmir suffering under foreign occupation and also thanked the Chair for not allowing any elaboration on the subject at the session of the Committee on Information.

For more information, see: “India objects to Pakistan raising Kashmir issue at UN forum”, The Times of India, 27 April 2017

Chinese Navy, a worry

Expanding naval deployments by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) are set to be a cause of worry for Indian maritime planners. China’s increasing engagements and maritime links with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, among others, could be a serious challenge for India which is still attempting to execute its plan of having three-aircraft carriers.

For more information, see: “Aircraft carrier not threat, but China's expanding naval footprint in Indian Ocean a big concern”, The Times of India, 27 April 2017

Centre defends Aadhar

In a bid to justify proposed changes to the Income Tax Law which links the Permanent Account Number (PAN) to Aadhaar, the Centre has asserted before the apex court that this was done to keep circulation of black money under check and in turn keep a check on tax evasion.

For more information, see: “PAN-Aadhaar linking is to check tax evasion and black money: Govt to SC”, The Times of India, 26 April 2017


President on Anni’s freedom

At a public rally of his faction of the ruling PPM, President Abdulla Yameen said that he could facilitate Parliament to consider freedom and restoration of electoral rights to MDP’s Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, if the Opposition leaders wrote to him. This, even as his Government arrested another Opposition leader, Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party, for a second time in a week on charges of bribing MPs to vote in favour of the no-trust motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, after the High Court had thrown out an earlier detention, citing procedural flaws.

For more information, see: “Maldives pres suggests path to Nasheed's freedom, candidacy”, Avas Online, 29 April 2017; “President asks opposition leaders to send letters requesting for Nasheed's freedom”, VNews, 28 April 2017; “Gasim arrested at midnight on fresh charges, remanded for 15 days”, Maldives Independent, 22 April 2017; “People around the country starts signing a petition asking to free Qasim !”, Miadhu, 29 April 2017; “Indian University to award an honorary doctorate to President Yameen”, Miadhu, 29 April 2017

Blogger killed

In yet another instance of the kind, Yameen Rasheed, blogger and activist, was stabbed to death. Even as the Government and all Opposition leaders and parties condemned the incident, his family has demanded an international investigation into the killing.

For more information, see: “Yameen Rasheed, blogger and activist, stabbed to death”, Maldives, 23 April 2017; “Yameen Rasheed’s parents ask for international investigators in murder probe”, Maldives Independent, 26 April 2017; “Maldives slides on press freedom index”, Maldives Independent, 27 April 2017; “Sri Lankans join call for Intl probe on Yameen’s murder”, The Sunday Leader, 30 April 2017; “Four arrested over ‘terror plot’”, Maldives Independent, 25 April 2017

Improving business environment

There is an urgent need to improve business environment and diversify from tourism, the core sector, to protect the nation from global slowdowns and improve foreign investments, it has been reported. The Government meanwhile has decided to ban companies that do not meet minimum safety standards in the living accommodation that they provide their immigrant labour.

For more information, see: “Investor’s woes in the Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 26 April 2017; “Government to ban companies for accommodating labourers in places that does not reach minimum safety standards”, Miadhu, 27 April 2017


Rohingyas: UN upset

The United Nations’ refugee agency has criticised a Myanmarese government plan to resettle Rohingya Muslims displaced by recent violence in “camp-like” villages, saying it risks stoking tensions, according to a document seen by Reuters.

For more information see: “UN criticises plan to resettle Rohingya in ‘camp-like’ villages”, DVB, 28 April 2017; “China’s role in Myanmar conflict talks paves way for Belt & Road initiative: experts”, Mizzima, 28 April 2017

Mines-work off

More than 1.18 million acres reserved as mineral depositories will be restricted, prohibiting local and foreign investments from extraction activities, said U Ahtar Hlaing, deputy director from the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

For more information, see: “1 mn acres of mineral depositories suspended”, Myanmar Times, 28 April 2017


Bhutan walks out

Indian media on April 27 reported that Bhutan has backed out of the BBIN motor vehicles pact 'for now' and quoted Indian officials and sources that their government will consider alternative options which will involve only Bangladesh and Nepal. According to media India may go slow on BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement, keeping in mind the sentiments of close partner Bhutan where a section of the political establishment is opposing the initiative allegedly at the behest of the local transporters lobby.

For more information, see:” Bhutan backs out of BBIN 'for now', report Indian Media”, Republica, 28 April 2017; “Bhutan’s snub leaves BBIN agreement in the balance”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 April 2017

More federal units

The government has initiated dialogue with the opposition CPN-UML and leaders of the Madhes-based parties after its decision to increase the number of local federal units in 11 Tarai districts led to obstruction of Parliament. Federal Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa assured the UML on April 27 that the local units will be added in consensus with all the parties. Separately, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal met Madhesi leaders to clarify on this point.

For more information, see: “Local units addition in consensus: Govt”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 April 2017

Railway link in OBOR

The government has proposed Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway to be a part of 'One Belt One Road' project initiated by China. Addressing a seminar on 'One Belt One Road Initiative and the South Asia' organised by the China Study Centre and Nepal Institute for Strategic Studies here on April 28, Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara informed about this. As the connectivity and trade were Nepal's priority, it could benefit a lot from this initiative.

For more information, see: “Govt proposes to link Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini with OBO”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 April 2017


Taliban kills 14 in FATA

A crude Taliban roadside bomb killed 14 people in FATA on April 25. The attack in Khurram agency, targeted a minibus travelling the region. A militant group that has been linked the Pakistani Taliban was quick to take credit for the bombing, saying that it was supposed to target the Shiite Muslim community and government workers who were carrying out census work in the region.

For more information, see: “Roadside Taliban bomb kills 14 in NW Pakistan”, Voice of America, 25 April 2017; “Eight terrorists killed in Pakistan’s Punjab province”, The Hindu, 20 April 2017

PM to end ‘power-woes’

In a desperate attempt to live up to his campaign promises, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to end electricity load shedding in the country by December. The prime minister repeatedly told the participants in the meeting that he was not ready to allow an extension in the deadline for completion of important generation and transmission projects beyond Decem­ber. An official, however, explained that load shedding would continue in some rural areas and “security-wise challenging parts” of the country on ‘high-loss-low-recovery grounds’.

For more information, see: “PM wants loadshedding to end by December”, Dawn, 29 April 2017

Sri Lanka 

Road to India?

At a meeting with visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Delhi visit, Indian Minister for Highways revived talks on connecting the two nations through a sea-bridge. Indian assistance for constructing expressways within Sri Lanka was among the 23 agreements, most of them on bilateral economic cooperation, that the two nations signed during Ranil’s detailed discussions with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

For more information, see: “Road linkage between India and SL discussed”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 April 2017; “India pledges help to construct expressways”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 April 2017; “Ranil invites India to develop N&E roads”, The Island, 28 April 2018; “India, Sri Lanka sign MoU for cooperation in economic projects”, Indian Express, 27 April 2017; Ranil meets Modi; Lanka, India sign MoU for cooperation in economic projects”, The Island, 27 April 2017; “Ranil has hectic day in New Delhi”, The Island, 26 April 2017; “Sri Lankan PM to visit India”, The Hindu, 25 April 2017; “Prime Minister’s Indian visit to focus on ETCA... poaching by Indian fishermen”, The Island, 26 April 2017; “‘Indian boats will be released only if SL fishermen agree’”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 April 2017; “India Lanka to hold talks on ISIS threat in South Asia”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2017; “PM's assurance on oil tanks is misleading: JO”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 April 2017”; ”JO asks govt to honour promise to CPC workers”, The Island, 26 April 2017; “SL-Iran discuss defence ties”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 April 2017

IMF funds delayed

With the next tranche of IMF funding for Sri Lanka delayed despite the recent meeting Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake held with IMF officials in Washington, the Government is planning to raise $ 2.5 billion through sovereign bonds and syndicated loans. At Brussels meanwhile, the European Parliament voted by a huge margin, the resumption of GSP-Plus import concessions for the country, despite strong opposition from some members, who argued that the progress on the human rights front was still slow.

For more information, see: “Sri Lanka to raise $2.5 bn as IMF money delayed”, The Island, 30 April 2017; “EU parliament votes in favour of GSP+ for SL”, The Island, 28 April 2017

Primary Documentation


Opening Remarks by the Hon’ble Foreign Minister at “Green Growth Solutions Conference””, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 April 2017


Government gives its consent for Agreement among the three member states (Bangladesh, India and Nepal) without any obligation to Bhutan”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 April 2017


Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, London regarding Presentation of Credentials”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 27 April 2017

Press Release on presentation of Letter of Credence by H.E. Leela Mani Paudyal to the president of Mongolia”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 27 April 2017

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing on H.E. Ambassador’s meeting with Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister for Environment and Tourism”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 27 April 2017

Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok regarding the commemorative programme on the 2nd anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, held in Bangkok”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 26 April 2017

Press Release on the terrorist attack in Afghanistan”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 24 April 2017



Opinion Pieces

Stephen J. Hadley, Andrew Wilder and Scott Worden, “Four steps to winning peace in Afghanistan”, The Washington Post, 27 April 2017

Suhasini Haider, “India’s choices as America ‘asks’”, The Hindu, 29 April 2017


Opinion Pieces

AKM Zakaria, “Can Bangladesh gain from changing Indo-China dynamics?”, Prothom Alo, 16 April 2017

Zeeshan Hasanril, “Supporting Bangladesh’s software industry with Indian cooperation”, Dhaka Tribune, 24 April 2017

Book Review

Migrant Souls”, edited by Tasneem Siddiqui reviewed by Fakrul Alam, The Daily Star, 24 April 2017


Did we get a good deal?” interview of Professor Mustafizur Rahman distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), The Daily Star, 26 April 2017



BBIN rises again”, Kuensel, 27 April 2017


Bhutan, Bangladesh to deepen cooperation in all sectors”, Kuensel, 24 April 2017



Ending VIP culture: Modi's red beacon ban is only a start, Business Standard, April 22, 2017

Irfan Habib, “Celebrating Champaran 1917”, Indian Express, April 26, 2017

Anand Patwardhan, “Ethics is the answer”, Indian Express, April 25, 2017


Opinion Pieces

Saya Ahmed and Hassan Moosa, “Remembering Yameen”, Maldives Independent, 29 April 2017 


Opinion Pieces

Aung Naing Oo, “Many in Myanmar need deeper understanding of reconciliation”, Myanmar Times, 27 April 2017


ASEAN Focus: unity, growth”, Eleven, 28 April 2017


Opinion Pieces

Navin Singh Khadka, “Mayoral missions”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 April 2017

Bimal Pratap Shah, “No-rule roads”, Republica, 26 April 2017


Better than before?”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 April 2017

Keep growing”, Republica, 27 April 2017


Opinion Pieces

Muhammad Ali Ehsan, “McMaster’s visit: what to do with Pakistan?”, The Express Tribune, 28 April 2017

Shamil Shams, “Pakistan on collision course with Iran?”,DW, 25 April 2017

Kamran Yousaf, “Nawaz-Jindal meeting and secret diplomacy”, The Express Tribune, 29 April 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Media Minister, “We only supported federalism as a demand by the Tamils”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 April 2017

Kusal Perera, “Federalism: Why only for Tamils?”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 April 2017

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Ranil’s Indianization project and the new constitution”, The Island, 29 April 2017

Kelum Bandara, “Govt contemplates rigid control over trade union action”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2017

Malinda Seneratne, “The repeated errors of self-inflicted torture”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2017

Izeth Hussain, “Israel and Sri Lanka’s Islamophobia”, The Island, 25 April 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Religiously, Divided”, The Island, 23 April 2017


Kelum Bandara, “International pressure should be maintained on Government”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 April 2017


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Falguni Tewari

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee

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