Neighbourhood News Digest – 16 May 2023
Aarushi Gupta, Research Assistant, VIF
Afghanistan Embassy in India rejects reports of Taliban appointing new Charge d’Affaires in Delhi – The Print

Afghanistan’s Embassy in India on Monday rejected “claims from an individual claiming to have taken charge of the mission in New Delhi at the behest of the Taliban”. The Afghanistan Embassy’s statement came after reports that the Taliban has chosen Mohammad Qadir Shah, an embassy employee previously working at the diplomatic office under the republic government, to lead the embassy.

Taliban says China seeking investment in Afghanistan's oil, gas – Hindustan Times

The Taliban on Sunday said that China is seeking to invest in the gas and oil sectors in Afghanistan, reported Tolo News. The spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP), Homyaoon Afghan, said that they have provided essential facilities for the investors. "The minister thanked the investors and said that Afghanistan is rich in gas and oil and it is expected that in the near future there will be announced the extraction of gas and oil in some areas," he said.

Uzbekistan hosts HQ for trans-Afghan train project – Eurasia Net

Plans to build a railroad from Uzbekistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan were given a shot in the arm last week with the opening of a project coordination office in Tashkent. This apparently concerted return to this multibillion-dollar initiative is again underlining the increasingly pragmatic and accommodating stance governments across Central Asia are adopting toward the Taliban regime in Kabul. The Uzbek state railway company said in a statement on May 13 that the function of the office would be for all three countries to liaise closely in developing feasibility studies and to accelerate construction of the railroad.

Nothing to worry if govt bans imports from sanction imposers: PM – New Age

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said on Monday that she was not afraid of foreign sanctions and that Bangladesh would not make any purchases from any country that would impose sanctions on it. Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, made this remark while addressing a televised press conference at Ganabhaban to brief the media about the outcomes of her recent visit to Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom from April 25 to May 8.

Bangladesh withdraws police escort for foreign diplomats – New Age

The government has withdrawn ‘additional’ police escorts given to foreign mission heads in Dhaka in a move to revise their security protocols. ‘We have decided to withdraw such protection for foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka as the law and order situation here is not so bad. This is unnecessary, and so we don’t want to continue providing additional security to them with taxpayers’ money,’ foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told New Age on Monday.

As Hasina faces heat in Dhaka ahead of polls, Delhi finds itself in a corner too – The Federal

Discussions between senior Indian and Bangladeshi officials on the sidelines of the sixth Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka have brought home palpable uncertainties in the countdown to the national parliamentary elections due in the neighbouring country in January 2024. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, visiting Dhaka after a while, also had the opportunity to figure out first-hand the ground realities in a nation considered crucial for stability in India’s eastern neighbourhood.

Why the US dollar is an optimal reserve currency for Bangladesh – Daily Star

Bangladesh received an infamous and inappropriate coverage in the global press that the country was planning to use Indian rupee or Chinese renminbi for international payment settlements. In other words, the argument was that the Bangladesh Bank, the country's central bank, would be diversifying its foreign exchange reserves away from the US dollar to include more renminbi and rupee instead. It is infamous and inappropriate because the country's forex reserves continue to consist mostly of the US dollar-denominated assets.

Weather tracker: Cyclone Mocha batters Bangladesh and Myanmar – The Guardian

Cyclone Mocha brought strong winds and torrential rain to parts of Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday, with refugee camps bearing the brunt of the category-5 storm, leaving at least five dead and causing half a million people to be evacuated. The region was rocked by sustained winds of more than 160mph as Mocha made landfall, whipping up gusts closer to 200mph and a storm surge of up to 4 metres. The world’s largest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, was badly hit and more than 1,300 shelters were destroyed. Heavy rain triggered landslides and floods.

Local leaders concerned about fake news – Kuensel

These were some of the cases that 17 local leaders from Thimphu and Paro dzongkhags discussed during a day-long workshop on combating disinformation, fact-checking, and tracing sources of fake news in Paro last Friday. Eight gups from Thimphu and a gup and eight mangmis from Paro admitted that such fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information are misleading people and creating disharmony in the communities.

Bhutan’s stand that the ‘Chinese have always been on their side of the territory’ might be a problem to India – Tibetan Review

Bhutan has again spoken of being optimistic about reaching a speedy settlement with China over the latter’s occupied-Tibet border line, possibly raising apprehensions about its implications for India on the emergent status of the strategically sensitive Doklam tri-junction area. China has long been reported to be seeking Bhutanese concession at Doklam in exchange for conceding on its claims in disputed border areas elsewhere. Doklam lies at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and Chinese-occupied Tibet.

Calls to probe Maoist cantonment scam growing – The Kathmandu Post

As the government is being praised for ‘catching big fish’ in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, demand is also building from various quarters for an impartial investigation into alleged corruption in Maoist cantonments. The case dates back to 2007 when the then government had decided to provide Rs5,000 a month to as many as 19,602 former Maoist combatants camped in seven cantonments and 21 satellite camps set up across the country.

Power sale deal with Bangladesh is GMR’s top priority after court relief – The Kathmandu Post

With the Supreme Court issuing a verdict in favour of the GMR Upper Karnali Hydropower last week, the company said it would give first priority to signing an agreement with Bangladesh to sell 500MW of electricity to be produced by 900MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project. The Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court on May 7 vacated an interim order it had issued earlier in response to half-a-dozen writ petitions, which had challenged a government decision to give the Indian developer more time to conclude the project’s financial closure.

Nepali traders fed up with China’s erratic Tibet-border policy – Tibetan Review

The seemingly whimsical manner in which China opens and closes or restricts in other ways its occupied-Tibet border crossing points for movement of goods has left the businesspeople in Nepal harried, according to the May 14. Just recently, China stopped Nepali exports through the Tatopani border point, saying there is no demand for the products, the report said, citing officials.

Over 1000 youths, students participate in anti-corruption rally in Nepal – Business Standard

Over a thousand youths and students participated in a anti-corruption rally here on Monday, demanding action against those involved in the fake Bhutanese Refugee scam. The rally was held as former deputy prime minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and former home minister Bal Krishna Khand among several others were arrested last week in connection the scam, under which Nepali nationals were sent to the United States by forging fake documents of them being Bhutanese refugees.

Pakistan's ruling coalition protests outside SC for providing blanket relief to Imran Khan – The Telegraph Online

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday joined the ruling coalition's sit-in outside the Supreme Court here to protest against some of the recent rulings of the judiciary which they said provided blanket relief to former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a number of cases.

Pakistan Parliament adopts motion to form committee to file case against Chief Justice who ruled in favour of Imran Khan – Indian Express

In the latest manifestation of increasing schism in Pakistan, the parliament on Monday passed a resolution to set up a five-member committee to prepare and file cases against Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial in the Supreme Judicial Council for his “misconduct and deviating from oath”.

Pak military hints at action against Imran Khan under Army Act, Official Secrets Act – India Today

The Pakistan Army's move to include the Army Act and the Official Secrets Act is a serious provision in which former prime minister Imran Khan and his PTI leaders and workers can be slapped with such charges, the punishment of which can be either death sentence or life imprisonment.

Pakistan: Tribal War Over Coal Mine Delimitation Claims 16 Lives; Security Forces On Spot – Times Now World

According to news reports, several people were killed on the spot after Sunikhel and Akhorwal tribed engaged each other. A Kohat Police spokesperson said that the dispute between the groups, both part of the hill community of Bulandari, happened on a mountain range where they assembled to talk.

Amidst turmoil in Pakistan, US supports freedom of expression without violence – The Print

Amidst a domestic turmoil in Pakistan, the United States on Monday voiced support to freedom of expression without any violence and reiterated that a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan is crucial to its ties with the country. “Our belief is that individuals should have the freedom to express themselves, but do so without participating in any violence, violence that would put government employees in government buildings in harm’s way. And specifically on the arrest, I spoke a little bit to this last week,” state department’s Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters at his daily news conference, referring to former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest last week by the Pakistani Rangers.

Sri Lanka
IMF official says Sri Lanka reforms critical, evaluating progress - Reuters

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission in Sri Lanka will evaluate progress made on reforms so far and complete an exercise to improve governance in key areas of the economy, an IMF official said on Monday. An IMF team is in Colombo until May 23 as part of regular consultations ahead of the first review mission later this year. The team met with multiple officials including President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the country's finance minister.

Sri Lanka’s ruling SLPP dismisses rumour of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s return as PM – The Print

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party on Monday dismissed rumours that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa would be reappointed as the prime minister of the island nation. Rajapaksa, the 77-year-old leader who served both as the president and the prime minister of Sri Lanka on different occasions, resigned as the premier of the island nation last year in May amid massive anti-government protests that erupted due to the economic crisis.

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