Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #56, 04 August 2023, Friday

Nepal’s PM Dahal may skip the UNGA address to visit China

Taliban rejects Pakistan's claims on “security situation” in Afghanistan

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #56, 04 August 2023, Friday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Dhriti Mukherjee and Lakshmi Parimala. H

India and Nepal sign four MoUs, to undertake developmental projects
On 4 August, ANI News reported that Nepal and India signed four Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), to undertake developmental projects under the grant assistance of India, three in the education sector and one in water supply and sanitation. The projects are estimated to cost NPRs 170 mn, and are aimed at providing better education and water & sanitation facilities fo the local community. India has taken up 546 HICDPs ( High Impact Community Development Projects) in Nepal since 2003, in the areas of India, Nepal sign 4 MoUs on education, water supply and sanitation facilities, the total cost of these projects is around NPR 1220 Cr. (“India, Nepal sign 4 MoUs on education, water supply and sanitation facilities,” ANI News, 4 August 2023)

PM Dahal may skip the UNGA address to visit China
On 4 August, The Kathmandu Post reported on PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to UN. In a meeting with PM Dahal, US Ambassador to Nepal, Dean Thompson, inquired about the former’s visit to New York, between 18 to 26 September,  for his UNGA address, as it overlaps with his scheduled visit to China. PM is set to visit China from 23 September to 8 October to attend the opening of the 19th Asian Games. Due to the overlapping dates, the Prime Minister is reported to skip the New York trip. While Nepal’s permanent mission to New York is trying to reschedule the address to before 22 September, there is still no decision taken. (Anil Giri, “PM may skip UN meet to visit China,” The Kathmandu Post, 4 August 2023)

Inflation increases to 3.83 per cent
On 4 August, Kuensel reported that the inflation rose to 3.83 per cent in June this year. It remains lower than the Royal Monetary Authority’s upper threshold of 6 percent. The prices of food and non-food increased by 4.72 per cent and 3.08 per cent respectively. It was observed that the prices of all other divisions except transport and communications increased. (Thukten Zangpo, “Inflation climbs to 3.83 percent in June,” Kuensel, 4 August 2023) 

2023- Deadliest dengue year for Bangladesh
On 3 August, the total number of deaths due to dengue reached 283, making 2023 the deadliest dengue year for Bangladesh, since its first outbreak in 2000. 2022 recorded the highest number of deaths previously, reaching 281. Delayed hospitalizations, reinfections and the presence of Den-2 and Den-3 strains are a few reasons attributed to the rising death toll. It was also observed that the cases outside Dhaka have increased. The highest cases outside the capital were recorded in Chattogram, Chandpur and Barishal. (Helemul Alam, “Dengue Outbreak: 2023 already the deadliest year,” The Daily Star, 4 August 2023)

Hacker groups announce to launch a cyber attack on 15 August
On 4 August, The Daily Star reported that Bangladesh Government's Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-GOV CIRT) issued a statement warning of a cyber attack. The press release was a response to a declaration by underground hacker groups, who threatened to launch cyber attacks on 15 August. The top targets are identified to be government and military bodies, law enforcement agencies, banks, pharmaceutical companies, retail and industrial organizations, as well as energy and education sectors. BGD e-GOV CIRT urged all organizations in Bangladesh to take precautions. (“Country in risk of targeted cyber attack on August 15, says CIRT,” The Daily Star, 4 August 2023)

NUG blacklists government officials for intimidating civil servants supporting CDM 
On 03 August, National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar released an announcement stating that forty-nine government officials of junta in Yangon region were blacklisted for persecuting the civil servants. The civil servants who joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM) were dismissed from their posts or lawsuits were filed against them by the blacklisted officials. The blacklist contains the names of twenty-eight former military personnel transferred to the civil service, deputy director generals, and directors of the Yangon City Development Committee. According to NUG, once the military dictatorship gets abolished, these records will be used for the adjudication purposes of those who intimidated the striking civil servants. ("Myanmar’s Civilian Government Releases Blacklist of Junta Collaborators in Yangon,” The Irrawaddy, 04 August 2023)

UTN may join Pheu Thai’s coalition 
On 04 August, Bangkok Post reported that the United Thai Nation (UTN) leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga expressed his party’s interest to join Pheu Thai Party to form a new government if formally invited. He reiterated that his party wants a majority government for the stable administration and for the betterment of the country. UTN has not decided whether to support Pheu Thai’s prime minister candidate. UTN maintained its opposition to join any coalition with the Move Forward Party (MFP). (“UTN 'open' to siding with Pheu Thai,” Bangkok Post, 04 August 2023)

Foreign minister speculates police power devolution
On 2 August, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Sabry expressed concerns about the potential politicization of police if powers were devolved to nine provinces. He highlighted the existing allegations of police being highly politicized under the current single administration and warned of the severity if the powers are devolved to nine chief ministers. He also urged a parliamentary debate on the matter having said that this devolution could be problematic for the entire country, not just the Tamil community. (“Devolution might make police more politicized,” The Island, 4 August 2023)

CEB chooses India over China for Norther Island power projects
On 4 August, Daily Mirror reported that Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has chosen to proceed with hybrid power projects in the northern islands using USD 12 million grant from India, effectively excluding China from the venture. The decision came after the contract given to a Chinese firm was canceled due to India’s objections, leading to tensions between China and Sri Lanka. India has been actively investing in Sri Lanka’s energy sector and aims to interconnect the two national grids. Additionally, Indian company Adani is set to establish wind power plants, generating 350 MW of power by 2025. (“Sri Lanka ditches China in India’s favor,” Daily Mirror, 4 August 2023)

Taliban rejects Pakistan's claims on “security situation” in Afghanistan
On 4 August, Afghanistan Times reported that the Taliban’s interim administration has reaffirmed its sovereignty and dismissed Pakistan’s claims about the “security situation” in Afghanistan’s borders.  Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate, asserted that those claims were “baseless.” He said: “If there is any concern, it should be shared with the officials of the Islamic Emirate face to face, rather than making unnecessary claims in the media and confusing people’s minds.” These remarks were made in response to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s warning to Kabul to control terrorist organizations in the region. 
(“Taliban dismiss Pakistan’s terror allegations,” Afghanistan Times, 4 August 2023)

UNSC discusses global food crisis and humanitarian needs in Afghanistan
On 4 August, Afghanistan Times reported on UNSC’s meeting to discuss “Famine and Conflict-Induced Global Food Security,” where delegates from Russia, the UK, Pakistan, India, Qatar, Switzerland, and other influential countries were present. Various representatives highlighted the dreadful humanitarian situation in Kabul and expressed concerns about the country's increasing demand for humanitarian aid. Ruchira Kamboj, Indian Ambassador to the UN, stressed India’s significant role in promoting global food security and dedication to providing aid to the countries facing food insecurity. Meanwhile, the UN estimated that a distressing record of 362 million people across 62 countries are in dire need of humanitarian aid which was attributed due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. (“Global leaders convene at UN to address Afghanistan crisis,” Afghanistan Times, 4 August 2023)

Iran and Pakistan express concerns over the Afghanistan situation
On 4 August, TOLO News reported on Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s statement during his visit to Islamabad to sign a five-year economic and strategic pact between Iran and Pakistan. Hossein stated that the issue of Afghanistan is one of their major concerns and said: “Any development in Afghanistan affects the neighbors, particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” Both Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and Iran expressed their support for the Afghans in any situation “to promote the well-being and prosperity.” Further, they emphasized the importance of bilateral, multilateral, and international collaboration to tackle the current challenges in Afghanistan. (“Iranian, Pakistan Foreign Ministers Discuss Afghanistan,” TOLO News, 4 August 2023)

Pakistan High Court Temporarily Halts Imran Khan's Trial
On 4 August, a Pakistan high court put a temporary end to the trial of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. The country’s election commission had filed a legal complaint, accusing Khan of illegally giving out state gifts worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees, during his tenure. The purpose behind the halt was for a trial court to determine whether the complaint constituted a criminal proceeding. This has been challenged by Khan’s team, but was the high court turned it down. (Asif Shahzad, “Pakistan court pauses Imran Khan’s trial over sale of state gifts,” Reuters, 4 August 2023)
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif dissolves National Assembly
On 4 August, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the dissolution of the Nation Assembly on 9 August. Since this is premature, the national elections will be conducted 90 days post the dissolution, instead of 60. He made this declaration at the dinner reception that he hosted in honour of ruling allies, where he also highlighted the achievements of the current government during his tenure. Sharif informed the attendees that the ruling party had completed internal consultations regarding the caretaker set-up, and would now partake in discussions with allies over the next three days. (“Pakistan’s National Assembly to be dissolved on August 9, says PM Shehbaz Sharif, The Indian Express", The Indian Express, 4 August 2023)

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