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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #41, 18 July 2023, Tuesday

BIMSTEC foreign ministers agree to create crisis response mechanisms

In Maldives, Opposition demands postponement of the presidential election

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #41, 18 July 2023, Tuesday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H

BIMSTEC foreign ministers agree to create crisis response mechanisms
On 17 July, during the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Bangkok, the foreign ministers agreed on making crisis response mechanisms to coordinate different contingencies. The ministers also discussed food, public health, energy, financial security, trade, economic cooperation, digital payment systems, UN-related issues, and agriculture technology. They further agreed to hold a retreat regularly, while India offered to host the next BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming UNGA in September 2023. (“BIMSTEC foreign ministers agree on creating crisis response mechanisms,The Kathmandu Post, 18 July 2023)

“We all should have a pro-Nepal position,” says former FM Koirala
On 17 July, at the launch of a book, several party leaders, diplomats, and experts discussed the relevance of non-alignment policy. The book, “Non-Alignment, quest for an independent foreign policy,” written by former ambassador Dinesh Bhattarai, was published by the Centre for Nepal and South Asian Studies. While many, including former foreign ministers Pradeep Gyawali and Sujata Koirala, emphasized on the importance of non-alignment and the need for Nepal to follow its national interest, a few others, including the adviser to former President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Lalbabu Yadav, questioned the relevance of non-alignment when the world is reading towards multi-polarity. (Anil Giri, Experts advise Nepal to stick to its non-alignment policy,The Kathmandu Post, 18 July 2023)

The cross-border Kurtha- Bijalpur rail section operationalized
On 16 July, the Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Prakash Jwala, launched the operations of the Kurtha- Bijalpur rail section, which forms part of the cross-border Jaynagar-Bijalpur-Bardibas rail line. This rail section, which is the second phase of the rail line, is being constructed with the assistance of the Government of India and covers 17.3 km,  linking five stations. GoI handed over this section to GoN during the recent visit of PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India. During the launch, Minister Jwala thanked the Government of India for its continuous support in Nepal’s infrastructure development, while the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Prasanna Shrivastava, underlined the continued commitment of GoI towards strengthening the development partnership. (India-Nepal Railway Track: Cross-border rail link becomes operational! Know distance, stations, and all key details,” Financial Express, 17 July 2023; “Cross-Border Railway Connection Between Nepal And India Becomes Operational,” Times Now, 17 June 2023)

Government to take in returnees in contract
On 18 July, Kuensel reported that the Bhutanese government is open to welcoming Bhutanese citizens who emigrated to Australia and other countries but want to return home and resume their professions. Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering stated that former teachers, nurses, and doctors can join on a contract basis, offering attractive benefits. The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) will handle executive-level positions, while specialists and individuals from the private sector can apply based on eligibility criteria. The RCSC has revised the executive selection framework to recruit candidates from various backgrounds. Many Bhutanese in Australia expressed their desire to return, citing personal and professional opportunities as motivations. (Rinzin Wangchuk, “Govt. will take in returnees on contract,” Kuensel, 18 July 2023)

Thirty seven Political prisoners gone missing in Daik-U prison 
On 18 July, The Irrawaddy reported that the Daik-U prison’s 37 political prisoners were missing during the transfer on 27 July. An interview reported by Irrawaddy with an unnamed representative of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that prison authorities informed the families that three of them were shot dead while attempting to escape. The prison refused to answer about others. Reports about similar incidents came from Myingyan and Thayawady prisons. Tortures and deaths during interrogation were continuously being heard from the prisons. (“Political Prisoners in Constant Fear of Torture and Murder,” The Irrawaddy, 18 July 2023)

House will debate over on Pita's renomination: says Mr. Wan
On 18 July, House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said that the renomination of Move Forward Party (MFP) prime minister candidate Pita Limjaroenrat will be debated on 19 July 2023. No conclusion was drawn out of the meeting convened by Mr. Wan with Move Forward Coalition, other political parties, and senators, to discuss the MFP renomination of Pita. Pita earlier said that the renomination cannot be rejected as it is not a normal motion. Mr. Wan said: “The process is for the quick installation of the 30th prime minister, because the nation is waiting for a  new prime minister to solve its problems.” (Aekarach Sattaburuth, “Talks fail: No accord on Pita's renomination,” Bangkok Post, 18 July 2023)

Srettha declares his willingness to be the next PM
On 18 July, Bangkok Post reported that Srettha Thavisin, one among the three prime minister candidates of the Pheu Thai Party announced that he would become the thirtieth prime minister if he gained the trust of his party. Mr. Srettha said: “We at the Pheu Thai Party have discussed this matter for four months, and if I weren't ready for the job, I would not have been named one of three prime ministerial candidates by the party.”(Aekarach Sattaburuth, “Srettha 'ready to be PM', looks to revive economyBangkok Post, 18 July 2023)

MFP submits seven bills for House deliberation 
On 18 July, Parit Wacharasindhu, on behalf of a group of Move Forward Party (MFP) MPs, submitted seven bills aiming to “demilitarise” the armed forces and “demonopolise.” The seven bills are the first among the fourteen drafted for house deliberation by the MFP. Out of seven, five bills are regarding demilitarisation and two are regarding increasing the competitiveness of the Thai economy through fair trade. (“Move Forward submits 7 bills for 'change'Bangkok Post, 18 July 2023)

Opposition demands postponement of presidential elections 
On 17 July, the opposition coalition, which included the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC), called for the postponement of the presidential election. The demand was made in the context of pending judicial proceedings of the imprisoned former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. There have been continuous demands for the speedy trial of Yameen. The interim leader of the coalition stated that it would be unfair to hold an election while Yameen is still in prison. (“Opposition calls to postpone presidential election pending justice for Yameen,” Sun.mv, 18 July 2023)

India, Iran to boost trade with Russia
On 17 June, India and Iran expressed intentions to update the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC) to boost trade with Russia. Additionally, Iranian officials proposed linking the free trade zone between Chabahar and an Indian port. The proposal was made by the Managing Director of the Chabahar Free Trade Zone in a meeting with Indian Ambassador to Iran Rudra Gaurav Shresth. A ministerial meeting is scheduled in January 2024 in Chabahar to discuss the proposal. ("India, Iran plan to route Russia trade through Chabahar," Mint, 17 June 2023)

UN report claims that the Taliban has increased its restrictions on women
On 17 July, a UN human rights report stated that the Taliban authorities have increased restrictions on women's rights. The UN stated that it recorded instances of the Taliban imposing limitations on women's freedom of movement and employment. Additionally, the report mentioned that the Taliban have barred women from public life and cracked down on the media. The report covers the restrictions regarding women's healthcare and education. ("​UN says the Taliban have further increased restrictions on Afghan women and girls," AP News, 17 July 2023)

Pakistan Army expresses concerns over TTP in Afghanistan
On 18 July, the Times of India reported that the army at the corps commanders' conference expressed concerns over the safety provided by Afghanistan to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The ISPR stated that Afghanistan has provided a safe haven and weapons to the TTP, which impacts the security of Pakistan. The meeting was chaired by Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir at Rawalpindi. Additionally, the army alleged that the terrorist attacks in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were caused by the TTP. ("Pakistan army terms TTP ‘sanctuaries 'in Afghanistan as major security threat," Times of India, 18 July 2023)

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