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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #18, 21 June 2023, Wednesday

Nepal to seek answers from India over the Akhand Bharat Mural

Bangladesh seeks India’s assistance in its relations with US

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #18, 21 June 2023, Wednesday
By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H


Nepal to seek answers from India over the Akhand Bharat Mural
On 19 June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed the Nepal embassy in New Delhi to get answers from India’s Foreign Ministry over the controversial Akhand Bharat Mural. The new Indian parliament put up a mural of ‘Akhand Bharat,’ which depicts a few of Nepal’s territories as part of India. He gave the instructions from Bangalore, as he is currently in India for his wife’s treatment. This act has received criticism from several constitutional experts in Nepal. As a response, on 8 June, the mayor of Kathmandu, Balendra Shah, got the map in his office replaced with the ‘Greater Nepal’ map, which includes some Indian territories. (Anil Giri, “Nepal tells its envoy to take up mural issue with India,” The Kathmandu Post, 21 June 2023)

The home of a much-loved Bhutanese legend, today under threat
On 20 June, Kuensel reported on Changyuel Galem's house. It is a cherished Bhutanese landmark and is on the brink of collapse due to limited funding for restoration. The neglected house, included in the heritage restoration plan, requires an estimated Nu 5.35 Million for repairs, obstructed by budgetary constraints. The absence of visitors and missed cultural potential increases the need for preservation. Funding for heritage building restoration should be prioritized to safeguard cultural identity, promote tourism, and create economic opportunities. A plea is made to the government, private donors, and international organizations to collaborate on funding initiatives. (“For Galem’s sake,” Kuensel, 20 June 2023)

Bangladesh seeks India’s assistance in its relations with US
On 20 June, Hindustan Times reported that Bangladesh has sought India’s assistance to tide over a rough patch in its relations with the US, especially over the conduct of elections in the neighbouring country. The people claimed that the Bangladeshi side has brought up the issue with the Indian leadership recently in the hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will bring it up with US President Joe Biden at the meeting in Washington. On 24 May, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced a new policy under the Immigration and Nationality Act, under which the US can restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual believed to be responsible for undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. (Rezaul H Laskar, “Bangladesh turns to India to tide over rough patch in ties with US,” Hindustan Times, 20 June 2023)

Investigation of Nadim’s murder taken over by Detective Branch
On 20 June Dhaka Tribune reported that the investigation over the murder of journalist Golam Rabbani Nadim, the Jamalpur district correspondent for Banglanews24.com, is now taken over by the Detective Branch of the police. On 15 June, he passed away from injuries after being attacked by nearly a group of 12 people on 14 June. Nadim’s family believes that the attack was a retaliation for his recent reporting about Mahmudul Alam Babu, the chairman of Shadhurpara Union Parishad. (Bishwajit, “Detective Branch takes over journalist Nadim murder investigation,” Dhaka Tribune, 20 June 2023)

Swedish arms gets diverted to Myanmar despite through India: says JFM
On 21 June, The Irrawaddy reported an activist group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) said that despite the EU embargo on arms sales to Myanmar exists, Swedish arms are still being supplied to Myanmar for the Junta through Indian arms companies. According to the watchdog group, the first shipment of FFV-447 projectile fuzes designed for use with Swedish 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles was done in 2019. The second shipment was more likely to have happened after the coup in 2021. The report says that this incident questions the Indian government’s compliance with end-user commitments with Sweden and efforts to decrease the diversion risks. JFM spokesperson Yadabar Maung demanded that Sweden’s Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP) evaluation on “how components of Swedish light arms and their ammunition are still being exported from India to Myanmar, including from Sandeep Metalcraft, and ensure that Sweden abides by the EU arms embargo, which prohibits Sweden from transferring arms and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military.” As per the July 2019 MoU for defense cooperation with Myanmar, India exported military equipment and weapons as late as October 2022. (Hein Htoo Zan, “Swedish Arms Exported to Myanmar via India Despite EU Embargo: JFM,” The Irrawaddy, 21 June 2023)

Election Commission says it needs more evidence against Pita’s share in iTV
On 21 June, Bangkok Post reported that the Election Commission requires more evidence to prove MFP premiership candidate Pita Limjaroenrat’s eligibility to contest in the election. He was accused of having 42,000 shares in iTV which he claims himself as an executor of the family inherited shares. Thitichet Nuchanart, the EC member said that it would summon iTV executives as well as Pita for interrogation. Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) member filed a petition in EC to seek the Constitutional Court’s interpretation of Pita’s MP status by stipulating Section 82 of the constitution. (Aekarach Sattaburuth, “EC seeks more evidence on Pita iTV-share claims,” Bangkok Post, 21 June 2023)

Pheu Thai Party discusses on House speaker post as they oppose MFP taking it
On 21 June, Pheu Thai Party will discuss who will hold the House speaker post in the orientation session as some of its MPs disagreed on 19 June with the Move Forward Party taking the position. Pheu Thai Party MP Phumpat Patcharasap said: “The views and opinions of the party's MPs and members must be taken into account. We also need to listen to what the party's negotiators who are in talks with the MFP have to say before a conclusion is reached.” The contention was raised despite the claims on 18 June that two deputy House speaker posts will be given to the Pheu Thai Party instead of the House speaker post by the MFP. Pheu Thai Party leader Phumtham Wechayachai reversed his position that he was saying his belief that the post would go to the party which won the most votes in the 14 May elections.  (Aekarach Sattaburuth, “Pheu Thai to discuss House speaker post,” Bangkok Post, 21 June 2023)

Iranian and US officials hold talks
On 18 June, Al Jazeera reported that US and Iranian officials have conducted closed-door negotiations in attempts to curb Tehran's nuclear programme and release American prisoners. Experts state that the negotiations are an attempt to revive the 2015 deal. The previous deal under US President Donald Trump, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), sought to impose sanctions on Tehran. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kannani confirmed that the Muscat negotiations were not intended to be separate from the JCPOA. The US government has denied negotiations with Iran. Gulf Studies Center Director at Qatar University director Mahjoob stated that US President Joe Biden does not intend to appear to be giving concessions to Iran. Iranian experts speculate that negotiations are related to the debt payment of Iraq to Iran and for the US to reverse Tehran's nuclear advances. The US could further lift sanctions on Iran. Three American Iranian Prisoners may further be released in return for Iranian economic assets. ("Why are the US and Iran holding talks and why does it matter?,"Al Jazeera, 18 June 2023)

Refugees organise a rally at the UN building
On 20 June, The Print reported that Afghan refugees in Kyrgyzstan rallied in front of the UN building, in Bishkek, demanding to be sent to European countries, USA or Canada. They called on the world community and the UN to pay attention to the refugee crisis. The majority claimed to be mandated refugees in Kyrgyzstan with only a refugee card. ("Afghan refugees hold rally in front of UN building," The Print, 20 June 2023)

Taliban publicly executes murder convict
On 20 June 2023, Al Jazeera reported that the Taliban has publicly executed a murder convict, in the eastern province of Laghman. The court stated that the punishment was issued following the approval of the supreme spiritual leader and investigations of three courts. The execution intended to signify the hardline policies of the Taliban ("Afghanistan's Taliban publicly executes man convicted of murder," Al Jazeera, 20 June 2023)

UN terms Taliban treatment of Women as ‘gender apartheid’
On 20 June, Reuters reported that UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, termed the Taliban treatment of women as gender apartheid, as he addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Taliban spokesman Zabinhullah Mujahid stated that Richard Bennett's report is a part of western propaganda. The UN defines gender apartheid as "economic and social sexual discrimination against individuals because of their gender or sex.” ("Taliban treatment of women could be 'gender apartheid', UN expert says," Reuters, 20 June 2023)

Direct flights to South Korea set to commence in two months
On 21 June, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara announced that the South Korean government has assented to allow direct flights from Colombo within two months. This move comes in the face of serious plights faced by migrant workers due to recurring Sri Lankan flight delays. Nanayakkara added that the migrant workers tend to lose their jobs owing to their delayed arrival to the workplace. He further notified the parliament about the temporary move to send Sri Lankan migrant workers who leave for South Korea through Singapore after two weeks' time. (“Korean Govt.to commence direct flights from SL to facilitate migrant workers: Manusha,” Daily Mirror, 21 June 2023)

PPM-PNC condemns police high-handedness
On 20 June, the opposing coalition PPM-PNC condemned excessive police force as per the government’s orders against the opposition protesters. Further, they claimed that a group of individuals who were alleged to be sponsored by the government threw bottles at the demonstrators during a peaceful protest. In their statement, they expressed their grievances, stating that, "The violence exerted by the police, displaying no regard for those with special needs, women and senior citizens, is a very low-level act by the police." They pointed out that the failure of institutions to align with their legal responsibilities has resulted in the inhumane crackdown on the demonstrators. (“Police using excessive force on gov't orders: PPM-PNC,”  Avas, 21 June 2023)

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