- SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY
- JUN 19 2017
IS captures strategic Tora Bora
The Islamic State (IS) has taken control of Tora Bora, a strategic area in Nangarhar province, which was earlier Osama bin-Laden’s hideout. Attaullah Khoghyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor confirmed “Daesh insurgents have taken control of the Tora Bora area from Taliban and government will take action soon.” Khoghyani did not provide further details. Provincial Council members have accused government of negligence, which led to the fall of Tora Bora.
For more information, see: “Tora Bora falls to Daesh after heavy clashes with Taliban”, Tolo News
Suicide-bomb kills four
Four people were killed and more than 8 other wounded when a suicide bomber exploded outside the Al Zahra mosque in Kabul on June 15. The bomber blew himself up in the kitchen of the mosque after he was disallowed from entering the mosque, which was packed with people praying at the time. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed one police officers and three civilians. Two other gunmen who were killed by security forces accompanied the suicide bomber.
For more information, see: “Four killed in Kabul’s Al Zahra mosque attack, IS claims responsibility”, The Indian Express
More US troops likely
President Donald Trump has left the decision on US troop numbers in Afghanistan to Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis. It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed “a few thousand” additional forces in the country. Currently there are 13,000 international troops, 8,400 of which are American. According to a Trump administration official, the Pentagon plans to send almost 4,000 additional troops to the country in the coming months.
For more information, see: “Trump gives US military authority to set Afghan troop levels: U.S official”, Reuters, 14 June 2017; “US sending almost 4,000 extra forces to Afghanistan, Trump official says”, The Guardian
140 die in land-slip
Around 140 persons died due to landslips in Chittagong Hill Tracts and the adjacent areas owing to incessant rains. Saddened at the loss of lives in neighbouring Indian Prime Minister expressed his grief and offered help of this country to deal with the natural catastrophe.
For more information, see: “Landslide triggered by rain kills 133 in hilly areas”, The Daily Star, 14 June 2017; “Modi condoles deaths in Bangladesh landslides”, Dhaka Tribune
China for soft-loan conversion
In a major development, China has asked Bangladesh to convert part of the soft-loans promised during its president’s visit to commercial loans. The conversion of soft-loan to commercial will lead Bangladesh to pay higher interest for the fund. China and Bangladesh signed deals worth $25 billion during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Dhaka in October last year.
For more information, see: “China seeks to convert part of soft loans into commercial credit for Bangladesh”, Bdnews24.com
Two education consultancies in Thimphu had illegally sent the Bhutanese girls as maids to Gulf countries. Recently a Facebook post written by a youth about the duping and ill-treatment of his cousin in Dubai along with other Bhutanese girls went viral on the social media generating public anger and concern.
For more information, see: “Govt Rescues 10 Bhutanese Girls With 3 More In the Process From Kuwait, UAE, Oman”, The Bhutanese
The Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) was implicated with unresolved irregularities worth Nu 246 m, a joint audit by Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has shown.
For more information see: “Unresolved irregularities of Nu 246 M in MHPA”, Kuensel
The director generals of the customs of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) countries signed a memorandum of intent on the training of customs officials with the National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics of India yesterday. The signing was a part of the sixth SASEC Customs Sub-group (SCS) meeting held in Thimphu.
For more information, see: “SASEC member countries meet to improve trade in the region”, Kuensel
Joint exercise with Aussies
Weeks after India refused Australia’s request to join the ‘Malabar Exercises’, Indian warships began a week-long naval exercise off the coast of western Australia. The second AUSINDEX exercises, the first in the Indian Ocean, are aimed at increasing interoperability between Australian and Indian naval forces, executing complex naval manoeuvres. The first AUSINDEX was held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015. The bilateral exercises come on the back of two apparently contradictory developments.
For more information, see: India, Australia kick off joint exercise Down Under, The Times of India
Two Pakistani soldiers killed
Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in fierce retaliation by Indian troops as Pakistan Army on June 14 violated the ceasefire thrice along the line of control (LoC) in two sectors in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistan Army resorted to shelling of mortar bombs and firing of small arms and automatic weapons on forward posts and civilian areas in the region. There have been 10 ceasefire violations in past four days and total 14 ceasefire violations along the LoC and the International Border in Jammu region since January 1, in which one civilian died and seven others were injured.
For more information, see: 2 Pakistani soldiers killed in retaliation by Indian Army, Livemint
Jaitley on loan-waivers
The States going in for farm loan waivers will have to generate funds from their own resources, according to Finance minister Arun Jaitley. He said this on June 12, after a meeting with public sector bank (PSB) chiefs, where among other things, the situation on bad loans was discussed. Mr. Jaitley’s comments come in the backdrop of farmers’ agitations across the country as well as State governments such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh — both BJP-ruled — announcing farm loan waivers. There are also similar demands for farm loan waiver in States, including in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana (both BJP-ruled), Punjab (Congress-ruled), Tamil Nadu (AIADMK ruled).
For more information, see: States will have to bear farm loan waivers from their own coffers: Jaitley, The Hindu
Suicide by two MP farmers
Amid tension in the State regarding farmer debt relief, two farmers from Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri and Hoshangabad districts committed suicide last week. With these deaths, the number of farmer suicides in Madhya Pradesh in the last three days has risen to six.
For more information see: Two farmers commit suicide in Madhya Pradesh, 6 deaths in 3 days now, The Indian Express
More para-troops for Darjeeling
The Centre has rushed 400 additional paramilitary personnel to Darjeeling, taking the total number to 1,400 to assist the local administration there to restore peace and normalcy. As their indefinite shutdown continues, protesters demanding a separate State of Gorkhaland pelted stones at police in various parts of Darjeeling as they were stopped from enforcing their shutdown in many government offices. Gorkhaland supporters have also vandalised government offices in Darjeeling as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha -sponsored indefinite shutdown forced tourists out of the picturesque hill station due to threat of violence.
For more information, see: Centre rushes 400 more paramilitary to Darjeeling; total 1,400 , The Economic Times
Govt borrows from bank
To settle unpaid bills, the Government has borrowed MVR 800 m, or $ 51.8 m from the Bank of Maldives (BoM) as a ‘short-term loan’. The Government claimed that the spending was ‘unforeseen’ when the budget for 2017 was being prepared, but it also meant that the loan became necessary despite record revenues.
For more information, see: “Government borrows US$52m for ‘short-term financing’”, Maldives Independent, 15 June 2017; “Majlis backs cutting fuel duty by 5 percent”, SunOnline
After three months of overseas stay, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a key player in the four-party Opposition coalition, returned to Male, but the Government shut down the Independence Square for them to host a public reception. Gayoom said he had not done anything to anticipate arrest, and Jumhooree Party chief Gasim Ibrahim said with Maumoon’s return, they could see further developments on the political sphere.
For more information, see: “Reform movement will see further developments with the experience of Maumoon : Qasim”, Miadhu, 15 June 2017; “Have not committed any crimes intentionally – Do not think that I will be arrested: Maumoon”, Miadhu, 15 June 2017; “Should not have severed ties with Qatar- It will be beneficial for Maldives to have ties with as many countries and NGOs as possible: Maumoon”, Miadhu
UN probe can hike tensions, says Suu Kyi
A United Nations probe into alleged human rights abuses by Myanmar’s military against the minority Rohingya people last year would inflame ethnic tensions, the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday.
For more information see: “Suu Kyi says UN Rohingya probe would increase tensions”, DVB
China offers facilitation
China is negotiating to set up a meeting between the government Peace Commission and members of Northern Alliance, sources have said.
For more information, see: “China seeking to arrange a meeting between Peace Commission and Northern Alliance”, Eleven
Swedish honour for Suu Kyi
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi received the Olof Palme Prize, awarded by the Olof Palme Memorial Fund, at an award ceremony at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 12. She had won the prize in 2005 but was unable to receive it until now.
For more information, see: “State counsellor receives Olaf Palme Prize in Sweden”, Eleven
A hard-pressed Sher Bahadur Deuba government on June 15 decided to postpone the local elections in Province 2 until September 18 as part of its effort to bring the agitating Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) on board the poll process. The main opposition, CPN-UML, has taken serious exception to the government’s decision. As per the new developments, second phase of local polls will now be held only in Provinces 1, 5 and 7 on the previously announced date of 28 June.
For more information, see: “Govt postpones polls in Province 2”, The Kathmandu Post, 16 June 2017; “Govt decision on local polls unacceptable, says RJPN”, Republica
Compensation for land-owners
India’s GMR Upper Karnali Hydropower, the developer of the much-awaited Upper Karnali Hydropower Power Project, is planning to start distributing compensation to land-owners in July. The 900 MW project is spread over Dailekh, Surkhet and Achham districts in western Nepal. The developer is planning to deposit the compensation amount directly into the bank accounts of the landowners. Nepal Investment Bank has opened a branch at the project site, and locals have been opening accounts there.
For more information, see: ”GMR to pay out land compensation in July”, The Kathmandu Post
Nepal-China trade fair
The Nepal-China inter-country trade fair has commenced from June 16 at the Korala transit point on the Nepal-Tibet border. Identity cards have been made mandatory for the Nepalis of the border region for participating in the 10-day trade fair. The Chinese and Nepali businessmen have already reached the border area with their merchandise. Chief of Lomanthang rural municipality, Bista, said that import surpassed export at the trade fair.
For more information, see: ”Nepal-China trade fair kicks off at Korala”, Republica,
Jadhav’s pleadings: ICJ rejects India’s request
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected India’s request for six more months’ time to file pleadings in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Following a meeting between ICJ President Ronny Abrahim and delegations from India and Pakistan on 8 June, the ICJ has given India a deadline of September 13 to file its pleadings. Pakistan had requested that the matter of filing pleadings ought to be completed before the end of the current year.
For more information, see: “New Delhi fails to get six months at The Hague for Jadhav’s case preparation”, The Express Tribune
Chinese military ties up
China called for increased military cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing. Following a meeting of China’s top political advisor with the Pakistani Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Hayat on June 16, Beijing urged Islamabad to increase “military-to-military cooperation so as to safeguard the security of both countries as well as regional peace and stability.” China was also appreciative of the role Pakistan had played in the fight against terrorism.
For more information, see: “Beijing calls for greater military cooperation between China and Pakistan”, Dawn
Abducted Chinese were ‘preaching’
The two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and later killed by the Islamic State in Balochistan were involved in preaching, instead of business activities. The Ministry of Interior ordered a review, followed by regulation and streamlining of the visa process to avoid misuses of business visas by foreign nationals. According to the interior minister, the abductees had gone to Quetta and had engaged in preaching under the garb of learning Urdu.
For more information, see: “Abducted Chinese nationals were ‘preaching’ in Quetta, Nisar told”, Dawn
TNA facing split
The ruling Tamil National Alliance (TNA), especially the leading ITAK, is facing imminent split with 22 members in the 38-member House submitting a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran to Governor Reginald Cooray. The move followed Wigneswaran’s decision to sack two ministers against whom he had ordered corruption probe and forcing the exit of the other two, with dissidents calling him ‘autocratic’.
For more information, see: “‘No confidence’ in CM Wigneswaran”, The Hindu, 16 June 2017; “Governor wants CV to prove his clout”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 June 2017; “No confidence motion against Wigneswaran handed over to Northern Governor”, The Island, 16 June 2017; “Justice Wigneswaran vows to stay the course despite attempts to oust him”, TamilNet, 15 June 2017; “NPC plunges into crisis as external agenda-backed forces challenge Wigneswaran”, TamilNet, 14 June 2017; “Vigneswaran takes over NPC temporarily”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 June 2017; “Charges against Northern Province Ministers signal shift in Sri Lankan Tamil politics”, NewsIn.Asia, 14 June 2017; “15-signature petition to counter CV’s no-faith motion”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 June 2017; “Northern PC Education Minister resigns”, The Island, 12 June 2017; “Under new Constitution: ‘Caste based reservations sought in Jaffna’”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 June; “Families of missing LTTE cadres meet President in Jaffna”, The Island
“Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing on Tourism Promotion program in Beijing”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 June 2017
“Press Release on the message of condolences by the Rt. Hon. President and the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister on the loss of lives in Bangladesh due to landslides”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 June 2017
“Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok regarding promotional programme”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 14 June 2017
“Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing on Promotion program of Nepal’s tourism, investment and trade in Kunming!”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 13 June 2017
Shanthie Mariet D’souza, “A handshake with Hekmatyar could break new ground in Afghanistan”, The Indian Express, 16 June 2017
Shakti Sinha, “Why Pakistan is gaining strategic ground in Afghanistan’s troubled political landscape”, The Hindustan Times, 14 June 2017
“Mr. Trump, Afghanistan is your war now”, The New York Times, 16 June 2017
Syed Basher, “What will Bangladesh look like in 50 years?”The Daily Star, 13 June 2017
Selim Raihan, “Can Bangladesh continue to grow without ‘good governance’?”, The Daily Star, 14 June 2017
“Fiscal Incentives”, The Bhutanese, 3 June 2017
Abhijit Singh, The Indian Navy’s humanitarian impulse, Livemint, 14 June 2017
- Raja Mohan, Raja Mandala: Engaging an inward looking US, The Indian Express, 13 June 2017
Mihir Sharma, In RBI’s spat with New Delhi, reform is the victim, The Economic Times, 15 June 2017
“The Failed UN Mission in Myanmar”, Irrawaddy, 16 June 2017
Naresh Koirala, “The country is watching”, The Kathmandu Post, 16 June 2017
Biswas Baral, “Deuba’s Indian China”, Republica, 15 June 2017
“Where wild things are”, The Kathmandu Post, 16 June 2017
“On June 28”, Republica, 15 June 2017
Kamran Yousaf, “Are you with us or with Qatar, Saudis ask Pakistan”, The Express Tribune, 14 June 2017
Mahir Ali, “Naughty Qatar”, Dawn, 14 June 2017
Stephen J. Hadley and Moeed Yusuf, “For peace in Afghanistan, talk to Pakistan”, The New York Times, 16 June 2017
S Ratnajeevan H Hoole, “Jaffna in turmoil”, The Island, 17 June 2017
K K S Perera, “Need a ginger group to gun for inept and corrupt ministers”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 June 2017
M S M Ayub, “Wigneswaran’s anti-corruption drive eclipsed by sectarian politics”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 June 2017
Canishka Witharana, “A costly mistake while enacting 1978 Constitution”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 June 2017
Jehan Perera, “Reconciliation in Sri Lanka requires actions not only processes”, The Island, 13 June 2017
Lasantha Kurukulasuriya, “India eyes a stake in Colombo port in addition to Trinco”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 June 2017
N Sathiya Moorthy, “India eyes a stake in Colombo port in addition to Trinco”, The Sunday Leader, 11 June 2017
Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale
India: Pushan Das
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy
Nepal: Sreeparna Banerjee