South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 19

     SAW, South Asia, BBIN, Bhutan

    DochuLa Pass in Bhutan

    Country Reports


    IS bomber targets NATO convoy, kills 8

    An Islamic State (IS) suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul on May 3. The bomber blew up his explosive laden vehicle near the Afghan intelligence agency headquarters killing 8 people and wounding 22 others. The blast occurred in an area not far from the US embassy and a compound used by the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. Three US service members were among those injured in the blast.

    For more information, see: “Blast hits NATO convoy in central Kabul”, Al Jazeera

    Clash with Pak troops

    Afghan and Pakistani forces clashed in Spin Boldak district in Kandahar on May 5 after Pakistani forces entered the region. Two armored vehicles belonged to Pakistani forces have been destroyed and three Afghan soldiers were wounded in the fighting according the spokesperson for the Kandahar police. Pakistan has claimed that their soldiers were attacked without a reason.

    For more information, see: “Afghan, Pakistani border forces clash in Spin Boldak”, Tolo News

    Motor vehicle agreement with India

    India and Afghanistan are expected to sign a new motor vehicle agreement that would help Afghan goods enter India. The agreement will put further pressure on Pakistan, as it does not allow Afghan-India to trade with each other through their territory. Government sources indicate that the pact is likely to be signed during the forthcoming visit of Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani to New Delhi later this month to review the bilateral cooperation.

    For more information, see: “India, Afghanistan likely to ink key motor vehicle pact by May to put pressure on Pak”, Hindustan Times


    Banks in cyber risks

    More than half of Bangladesh’s banks had run the risk of information management security breaches in 2016 and 16 percent of them were in the highest risk. The information revealed in a study of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM).

    For more information, see: “52pc banks in cyber risks”, The Daily Star

    Deals with India were needed: PM

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has categorically stated that the deals signed with India during her last month’s visit to India is not against the interest of the country. Prime Minister Hasina made the observation in parliament while responding to questions from lawmakers to dispel confusion created by vested quarters. Bangladesh and India signed 35 agreements and memorandum of understanding for cooperation in various fields during Prime Minister’s visit to India from 7 to 10 of April.

    For more information, see: “Deals with India for Bangladesh’s interest, says Hasina”,


    No debate on BBIN pact

    The joint sitting of Parliament has endorsed the Customs Bill, 2017 but did not deliberate on the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement.

    For more information, see: “Customs Bill cleared, deadlock holds BBIN agreement”, Kuensel, 5 May 2017; “Parliament endorses the Customs Bill of Bhutan 2017”, BBS

    Exploring ways to improve tri-nation tourism ties

    Bhutan, India and Nepal are exploring ways to enhance cooperation in strengthening potentials and benefits of tourism. The Kangchenjunga Landscape, which is shared by three of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) member countries – Bhutan, India, and Nepal, encompasses a part of eastern Nepal, Sikkim and part of West Bengal in India, and the western and southwestern parts of Bhutan.

    For more information, see: “Exploring tourism prospects in the Kangchenjunga Landscape”, Kuensel

    Airport work delayed

    Yonphula domestic airport in Trashigang which was supposed to be complete by end of last month has been delayed. The site engineer said though the works are in full swing, unfavourable weather conditions was hampering the works. Only the blacktopping of final lane is left.

    For more information, see: “Yonphula airport completion delayed”, Bhutan Broadcasting Service


    Pak forces mutilate two soldiers

    Pakistan security forces killed and mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers on May 1. The attack on frontier posts in Jammu and Kashmir killed Paramjit Singh and Prem Sagar after Pakistan fired mortar shells, rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. The Indian government has strongly condemned the act and has promised to respond proportionally.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan kills, mutilates two Indian soldiers, army called incident ‘despicable’”, Hindustan Times

    Kashmir issue is bilateral, Modi tells Erdogan

    In a stern assertion describing disputes between India and Pakistan as bilateral in nature, India responded to Turkish President Erdogan suggestions last week wherein he suggested the Kashmir issue be open to multilateral dialogues. Taking the issue forward to discuss counter-terrorism measures, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the visitor that it was important that Pakistan took steps to check cross-border movement of terrorists.

    For more information, see: “India's Firm Response After Turkish President's Controversial Kashmir Comment: 10 Points”, NDTV

    Hasina hopes for Teesta pact

    Making no secret of how confident she is of Narendra Modi’s assurance on resolving the Teestariver water dispute, Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina is putting a brave face in response to the opposing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) discounting the premier’s last month’s visit to India as a ‘sell out’ for Bangladesh. This opposition extending even to the memorandums signed by the country with India portends the possibility PM Hasina’s victory in the next general elections of 2019.

    For more information, see: “Hard Choices“, The Telegraph


    Local polls at last

    After a series of last-minute postponement, the nation voted to elect new local councils, with President Abdulla Yameen’s faction of the ruling PPM facing stiff competition from the MDP-led combined Opposition. The results are seen as a referendum of sorts on the functioning of the Yameen Government, especially on a ‘Democracy vs Development’ plank, ahead of the presidential polls, due in November 2018.

    For more information, see: “Maldives votes in third local council election”, Maldives Independent, 6 May 2017; “Vox pop: Voting day”, Maldives Independent, 6 May 2017; “Council election campaign concludes”, Maldives Independent, 5 May 2017; “People are concerned that some are marking the ballot papers to identify the voter”, Miadhu, 6 May 2017; “President: Not expecting any major issues with election”, SunOnline, 6 May 2017; “Democracy is election results – we call not to create unrest: PPM”, Miadhu, 6 May 2017; “President Yameen on hate speech and limits of free expression”, Maldives Independent


    President ‘not quitting’

    The President’s Office has rejected rumours that President Htin Kyaw had submitted his resignation due to poor health. Zaw Htay, the director-general of the office, told DVB the rumours were false. “That is absolutely not true. The (president) is in good health and it is not true that he submitted his resignation,” said Zaw Htay.

    For more information see: “President’s Office swats down rumours of Htin Kyaw’s resignation”, DVB, 4 May 2017; “Burma Says Fake News Being Spread to Destabilize NLD Government”, The Irrawaddy

    Ties with Vatican

    The Vatican and Myanmar established full diplomatic relations on May 4, minutes after Pope Francis met with the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The surprise move means that the Vatican will have much more diplomatic influence in Myanmar, which is facing international scrutiny over atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

    For more information, see: “Pope’s meeting with Suu Kyi leads to enhanced diplomatic ties”, DVB

    Cable links with Bangladesh

    Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) and Singapore based Blueberry Telecom Pvt Ltd are going to establish a separate regional submarine cable link to connect Bangladesh with Myanmar, the reported on May 4.

    For more information, see:”Submarine cable link to connect Bangladesh with Myanmar”, Mizzima


    SC stays CJ sacking

    Supreme Court of Nepal on May 5 issued a stay order on the impeachment motion filed against Chief Justice Sushila Karki. A single bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana ordered the parliament not to proceed forward the impeachment motion filed against CJ Karki in the parliament. The court also paved the way for CJ Karki who was suspended after the impeachment motion to resume her duty.

    For more information, see: “Supreme Court issues stay order on impeachment motion”, Republica, 5 May 2017; “Move to impeach CJ Karki assault on human rights: UN Commissioner”, The Kathmandu Post

    No ‘power’ for check-post

    Construction of the Integrated Check Post (ICP) on the Nepal side in Birgunj is nearing completion, but it still does not have an electricity connection. Om Prakash Sharma, president of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the facility was in the final stages of completion but the authorities concerned had not shown any interest in getting an electricity connection which could affect the online systems that need to be installed and tested before the much-delayed facility opens.

    For more information, see:” Nearly-finished Birgunj ICP lacks power supply”, The Kathmandu Post

    New road by June

    The five-kilometre Koteshwor-Ekantakuna road segment under the first phase of the Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project (KRRIP) is all set to come into operation by mid-June. A bridge at Balkumari has already come into operation. However, railings on both sides are yet to be installed and painting is still to be completed. Other three bridges along the road section —one at Khasibazaar and two at Balkhu — will also soon come into operation, said officials.

    For more information, see: Ring Road expansion: Koteshwor-Ekantakuna road stretch likely to be completed by mid-June”, The Kathmandu Post


    Pak, Afghan intelligence officials meet

    The directors of Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI and Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, held official talks in Kabul on May 2. Director General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar, traveled to Kabul to discuss bilateral security and counterterrorism cooperation. The meeting took place at a crucial time as both countries have accused each other’s intelligence agencies of sheltering and supporting anti-state militants.

    For more information, see: “Pakistani, Afghan spymasters hold rare talks”, VOA

    ‘No’ to marriage bill

    Pakistani politicians, including minority Hindu and Christian parliamentarians, rejected a bill to raise the minimum age for marriage for a girl on May 4. The bill which aims at increasing the minimum marriage age from 16 to 18, was rejected because it was “un-Islamic”.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan rejects bill seeking to raise minimum age for marriage for girls, terms it ‘un-Islamic’”, Firstpost

    Sri Lanka 

    Opposition likely to go alone in local polls

    Buoyed by the massive crowds that gathered at their May Day rally, which overflowed Colombo’s Galle Face Green, the Joint Opposition, identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has indicated its decision to go it alone in the much-delayed local government polls, whenever held. The Rajapaksa faction within the SLFP partner in the Government, both headed by President Maithiripala Sirisena, also seems to be side-step merger efforts within the party.

    For more information, see: “May Day success emboldens JO to go it alone at polls...GL: Rapprochement unlikely”, The Island, 3 May 2017; “UNP thanked for giving JO opportunity to show people power to diplomatic community”, The Island, 3 May 2017; “MR: This is the end of govt.”, The Island, 2 May 2017; “MR: This is the end of govt.”, The Island, 2 May 2017; “Rajapaksas sabotaging economic war to capture power – Ranil”, The Island, 2 May 2017; “Ex-President’s security reduced MR: ‘My life is in danger’”, The Island

    Draft statute soon: PM

    The all-party steering committee was in the process of preparing the draft of a new Constitution for the country, and it will be presented to Parliament, acting as the Constituent Assembly, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said. Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), involved with the nation’s ethnic issue, has said that the Government had given a go-by to the consensus arrived on the new anti-terror law, replacing the earlier one.

    For more information, see: “PM: Draft Constitutional Proposal ready soon”, The Island, 2 May 2017; “TNA rejects proposed Counter Terrorism Act”, The Island, 5 May 2017; “Consensus on contentious issues not included in draft framework-TNA: New anti-terrorism law”, The Island, 6 May 2017; “TNA urges govt. to reconsider and reformulate proposals”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 May 2017; “Sirisena-Wigneswaran powwow on May 17”, The Island, 3 May 2017; “ITAK to push for Navy ouster from Iranativu”, The Island

    Modi to address TIOs

    During his visit to Sri Lanka on 12-13 May to inaugurate the UN Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also open the Government Hospital at Dikoya in the upcountry Nuwara-Eliya district and address Tamils of recent Indian Origin (TIO). The Government of India has built the hospital, on the land offered by the Sri Lankan counterpart.

    For more information, see: “Modi to address Tamils of Indian Origin”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 May 2017; “Hanuman Bridge: SL could hold different view- PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 May 2015; “MR should expose Trinco oil tank agreement: Champika”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 May 2017; “Lanka, India draw up ambitious plan for long-term economic cooperation”, The Island, 2 May 2017; “India to supply second vessel to SL Navy”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 May 2017; “SL detained Rohingya refugees sailed from India”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 May 2017; “Pakistan naval ship ‘Dasht’ arrives in Colombo”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 May 2017; “India launches South Asia satellite”, The Island

    Primary Documentation


    Diplomatic relations established between the republic of the union of Myanmar and the Holy See”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs


    Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Brussels on the Presentation of Credentials by H.E. Mr. Lok Bahadur Thapa, Ambassador of Nepal to Luxembourg, to His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 5 May 2017

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok regarding bilateral meeting between Hon’ble Foreign Ministers of Nepal and Singapore”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 4 May 2017

    Press Release issued by the Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok regarding seminar on ‘Investment Opportunities in Nepal’”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal



    Opinion Pieces

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, “Adrift in Afghanistan”, Foreign Affairs, 3 May 2017

    Suhasini Haider, “’India should have its own policy on Afghanistan’”, The Hindu, 3 May 2017

    Eli Lake, “Making Afghanistan great again”, Bloomberg, 1 May 2017


    Opinion Pieces

    Biru Paksha Paul, “Fighting the financial haemorrhage”, The Daily Star, 5 may 2017

    Book Review

    Water and Culture in Bangladesh by Anwarul Karim reviewed by Shams Al Muzaddid, The Daily Star, 1 May 2017



    The essence of education”, Kuensel, 3 May 2017



    Praveen Chakravarty, “The Party is Over”, Deccan Herald, 2 May 2017

    Sunil Sharan, “No easy choice for President, Times of India, 2 May 2017


    For a long-term view of less cash costs”, Economic Times, 3 May 2017


    Opinion Pieces

    Mushfique Mohamed, “Death by popular demand”, Dhivehi Sitee, 5 May 2017

    Mohamad Junayd, “Not free”, Maldives Independent, 3 May 2017

    Fathima Musthaq and Azim Zahir, “A call for a new politics”, Maldives Independent, 2 May 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Yameen’s intercession offer on Nasheed, old wine in older bottle”,, 2 May 2017


    Opinion Pieces

    Kavi Chongkittavorn, “Myanmar Media in a regional context”, Myanmar Times, 4 May


    Opinion Pieces

    Binayak Basnyat, “Something’s got to give”, The Kathmandu Post, 5 May 2017
    Narayan Manandhar, “You pays your money”, Republica, 4 May 2017


    The Kathmandu Post “Vibrant and vigilant”, The Kathmandu Post, 5 May 2017

    Republica “Time has come”, Republica, 4 May 2017


    Opinion Pieces

    Mohammad Hanif, “Pakistan’s triangle of hate”, The New York Times, 4 May 2017

    Mihir Sharma, “China’s repeating the west’s mistakes in Pakistan”, NDTV, 4 May 2017

    Zahid Hussain, “Tweeting defiance”, Dawn, 3 May 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan, “Implementing Transitional Justice measures- A reality check”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 May 2017

    Malinda Seneviratne, “May Day blues (for the Blues and the Green)”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 May 2017

    C A Chandraprema, “Galle Face – the writing on the Green”, The Island, 4 May 2017

    Dayan Jayatilleka, “The Sinhala Federal Party”, The Island, 2 May 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Added dimension to Tamil hartal and North and East”, The Island, 2 May 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Self-inflicted and more”, The Sunday Leader, 30 April 2017


    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



    Upcoming Events

    Re(b)ordering the World: Visual politics of the (new) Silk Road — Talk by Marina Kaneti

    The world order and global geopolitics — Talk by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra

    Book Discussion on The Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security

    Seven years of civil war in Syria