MonitorsPublished on Aug 01, 2018
South Asia weekly report | Vol. XI Issue 31


‘New’ Pakistan: What new does it offer for India ties?

Mayuri Banerjee The year-long battle for power is finally over as Pakistan went to elections on 25 July. According to Gallup International, the elections concluded largely peacefully with 55 percent voter turn-out. Amidst allegations of vote-rigging from various quarters, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has claimed victory and is set to become the next Prime Minister. In the history of Pakistan politics, this is the third consecutive elections to be held in a row without intervening military rule of whatever kind. It is thus seen as a beacon of hope for a country mired in violence, poverty, debt-traps, rising oil prices and a free-falling currency. The challenges in the international realm are greater, where Pakistan is on the verge of facing isolation over allegations of providing safe haven to the terrorists. Therefore, this election holds significance not only for the country but also its neighbours, especially India who had been following the elections closely.

Tough stand?

Every time there is a change of regime in either country, there is also another hope to rejuvenate ties between Pakistan and India. For instance in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation for then Pakistan  Prime Minister along with other SAARC Heads of Government for his swearing-in ceremony and his surprise visit to Pakistan a year later, were hailed as unprecedented gestures to mend ties with the latter. However, the optimism died a tragic death in 2016 Uri attack in which the Pakistani hand was visible, followed by the Indian ‘surgical strikes’ on terror hide-outs inside Pakistan, brought bilateral ties to a standstill again Similarly, large sections of Indian political elite do not see Imran Khan’s ascent to power  as a breather for Indo-Pak relations. The last few years have seen dramatic shift in Imran Khan’s political stand. From being a staunch critic of extremism, he emerged as the strongest supporter of blasphemy laws. The Indian media have tagged him as the ‘Taliban’ Khan for his hard-line approach on foreign policy and women’s rights issues. Although Imran Khan had refrained from India-bashing during his election campaigns, he had repeatedly admonished his opponent Nawaz Sharif by calling him an ‘Indian agent’. On another occasion one of his party’s major security policy architects had indicated their willingness to take a tough stand against India on the ‘Kashmir issue’. To the further irritation of Indian policy-makers, Khan has also become more explicit in his admiration for China and the Chinese political system. He is not only one of the vocal champions of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) but is also amenable to the idea of importing Chinese model of development.

Other side of the coin

But one must not forget to look at the other side of the coin. Imran Khan’s opponents have dubbed him as the army’s favourite. Many analysts contend he won elections primarily due to military backing and this is not a worst-case scenario for India. Research shows that bilateral ties between the two countries have been relatively stable under military leaderships than civilian regimes, for when in power the military is hard-pressed to act responsibly. Recall, the 1999 Kargil War, when Gen Pervez Musharraf after having orchestrated the war made a volte face by starting the peace process with India immediately after he came to power. His term,from 1999-2008, is termed as one of the most peaceful years in the history of India-Pakistan ties. Therefore, a civilian government with full support of the military will provide the needed stability in India-Pakistan ties as the military establishment will be less concerned with discrediting the civilian government by organizing sporadic border violence. The civilian cover of the military rule might also help India deal with Pakistan better given the former’s apprehension against military leaders. While the Indian media is busy lambasting Pakistan elections, explaining how Imran Khan is a bad choice for both Pakistan and India few have taken notice of his victory speech. It was surprising that Mr. Khan devoted a significant part of his speech to India-Pakistan relations, articulating his plans for mending the ties, where China and CPEC just found a mention. Mr. Khan elaborating how good relations will be mutually beneficial emphasized strengthening of bi-lateral trade with India. Although this does not call for comparison between India and China, it nevertheless reflects the incoming administration’s mindset and importance India-Pakistan ties might receive under his watch.

Thorniest issues

Kashmir remains one of thorniest issues between India and Pakistan and is of highest priority in Pakistan foreign policy. The PTI manifesto proposes resolution of Kashmir issue according to UNSC directives and Imran Khan during his campaigning had accused Indian army of human rights violations. However, post-elections Khan appears a changed man and declared that if India takes one step Pakistan will take two, expressing his willingness to talk with India. Even Kashmiri separatist leaders like Abdul Ghani Bhat and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have expressed hope that Imran’s ascent might help renew India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir and bring peace to the valley. Here, a point of caveat needs to be mentioned; that despite emerging the single largest party PTI failed to secure a majority of Parliament seats and a coalition government is likely to come to power and given the culture of military activism, Mr Khan might at times find himself constrained. On the other hand, Indian political establishment have maintained surprising silence as Indian media reports continue to condemn Khan’s election. Therefore, the onus lies with both powers; India will have to choose a constructive response to the change going beyond traditional media bashing and Pakistan will have to offer something new at the table to convince India that a Naya Pakistan, or a ‘new Pakistan’, is really on rise.
The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata Chapter

Pak-North Korea proliferation, joint concern of India, South Korea

Rishabh Tiwari The recent state visit of the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, to New Delhi, marked 45 years of diplomatic ties between India and South Korea. The visit underlined the interest of the two democracies in facing the threat of nuclear proliferation from Pakistan and North Korea. While releasing the joint statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “During our talks, I told President Moon that proliferation linkages between North-East Asia and South Asia is a matter of concern to India”. The statement may not have made it to the headlines but has been continually reiterated by India in some form or the other. Even during recent May visit, which was the first high-level visit in two decades, of Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V. K. Singh to North Korea, the proliferation issue was of core concern and was conveyed to Pyongyang.

Pak-North Korea ties

Although trade relations between Pakistan and DPRK were established in early 1970’s, the two nations bolstered their defence ties in the late 1970’s. In this regard, the visit of Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Pyongyang in 1976 is viewed as a defining moment in the bilateral ties between the two nations. Although North Korea’s nuclear proliferation seemingly started in the 1980’s, at a time when Pakistan began its uranium enrichment programme. It reached its zenith during the 90’s. Afterwards, missile cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan received impetus post the high-level visit of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to North Korea in 1993. This resulted in a series of ‘technology’ and ‘material’ exchanges between the two countries. Pakistan emerged as a partner to North Korea in developing its uranium enrichment technology. In fact, exchange of centrifuge technology, and even the centrifuges themselves, was underway during 90’s. Although Pakistan has defended its proliferation record, its nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan was himself involved in this proliferation. On the other hand, North Korea, considering its successful ballistic missile programme, emerged as valuable partner to Pakistan’s missile programme. The ‘No Dong’ missiles were the ones trades for Highly Enriched Uranium(HEU) technologies with Pakistan. The Ghauri series of missiles of Pakistan are apparently inspired from the No Dong missile of North Korea. These proliferation linkages and North Korea-Pakistan nuclear cooperation have thus been an emerging concern for India. This threat was revived after North Korea successfully tested a thermonuclear bomb in 2017, as it could another nuclear race in the sub-continent.

Converging interests

Owing to the above linkages between North Korea and Pakistan gives rise to the possibility of convergence of strategic interests between South Korea and India.  Under the ‘New South Policy’ introduced by President Moon in November 2017, South Korea has placed special focus in its relations with South and South-East Asian nations, including India and China. The policy, which aims to bolster economic, strategic and people-to-people ties with the South Asia are seemingly congruent with India’s Act East Policy. The policy aims at strengthening ties with South-East and other Asian countries including South Korea. India and South Korea are respectively the third and fourth largest economies in Asia.  As compared to meagre $130 million trade with DPRK, India’s trade with South Korea amounts to nearly $ 20 billion and is estimated to reach $ 50 billion by 2030.The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed between the two countries in 2010, in the presence of more than 700 South Korean companies in India, itself reflects the scale of economic ties between the two nations. India has the scope to boost exports to South Korea. The high-end technologies and expertise possessed by the South Korean companies can help India in meeting its numerous infrastructure projects under the present governments ‘smart-cities initiative’. South Korea could also be a potential partner in the ‘Make-in–India’ programme especially by investing in the consumer electronics segment in India. Thus, strong and dynamic South Korea-India relations can be advantageous to both, especially India in view of their strategic and economic interests. Alternatively, South Korea could gain by engaging India on the economic front and hence reducing its economic dependence on China which has relatively shared harmonious ties with North Korea, which South Korea shares tumultuous relations. Elevating the erstwhile ‘Strategic Partnership’ to ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ between the two nations could be the next step to strengthen the bilateral relations which would yield significant benefits for the two sides.
The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation 

Country Reports


Imran Khan’s offer Imran Khan, the soon-to-be Prime Minister of Pakistan, articulated several focal points of the foreign policy that his government would be undertaking. In doing so, he said that the country is in dire need of peace and that harmony in Pakistan meant the equivalent in Afghanistan. The latter has suffered much in the ‘war on terror’ and in the earlier Afghanistan jihad. He further expressed his desire of the two countries sharing open borders.

New coalition

A Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan has been formed in the country under the leadership of the first Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Doshtum, and a few others. It aims at better governance, ensuring security and promoting peace talks amongst other goals. The Presidential Palace in Afghanistan recently stated that the government is open to all programmes, plans and recommendations by the coalition, provided they boost the laws of the country and meet the demands of the people.

Visit to Badghish

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Badghish province of Afghanistan recently to inaugurate the Qala Naw electricity substation during his visit to the province. The substation is deemed to be beneficial to around seven thousand families residing there. He is also scheduled to meet the civilian and the military officials of Badghish and will hold separate meetings with the tribal elders, religious clerics, teachers, youth, women, civil society activists, district administrative chiefs and members of the provincial councils.

Meeting in Qatar

The three days of ceasefire has left a tantalising taste of peace in the mouths of the Afghan people. In an effort to perpetuate peace, the US officials led by Ambassador Alice Wells, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia met with the Taliban political commission in Doha, Qatar. Avenues to lay the groundwork for peace were explored between the two parties, of which the US is in close consultation with the Afghan government.


India’s ‘internal matter’

Syed Muazzem Ali, Bangladeshi envoy to India, has observed that the publication of draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the north-estern Indian State of Assam this week is an "internal matter" of India and said it would not interfere. The envoy informed that the issue has not been raised at the official level by India with his country at any stage, hence, it is an internal issue of India.

Committed to religious freedom

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali informed that Bangladesh is committed to promoting religious freedom and communal harmony. The minister made this remark during his meeting with US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D Brownback in Washington DC this week. The minister visited DC to attend the maiden Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo.

5-G forerunner soon

Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) adviser to the Prime Minister, expressed his desire to make Bangladesh one of the first countries to deploy 5G in the world. He further said that the 5G will be implemented if the ruling Awami League returns to power after the election.


Thai ties up

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s two-day visit on 20-21 July saw wide ranging discussions on the bilateral relationship and areas of cooperation that included, engineering, economics, public health, education, management and agriculture. Chan-o-cha’s held wide ranging discussions on United Nations, Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ADC).

Chinese visit

Vice foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, Kong Xuanyou, accompanied by officials, visited Bhutan from 22-24 July. The minister received an audience with The King, called on Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and met with foreign minister Damcho Dorji. This is the vice foreign minister’s first visit to Bhutan since assuming his post in January 2018.

Medicines from Bangladesh

Bhutan’s Ambassador to Bangladesh, Sonam T Rabgye, on behalf of the government, received a package of 258 essential medicines from the Bangladesh on 23 July. Bhutan requested for the supply of essential medicines for a year, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s state visit to Bhutan in April last year.


No-trust vote and after

Although the current government defeated the no-confidence motion in parliament last week, the debate over the Rafale deal with France has refused to back down. While the opposition has accused the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of ‘misleading’ the nation, a document has rshown that the new deal is much more beneficial for India than the previous one.

Modi at BRICS Summit

Concluding his five-day visit to Rwanda and Uganda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in South Africa on 25 July to attend the BRICS Summit. During his visit, he signed $ 200 million worth of LoC with Uganda, ranging from defence to agriculture, and also became the first Indian PM to address the Parliament of Uganda.

Scepticism over Pak change

With Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) emerging as the single largest party and Shahbaz Khan led Pakistan Muslim League (PML) emerging as closest rival, Imran Khan is destined to be the next Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Speeches made by Imran Khan during and prior to his election campaign in the context of India have made Indian analysts sceptical of his policies towards India.


China bridge this week

The Chinese-funded Male-Huluhule ‘Sini-male friendship’ will be inaugurated this week, according to reports. Alongside, another Chinese-funded project, a second runway in the Velana International Airport, will also be ready, both ahead of the 23 September presidential polls, as originally projected – if only to help incumbent Abdulla Yameen to project them as part of his ‘development agenda’.


Exports to US surpass imports

Myanmar’s exports to the US surpassed imports in the first two months of the six-month interim period (April-September) prior to the 2018-19 fiscal year. Myanmar’s trade with the US was worth US $172.5 million, with exports worth $112 million and imports worth $60.4 million, according to statistics provided by the commerce ministry.

Suu Kyi visits flood victims

More than 16,000 people are thought to have been displaced by floods following heavy monsoon rains in Myanmar. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited flood relief centres in Hpa-an in Kayin State on 26 July. The temporary flood relief centre has been opened at the state indoor stadium. She asked people about their livelihoods, health conditions and support given, followed by a distribution of rice, cooking oil, medical supplies, food supplies, clothing and financial aid.

ISAF agreement with India

U Kyaw Tin, Minister of International Cooperation, Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar signed the International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement in the presence of Smt. Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister on 19 July on the sidelines of Delhi Dialogue 10. Myanmar thus became the 68th signatory to the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance. This agreement has been signed in the the two-day Delhi Dialogue 10 themed "Strengthening India-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation".


Nepali Congress backs medical education bill

Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa has urged support for the medical education bill, to be tabled in Parliament, following the 22-point agreement between the government and Dr. Govinda KC. Following constant hunger strikes and retaliation, there is an expectation of an honest implementation of the bill for the welfare of the entire country.

New Ministry

There has been a decision on the part of the government to split the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Management and Cooperatives (MoALMC) into separate identities in their own capacity. According to Government Spokesperson Gokul Banskota, a cabinet meeting was held for the same, thereby raising the number of ministries in the country to 22. Moreover, the Press Council shall also be reoriented as the Media Council. Altogether, the government is being witnessed to envisage a new façade.

Airline on the go

The country has warmly welcomed Second Airbus A330-200 aircraft, ordered by the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. Named Makalu, the aircraft came directly from France and is indeed a matter of pride for Nepal. Secretary as the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Krishna Prasad Devkota along with other higher officials of the tourism ministry were all present for the ceremony. Flights would be operational to Australia, Japan, South Korea along with the Gulf and European countries.


Imran Khan declares victory

Imran Khan’s PTI emerged as the strongest party with 114 seats in National Assembly. In Punjab Assembly there was a neck to neck competition between PML-N and PTI with PML-N leading by just five seats. Sindh remained the stronghold of PPP, where the party bagged 74 seats and PTI was seen trailing behind with 22 seats. Surprisingly, BAP which was formed some months before the elections won the Balochistan Provincial Assembly with a majority. Khyber Pankhutwa, however, voted in its second consecutive PTI government as the party swept the provincial assembly.

PML-N rejects results

The opposition has come together to oppose Imran Khan’s ascent to Prime Ministership as allegations of massive rigging continue to rise. PML-N has already rejected election results and announced its decision to attend the MML organized all party conference that is likely to reject election results, discuss the electoral anomalies and decide on the future course of action.

Sri Lanka

‘Key component’ of MSR: China

Sri Lanka is a key component of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) with Hambantota Port and Colombo Port City as the two flagship projects of the pragmatic cooperation between China and Sri Lanka under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan has said in a statement.  “Sri Lanka’s black tea, rubber, gems, textiles and other featured products will come to Shanghai, exhibiting the charm of Sri Lanka to the huge Chinese market. We believe that China-Sri Lanka traditional friendship will continue to deepen on this new platform,” he said, pointing out that in November this year, China will hold the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, the “world’s first expo themed on import and is a major policy measure of China to further open its market to the world”.



Opinion Pieces

Hamidullah Bamik, “Why is the Afghan Government Afraid of the US Direct Talks with the Taliban Group?”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 26 July 2018 Rod Norland, “Accused of Rape and Torture, Exiled Afghan Vice President Returns”, The New York Times, 22 July 2018 Sophia Mourtaza, “A Possible Solution To Kabul’s Growing Trash Problem”, Tolo News, 21 July 2018


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Sports: A strategic Opportunity for Nation Building in Afghanistan”, 26 July 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Religious Peace Building: Could it break the Dead lock in Afghanistan Peace Process?”, 24 July 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Afghan Political Parties: Trapped in the Ethnic Interests”, 21 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Abdullah Shibli, “Early Marriage: A contributor to “modern slavery” in Bangladesh?”,The Daily Star, 27 July 2018 Badiul Alam Majumdar, “Why facing the voters is important for democracy”, The Daily Star, 24 July 2018 Badrul Imam, “Solution lies in local gas, not imported LNG”, The Daily Star, 21 July 2018



Kuensel, “Respect people’s choice”, 24 July 2018 The Bhutanese, “The Bypass”, 21 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Harsh V Pant, Abhishek Mishra, “Different messages, different methods”, The Hindu, 26 July 2018 Abhijay Negi, “China is building Rwanda’s gigantic ‘Vision City’, Modi just gifted them cows”, The Print, 27 July 2018 Aakash Joshi,” Politics without close-ups” , The Indian Express, 28 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Nafajaath Ibrahim, “The man who wove a thousand nets: A fisherman’s tale”, Mihaaru, 28 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Dr. Kyaw Lat, “Specter of Yangon as a Mega City Casts Shadow Over Whole Country’s Future”, The Irrawaddy, 27 July 2018 Kyaw Phyo Tha, “No Room in Modern Myanmar for Faith-Based Nationalism”, The Irrawaddy, 25 July 2018 Bidhayak Das, “Assam’s NRC Update: A Fix or a Crisis in the Making?”, The Irrawaddy, 24 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Sweta Gyanu Baniya, “Save our girls”, Republica, 26 July 2018 Udaya R. Wagle, “Powerful people, weak government”, The Kathmandu Post, 27 July 2018 Narayan Silwal, “Achieving VAT target”, Republica, 26 July 2018


Republica, “Federalism should not mean more taxes!”, 26 July 2018 The Kathmandu Post, “High in the sky”, 27 July 2018 The Himalayan Times, “Control trafficking”, 27 July 2018


Opinion Pieces

Mahir Ali, “Captain’s Innings?”, Dawn,25 July 2018 Dr. Pervez Tahir, “Performance counts”, The Express Tribune, 27 July 2018


The Express Tribune,Pakistan’s verdict”, 26 July 2018 Dawn, “Time to move on”, 27 July 2018

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Black July: Forgotten, forgettable?”, Colombo Gazette, 28 July 2018 Kelum Bandara, “Mercury rising, Govt to face increased pressure to have PC polls”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 July 2018 Malinda Seneviratne, “Bottom of Form US-China combine getting Yahapalanists to cough up sovereignty?”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 July 2018 Neville Laduwahetty, “Screening of peace-keeping personnel from Sri Lanka”, The Island, 25 July 2018 C A Chandraprema, “The nature of the State and the Presidency”, The Island, 25 July 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Love thy enemy?”, Ceylon Today, 24 July 2018 Jehan Perera, “Coping with nationalism in Jaffna through engagement”, The Island, 24 July 2018 Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan, “Vijayakala’s outburst and the elephant in the room”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 July 2018


Kelum Bandara, “Govt. cannot deny Federalism to Tamil people: Gajan Ponnambalam”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 July 2018 Ranjith Ananda Jayasinghe, “I never took orders from members of the Rajapaksa family: Lalith Weeratunga”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 July 2018 Kelum Bandara, “Unless Federal set up established, the majority community will gobble us up: C V Wigneswaran”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 July 2018


Afghanistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ketan Mehta & Rishabh Tiwari Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak Pakistan: Mayuri Banerjee
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