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

Iran and six world powers decided on July 18 to extend the deadline for an agreement with its nuclear negotiators for another four months. In the meantime, Iran will take more steps to neutralize its stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium and the P5+1 will approve limited additional sanctions relief. The most contentious point in the negotiating process will remain Iran’s enrichment capacity and its quantity of centrifuges. While many members of Congress have threatened to add sanctions on Iran if demands for a drastic reduction of centrifuges are not met, Iranian officials assert that they will need more centrifuges in the future than they already have. American officials would tacitly accept Iran’s enrichment capability in exchange for significant constraints on its nuclear plans, but not at a level that surpasses the capacity needed in other countries that use civil nuclear power. President Obama has signaled that he will veto additional sanctions in the short run. Amidst this diplomatic process, Tehran appears to be distancing itself from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri-al Maliki. Considering Iran’s indispensible role in supporting his premiership in the past, this development could portend progress in the establishment of a unity government in Baghdad.

Relevant News Stories
Iran and its nuclear plans: Time out (The Economist)
Staying the Course on Iran by Threatening Pain and Offering Relief (The New York Times)
Iraqi Leader Maliki Loses Backing of Shiite Figure and Iran for New Term (The Wall Street Journal)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in New Delhi on Wednesday. India requires ideas, knowledge and expertise from the World Bank rather than dollars as the country needs to develop a strong base of skilled force, Modi stressed as the two leaders discussed ways of working together in the future. He described the meeting as “very fruitful” and noted that “we live in a world where speed matters. Quick execution is essential.” Kim recognized the Prime Minister’s top three goals – skill, scale and speed – and said, “I was inspired by his extremely ambitious vision for India and we hope to play some role in achieving that goal.” Since coming into power in May this year, Modi has been swiftly laying out plans to revive India’s economy and to achieve ambitious development targets. Earlier this month, India also made the announcement for the New Development Bank by the BRICS – comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – with the aim to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations. This move reflects the growing importance of India and BRICS in the world economy.

Relevant News Stories
Rather than dollars, we need ideas, knowledge: Narendra Modi to World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim (The Economic Times)
World Bank lauds Narendra Modi Gujarat growth model, says India ranking to soar if done on state’s basis (The Financial Express)
World Bank chief welcomes new BRICS development bank (Reuters) 

According to the UNDP’s human development index (HDI), Bangladesh has made significant progress in turning the tide against gender inequality. The newly introduced gender development index (GDI) compares the HDI calculated separately for men and women. Bangladesh ranks at 107 on the index, a stark contrast with its low, but much improved, HDI ranking of 142. The trends in the GDI demonstrate that Bangladesh has shown the most improvement in South Asia in reducing gender discrimination. However, the Asian Centre of Human Rights (ACHR) took aim at Bangladesh’s human rights record this week when it demanded that its contribution to the UN peacekeeping force be reduced. The ACHR criticized the country’s increasing presence in international peacekeeping due, and alleged that its security forces were guilty of committing extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and forced evictions in recent years. Currently, 7% of the Bangladeshi Army constantly remains deployed in UN peacekeeping missions. Bangladesh recently passed Pakistan to become the largest contributor to the force, and its officials rejected the ACHR’s accusations. 

Relevant News Stories
Bangladesh goes up the HDI ladder (Bdnews 24)
Bangladesh fares better than India and Pakistan (Dhaka Tribune)
ACHR against Bangladesh in UN peace-keeping (Bdnews24)​

It appears that the leaders of Pakistan’s two main opposition parties appear to be preparing for a political standoff on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan says that his party will fight a “decisive war” to expose evidence of rigging in the 2013 parliamentary elections. By challenging the incumbent government’s mandate and bringing people to the streets on the 14th, Khan may be paving the way to demand a midterm election. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is organizing a national parade on the same day as the planned protest, so speculation about a potential confrontation is rife. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington this week is also generating curiosity, with several party insiders suggesting that he has come to urge the United States to support democratic stability in Pakistan. As the debate over the democratic process takes center stage in Pakistan, the army continues its offensive against militants in North Waziristan. Pakistani defense officials visited Washington this week and urged the US forces in Afghanistan to intercept militants who are fleeing the offensive. They also rejected claims that the operation is discriminating between militant groups. 

Relevant News Stories
‘War’ on Aug 14 will be decisive: Imran Khan (Dunya News)
News of Zardari-Biden meeting generates wild speculations (Dawn News)
United States could do more to intercept militants, Pakistan says (The Washington Post)

Afghanistan’s presidential election result are still not known as the two candidates disagreed over vote rigging claims. Under the agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry last week, an extensive audit of roughly 8 million disputed ballots is being carried out. However, the audit was suspended for the second time in a week on Wednesday over disagreement over how to properly conduct the auditing. The auditing resumed on Thursday. Some Afghan analysts are concerned about the delays since the new President might not be sworn in on time to attend key international meetings including the NATO Summit in the UK in early September and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) conference in mid-September. According to the leader of the Civil Society Association, Azizullah Rafiyee, “The opportunities were a good start for the future of Afghanistan, but unfortunately, the opportunity was lost and the strength that the new president would have brought to the conference, President Karzai will not have [that strength].”

Relevant News Stories
Afghanistan’s Election Result Hinges on a Squabble-Prone Audit (The New York Times)
Opportunities Lost With Election Delays (Tolo News)
Awesome scale of auditing every Afghan vote (BBC)