MonitorsPublished on Jan 11, 2017
South Asia Weekly | Volume X: Issue 2



Hekmatyar to return?

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, is free to return to Afghanistan, even if his name has not yet been removed by the UN sanctions list, and no foreign country can stop him especially in Kabul, said a spokesperson for the insurgent group. “We hope that the Afghan government releases Hizb-e-Islami prisoners and prepares the situation for Hizb-e-Islami refugees to return to Afghanistan and after that Hekmatyar will move to a province in the country.” For more information, see:Hekmatyar free to retun to Afghanistan, says spokesperson”. Tolo News

 Tighter border for Pakistanis

Afghanistan welcomed the New Year with tighter border management measures, banning Pakistanis from entering the country without valid travel documents. The move follows the significant disturbance that occurred along the Torkham border between the two countries. Following the new move, hundreds of Pakistanis who had gone to Afghanistan have returned after the announcement on 1 January. For more information, see: “Pakistanis without visa barred from entering Afghanistan”, The Nation

 IMF sets revenue target

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set a 150-billion Afganis revenue collection target for the Ministry of Finance (MoF) for 2017. Since the MoF has exceeded its 2016 target of 130 billion Afs, the IMF had pledged to reward the Government with $100 million, according to a ministry spokesman. “We will bring reforms in collecting national revenue so we collect more money than what is specified as the target by the IMF,” he added. For more information, see:IMF sets 150bn Afs revenue collection target for MoF in 2017”, Tolo News


Myanmar plans special envoy on Rohingya

To resolve the Rohingya issue, Myanmar is likely to send a "special envoy" next week for talks with government officials in Dhaka. Media reports claimed that Myanmar State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi was sending the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, U Kyaw Tin, as the special envoy likely on January 11. For more information seeMyanmar to send 'special envoy' to Dhaka”, The Daily Star

Awami League’s ‘democracy day’

To commemorate its landslide victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the ruling Awami League celebrated democracy victory day on 5 January. Interestingly, its rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) celebrated the day as democracy killing day.  BNP boycotted the 2014 parliamentary election. For more information seeAnniversary of Jan 5 Polls: AL celebrates, BNP's programme obstructed”, The Daily Star, 6 January 2017; “Democracy abolished on 5 Jan: Khaleda”, Prothom Alo

Top in medicare

To Social Progress Index 2016, Bangladesh is one of the top performers in ensuring nutrition and basic medical care, and health and wellness. In South Asia, Bangladesh is ahead of both India and Pakistan in nutrition & basic medical care, personal safety, health and wellness, and tolerance and inclusion. Still the country has been grouped in “low social country” and ranks 101st globally. Social Progress Index 2016 is prepared on a study on 133 countries. For more information seeBangladesh on Social Progress Index: A top performer in nutrition, basic medicare”, The Daily Star


DPT told to compensate

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) will have to pay Nu 0.45 million as compensation to Dasho Paljor J Dorji after the party withdrew the defamation case it filed against him, the Thimphu dzongkhag court bench-5e ordered on January 5. For more information see: Court orders DPT to compensate Dasho Benji”, Kuensel

Reward for Chukha

The Chukha hydro-electric project (CHEP) was awarded by the Central Board for Irrigation and Power (CBIP) of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India (GoI) for being the best-maintained hydroelectric project (older than 10 years) on December 29 last year. Druk Green Power Corporation Ltd (DGPC) received the award. For more information see: Chukha hydroelectric model awarded”, Kuensel

Held with ‘substance’

Thimphu police arrested four men and a woman for having been in possession of controlled substances since December 31 last year till date. For more information see:Police apprehend 5 for possession of controlled substances”, Kuensel


President predicts slow-down

After the conclusion of the 50-day deadline for demonetisation, ending on 30 December, President Pranab Mukherjee warned the Government that the process could lead to temporary slow down of the economy. With long years in economic ministries, including Finance, the President added that the Government must be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor.“President Mukherjee welcomed the bold step of the Government of India which will help unearth unaccounted money & counterfeit currency,” said a statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan. For more information, see: “President PranabMukherjee says demonetisation drive may temporarily slowdown economy”, The Indian Express

103 satellites to be launched in one-go

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch a 103 satellites on a single rocket in the first week of February. As India looks to grab a larger slice of the lucrative commercial space market, with 100 of the 103 satellites set for launch belonging to foreign nations, including the US and Germany. ISRO’s workhorse rocket PSLV-C37 will take the satellites into space from its SatishDhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The launch will be a great achievement in the country’s space history as no exercise on this scale has been attempted before. For more information, see: “ISRO to launch record 103 satellites at one go in February”,The Hindu, 4 January 2017 and “ISRO to launch record 103 satellites in one go in February”, Hindustan Times

China’s double-standards

At the mid-term press conference of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to mark two-and-a-half years of the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar stated that China’s attempt to block the UN Security Council is preventing India from taking necessary action against terrorism. The press conference, led by both Ministers of State for External Affairs, V.K. Singh, and Mr. Akbar projected the diplomatic trajectory of the Modi Government since May 2014 and acknowledged that despite tranquillity on India-China border, there remained “divergences” in bilateral ties, including China’s stand on Pakistan-based terror outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). For more information, see: “China’s stance on terror self-defeating, says India”, The Hindu, 5 January, 2017 and “China must hear voice of the world on terror: India on Masood Azhar issue”, Hindustan Times

World Bank bid on Indus row

In a bid to resolve the Indus Water Treaty row between India and Pakistan, Ian H Solomon, senior adviser to the World Bank president, would meet officials of ministries of external affairs and water resources to hear the Indian side led by Gopal Baglay, a joint secretary in MEA. Following this, Solomon will head towards Pakistan. For more information, see:“World Bank envoy to meet India, Pakistan officials over Indus water dispute”, Hindustan Times


Dunya back, as MoS

Former Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, who quit the Government of President Abdulla Yameen, her step-uncle, is back -- now as Minister of State for Health. Her father, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has disapproved of her latest decision even as Dunya’s brother Gassam Maumoon had continued in the Yameen Government when she had quit during the vertical split in the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), headed by her father. For more information, see: “Dunya rejoins Yameen’s government”, Maldives Independent, 5 January 2017; “Dunya: Everyone will take the best decision for the time”, SunOnline, 5 January 2017; “Do not support the decision of Dunya: Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom”, Miadhu, 5 January 2017; “Got a shock when Dunya joined the government : Umar Naseer”, Miadhu

China ‘surprised’

In a rare news conference in Male, Ambassador Wang Fukang has expressed ‘surprise’ over ‘Indian journalists expressing concern over a Chinese company getting the lease of Feydhoo Finolhu, the uninhabited island closest to capital Male, for developing a tourist-resort. He also said that China also ‘fully supported’ the Maldivian Government’s policies on protecting the nation’s sovereignty, and pointed out how the host-country was an important partner in his nation’s ‘Maritime Silk Route’ project.

For more information, see: “China: Surprised over Indian concern after Feydhoofinolhu went to China”, SunOnline, 4 January 2016; “100 million Chinese travelled as tourists last year hence number of visitors to Maldives can be increased: Chinese Ambassador”, Miadhu, 4 January 2017; “China supports policies of the Maldivian government: Chinese Ambassador”, Miadhu, 4 January 2017; “Foreign Minister meets with the President of Chinese EXIM bank”, SunOnline

Sovereign guarantee

To help industrial development, the Government has proposed to offer ‘sovereign guarantees’ for public and private sector enterprises, seeking overseas loans – subject to conditions. Almost simultaneously, the Government has also announced to float $ 200-m ‘sovereign bonds’ in the international market, which former President Maumoon Gayoom has said would increase the nation’s ‘debt’. For more information, see: “Government offers sovereign guarantee for businesses”, Maldives Independent, 2 January 2017; “Government defends plans to sell US$200m worth of sovereign bonds”, Maldives Independent


Diplomatic okay for aid

In a statement issued on January 4, the State Counsellor’s Office said humanitarian aid sent to Rakhine, including recent proposals by ASEAN countries, must first be approved through diplomatic channels, with information provided as to the precise type, weight and amount of aid being supplied. For more information see: Govt insists Rakhine aid go through diplomatic channels”, Myanmar Times

Tagged with Syria

Myanmar has had the unenviable distinction of being listed among Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as hosting 10 “conflicts to watch” in 2017, as compiled by Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. For more information see: Burma ranked eighth among ‘world’s most volatile flashpoints”, DVB

Thai FM backs Suu Kyi

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai has spoken for the first time in defence of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is increasingly being accused worldwide of ignoring the plight of Myanmar’s Muslim minority in Arakan State. For more information see: “Thai FM defends Suu Kyi’s handling of Rohingya woes”, DVB


Amendment to be finalised

The agitating Madhes-based political parties have suggested to the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN (Maoist Center) to remove constitutional difficulties for endorsing the constitution amendment bill through Parliament.  The suggestion has come in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on January 1 over the constitution amendment bill. At a meeting with the ruling NC and Maoist Centre on January 5, various Madhes-based party leaders suggested removing the constitutional difficulties for the purpose, said Rajendra Mahato, chairman of Shadbhawana Party. For more information, see: Madhes parties suggest removing constitutional difficulties”, Republica, 6 January 2017; “Maoist, Cong, SLMM leaders for tabling bill”, The Kathmandu Post

India defence tie intact

Although the Indian media and strategic community have been raising serious concerns about the proposed first-ever military drill between China and Nepal, Indian Minister for External Affairs V K Singh on Wednesday said the drill would not create any rift between Nepal and India. “The relations between the Nepal Army and Indian Army stand on their own. Let’s not see these relations through the lens of a third country,” Minister Singh, honorary chief of the Nepal Army further said. For more information, see: Nepal-China military drill won’t affect Nepal-India military ties: VK Singh”, Republica

Marsyangdi II project in a fix

With the Government sitting on the mandatory permission for long, the fate of the proposed Upper Marsyangdi II hydro project hangs in the balance. The project to be constructed by GMR — an Indian company — faced protest in the making of the DPR report earlier from then UCPN-Maoist party that linked this project to issues of national sovereignty. The project has failed to start for years now, given the government delay in doing a PDA, years after the company submitted its DPR. For more information see:600MW Upper Marsyangdi II in limbo”, The Himalayan Times


Pak PM says “Kashmir is ours”

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on  January 5 that Kashmir was an integral part of Pakistan. He praised slain Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani as a “vibrant and charismatic leader”. Needling India, Sharif praised the spirit and determination of the Kashmiri people for their struggle for the right to self-determination. “Our hearts beat and sink with our Kashmiri brethren,” Radio Pakistan quoted Mr. Sharif as saying. “The world needs to tell India that “enough is enough” with regard to its policy towards Kashmir.” For more information, see: Kashmir an integral part of Pakistan, says Sharif”, The Hindu

Chinese nuclear-subs at Karachi

Satellite imagery has shown two Chinese submarines, including a nuclear submarine, docked at Karachi port. The presence of Chinese nuclear submarines so close to India, has shown the extent of military ties between Beijing and Islamabad and has underlined the issue of China’s military competition with India. The satellite images posted the submarines are the Type 091 Han-class nuclear powered submarine and the Type 039 Song-class diesel electric submarine. For more information, see: “Satellite imagery reveals presence of Chinese nuclear submarine in Karachi”, The Economic Times

218 Indian fishers freed

Pakistan released over 218 Indian fishermen on 5 January, most of which had been detained over the past 12 months. The goodwill gesture aimed a confidence building measures with India. Pakistan has earlier released 220 Indian fishermen on Christmas Day. The fishermen were taken to Lahore, where they were handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border on 6 January with gifts of Rs. 500 each by volunteers of the Edhi Foundation. For more information, see: “With gifts and goodwill, 218 fishermen return from Pakistan”, The Hindu

Sri Lanka

No foreign judges: President

In the light of the Government’s Consultative Task Force report calling for foreign judges to try ‘war-crimes’ and ‘accountability issues’, President Maihitirpala Sirisena has told his SLFP faction leaders that he would not let that happen. The Task Force report, submitted to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, said that ‘all perpetrators of atrocities, including the Indian Army, are accountable for their actions’. For more information, see: “President rejects foreign judges”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 January 2017; “Foreign judges won’t be accepted: Minister Abeywardena declares at President’s House”, The Island, 7 January 2017; “‘War crimes’ probe mechanism: Task force calls for full foreign participation: ‘All perpetrators of atrocities including Indian Army accountable for their actions’”, The Island, 6 January 2017; “‘War crimes’: Foreign judges proposed by govt. task force: Report handed over to CBK, media to be briefed today”, The Island, 5 January 2017; “Defence Secy allays Manouri’s concerns”, The Island, 7 January 2017; “Consultation Task Force report handed over to CBK”, The Island, 6 January 2017; “Stand firm against injustice by UNP members: President”, Daily Mirror Online

China to invest $ 5 billion: PM

Inaugurating Southern Industrial Development Zone in Hambantota, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that China would be investing $ 5 billion in Sri Lanka over the next couple of years or so. With political, labour and local controversies raging, he said that the Government would table the proposal on land-allocation for a Chinese investor in the Hambantota port area, in Parliament, and would ensure that the security of the adjoining seas remained in the hands of the Sri Lanka Navy. For more information, see: “China to invest US$ 5 billion in Sri Lanka: Ranil”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 January 2017; “Copies of H'tota port agreements to Parliament: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 January 2017; “Sri Lanka, not China, will provide security for Colombo Financial City – PM”, The Island, 7 January 2017; “H’tota port sale beginning of govt. privatisation drive”, The Island, 6 January 2017; “Hambantota special zone to attract Chinese industries unveiled: Buddhist monks among protestors”, The Island, 7 January 2017; “H’tota port deal: no delay, hope to finalise within Jan.- Malik”,  Daily Mirror Online, 6 January 2017; “Port workers protest over Hambantota Port deal”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 January 2017; “Govt. launches Hambantota Industrial Development Project, earmarks lands for next decade: U.S - Sri Lanka Free Trade Pact a distinct possibility”, The Island, 8 January 2017; “Chamal briefs Mahanayakes on anger of Hambantota residents”, The Island, 5 January 2017; “Trinco port to India followed by Hambantota to China: JVP”, The Island, 8 January 2017; No agreement on Hambantota Harbour: President”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 January 2017; “Private US company chosen for public sector reform here: USD 13 mn project in collaboration with Parliament”, The Island, 2 January 2017; “SLFP: No need for Super Minister, adopt MR’s FDI promotion model”, The Island, 2 January 2017; “Development Bill: UNP to meet President, confident of getting him on board… Warns of violent plans to derail national economy”, The Island



Press Releases

Financial assistance of People’s Republic of China to Myanmar’s peace process”, MOFA, 5 January 2017


Press Releases

Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, Vienna on Presentation of Credentials”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 31 December 2016 Press Release on 32nd Meeting of the Board of Directors of B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 31 December 2016 Press Release regarding attack on nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 1 January 2017



Opinion pieces

Bing West, “Sangin, bloody Sangin, and wretched Afghanistan”, National Review, 6 January 2017 Adam Gallagher, “Its time for Trump to explain what will happen in Afghanistan”, The Hill, 5 January 2017 Renard Sexton, “Did US aid win hearts and minds in Afghanistan? Yes and no”, The Washington Post, 6 January 2016


Opinion pieces

Mir Aftabuddin Ahmed, “Bangladesh at a Political Crossroads”, The Daily Star, 5 January 2016 Iftekharul Bashar, Countering terror in Bangladesh”, East Asia Forum, 5 January 2017 Mahfuz Anam, “ Despite history, geography”, Indian Express, 5 January 2017 Abdullah Shibli, “Bangladesh and the new economic world order”, The Daily Star, 2 January 2017

Book Review

Delightful deliberations on Dhaka, edited By Mahbubur Rahman reviewed By Shahnoor Wahid, The Daily Star, 2 January 2017



It’s not black and white”, Kuensel, 7 January 2017


Opinion pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Will Yameen re-position himself in 2017?”, South Asia Monitor, 6 January 2017


Opinion pieces

Suhasini Haidar, “Running into the Chinese wall”, The Hindu, 5 January 2017 Mahfuz Anam,"Despite history, geography”, The Indian Express, 5 January 2017 Sushil Aaron, “Why India may matter less in world politics during a Trump presidency”, Hindustan Times, 3 January 2017


Opinion pieces

Sithu Aung Myint, “It’s time to close the vicious circle in the search for peace”, Frontier, 8 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Atul K Thakur, “Demonetisation blues”, The Kathmandu Post, 6 January 2017 Ayush Manandhar “Nepal in Trump world”, Republica, 4 January 2017


The Kathmandu Post, “A divided Maoist Centre”, The Kathmandu Post, 6 January 2017 Republica, “Air of despair”, Republica, 5 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Abbas Nasir, “Will Gen Bajwa walk the talk?”, Dawn, 7 January 2018 Syed Mohammad Ali, “Will Karachi drown under the sea?”, The Express Tribune, 5 January 2016 Khaled Ahmed, “Corridor of uncertainty”, The Indian Express, 31 December 2016 Rizwan Asghar, “Nuclear Pakistan”, The News International, 30 December 2016

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

M S M Ayub, “Constitutional reforms: Allay doubts on genuineness”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 January 2017 Kusal Perera. “What’s happening within SLFP, or within the ‘Sirisena clan’?”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 January 2017 Malinda Seneviratne, “Let’s make Sampanthan’s New Year wish come true”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 January 2017 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “From 2016 to 2017”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 January 2017 Jehan Perera, “Logic of coalition politics as art of the possible will continue”, The Island, 3 January 2017 Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, “India, China and MR’s new political project”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 January 2017 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Looking across the Palk Strait”, The Sunday Leader, 1 January 2017


  Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale India: Sabah Ishtiaq Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy Nepal: Dr AnasuaBasu Ray Chaudhury & Sreeparna Banerjee
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