Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #59, 08 August 2023, Tuesday

Iran’s FM visits Japan, first since 2019

Will not join ASEAN until it finds a resolution in Myanmar, says East Timor PM

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #59, 08 August 2023, Tuesday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Dhriti Mukherjee and Lakshmi Parimala. H

Nepal’s tilt towards India will anger China, says CPM-MC 
On 6 August, The Kathmandu Post reported that some members of Nepal's ruling party's central committee have criticized Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's June visit to India, expressing concern over its impact on China-Nepal relations. They stated that the leaning towards India could anger China, which goes against Nepal's foreign policy of non-alignment. The talks also underlined corruption allegations against the party and government, with the leadership weakly defending against criticism. (“Nepal shouldn’t get too close to India at the cost of China: Maoist party members,” The Kathmandu Post, 6 August 2023)

GoI considering lifting the ban on non-Basmati rice
On 8 August, Kuensel reported that the Government of India is considering lifting the ban on non-Basmati rice export to ease supply shortages. The Bhutanese government has formally requested approval to import 77,000 metric tonnes of non-Basmati rice annually. India banned the export of non-Basmati white rice in July to ensure domestic availability and control rising prices. The response from GoI is expected soon. Bhutan, a major rice consumer, receives exceptions for food security concerns. Additionally, the ban on broken rice export has been lifted, with Bhutan importing broken rice for liquor production and other purposes. (Dechen Dolkar, “Import ban on non-basmati rice likely to end soon,” Kuensel, 8 August 2023)

Will not join ASEAN until it finds a resolution in Myanmar, says East Timor PM
On 8 August, The Irrawaddy reported East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s statement saying that his country will not join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) until the bloc finds a resolution to the conflict in Myanmar. Last year, the ASEAN leaders agreed to admit East Timor as its eleventh member. East Timor has openly declared its support for the National Unity Government (NUG) and invited officially for the swearing in ceremony on 01 July 2023 in Dili. On 05 July, the junta complained about the invitation by summoning the chargé d’affaires at East Timor’s embassy in Yangon to Naypyitaw and labeled NUG as a terrorist organization. (“Timor PM Says Country Won’t Join ASEAN if Myanmar Crisis Not Solved,” The Irrawaddy, 08 August 2023)

Chinese copper mining firm seizes the lands of the villagers in Salingyi Township
On 8 August, The Irrawaddy, reported that Wanbao, a Chinese copper mining firm functioning in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Region has fenced-off farms in old Wethmay village. The report said that the junta troops provided for the protection of the mines are raiding the villages from the east of the mining project while the firm’s seizure of land takes place.  The firm proposed the villagers to move by accepting a compensation which was refused by thirty households. The wanbao and two of its subsidiaries Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd and Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Ltd are in partnership with Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd and runs three copper mines in Salingyi township. The mines are infamous for the destruction of the environment, series of violence against the anti-mine protesters and the land disputes with the people. (“Chinese Copper Mine in Myanmar Expands With Land Grab,” The Irrawaddy, 08 August 2023)

Bhumjaithai joins Pheu Thai’s coalition to form new government 
On 7 August, the Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai parties jointly declared the formation of a coalition government during the press conference held at Pheu Thai’s headquarters. As of now, the strength of the coalition is 212 House seats with 141 seats of Pheu Thai and 71 seats of Bhumjaithai. They said that they have the backing of MPs of other parties as Pheu Thai has no intention to amend Section 112. Bhumjaithai party leader Anutin Charnvirakul said that his party would act in line with the proposal from Pheu Thai on the next scheduled date for selecting the prime minister. Dr. Cholnan Srikaew confirmed that Move Forward Party (MFP) will not be there in the new coalition and Srettha Thavisin would be the Pheu Thai’s premiership candidate. He said that in the first cabinet meeting, a referendum will be done on amending the constitution. (Penchant Charoensuthipan, “Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai forge pact,” Bangkok Post, 08 August 2023)

Iran’s FM visits Japan, first since 2019
On 7 August, Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian met with Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida. He also met his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi and Health, Labour and Welfare Minister, Katsunobu Kato. This was the first visit of a top Iranian official to Japan after 2019, one year after the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. Japan raised concerns regarding Iran’s alleged provision of armed drones to Russian forces, while Amirabdollahian denied the allegations. Further, the minister also discussed nuclear accords. (Maziar Motamedi, “Iran’s foreign minister in first high-level visit to Japan since 2019,” Al Jazeera, 7 August 2023)

Haqqani stresses Sharia law and unity for Afghanistan's progress
On 7 Aug, TOLO News reported that Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani highlighted the importance of enacting Sharia law and fostering national unity. Haqqani addressed the religious clerics, tribal leaders, and local officials in Laghman regarding the Sharia law and unity and said: “The people who have stayed here, we must know them as our brothers, they are the people of our nation, they have stayed here, we must encourage them, and we must use our experts and provide them with work and service.” Further, he stated that the current Jihad in the nation involves the establishment of Sharia law and financial support for the country’s rebuilding efforts. (“Acting Interior Minister Calls for Adherence to Sharia, Support for Govt,” TOLO News, 7 Aug 2023)

Efforts underway to reopen girls' schools, says Officials of the Academy of Science
On 7 Aug, TOLO News reported that according to Officials of the Academy of Science of Afghanistan, there are ongoing talks to reopen schools for girls above grade six. The issue has been raised as part of scientific research conducted by the academy. Currently, 40 projects are completed, while 100 are still in progress. Amir Jan Saqib, the deputy head of the Academy of Science of Afghanistan, mentioned that their focus lies on enhancing the capabilities of academic domains within the nation. Further, Saqib called the academics who left the country to finish their duties. (“Plan to Reopen Girls' Schools 'Under Discussion': Officials,” TOLO News, 7 Aug 2023)

Pakistan awaits news of Caretaker PM
On 8 August 2023, Dawn reported that the ruling coalition has come up with a candidate to fill as in caretaker prime minister. The identity has not been revealed in order to avoid any controversy. With the dissolution of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the opposition leader can work on the matter for three days. If this proves to be futile, then it is taken further to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The first ever Pakistani Caretaker PM was the PPP founder Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. He supervised the 1990 ballot exercise which saw Nawaz Sharif come into power from 1990 to 1993. Before the Presidential System came into existence in 1960, seven hand-picked prime ministers served between 1947 and October 1958, when the first Martial Law was proclaimed by Iskander Mirza. The Office of the PM was brought back in 1971 before it ceased to exist again.
Pakistan has had 31 Prime Ministers, including seven Interim heads of government, since 1990. The country now awaits the verdict of the eight Caretaker PM with bated breath. (Syed Irfan Raza, “Govt ‘agrees’ on interim premier, name kept under wraps,” Dawn, 08 August 2023; Sabir Shah, “Pakistan has had seven caretaker PMs till date,” Dawn, 08 August 2023)

Concerns over hurried legislative actions
On 8 August, Dawn in its editorial questioned the speed over the new legislations. The lawmakers hurriedly passed bills, including an amendment to the Official Secrets Act 1923. The amendment bill which was introduced discreetly, seeks to give immunity and legal backing to intelligence agencies for previously denounced practices that violate human rights. Critics worry that insufficient deliberation and lack of public scrutiny could lead to problematic consequences. Parliament's rushed actions risk undermining transparency and accountability, highlighting concerns of eroding citizens’ rights. (“What’s the hurry?Dawn, 8 August 2023)
“[Asif] Zardari sahib and Mian [Nawaz Sharif] sahib should take decisions which would make politics easier for me and Maryam Sharif, instead of making it difficult,” says Bhutto
On 7 August, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bhutto Zardari, called for a change in the political environment while addressing the National Assembly. He underlined the need for a shift from animosity, hatred, and division, to one that “inspires hope and empowers the younger generation to lead the country.” Seeing how the youth made up 65 per cent of the population, Zardari accentuated the importance of aligning with the youth’s “aspirations” and democratic principles, instead of following “traditional politics” which involved settling personal scores. Citing PPP's constitutional approach during opposition and the constitutional no-confidence success against Imran Khan, he highlighted these as precedents for future governance. (Amir Wasim, “Bilawal faults his elders for turning politics into minefield,” Dawn, 8 August 2023; “Govt couldn’t keep institutions in their ambit: Bilawal,” The News International, 8 August 2023.
Update on Imran Khan arrest: Petition filed to move to a better jail
On 7 August, Imran Khan filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court to be moved to Adiala jail which has A-class facilities, citing “distressing conditions” in his current cell. His lawyer stated that he was facing “distressing conditions” in a “dark, small, C-Class, chakki wala room.” The petition highlights a perceived discriminatory transfer and the denial of visits by lawyers and family. Meanwhile in USA, the US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that the arrest was an “internal matter for Pakistan,” and while they “urge Pakistani authorities to act consistent with their constitution and laws,” Khan was undeniably “charged with very serious crimes that severely harmed the national security of the United States.” It was made clear that the case was not an “unfounded” one, and that US would not comment on it. (Malik Asad, “Imran taken to Attock to deny rightful facility: PTI,” Dawn, 8 August 2023; Anwar Iqbal, “Imran’s cases don’t warrant comment, says US State Dept,Dawn, 8 August 2023)

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