MonitorsPublished on Feb 20, 2017
South Asia Weekly | Volume X: Issue 8

Country Reports


Six-nation talks in Moscow

A second round of talks is on the cards to discuss the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Reports state that the initiative which was prompted by Russia will see six nations taking part in the meeting, including Pakistan, Iran, China, Afghanistan and India. On 16 February, Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan, told the US’s Armed Services Committee that Russia and Iran were supporting the Taliban and that Russia had worked to “publicly legitimise” the Taliban. He also said Iran was directly involved in providing support to the Taliban in western Afghanistan. For more information, see: “Six nations to meet in Moscow over Afghanistan”, Tolo News

Pakistan closes routes         

The Torkham crossing on the Afghan-Pak border has been closed ‘due to security concerns’ by Pakistan government, following the latest blast in the country.  Pakistani officials have said that the crossing will remain closed indefinitely and that all kinds of trade and commercial activities will remain suspended. Other official routes along the Durand Line have also remained closed following the attack on 16 February. For more information, see: “Pakistan closes Torkham crossing due to security concerns”, Tolo News

“Roots of violence lie outside”

Nazifullah Salarzai, the deputy permanent representative of Afghanistan, said during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council that the roots of the violence in Afghanistan lay outside the country. Without directly referencing to Pakistan, the minister added that, “The ongoing cycle of violence in Afghanistan is not, by any means, a home-grown phenomenon. Its roots lie elsewhere, outside Afghanistan.” For more information, see: “Roots of ongoing violence in Afghanistan lie outside, Afghan envoy tells UNSC”, Khaama Press


World Bank asked to apologise

Law Minister Anisul Huq has asked the World Bank to apologise to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for bringing charges of corruption in the Padma Bridge project. He raised the demand during a discussion in Parliament this week after a Canadian court acquitted three business executives of charges of planning to bribe Bangladeshi officials to get the Padma Bridge job. The World Bank, withdrew the funding for the project as it accused government of corruption on granting of contract to a Canadian company. For more information, see: World Bank asked to apologise to Bangladesh PM for Padma Bridge graft allegation”,

Second most polluted

Dhaka is ranked second on a global list of cities with worst air pollution, which claims 122,400 lives in Bangladesh a year. Delhi tops the list, while Karachi and Beijing stand third and fourth, according to the State of Global Air Report 2017. For more information see:Dhaka world's second most polluted city”, The Daily Star


National Assembly polls in 2018

The National Assembly (NA) will be dissolved by August 1, 2018 to make way for the 90 day election period for the General Election. A new NA will be constituted within this 90 day period. For more information, see: Govt and National Assembly to finish term by 1st August 2018”, The Bhutanese

New Secretaries

His Majesty The King granted dhar to Letho T Tangbi, Sonam Tshong and Lt. Col Pema Tshewang and Lt. Col Khitu Dukpa, who will take over as the new secretary of International Boundaries, the secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Lt. Col Tshewang from the RBA and Lt. Col Khitu Dukpa from the RBG have been promoted to the rank of Colonel. For more information, see: His Majesty The King grants dhar”, Kuensel

New foreign currency account launched

The finance ministry launched Remit Bhutan, a foreign currency account facility for non-resident Bhutanese in Perth, Australia on February 14, according to a press release from the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA). For more information, see: Remit Bhutan launched in Perth”, Kuensel


Tamil Nadu gets new CM

Acting Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao ended the stalemate and power games in the state by inviting Edappadi K Palanisamy to form the government. He has been given 15 days to prove his majority in the Assembly. For more information, see: With Palaniswami as new Tamil Nadu CM, only a miracle can save Jayalalithaa loyalist O PanneerselvamFirstpost

India and Russia to develop new fighter

In an important development, Russia stated that the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) programme that is being planned with India would be a 'completely new aircraft' and is not linked to Moscow's own new-generation fighter, the Sukhoi T-50. For more information, see: India’s next gen fighter will be unlike the Russian oneEconomic Times


$ 100-m from India

In a currency-swap deal to shore up forex in the light of the central bank facilitating the $ 140-m compensation payment to the GMR Group for the mid-way withdrawal of the Male airport contract, the Maldives Monetary Authority, MMA, has obtained $ 100-m from the Reserve Bank of India, RBI. This is possibly the first major transaction of a near-similar kind after the Maldives Government hurriedly paid back the $ 50-m pending credit-line from the public sector State Bank of India in late 2011. For more information, see: “Maldives secured US$100m from India to shore up depleted reserve”, Maldives Independent, 14 February 2017; “U.S Embassy in Colombo announces small grants program for Sri Lanka and Maldives”, Miadhu

Perfect Constitution: President

Despite criticisms to the contrary, the nation has one of the best Constitutions in the world, and is being implemented better than most others in other countries, President Abdulla Yameen has said. For more information, see: “Maldives has the perfect constitution and it is being implemented perfectly: President Yameen”, Miadhu, 15 February 2017; “If Nasheed comes back to Maldives party activities will be hindered : Hassan Latheef”, Miadhu, 15 February 2017; “MDP Congress to be held this year”, SunOnline, 15 February 2017; “Reeko Moosa condemns studying from Islamic countries”, Miadhu


Arakan operations end

The military has ended a clearance operation in Burma’s troubled Arakan State, government officials said, ending a four-month sweep that the United Nations said may amount to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing. For more information, see: Military operation in Northern Arakan has ended: Govt Officials”, DVB, 16 February 2017; “Myanmar army ends operations in north Rakhine: govt”, Mizzima, 17 February 2017; “Burma Says Security Operation in Troubled Arakan Has Ended”, The Irrawaddy

Murder-suspect identified

A retired army colonel, Aung Win Khaing, was identified as the third suspect in the case for conspiring assassination of Ko Ni, a prominent legal advisor of the ruling party on January 29. For more information, see: Myanmar announces one more suspect behind legal advisor assassination”, Mizzima

Border reopened

Myanmar has reopened No. 1 border gate with Bangladesh which was temporarily closed following terrorist attacks on some three border posts on Oct. 9 last year, according to the State Counselor's Office Thursday. For more information, see: Myanmar reopens border gate with Bangladesh as peace restores”, Mizzima


Opposition demands poll dates

The main opposition CPN-UML on February 16 demanded that the government announce dates for elections at three levels, formulate laws required for the elections, immediately implement the report of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, and form the Constituency Delineation Commission without any delay, the first among 12 decisions endorsed by the meeting reads. The party has warned that the failure to hold the polls on time would result in a serious constitutional crisis. For more information, see:UML reiterates demand for immediate announcement of polls”, The Himalayan Times

New recommendations on LLRC report

The three-member government task-force formed to address the agitating Madhes-based parties’ concerns over the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC) report has recommended an increase in number of local units in eight districts of Province 2. Locals in various districts, including Khotang, Bajhang and Nuwakot had staged protests, saying the LLRC had ignored recommendations made by the technical committees. For more information, see:Local Level Restructuring: Add units in Province 2, recommends taskforce”, The Kathmandu Post

Education in trouble

Even almost two years after the devastating earthquake, the government is struggling to generate resources to rebuild schools, which could deprive hundreds of thousands of children of education. As many as 33,000 classrooms of nearly 8,000 schools were destroyed in the 2015 quake. So far, reconstruction of 1,049 schools has been completed, and the government has been able to generate resources just enough to rebuild another 2,807 schools. For more information, see: “Post-Quake Reconstruction: Education of thousands of students in jeopardy”, The Kathmandu Post


IS bomber kills 70

A suicide attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, Sindh on 16 February killed over 70 people and injured more than 150 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least four children and twelve women. The explosion took place in the area where the dhamaal (a Sufi ritual) was being performed after evening prayers. A large number of devotees, from different faiths and from across the country, frequent the shrine on Thursdays — a day of spiritual significance in Pakistan's shrine culture. The army began a major crackdown across the province, following the second attack in the country in the same week. For more information, see: “At least 70 dead as bomb rips through Lal Shahbaz shrine in Sehwan, Sindh”, Dawn

Suicide-blast claims 16

A suicide bomb blast in Lahore killed 16 people and injured over 60 on 13 February. The bomber blew himself up outside the Punjab assembly house on Mall Road, where a protest rally by the city’s chemists was being held. Three senior police officers who were monitoring the protest were killed in the blast as the suicide bomber drove his motorcycle close to where the policemen were standing. Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah said that the intelligence alerts had been issued prior to the blast that terrorists might target the assembly building on that road. For more information, see: “Lahore bomb blast: 16 dead, 60 injured after suicide attack during rally”, NDTV

Hand over terrorists, Afghnaistan told

The ISPR said that the Pakistan army had asked Kabul to hand over 79 terrorists who were apparently in hiding in Afghanistan. This move comes after the army crackdown following the ISIS attack on 16 February. After the attack in Sindh, army chief Qamar Bajwa vowed to respond to the recent wave of terror in the country as security forces closed the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and all sorts of communication indefinitely. For more information, see: “Pakistan asks Afghanistan to hand over 76 terrorists immediately”, The Express Tribune

Sri Lanka 

India’s ruling party leader in Sri Lanka

Ahead of the two-day Sri Lanka visit of Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, India’s ruling BJP leader, Ram Madhav, considered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s points-man on the southern neighbour, was in Colombo, conferring with the island-nation’s political leadership. According to reports, India was looking at the possibility of Sri Lankan President Maithiripala Sirisena accommodating former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in their SLFP hierarchy, and thus try and effect a split in the powerful Rajapaksa camp’ identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. For more information, see: “BJP weighing up ‘political split’ in Rajapaksa camp?”, The Hindu, 18 February 2017; “Indian Foreign Secretary to visit SL”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 February 2017; “Jaishankar in Colombo, to meet Maithripala, Ranil tomorrow”, The Island, 18 February 2017; “India misread our ties with China: Namal Rajapaksa”, The Hindu, 13 February 2017;  “Vigneswaran vows not to authorise extension of Palay runway”, The Island, 15 February 2017; “Pathfinder Foundation convenes a regional conference on the Bay of Bengal and Trincomalee”, The Island

Stay away, China tells India

After telling the US to stay away from South China Sea region, China is believed to have told India not to meddle in the internal affairs of the latter’s Sri Lankan affairs, according to an AFP report. For more information, see: “China tells India to stay off its Indian Ocean colony, Sri Lanka: Report”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 February 2017; “H’tota port sale: China is flexible, says envoy”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 February 2017; “Port City will bring more tangible options to the administration of Colombo  – Minister Champika Ranawaka”, The Island, 19 February 2017; “China 'Silk Road' project in SL delayed as Beijing toughens stance”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 February 2017; “Sri Lankan Naval Commander on bilateral visit to Pakistan”, The Island, 19 February 2017; “NGOs cashing in on RTI for own agenda: MS”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 February 2017; “Protest in Melbourne against honourary doctorate to Ranil”, Daily Mirror Online

Primary Documentation


Press Releases

Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay attended the World Government Summit (WGS) held in Dubai United Arab Emirates from 11-13 February 2017, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 February 2017



Opinion pieces

The forgotten war: Trump cant ignore the threat Afghanistan poses”, The Chicago Tribune, 15 February 2017


Opinion Pieces 

Shayan S Khan, “Aspiring to lead”, Dhaka Tribune, 15 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Tenzing Lamsang, “A Perspective on the DANTAK Signboard”, The Bhutanese, 16 February 2017


To be or not to be”, Kuensel, 13 February 2017 Adressing challenges facing the RNR sector”, Kuensel, 16 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Harsh V. Pant, “Donald Trump’s Asia outreach, ORF, 16 February 2017 Sanjeev Alhuwalia, “To raise resources, give and take needed”, ORF, 14 February 2017 Niranjan Sahoo, “Reforming campaign finance”, ORF, 14 February, 2017


Opinion Pieces

Ashley South, “Peace and trust in the Karen hills”, The Irrawaddy, 14 February 2017 Marione Sabrie, “Diverse perceptions of the Irrawaddy River Valley among its inhabitants”, DVB, 16 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Achyut Wagle, “Disaster in the making”, The Kathmandu Post, 17 February 2017 Gokul Pokhrel, “The migrant story”, Republica, 16 February 2017


The Kathmandu Post, “Back to the drawing board”, The Kathmandu Post, 17 February 2017 Republica, “Show some spine”, Republica, 16 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Shamil Shams, “The Lahore bombing and Pakistan’s misplaced priorities”, DW, 14 February 2017 Muhammad Ali Ehsan, “Lahore bomb blast: an abysmal tragedy”, The Express Tribune, 15 February 2017 Zubeida Mustafa, “Blame rests on…”, Dawn, 17 February 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Merril Gunaratne, “The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987”, The Island, 19 February 2017 Izeth Hussain, “The problem of circumventing Geneva”, The Island, 18 February 2017 Kusal Perera, “Good governance in free markets means corruption with racism”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 February 2017 Sumanasiri Liyanage, “Constitutional Reforms: Would it be a solution to the national question?”, The Island, 16 February 2017 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Constitutional bond scam, coup or cyanide capsule?”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 February 2017 Neville Laduwahetty, “Devolution of police & land powers”, The Island, 14 February 2017 Jehan Perera, “Going back to an alliance that can win elections”, The Island, 14 February 2017 Ranga Jayasuriya, “Danger of policy paralysis”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 February 2017 N Sathiya Moorthy, “The jury is out: Armed forces, not India, stalled JRJ’s ‘Jaffna Advance’”, The Sunday Leader, 12 February 2017


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale India : Subh Soni & Pushan Das Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee
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