MonitorsPublished on Mar 18, 2019
Exploring India's approach towards countering terrorism, Afghanistan's ongoing peace process and other recent developments from South Asia.
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XII; Issue 11


India: Need to look at other options to deal with terrorism

Ameya Kelkar

China, in the past week, decided to place a hold on a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution designed to label Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), on the ‘sanctions list’ on terrorist organisations and their associates. While it is no surprise that China would, at the last minute, place a hold on the resolution, it does make a few things clear for diplomatic circles the world around.

First, China values business relations more than political and international pressure. Despite the fact that India has repeatedly stated Azhar to be the perpetrator of many of the JeM’s cross-border terror-attacks from across Pakistan, including the more recent one at Pulwama, China still does not see him as a terrorist. This unwillingness to call a spade a spade has been a tactic which China has previously used to block the same resolution thrice earlier, despite India presenting proof of JeM’s terrorist activities since 2009.  This sends a clear message to the rest of the world regarding China’s attitude and approach -- Pakistan is a major investment-destination for China and it will not, at any cost, jeopardise its relationship with the other.

Second, it may also show the world that there may be need for employing other mechanisms besides official sanctions to effectively tackle the problem of cross-border terrorism. Resolutions passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001 highlighted the need for all countries to cooperate when it comes to tackling terrorism.

Name change

Though these resolutions were mainly a method to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan post-9/11, it still gives other countries options to ensure their own security and combat terrorism to the best of their resources. While invading Pakistan is completely out of the question, there is nothing in any rule-book which states that India can only resort to diplomatic action to get what it wants. Diplomacy is only one method of dealing with terrorism, and that method is clearly not producing the intended results.

Third, it is unclear how sanctions will help reduce the scourge of terrorism in India’s neighbourhood. Historically, sanctions have produced one of the two responses: change the name of the organization to avoid sanctions, as has been practiced by North Korea for decades. This same practice was used by the JeM last year in an effort to avoid sanctions and gain entry into colleges and universities around Pakistan to spread their fundamentalist message.

While the name change to ‘Al Murabitoon’ is seen as more of a tactic to avoid sanctions and reach out to the increasing youth population of Pakistan, it does highlight some major deficiencies in the international community. As North Korea has proved, simply changing the name of a company under sanctions is enough to bypass them completely, the same method can be used to avoid sanctions for terrorist organizations.

If a terrorist organization can avoid UN sanctions simply by changing its name, then it is futile for India to keep pressing for China to change its tune.

Therefore, it is necessary for India to look to other options when it comes to dealing with the problem that is the Jaish-e-Mohammed. If sanctions do not work, there are many other options which India can undertake to ensure that Pakistan and its ally China cannot stay silent for long on this.

India being a nation of tolerance has seen its limits tested time and again. Even in the UN, despite the rest of the Security Council supporting Indian claims of JeM being a terrorist organization, it is still unable to get the international body to take any definitive action because of a simple veto.

To their credit, the Narendra Modi Government has undertaken some serious steps to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack do not stay silent. And for that, the UN has provided the world with the means to tackle terrorism on its own terms. While the US went in all guns blazing into Afghanistan, entering a quagmire it cannot easily escape from, India can also use similar methods to provide adequate responses to any terrorist attack that might come in the future.

India need not copy the US verbatim in its war on terror, but we need to take inspiration from their methods and apply them to our own unique methods of retaliation, while at the same time ensuring that any aggression from state-sponsored terrorists is brought in front of the UN at the first opportunity, ensuring the sponsors of any terrorist attack always find themselves isolated within the international community.

Afghanistan: Impediments to lasting peace

Sohini Bose

The peace process in Afghanistan has for so long remained an elusive phenomenon. Whilst many have called this a paltry attempt at negotiating peace, others have clung to the hope that the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and his subsequent initiatives will finally bring about peace in the war torn country.

The Afghan newspapers perhaps bear the best testimony of this existent dichotomy. Everyday their pages are filled with accounts of the numerous insurgent attacks that have been carried out all over the country and the counter strikes that have been executed by the Afghan Security Forces. On the other hand, the dailies also share updates on how the Taliban are engaging with the US representatives, future meetings are being scheduled and talks are steadily progressing toward the establishment of peace.

It is understandable that establishing peace in a country so riddled by war and violence is a difficult task but a definitive indication of the success of peace initiatives directed towards this goal is also considerably weak in the daily updates. Under such circumstances it is really a challenge to the readers to understand the real security scenario that is unfolding in the country.

Is withdrawal a reality?

It is clear, however, that there remain in Afghanistan some factors which are impediments or obstacles in the path of a steady peace process. The principle challenge in the establishment of peace remains to be the withdrawal of US troops from Afghan soil. The Taliban are particularly insistent that the US completely withdraws all its armed forces before the negotiations can even begin or be of any real value at all.

The US under President Donald Trump has also in some instances hinted at US efforts to execute this withdrawal. In December 2018, President Trump had announced a big cut in the US troops that were stationed in Afghanistan. A month later US officials stated that work was underway to withdraw almost half of the 14,000 soldiers who had been deployed. This is the beginning of the process and ultimately all forces will be removed from Afghanistan.

The emphasis is on gradual withdrawal as the US cabinet advised Trump that a dramatic total pull out would result in immediate disaster.

In fact one of the primary agenda’s of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is to initiate a ceasefire that will pave the way for the final withdrawal of all US troops except a small counter-terrorism force from Afghanistan.

However, President Trump’s hints about withdrawal have often been over ridden by his proclamations of multiplying troops instead to eradicate terrorism from the country. As of August 2017, Trump had made the announcement of multiplying forces by sending in thousands of new soldiers to Afghanistan. Till date however there has been no major pull back of US forces from the country and it is indeed debatable if and when this withdrawal will materialise.

Also, the US promise of leaving behind ‘small force for counter-terrorism’ operations is suggestive. What exactly is meant by a ‘small force’ and against whom will the counter-terrorism operations be carried out against? Taliban is the most dominant terrorist organisation in Afghanistan and one of the primary efforts of Khalilzad has been to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

So is the US maintaining a military force in Afghanistan to deal with the same terrorists they are trying to negotiate with? Such circumstances are creating an almost stalemate situation for the peace negotiation. The Taliban refuses to be part of negotiations unless US ensures full withdrawal and the US are reluctant to remove all forces until the Taliban ascertain their commitment to peace. Either way it is the Afghan people who suffer.

Divisions within Govt

The other major impediment in the Afghan peace process is the division within the Afghan government. Where on one hand Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is relying on US initiatives to bring about reconciliation, on the other hand the leader of the opposition Hamid Karzai has engaged in a discussion about the peace process with the Taliban under the aegis of Moscow.

This indeed has raised questions about the Afghan government’s calibre to realise a successful peace deal. What is most necessary at this point of time is that the Afghan government faces the Taliban as a united front. If power politics continue to drive its leaders it is impossible that peace will ever come to the country. Assistance from external powers such as Qatar or Moscow who have been trying to arbitrate peace between the two parties will only be successful when the leaders of Afghanistan have not only a common goal but also common means of realising that objective.

Pakistan’s credibility

Then of course there is the involvement of Pakistan. The country has taken up the responsibility of bringing about peace in Afghanistan by facilitating negotiations between the Taliban and USA.

Pakistan has often allegedly been found to be sympathetic to terrorist organisations and therefore it is questionable how resolute will be their commitment to peace especially with the Pulwama attack now in view.

Involving the Taliban in the peace process is indeed important as they too are a part of Afghanistan however ‘appeasing’ terrorist organisations to enter into peace deal can yield dangerous consequences in future. Above all an intra-Afghan peace dialogue should not transform into an US-Pakistan deal about Afghanistan.

Therefore it is evident that unless such difficulties are resolved with alacrity it would not be possible for the peace negotiations to make any head way in the war torn country. In this peace deal the most important objective should be protecting and improving the lives of the Afghan people. It must be understood that there is no room left for any more power politics in Afghanistan. The country is reeling under humanitarian crisis and normalising the lives of the people should be the first priority of the government as well as all the regional and extra-regional powers who are involved.

Country Reports


Cache of arms discovered in Kandahar

According to a statement from the Ministry of Interior, a large cache of explosives belonging to the Taliban was discovered by the Special Forces of the Afghan National Police in southern Kandahar province in the vicinity of the Khakrez district. The cache contains 96 Improvised Explosive Devices and 4 BM-1 rockets. These were stored in a vacant residential; house. Neither the Taliban nor the other insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan have made any comments regarding the operation.

New defence officials

The Ministry of Defence, Afghanistan, has recently announced that new officials have been appointed in key positions in the Ministry of Defence and in the Afghan Air Force. General Bismillah Waziri, previously the commander of Special Operations Corps. has been recruited as the new Chief of Staff of the Afghan Army. Gen. Fahim Ramin has been appointed as the Commander of Afghan Air Force and General Haibattulah Alizai is the new Chief of Operation of the Defence Ministry.


Two among NZ victims

At least two Bangladeshi nationals were among the 49 killed by a gunman in two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand on Friday. Among those hospitalised, five were from Bangladesh, among whom was a ‘Mrs Samad’, who was originally thought to be dead. The dead were identified as Prof Abdus Samad, who was teaching at the local Lincoln University and Hosne Ara Parvin, who was living in Christchurch with her husband Farid Uddin for several decades. Three Bangladeshi national, Mozammel Haque, Zakaria Bhuiyan and Shaon, were reported missing. Of those injured, identified as Lipi, Muntasim, Sheikh Hassan Rubel, Shahjada Akhtar and Omor Farooq, the first two were said to be in a critical condition.


UNDP award for King

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) presented a special award of recognition to King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck for taking leadership in advancing human development and the wellbeing and happiness of the people of Bhutan. The award is an acknowledgment of his championing of the holistic development paradigm of Gross National Happiness, leadership in environment conservation and climate action which has resulted in Bhutan being the only carbon negative country in the world, and guidance, which ensured a smooth transition of the system of governance and strong democratic foundations to be established in Bhutan.

Achievement claims

As the government completed 120 days the Prime Minister (Dr) Lotay Tshering shared the status on the ‘25 pledges in 120 days’. The DNT, in its manifesto, had come up with a list of 25 pledges to be fulfilled within the first 120 days. The government divided the status of the pledges on being achieved, on track and not achieved; of 25 pledges in 120 days, 11 achieved, 11 are on track and 3 are pending.


US ends GSP benefit

The Trump administration, in apparent retaliation over the tightening of regulations over the e-commerce giant Amazon, has decided to remove India’s status as a beneficiary developing country under the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. This programme gave India a market in the US for duty-free imports of certain goods. While the Indian government states that this will not hamper the overall exports to the US in any significant way, it is also considering moving the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body to contest the legality of this action.

RTI-OSA row in SC

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court hearing the review petitions regarding the Rafale deal has observed that the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2009 supersedes the Official Secrets Act (OSA) as three sections of the RTI Act ensure even intelligence agencies have to disclose documents related to corruption and human rights when filed for under the RTI Act. The observation by Justice K M Joseph came when Attorney-General K K Venugopal, arguing on behalf of the Centre, reiterated that the documents submitted in evidence as part of the petition had been ‘photo-copied’ from sensitive, secret official documents.  He claimed that the documents related to the Rafale deal were exempt from the RTI Act as they related to the national security.

New ISRO subsidiary

In a bid to transfer ISRO technologies for commercial purposes, the organisation has launched a new private company named Newspace India Limited. This company will exploit ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV and PSLV respectively) technology to transfer them into more commercial applications. Alongside this, the company also aims to market space-based products created by ISRO in India and abroad. This company will also be different from the Antrix Corporation, another private entity of ISRO, which handles the commercial launching of foreign satellites.


House-arrest for Yameen

The Maldivian Correctional Services (MCS) has transferred jailed former President Abdulla Yameen to house-arrest from regular imprisonment located on Maafushi Island after the latter developed heart condition that could not be treated in the country. The family has agreed to abide by MCS’ conditions for the transfer. Meanwhile, the High Court Bench at Male has reserved orders on Yameen’s plea and discharging him from the multi-million-dollar money-laundering scam case. The court has also completed hearing on his plea for bail, after the criminal court ordered his imprisonment, based on a police claim that he was seeking to influence/purchase witnesses in the case.


Rohingyas to be moved

On 13 March Bangladesh declared that it would start relocating tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from overcrowded camps to a remote island vulnerable to extreme weather, despite the plan attracting considerable controversy. The proposal to uproot the refugees remains unpopular among the Rohingya community and critics have raised concerns about the island's ability to withstand violent storms during the monsoon.

Coast Guard on cards

Myanmar continues to deliberate forming coast guard in order to strengthen maritime security. The navy is currently assuming the duties pertaining to coast guard as Myanmar does not have one yet. When the coast guard is formed, the navy will also take the lead in forming an integrated command center consisting of experts from the Maritime Police Force, Customs Department, Immigration Department, Marine Administration Department and Myanmar Port Authority.


President at UN women conference

President Bidya Devi Bhandari was witnessed participating in the ‘Women in Power’ conference organised by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Representing Nepal at the global platform, the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN also organised ‘Empowering Women through Social Protection: A Case of Nepal’ on the sidelines of the main event. Sectors of the government as well as the civil society took part in the deliberations, enriching its content worldwide.

Ensuring investments

Nepal has been trying its best to fetch lucrative investments. In this regard, the Investment Board Nepal (IBN) has listed down 50 projects for demonstration at the Nepal Investment Summit, to be held in March 2019, to invite foreign direct investment. All the provinces have been made a part of it, with emphasis on transport and communication along with hydro-power and technology.

Arms confiscation

The government has taken a serious step to confiscate illegally possessed arms from Netra Bikram Chand – led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN). A notice of 35 days has been circulated to surrender the arms which have been apparently stolen from the Nepal Army at various occasions. This is in-fact reflective of the anti-violence measures being adopted by the government.


New Zealand attack condemned

The Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the terrorist attack in New Zealand that left many dead. A gunman had opened fire on two mosques where crowds had gathered to pray. He further lamented that the increase in the attacks on the Muslims is the result of Islamophobia that has rapidly spread in the world after 9/ 11. Blaming all the Muslims for any terrorist attack, he says, is deliberately done to ‘demonise’ legitimate Muslim political struggles.

New E-visa policy

Emphasising that Pakistan is now a secure and progressive country, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently announced that the government will be executing its new e-visa policy. This he said was the beginning of the flourishing of the tourism industry a sector which holds significant potential for uplifting the Pakistan economy. Under this new system Pakistani missions abroad will grant three month e-visa to foreigners in 175 countries within seven to ten working days of the application.

Sri Lanka

Budget passed

Despite early threats and fears of a defeat for the Wickremesinghe Government’s budget at the crucial second-reading in Parliament, many senior MPs of President Maithripala Sirisena-led SLFP boycotted the vote, facilitating a comfortable, 43-vote victory margin in the 225-memberr House. So did the five-member JPV while the 14-MP Tamil National Alliance (TNA) voted with the Government, despite apprehensions of a negative vote or a boycott, as this too could have upset the Government’s calculations for mustering a majority. Later, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP leader and minister, Rajitha Senaratne said that the two sides have since sorted out their differences, which came to a head with President Sirisena sacking the Government in end-October and following it up with dissolving Parliament, which was negated by the Supreme Court subsequently.



Opinion Pieces

Manizha Ashna, “Stigma and Taboos: The absence of mental health awareness in Afghanistan”, The Khaama Press News Agency, 10 March 2019

Fahim Abed, “Afghan War Casualty Report: March 8-14”, The New York Times, 15 March 2019


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Characteristics of Social Change in Afghanistan”, 14 March 2019

Afghanistan Times, “Adjourned with huge hopes at Doha”, 13 March 2019


Opinion Pieces

Mahmod Hasan, “46th OIC-CFM: Reform or aberration?”, The Daily Star, 16 March 2019

Julian Francis, “Remembering March 1971”,, 15 March 2019



Kuensel, “The first 120 days”, 9 March 2019

Kuensel, “Violence against women”, 11 March 2019


Opinion Pieces

Anshul Trivedi, “Narendra Modi's Post-Pulwama Doctrine: Securitise Politics, Politicise Security”, The Wire, 15 March 2019

Arvind Panagariya, “India is Trump’s Next Target In The Trade War”, Foreign Policy, 13 March 2019

Valay Singh, “Unless Sincere Efforts Are Made, Ayodhya Mediation Could Prove Futile”, Outlook India, 08 March 2019

Shyam Saran, “As We Go Into the Elections, Political Parties Must Engage in Debate on National Security Issues”, The Indian Express, 15 March 2019


Opinion Pieces

Kyaw Phyo Tha,“NLD Must Address Local Governments’ Woeful Performances”, The Irrawaddy, 15 March 2019

Lawi Weng, “N. Shan Residents Live in Fear as Rights, Security Situation Deteriorates”, The Irrawaddy, 12 March 2019

Kyaw Zwa Moe, “With Only One Side Listening, Dialogue on Charter Was Never an Option”, The Irrawaddy, 11 March 2019


The Irrawaddy, “Urgent Political Action Needed to Solve Rakhine’s Problems”, 14 March 2019


Opinion Pieces

Kedar Neupane, “Restricting investment”, Republica, 14 March 2019

Nava Raj Sapkota, “Don’t forget their rights”, The Kathmandu Post, 15 March 2019

Bipin Adhikari, Bidushi Adhikari, “Bettering Nepal-China transit”, Republica, 13 March 2019


The Kathmandu Post, “Peace overtures”, 11 March 2019

The Himalayan Times, “Dealing with dilemma”, 7 March 2019

The Himalayan Times, “Give up violence”, 15 March 2019


Opinion Pieces

Afzal Ali Shigri, “A constitutional conundrum”, Dawn, 15 March 2019

Syed Mohammad Ali, “Why is Pakistan oblivious to its climate threats?”, The Express Tribune, 15 March 2019


Dawn, “Benami law”, 15 March 2019

The Express Tribune, “Islamic financing”, 14 March 2019

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajeewa Jayaweera, ”Will Marapana play Ace or Joker @ UNHRC”, The Island, 17 March 2019

Dr Sarala Fernando, “Military Public diplomacy”, The Island, 17 March 2019

M S M Ayub, “UNHRC just turns into a ritual”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2019

Kusal Perera: “Budget: Fantasies for short-term debate”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2019

Neville Ladduwahetty, “Government to co-sponsor 2019 Geneva resolution”, The Island, 12 March 2019

Jehan Perera, “Dual intervention can lead to reduced international pressure”, The Island, 12 March 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Hit the President, hurt the Presidency”, Ceylon Today, 11 March 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “To Geneva, thru Mannar and Jaffna”, Colombo Gazette, 11 March 2019


Kelum Bandara, “Presidential candidate should be able to win over the middle class: Champika”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 March 2019


Daily Mirror Online, “TNA and the Budget”, 15 March 2019


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Sohini Bose

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ameya Kelkar

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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