MonitorsPublished on Jan 31, 2017
South Asia Weekly | Volume X: Issue 5

Country Reports


Arrest order against 9 of Dostum’s guards

Afghanistan attorney-general has ordered the arrest of nine guards of Vice- President Abdul Rashid Dostum for the alleged rape and torture of another politician. Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor, was allegedly punched in the face by Dostum in November and hauled into an armoured vehicle. Ischchi has said that his captors, Dostum’s bodyguards, beat him and sexually assaulted him. The arrest warrants were issued after Dostum’s bodyguards ignored the previous three summons for questioning. For more information, see: “Afghanistan orders arrest of vice-president’s guards amid rape claims”, The Guardian

Taliban asks Trump to review policy, quit

In a media statement released on 21 January following US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Taliban have asked him to review the US policy in Afghanistan and begin a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country. The Taliban said that the violence would continue if the Trump administration continued to follow the approaches of the previous Obama and Bush administrations. The statement comes at a important time, as the Trump administration has not revealed its policy on Afghanistan yet. For more information, see: “Taliban asks Donald Trump to review Afghanistan policy”, NDTV

Russia ‘No’ to US withdrawal

The Russian foreign ministry released a statement saying that if the US withdrew its forces from the Afghanistan, the situation would worsen significantly. Zamir Kabulov, a special representative of President Putin to Afghanistan, said that while Russia had not spoken to President Trump about US involvement in Afghanistan, “Trump does not currently have any intentions to withdraw, which is logical, because if in the current environment he decides to withdraw the contingent, then everything will collapse." For more information, see: “Russia says U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan would worsen situation- Ifax”, Reuters


$ 500m sought from India

The Government is planning to borrow $ 500 million from India for bankrolling economic zones (EZs) proposed across country under a special industrialisation strategy. "We will give a proposal to the authority concerned of India seeking a loan," informed a senior official at Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA). For more information, see: BD bids to borrow $500m from India”, The Financial Express

Duty-free from US

The Government this week  renewed its request to the new administration of US President Donald J Trump to consider 'duty free quota free' (DFQF) access of Bangladeshi commodities to the US market. Bangladesh ambassador to the United States Mohammad Ziauddin made the request during a meeting with US Republican senator Roger Wicker in Washington DC. For more information, see: Dhaka seeks from Trump admin duty-free market access”, Prothom Alo


Graft status

Bhutan retained its position, 27 on the global corruption perception index, released on 25 January by Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog. For more information see: Bhutan’s corruption ranking unchanged”, Kuensel

Chinese envoy meets PM

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to India, Luo Zhaohui on 23 January. The ambassador was on a five-day visit in the country from January 21-25. For more information see: Chinese ambassador to Bhutan visits India”, Kuensel

Sedition charges

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) will soon send a letter to the Royal Bhutan Police to investigate and submit report on allegations of sedition against Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). For more information see: OAG to send RBP, a letter to investigate sedition charges against DPT”, BBS


True friend, says US

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s late Tuesday night conversation with US President Donald Trump, at the latter’s behest, revolved around talks of strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries and to work together in the global fight against terrorism. The two leaders also spoke on a wide range of issues, including trade, economy, defence and terrorism. The White House said in a statement that President Trump thinks of India as a “true friend” to the United States and has extended an invitation for PM Modi to visit the country later this year. For more information, see: PM Modi invites President Donald Trump to visit India, White House says India ‘a true friend’ ”, The Indian Express, 25 January 2017; India a ‘true friend’, Trump tells Modi”, The Hindu

Strategic ties with UAE

With the arrival of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as Chief Guest for the Republic Day, the two countries sealed 14 agreements, including a comprehensive strategic partnership. Apart from the strategic partnership, agreements on defence industries, maritime transport, cyber security, shipping and transport were also signed. India and the UAE have condemned efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries, and resolved to cooperate in countering terrorism by adopting a policy of “zero tolerance” towards the menace. The two sides agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and perpetrating acts of terrorism. For more information, see: India, UAE sign strategic partnership pact, The Hindu, 25 January 2017; “Without naming Pakistan, UAE slams state-backed terror”, The Times of India

Akhilesh writes to PM on Budget

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting that the Union Budget be presented after the Assembly elections in the State. He said that if budget is presented before polling commenced, Uttar Pradesh will be deprived of schemes. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the budget cannot be delayed on account of state elections. Voting in Punjab and Goa begins on February 4 while it will be held in seven stages across Uttar Pradesh from February 11, the same day when it would be wrapped up in Uttarakhand and Manipur. Results for all states will be announced on March 11. For more information, see: “Budget must be presented after assembly elections: Akhilesh Yadav writes in letter to PM Modi”, The Indian Express

Extension given to FS

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar has been given one-year extension of service. As per reports, he is likely to focus on improving relations with the US and China. With the current US Presidency, Jaishankar’s experience will be invaluable in dealing with the new administration. He has already met key members of the Trump team prior to the transition before the inaugural on January 20. For more information, see: Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar gets 1-year extension, likely to focus on ties with US, China”, First Post


Common candidate: Nasheed

In the US for a climate-change conference, Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohammed Nasheed has called for a common candidate against incumbent Abdulla Yameen in the 2018 presidential polls, and said they would talk to ruling PPM faction leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in this regard. Back home, a senior minister said that Nasheed should return home from political asylum in the UK, serve out the remaining part of the court-ordered 13-year prison-term and contest the presidential polls, himself. For more information, see: “Nasheed calls for opposition to field single candidate in 2018”, Maldives Independent, 22 January 2017; “Come back to Maldives and then complete your jail sentence – Then contest in the elections ! : Thoriq Ibrahim”, Miadhu, 23 January 2017; “President: All freedoms cannot be given to please the west”, SunOnline, 23  January 2017; “President: Protesting does not showcase “beauty””, SunOnline, 23 January 2017; “Cannot attain the development desired by the youth if we are scared of being in debt : President Yameen”, Miadhu, 23 January 2017; “Yameen dismisses concern over debt as Maldives turns to global bond markets”, Maldives Independent, 23 January 2017; “If necessary developments were brought within the past 33 years, people will not have to ask the current government for it”, Miadhu, 23 January 2017; “No one even imagined largest aircrafts in the world landing at the airport: President Yameen”, Miadhu, 23 January 2017; “Yameen condemned for linking corruption to human nature”, Maldives Independent

Illegal detention: UN

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has held that the 2015 arrest and continued imprisonment of former Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim was illegal and arbitrary. Opposition leaders and former Presidents, Mohammed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, welcomed the UN panel decision but Minister Shainee criticised the same and said that the Maldives Supreme Court was the best in the region. For more information, see: UN panel finds Maldives ex defence minister’s detention illegal”, Maldives Independent, 28 January 2017; “Dr. Shainee hits back at UN working group”, SunOnline, 29 January 2017; “Shainee: Maldivian Supreme Court bench is regionally exceptional”, SunOnline, 29 January 2017; “Top opposition figure’s passport seized”, Maldives Independent

Tour & terror

For the first time since Maldives quit the Commonwealth late last year, experts from the British head of the former colonies conducted a training programme for security chiefs of resorts across the country, in association with local authorities. Alongside, religious scholars in Maldives listed out a long agenda, including Do’s & Don’ts for foreign tourists in an Islamic nation like theirs. For more information, see: “Maldives holds landmark conference on tourism and terrorism”, Maldives Independent, 26 January 2017; “Maldives clerics roll out wide-ranging religious agenda”, Maldives Independent

Strong ties with India

Addressing a Indian Republic Day celebrations in Male, Foreign Minister Muhammad Asim underscored the strong ties with the larger neighbour and referred to President Abdulla Yameen’s ‘India First’ policy in this regard. In his official Republic Day celebrations, Indian High Commissioner Akhilesh Mishra said that the two nations were ‘inseparable partners’. For more information, see: “Maldives and India will always have a strong relation that we should be thankful for : Dr.Asim”, Maldives Independent, 27 January 2017; ”Maldives and India are partners that can never be separated : Akhilesh Mishra”, Miadhu, 27 January 2017; “Cruise liner with Indian tourists docked at Male’ harbour”, Miadhu


‘Sabotaging peace’

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of ethnic armed groups, both ceasefire signatory parties and non-signatories, have accused the Myanmarese military of intentionally sabotaging the peace process in a statement released after holding its central executive committee meeting. For more information see: Burmese military is sabotaging peace process, says ethnic bloc”, DVB

Thein Sein spurs party

Former president and patron of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Thein Sein urged the former ruling party to ramp up its campaign ahead of by-elections in April. For more information see:TheinSein spurs USDP ahead of by-elections”, DVB, 27 January 2016; “Former President TheinSein urges USDP to make enormous effort to win in elections”, Mizzima

Slump in tourist numbers

Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism stated that the country recorded 2.9 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2016, a decrease by 38 per cent from the previous year that recorded 4.68 million arrivals. For more information see: Myanmar tourist numbers slump 38%”, Eleven


Elections on time

Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development, HitrajPandey has said that the constitution amendment proposal has been tabled for ensuring the participation of all parties in the election. He also asserted that the government was committed to hold the election within the deadline.  Earlier, speaking in a program organized by the District Development Committee (DDC), Minister Pandey directed the local body employees to carry out development projects in the stipulated time and be prepared for the local election. For more information, see: Constitution amendment will give outlet soon: Minister Pandey”, Republica, 27 January 2017; “Dahal-led government is failure, says Gachhadar”, The Kathmandu Post

Never interfered, says India

India has never interfered in Nepal’s internal matters as some often tend to say, Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae said on January 25 while talking to reporters in Kathmandu on the eve of India’s 68th Republic Day. While sharing India’s interest in Nepal, the envoy said that Nepal and India must work closely in order to boost all-round development process of both the countries. For more information, see: India never interfered in Nepal’s internal matters: Rae”, The Kathmandu Post

LitFest on

The 6th edition of 'Nepal Literature Festival' kicked off on the premises of Nepal Tourism Board in Pardi, Pokhara on January 27. The festival that aims to bring together people from different walks of life like litterateurs, writers, politicians, sociologists, artists and analysts has witnessed participation of from neighbouring India and Bhutan, said programme coordinator Ajit Baral. For more information see: 6th Nepal Literature Festival kicks off in Pokhara”, The Kathmandu Post


Nuclear missile tested

Pakistan successfully tested the Ababeel nuclear capable surface-to-surface on 24 January, the army’s media wing said. The Ababeel missile can reach targets at a range of 2,200 km and is able to deliver multiple warheads and evade radar detection. This test firing follows the launch of Pakistan’s first submarine-launched cruise missile Babur on 10 January. The army’s statement said that the “development of (the) Ababeel Weapon System is aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan's ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment.” For more information, see: “Pakistan tests second nuclear-capable missile this month”, Reuters

PM’s kin in Panama papers

Maryam Safdar, the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the beneficial owner of a number of offshore companies named in the Panama Papers, according to a German daily. SuddeutscheZeitung posted documents on 23 January which show Safdar listed as the beneficiary of Nescoll Limited, an offshore company registered in British Virgin Islands, with her brother Hussain Nawaz Sharif listed as signatory. While owning off-shore companies is not illegal in Pakistan, the Sharifs will continue to be challenged on the source of those funds. For more information, see: “Maryam Saffar named in Panama Papers as beneficiary”, Al Jazeera

Indian fishermen held

Over 60 Indian fishermen were arrested by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) on 26 January for allegedly straying into Pakistan’s territorial waters. While their detention was not made public, they are expected to be presented before a judicial magistrate on 28 January. A spokesman for the PMSA said that the arrests came after the Indian fishermen were found fishing in Pakistani waters and did not leave despite warnings from the officials. Earlier this month, Pakistan had released some 219 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture. For more information, see: Pakistan arrests 60 Indian fishermen

Sri Lanka 

But for Sirisena, I would have retired: Rajapaksa

Addressing the much-publicised Nugegoda rally organised by the Joint Opposition (JO) identified with him, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that he would have retired from politics after his January 2015 electoral defeat, but successor Maithiripala Sirisena forced him to return. Only days earlier, Rajapaksa narrated his owes to a six-member SLFP Provincial Chief Ministers’ delegation that he was not ready for any compromise within the party over seat-sharing for the much-delayed Local Government polls. For more information, see: President Sirisena brought me back to politics: MR”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 January 2017; “Mahinda urges people to join forces with JO to topple govt”, The Island, 28 January 2017; “President acts like FM; Ravi like President: MR”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 January 2017; “MR –CM talks end without agreement”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 January 2017; “Talks between Mahinda and President’s proxies fail: Possible pact ahead of LG, PC polls”, The Island, 23 January 2017; “Prof. Peiris decries foreigners in decision making process: ‘National security at stake’”, The Island, 27 January 2017; “Dilan says Nugegoda rally is not an obstacle to reuniting SLFP”, The Island

Bond scam, a crime: President

Taking a tougher stand on the Central Bank bond scam than already, President Maithiripala Sirisena has said that it was a ‘criminal case’ and would have to be dealt with as such. He has since appointed two Supreme Court Justices and the Auditor-General to the Special Presidential Commission investigating the scam. Even as Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya sent the COPE report on the scam to AG for his view, Opposition JVP asked why President Sirisena had taken two years before ordering the probe. For more information, see: “CB Scam should be dealt with as a criminal case: MS”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 January 2017; “President appoints two SC judges to PSC: Bond scams probe”, The Island, 28 January 2017; “Speaker to send COPE report to AG of House”, The Island, 26 January 2017; “Ravi flays AG”, The Island, 26 January 2017; “JVP questions why Prez Sirisena waited two years to probe bond scams: EPF alone suffers loss of Rs 14.9 bn”, The Island, 25 January 2017; “Prevent Mahendran from interfering in State affairs: JO to Prez”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 January 2017; “Sri Lanka becomes more corrupt”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 January 2017: “Yahapalana Govt. as corrupt as its predecessor: ACF”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 January 2017; “Previous govt. swept almost 30 COPE reports under the carpet: Kiriella”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 January 2017; “All govts. defend corruption: Sampanthan”, Daily Mirror Online

LTTE bid on TNA MP

The Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the police has arrested four former LTTE cadres for plotting to kill senior TNA parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran over the past couple of months. Sumanthiran escaped owing to cancellation of his trip to northern Jaffna once, and owing to other ‘accidental reasons’, police said. A Killinochchi court has since remanded the arrested persons. For more information, see: “Plot to assassinate Sumanthiran: 4 ex-LTTE cadres remanded”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 January 2017; “Colombo uncovers plot to assassinate TNA legislator Sumanthiran”, The Island, 29 January 2017; “"Tamil Eelam" removed from list of countries”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 January 2017; “UNHR chief express happiness over Sri Lanka’s HR record”, The Island, 22 January 2017; “UN torture report a wakeup call to SL Govt.: Sooka”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 January 2017; “Switzerland ordered to pay €30,000 to deported ex-LTTEr”, Daily Mirror Online

Sri Lanka a key element in India’s foreign policy

Sri Lanka is a key part in India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the new Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu said, after unfurling the Tri-colour at the ‘India House’ on the nation’s 68th Republic Day. On specifics, he said India will let Sri Lanka decide when it would want to sign bilateral ETCA, andinvited Sri Lankan businesses to benefit from India’s growth story. For more information, see: “SL key part of ‘neighbourhood first’ policy: India”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 January 2017; “Lanka key part of ‘neighbourhood first’ policy -Indian HC Sandhu”, The Island, 27 January 2017; “Sri Lanka given option to sign ETCA at its own pace”, The Island, 29 January 2017; New Indian envoy urges SL biz to profit from India’s growth”, The Island, 29 January 2017; “India denies talks are on to take over development of Trinco port”, New Indian Express, 22 January 2017; “Harsha hails China as new white knight of free world”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 January 2017; “E-commerce figures prominently at World Economic Forum: Ali Baba wants immediate entry to Sri Lanka”, The Island, 24 January 2017; “Never requested SL for exclusivity in HIZ: China”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 January 2017; “Hambantota protests will not affect Sino-Lanka 60th anniversary celebrations – China: President Sirisena to inaugurate ceremonies”, The Island, 25 January 2017; “Arjuna wants govt to retain majority stake in Colombo East Container Terminal”

Primary Documentation



Opinion pieces

Justin Rowlatt, “What will Trump do about Afghanistan?”, BBC News, 25 January 2017 Aimal Faizi, “An Afghan agenda for Trump”, The Hindu, 18 January 2017


Opinion Pieces 

M Hafijul Islam Khan, Arif M Faisal, “New momentum for climate negotiations”, 27 January 2017 Iftekharuzzaman, “We deserve better”, 26 January 2017



Keeping the Rupee ship afloat”, Kuensel, 23 January 2017 


Opinion Pieces

  1. Raja Mohan, “Reclaiming the Gulf”, The Indian Express, 24 January 2017
Rakesh Sood, “Navigating a Trumpian world”, TheHindu, 25 January 2017 Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, “India-US ties: Trump, Modi will decide”, The Asian Age, 27 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Nasheed calls for common candidate against President Yameen”,, 25 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Sithu Aung Myint, “Is Daw Suu biased towards the Tatmadaw”, Frontier Myanmar, 22 January 2017 Paul Shortell, “Does Myanmar need a gemstone law”, Myanmar Times, 25 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

Sanjay Sharma, “Unequal by law”, The Kathmandu Post, 27 January 2017 Gaurav Bhattarai “Bridge to where?”, Republica, 26 January 2017


Make a start”, The Kathmandu Post, 27 January 2017  “Worth a try”, Republica, 26 January 2017


Opinion Pieces

James Stavridis, “Pakistan is the crisis flying under the radar”, NDTV, 25 January 2017 Peter Bergen and David Sterman, “Will President trump restart the drone war in Pakistan?”,CNN, 21 January 2017 Christophe Jaffrelot, “Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and them”, Indian Express, 24 January 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Kumar David, “No easy walk to Constitution”, The Island, 29 January 2017 Rajan Philips, “Unity Government in disarray, no thanks to divided Opposition”, The Island, 29 January 2017 M S M Ayub, “Hanging in balance”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 January 2017 Kusal Perera, “Yahapalana democracy: not for workers”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 January 2017 Kelum Bandara, “The war within”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 January 2017 Malinda Seneviratne, “NGO touch-me-nots”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 January 2017 Dr Sinha Raja Tamitta-Delgoda, “Sri Lanka: Shape of things to come”, The Island, 24 January 2017 Jehan Perera, “Effective governance means getting from three power centres to one”, The Island, 24 January 2017  N Sathiya Moorthy, “Revive or revisit Chandrika Package, but...”, The Sunday Leader, 22 January 2017


Kelum Bandara, “Recommendations in sub-committee reports pose a threat to Buddhism”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 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: Sreeparna Banerjee Coordinator: Mihir Bhonsale
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