The South Asia Section of IR Insider publishes breaking news reports and analysis from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian nations. Topics covered in the South Asia section may range from Sino-Indian Relations to the political crisis in the Maldives and beyond. Our section editor is Lara Dreux.
India and the United States have reached an agreement to build six new US nuclear reactors across India. Vijay Gokhale, the Indian Foreign Secretary, and Andrea Thompson, the US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, met on Wednesday, March 13, to finalize the deal.
The United States and the Taliban have concluded more than two weeks of talks without deciding upon a formal peace deal. Despite no concrete agreement, representatives of both parties assure that the talks made significant progress in the issue of curbing violence within Afghanistan.
The US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s statement announced Trump administration's intent to end the preferential trade status of India under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) on Monday, March 4. In justifying the decision, Lighthizer stated that India no longer meets the GSP’s statutory eligibility criteria.
In response to mounting international pressure, Pakistan has carried out an intense crackdown on Islamist militant groups. On Thursday, March 7, over 100 people linked to militant groups were detained and over 182 religious schools, or madrasahs, were taken over by the government.
An attack in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad in the province of Nangarhar killed 16 people on Wednesday. No specific group has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, the start of the attack was marked by two suicide bombers detonating explosives outside a construction company.
Two Indian Air Force planes were shot down by Pakistani military on Wednesday, February 27. Major General Asif Ghafoor of Pakistan confirmed the action in a tweet, in which he also confirmed that one plane crashed in Pakistan-held Kashmir and the other fell beyond the Line of Control, the LoC. One of the planes’ pilots, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured by the Pakistani military. No such reports have been released regarding the second pilot.
For the first time since 1971, the Indian Air Force launched an airstrike on Tuesday that directly targeted Pakistani territory, spurring a retaliatory attack from Pakistan the following day that took down two Indian air jets. Despite warnings from international powers to “exercise restraint,” India and Pakistan have committed to escalating a conflict initially catapulted by a suicide bombing organized by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based militant group, that killed 46 Indian paramilitary police officers in India-administered Kashmir on Feb. 14.
Last week, an estimated 114 people succumbed to alcohol poisoning in the Golaghat and Jorhat districts in India’s Northeastern state of Assam. The majority of the individuals poisoned were tea estate workers in the two districts. The poisoning was reportedly caused by the consumption of illegally produced and procured country liquor named Hooch.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to invest approximately $100 billion in trade and infrastructure projects in India over the next two years. Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on Wednesday to finalize agreements on such projects. The investments will also go towards housing, broadcasting and tourism projects.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visited India for two days, where he met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss a vast array of issues, including trade, infrastructure, and terrorism. Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in Pakistan earlier this week, and he is set to depart India for China after completing his stay in New Delhi.
Over 40 personnel of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide terror attack in Pulwama district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, Feb.14.
Multiple criminal charges have been made against Abdulla Yameen, the former president of the Maldives, including allegedly siphoning $1 million from public funds to his own private accounts.
Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, recently announced his intention to continue utilizing capital punishment in drug trafficking cases in the next two months. Sirisena’s new hardline approach is inspired by the Philippines’ war on drugs, led by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, in Kerala, India, withdrew from challenging the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women entry to the Sabarimala Temple, on Wednesday. The board had been delaying the implementation of the court’s decision since September when the initial decision had been made.
Following weeks of numerous workers’ protests in Bangladesh, union leaders have accused at least three notable Bangladeshi garment manufacturers of laying off thousands of employees. The Bangladeshi companies supply garments to European brands, such as H&M and Next, among others.
The Kartarpur Crossing, dubbed the “corridor of peace,” will allow visa-free entry for Indian Sikhs traveling to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, located in Kartarpur, Punjab in Pakistan. India and Pakistan have both agreed to construct this five km corridor that will give Sikhs access to the holy temple, which they have struggled to visit ever since the partition in 1947.
On Monday, at the request of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the International Internet Gateway (IIG) temporarily shut down 58 news sites, according to BTRC spokesman Zakir Hossain Khan. The websites were inaccessible for 12 hours.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political party, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, face increasing backlash as thousands of farmers and rural laborers joined in protest on Friday, November 30. Farmers marched at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi to express their anger at the decreasing crop prices, export curbs and anti-inflation policies which have led to the suppression of income for farmers.
On Monday, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court temporarily barred Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his 48 cabinet ministers from acting in their government positions. The Court’s decision reflects the latest turn of events in a political crisis which has afflicted Sri Lanka for over a month.
Thousands of people marched in the streets of New Delhi in India’s first and largest-ever LGBTQ+ pride parade since the Supreme Court decriminalized gay sex in September. The Delhi Queer Pride Committee organized Delhi’s 11th annual Queer Pride Parade. The parade saw thousands of people adorned with rainbow-colored outfits and flags marching side-by-side to advocate for inclusion and equality.
Intending to make the Indo-Pacific region “free and open,” India and Japan have planned to collaborate on multiple projects to improve the Northeast regions of India. The two countries have joined under the Act East Forum. The purpose of this forum is to improve regions which have lagged in development, compared to the rest of the country.
The repatriation of the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh back to Myanmar is set to begin later this week despite concerns from international NGOs and other agencies over the safety of the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently residing in Bangladesh. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees at the end of October, though UN investigators had warned almost a week before that the genocide that the Rohingya is still ongoing.
General elections will be held in Bangladesh on December 23. Chief Election Commissioner, K.M. Nurul Huda, announced on Thursday that all parties had an equal right to participate in the election, assuring the elections would be free and fair.
This Friday, Afghan Taliban officials will participate in multilateral peace talks organized by Russia. Russia also invited representatives from several other countries — including India, Pakistan, Iran, China, and the United States — to Moscow.
Pakistan’s top court acquitted Asia Bibi on charges of blasphemy on Wednesday. Asia Bibi, a 53-year old Christian woman, has spent the last eight years in solitary confinement on charges of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a quarrel with a group of Muslim women. While the acquittal is a victory for those who have long opposed the blasphemy laws, domestically and internationally, the case sparked massive protests in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena unilaterally replaced the country’s current prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He subsequently suspended the Sri Lankan Parliament for a three-week period, catapulting the nation into political turmoil that some warn may turn into a “bloodbath.”
After Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second visit to Riyadh, Pakistan announced that Saudi Arabia has agreed to a US $6 billion aid package. Saudi Arabia agreed to deposit the US $3 billion as the balance for payment support after the deal was agreed on Tuesday, October 23. Saudi Arabia also agreed to a one-year deferred payment facility for oil imports provided by the Saudis.
Despite fears of violence, four million Afghan citizens voted in Afghanistan’ s parliamentary elections on Saturday and Sunday, according to Afghanistan’ s Independent Election Commission. Violence between the Afghan government and Taliban further postponed the elections to October. The next presidential election will take place in April 2019.
In a significant show of cooperation, India and China have launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats. Chinese and Indian leaders have expressed hope that this program will be the first of many joint projects aimed at helping Afghanistan regain stability.
President Abdulla Yameen filed a legal challenge, on October 10, for the presidential election held on September 23. Yameen lost the election to the opposition leader, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
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