MonitorsPublished on Jan 24, 2019
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XII; Issue 3



Myanmar:  India’s push-back approach towards Rohingyas

Sreeparna Banerjee 

Since the beginning of 2019, at least 1,300 Rohingya Muslims from 300 families have crossed into Bangladesh from India as fears of deportation to Myanmar continue to hold weight. This fear has stemmed from India’s deportation of seven Rohingya immigrants, who were staying in Assam illegally, to their home country in mid-October 2018 – the first of its kind involving India.

Legal efforts to thwart their deportation failed when the Supreme Court on 4 October last year rejected the victims’ petition, upholding their status as illegal immigrants. The fear of further arrests and round-ups has forced many Rohingyas who were living in India for generations to step out.

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. They are mostly residing in the States of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.

Since 2016, extremist Hindu groups have targeted them 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 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 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 the UNHCR access to the men to determine the facts and whether they needed international protection as refugees.

Indian officials reported that Myanmar authorised the return, confirming the men’s identities. The government attorney stated in the 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’s are not granted citizenship in Myanmar; 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 Rohingyas have been targeted by security forces. A UN special rapporteur had warned India risked breaking international laws.

It is important that the Indian government should not deport any Rohingya to Myanmar until the government can appropriately determine whether the Rohingyas 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 Rohingyas can return safely to Myanmar. The recent exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh from India might disturb the equilibrium in India-Bangladesh ties since Bangladesh is already overburdened with refugees.

Afghanistan: Uncertain future of child recruits

Sohini Bose

Afghanistan has been plagued by war for over 17 years now. As lives are lost every day on both sides of the conflicting camps, fresh recruits are indoctrinated into ‘jihad’.  This shows that at the very heart of this violent phenomenon lies the machinery which absorbs young minds into its folds and churns out jihadists after years of training. Therein begins the story of young recruits.

The Taliban have been recruiting and using children since the early 1990s. They target children because it is easier to instil in them the righteousness of jihad. The children who are not yet responsible for providing for their family are easily persuaded to commit dangerous tasks. The children who are recruited by the extremist groups, especially Taliban, are educated and trained in madrasas or conservative religious schools. There, they are indoctrinated with jihad ideas and are mentally prepared in their role as suicide bombers.

The training usually begins at the age of six years and can continue for up to seven years. The recruits pursue the study of religious scriptures under the Taliban commanders. By the age of 13, these boys are trained to handle firearms, explosives and are introduced to Taliban groups prevalent in the districts. The government forces are taught to be ‘legitimate target’ as they are either “infidels or serving the infidels”.

Human Rights Watch issued an extensive report on child recruitment in 2016. The report states that the recruitment in most cases is not forced. Poverty drives the children into the hands of the extremists. The Taliban madrasas are attractive to the poor families as it provides children with food, clothing and cash. Therefore, entrenched poverty acts as a fuel in providing a renewable supply of child soldiers to ceaselessly replenish the insurgents’ ranks.

Moreover, sending children to madrasas is a matter of pride for many families in Afghanistan. This is because each household believes that sending at least one son to learn the religious scriptures and train to be a mullah is a matter of prestige. In case they are recruited by force, “kidnapping gangs” drug the children before their abduction.

Once the children are cut off from their families, the indoctrination begins. Life is hard at the madrasas and prolonged despair eventually concocts hatred in the children towards their families.  Therefore, retrieving the children from the clutches of the Taliban is usually a fruitless task for the parents. The Taliban in most cases refuses to return the boys and claim that the boys are off age, or have become committed to jihad regardless of their age.

The propaganda of child recruitment is especially rampant in the province of Kunduz and other north-eastern provinces of Afghanistan where the Taliban had gained ground in the districts of Chahardara and Dasht-e-Archi. Ever since 2012, the Taliban have been increasingly using the madrasas for indoctrination and training of their young recruits. Earlier the boys were sent for military training to North Waziristan in Pakistan, but presently this training takes place locally.

Against international law

The Taliban has incorporated many young boys into their ranks since mid 2015 which coincided with the major Taliban offensive in northern Afghanistan. Ever since then, the extremist group has repeatedly trained and deployed these children for various military operations, including  producing and planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Though the Taliban claims that they only deploy young men of “mental and physical maturity” in various military operations and denied using children and adolescents in Jihadic operations, evidence suggests that the children who have been recruited from the madrasas in the provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakshan, are younger than 13 years of age. Deploying individuals who are under the age of 18 violates international humanitarian law and deploying boys under the age of 15 years amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which Afghanistan belongs.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict which Afghanistan ratified in 2003 also provides that state and non-state armed groups may under no circumstances recruit persons below 18 or use them in hostilities. The protocol also obligates the governments to “take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.”

On arrest

Once these children get arrested, those who are charged with the crime of suicide bombing are kept segregated from the other prisoners. Jail authorities think that inter mingling can result in exporting extremism on to others within the juvenile centre. Suicide bombings are endemic in Afghanistan. According to reports compiled by The Times, in 2017 alone, there were at least 67 suicide attacks in the country which involved almost 151 suicide attackers. Suicide-bombings are mostly carried out by the Taliban. Such attacks have increased significantly since this strategy was embraced by the Islamic State in Afghanistan also.

Afghan prisons are brimming with boys and young men who have been accused of suicide bombings. Involvement of females in this regard is a rarity although many suicide attackers disguise themselves as women. In prison, arrangements are in place to provide counselling to these children to draw them back into the main stream of life. However, the government lacks sufficient funding and facilities to provide proper counselling and steer the convicts away from extremism.

Authorities are also perplexed about what to do with these children after they finish their term in jail, for many reach their early adulthood by then and become capable of inflicting more harm. The future of child recruits thus remains uncertain in Afghanistan. Child enslavement exists in many practices of Afghanistan such as ‘bacha bazi’. Therefore, change has to be brought about from within Afghan society.

Country Reports


Presidential candidate

Mohammad Haneef Atmar has confirmed that he will run for the position of President in the July presidential elections along with Mohammad Younus Qanooni and Haji Mohammad Hohaqiq as his first and second Vice Presidents. The registration for contesting Presidential poll began on 3rd January. Atmar is scheduled to shortly visit the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to register his electoral ticket ‘Peace and Moderation’. According to IEC reports the Presidential elections will be organised on 20th July 2019.

Official poll results

The Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced the preliminary poll results of the parliamentary elections which were conducted in Kabul three months ago. According to the announcement 33 candidates of whom 24 are men and nine are women, have been elected to the Lower House of the Parliament (Wolesi Jirga). In that regard it must be noted that the IEC had earlier stated that the elections results could change substantially once the complaints review was completed.


Hefajat diktats burgas

Rightist Hefajat-e Islam’s chief Allama Ahmed Shafi this week dictated women to wear burqas if they want to go to colleges and universities. These institutes should also be run by women.  Allama Shafi made the call during his speech at an annual gathering of DarulUlum Moinul Islam Madrasha at Hathazariupazila in Chittagong. The comment was criticised by the people across the country.  Hafatat, formed in 2010, attracted limelight following the cease of capital Dhaka in 2013. The group is famous for its conservative religious views and claimed to have developed closeness with Awami League. In November, the group honoured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the recognition of the Dawra-e-Hadith (Takmil) degree of Qawmi madrasa equivalent to a university degree.

Jamaat tie-up a ‘mistake’

Noted jurist and convenor of the Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF) Dr Kamal Hossain lamented that it was a mistake for his party Gonoforum to participate in the recently held election with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, contesting under the Alliance banner. Gonoforum is a leading member of JOF the prime alliance opposing Awami League (AL). In the election held in 30th of December, 22 members of Jammat-Islami participated under the JOF banner. Jamaat-e-Islami, defamed for being a collaborator of the Pakistan Army in the 1971 Liberation War, barred from fighting the election following a court verdict.

Garment workers protest

Ready-made garments workers held a week-long protest to press for pay parity. The protest was subsided after the government promised to revise the wages.  The readymade garment is a major export product of Bangladesh and has been an important source of foreign currency earning.


Slow growth in population

Demographic projections for Bhutan show that the country’s population will increase albeit at a slower pace in the next three decades unless some interventions are in place, according to the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) released on 11 January 2018. The resident population will increase to 883,866 by 2047, an increase of 21.6 percent from the current level.

Hydropower work 

The Mangdechhu Hydropower Project Authority (MHPA) in Trongsa has completed 90 percent of tunnel cleaning works marking the beginning of the final phase of project completion works. The 720 MW power project’s tunnelling work will have a total of 10 phases out of which seven phases have been completed. Also, The tunnel cleaning work is expected to complete within the next few days.

Kigali Amendment ratified

The National Assembly on 16 January adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. By this ratification the country joins 65 countries of the 197 parties of the Montreal protocol. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol came into action since 1 January this year.


US discusses missile-defence

Recently, the Trump administration has stated its desire to cooperate with India in the arena of missile defence. Despite showing its displeasure at India’s purchase of the S-400 Air Defence System from Russia, the US, as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, has included missile defence training exercises within this cooperation framework. While it is not clear whether the THAAD missile defence system will make its way to India, this move is clearly a sign from the Trump administration to keep its presence felt in South East Asia and the Oceania region, while at the same time strengthening its ties with India and maintaining a friendly relationship within the South Asian region.


Alliance on the rocks?

With President Ibu Solhi’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) holding primaries to select candidates for all 87 parliamentary seats going to polls on 6 April, the ruling coalition seems to be rocking, as was the case when party leader Mohammed Nasheed became the nation’s first ‘democratically-elected’ Head of State and Government in 2008. As then, the JP partner has fired the first salvo by talking about another alliance, and a party MP moving the People’s Majlis with a draft law to have Nasheed disqualified. Nasheed has won the party primaries for the newly carved-out Central Manchang Gholi constituency, the smallest in the capital city of Male.

Anti-India rhetoric

Former Home Minister and one-time presidential aspirant, Umarr Naseer has revived his forgotten anti-India rhetoric, this time calling for sending back the Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives, as a part of bilateral sea-screening and search operations. In a Facebook posting, Naseer, who got less than one percent vote-share in the eliminating, first round of the historic 2008 presidential polls, claimed that the Navy/Coast Guard helicopters gifted by India for the purpose continued to be operated only by Indian pilots, and no Maldivian has been trained to replace them, as originally agreed upon.


Imports worry EU

An investigation has confirmed a significant increase of imports of Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar into the European Union that has caused economic damage to European producers. The Commission found that Indica rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar have increased by 89 percent in the last five seasons. It said the surge in cheaper imports had caused European producers to see their market share in the European Union plummet from 61 percent to 29 percent. Thus, the European Commission will reinstate duties on rice from Myanmar and Cambodia.

Trade deficit up

Myanmar suffered $ 981.6 of trade deficit in present fiscal year 2018-19 which started in October. The total trade deficit showed slight decrease compared to the same period in last fiscal year 2017-2018 when it showed over $1.2 billion.  The trade authorities are exerting efforts to boost the country's exports as well as to reduce the imported luxury commodities to decrease the trade deficit. The country mainly exports agricultural products, animal products, fisheries, minerals, forest produce, finished industrial goods to foreign countries while capital goods, intermediate goods and consumer goods are imported into the country.


Dry port fiasco

The construction of the dry port at Chobhar, Kirtipur municipality-6, has been caught in public protest and uproar. Bounded by existing land issues with Himal cement factory, around 30 protestors were arrested after they “flagged off” Prime Minister K. P Oli from the inauguration ceremony. However, no proper resolution has been heard of as yet.

Inland navigation

Ship offices are under construction for the further development of cross border trade with India. The primary negotiation will take place through the Sapta Koshi River and the government has also decided to create 16 posts for the shipping office. The plan also seems to promote better investment opportunities and people to people interaction across the border.

Performance contracts

The Ministry of Home Affairs had been involved in assessing the performance indexes of three districts- Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in areas of security, peace, social reforms among many others. Marks would be given on the basis of the developmental patterns thus achieved. Very soon, the performance contract is supposed to be concluded with the administrative heads. After this conclusion, 74 new districts will be enrolled in the process of performance contract structure.


‘No role for India in Afghanistan’

Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal recently said that India has no role in the Afghanistan reconciliation process. His statement is in sharp contrast to the views expressed by the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who had stated that since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation as regards a settlement is necessary. However, Faisal’s views may be attributed to the notion that India is unwilling to cooperate with Pakistan and does not seek normalization of relations.

New Chief Justice

Recently, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa took oath as the 26th Chief Justice of Pakistan in a ceremony held at the President House. His tenure is to continue for eleven months and he shall remain as the supreme judge of Pakistan till 20 December 2019. Foreign dignitaries also visited the oath taking ceremony. Khosa is acknowledged to have decided about 55,000 cases throughout his judicial career and this accomplishment is considered to be his biggest contribution to the judiciary.

Govt won’t ‘survive’

Former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari has recently claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is unlikely to last till the end of its five-year term because of its errant policies. He specifically criticised the government for the current price hike in the country and referred to Khan as ‘an accidental Prime Minister’. He further stated that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insarf (PTI) had come to power through a ‘fake mandate’.

Sri Lanka

Explosives seized

In a shocking, first-time incident, the police have recovered large quantities of explosives, detonators and a few specialised weapons from a make-shift warehouse in the Wilpattu National Park. The seizures became possible following the arrest of a youth, who was chased by local Muslims in Kelaniya district after desecrating a statue of Lord Buddha. The police have also arrested a few Muslims, leading to the seizures, and are further investigating the source of the explosive material and the purpose.

Rajapaksas split?

It looks as if the family members of former President and now opposition strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa are split over the choice of candidate for the presidential elections, due later this year. While war-time defence secretary Gotabaksha Rajapaksa has come out of his caginess by indicating that he could contest the presidency, older brother Chamal, former Parliament Speaker, has pooh-poohed, for the first time, media speculation of the previous years that he had stood out, citing age and health. Mahinda is unable to contest owing to a stipulation in 19-A.



Opinion Pieces

Mujib Mashal, “In Chaotic Afghan Capital, Crackdown on Crime Is Turning Heads”, The New York Times, 16 January 2019

Mohammad Zahir Akbari, “The young population and upcoming challenges of the Afghan”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 14 January 2019


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Afghanistan’s Electoral Fraud Costs”, 13 January 2019

Afghanistan Times, “Almost are active but silence in Qatar”, 10 January 2019


Opinion Pieces

Badiul Alam Majumdar, “The ball is in the PM's court”, The Daily Star, 15 January 2019

Abdullah Shibli, “Challenges in implementing the new government's manifesto”, The Daily Star, 12 January 2019.

Shamsul Bari and RuhiNaz, “Stop-and-go: Use of RTI in Bangladesh”, The Daily Star, 14 January 2019

Muhammad Nurul Huda, “Our expectations from the new leadership”, The Daily Star, 17 January 2019



Kuensel, “The population dynamics”, 12 January 2019

The Bhutanese, “Understanding Bhutan”, 12 January 2019


Opinion Pieces

Partha Chatterjee, “The 10% Reservation is a Cynical Faud on the Consitution”, The Wire, 18 January 2019

Jayanth Jacob, “Maharashtra Clears 16% Reservation for Marathas: All You Need to Know”, NDTV, 29 November 2018

Raghu Karnad, “Modi Wins ‘First-Ever’ Philip Kotler Presidential Award – but What Is It?”, The Wire, 14 January 2019


The Economic Times, “US Discusses Potential Missile Defence Cooperation with India: Pentagon”, 18 January 2019


Opinion Pieces

Nan Lwin, “Myanmar’s 2019 Economic Outlook”, Irrawaddy, 16 January 2019

Joe Kumbun, “Why Is China In a Hurry to Revive the Myitsone Dam Projects?”, Irrawaddy,15 January 2019


Opinion Pieces

Cecilia Keizer, “Costs of inequality”, Republica, 13 January 2019

Mangal Bahadur Thapa, “Capitalising on back seats”, The Kathmandu Post, 18 January 2019


The Kathmandu Post, “Washing up”, 17 January 2019

The Himalayan Times, “Launch enquiry”, 18 January 2019


Opinion Pieces

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, “Civil-military relations”, Dawn, 18 January 2019

Dr Ahmad Ghouri, “Parliamentary oversight of treaties”, The Express Tribune, 17 January 2019


The Express Tribune, “Crackdown on INGOs”, 18 January 2019

Dawn, “Bad for democracy”, 17 January 2019

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

D B S Jeyaraj, “Mahinda, Maithripala and 2019 presidential poll candidacy stakes”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 January 2019

Kusal Perera, “Sri Lanka’s ride to nowhere”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 January 2019

M S M Ayub, “Federal recipes supported by SLPP leaders”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 January 2019

Kelum Bandara, “Gota’s announcement subdues President’s advocacy for candidacy”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 January 2019

Lynn Ockersz, “Landmark rulings that can help define terror”, The Island, 17 January 2019

Ranga Jayasuriya, “Score-card: President Sirisena’s first four years”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Sri Lanka: Running with the hare and hunting with the hound, yet?”,, 15 January 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Constitutional fraud and threat to democracy”, Ceylon Today, 15 January 2019

Jehan Perera, “Need to rethink staying out of power”, The Island, 15 January 2018

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Sajith Premadasa, 71-not out?”, Colombo Gazette, 14 January 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

Coordinator: Sreeparna Banerjee

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