Commentary from the South Asia Center on the most relevant news from the region, and suggested “must-read” analyses from the week.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s experiment with governance ends as Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, resigns from the post less than 2 months after he was sworn in. Keeping his word, Mr. Kejriwal carried out histhreat to quit as the anti-corruption ‘Jan-Lokpal bill’ was blocked in the state legislature with both the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party  opposing it. Idolized as a mascot of an alternative brand of politics, the former Chief Minister altered the political discourse with an unexpected and overwhelming showing in the December Assembly polls that brought the Congress Party’s 15 year tenure of control over Delhi to an end. Concurrently, the United States has approved a meeting between its ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, and the BJP’s likely Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. This reversal of estrangement between the United States and Modi is largely seen as a pragmatic step of reestablishing ties as Modi could well become the Prime Minister of India following national elections in May. 

Relevant News Stories
More Engagement with India (The New York Times)
Mango-Man Arvind Kejriwal Does it Again (NDTV)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the man in a hurry (The Indian Express)


Following two days of talks with UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Iranian government agreed to provide information on detonators as one of seven steps aimed at pacifying western fears over its nuclear program. While the IAEA is investigating possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear work, an accusation Iran denies, the complete list of seven promises, considered confidence building measures, are due to be completed by May 15. In response to an increased presence of US vessels in the gulf, a senior Iranian naval commander announced that Iranian warships in the Atlantic Ocean will sail close to US maritime borders for the first time as part of a routine training mission. The United States and its allies hold naval exercises in the Gulf at regular intervals and defend this presence as necessary in order to maintain freedom of navigation in the waterway through which 40% of the world’s seaborne oil exports passes.

Relevant News Stories
Iran says warships to sail close to US maritime borders (BBC)
Rouhani calls for national unity, healing; says Iran will not relinquish defense capability (The Washington Post)

American officials stated that Bangladesh needed to take an active role and enforce robust measures to improve the nation’s labor standards in order to win back duty-free trade benefits suspended after the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building, which killed 1,129 people in Dhaka. The incident, which is widely seen as the global textile industry’s worst disaster, inflamed international scrutiny on low wages and lax safety regulations in Bangladesh’s lucrative apparel industry that exports approximately $5 billion annually to the United States. This week, the owners of Rana Plaza surrendered to the police and are expected to face trial on charges of negligence. While initially the police in Bangladesh had insufficient evidence to bring a case against the owners, a court ordered special investigation team have since found evidence of the managers’ negligence.

Relevant News Stories
Justice for Bangladesh’s Workers (New York Times)
Bangladesh Must Do More to Regain Trade Perk (Associated Press)

President Hamid Karzai ordered the release of 65 Taliban detainees held in Bagram despite intense lobbying by American officials. Analysts see the prison release as an attempt to mend ties with the Taliban, signaling just how far the standoff between the United States and the Karzai government has gone. While the United States claims that the released prisoners are dangerous insurgents with Afghan and American blood on their hands, the Karzai government insists that prisons like Bagram are a training ground for insurgents who convert ordinary prisoners into members of the Taliban. The US maintains that the release poses a great threat not only to the US and ISAF forces present in Afghanistan, but also to the overall peace and stabilization process going on in the country.

Relevant News Stories
In Prison Release, Signs of Karzai’s Rift with the U.S (New York Times)
U.S. aid plan seeks to shield Afghanistan from end to war economy (REUTERS)
Muslim World urged to support Afghan peace drive (Daily Afghanistan Times)
Afghanistan election guide: everything you need to know (The Guardian)

As terrorist strikes continue amid peace negotiations between the central government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a frustrated government mulls over suspending the diplomatic dialogue and instead is pondering the launch of a military operation designed to uproot the insurgency. The TTP claimed responsibility from a bomb attack which killed 13 policemen in Karachi this week. In a meeting held with TTP representatives,  government officials made it clear that any further attack by the TTP would not be tolerated. Pressure on the government to launch a military operation against the militants is increasing as opposition leader Khurshid Shah endorsed the wider social consensus of disengaging in talks with the Taliban. Bonus: read coverage of the South Asia Center event Will a Counterterrorism Operation in Pakistan Succeed Under Current Conditions?

Relevant News Stories
Pakistan committed to Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process: Nawaz (Express Tribune)
Forcibly converting people un-Islamic, says Imran (Daily Dawn)
Peace talks cannot go alongside terrorist attacks, says Nisar (Daily Dawn)