MonitorsPublished on Oct 11, 2018
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XI; Issue 41


Pakistan: CPEC, aspirations and apprehensions

Sohini Bose Even as new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is settling down to work, one major question that he cannot but address before long pertains to trilateral relations with the big two neighbours, India and China, apart from the troubled Afghanistan. While the India-end has met with the dud after a short-lived false-start of a UNGA sidelines meeting between the two Foreign Ministers and the Afghanistan relations is equally complex, the China ties too cannot brook delay. Apart the traditional friendship between the two countries, PM Khan is under pressure to re-evaluate the multi-billion-dollar economic ties, going by the name CPEC-BRI. Khan inherits the problem from a predecessor and political rival. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 with China in Beijing to begin work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The CPEC, being the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) offered Pakistan enormous opportunities for development. Over the last five years, CPEC was developed and implemented according to the cooperation priorities which opened for Pakistan new opportunities to improve inter-governmental cooperation, expand shared interests and reach new cooperation consensus. Under the CPEC from 2008 to 2013 Pakistan’s average GDP growth rate rose by three per cent. The CPEC originally comprised four pillars, namely, the Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and economic zones. However with its extension to 2030 there are plans to incorporate within its ambit socioeconomic dimensions of development. It is thus understood as a framework for complete socioeconomic development and shared prosperity. The CPEC, which prioritises on the shared interests and vision between China and Pakistan and provides a new framework for interaction based on economic connectivity and regional cooperation. Moreover, it is likely to not only enhance market competitiveness but also provide better living standards to its member countries. To Pakistan, CPEC provides the opportunity to utilise its position of being located between three growth engines, Central Asia, China and South Asia to attain geo-economic advantages. It further seeks to remedy the infrastructural gaps in Pakistan by focussing on the development of transport and energy infrastructure, to innovating telecommunication and financial networks, in an environment that attracts foreign investment from private as well as public sectors. The CPEC is also helping bridge the urban-rural gap with policies of targeted poverty reduction and human resource development. It is thus being considered as a game changer in the future of Asia and the harbinger of a prosperous and industrious Pakistan. Recently, Pakistan and China agreed to formally invite “third-country” investors to be part of CPEC so as to add social and regional development schemes to the existing list of CPEC projects. Reports however suggested that China wanted involvement in the upcoming special economic zones (SEZs) of countries friendly to both Pakistan and China as it wanted to avoid criticism, particularly from the US and India, about possibility of secretive deals that remained beyond the public eye. Presently Saudi Arabia has joined as a third partner in CPEC.

Beyond the public eye

However, despite the positive outlook and reviews about CPEC certain sections of the Pakistani society remain sceptical in their views regarding the government’s attempts in making CPEC a reality. One of the primary conservative speculations views CPEC as a debt trap as out of the total package, an estimated amount of 34 billion in the form of investment by Chinese companies is in the energy projects of Pakistan. So far, China and Pakistan have not been able to settle certain key issues which are central to the CEPEC such as the issue about development of the Rashakai or Hattar SEZ. The Pakistani Planning Commission also reports that while realigning the goals of CPEC, Pakistan has introduced new targets of socioeconomic and regional development under this unprecedented mega project. Indeed, for many in Pakistan, the CPEC has come to resemble a cargo cult: a prospect that China will finance and fuel Pakistan’s economical prosperity. However, despite Pakistan’s unbridled enthusiasm for China’s plans, certain points of caution are also coming to the surface.  Sri Lanka’s recent experience is the foremost example in this regard. Sri Lanka borrowed large sums for BRI projects; Hambantota port, that it could not be repay. Sri Lanka is now caught in a debt trap wherein its own economic and political options have now become severely constrained. Also Malaysia, once the top trading and investment destination for China is reassessing its relationship with latter from the angle of an apparent “new colonialism”. The International Monetary Fund is also sceptical about Pakistan’s ability to repay loans. Pakistani analysts also believe that the country can mitigate risk by attracting non-Chinese investors into key projects. The utmost concern is being expressed inside Pakistan by well informed officials from the State Bank of Pakistan and other banks. Under the previous government, Chinese companies had been given tax breaks and other concessions, thereby gaining an undue advantage vis-à-vis other Pakistani companies. The Banks presently suggest putting the whole project on hold for a year, and then perhaps extending the investment time line. While Imran Khan’s admiration for China has been evident in several of his media interactions, it is important for Pakistan to realise that Chinese projects need to be turned towards actual development. The new Prime Minister has to now arbitrate between protecting his countrymen from economic exploitation and a large power that has the very reverse in mind when investing. It has to be understood that the CPEC is not a charity project by ‘big brother’ China and therefore while Chinese investment are still welcome, the strings attached to it are going to have to be carefully assessed.
The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata

Myanmar:  India’s shocking push-back approach towards Rohingyas

Sreeparna Banerjee In a shocking decision, India has deported seven Rohingya immigrants, who were staying in Assam illegally, to their home country, Myanmar. This is for the first time Rohingya immigrants have been sent back to Myanmar from India. Legal efforts to thwart their deportation failed when India's Supreme Court on 4 October rejected a petition on the behalf of the said victims. Their status as illegal immigrants has been confirmed and thus, upheld. Since 2012, these illegal immigrants have been staying at a detention centre in Silchar, Assam, when they were detained by police. The charge of three months detention extended to 6 years. Consular access had been given to Myanmar diplomats, who confirmed the identity of the immigrants after verifying their addresses in Rakhine State. It is well known that 14,000 Rohingyas, registered with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, are staying in India. However, aid agencies estimate that there are about 40,000 Rohingyas in the country. Rohingyas are ethnic Muslims of Myanmar living in Rakhine province in the Arakan region. The 1982-citizenship law of Myanmar does not recognise Rohingyas as ethnic group and these people remain stateless for now 35 years. Rohingya Muslims are referred to as Bengalis in Myanmar for their roots in Bangladesh. In 2014, the Myanmar government presented a plan for accommodating Rohingya Muslims as their citizens. The willing members of Rohingya community were asked to change their ethnicity in the census from Rohingya to Bengali. But, Rohingyas claim that they have lived in Rakhine region for centuries. However, most of Rohigyans don't have documents to prove that their ancestors lived in Myanmar before 1948, the cut-off date under the 1982-citizenship law.

Evicted from homes

The year 2012 marked a dark year for the Rohingyas and has been instrumental for their migration even before the recent major exodus in 2017.  In that unfortunate year some Rohingya Muslims were charged with gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman in Rakhine. This led to clashes between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists which turned into riots and led to major violations of civil rights. The Rohingyas saw themselves being evicted from their homes, their land confiscated and their villages and habitations attacked by Myanmar's military. The Myanmar government herd thousands of Rohingya Muslims in something resembling the infamous ‘concentration camps’. They were not allowed to leave the camps and denied proper food, living conditions or health care. This caused spread of disease and deaths in the camps. Other Rohingyas started to flee the country and those in the camps tried to escape. Thus, thousands of Rohingyas found themselves on boats searching for a place to live. They were denied entry in Thailand and Malaysia. Bangladesh though lenient at first denied taking in more refugees. This led them to set foot in India. Rohingyas entered into northeast India through various routes. They avoided staying near the Myanmar's borders. Rohingya in India are largely living in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan. Since 2016, extremist Hindu groups have targeted Rohingya refugees in Jammu and called for their eviction from the state, with some groups threatening attacks if the government ignored their call. An anti-Rohingya public campaign was launched claiming that they are “terrorists”. This prompted vigilante-style violence, including a reported arson attack by unidentified assailants on five Rohingya houses in April 2017.

National security

The Indian government has framed its approach as a national security issue – a claim that the Supreme Court rejected as a basis for deportations in October 2017. The court stated that the government “must strike a balance between human rights and national security interests.” However, on 1 October 2018 the government had ordered states to begin collecting Rohingya’s biometric data, after which the government will “initiate action through diplomatic channels with Myanmar and then we will get it resolved”. They have insensitively termed the deportation as a routine procedure. The Indian government have categorically stated that these men being deported wanted to return back.  The Supreme Court denied a request to allow UNHCR access to the men to determine the facts and whether they needed international protection as refugees. Indian officials reported that Myanmar authorized the return, confirming the men’s identities. The government attorney stated in court that Myanmar had given the men identity certificates, temporary travel documents valid only for a month. These documents did not confirm that the Myanmar government had accepted them as “nationals and citizens,” as the Indian government claimed. Rohingya are not granted citizenship in Myanmar, where they are eligible only for National Verification Cards, identity documents that restrict freedom of movement and have been commonly issued under coercion.

Food for thought

The Indian step of deportation puts India at a cross with the UN. The UN had voiced concern that returning the men ignored the danger they faced in Myanmar, where for decades the Rohingya have been targeted by security forces. A UN special rapporteur had warned India risked breaking international laws on refoulement -- the return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they could be harmed. Having said this, it is important that the Indian government should not deport any Rohingya to Myanmar until the government can appropriately determine whether the Rohingya are seeking asylum. If so, they have a right to a fair and efficient review of their claim. Those found to be refugees should have access to education, health care, and employment. Rohingyas in India should also have access to a fair procedure to determine whether they face harm on return, as part of any deportation procedure. India should assume that there is grave risk of mistreatment and a need for international protection, including UN monitors on the ground, before Rohingya can return safely to Myanmar.
The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata



Privatisation of war

The founder of the Blackwater, Erik Prince, recently reiterated in an exclusive television interview that privatising the Afghan war is the only way to finish it over a short period of time.   However, the Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) is of the opinion that this proposal is not in harmony with the principles of the Afghans to determine their own future and it is the duty of the government to defend the values of the people.

Kabul-attack foiled

The Afghan security forces have foiled the insurgents bid to carry out two explosions in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul. The Kabul Police Commandment has further revealed that an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has been unearthed and diffused in the vicinity of the 5th police district of the city. The militant groups are known for their frequent use of IEDs. However the anti-government insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan including the Taliban have yet refrained from commenting on the matter.


End of job quotas

The government this week decided to abolish quotas for class I and II government jobs. The decision followed in response to mass student protests demanding to abolish of quota in government jobs. The quota, however, will retain tier IV and III government jobs.

13 pc use internet

A recent study has shown that only 13 percent of Bangladeshis aged 15-65 used the Internet and social media in 2013, in spite of45 percent of the same age group owning an Internet-friendly device. The study is part of AfterAccess, an international initiative to collect data on access to and use of mobile phones and the Internet in the Global South. The Bangladesh part of the study was released by a regional ICT-policy think-tank, LIRNEasia, in a Dhaka this week.

Growth target

Maintaining a steady rise, the country’s economy is projected grow at 7 percent in 2019 informed World Bank. The World Bank forecast, however, is lower than the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB). According to the ADB, the economy will be growing at  7.5 per cent. To World Bank, Bangladesh’s economy is among the fastest growing economies in the developing world and it would grow at an even faster pace if it implemented economic reforms, the World Bank.


Constitutionality quizzed

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has said that it will not resort to criticising the manifesto of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), which is questioning the constitutionality of the former’s pledge to provide free education up to class 12. Addressing a campaign meeting at Yangnyer in Trashigang yesterday, DNT president Lotay Tshering said that party presidents should focus on their party’s goodwill and pledges for promotion during campaigns instead of critiquing and commenting on others’ manifesto.

Annual surplus

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) handed over its highest ever-annual surplus of Nu 1,550.24 million to the finance ministry on 3 October. The net surplus amount is an increase from Nu 1,001M incurred by the central bank in the fiscal year 2016-17 and reflects net interest income from investment.

Banking on wheels

Bank of Bhutan (BoB) introduced ‘banking on wheels,’ in Thimphu on 3 October by which people can avail basic services including opening bank accounts, accepting loan applications, cash deposits or withdrawals, account balance enquiries, and fund transfers among others without visiting the bank. The service would be provided by a mobile van travelling to various areas on a fixed weekly schedule to provide banking services to the community in the particular area.


SC clears Aadhar

The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, upheld Aadhaar as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy, as it fulfils the government’s legitimate aim to improve good governance and delivery of services. Majority opinion upheld the PAN-Aadhaar linkage, but declared linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile SIM cards as unconstitutional. The court insulated children from the Aadhaar regime. The Aadhaar verdict is silent on deleting biometric already collected by the phone companies.

Boost to SC-ST quota

The Supreme Court has modified its 2006 judgment that required the State to quantify backwardness of SC-ST community in order to provide promotion in public employment. This judgment gives a huge fillip for the government’s efforts to provide accelerated promotion with consequential seniority for the SC/ST members in government services.

100th airport opens

With the inauguration of an airport at Pakyong, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the number of functional airports in the country went up to 100. This is the first airport in Sikkim. The airport would be linked to the Union Government’s UDAN regional connectivity scheme.

Backs direct talks

India has expressed its readiness to work towards implementing the Tashkent Declaration (adopted at the end of the International conference on Afghanisthan) of March 2018 that called for direct talks with the Taliban without any preconditions. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his political speech suggested a political dialogue between Kabul and fighters is a must to put an end to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and to restore regional stability.


Nasheed to return?

With the Maldives Election Commission confirming preliminary results to declare MDP-JO’s Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih as President-elect, defeating incumbent Abdulla Yameen, despite last-minute protests by the latter campaign, former President and MDP chief, Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, now in self-exile to avert serving a prison-term, has declared his intention to return home from Colombo on 1 November, ‘whatever the consequences). Ibu Solih is expected to be sworn in as President in mid-November, as mandated under Constitution, and already courts have granted bail for jailed former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, half-brother of the incumbent, and Jumhooree Party founder, Gasim Ibrahim, who was in self-exile in Germany. Both have since returned home, though it is unclear if the Yameen leadership would move the courts for forcing Gasim to serve out the rest of the prison-term he had jumped, after going to Singapore for medical treatment.


Border trade with India up

Border trade between Myanmar and India has reached 87 million U.S. dollars as of 21September during the six-month transitional period which started in April this year. Myanmar has changed its fiscal year period from original April-March to Oct-Sept beginning 2018-2019, producing a six-month transitional gap. The country's total border trade with India during this period saw a sharp increase by 54 million U.S. dollars compared to the same period of the last fiscal year 2017-2018 when it showed 33 million U.S. dollars.

India deports 7 Rohingyas

India on 4 October went ahead with deporting seven Rohingya men to Myanmar, despite UN warnings that they faced persecution in the country. The men, who had been in detention for immigration offences since 2012, were handed over to Myanmar authorities at a border crossing in India's northeast state of Manipur. Legal efforts to stymie their deportation failed when India's Supreme Court on 4 October rejected a petition on their behalf and upheld their status as illegal immigrants.


Concretizing the NC

The Nepali Congress (NC) has been working hard in regaining their order and status since a long time. Several upcoming agendas like analyzing the recent political developments in the country and also the party’s statute would hold comprehensive parts in this Central Working Committee (CWC) discussion. However, the meeting has been postponed for three days.

Air service resumes

After a gap of around four months, the Kathmandu-Taplejungair service has been resumed by the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). The flights would be fixed for two days every week along with a stipulated fare. The government is expecting more response and is a step closer to make the country progress better.

ADB funds highway project

A loan of $180 million has been sanctioned by the Asian Development Bank, for Nepal to help improve the East-West Highway. This 1027 kilometers long highway is extremely important for the country for both its domestic as well as international trade. However, this needs an upgrade from two-lane to four-lane roads apart from other developments throughout the stretch. The work is expected to begin in 2019 with an aim of delivery in 2022.


Request to resume aid

Recently Pakistan has pledged to support negotiations with the Taliban to end the war still ongoing in the neighbouring Afghanistan. The new Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has also visited USA to explain Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new Afghanistan Strategy and has further requested the country to restore its aids to Pakistan and refrain from alleging it responsible for the actions of the insurgents. This comes as Washington cut $300 million military aid a month ago.

Forex reserves down

The State Bank of Pakistan’s reserves has suffered a sharp drop, hitting the lowest level in four years. It has followed a decline of $627.7 million to $8.4 billion during the last week of September. Economists and senior bankers have urged the government to take immediate action and declare an announcement on already-delayed strategy to deal with the depleting foreign exchange reserves. This ballooning trade deficit has hampered the government’s ability to deal with the current account problems.

Evidence devalued

The last prosecution witness against former Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff admitted before an accountability court that the documents produced by the National Accountability Bureau as evidence in the Al-Azizia references were neither certified, nor duly attested. The officer who had produced the documents had stated that he procured them from the Supreme Court but when questioned further about whether they were certified by the apex court he replied in the negative thereby devaluing the evidence.

Sri Lanka

MS-MR meet to oust Ranil?

With the presidential polls only a year or so away, SLFP President Maithiripala Sirisena is reported to have met with predecessor and rival SLPP-JO leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the residence of former minister S B Dissanayake in Colombo, recently. Mahinda was accompanied by his brother and political strategist Basil Rajapaksa, and according to reports they pressed the SLPP-JO demand for President Maithiripala’s SLFP withdrawing support to the Government headed by UNP Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. As if to express his displeasure over the slow movement on this score, and also to pressure President Sirisena, Mahinda R recently declared his intention to take over as SLFPP chief, from his senior aide and ex-Foreign Minister, G L Peiris. If the current talks succeed, then Sirisena would continue as President, and may be re-nominated for Elections-2019 in return for the SLFP residue under his care withdrawing support for the Ranil Government and help Rajapaksa become Prime Minister. It is also possible that Rajapaksa may be made the chief of the re-united SLFP after amending the party constitution.



Opinion Pieces

Mohammad Zahir Akbari, “Selection Criteria and National Responsibility in Elections”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 4 October 2018 Zabihullah Ghazi and Mujib Mashal, “Election Rally Bombing in Afghanistan Heightens Security Fears”, The New York Times, 2 October 2018 Abass Azimi, “Paradoxes of Peace Talks in Afghanistan” ”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 2 October 2018


Afghanistan Times, “Electoral campaigns need tighter security”, 3 October 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Electoral Violence Prevention: Key to the Credibility of the Outcome”, 3 October 2018 Afghanistan Times, “Daesh recruitments must stop” 2 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Iftikharul Karim, “Parliamentary elections 2018”,   New Age, 3 October 2018        Pallab Bhattacharya, “CEPA: A game-changer for Indo-Bangla ties?”, The Daily Star,  3 October 2018 Shah Husain Imam, “Digital Security Act - For trust-based pragmatism”, The Daily Star, 5 October 2018



The Bhutanese, “A Bright Side to the Primary Results”, 29 September 2018


Opinion Pieces

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “Liberty without statism”, The Indian Express, 5 October 2018 Madhav Khosla and Ananth Padmanabhan, “In Aadhaar, Supreme Court did not probe if it is a tool to track citizens”, The Print, 30 September 2018


Opinion Pieces

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Maldives shock election: China’s loss, India’s win?”,, 1 October 2018 Niranjan Sahoo, “The Maldives votes for freedom – but Delhi can’t rejoice yet”,, 28 September 2018


Maldives Independent, “An unlikely saviour”, 6 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Bo Kyi, “Right to Information and the Need for Reform”, The Irrawaddy, 5 October 2018 Lee Sang-hwa, “Trust Building – The Only Solution to ‘Trust Deficit Disorder’”, The Irrawaddy, 4 October 2018


Opinion Pieces

Kamal Dev Bhattarai, “Dahal’s Delhi drift”, Republica, 4 October 2018 RandhirChaudhary, “Respect human rights”, The Kathmandu Post, 4 October 2018 Anurag Devkota, “Old statute, new problems”, The Kathmandu Post, 3 October 2018


The Kathmandu Post,Firewalls and firefights”, 2 October 2018 The Himalayan Times, “Easier said than done”, 27 September 2018 The Kathmandu Post, “Bridging learning deficit”, 25 September 2018


Opinion Pieces

Syed Mohammad Ali, “Human rights in naya Pakistan”, The Express Tribune, 5 September 2018 Asha’ar Rehman, “Unusual election”, Dawn, 5 October 2018 Umar Riaz, “Need for revamp and reform”, The Express Tribune, 5 October 2018


Pakistan Today, “Amateurish ideas on education”, 5 October 2018 Dawn, “Tax reversals”, 5 October 2018 Pakistan Today, “A pivot to Saudi Arabia?”, 3 October 2018

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Kumar David, “Theoretical model of Rajapaksa populism”, The Island, 7 October 2018 D B S Jeyaraj, “President Sirisena pressured into backtracking at UN in New York”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 October 2018 M S M Ayub, “President between the devil and the deep blue sea”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 October 2018 Lynn Ockersz, “Western double standards, human rights and Southern dilemma”, The Island, 4 October 2018 Kelum Bandara, “Yahapalana Government at breaking point”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2018 Ravi Nagahawatte, “Reconciliation, peace and silence”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2018 Malinda Seneviratne, “Notes for a manifesto: National Security”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2018 Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, “Why does reconciliation in Sri Lanka matter to the UK?”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2018 Prof G L Peiris, ex-Foreign Minister, “Does Sri Lanka have a foreign policy at all today?”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Security and sense of security”, Ceylon Today, 2 October 2018 Jehan Perera, “Symbolic actions alone are insufficient for long term change to occur”, The Island, 2 October 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Defiance, thy name is Maithri”, The Island, 1 October 2018


Kelum Bandara, “Modi wants SL political parties to have dialogues with the separate Indian states: Douglas”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 October 2016


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ketan Mehta and T.N. Suhas  Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak Coordinator: Sreeparna Banerjee
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