South Asia weekly report | Vol. X Issue 51

Country Reports

Afghanistan

A-10 return sought

An operation focusing on destroying the financial resources of the Taliban through an air campaign is in discussion. Hence a return of the US A-10 Warthog plane is in demand amongst the defence officials of Afghanistan. However the decision for its return is yet in perusal in the Pentagon and no decision has been reached. Alongside the earlier US air campaigns a lot of other factors are also helping in keeping the Taliban’s at bay.

Two-way road-map

The Afghanistan government is prepared for two-way peace talks involving intra-Taliban talks and direct communication with the Pakistani government.  Given the climate of regional cooperation the Afghani President is desirous of creating a proper roadmap to help revive ties with Pakistan. These words of President Ghani were also completely endorsed by the Turkish government under President Erdogan. Mutual cooperation and effective communication is necessary to put an end to Taliban violence.

Economic connectivity

Regional issues were discussed on the sideline between the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit. The Heart of Asia Istanbul Process was also discussed as was the Lapis-Lazuli Transit Trade and Transport route. The latter has enhanced regional economics and connectivity considerably, and both leaders agree that strategic cooperation will further boost regional economics.

Bangladesh

Native behind NY blast

The suspect in the failed bomb-attack in the Port Authority Bus Teminal at New York City is of Bangladesh origin, it is learnt. The suspect with a homemade bomb strapped to his body set off an explosion at a New York commuter hub during rush hour, wounding himself and three others in what New York. Bangladesh government, which follows a policy of zero tolerance to terrorism, has condemned the attack.

‘Neo JMB’ founder held

Security agencies achieved a major success in countering terror activities as they arrested Abdus Samad alias Arif Mamu, an influential militant leader and founder member of the dreaded militant organisation Neo JMB. The Neo JMB” was responsible for the infamous Gulshan café attack in July 2016 that caused more than 20 lives. The group follows the IS ideology and strategy.

Bhutan

Poverty-rate down

The country’s poverty rate stands at 8.21 percent, down from 12 percent in 2012. A total of 56,865 people live below the poverty line, according to the Bhutan Poverty Analysis Report (PAR) 2017. This means that one out of 12 people belongs to households whose per capita consumption is below Nu 2,195.95.

Priority sector lending

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has launched the Priority Sector Lending (PSL) Guidelines 2017 at the Simtokha Dzong on December 13 in Thimphu. An outcome of the vision of His Majesty The King, the PSL guidelines provides loan schemes for the cottage and small industries (CSI) sector, which is divided into agricultural and non-agricultural activities.

Youth, the driving force

A two-day national consultation on sustainable development emphasised the need for young people as a driving force for development. The youth can play a crucial role in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 but only if they are provided with necessary skills and opportunities. The program engaged, encouraged and inspired the youth to take an active part in the implementation of SDGs.

India

PM commissions new sub

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on December 14 commissioned the INS Kalavari, a scorpene-class submarine built by the Mazagaon Dock Limited (MDL). The submarine is equipped with stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimised shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision-guided weapons, said MDL.

Medical visa for Pakistanis

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has announced that visa will be granted to five Pakistani children who will undergo medical treatment in India. “There is a request for medical visa from some Pakistani children – Muhammad Ahmad (10 months), Abuzar (7 years), Mohit (7 years), Zainab Shahzadi (8 years) and Muhammad Zain Aslam (9 years). We grant visa for all these Pakistani children for their treatment in India,” Swaraj tweeted.

FEMA notices on ‘Panama Papers’

The Enforcement Directorate, tasked with investigating the ‘Panama Papers’ — a trail of millions of secret files that leaked the names of individuals who paid Panamian law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore firms in tax havens around the world — is set to take consolidated action against 50 individuals. More than 500 Indians figured in the list published last year, including Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as well as Indiabulls chairman Sameer Gehlaut.

Maldives  

‘India First’, Male reminded

Breaking the silence of the past fortnight since President Abdulla Yameen got the People’s Majlis to pass the China FTA hurriedly, just ahead of his less-publicised State visit to Beijing, India said it could not comment on the contents without seeing it, and also reminded Male of its own commitment to an ‘India First’ policy of its choice. In a provocative gesture once again post-FTA, China’s Global Times said India had a ‘zero-sum’ mentality in the region and also clubbed the China-Sri Lanka debt-for-equity swap-deal over the Hambantota port in this regard.

‘King-maker to king’?

Confusing the dis-spirited Joint Opposition staples, presidential aspirant and former Home Minister Umar Naseer, who joined the Jumhooree Party (JP) recently, declared that his intention was to make billionaire-politician Gasim Ibrahim’s party from being the ‘king-maker to king’, implying his own intention to contest the presidency on the JP ticket. This, even as media headlines indicated that the Opposition was ‘(back)-firing on all cylinders’, already

Myanmar

Bomb-blasts in Kachhin

Three bombs exploded near a police station in Hpakant Town, Kachin State on December 13, according to a report in state media. No causalities were reported in the incident and the local police force is providing security at the areas where the explosions took place, the state media report added.

$ 800-b aid from Japan

Japan will be providing 800 billion Yen to Myanmar’s efforts in upgrading its infrastructure, transportation and energy sectors amongst others, according to state media. A joint statement released by both countries after the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw on December 14 claimed that both attended a press conference held in Japan after Myanmar-Japan Summit meetings.

Investment reforms delayed

Myanmar will delay a long-awaited reform that would open the door further to foreign investment, a Reuters report said. The report added that the move is likely to disappoint cash-starved businesses amid growing doubts over the management of the economy by the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The postponement of the corporate reform would have allowed foreign companies to take up to a 35 percent stake in Burmese companies.

Nepal

Deuba for ‘proper structure’

Although PM Sher Bahadur Deuba has agreed on ‘handing over power’, the only concern showed by him was regarding the incorporation of such a procedure before the National Assembly Elections. In his opinion, it is important to bring about a proper structure of the Federal Parliament, before such a transfer of power. He also had this discussion with President Bhandari and both hope to bring about a new and transparent system.

National Assembly polls put off

The EC has been very clear that the National Assembly Polls would require around 25 more days for balloting. The result of the Provincial Assembly and the Parliamentary elections are yet to come out and in this scenario, the EC would require more time for structured implementation in seven provinces and several districts.

India for strengthened ties

India and Nepal have not always shared the best of relations. However, the liaison is shaping up in a more amicable manner in the recent times. Such terms were witnessed after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs congratulated Nepal upon the successful completion of the Parliamentary election and the first Provincial elections. In this regard, there was a mention of strengthening the bond between the two countries and also the fact that India is looking forward to work with the new democratic government to progress towards further economic and political prosperity.

Pakistan

Strategic pact with Saudis

The Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir in his meeting with visiting Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Mohammed bin Abdullah Ayesh suggested an all encompassing strategic pact between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The strategic pact would be a formal strategic agreement between the two countries and will deepen the defense ties. The Defense Minister also highlighted LOC violations from Indian side and conveyed Pakistan’s desire of Saudi playing a diplomatic role.

 ‘Hopes’ on Jadhav case

The Foreign Office Spokesperson of Pakistan has confirmed that the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jhadav will be visiting Pakistan on December 25, 2017 to meet him. Islamabad accepted India’s request for the meeting solely on “humanitarian grounds” but remain confident that ICJ will reject’s India’s plea of acquittal or release taking in view the existing legal principles. The Foreign Office spokesperson also rejected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of Pakistan interference with Gujarat elections.

Water-shortage predicted

Pakistan will run out of water by 2025 if immediate steps are not taken. The economy and public health sector is already plagued by severe water shortages.  The Muslim League Central leader Moonis Elahi blamed the ruling party for spending funds over exhibitionist projects while overlooking serious water needs. He also claimed rapidly increasing population and poor water management as likely causes of water shortages in the country.

Sri Lanka

MS-MR patch-up, soon?

The continual media speculation about an imminent patch-up between President Maithiripala Sirisena-led SLFP faction and the JO identified with predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, possibly even before the local government polls due in February, has contributed to the even more continuing instability in Government, according to media reports. The Sinhala media speculation in this regard came in the midst of Sirisena faction engineering defections from the JO, and also at least one from the UNP partner in government, both led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Numbers don’t matter?

Countering British parliamentarian, Lord Nasbey’s claims that his Government had information that the Sri Lankan war’s end-game casualties did not go beyond 5,000 unlike claimed later, without denying it however, British High Commissioner, James Dauris, has said that ‘getting distracted with numbers can distort the truth’. In the meantime, PHU leader Udaya Gammanpilla, MP, has said that Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam had suppressed President Maithiripala Sirisena’s letter to Lord Nasbey, thanking the latter for bringing out the real picture.

Bibliography

Afghanistan

Opinion Pieces

Mujib Mashal, “Afghan President Under Fire as Critics Chafe at Overdue Vote”, The New York Times, 12 December 2017.

Eric Schmitt, “Hunting Taliban and Islamic State Fighters, From 20,000 Feet”, The New York Times, 11 December 2017

Editorials

Afghanistan Times, “Peace building efforts on swing”, 13 December 2017

Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Let’s Not Forget the Rights of Women”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 11 December 2017

Bangladesh

Opinion Pieces

Nathaniel Barr, “Diverging Trajectories in Bangladesh: Islamic State vs al-Qaeda”, The Jamestown, 9 December 2017

Hossain Zillur Rahman, “Middle-income Bangladesh has to be a healthy Bangladesh”, The Daily Star, 13 December 2017

C R Abrar, “Silencing Dissent”, The Daily Star, 8 December 2017

Bhutan

Editorials

The Bhutanese, “A Revolution”, 12 December 2017

Kuensel, “Poor country with rich people”, 15 December 2017

India

Rakesh Sood, Joining Wassenaar is India’s latest step in the quest for the ‘responsible nuclear power’ tagThe Print, 15 December 2017

Manish Vaid , Opinion: With urbanisation, India needs green buildings to conserve energy , WION , 14 December 2017

Maldives  

Fathimath Isath, “Oh, we’re sinking, look – The Maldives and the environment”, Maldives Independent, 15 December 2017 

Hassan Moosa, “Critical condition: Are airports the cure-all to island development?”, Maldives Independent, 14 December 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Yameen’s China deals: Need for India to re-visit its IOR neighbourhood policy”, www.orfonline.org, 12 December 2017

Myanmar

Larry Jagan, “Myanmar launches diplomatic offensive”, The Irrawaddy, 11 December 2017

Editorials

The Irrawaddy, “The crackdown on media must stop”, 14 December 2017

Nepal

Opinion Pieces

Biswas Baral, “Who won: India or China?”Republica, 14 December 2017

Jainendra Jeevan, “The foreign hand”, The Kathmandu Post, 15 December 2017

Editorials

Republica, “Rise and shine”, 12 December 2017

The Kathmandu Post, “Investing in inclusion”, 15 December 2017

Pakistan

Opinion Pieces

A Shahbaz Rana, “Despite political uncertainty, Pakistan Economy poised for 5.6% growth: IMF”,  The Express Tribune, 15 December 2017

Saad Khan, “Can Pakistan pay CPEC loans”, The Express Tribune, 14 December 2017

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Tisaranee Gunasekara, “Politics in time of amnesia”, The Island, 17 December 2017

Rajeewa Jayaweeera, “The Nasbey Initiative continues”, The Island, 17 December 2017

M S M Ayub, “Will Wimal survive this time?”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 December 2017

C A Chandraprema, “Govt.’s accession to Optional Protocol of Convention against Torture: Implications and dangers”, The Island, 15 December 2017

Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka, “Lord Nasbey and the President’s letter”, The Island, 13 December 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Challenges to the Tamil status quo”, Ceylon Today, 13 December 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Cyclone Ockhi rocks deep-sea fishing in Palk Bay, too?”, www.orfonline.org, 13 December 2017

Ranga Jayasuriya, “Political showboating won’t end impunity”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 December 2017

Prof Siri Hettigae, “Sri Lanka’s present predicament: Where do we go from here?”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 December 2017

Jehan Perera, “Managing expectations about post-war justice processes”, The Island, 12 December 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Heads you win, tails I lose”, The Island, 11 December 2017

N Sathiya Moorthy, “A nation still on the ‘denial mode”, The Sunday Leader, 10 December 2017


Contributors

Afghanistan: Sohini Bose

Pakistan: Mayuri Banerjee

Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihiir Bhonsale

India: Ketan Mehta

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

 Source:orfonline.org

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