SOUTH ASIAN DIGEST

Bangladesh deploys thousands of paramilitary guards amid deadly election campaign

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More than 20,000 Bangladesh paramilitary guards were deployed across the country on Tuesday (Dec 18) amid mounting deadly violence ahead of a Dec 30 general election. At least six people have been killed in clashes over the past week during the bitter campaigning between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) spokesman Mohsin Reza said... More

British Airways to resume Pakistan flights after a decade

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British Airways will resume flights to Pakistan next year after a 10-year absence that followed a major hotel bombing, becoming the first Western airline to restart flights to the South Asian nation. BA halted flights following one of the most high-profile attacks in Pakistan’s history, the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in the capital, Islamabad, which took place during a period of devastating Islamist militant violence... More

India considers trading in lira with Turkey

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The Indian government has said it is deliberating Turkey's proposal to trade in local currencies. The statement was made by the minister of trade and commerce Suresh Prabhu during his bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart Rushar Pekcan in New Delhi on Tuesday. Last week, India's Ministry of Finance announced the exchange rate for Turkish lira would ease the process of conversion of their respective... More

Maldives’ ex-pres confirms move to form new party over ‘uncertain’ PPM future

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Maldives’ Former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday confirmed that he was planning to establish a new political party as the dispute over the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leadership drags on. AVAS had reported the day before that several top PPM officials have moved to form a new party ahead of the parliamentary elections in April next year. The Civil Court in 2016... More

China, Myanmar hold diplomacy, defense consultation

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China and Myanmar on Tuesday held their fourth round of diplomacy and defense consultations in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, exchanging views on the situation in northern Myanmar. The two sides agreed that the situation in northern Myanmar is closely related to regional peace and people's welfare of the two countries' border. All parties in northern Myanmar should maintain restraint and achieve a... More

Sri Lanka lawmakers defect from president to prime minister after dispute

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Three lawmakers from Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s party defected to the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday after a dispute between the two leaders. The island nation was plunged into crisis in October after Sirisena replaced Wickremesinghe with ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, without the backing of parliament, leading to protests and downgrades of Sri Lanka’s debt. Rajapaksa, best known for crushing a long-running insurgency... More

Afghan political parties to consider interim govt if election reforms not made

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The political committee of political parties on Monday warned that if in the presidential election, serious reforms are not brought about in the technical and monitoring sections, and fundamental changes are not made in the leadership of the election commission, the parties will not accept a non-transparent election and will consider an interim government. The parties’ political committee believes that the parliamentary elections was full... More

Bhutan calls for robust implementation of Paris Agreement at COP24

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Led by the secretary of the National Environment Commission, Sonam P Wangdi, a delegation from Bhutan attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change Conference of Parties 24 (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. In a statement Sonam P Wangdi made at the high-level segment of COP 24 on December 12, the delegation urged countries to be flexible, open and constructive to agree on Rule Book or... More

Nepal to ban higher denomination Indian Currency notes

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The government of Nepal has decided to ban the use of high denomination Indian Currency notes and use only IRS 100 in Nepal from now onwards. The government has called on the people to refrain from keeping or carrying Indian bank notes higher than 100 notes as the government has not legalised the Indian bank notes of denomination Rs 200, Rs 500 and Rs 2000,... More

TODAY'S NEWS

INERVIEW

Lashing out at PM Modi, ex-finance minister Yashwant Sinha tells SAM, he can’t the trust govt’s growth statistics


Even though he says that he has quit the BJP, won't join any political party and won't contest any elections in future, Yashwant Sinha remains a thorn in the flesh of Prime Minister Narendra... More

Ominous Indian silence this time over Bangladesh during December 16 Victory Day celebrations


Green and red lights glowed everywhere, flags and festoons gave the city a festive look. Dhaka celebrated Bangladesh Victory Day on December 16. Elsewhere in the country, from the bigger cities, the smaller district... More

REPORTS

Afghanistan ceasefire push in focus in US, Taleban talks


Talks between US and Taleban officials aimed at arranging peace negotiations in Afghanistan were set for a second day on Tuesday (Dec 18) after discussions around the future of foreign forces and... More

Afghanistan may soon formally join China’s Belt & Road Initiative


Amid efforts to end the region’s relentless conflict, economic and political ties between China and Afghanistan are taking new shape with an aim to improve regional cooperation, apparently overtaking America’s war-based policy. Daniel... More

Zhangmu port between China and Nepal likely to reopen in May 2019


Zhangmu port in Xigaze, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, which was damaged in the 8.1-magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015, could reopen as soon as May 2019, a government official disclosed on... More

Pakistan casts doubts on US-Taliban talks it facilitated

Pakistan doubts any concrete progress will be made in the latest talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US that Islamabad helped facilitate in the U.A.E. this week. Officials from the two nations... More

REJOINDER

Tibetan body responds to SAM story on rift between Dalai Lama and CTA president...


Apropos the article ‘Differences between Dalai Lama and CTA president put Tibetan politics in a tailspin’ by Rajeev Sharma, published on November 27 on the South Asian Monitor, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) finds the... More

VISTA OF VIEWS

Religious freedom list


Lists drawn up by individual states — rather than credible multilateral organisations or INGOs — always run the risk of being termed biased and designed to push a political agenda, pillorying geopolitical... More

ISSUES

India’s Bangladesh policy: Unwavering support for Sheikh Hasina is harmful for both...


In September, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, the former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, noted the possibility of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League being reduced to an embarrassing minority in the next Parliament if there is a free and fair... More

Afghanistan, China and Pakistan come together to break a stalemate


Historians agree that violence has never brought prosperity to any region. Certainly, the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China concur with that belief. As they gathered in Kabul on December 15, they renewed the call on... More

Stepped up US military posture in the Gulf threatens Indian hopes for...


The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf to deter Iran from further testing ballistic missiles is likely to dampen Indian hopes that the Trump administration’s exemption of the port of... More

Myanmar Army’s willingness to sit down with FPNCC members shows China’s growing...


China has stepped up its role in the peace process in Myanmar, especially as it relates to conflicts along the China-Myanmar border in northern Shan State. Beijing understands that stability and peace on the border will benefit... More

DEFENCE

Indian Army moots $5bln air defence guns that fires smart ammunition


The Indian Army has commenced a defence procurement process for purchasing air defence guns that can fire smart ammunition to replace the aging Swedish L-70 and Soviet-era ZU-23MM-2B guns currently in use by the Indian Army. The... More

Russia wants back in on India’s gun and missile system competition


Russia has lodged a protest over India’s decision to disquality its two munitions systems from the $1.6 billion Army program, spurring newfound tensions between the two allies. During a meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical... More

Pakistan and India

Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, the commander-in-chief of the British Indian Army, was initially in favour of a joint military command for India and Pakistan. This idea was impractical and therefore soon abandoned. But... More

COLUMN

With Afghan elections in April, Ghani regime caught in a bind...

Notwithstanding the importance of the on-going talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US and the participation of the former in the recently-held Moscow summit on Afghanistan, there is a stark absence of the Afghan government in these parleys. While part of the reason for this absence is the Taliban’s own refusal to engage in direct talks with Kabul, even the US, Afghanistan’s main ally, didn’t consider including representatives... More

December 30 and the cycle of violence  

Election related violence is already at its peak and more is expected. This was not quite unexpected. Arrests, court cases and attacks on motorcades and public rallies continue unabated. With just three weeks to go for elections to Bangladesh’s parliament, there is anxiety in the air: it could be one of the deadliest elections in a long time. The incidents of violence are well spread out and, going by media... More

Modi now looks vulnerable 

The BJP has tried to make all elections in India go the presidential way – Narendra Modi versus the rest. The results of elections in five states, which became clear by December 11 evening, may not change that but the Modi magic suddenly appears to be fading. It is not just the election results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where Modi campaigned extensively before the polls. The stunning resignation... More

Beijing increases pressure on Myanmar to open up economically amid Western...

China is increasing its pressure on the Myanmar government in an effort to consolidate its strategic position in Beijing’s march westward. China is also trying to capitalise on Myanmar’s increasing disaffection with the West, and the opportunity offered by the latter’s own cautious realignment and recently developed strategic vision, with the newly launched ‘Look East’ policy. A number of high-power senior Chinese government officials have visited the capital Naypyitaw, all... More

Trump’s melodrama vis-à-vis Pakistan meets ground realities

The Trump administration's renewed push to seek Pakistan's help in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table comes as a striking contrast to what the US president had only very recently said in one of his interviews about Pakistan not doing anything in Afghanistan to help the US win the war, or even get out of it. Coming from a president who is famous for his unpredictable habit of... More

VIDEO-INTERVIEW

OUTCOME AND FUTURE OF BMISTEC? & WHAT’S ON THE BALANCE?


The fourth summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), held in Kathmandu on August 30 and 31, was “not fruitful” because of the inherent “weakness” of the regional inter-state institution,... More

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Winds of change in South Asian politics

South Asia has witnessed quite a few upheavals in the past few months that could have a lasting effect not only on domestic politics but on international politics as well. The election results in Pakistan, Bhutan and Maldives were contrary to expectations. Similarly, the power struggle and political infighting in Sri Lanka has caught many by surprise. These scenarios might not have been the results of domestic political... More

China’s military must move beyond simple self-defence strategy, PLA says

Planners with China’s ground forces must not be caught out by the rapid evolution of warfare and technology in the 21st century and must prepare to move beyond a strategy of simple self-defence, the People’s Liberation Army said. China’s leadership has stressed the need for combat readiness and increased training. In a tour of the Southern Theatre Command last month, President Xi Jinping said the military should “concentrate... More

What game is Russia playing in Afghanistan?

Earlier this month, the Russian government hosted a much-awaited peace conference on Afghanistan, which was attended by representatives from the Taliban. After the event, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was photographed posing next to members of the Taliban leadership, who, paradoxically, are still on Russia's terror list. For keen observers of Russian foreign policy, it was clear that the conference was not more than a photo-op meant to... More

Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock to only 2 minutes to midnight. It might be tempting to turn this into a mere squabble about arrows and olives if this wasn’t such a terrifying scenario. US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, secretary-general of the USSR, signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 1987. The Arms Control Association was extremely pleased. “The treaty marked... More

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Playing Pillow Politics at MGK is a bewitching saga from...

A mountain shaped like a large woman (Maha Geni Kanda-MGK) and a warren of shanties located on it. Lives intertwined with belief, disbelief and... More

‘We’re all handcuffed in this country.’ Why Afghanistan is still...

It was a sunny morning in early December last year when 23-year-old Khadija set herself on fire. She kissed her three-month old son Mohammed... More

Peshawar: On the heritage trail

My earliest reminiscences of Peshawar are a double-storey house in University Town, red double-decker buses, listening to Amitabh's Kabhi Kabhi in the backseat of... More

Have breakfast at midnight at Gulshan’s Butler’s Chocolate Cafe

Chocolate lovers alert! There are all chances that you’ll go on an overdrive and OD on the decadent delights at this smart cafe tucked away in the northern extremities of Gulshan, Dhaka. Butler’s Chocolate Cafe offers More

The new flashpoint

There is growing discontent in Varanasi as the government goes ahead with the demolition programme despite stiff resistance from almost all sections of people... More

The Kartarpur Corridor is more than a symbol of new...

The legend of Guru Nanak’s samadhi and grave is one of the most popularly known stories about him in Pakistan. At Kartarpur Sahib, outside the... More

How Chenab, the river of love, flows seamlessly from one...

The ghara or earthen pot acquires particular significance in the love story of Sohni and Mahiwal. In the climax of this Punjabi folk story,... More

In the midst of malls, coffee shops, the pedlar’s cries...

Let me count the ways in which the pheriwala calls out. Yes, in this good old new city of Calcutta, where malls, coffee shops,... More