South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. X Issue 47

     SAW, South Asia, Afghanistan, Troops, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan, Myanmar

    US troops in Afghanistan

    Country Reports

    Afghanistan

    3000 US troops arrive

    Over 3000 US troops have now arrived in Afghanistan, said the Pentagon on 16 November. Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told Pentagon reporters that the number of troops in the prior to the increase was 11,000. Now, with President Trump authorising an increase in the soldiers on the ground, US forces in the country are approximately 14,000 in number. Reports indicate that an additional 3,000 NATO troops would also be sent to the country in the next six months.

    For more information, see: “3,000 more US troops arrive in Afghanistan, Pentagon says”, Tolo News

    New Taliban unit kills policemen

    The Taliban have formed a new elite outfit, Red Unit, where fighters sport night-vision googles, America made automatic rifles, and Star Wars-like headgear. On  November 13, members of the alleged unit killed dozens of Afghan security personnel and police in Kandahar and Farah. The Red Unit was able to carry out the attacks by using stolen police or military vehicles, and using them to get as close as possible to the security bases.

    For more information, see: “Taliban ‘Red Unit’ with night vision kills dozens of Afghan officers”, The New York Times

    Bangladesh

    EC for army in polls

    The Election Commission has said that the army would be deployed in the next general election. However, the modalities of the engagement are still to be worked out. Earlier, Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia had demanded the deployment of army in the next parliamentary elections due by end of 2018.

    For more information, see:   “EC favours deployment of army”, The Daily Star, 14 November 2017; “Khaleda demands army deployment in next year’s general elections”, newsnextbd.com

    Insurgency exercise

    The joint military training exercise with India -- 'SAMPRITI 2017’ -- took place in the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram. This training will increase cooperation between the armies of the two countries.

    For more information, see:  “India, Bangladesh hold joint military training exercise”, The Economic Times

    Record growth

    The country has recorded 7.28 percent growth in the last fiscal year despite drop in agriculture production and in industrial growth. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the gross domestic product rose by 0.17 percentage points in fiscal 2016-17 from 7.11 percent in the previous fiscal year.

    For more information, see:  “Record growth in tough year”, The Daily Star

    Bhutan

    Fuel prices cut

    The Government cut petrol prices by Nu 10.29 per liter and diesel by Nu 7.75 from November 11 onwards to commemorate the 62nd Birth anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth King. The government is hereby transferring the benefit of GST reduction on fuel.

    For more information, see: “Govt slashes petrol by Nu 10.29 per liter & diesel by 7.75 effective from 11th Nov”, The Bhutanese

    Waiver under scanner

    The government’s proposal to waive off tourism royalty came under scrutiny at the National Assembly on November 16. The waiver of royalty USD 65 a day for tourist visiting the eastern dzongkhags was debated in the house following the first and the second reading of the Tourism Levy Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2017, which the finance minister introduced as a Money Bill.

    For more information see: “Opposition probes govt. on tourism royalty waiver”, Kuensel

    Development talks end

    The sixth Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks of the 11th Plan were held on November 10 in New Delhi, a press release from the foreign ministry stated. Foreign secretary Sonam Tshong led the Bhutanese delegation while the secretary, Economic Relations of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (GoI) Vijay Gokhale led the Indian delegation.

    For more information, see: “Bhutan-India to hold development cooperation talks in New Delhi”, Kuensel

    Indian aid for cancer hospital

    Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary on October 3 to discuss, among others things, an important proposal for the construction of Bhutan’s first cancer hospital in Thimphu as one of the major programs to mark the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations in 2018.

    For more information, see: “Bhutan and GoI in talks to come up with a Cancer Hospital in Thimphu”, The Bhutanese

    India

    Moody’s upgrade rating

    Ratings agency Moody’s action to upgrade India’s rating is a belated recognition of the positive steps taken by the government over the past few years, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Moody’s on November 17 upgraded the Indian government’s rating as a local and foreign currency issuer from Baa3 with a positive outlook to Baa2 with a stable outlook.

    For more information, see: Moody’s upgrade a recognition and endorsement of reform process: Jaitley, The Hindu

    Nitish group ‘real JD-U’

    In a setback to senior Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, the Election Commission on Friday ruled that the group led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the real Janata Dal (United) and is entitled to use the 'Arrow' poll symbol of the party. The JD(U) is recognised as a state party in Bihar.

    For more information, see: Election Commission recognises Nitish Kumar-led group as JD(U) , The Times of India

    Sri Sri meets religious leaders

    All issues can be resolved through dialogue, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in Ayodhya on Friday after meeting Muslim leaders as part of his efforts to mediate a solution to the protracted Ram temple dispute. Ravi Shankar, who also met various leaders across the religious spectrum, said he respected the courts but they cannot connect hearts.

    For more information see: “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meets Muslim leaders in Lucknow, says dialogue will resolve Ram temple dispute”, The Hindustan Times

    Charges ‘shameful’

    Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday that allegations relating to the procurement deal for 36 Rafale fighter jet were “shameful” and that such bickering was a “disservice” to the armed forces. Her remarks came a day after the Congress accused the prime minister of changing the “entire deal” to benefit a businessman.

    For more information, see: “Allegations relating to Rafale deal shameful: Nirmala Sitharaman” , The Hindustan Times

    Maldives  

    IS suicide-attack threat

    The police have told a Male court that two persons with IS connections were plotting a suicide-bomb attack in the capital. Of the two, one was the brain behind the attack-plot while the other was to become the suicide-attacker, and they were held while making a bomb for the purpose.

    For more information, see: “Two Islamic State suspects charged over suicide attack plot”, Maldives Independent, 14 November 2017;  “IS terror suspects were planning suicide attack in Malé”, Maldives Independent

    Myanmar

    US calls for credible probe

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for a credible investigation into the reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar’s security forces after a meeting with its civilian and military leaders.

    For more information, see: “US’s top diplomat Tillerson, in Burma, calls for credible probe of atrocities”, DVB

    Optimism on investment

    Though Myanmar is one of the lowest ranked economies in Asia Pacific region according to the World Bank’s recent report on doing business, the nation maintains its optimism over the inflow of foreign direct investment next year, according to Aung Naing Oo, director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and secretary of Myanmar Investment Commission. Myanmar would receive more FDI this year, compared to last year when it approved US$6.7 billion foreign investment.

    For more information, see: “Myanmar aims to enjoy massive inflow of FDI next year”, Eleven, 17 November 2017; “Myanmar Investment Commission approves 31 foreign and local investments”, Mizzima

    Chinese Foreign Minister coming

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh from this weekend, his ministry said on November 17, amid a crisis over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

    For more information see: “China Foreign Minister to Visit Myanmar Amid Rohingya Crisis”, The Irrawaddy

    Nepal

    Bomb hurled at NC leader

    Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel was targeted with a bomb while heading towards Lamjung from Gorkha. Poudel had reached Nepaldanda in Bhanu Municipality-10 of Tanahun when the bomb was hurled at his vehicle. Poudel aide Surya Chandra Basnet said no one was hurt in the incident.

    For more information see: “Bomb hurled at NC leader Poudel in Tanahun”, Katmandu Post

    Chinese envoy calls for trade policy stability

    Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Yu Hong, has called for policy stability in Nepal to further promote trade and investment between the two countries.

    For more information, see: “Chinese envoy calls for policy stability to bring more investment in Nepal”, My Republica

    Gold seized on China border

    A youth was arrested by Border Police Post, Timure, Rasuwa this morning in possession of illegal imported 17 kilograms of gold from Kerung entry point of China.

    For more information, see: “Youth held with 17 kgs gold”, My Republica

    Pakistan

    Talks offer to India

    Mohammad Faisal, the spokesperson for the Foreign Office, said on  November 16 that Pakistan had made the offer to resume dialogue with India and were awaiting a response. Faisal said that, Pakistan was “committed to its policy of peaceful neighbourhood but India’s posture including its claims of surgical strikes and unprecedented escalation on Line of Control and Working Boundary are threats to peace.” His remarks come days after media reports stated that the United States was quietly nudging Pakistan to re-engage with India.

    For more information, see: “Pakistan says committed to peace, offers to resume talks with India”, The Hindu

    Pok dam not in CPEC

    China has said that it is unaware of Pakistan’s rumoured decision to not include the Diamer-Bhasha Dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in the CPEC framework. Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Muzammil Hussain was yesterday quoted by the Pakistan media as saying that "Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests."

    For more information, see: “Not aware of Pakistan’s move to exclude PoK dam from CPEC: China”, The Economic Times

    Sri Lanka

    No secret detentions

    There were no secret detention centres in the country, President Maithiripala Sirisena reassured family members of ‘missing persons’ from the war-years. At the once-in-four-year Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session of the UNHCR at Geneva, meanwhile, State Minister Harsh de Silva said that promoting human rights cannot be an overnight affair, at the same time, however, there was no truth to international media reports on continuing torture under the current regime.

    For more information, see: “No secret detention centers: President”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 November 2017; “Promoting HR cannot be done overnight: SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 November 2017; “SL won’t condone any form of torture: Foreign Affairs Secy”, Daily Mirror Online

    No human rights strings to aid: China

    China does not attach human rights-related strings to assistance being extended to Sri Lanka, Zhang Song, Secretary, South Asian Division, in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, has said. Instead, it was all linked to centuries-old cultural and religious links between the two countries, she told a team of Sri Lankan journalists in Beijing.

    For more information, see: “Assistance to Sri Lanka - No strings attached: China”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 November 2017; “UAE and SL sign customs operation agreement”, Daily Mirror Online

    Primary Documentation

    Bhutan

    Sixth Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 November 2017

    Bibliography

    Afghanistan

    Opinion Pieces

    Sune Engel Rasmussen, “Afghanistan’s booming heroin trade leaves trail of addiction”, The Guardian, 16 November 2017

    Pamela Constable, “U.S. wants to build ‘tsunami of air power’ in Afghanistan, but impact is years away”, The Washington Post, 12 November 2017

    Bangladesh

    Opinion Pieces

    Shahedul Anam Khan, “Let the political rival pick up the gauntlet”, The Daily Star, 16 November 2017

    Kajalie Shehreen Islam, “The Disappeared”, The Daily Star, 17 November 2017

    Ben Vanpeperstraete, Judy Gearhart, Lynda Yanz and Scott Nova, “Why the Accord will be here until 2021”, The Daily tar, 15 November 2017

    Bhutan

    Editorials

    Promote east into what?”, Kuensel, 17 November 2017

    Conserving for development”. Kuensel, 14 November 2017

    India

    Harsh V Pant, “The ASEAN outreach” , The Hindu, 17 November 2017

    N Sathiya Moorthy, Will BJP's carrot-and-stick for TN reunite AIADMK factions?, Rediff, 15 November 2017

    Maldives  

    N Sathiya Moorthy, “Will President Yameen tick off India and the US, too?”, www.orfonline.org, 17 November 2017

    Myanmar

    ARSA’s So-called Freedom Movement Smashes Hopes of Co-existence in Rakhine”, The Irrawaddy, 29 October 2017

    Editorials

    Do not lose sight of ARSA”, The Irrawaddy, 15 November 2017

    Nepal

    Opinion Pieces

    Shambhu Ram Simkhada, “Post-Doklam Reflections”, Kathmandu Post, 17 November 2017

    Editorials

    Breaking records”, My Republica, 17 November 2017

    Pakistan

    Opinion Pieces

    F.S. Aijazuddin, “Be forewarned”, Dawn, 16 November 2017

    Khurram Hussain, “Test the air, taste the fury”, Dawn, 16 November 2017

    Faryal Leghari, “Pakistan’s Tehran overture”, The News International, 11 November 2017

    Sri Lanka

    Opinion Pieces

    M L Wickramasinghe, “Lord Naseby’s statement in the British Parliament and the onus on government of Sri Lanka to respond positively”, The Island, 19 November 2017

    Lasantha Kurukulasuriya, “New torture claims falter in the light of Lord Naseby’s revelations”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 November 2017

    Lal Gunatunga, “Budget 2018 helps establish sustainable and responsible alcohol culture”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 November 2017

    Jayadeva Uyangoda, “Our constitutional conundrum: A commentary”, The Island, 17 November 2017

    Kusal Perera, “Contradictions and controversies in Mangala’s maiden budget”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 November 2017

    M S M Ayub, “Will TNA be affected by EPRLF’s split?”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 November 2017

    Dr Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister, “Struggle for Human Rights in Sri Lanka”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 November 2017

    Sanjayan Rajasingham, “How to win a referendum? A tale of two Constitutions”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 November 2017

    Sanjeewa Fernando, “Wijeweera and the nation’s lost Brigade: An Ode in November”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 November 2017

    Rear-Adm (Dr) Sarath Weerasekara, “13th Amendment: Who has committed and who is pushing?”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 November 2017

    Ranga Jayasuriya, “Facts and fiction in AP story on asylum seeker torture”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 November 2017 

    Interviews

    Kelum Bandara, “UNP has healthy working relationship with the President: Sagala Ratnayake”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 November 2017


    Contributors

    Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M Shah

    Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

    Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

    India: Ketan Mehta

    Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

    Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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