MonitorsPublished on Feb 28, 2017
South Asia Weekly | Volume X: Issue 9

Country Reports


Chaos over closure of Afghan-Pak border

The closing of Torkham and Chaman borders on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has had a major affect on trade between the two countries. Media reports state that hundreds of trucks were lined up on both sides of the Torkham crossing for days. Many trucks carrying perishable food items such as fruit, were worried about the loss of revenue should the crossing not open again soon. Pakistan newspapers reported that that authorities had issued shoot-at-sight orders from those found trying to cross Chaman border illegally. For more information, see: “Chaos follows Pakistan-Afghanistan border closure”, Al Jazeera

‘No Chinese patrols’  

After reports of joint patrolling of Chinese and Afghan troops inside Afghanistan surfaced, the Chinese defence ministry has denied such patrols. China’s Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said that Chinese public security departments had counter-terrorism cooperation along the China-Afghanistan border. “This is law enforcement bodies from China and Afghanistan, in accordance with a bilateral agreement on strengthening border law enforcement, conducting cooperation along the border so as to jointly carry out counter-terrorism and to fight against cross-border crime,"  he said adding that “reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts.” For more information, see: “China denies reports of military patrols in Afghanistan”, Tolo News

To use all its powers to stop Pak rocket attacks

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul has warned that it will use all its power to respond to Pakistan if it did not stop the rocket attacks on Afghan soil. CEO Abdullah Abdullah’s office released a statement which said that Afghanistan’s national interest were a top priority, and that Kabul would always act in a manner based on our national interests. Faramarz Tamana, Director of Strategic Studies at Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that, “we hope that Pakistan stops the attacks and that the relationship between the two countries will return to normal. If not, Afghanistan will not sit silent, but will use its internal, regional and international power in response to Pakistan’s actions.” For more information, see: “Kabul will use ‘all means’ to end Pakistani missile attacks”, Tolo News


Indian Foreign Secretary meets PM

Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar visited Bangladesh and met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The visit led to disclosure of visit of Prime Minister’s state visit to India in April. For more information see: “PM's India trip in April: Indian foreign secy meets Hasina”, The Daily Star

China to buy gas fields

China's state-run Zhenhua Oil has signed a preliminary deal with US oil giant Chevron to buy its natural gas fields in Bangladesh. The deal is estimated to be that are worth $2 billion. Zhenhua is a subsidiary of China's defence industry conglomerate NORINCO. For more information, see: “China state firm to buy Chevron's gas fields in Bangladesh”, The Daily Star


New tourism strategy

The Economic Development Policy (EDP) of the government says that the Tourism Council of Bhutan will draw up a strategy for tariff rationalisation in this year. The EDP says the government shall create conditions to allow more competition and greater choices for visitors which is also code for changing the current tariff structure. For more information, see: “Tourism Tariff Rationalisation in 2017”, The Bhutanese

ADB pledges support

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will continue to support efforts to foster environmental sustainability, climate-resilient economic development and enhanced climate and disaster risk management in SAARC countries, the advisor for the South Asian department of the ADB, LipingZheng, has assured. For more information, see: “ADB to support climate-resilient economic development in SAARC region”, Kuensel

Buddhist pilgrims from Ladakh

Buddhist pilgrims from Ladhakh in India have been visiting the country in the recent years and this year more than 1,000 have visited the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan to watch sites in Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. For more information, see: “Bhutan becoming popular with Ladakh pilgrims”, BBS


Hung verdict in BMC polls

Shiv Sena emerged as the number one party in the city, albeit narrowly. The party picked up 84 seats, which is two more than the BJP. However, to achieve the magic figure of 114 seats that is required for a majority in the BMC, the party needs 30 more seats. For more information, see: BMC Election 2017: What's next for the Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray?, Firstpost

Clashes in Delhi University

Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju reacted strongly to the violence at Delhi University’s Ramjas College, saying “freedom of expression does not give anyone the right to convert colleges/institutions into a hub of anti-India activity.” The statement came in the backdrop of violence and protests in the DU. For more information, see: Centre seeks report from DU”, The Hindu

Wind-power tariffs fall

Wind power sector witnessed history unfold for its first ever auction of projects. The winning bid received was Rs 3.46/unit by five companies. The winning companies which will set up 250 MW each are Mytrah Energy, Inox Wind, Green Infra (Sembcorp India) and Ostro Kutch Wind Pvt. Ltd. For more information, see: Wind power tariffs spiral down to Rs 3.46 per unit for 1,000 MW auction, Business Standard

Missile deal with Israel

Giving a strong push to India-Israel defence ties, Prime Minister Modi cleared a mega deal for the Army worth Rs 17,000 crore to acquire the Medium Range Surface to Air Defence Missile (MR-SAM) system from Israel to protect India's airspace from enemy aircraft and drones. For more information, see: PM Modi clears air defence missile deal with Israel for Rs 17,000 crore, India Today


Saudi King coming

Along with China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz is scheduled to visit Maldives in the second week of March. The dates for the visit are being finalised for the visit, after the King accepted President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation at Riyadh visit in 2015. For more information, see: “Saudi king to visit Maldives in March”, Maldives Independent, 20 February 2017; “Government tight-lipped amid growing clamour to reveal Saudi project for Faafu atoll”, Maldives Independent, 23 February 2017; “Saudi embassy stirs controversy with cash handout to journalists”, Maldives Independent, 21 February 2017; “Government unveils campaign to promote ‘Islamic unity and patriotism’”, Maldives Independent, 23 February 2017; “President: This government would not keep women from their rights”, SunOnline

 Bridge, ‘not business’

Giving a new twist, Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang has said that the Male-Hulhumale sea-bridge to the airport was not a business venture for hsi country, but a social service. “It is a baseless story spread by the opposition that, the country will plunge in to debt with the construction of the bridge. The cost incurred in the construction of the bridge can be easily paid just with the foreign aid we get from China every year if needed,” he said. For more information, see: “Bridge is not a business venture – It is a social service: Chinese Ambassador”, Miadhu

Award for Anni

A coalition of 25 international human rights organisations has conferred the ‘Courage Award 2017’ on former Maldives President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, at a function in Geneva. Nasheed, the organisers said, was  “inspiring the world with your extraordinary courage in defence of liberty and universal human rights”, the citation said. For more information, see: “Nasheed receives Courage Award at Geneva human rights summit”, Maldives Independent, 22 February 2017; “Minister Asim leaves for human rights conference in Geneva”, SunOnline, 26 February 2017; “Police accused of seeking false testimony to arrest Gayoom”, Maldives Independent, 25 February 2017; “High court deals blow to Gasim’s bid to retain airport”, Maldives Independent, 24 February 2017; “Ex-minister pleads not guilty over Yameen’s ‘protective custody’”, Maldives Independent


Migrant-protest in Thailand

A total of 300 Myanmar migrants working at INDEX, a motorcycle helmet factory in Bangkok, went on strike to demand better working conditions and rights, said Thai-based migrants rights organisation Aid Alliance Committee (AAC) on February 23. For more information, see: “Myanmar workers in Thailand go on strike for labour rights”, Myanmar Times

Peace talks put off

The second Union Peace Conference also known as the 21st Century Panglong has been postponed until the second week of March, said SaiKyawNyunt, secretariat member of UPDJC (Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee) on February 19. For more information, see: “Union Peace Conference postponed says UPDJC official”, Eleven Myanmar

Non-signatories meet

The United Wa State Party (UWSP) criticised the government-led peace process and called on ethnic armed groups to develop a new one during a summit of ethnic armed organizations in Panghsang, the capital of the Wa Self-Administered Division. For more information, see: “UWSP Criticizes the Government Peace Process at Ethnic Summit”, The Irrawaddy, 24 February 2017; “NCA non-signatories meet in Wa enclave amid fears of peace process ‘stagnation”, DVB


Statute-change in motion

After a month-long hiatus, the constitution amendment bill has been set in motion in parliament, with the opposition parties softening their stance and allowing deliberations on it.  Concluding the discussions on the bill, the House has decided to provide lawmakers 72 hours to register any further amendments. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had urged UML Chairman K P Sharma Oli on February 23 to allow the amendment bill for discussions in parliament, stating that that would help create an environment for the polls. For more information, see: “Amendment bill set in motion after month-long hiatus”, Republica, 24 February 2017; “Parliament begins deliberations on amendment bill”, The Kathmandu Post

SC rules on polls

Exerting pressure on the political parties to expedite preparations for elections, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that it is constitutionally mandatory to hold all three tiers of elections -- local, provincial and federal -- within the stipulated date of January 21, 2018. Election expenses shoot up according to EC officials the number of voters has gone up, more polling stations have to be set up and government staff in more numbers will be required. For more information, see: “All three elections must be held before January 21, 2018: SC”, Republica, 23 February 2017; “Poll expenses likely to touch Rs 20 billion”, The Kathmandu Post

Tech education expanded

Education Minister Dhaniram Paudel deliberating at the 29th anniversary function of Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training at Sanothimi, Bhaktapur, February 23, emphasised the role of technical education to be expanded to the villages as the constitution mentions that vocational education is the basis for building a prosperous nation. He pointed out the need for revising education policy as quality education for all was not possible under the existing one. For more information, see: “Technical education basis of development: Minister”, The Himalayan Times


Cross-border shelling on

A number of cross-border bombings in Afghanistan by Pakistan have left over 125 people dead as tensions between the two countries following a series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan over the last few weeks. Pakistan believes that the attacks were orchestrated in Afghanistan, and subsequently closed border crossings and began shelling across the border aiming at camps used by groups close to the Islamic State. While Kabul has protested the bombings and Washington has called for a decrease in tensions, Islamabad has continued to threaten unilateral action. Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has said that, “turmoil in Afghanistan has created space for terrorist organizations to find their foothold there.” For more information, see: “Pakistan shells border with Afghanistan as tensions rise over terrorist attacks”, The Washington Post

Suicide-blast kills 16

An explosion rocked Lahore’s defence area on 23 February leaving 10 people dead and injuring more than 20. While initial reports stated that the explosion was caused by a bomb, Punjab government authorities later said that it due a gas leak and then a generator explosion. These conflicting reports have offered no insight into the true nature and reason behind the blast. The blast comes after a series of terrorist attacks that have rocked Pakistan in recent weeks, and despite the country being put on high alert. For more information, see: “10 killed in explosion in Lahore’s Defence area”, Dawn

Anti-terror operation on

The Pakistan army has launched ‘Operation Raad-ul-Fasaad’ on 22 February across the country. Raad-ul-Fassad which translates into ‘elimination of discord’ will aim at eliminating the ‘residual/latent threat of terrorism’. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing released a statement that said the Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) will actively participate in and 'intimately support' the armed forces' efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country. For more information, see: “Pakistan Army launches ‘Operation Raad-ul-Fassad’ across the country”, Dawn

Sri Lanka 

‘No merger’, India urges TNA

Ahead of meeting with President Maithiripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, visiting Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar asked the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders to go easy on their demand for re-merger of the North and the East as part of a negotiated settlement for the ethnic issue. However, he promised the TNA delegation that he would take up the delay in the framing of a new Constitution at his meetings with the government leaders. For more information, see: “Jaishankar asks TNA to go easy on its demands”, The Hindu, 21 February 2017; “India will not press for merger of north, east Sri Lankan provinces: Jaishankar”, New Indian Express, 20 February 2017; “Constitution-making: I'll talk to President, PM on the delay: Jaishankar”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 February 2017; “India to raise issue with SL on behalf of TNA: Delay in constitutional reforms”, The Island, 21 February 2017; “TNA promises maximum cooperation for constitutional reforms: To ensure permanent peace with justice and equality to all citizens”, The Island, 23 February 2017; “Keheliya says Sampanthan echoing foreign formula”, The Island, 25 February 2017; “TNA will achieve purpose whatever happens at referendum: JO”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 February 2017; “UNP asks UPFA help to pass new Constitution”, The Island, 23 February 2017; “SLFPers keen on amendments not new constitution: Dilan”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2017; “Govt. turns down all JO proposals on new Constitution: Vidura”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 February 2017; “SLFP claims Prez 6-year term won’t be curtailed by 19 A contradicted”, The Island

 China, Pak gave arms: Gota

Reiterating his earlier observations, former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that China, Pakistan, Ukraine and Russia had supplied arms for the Sri Lankan forces to defeat the LTTE while India helped with 80 percent of the training for its military personnel. Interestingly, TNA’s Opposition Leader, R Sampanthan, told a visiting US congressional delegation that China did not interfere with Sri Lanka’s internal affairs while India continued to evince interest in constitutional reforms in the country. For more information, see: “China, Pakistan Ukraine, Russia, Israel supplied us arms: Gota”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 February 2017; “No interference by China in Lanka’s internal affairs, Sampanthan tells visiting US congressional delegation”, The Island, 25 February 2017;  “US, SL discuss issues of common interest”, Daily Mirror Online

Primary Documentation



Baisali Mohanty, “How Russia gave a blow to India’s stakes in Afghanistan and later made it up to Delhi< style="font-size: 16px">”, Outlook< style="font-size: 16px">, 24 February 2017 Ali Sukhanver, “Unruly Afghanistan”, Pakistan Observer, 25 February 2017 Vivek Katju, “ Talking to the Taliban”, The Indian Express, 21 February 2017


Opinion Pieces 

Amitava Kar, “The 'Bangladesh paradox'”, The Daily Star, 23 February 2017 Nahela Nowshin, “On the language of identity”, The Daily Star, 21 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Sho Takano, “The potential to make farmers happy”, Kuensel, 20 February 2017


Reconsider taxation policy”, Kuensel, 22 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Mihir Sharma, “BJP's Huge Win Means It Will Also Inherit The Congress' Curse< style="font-size: 16px">”, NDTV, < style="font-size: 16px">24 February 2017 Ashok Malik, “Fighting Islamic State: A trap for India”, Asian Age, 19 February 2017 Manmohan Bahadur, “Building Deterrence”, Indian Express, 24 February, 2017 


Opinion Pieces

Dr Azra Naseem, “First they came for Faafu”,, 25 February 2017 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Will Nasheed be able to contest presidential polls?”,, 20 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

WaiHninPwint Thon, “In NLD era, why do political prisoners remain?”,DVB, 20 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Subindra Bogati, “Politics and policing”, The Kathmandu Post, 24 February 2017 Sangam Sangroula, “Border bungles”, Republica, 23 February 2017


The Kathmandu Post, “Cat concerns”, The Kathmandu Post, 24 February 2017 Republica, “No ambassadors”, Republica, 23 February 2017


Opinion Pieces

Baisali Mohanty, “How Russia gave a blow to India’s stakes in Afghanistan and later made it up to Delhi”, Outlook, 24 February 2017 Ali Sukhanver, “Unruly Afghanistan”, Pakistan Observer, 25 February 2017 Vivek Katju, “ Talking to the Taliban”, The Indian Express, 21 February 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Prof Tissa Vitharana, “Build a modern State on Colvin’s foundation”, The Island, 26 February 2017 Tassie Seneviratne, “Making a new Constitution for Sri Lanka: Let wiser counsel prevail”, The Island, 26 February 2017 Izeth Hussain, “13-A, the Indian model and the problem of interpretation”, The Island, 25 February 2017 Malinda Seneviratne, “Sinhala, Tamil traces in an island’s history”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2017 Fr Augustine Fernando, “Invigorate inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation”, The Island, 23 February 2017 Niran Ankite, “The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 February 2017 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “What is really behind the idea of a new Constitution?”, The Island, 22 February 2017 Jehan Perera, “Renewed commitment required to overcome present gloom”, The Island, 22 February 2017 Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, “Controversy over BASL’s role in Judge’s appointment – what really happened”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 February 2017 Lakisiri Fernando, “An appeal to Tamil political leaders on the new Constitution”, The Island, 21 February 2017 Ranga Jayasuriya, “Economic lethargy: Rajapaksa will be sorely missed!”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 February 2017 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Trump’s Sri Lanka”, The Sunday Leader, 19 February 2017


Kelum Bandara, “India asked me to halt Port City oroject: Gota”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 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
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.