South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 45

     Ghani, Modi, SAW, South Asia, South Asia Weekly

    Afghan President Ghani with PM Modi

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    Indian wheat through Chabahar

    India’s first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port reached Iran on 1 November. This is the first time the Chabahar port has beingused as a new route for trade between India and Afghanistan. The Ministry of External Affairs statement said that, ““The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternative, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan.” The consignment was a part of India’s commitment to send 1.1. million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan.

    For more information, see: “India ships wheat to Afghanistan via Chabahar”, The Hindu

    More territory lost to insurgents

    The Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan in his latest quarterly report has stated that 11.4 per cent of the Afghan population live in areas that are under insurgent control. Approximately, 56.8 per cent of the country is under control of the government while it was 57 per cent only six months ago. SIGAR stated that of the 407 districts in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, only 231 were under government’s control or influence in late August. They said 54 districts were either under insurgent control or influence. This means that 13.3 percent of all the districts in the country are under insurgent control or influence.

    For more information, see: “SIGAR reports Govt has lost more ground to insurgents”, Tolo News

    Bangladesh

    Khaleda accused of sedition

    A case was filed against Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Begum Khaleda Zia, charging her with sedition, for allegedly holding a ‘secret meeting’ with Pakistani’s ISI during her recent visit of the UK. The petitioner alleged Begum Zia of conspiring with ISI to destabilise Bangladesh by instigating war between India and Bangladesh. Begum Zia said this week that the Awami League government was trying to portray her as ineligible for contesting the national polls by charging various cases against her. Currently she is facing graft charges for alleged misappropriation of funds of orphanage names after her military dictator husband begum Zia.

    For more information, see: “Khaleda accused of sedition for allegedly meeting with Pakistan’s ISI”, Bdnews24.com, 2 November 2017; “BNP chief Khaleda Zia accuses govt of trying to portray her as ineligible for polls”, Bdnews24.com

    Bhutan

    King meets Modi

    King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck accompanied by Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuk and Prince Jigme Namgyal Wangchuk, visited India this week. In his four-day visit he met top Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and discussed various issues of bilateral concerns.

    For information see: “Bhutan King's visit to India: Here's the 10-point cheat sheet”, Zeenews.com

    No GST on services

    Bhutanese traders will no more have to pay Good and Services Tax while purchasing services in India. However, they can enjoy the opportunity only if payment is made in the Indian currency to the Indian service providers. This will be a major immensely help bilateral trade.

    For more information, see: “India removes GST on services supplied to Nepal, Bhutan”, Central Chronicle

    Biz-ease falls

    According to ease of doing business report 2018, Bhutan’s ranking has dropped from 73 to 75. However, the country is still one of the best place for doing business in South Asia with India ranking 100, Nepal (105), Sri Lanka (111), the Maldives (136) Pakistan (147), Bangladesh (177) and Afghanistan (183).

    For more information, see: “Bhutan slips in ease of doing business ranking”, Kuensel

    India

    China for better ties

    China on Friday said it was ready to work with India to promote "constant progress" of bilateral relations, amid fresh strains in ties after Beijing again blocked Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar's designation as a global terrorist by the UN. India reacted sharply to China's move, saying "accommodating with terrorism" for narrow objectives was both short-sighted and counterproductive.

    For more information, see: After blocking ban on Masood Azhar, China says ready to work with India on bilateral relations, Times of India

    Boiler-blast kills 32 workers

    Investigations into a boiler blast that killed 32 and left scores injured on Wednesday at state-run NTPC's power plant in Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh have revealed that engineers were aware of a problem in the boiler unit commissioned just months ago and were working to fix it. In a statement, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) officials have said that "extremely high pressure" because of ash within the boiler furnace caused it to leak, producing a disaster.

    For more information, see: “NTPC Engineers Were Trying To Fix Boiler Before Blast Killed 32: Probe”,  NDTV

    SC notice on Aadhar

    The Supreme Court on Friday sought the government’s response on four petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and linking of bank accounts and mobile numbers with the 12-digit biometric identification number. The apex court did not pass any interim order in the matter saying that final hearing in all Aadhaar-related issues would start before another bench in the last week of this month and the Centre has already extended the deadline till December 31.

    For more information, see: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s reply on pleas challenging Aadhaar Act

    Easy for business now: PM

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that it is now easier to do business in India than ever before after the country leaped 30 places to break into top 100 nations worldwide. The jump to 100th rank on this year's World Bank Ease of Doing Business index, from last year's 130, is the biggest by any country this year, he said while addressing the World Food India conference here.

    For more information, see: “Easier to do business in India than ever before, says PM Modi”, Times Of India

    Maldives  

    US talks to India

    In a not-so-common move, US diplomats headed by Ambassador to Maldives, Atul Keshap, based in Colombo, called on Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar in New Delhi and discussed the current political situation in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Maldives Ambassador to India, Ahmed Mohammed, dubbed the American concerns ‘western double-standards”.

    For more information, see: “US discusses Maldives turmoil with India”, The Hindu, 5 November 2017; “Maldives opposition seeks EU help for free and fair election in 2018”, Maldives Independent

    Threats from outside: Prez

    In the annual 3 November ‘Victory Day’ address to the nation, President Abdulla Yameen called upon the people to be vigilant against ‘potential threats from outside’, which his Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar said included ‘secularism and extremism’. The day marks the anniversary of the coup-bid of 1988 against then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which was neutralised with India rushing in troops.

    For more information, see: “President urges vigilance to potential threats from outside”, SunOnline, 3 November 2017; “On anniversary of 1988 coup, Maldives threatened by ‘secularism and extremism’”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    Sanctions bad: Suu Kyi

    State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has said that the proposed US sanctions targeting Myanmar’s military for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims would hinder the fledgling civilian government sharing power with the generals.

    For more information, see: “Burma sees ‘bad consequences’ if US imposes sanctions on military”, DVB

    Nepal

    Election mood in full swing

    Approaching elections in any country are often accompanied by high end promises and manifestoes. The same is visible in Nepal as well, with the soon impending referendum. While the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) officially unveiled its promulgation earlier this week, the joint proclamation of the left alliance led by CPN-UML has also been made public, albeit unofficially. Issue like hydro power generation, enhanced connectivity and improved social security are few of the many affirmations made.

    For more information, see: “Tall promises as voters care least about poll manifestoes”, Republica

    Fast-tracking quake relief

    The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) issued a 28-point declaration to advance and expedite the post-earthquake reconstruction works. Work has begun right from the local grass root level so that more than 80 affected households can receive permanent residential solutions.

    For more information, see: “NRA issues 28-point declaration”, The Himalayan Times

    Pakistan

    20 outfits in US terror-list

    The United States has released a list of twenty terrorist organisations located in Pakistan that are targeting India and Afghanistan. The list includes three types of militants groups: those who launch attacks into Afghanistan, those who attack targets inside Pakistan and those who are focused on Kashmir, the newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying. The first name on the list is the Haqqani Network that provides support to the Taliban, and has its safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Other groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakatul Mujahideen are also on the list.

    For more information, see: “US shares names of 20 terror groups with Pakistan: report”, The Hindu

    Sharif case adjourned

    Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Islamabad on 2 November from London to appear in court with regard to corruption allegations against him. The accountability hearing was adjourned as three of the references against the Sharif family could not be procured in the court at the time. As the hearing began, Sharif's lawyer Khawaja Haris filed a fresh application for the clubbing of the three accountability references naming the ex-PM. Haris had approached the Islamabad High Court on 2 November requesting the clubbing together of the references. The case has been adjourned until 7 November.

    For more information, see: “Sharif family’s accountability hearing adjourned until Nov 7”, Dawn

    Sri Lanka

    Golden opportunity to achieve unity and progress: PM

    Participating in the three-day Constitutional Assembly debate on the draft steering committee report, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called upon the nation not to miss the golden opportunity to achieve unity and progress. The debate went on predictable lines, with the TNA speaking the same language but from the opposite end of the ethnic spectrum and the Joint Opposition identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that the new statute had already been readied in the US and would divide the nation.

    For more information, see: “PM calls for grabbing golden opportunity to achieve unity, progress”, The Island, 2 November 2017; “Broad discussion on Constitution with Mahanayake Theras and people: PM”, Daily Mirror Online

    EU ‘disappointed’

    A visiting European Union (EU) delegation has expressed disappointment over the slow progress made in the repeal/replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Meanwhile, the Jaffna University in the Northern Province was shut down indefinitely following students’ protest, backing three Tamil ‘political prisoners’ on a fast-unto-death, demanding immediate release of over 160 of them.

    For more information, see: “Repealing PTA: EU says disappointed over slow progress”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 November 2017; “Opposition to finding political settlement short-sighted: EU”, Daily Mirror Online

    No tie-up for LG polls

    With the nation-wide local government polls scheduled for January, President Maithiripala Sirisena-led SLFP faction has ruled out any alliance with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP, and the latter has reciprocated in kind. The JO under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa laid down conditions for backing the official SLFP and boycotted the party meeting called by Sirisena to discuss the LG polls.

    For more information, see: “SLFP says won’t contest together with UNP”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 November 2017; “No one spoke of an alliance: UNP”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Myanmar

    “U Henry Van Thio inspects Union National Races Village in Thakayta”, President Office Myanmar, 3 November 2017

    Nepal

    Press Release issued by Permanent Delegation of Nepal to UNESCO Paris, regarding 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO”, Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 2 November 2017

    “Press Release issued by Permanent Delegation of Nepal to UNESCO Paris, regarding 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO”, Ministry of External Affairs Nepal, 1 November 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    1. Ashraf Haidari, “Afghanistan: The Heart of Silk Road in Asia”, The Diplomat, 2 November 2017

    Harsh V. Pant, “All the roads that lead to Kabul”, The Hindu, 28 October 2017

    Bangladesh

    Mir Aftabuddin Ahmed, “Engaging the youth in electoral process”, The Daily Star, 3 November 2017

    Abdullah Shibli, “Transparency: What does it mean for the apparel industry?”, The Daily Star, 3 November 2017

    Bhutan

    Opinion Pieces

    Elizabeth Roche, “Why Bhutan royal family’s four-day India visit matters”, Livemint, 31 October 2017

    India

    Opinion Pieces

    Deepak Sinha, “The New York terror attack calls for a changed counter-terror response” , WION, 3 November 2017

    Supriya Sharma, “Prospects of Constitutional Reform after Japan’s Snap Elections “, India Defence Review, 3 November 2017

    Myanmar

    Opinion Pieces

    Stephanie Guo, “By the people, for the people: Why state and regional governments should produce Citizens Budgets”, Myanmar Times, 3 November 2017

    Chris Patten, “Xi Jinping: China’s new emperor”, Myanmar Times, 27 October 2017

    Editorials

    Myanmar Times, “China, Myanmar meet as fighting continues in Shan State”, 4 November 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Biswas Baral, “Xi and Nepal”, Republica, 2 November 2017

    Arun R. Joshi, “Accelerating development”, Republica, 1 November 2017

    Editorials

    The Kathmandu Post, “Politicians in proportion”, 3 November 2017

    Republica, Plate tectonics, 24 October 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Asha’ar Rehman, “A prolonged role for Maryam”, Dawn, 3 November 2017

    Khurram Hussain, “CPEC long term plan”¸ Dawn, 2 November 2017

    Rasul Bakhsh Rais, “Politics in Punjab”, The Express Tribune, 1 November 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    Kusal Perera, “Can Article 9 save Buddhism?”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 November 2017

    Lynn Osckrsz, “Non-alignment emerges as Sri Lanka’s unavoidable choice”, The Island, 2 November 2017

    Jehan Perera, “Pragmatism needed in fashioning transitional justice approaches”, The Island, 1 November 2017

    Harim Peiris, “Needless fears about constitutional reforms”, The Island, 30 October 2017

    Contributors

    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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