MonitorsPublished on Sep 11, 2017
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 37

Country Reports


3,500 more US troops

The United States will be sending 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan, according to US media reports. On 7 September, Secretary of Defence James Mattis said that he had signed the deployment orders for the troops without disclosing the number of troops or when they would be deployed. On 6th September, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan. For more information, see: “US sending 3,500 extra troops to Afghanistan”, Tolo News

150 new choppers coming

The Afghan Air Force will receive 150 new MD-530 F Cayuse Warrior light- attack helicopters by 2022. On 5 September, the US Department of Defence (DoD) issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters "for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance." General Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command, said in an interview with TOLO News that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years. For more information, see: “Afghan Air Force to Receive 150 Helicopters by 2022”, Tolo News


Polls likely in December next year

Election of the national parliament is likely to be held in December next year. Finance Minister AMA Muhith informed about this possibility during his interaction with media in capital Dhaka. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh claimed that next general election would be free, fair and impartial For more information, see: “Bangladesh may go to polls in December 2018”, Dhaka Tribune, 5 September 2017; “No game with voting rights will be allowed”, The Daily Star

International zone in Myanmar?

To stop the influx of Ronhingyas from Myanmar, the Bangladesh government has taken the diplomatic initiative to have an area in that country declared as an “international safe zone” under UN supervision to ensure safety, security, food and shelter for the homeless and repressed Rohingya. Government has urged the UN, Germany, India and International Committee of the Red Cross to push take the initiative forward. Rohingyas, an ethnic minority community residing in Rakhine state of Myanmar. bangladesh is receiving Rohingya refugees following persecution in Myanmar. For more information, see: “Dhaka for int'l safe zone in Myanmar”, The Daily Star, 8 September 2017; “Turkish first lady visits Rohingya refugees”, The Daily Star


GST benefits for consumers

The GST benefits, accruing on account of imports from India would be passed down to the consumers and that the office of consumer protection would ensure that prices are not distorted, according to Sonam P Wangdi, officiating secretary of economic affairs ministry. A notification was also issued on August 28 to this effect. For more information, see: “Traders should not consider GST benefit as profit”, Kuensel

WHO commendation

The WHO (World Health Organisation) South-East Asia Region (SEAR) commended Bhutan and the Maldives for eliminating measles, at the inaugural of the Regional Committee meeting in Male on September 6. For more information, see: “WHO calls on ministers to strengthen investment in health”, Kuensel


Modi reshuffles his Cabinet team

Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State (Commerce), has become the second woman to become the nation’s Defence Minister after late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who held additional charge. She took over from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was holding the additional charge. Apart from her, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (now Minister of Minority Affairs), Piyush Goyal (MoS Railways and holds additional charge of the Coal Ministry) and Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum and Natural Gas with additional charge of Skill Development) have also been elevated to the Cabinet while nine new faces were inducted into the Council of Ministers in the third reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since taking over in May 2014. For more information, see: Cabinet expansion: Modi promotes Javadekar, inducts 19 ministers, drops 5, Hindustan Times

Priority for defence-preparedness

Nirmala Sitharaman assumed charge as Defence Minister in South Block on Thursday in the presence of predecessor Arun Jaitley. In a short statement after taking over, she said her focus would be on military preparedness, resolving longstanding defence issues, ‘Make in India’ and the welfare of soldiers and their families. About Make in India campaign, she said: “We will ensure that it’s given full play for defence production. With technology coming in, we have to ensure that we ‘make in India’ so that we benefit and also send these to the international market.” For more information, see: Military preparedness and ‘Make in India’ priorities, says Nirmala Sitharaman, The Indian Express

Journalist shot dead

Senior journalist, editor and activist Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by unidentified assailants at the entrance of her home in Bengaluru West on Tuesday evening. Four bullets were pumped into the editor of the Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike at her doorstep after she had stepped out of her car and opened the gates to her home at around 8 pm. For more information, see: Gauri Lankesh murder: Journalist who spoke her mind shot dead in Bengaluru, Indian Express

Big win at BRICS

In a major diplomatic victory for India, the ongoing BRICS Summit at Xiamen in China today issued a declaration, which, for the first time, named terror groups based in Pakistan as the five nations united in condemning terrorism and finding ways to eliminate it. The declaration, adopted by the five BRICS nations -- India, China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa -- explicitly names Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir in a clear sign that Beijing's consistent stonewalling of Pakistan did not work at the Xiamen summit. For more information, see: BRICS declaration names Pakistan terror groups in big diplomatic win for India, India Today


Oil-extraction delayed

Though scientific studies have confirmed that Maldives has natural oil resources, the Government would undertake a cost-benefit analysis before deciding to extract the same, given the sluggish global market and prices, Fisheries Minister, Dr Mohamed Shainee, has said. Conceding that President Yameen had pledged to find the oil if Maldives had any sources, in his 2013 poll-agenda, he did not say that he would have it extracted within five years, the Minister claimed. For more information, see: “Shainee: Presidential pledge regarding fuel has been fulfilled”, SunOnline

Cash-crunch hits MDP

The main Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has resolved to postpone the annual party congress, scheduled for Friday, and decided to launch a funds-collection drive for the purpose. The party council also decided to hold consultations with other Opposition parties before coming up with its position on the Government’s invitation to revive the deadlocked political talks to resolve national issues. For more information, see: “MDP Congress pushed back due to lack of funds”, SunOnline, 8 September 2017; “MDP: Will make decision on government talks after discussing with opposition parties”, SunOnline, 8 September 2017; “Gasim departs for Singapore on 10-day medical leave”, Maldives Independent, 7 September 2017; “Amitabh Bachchan cancels visit to attend WHO meeting in Maldives”, Maldives Independent


UN call to end Rohingya violence

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Burmese authorities on Tuesday to end violence against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State, warning of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation. For more information, see: “UN chief warns Arakan State violence could destabilise region”, DVB

India shares concern

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on September 6 that India shared Myanmar’s concern about “extremist violence” in its Arakan State, where a security force operation against Rohingya Muslim rebels has sent about 125,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh. For more information, see: “Modi to Suu Kyi: ‘We share your concerns about extremist violence’ in Arakan”, DVB, 6 September 2017; “India Supports Myanmar in Tackling Terrorism”, The Irrawaddy

High-level discussion

A high-level meeting, including the members of National Defence and Security Council (NDSC), was held in Naypyidaw on September 6 afternoon to discuss the situation in Rakhine State and issues relating to the rule of law in Myanmar. For more information see: “High-Level Govt Meeting Held for Rakhine Conflict”, The Irrawaddy

China opens liaison office

The Embassy of the People's Republic of China has opened an Interim Liaison Office on  September 8. The opening ceremony was presided over by China's Ambassador to Myanmar, Hong Liang. For more information, see: “China opens Interim Liaison Office in Nay Pyi Taw”, Mizzima


Congenial conditions of China–Nepal bilateralism

China has been well advancing in materialising its much ambitious railway network under the OBOR framework. In this process, the integral role of Nepal has been acknowledged through serious research and development of the project. India also plays a very important role in this economic corridor, creating a sub-region of financial development. Nepal has been viewed as the most important bridge to such an idea and the project also hints at the ever growing contingency between Nepal and China. For more information, see: “Nepal, China to expedite cross-border railway”, Republica

 Flood disaster lingers on

The crisis of the Nepal flood has raised worldwide concern along with the situation of the other South Asian countries. Although the water has receded to a considerable level, the condition still remains worse with thousands of homeless people and the lack of proper sanitation. The government remains answerable and also in dire need of partners from all around the world. For more information, see: “‘Lack of funds, disease outbreaks compound flood victims’ misery’”, The Kathmandu Post

 Primary Documentation

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing on the ongoing visit of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal to China< style="font-size: 16px">”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal

Statement by Hon’ble Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal on “Nepal-China Partnership for Trans-Himalayan Development” At China Foreign Affairs University, Beijing, 08 September 2017”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal “Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangladesh regarding donation to Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal


Anti-terror drive with Beijing

At a joint press conference, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, China pledged support for Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism. Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi said that Pakistan had made unprecedented sacrifices against terrorism and that it welcomed Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan foreign minister, Khawaja Asif said that there was no military solution to Afghanistan’s war against terrorism and that peace talks were the only solution. For more information, see: “China pledges support for Pakistan’s war against terrorism”, The News International

New n-plant from China

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated a China-backed 340 MW nuclear power plant in Punjab province in 8 September. Located in Chashma, Mianwali district, this is the fifth nuclear plant in Pakistan that has been built with Chinese cooperation. Abbasi said that nuclear plants were a source of cheap energy and that the government would built more such plants, on on a fast-track basis to tackle the chronic energy shortages in the country. For more information, see: “Pakistan PM opens China-backed fifth nuke plant”, The Hindu

Pak Bank in New York asked to close

The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) have ordered Pakistan’s Habib Bank to close its New York office for failing to heed concerns over illicit financial transactions, including possible terror financing and money laundering. The bank has agreed to pay $225 million to settle an enforcement action brought against it for compliance failures. For more information, see: “Pakistan’s biggest bank kicked out of US, fined over terror financing charge”, The Economic Times

Sri Lanka 

Modi stresses bilateral ties

At talks with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that India attached great importance to bilateral ties. Independent of the Marapana visit, the customary first-visit of Sri Lankan Foreign Ministers’ maiden overseas start-off point after taking over, the navies of the two countries commenced the week-long, SLINEX-2015 exercises, which commenced in 20015. For more information, see: “India attaches great importance to ties with SL: Modi”, Daily Mirror Online

Govt stays off Fonseka

The national unity government has quickly distanced itself from the controversial statement of Cabinet Minister, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s accusation that his war-time colleague, Lt-Gen Jagath Jayasuriya, had committed ‘war-crimes’. Unsatisfied with the Government’s stand, the Joint Opposition has claimed that it was a case of ‘collective responsibility’ of the Cabinet, and Fonseka should go like then erstwhile Justice Minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe. For more information, see: “SF's statement personal: Govt.”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 September 2017; “Don't betray people by protecting so-called war heroes: SF”, Daily Mirror Online

Ex-Mahinda aide jailed

Colombo High Court Judge Gihan Kulatunga has sentenced Lalith Weeratunga, constitutionally-mandated President’s Secretary to former incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, and another to three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of SLR 50 m each, for a fraudulent transaction and spending the money on the latter’s re-election campaign in 2015. While the convicts are expected to appeal against the verdict and have since been transferred to prison hospital after complaining of high diabetes, the Joint Opposition has said that it would collect funds for paying Weeratunga’s fine amount. For more information, see: “Lalith, Anusha sentenced”, Daily Mirror Online


Primary Documentation


Opinion Pieces

Imtiaz Gul, “Pakistan is not deterred by Trump’s Afghan policy that favours India”, Hindustan Times, 4 September 2017 Sandra Petersmann, “Lacking strategy, Donald Trump fights on in Afghanistan”, DW, 22 August 2017



 “Averting a catastrophe”, Dhaka Tribune, 7 September 2017


Opinion Pieces

Dr. Phuntsho Namgyel, “Forestry can be the next big growth driver for Bhutan”, Kuensel, 8 September 2017


How costly is our development planning?”, Kuensel, 4 September 2017


Opinion Pieces

Vidya Sagar Reddy, “ISRO’s PSLV launch failure could be a blessing in disguise”, DNA India , 8 September 2017


Opinion Pieces

Joe Kumbun, “UNFC: On the NCA Path”, The Irrawaddy, 7 September 2017


Opinion Pieces

Biswas Baral, India’s Oli complex”, Republica, 7 September 2017 Abhijit Sharma, Changing tide”, Republica, 6 September 2017 Sarin Ghimire, Stability begins at home”, The Kathmandu Post, 8 September 2017


Muted voices”, The Kathmandu Post, 6 September 2017  BRI-ng it home”, Republica, 5 September 2017


Opinion Pieces

F.S. Aijazuddin, “The fourth horror”, Dawn, 7 September 2017 Talat Masood, “Harmonising policies with Afghanistan”, The Express Tribune, 6 September 2017 Khurram Husain, “The wall of BRICS”, Dawn, 7 September 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajan Philips, “The hounds of law keeps the UNP and Rajapaksas nervous and concerned”, The Island, 10 September 2017 M S M Ayub, “Numbers game, not policies that matter”, Daily Mirror Online, 8 September 2017 Malinda Seneviratne, “For a time of confidence and confidences”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 September 2017 Ranga Jayasuriya, “Sarath Fonseka’s war-time rhetoric is self-harming”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 September 2017


Kelum Bandara, “I don’t rule out the possibility of MR and MS patching up differences: Basil”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 September 2017 Kelum Bandara, “Unity Govt will be extended even beyond 2020: Lakshman Kiriella”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 September 2017 Kelum Bandara, “We fear if judicial independence will be at stake: Udaya Gammanpilla”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 September 2017


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