Country Reports

Afghanistan

New coalition on cards

Three mainstream Afghan political parties, including Jamiat-e-Islami, Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami and Junbish-e-Milli, have agreed to form a new coalition, against the incumbent National Unity Government (NUG).  The new coalition comes during a period of tensions between government and leaders of these parties who serve in key posts in government.  Jamiat-e-Islami party, which is led by acting minister of foreign affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, has been one of the main critics of President Ashraf Ghani alongside Junbish-e-Milli party and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party – which are respectively led by the First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Second Deputy of the CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq.

For more information, see: “Three Afghan Political Parties Form New Coalition in Ankara”, Tolo News

New dates for polls

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has announcing that parliamentary elections will now take place on 7 July 2018, after a delay of almost three years. The elections were supposed to be held in 2015, however insecurity in the country as well as bickering between government leaders and officials has continuously delayed it. The polls will elect representatives to the 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.

For more information, see: “Afghanistan sets July 7, 2016 for parliamentary elections”, Associated Press

US drones target ISIS

A US drone strike in the eastern Kunar province killed multiple fighters of the Islamic State. American forces targeted militants in Kunar’s Manogi district on 29 June. According to provincial police spokesman Faridullah Dehqan, three militants were killed and a fourth was wounded. The US and NATO have stepped up efforts to push back militants in Afghanistan with NATO agreeing to send around 3,000 troops to train and work alongside Afghan security forces.

For more information, see: “Afghanistan: IS militants killed in US drone strike”, Hindustan Times

Bangladesh

Raid on militants

Police have arrested three women including the wife of Neo-JMB leader Ayub Bachchu aka Shojib and recovered explosives, suicide vests and firearms during a 22-hour-long raid at a militant hideout in Kushtia’s Bheramara Upazila. The police also ended up dousing an explosion during the raid, conducted on the first anniversary of the Holey Artisan massacre in capital Dhaka, in which 22 persons were killed in a terrorist-blast.

For more information, see: “Police defuse bombs during raid on suspected ‘militant hideout’ in Kushtia”, Bdnews24.com, 1 July 2017; “10kg explosives, suicide vests recovered from Kushtia militant hideout”, Bdnews24.com, 1 July 2017;  “Police raid suspected Kushtia militant hideout”, Bdnews24.com, 1 July 2017; “Mourners pay respects to victims of Holey cafe massacre on first anniversary”, Bdnews24.com, 1 July 2017;  “How many Bangladeshis have joined IS?”, Bangladesh Chronicle

Illegal labour held

The Malaysian authorities have arrested 328 Bangladeshi workers as illegal migrants even as Bangladeshis topped the list of e-card applicants for temporary work permits in that country.

For more information, see: “328 Bangladeshis held”, Bangladesh Chronicle, 1 July 2017; “Bangladeshis top list of E-card applications as Malaysia cracks down on illegal immigrants”, Bdnews24.com

Economic Zones work soon: PM

Addressing Parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the Government would commence work on the 10 planned economic zones in the next financial year. She also explained the steps taken to improve investment climate in the country.

For more information, see: “Work of 10 economic zones to start in 2018: PM”, Bangladesh Chronicle

Bhutan

Status quo in Doklam

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release has asked for the status quo to be maintained in the Doklam area as before 16 June 2017. “On 16th June 2017, the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Dokala in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri,” said the release.

For more information, see: “Bhutan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks for status quo to be maintained in Doklam area”, The Bhutanese

India releases Nu 2.916 b

The Government of India (GoI) released ​excise duty refund of Nu 2.916B for 2015 on June 27. The GoI also released a fund of Nu 513.885M for two Project Tied Assistance (PTA)​ projects and another Nu 425M for the fourth quarter of the programme grant.

For more information, see: “GoI releases Nu 3.85 billion”, Kuensel

Citizenship for 137

The King granted Citizenship Kidu to 137 individuals on June 29 in Thimphu. The recipients took an Oath of Allegiance to the Tsa-Wa-Sum, at the Kuenrey of the Tashichhodzong.

For more information, see: “His Majesty The King grants citizenship Kidu”, Kuensel

India

Back down, says China

Upping the ante as Indian and Chinese troops face off over road construction on the borders of a plateau in Bhutan which China claims, Beijing on June 29 said withdrawal of Indian troops from the Doklam plateau was a prerequisite for any dialogue between the two countries, and to prevent any escalation. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also warned Army chief General Bipin Rawat to “stop clamouring for war”, dismissing as “extremely irresponsible” his recent remarks that India was ready for a “two-and-a-half front war”.

For more information, see: Back down, learn from historical lessons, China warns IndiaIndian Express

US for defence cooperation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his two-day state visit to the US on June 27 and departed for Amsterdam. US President Donald Trump hosted him at the White House where the two had detailed discussions on global issues and bilateral interests. The MEA said that the Trump administration was keen on building upon the progress achieved so far, specifically in strategic areas of counter-terrorism, cooperation in defence, Indian Ocean and science and technology.

For more information, see: Narendra Modi, Donald Trump meeting a ‘tremendous success’: US expertsEconomic Times, 

Ideology battle: Sonia

Mrs Meira Kumar, the joint opposition’s candidate for President filed her nomination papers for the July 17 presidential election on June 28 that Congress president Sonia Gandhi also called a battle of ideology and principles. “For us, it is a battle of ideology, principles and the truth, and we will fight for it,” Ms Gandhi said. The Congress president’s comments came after Meira Kumar – fielded against the ruling BJP-led national alliance’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind – filed a set of four nomination papers before the Lok Sabha Secretary General.

For more information, see:  As Meira Kumar Files Nomination, Sonia Gandhi Delivers A MessageNDTV

Air India disinvestment on

The government on June 28 gave an in-principle approval to the disinvestment of Air India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced after a Cabinet meeting. A Group of Ministers (GoM) will be formed to look into the disinvestment which will decide on the quantum of disinvestment, he said.

For more information, see: Cabinet gives in-principle approval for disinvestment of Air IndiaTimes of India

Maldives 

EU concern on human rights

After a meeting of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament,  Dietmar Krissler, head of the European External Action Service for the Maldives region, said the “political and human rights situation” has been a source of concern since President Abdulla Yameen came to power in November 2013.” Back home, later in the week, the Government sent back former Defence Minister, Col Ahmed Nazim and Adhaalath Party leader, Sheikh Imran Abdulla to prison from house-arrest after jailed then Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb wrote to the Supreme Court that the illegal weapon seized from the former’s home did not belong to him.

For more information, see: “EU parliament discusses Maldives human rights situation”, Maldives Independent, 27 June 2017; “Nazim and Imran taken back to jail”, Maldives Independent, 1 July 2017; “Colonel Nazim taken back to jail just after Adeeb’s letter to the Supreme Court got leaked!”, Miadhu, 1 July 2017; “Adheeb: Pistol does not belong to Nazim, I know how it happened”, SunOnline, 30 June 2017; “This is the time for everyone to stand up and speak the truth : Sheikh Imran”Miadhu, 1 July 2017; “Adhalath Party calls to release Colonel Nazim immediately!”, Miadhu

Off US watch-list

The Maldives has been removed from a human trafficking watch list of the US State Department following the first successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers. The Maldives was on the tier two watch list for the past two years due to the low rate of prosecution as well as inadequate and inconsistent protection for victims. A downgrade to tier three could have entailed non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.

For more information, see: “Maldives taken off US human trafficking watch list”, Maldives Independent, 27 June 2017; “Immigration: Advancements made in the fight against human trafficking”, SunOnline

Myanmar

‘No’ to UN team

Myanmar will refuse entry to members of a UN probe focusing on allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces in Rakhine State, an official said on June 29. The government led by Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had already said it would not cooperate with a mission set up after a Human Rights Council resolution was adopted in March.

For more information, see: “Myanmar Says it Will Refuse Entry to UN Fact-Finding Mission”, The Irrawaddy, 30 June 2017; “Burma says it will refuse entry to UN investigators probing Rohingya abuses”, DVB, 30 June 2017; “No entry to UNHRC fact-finding mission in Rakhine”, Myanmar Times

Deported from Thailand

Nearly 2,500 Burmese migrants were deported June 29 from Thailand across the border to Myawaddy following a weeklong crackdown on undocumented workers. Social welfare associations in the Burmese border town have been providing assistance to deportees.

For more information see: “2,500 Burmese migrant workers deported”, DVB, 30 June 2017; “Thousands of Myanmar migrants return from Thailand”, The Irrawaddy

Villagers flee amidst Shan infighting

Villagers are fleeing fighting between the army and forces of the Ta’aung National Liberation Army (TNLA) near Manlan village, Nant Lin Khan village tract, Nansang Township, northern Shan State, and arrived at Lashio on June 28.

For more information, see: “Villagers flee Shan infighting”, Eleven

Nepal

Closer to transition

The peaceful conclusion of the second phase of local level elections, despite sporadic incidents, has made the way ahead smoother for democratic consolidation. In all 35 districts, under Provinces 1, 5 and 7 there was the participation of women as well. However, around 11,000 voters that were added after 2015 were found without their voter identity cards.

For more information, see: “Phase II local polls conclude peacefully: INSEC”, The Kathmandu Post, 29 June 2017; “PM Deuba thanks Nepali people for making 2nd round local  polls a success”,  Republica

Rate-cuts likely

The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) officials have hinted that the central bank may further reduce interest spread for bank and financial institutions (BFIs) from the monetary policy of the upcoming fiscal year 2017-18. As commercial banks have been maintaining huge profitability despite the banking industry facing liquidity-crunch, the central bank is preparing to narrow down the 5 percent interest spread between deposits and lending rates.

For more information, see: “NRB likely to further reduce interest rate spread cap”, Republica

$ 150-m from ADB

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $150 million loan to help improve the reliability and efficiency of Nepal’s electricity supply and distribution through the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). The ADB will also administer a $2 million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) financed by the government of Japan to strengthen the capacity of Nepal’s energy sector to deliver Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) results.

For more information, see: “ADB okays $150m loan to upgrade power supply”, The Kathmandu Post

Pakistan

44 killed in blasts

Four attacks rocked Pakistan on 23 June across major cities in the country. The first attack took place in Quetta where a lone bomber detonated a car filled with explosives killing 13 people. Hours after the bombing, two bombings, three minutes apart ripped through Parachinar in north-west Pakistan, killing 27 people and wounding 120 others. The bombings took place at a market place where people were buying food to break their daily fast for Ramadan. The fourth attack in Karachi saw gunmen enter and kill our police officers at a roadside restaurant. Both the Taliban and Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Parachinar attack.

For more information, see:  “Four separate attacks kill at least 44 in Pakistan”, The Atlantic

Global terrorist functions freely

Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin was declared a global terrorist by the United States after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump. While Salahuddin is responsible for numerous terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, he continues to roam freely in Pakistan. In a video doing rounds on internet and social media, Salahuddin was accorded a grand welcome in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Salahuddin recently attended a public function at Muzaffarabad in PoK. His free movement puts question mark on the Pakistan’s commitment to fight terror.

For more information, see: “Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin: Global terrorist for US but free bird in Pakistan”, India Today

Fails on terror-funding

Pakistan continues to remains on the radar of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog tracking terror financing, over concerns that it is not fully complying with curbs against entities listed with the United Nations. Pakistani officials, however, insist that they have done a lot and would continue to do whatever was required for the implementation of sanctions against entities designated under the UNSCR 1267. While Pakistan government has taken some measures to squelch terror financing, including freezing over 100 bank accounts of UN-listed entities and individuals, it has taken inadequate action against Hafiz Saeed and the entities linked to him – Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-i-Insaaniat – both of which are on interior ministry’s watch list.

For more information, see: “Pakistan still on radar of terror financing watchdog”Dawn

Sri Lanka

Statute-decision soon

At the steering committee meeting of Parliament, the Government will decide if it should go in for a new Constitution or amend the existing one, so as to do away with a public referendum, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said. This, even as Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa said elsewhere that State had no powers to interfere with the affairs of the majority Buddhism in the country.

For more information, see: “Govt. has not decided whether to go for new Constitution – PM”, The Island, 30 June 2017; “Crucial decision on the constitution next week: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 June 2017; “UNP-SLFP coalition hinges on bond scam probe outcome – Yapa”, The Island, 29 June 2017; “Social media; obstacle for national unity-MS”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 June 2017; “State has no power to interfere in Buddhist Temples: Wijeyadasa”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 June 2017; “New anti-terror measures in West worse than PTA – Wijeyadasa”, The Island, 30 June 2017;”Amending PTA, not repealing it: Wijeyadasa”, Daily Mirror Online

Confidence ‘builds India ties’

At a seminar in Colombo, Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake said that Sri Lanka’s relation with the Indian neighbour was built on mutual confidence and respect for each other. However, the nation should ensure is that this cordiality is not exploited by political or any other opportunists to their advantage.

For more information, see: “Govt. Says Relations With India Built On Mutual Confidence”, The Sunday Leader, 2 July 2017; “JO forming new alliance under MR’s leadership to contest elections: Major rally in Trinco on July 03”, The Island, 29 June 2017; “Unity among Tamil leaders vital to develop North: Indian HC”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 June 2017; “Indian aided buildings for Jaffna Uni. declared open”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017; “Parliament: Oil, gas in Mannar Basin can meet SL energy needs for 60 yrs”, The Island, 26 June 2017; “SC dismisses Vasu’s FR petition”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017; “Colombo to become transshipment hub for Bangladeshi imports, exports”, The Island, 2 July 2017; “Sri Lanka has a very friendly image in the eyes of Pakistani people: Envoy”, The Island, 2 July 2017; “Russia, SL in talks on credit purchase of Gepard 5.1 Frigates”, Daily Mirror Online

Primary Documentation

Bhutan

Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Bhutan – China boundary in the Doklam area”,Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 June 2017

Nepal

“Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, London on the establishment of Ireland-Nepal Parliamentary Friendship Group”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 30 June 2017

“Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Brussels regarding Nepal Promotion in Antwerp”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 29 June 2017

Bibliography

Afghanistan

Opinion Pieces

Ali M. Latifi, “How Iran recruited Afghan refugees to fight Assad’s war”, The New York Times, 30 June 2017

Hussain Zaidi, “Beyond Afghanistan’s catch-22”, The News International, 1 July 2017

Bangladesh

Opinion Pieces

Mohamad Bazzi, “IS has not fallen”, Dhaka Tribune, 30 June 2017

Syed Badrul Ahsan, “Ershad, his coup and stories of military rule”, bdnews24.com, 29 June 2017

Ziauddin Chaudhury, “For the love of democracy”, Bangladesh Chronicle, 27 June 2017

Bhutan

Editorials

When can we name and shame?”, Kuensel, 28 June 2017

India

Opinion Pieces

Ashok Malik, Why are Indian news channels so disappointing?Hindustan Times, 27 June 2017

Mihir Sharma, Namma Metro Anger Over Hindi Signs Is Part Of Growing Trend, NDTV, 23 June 2017

Myanmar

Opinion Pieces

Joe Kumbun, “The Tripartite Power Struggle in the KIO”, The Irrawadddy, 30 June 2017

Nepal

Opinion Pieces

Mahesh Kushwaha, “Darjeeling revisited”, Republica, 27 June 2017

Binayak Basnyat, Kamal Bista, “Funding from friends”, The Kathmandu Post, 28 June 2017

Abhi Subedi, “Political symbolism”, The Kathmandu Post, 25 June 2017

Editorials

 “In a fix”, The Kathmandu Post, 26 June 2017

 “People power”, Republica, 29 June 2017

Pakistan

Opinion Pieces

Kuldip Nayar, “Modi’s Trump card”, The Express Tribune, 30 June 2017

Shahzaib Khan, “What the Gulf crisis means for Pakistan”, The Express 

Irfan Husain, “Jumping ship”, Dawn, 30 June 2017

Opinion Pieces

Sanjana Hattatouwa, “A hidden design”, The Island, 2 July 2017

D B S Jayaraj, “Ananthy: First NPC woman minister”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 July 2017

Ameen Izzadeen, “Without cowing to Trump, India needs to build Asian unity”Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017

M S M Ayub, “Finding the missing links between the missing persons and culprits”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017

Kusal Perera, “The double R: Reconciliation and rhetoric”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017

Neville Ladduwahetty, “Threats to freedom of speech”, The Island, 30 June 2017

Malida Seneviratne, “Legitimacy of the coercive power”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 June 2017

Lynn Ockersz, “IOR and small States’ foreign policies”, The Island, 28 June 2017

Ranga Jayasuriya, “Protests and strikes: What would have MR done if he was in power?”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 June 2017

Jehan Perera, “OMP passage revives hopes of reconciliation process”, The Island, 27 June 2017

Lasantha Kurukulasuriya, “Does signing ACSA with US pose threat to Sri Lanka?”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 June 2017

Ahilan Kadirgamar, “Limits of exclusivism”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 June 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Will TNA field Wigneswaran for Chief Minister in NPC Polls-2018?”The Sunday Leader, 25 June 2017

C V Vivekananthan, “Prophesies of Bandaranaike”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 June 2017

Interviews

Piyumi Fonseka, “Sri Lanka out of viable political options: Prof Siri Hettige”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 June 2017

Contributors:

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 & Sohini Nayak

CoordinatorSreeparna Banerjee

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