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NIAS Global Politics News Database
South Asia This Week (14 Apr -20 Apr 2024)

  NIAS South Asia Team

Akriti Sharma, Vetriselvi Baskaran, Sanjay Manivannan, and Navinan Govindaraj.

The major developments in India were the elections for 102 Lok Sabha and the first of the seven phases spanning 21 states and 4 Union Territories. The major parties contesting the elections were the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the opposition Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). Other developments include the Indian officials stated that they were in contact with Iran after an Israel-linked container ship MSC Aries was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the Gulf of Hormuz. The External Affairs Minister also confirmed that Iran has agreed to let Indian officials meet the 17 detained Indian crew members of the MSC Aries ship ‘soon.’ Another key issue which centred attention was violence in Manipur over the death of two Kuki-Zo men in the firing near Kangpokpi district. Meanwhile, in Chattisgarh, 29 Maoists were killed in a joint operation by the Kanker District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Border Security Force (BSF) in Kanker district. India’s Foreign Secretary was on a visit to Washington that focussed on strengthening defence cooperation between India and the US. 

Major development from Pakistan was the Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi stated that there was evidence of Indian involvement in the Lahore gun attack on Amir Sarfraz Tamba, the individual who in 2013 allegedly killed Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in the Kot Lakhpat prison. Additionally, unidentified militants kill 11 people in Balochistan’s Nushki district. Also, at least seven militants had been killed in North Waziristan after security forces foiled their attempt to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan. 

The major developments from includes a sudden increase in demand for air conditioning (AC) units as people struggle to manage the heat. The prices for the AC also dropped which allows people to go for it. Second, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department's weather bulletin says that the country is currently suffering from a mild to moderate heatwave, and in certain places, rain and thundershowers may fall. Noting that heatwaves can last. Third, due to the ongoing conflict between the military junta and the Arakan army, 46 more Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) took haven in Bangladesh. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) confiscated the weapons.

Nepal continued to experience pro-monarchy demonstrations organized by the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, with protestors clashing with police units. Nepal and Bangladesh once again failed to find a resolution to the delayed bilateral preferential trade agreement as the latter continues to let up on levying ‘other duties’ on imports. Nepal’s imports from Bangladesh also dropped by 46.02 percent to NPR 6.04 billion during the period. Further, traders expressed concerns over India’s anti-dumping charges on Nepali jute products which has negatively impacted the industry’s exports.   

The major development in the Maldives was the withdrawal of the second batch of Indian military personnel. The Indian government agreed to replace the military personnel with civilians to operate the aircraft that had been provided to the Maldives. Second, the Maldives’ President claimed that the opposition aimed to overthrow his government while claiming that they were trying to hold the government accountable. He urged the public to prevent the Maldives from being destabilized and said that the opposition MDP would fail to develop the country if they came to power. The President made the comments at a campaign rally for the parliamentary elections in Fuvahmulah City.

Sri Lanka
Major developments from Sri Lanka were the diplomatic spat between Sri Lanka and Canada on a memorial for the victims of the Sri Lankan civil war called the Tamil Genocide Memorial, which is being built in Canada's Brampton city with the approval of the city council. The monument will be 4.8 meters tall and made of stainless steel. The project was started in response to the destruction of the Mullivaikkal memorial in Sri Lanka. The Canadian Tamil community was outraged by this. The memorial's design has been revised, and it is now scheduled to be completed by May 18th, which is recognised as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day in Canada. Sri Lanka is cautious and expects potential genocide allegations from Canada. However, the Canadian federal government has previously rejected the idea of genocide during the Sri Lankan war. Second. the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard have seized a large drug haul worth over Rs. 3,798 million. Six suspects were arrested, and another fishing trawler was seized. The seized items were handed over to the Police Narcotics Bureau for legal action. Third, Sri Lanka's debt talks with private bondholders are facing challenges due to differing views. However, progress is being made with bilateral creditors. Talks have successfully narrowed down four areas of disagreement to two. Debt restructuring negotiations are just one aspect of the broader initiative, and positive negotiations with the Official Creditor Committee and China are underway. The focus now lies on finalising agreements with OCC members to ensure that the debt restructuring process continues smoothly.

India: 16 crore citizens set to vote in phase 1 of the largest democratic exercise in the world
On 19 April, more than 16 crore Indians moved to cast their votes in the first phase of the 102 Lok Sabha elections in the country. The first phase includes voting in all 39 Lok Sabha seats of Tamil Nadu, five seats of Uttarakhand, 12 seats in Rajasthan, eight in western Uttar Pradesh, and six seats in Madhya Pradesh. The Lok Sabha elections which end on 1 June will see 1625 candidates (1491 men and 134 women) vying for wins in their respective seats. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the opposition Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) are major contenders with the former looking to secure a third term while the latter hopes to break the BJP’s winning streak. The ruling party has used the ‘Viksit Bharat’ (Developed India) agenda to woo voters by highlighting the work done in the last 10 years. The Congress, the largest party in the INDIA bloc, has relied on emphasising unemployment, inflation, misuse of government agencies, and growing dangers to the secular nature of the country to win the support of the people. 

India: Securing the release of nationals aboard the detained ship
On 13 April, The Hindu reported that Indian officials were in contact with Iran after an Israel-linked container ship MSC Aries was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the Gulf of Hormuz. Among the 25 crew members, there were 17 Indians along with four Filipinos, two Pakistanis, one Russian, and one Estonian. A source stated that India was looking out for the security, welfare, and early release of the Indian nationals aboard the ship. The vessel was sailing to India from the United Arab Emirates. This latest development signalled an increase in tensions in the region, which has been volatile for several months, including the Red Sea crisis. Following Israel’s attack on Gaza, Houthi rebels in Yemen have been using ballistic missiles and drones to target commercial ships with Israeli affiliations in international waters. On 15 April, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar informed that he had spoken with the Foreign Ministers of Iran and Israel and urged them to de-escalate tensions in the region. He also said that Iran has agreed to let Indian officials meet the 17 detained Indian crew members of the MSC Aries ship ‘soon.’ On 13 April, Iran had seized the Israel-linked ship for ‘violating maritime laws.’ He also stressed the importance of the Gulf region for India’s economy, given that it is a vital shipping route and oil-sourcing zone.  

India: Zero FIRs filed over the death of two Kuki-Zo men, community leaders, and groups 
On 14 April, two Zero FIRs were filed by the Manipur police on the death of two Kuki-Zo men in the firing near Kangpokpi district on the previous day. The Arambai Tenggol were named as the accused in the FIRs that were registered after family members of the victims alleged that the vehicles transporting the bodies were attacked by a mob. Further, the Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi, raised concerns regarding rising ethnic tensions in the state. They stated that due to the proximity of the attacks to the elections, the safety of community members would be at risk if they participated in voting. Elections in Manipur are slated to occur between 19-26 April. The killings also sparked protests by the Kuki-Zo community across Churachandpur and Kangpokpi in Manipur and in Jantar Mantar in Delhi. A Kuki student body in Delhi-NCR urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to visit Manipur and commit in writing to resolving the conflict. His upcoming visit to Imphal for campaigning is seen as crucial. Additionally, Kuki-Zo women and leaders of Kuki-Zomi-Hmar women’s forums in Delhi informed the Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar of their decision to boycott the upcoming polls.

India: No updates to the extension of the Suspension of Operations pact with Kuki-Zo groups
On 14 April, The Hindu reported that two months after the Manipur government declined to attend a meeting convened by the Centre to discuss the extension of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with Kuki-Zo insurgent groups, the agreement remains in a state of uncertainty. On 29 February, the BJP government in Manipur had abstained from the tripartite meeting despite calls from the Centre. Signed in 2008 by the United Peoples’ Front and the Kuki National Organisation, an umbrella of 24 insurgent groups, the Union Home Ministry, and the Manipur government, the tripartite pact has been periodically extended since its inception. On 3 May 2023, ethnic clashes broke out between the Kuki-Zo and Meitei communities and there were calls from the Valley areas to terminate the SoO agreement. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had accused the SoO groups of violating rules and inciting violence. Meanwhile, Meitei civil society groups are not in favour of extending the pact. 

India: New trade restriction on Maldives
On 16 April, India imposed new restrictions on the export of prohibited essential commodities to Maldives. According to the notification of the Director General of Foreign Trade, the commodities will only be permitted for export from four designated customs stations Mundra Sea Port, Tuticorin Sea Port, Nhava Sheva Sea Port, and ICD Tughlakabad. Earlier, on April 5, India lifted export restrictions on nine products, including potatoes, onions, eggs, rice, wheat flour, and sugar, to the Maldives for the current financial year.  

India: Foreign Secretary’s three-day visit to Washington
On 16 April, The Hindu reported on a bilateral meeting between India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra who was in the US for a series of meetings with senior officials and Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen Hicks of the US. The main objective of the visit to Washington focussed on improving bilateral cooperation. Both discussed advancing the defence partnership. Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon confirmed that both of them have planned for the implementation of the India – US Defence Industrial Cooperation roadmap. They cheered for the successful India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X). In addition to this, they have discussed on regional issues persisting and agreed to work in collaboration with each other – said Mr Pahon. Apart from this meeting, Mr. Kwatra had a series of meetings with Richard Verma, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Kurt Campbell, Deputy Secretary of State as well as key officials at the National Security Council, the Department of Defence, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Energy. Indian Embassy also issues a statement which reads: “These discussions spanned the entire gamut of India-U.S. ties, growing defence and commercial ties, supply chain resilience and contemporary regional developments.” 

India: 29 Maoists killed in a joint operation in Chhattisgarh
On 16 April, 29 Maoists were killed in a joint operation by the Kanker District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Border Security Force (BSF) in Kanker district, Chhattisgarh. The security forces also seized AK-47s, INSAS, SLR, Carbine 303, and a huge number of other arms and ammunition from the spot, with ongoing search operations in progress. The forces were dispatched to the district after a tip-off regarding the presence of senior Divisional Committee members of the CPI (Maoist). Three jawans were also injured during the operation but are reportedly out of danger. According to the state police, this is perhaps the “biggest encounter ever” in Chhattisgarh. Since the new BJP government took charge in the state, there has been a noticeable increase in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh. Since the start of this year, security forces have eliminated 79 Maoists. According to the police, this is the highest number of killings since 2019 when a total of 80 Maoists were eliminated in the whole year. 

Pakistan: Unidentified militants kill 11 people in Balochistan’s Nushki district
On 12 April, as per the Deputy Commissioner of Nushki, Habibullah Musakhel, unidentified militants gunned down 11 persons in Balochistan’s Nushki district. More than a dozen militants blocked the Quetta Nushki-Taftan N-40 National Highway at a point which was a kilometre away from Nushki and started checking vehicles, before opening fire on a vehicle that did not stop. The bus, which was driven by the brother of JI Balochistan MPA Ghulam Dastgir Badini, overturned and caused two people to die and two to sustain injuries. A motorcyclist was also hit and injured. An officer added that militants stopped a passenger bus from Quetta, and abducted nine persons who had their address listed as Punjab. Later, their bodies were found under a bridge in the vicinity. The men were labourers belonging to Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad and Gujranwala. Police have speculated Baloch separatist organizations could be responsible, and have launched a search operation in the area. Balochistan’s Chief Minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, condemned the murders and emphasized that the terrorists responsible for the inhuman crime would not be pardoned.

Pakistan: Interior minister says “all evidence” points towards Indian involvement in Lahore attack
On 15 April, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi stated that there was evidence of Indian involvement in the Lahore gun attack on Amir Sarfraz Tamba, the individual who in 2013 allegedly killed Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in the Kot Lakhpat prison. Earlier on 14 April, two masked men forcefully entered Tamba’s home in Lahore and fired multiple shots, leaving him critically injured. Following the attack, Naqvi was questioned about the incident at the Federal Investigation Agency’s regional office in Lahore. He stated: “India was directly involved in two to four events like this before in assassinations inside Pakistan. The police are still investigating but till now their suspicion is exactly the same as yours.” While asserting that “all evidence is pointing towards” India, it is currently “inappropriate to say more before the investigation is completed but the pattern [of killings] is almost the same.” This attack followed a report published in The Guardian which claimed that the Indian government assassinated individuals in Pakistan to eliminate “terrorists” staying on foreign soil. Pakistan’s Foreign Office added after the report was published that India’s network of extra-judicial killings had become a “global phenomenon.” Also on 14 April, Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar said it would be “premature or too early” to make any statements on foreign involvement in the Lahore attack. A high-profile investigation is being carried out to determine the motive behind the attack and the potential of a foreign government’s involvement. The Punjab government also decided to refer the case to the Counter-Terrorism Department for investigation.

Pakistan: Troops kill at least seven militants attempting to cross Afghanistan border
On 17 April, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that at least seven militants had been killed in North Waziristan after security forces foiled their attempt to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan. A “large quantity of weapons, ammunition and explosives” was recovered from the militants. Troops in the Ghulam Khan area detected their movement, and “after an intense fire exchange, all seven terrorists were killed.” The ISPR called on the interim government in Afghanistan to “fulfil its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetrating acts of terrorism against Pakistan.”

Nepal: KP Oli’s opposing comments on leftist unity
On 16 April, the UML leader KP Oli denied the notion of communist unity still being part of Nepal's three major communist parties, the CPN-UML, Maoist Centre, and Unified Socialist. He, while addressing the UML’s parliamentary party stated: “Unity among such national forces is essential now, not the unity among communist parties.” When asked a question about not securing important ministries, he responded: “We are here to build the country” and is not interested in financial gains. He added that the UML is aimed at the change in the ruling equation and averred that he is staying out of the focus of the Prime Minister’s post. 

Nepal: Pro-monarchy protestors clashed with the police force
On 16 April, pro-monarchy demonstrators clashed with police forces. The protest was organised by the fifth largest in Parliament - Rashtriya Prajatantra Party demanding the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, saying that he was involved in the cooperative scam. The party earlier submitted the 40–point demand chart focussing on revoking the Hindu monarchy. Meanwhile, Lamichhane has been declining the allegations and the resignation.  

Nepal: Concerns over India’s anti-dumping charges
On 16 April, Nepali traders were concerned about India’s hesitation in removing anti-dumping charges for jute products. This has been affecting the exports for long, they said. The country has been facing a decline in the jute industry which is fuelled by India’s two to four percent anti-dumping charges. Nepal has been paying Rs.300 million every year as a charge. Alongside, the country did not provide the promised cash incentives to the sector. Based on the Trade and Export Promotion Centre reports, Nepal has exported jute products which is Rs 5.86 billion less during the first eight months of the current fiscal year. The traders’ claims, the sector was in decline due to the government’s inability. 
Nepal: No updates on preferential trade agreement talks as Bangladesh refuses to let up on ‘other duties’

On 17 April, Nepal and Bangladesh met for a commerce secretary-level meeting aimed at enhancing economic ties and strengthening sub-regional connectivity. Earlier, the two parties had agreed to execute the PTA by June 2020. However, Nepal contended that abolishing the ‘other duties’ was a prerequisite on their end for the signing. The ‘other duties’ imposed by Bangladesh on all imports are hidden expenses that increase the cost of Nepali exports. Since Bangladesh was one of the first members of the World Trade Organisation, it has been permitted to levy other duties. According to Nepal, the final costs after the addition of the duties on Nepali exports amount to 130-132 per cent. While Bangladesh has granted duty-free access to 108 Nepali products, Kathmandu has been advocating for an expansion of the list to include key export items like lentils, tea, coffee, large cardamom, broom, fresh fruits, and pashmina, among others. Nepal’s exports to Bangladesh have dwindled because of these tariffs. According to the Department of Customs, Nepal’s year-on-year export to Bangladesh declined by 34.76 per cent to NPR 574.02 million in the fiscal year 2022-23. Nepal’s imports from Bangladesh also dropped by 46.02 per cent to NPR 6.04 billion during the period. Nepal has had a trade deficit with Bangladesh since 2014-15 and this deficit stood at NPR 5.47 billion in the last fiscal year. 

Bangladesh: Heatwave warnings throughout the country
On 20 April, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department's weather bulletin says that the country is currently suffering from a mild to moderate heatwave, and in certain places, rain and thundershowers may fall. The remainder of the state is predicted to see a generally cloudy sky, dry conditions, and almost constant daytime and nighttime temperatures. The heatwave may last in some areas. 
Bangladesh: BGP members take refugee

On 16 April, 46 more Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) members sought refuge in Bangladesh amid an ongoing battle between the Myanmar regime and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) public relations officer (PRO), Shariful Islam, said with them now 260 BGP members are under BGB custody. He added that BGB members seized their weapons and took them under custody. On 15 February, 330 Myanmar people, comprising 302 BGP officials and four family members, two army troops, 18 immigration officers, and four civilians who had infiltrated Bangladesh, were returned home. On 5 February a Bangladeshi woman and a Rohingya man died in an explosion. 
Bangladesh: 46 BGP members cross over to Bangladesh amid conflict in Myanmar

On 17 April, 46 members of the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) took shelter in Bangladesh, following which the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officers confiscated their weapons and detained them. The BGP members fled amid the armed conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state between the junta and the Arakan Army.  Shariful Islam, BGB’s public relations officer, informed that including the newly detained members, now there are 260 BGP members in BGB’s custody. 
Bangladesh: AC prices drop as demand increases amid hot weather

On 17 April, The Daily Star reported on the sudden increase in demand for air conditioning (AC) units in the country as people struggle to cope with the stifling heat. 2023 was the warmest year recorded, while 2024 has also been significantly hot. 85 percent of the demand for the appliances has been placed with local units involved in the manufacturing and assembly of ACs. Consequently, the prices of ACs have dropped significantly, enabling a wider consumer base to purchase them, thereby boosting the market growth. While raw materials and intermediate products are imported into the country, other parts like plastic frames and copper cables for the appliances are manufactured locally. There are around 20 local and multinational companies specializing in manufacturing ACs in Bangladesh. Industry people contend that companies are now increasingly investing in research to innovate and develop new and existing technologies, including those that can reduce the carbon footprint. Local manufacturers are also looking to compete with international players. This has been complimented by government subsidies and policies favourable to industrial growth. Manufacturers and retailers have estimated that AC sales surged to 530,000 units in 2023, a significant rise from the 330,000 units sold in 2022. 

Sri Lanka: Possible genocide allegations from Canada puts Sri Lanka on high alert for May
On 18 April, the Daily Mirror reported that Sri Lanka is still unsure of how to handle the news of the construction of a Tamil genocide monument in Canada that was approved by the Brampton city council. The monument which is of 4.8-metre-tall stainless steel was proposed to be installed in Chinguacousy Park in the Bramalea area to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the Sri Lankan civil war. Many people in the Tamil community term the event as genocide. In 2022, the Canadian Parliament approved 18 May to be recognised as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day. According to a diplomatic source, Sri Lanka was on alert as Canada may make genocide allegations in the next month. In 2023, the two countries had been involved in a diplomatic spat when Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made genocide allegations. However, the source also noted that the Canadian federal government had rejected the notion that the events in Sri Lanka during the war had been genocidal. 
Sri Lanka: Government to meet bondholders to discuss debt treatment plans before IMF meeting in June
On 15 April, Sagala Ratnayake, Sri Lanka’s Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of the Presidential Staff, informed that the government will be meeting International Sovereign Bond (ISB) holders to finalise debt treatment plans. The talks are scheduled before the IMF meeting in June which will result in the country getting access to the third tranche of SDR 254 million (about USD 337 million). In March 2023, Sri Lanka achieved a staff-level agreement with the IMF on the second review of the Extended Fund Facility, the approval of which will result in the third tranche. The government has been engaged with ISB holders to finalise a deal as it found the one proposed by the private creditors incompatible with the IMF-led recovery plan. Meanwhile, the World Bank has stated that while Sri Lanka’s economy is showing ‘early signs of stabilisation,’ this modest recovery is not enough to ‘reverse welfare losses experienced during the crisis.’ It also added that poverty levels will remain above 22 per cent until 2026. 

Maldives: The second batch of Indian personnel left
On 14 April, the Hindu reported that a second batch of Indian military personnel left Maldives as per the President's demand. Muizzu further stated that the Indian soldiers on the last aircraft platform would depart the Maldives before the May 10 deadline, thereby fulfilling his promise to remove the Indian military from the island nation. He did not say how many of the second wave of Indian military personnel had left the Maldives. He also did not say whether the soldiers were replaced by trained Indian citizens. Neither the Maldives Defence Ministry nor India have responded to the latest evacuation of Indian military personnel from the country. President stated that foreign ambassadors in Male will not have jurisdiction over him, emphasising that ultimate power lies with the people of Male. Last month, he claimed that his predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, followed directions from "a foreign ambassador" without mentioning any country. 

Maldives: President says Opposition wishes to overthrow his government
On 18 April, Maldives’ President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu claimed that the Opposition aimed to overthrow his government even as they claimed that they were trying to hold the government accountable. He emphasised that this is widely understood to be a violation of democratic principles and urged the public to prevent the Maldives from being destabilised. He also stressed that if the opposition MDP came to power, there would be no development in the country given that they had failed to do so during the five years they had been in power. The President made the comments at a PPM-PNC campaign rally for the parliamentary elections in Fuvahmulah City. 

About the authors
Akriti Sharma is a doctoral scholar at NIAS. Vetriselvi Baskaran, Sanjay Manivannan, Navinan Govindaraj, and Narmatha S are postgraduate students at Madras University.

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