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 writers Sarika Bhattacharjee and Maahnoor Siddiqui produce weekly. Our section editor is Lara Dreux.
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.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers have made a call for accountability concerning Myanmar and the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, met informally last week during the UN General Assembly, urging Myanmar to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attacks against the Rohingya Muslims.
Pakistan announced on Monday that the budget for its massive infrastructure project with China would be cut by $2 billion, pointing to a national concern over rising foreign debt. Sheikh Rasheed, Pakistan’s Federal Railways Minister, made the announcement in Lahore, Pakistan at a press conference. “The estimated cost of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) was $8.2 billion. Today, the estimated project cost stands at $6.2 billion,” he said.
Protesters fill the streets in Srinagar, Kashmir following the death of Saleem Malik, a 26-year old civilian. Malik was shot by Indian soldiers on Thursday, September 27. A senior police official has stated that Malik was killed in a “cross-fire” whilst the family claims the death was a “cold-blooded” murder.
The Indian government is currently embroiled in controversy following allegations of corruption in a multibillion dollar fighter jet deal with France, known as the Rafale Deal. India’s opposition party, the Congress, has politicized these reports in its favor, and many, including the leader of the Congress, Mani Shankar Aiyar, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resign.
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was released from prison on Wednesday, September 19. Sharif had been found guilty on charges of corruption related to the ownership of four luxury apartments in central London. He was sentenced to serve ten years in prison and was fined $10.5 million in July.
Khan made his surprise announcement during a fundraising event in Karachi — his first speech in the city since his victory in last month’s general elections.
The Nepal-China joint military exercise began on Monday, September 17. Marking the second edition of the “Sagarmatha Friendship” military exercise, it first took place in April last year. Twelve personnels from the Nepalese Army commenced military drills with the Chinese army at Chengdu, China’s Southwest capital of the Sichuan province.
At least 37 people were killed and 14 wounded in several Taliban-led attacks across Afghanistan on Thursday night. Farid Bakhtwar, head of the provincial council in Farah, confirmed that 29 of the deceased were police officers and members of the army. This is the seventh attack carried out in the past week.
India needs to continually progress in order to achieve complete social acceptance for its LGBTQ people.
Indian political opposition parties capitalized on discontentment over rising fuel prices on Monday by participating in a nationwide strike known as “Bharat Bandh.” Certain experts believe that the protests represent a significant political play against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he prepares for the nation’s general election next year.
On May 3 Pakistan’s long-awaited Islamabad airport opened after years of delays. The new Islamabad International Airport has a carrying capacity of up to 9 million passengers annually with further room for expansion, potentially able to serve up to 25 million passengers per year by 2025. The airport is located fifteen kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and also serves Islamabad’s sister city of Rawalpindi. While the airport was initially conceived in 1984, it has been plagued with delays and has taken over a decade to build.
The recent string of violence in Afghanistan has compromised national security in the past few weeks, with the most severe attacks resulting in the deaths of at least 95 people. Approximately 38 people died on Monday alone in the four attacks that occurred - a set of twin bombings, a shooting, a suicide bombing, and an attack on an American soldier.
An Indian court has found Indian spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of rape and has sentenced him to life imprisonment. The attack occurred in 2013, when the victim was sixteen years old. She was one of Bapu’s many followers. Bapu, who is currently 77, is also on trial for another rape case in the western Gujarat state.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a voting center in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 57 people as they registered to vote. ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the World Bank’s biannual report, South Asia Economic Focus, South Asia has regained its lead as the fastest growing region in the world. Released on Sunday, the World Bank’s SAEF report synthesizes recent economic developments in the South Asia region to formulate a prediction for its future growth.
Five days after being reported as “missing” in January, eight-year-old Asifa Bano of the Muslim community of the Bakarwal tribe was reportedly found dead, allegedly having been in search of her horses in a local forest near the Himalayan Mountains.
Protests by university students in Dhaka, Bangladesh have come to an end after days of demonstrations. These began after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a quota policy setting aside 56% of civil service jobs for 1971 independence war veterans and their families, as well as disadvantaged minorities. The policy would leave university students fighting for the remaining 44% of civil service jobs.
Salman Khan has been released from jail as he appeals for a conviction in a poaching case the Bollywood star has been dealing with for two decades.
On April 2nd, India’s Press Information Bureau released a statement regarding the amendment of accreditation regulations for journalists, emphasizing a stricter policy on fake news. Barely a day later, the Indian government withdrew the order, reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following widespread public backlash.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe survived a 12-hour debate in the Sri Lankan Parliament over a no-confidence motion that threatened to oust him from power. The motion highlighted the tension between PM Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena and their respective parties.
Navin Nischal, Vijay Singhand, and Sandeep Sharma were three journalists who were violently struck by vehicles and killed all in the span of 24 hours.
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