MonitorsPublished on Aug 16, 2017
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 33

Country Reports


Taliban frees over 235 villagers

Over 235 villagers have been freed by the Taliban, in the northern Sar-e-Pul province after the area was overrun by insurgents. Local authorities believe that the capture of the area was carried out by the Taliban and ISIS factions in the country. If true, this would have been the first time both groups have joined forces in battle. The civilians were released after negotiations between the Taliban and tribal elders, while at least 18 people continued to remain hostage. For more information, see: “Taliban free 235 villagers in northern Afghanistan”, Al Jazeera

Air-strike claims civilians

At least 16 civilians were killed in an air-strike in Nangarhar on August 10, according to sources.  Reports from the ground said the incident took place in Haska Mina district and that women and children were among the victims of the strike. Nangarhar governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed the casualties but said the identity of those killed in the airstrike is not clear so far. The Resolute Support and U.S. forces in Afghanistan have not commented on the report so far. For more information, see: “16 Civilians reportedly killed in foreign forces’ airstrike”, Tolo News

India, WB funding dam

The Afghan minister of water and energy has said that the government is in negotiations with India and the World Bank to invest in the Shahtoot dam project. The dam will be constructed on the Kabul river in Chahar Asyab district and is expected to overcome the clean drinking water to nearly two million residents in Kabul. Osmani said, “The Indian government, based on the aid it has provided, is willing to take part in the construction of this dam. Currently the negotiations are going on. The World Bank has also shown interest in participating in the construction of water supply facilities, purification systems and rest of the phases. We are now in talks with India and the World Bank in this respect.” For more information, see: “India, World Bank willing to invest in Kabul’s Shahtoot Dam”, Tolo News


20-year jail for bombing

A court this week sentenced 14 militants of banned Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh for their roles in series of coordinated bomb attacks in 2005. At least two persons were killed and hundreds injured in the blasts orchestrated by the JMB. The court in the central district of Tangail sentenced all 14 accused to 20 years in jail. In August 2005 JMB had detonated 400 bombs across the country in 2005 in demand of introduction of the Sharia law in the country. For more information see: “Aug 17 series blast: 14 JMB militants jailed for 20yrs in Tangail”, The Daily Star, 8 August 2017; “Bangladesh jails 14 Islamists over 2005 blast”, Mail Online

Rice import from Thailand

The Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand to import up to 10 lakh tonnes of rice from the Southeast Asian country each year till 2021. The rice price will be fixed after negotiations between the two countries, considering the international market price. Earlier, the price of rice could not be finalised because of disagreement on the price quoted by Thai authorities.   Thailand had asked for $500 for per tonne of rice, but Dhaka considered it too high.  The government also rejected India’s offer due to high price. Bangladesh has floated 7 tenders to import rice in past two months. Bangladesh is importing rice due to loss of crop following floods. For more information, see:  “MoU signed to import rice from Thailand”, The Daily Star


GST price-drop likely

Bhutanese businesses and consumers are expecting a dramatic drop in the price of GST item-goods like cars, electronic and machinery items. Most consumer goods from India will not see it happen until Bhutan gives the go ahead to the Indian government. For more information, see: “No GST Discounts Utill RGOB Agrees”, The Bhutanese, 5 August 2017; “Finance Ministry to meet with private sector to discuss GST introduction in India”, BBS

Hydro-projects delayed

The 1,200 MW Punatsangchu I and 1,020 MW Punatsangchu II is headed for more delay and cost escalations after a report by the Norwegian Geological Institute (NGI) recommended additional measures to strengthen the sliding right bank of P I, and approved the proposed works for the collapsed roof of the surge chamber in P II. For more information, see: “Additional delay and costs in Punatsangchu I and II after NGI report”, The Bhutanese


New Vice President takes oath

NDA nominee M Venkaiah Naidu was on Saturday elected India’s next Vice-President, receiving an overwhelming two-third vote against opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi. The 65-year-old leader got 516 votes out of 771 votes cast while Gandhi could only manage 244 votes. Of the total 771 votes, 11 were found to be invalid. Although 785 MP’s were eligible, 14 MP’s could not vote. He was administered oath of office by President Ramnath Kovind on Friday last. For more information, see: “Venkaiah Naidu elected next Vice-President of India”, The Tribune

Nepal won’t take sides

Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has said his country will not take any sides in the ongoing Sikkim standoff between India and China. He further added that Nepal wants India and China to use diplomatic means to resolve the issue. Mahara said PM Sher Bahadur Deuba will pay an official visit to India from August 23 to 27. For more information, see: “Nepal won't take any sides in India-China standoff: Deputy PM” , Times of India

Sushma meets Bhutan’s FM

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday met her Bhutanese counterpart Damcho Dorji in Kathmandu and is understood to have discussed bilateral issues, amidst the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector. Both the leaders are in Nepal to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the countries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a grouping of countries in South Asia and South East Asia. For more information, see: “Amid Doklam standoff, Sushma Swaraj meets Bhutanese foreign minister”, Times of India

US for India-China talks

The US has said it wants India and China to have a dialogue over the Doklam standoff in the Sikkim section. India and China have been locked in a face-off in the Doklam area for the last 50 days after Indian troops stopped the Chinese People's Liberation Army from building a road in the area. For more information, see: “US favours India-China dialogue on Doklam issue”, The Economic Times


SC hears ‘defectors’

The Supreme Court has commenced hearing the petitions challenging the Elections Commission’s decision to declare them ‘defectors’ from the ruling PPM faction of President Abdulla Yameen and declaring those seats vacant. The EC decision followed the Supreme Court fast-tracking Attorney-General Mohamad Anil’s petition, seeking directions on ‘defections’ and ruling ‘defectors’ stood disqualified. For more information, see: “Supreme Court hears appeals from disqualified lawmakers”, Maldives Independent, 9 August 2017; “Opposition files a censure motion against the Attorney General”, Miadhu


H1N1 death toll touches 19

The number of people who have died from H1N1 has reached 19 across the country and 183 more people have been found to be infected with the virus, the Ministry of Health and Sports has revealed. Health staff are keeping seasonal influenza H1N1 under surveillance. Lab tests were performed on 41 suspected H1N1 patients from 2pm on August 8 to 2pm on August 9. Seventeen of them were found to have been infected with the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. For more information see: “H1N1 deaths reach 19 in Myanmar”, Myanmar Times

People flee as armies clash

Clashes between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Tatmadaw erupted in Khay Khin and Man Wel villages, part of Namhsan Township, Shan State, on Tuesday morning, sending more than 100 locals fleeing to neighbouring Namtu Township. Currently, the displaced are seeking refuge in Pote Bar Yone Parirati Shwe Kyin Monastery in the town of Namtu. The monastery continued to receive more civilians on Wednesday.  For more information see: “TNLA, Burma Army clashes in Namhsan displace over 100”, DVB

 NLD infighting over buses from China

Two deals to import 2,000 buses from China estimated at more than $100 million have caused an unusual rift within National League for Democracy (NLD), with regional lawmakers questioning its cost and accusing Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, a Suu Kyi protégé, of cronyism and a lack of accountability. For more information see: “Suu Kyi’s man in Rangoon under fire over transit deal with China”, DVB


Call for concrete actions

The successful meeting of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj primarily focused on the result-oriented implementation of the concrete plan of action. The interaction took place in the aftermath of the BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting, in Kathmandu and reiterated the previous engagements between the two countries. Along with the future prospects of the bilateral relations between the two countries, there was also a discussion on P.M Deuba’s visit to India and that the locus of connectivity. However, the political issues remained untouched. For more information, see: “Let’s focus on concrete outcome: PM to Swaraj”, The Kathmandu post

Road to comprehensive connectivity

The 18th session of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) senior officials’ meeting found relevance with the discussions on collaboration and cooperative frameworks with several areas of common interest, among the member countries, like energy, tourism, investment and poverty alleviation. Nepal has also put forward the concept of ‘Mountain Economy’ as a means to develop the mountainous countries with better economic stability. For more information, see: “BIMSTEC underlines early finalisation of free trade area accord”, The Kathmandu Post, 10 August, 2017; “Quick finalisation of pact on BIMSTEC Free Trade Area sought”, The Himalayan Times

Nepal–China rail prospects

The much anticipated railway network between Nepal and China has finally entered its phase of assessment and qualitative physical development, with the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co Ltd (CREEC) taking up the process. Covering a diverse terrain, the link moves through the intrinsic areas of Tibet and also signifies a better and well nurtured relationship between the two countries. For more information, see: “Chinese firm wants to survey, design Nepal-China railroad”, Republica


 Nawaz Sharif criticises judiciary, holds rally

 Nawaz Sharif criticised the judiciary for forcing him to quit as Prime Minister on August 10, as he held a massive rally for his supporters along Grand Trunk Road, from the capital to his home in Lahore. Sharif said, “ it is an insult to 20 crore people of Pakistan. You voted for me, and five honourable with a single stroke of pen sent me home. here is no charge of corruption or embezzlement. May I ask why I have been ousted?” he asked. Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court, after charges of corruption were filled against him and his children. For more information, see: “Sharif blasts Pakistan judiciary for his ouster”, The Hindu

Pakistan and Afghanistan to resume trade talks

 Pakistan and Afghanistan have announced their intention to resume high-level trade talks next month, after a delay of almost two years. The proposal for convening a meeting of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) in September was made by Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal during a meeting with finance minister Ishaq Dar. The two sides also discussed various issues of mutual interest, including the current state of bilateral relations, especially in the context of economic cooperation. For more information, see: “Pakistan, Afghanistan to resume high-level trade trade talks after almost two years”, Firstpost

Pakistan to buy tanks from Ukraine

Pakistan is negotiating the buying of 100 T-84 Oplot battle tanks from Ukraine according to the Polish media. The tank which can obtain a maximum speed of 70 km/hr, will help Ukraine modernize the production capacities of its state-owned defense industry and invest in research and development. In the 1990s, the Ukrainian defense industry supplied 320 T-84UD tanks to Pakistan’s military under a deal worth some $600 million.

Sri Lanka 

Bonds scam: Ravi quits

With mounting evidence against him in the Central Bank bonds scam in his early days as then Finance Minister, incumbent Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake quit the Government, telling Parliament that he has set a precedent, and asking why others charged with corruption did not do so under the previous Rajapaksa regime. Though Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe too argued that they have set a new political culture, there was apprehension that Government MPs, including senior UNP leaders like Sajith Premadasa, might vote for any no-trust motion against Karunanayake, as and when it went for voing. For more information, see: “Ravi quits, quoting scriptures”, The Island, 12 August 2017; “Why could not others resign?: Ravi to his supporters”, Daily Mirror Online

SLFP ‘no’ on Provincial Council polls

A piquant situation is arising for the Government of National Unity (GNU) with the SLFP junior partner headed by President Maithiripala Sirisena deciding against the UNP partner’s decision to postpone the upcoming Provincial Council polls and amending the laws to have all nine held on the same day, but in the future. Already upset over the Government continuously putting off the local government elections by two years, the Election Commission has only expressed itself against postponing PC polls, too, even as individual ministers and Government MPs have begun criticising the Government in public. For more information, see: “SLFP opposed to postponing PC polls”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 August 2017; “EC not in favour of postponing polls: Chairman”, Daily Mirror Online

China’s okay needed: PM

Reversing his earlier position within two days, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has clarified that any future amendments to the Hambantota stakes-transfer agreement can be done only with the Chinese partner’s agreement. Even as the Chinese envoy more directly asked what in the pact did President Sirisena want amended in the pact, a new row arose within the Government over colleagues questioning Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe’s public assertion that he would get back the Hambantota port to the people of Sri Lanka. For more information, see: “No amendments without Chinese agreeing – PM”, The Island, 10 August 2017; “H'tota Port agreement can be amended: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 August 2017; “Chinese envoy: What does President want changed in Port Agreement?”, The Island

Govt ‘accountable’: TNA

Caught in the midst of an internecine ego-clash with Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran, TNA Leader of the Opposition, R Sampanthan told a visiting bipartisan US delegation that their country should hold the Sri Lankan Government ‘accountable’ on its commitments on war-crimes probe and the like. At a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, visitors promised American assistance for the Government’s efforts at framing a new Constitution. For more information, see: “US must hold SL Govt. accountable for pledges it made: TNA”, Daily Mirror Online

Primary Documentation


Press Release, “Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, MP attended the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Manila”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 August 2017


Press Release on Accession of Nepal to the Multilateral Agreement for the Establishment of an International Think Tank for LLDCs”, Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 7 August, 2017 Press Release regarding Fifteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting”, Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 7 August, 2017



Opinion Pieces

David A. Andelman, “How Trump can win in Afghanistan”, CNN, 10 August 2017 Ronald E. Neumann, “America keeps failing in Afghanistan”, The Washington Post, 9 August 2017


Harun Habib “It’s government versus judiciary in Bangladesh”, The Hindu, 10 August 2017 Alice Baillat, “Bangladesh as a ‘weak power’ climate leader?”, Dhaka Tribune, 11 August 2017 Muhammad Nurul Huda, “16th amendment verdict and the judiciary-executive dissonance”, The Daily Star, 10 August 2017


Tenzing Lhamsang, “The Third Leg of Doklam”, The Bhutanese, 5 August 2017


Manoj Joshi, Doklam: To start at the very beginning ,www.orfonline. org, 9 August 2017 Harsh V Pant, Gadkari’s visit signals that India is committed to strong ties with Iran despite setbacks, , 10 August 2017


Opinion Pieces

Azra Naseem, “The road to justice is paved with answers to Rilwan’s abduction”, Dhivehi Sitee, 8 August 2017 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Maldives: Urgent need to revisit Constitution, again?”,, 8 August 2017


Brandon Aung Moe, “The Myth Myanmar can afford to ditch”, The Irrawaddy, 10 August 2017


Opinion Pieces

Biswas Baral, “After Nepal, Maldives”, Republica, 10 August, 2017 Dwaipayan Regni, “Unproductive associations”, The Kathmandu Post, 10 August, 2017


Republica, “All together”, 9 August, 2017 The Kathmandu Post, “Drawing lines”, 11 August, 2017


Opinion Pieces

Mohammed Hanif, “Pakistan’s new patriarchs”, The New York Times, 10 August 2017 Asha’ar Rehman, “What do we do with Shahbaz?”, Dawn, 11 August 2017


Jinnah’s address”, Dawn, 11 August 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajan Philips, “The Resignation: Nothing to be proud of, or to boast of ushering a new culture”, The Island, 13 August 2017  Sanjana Hattotuwa, “Beyond a resignation”, The Island, 13 August 2017 D Hoole, “Killing the Thirteenth Amendment: Redesigning racism”, The Island, 12 August 2017 Kusal Perera, “Pity this noble land of the world”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 August 2017 M S M Ayub, “People’s fate worse than that of Ravi”, Daily Mirror Online, 11 August 2017 Laksiri Fernando, “Yahapalanya crisis and way forward”, The Island, 11 August 2017 Jayadeva Uyangoda, “Politics after bond scam revelations”, The Island, 11 August 2017 Kelum Bandara, “New alignments in the offing after Ravi K debacle”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 August 2017 Milinda Seneviratne, “Let the court of history summon all perception-peddlers”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 August 2017 Ranga Jayasuriya, “Ravi K and the political paralysis in Yahapalanaya”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 August 2017 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Why we must not move a millimetre beyond 13th Amendment”, The Island, 8 August 2017 Jehan Perera, “High level consensus need to make the third transition”, The Island, 8 August 2017


Kelum Bandara, “Exact date of signing ETCA cannot be mentioned: Chief ETCA negotiator”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 August 2017 Kelum Bandara, “SL was not prepared in signing FTA with India in 1998: Samantha < style="color: #000000">Kumarasinghe”, Daily Mirror Online, 10 August 2017


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M Shah Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bonsale India: Pushan Das Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Nepal: Sohini Nayak
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