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

Narendra Modi’s first month in office coincided with an anniversary of another kind – the 39th anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s imposition of Emergency rule. Modi who witnessed the historic period stated that “The Emergency surely stands out as one of the darkest periods in our history and is a grim reminder of the dangers associated with subverting freedom of speech, press, expression and silencing opposition.” Emergency, Modi claims, taught him “the significance of a vibrant democracy”. Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, addressed the top civil and police brass of ten Maoist-infiltrated states and declared that the Government of India had ruled out holding talks of any kind with Naxalites who are far-left radical communists supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Despite ruling out negotiating with the Naxalites, the Home Minister stated that a balanced approach will be adopted in close coordination with the states in order to tackle Maoist violence.

Relevant News Stories
A Few Thoughts as We Complete a Month In office (Narendra Modi)
India’s Underground Economy (New York Times)
US Wants Modi to succeed because India must succeed: John McCain (First Post)
India Promoting Lower-Cost Military Exports (New York Times)

As the Pakistani military intensifies its operation in North Waziristan against the Taliban and allied militants, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) increasingly rises. Over 700 IDPs from the region have reached different cities in the Punjab province, most of them staying with relatives and friends. The Punjab government has set up a separate fund for helping the IDPs, however independent reports suggest that there are hundreds of IDPs without any access to shelter or food. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that ‘helping the IDPs is the government’s responsibility and not a favor’, but the government’s efforts so far are not enough to meet the challenge, especially with Ramazan (the month during which Muslims traditionally keep fast from dawn to dusk) starting this weekend. In a separate development, Tahirul Qadri flew into Pakistan earlier this week from his residence in Canada, calling for a political reform to put an end to the civil-military tension. His arrival caused violent confrontation between his supporters and the police near the airport close to his arrival. In an effort to control the situation, Qadri’s plane was diverted from landing in Islamabad to Lahore, the ruling government’s home province. Another Pakistani airport was also the cause of distress this week – a Pakistan International Airways flight from Riyadh was attacked by gunmen at the airport in Peshawar. One woman was killed and two others on board were injured. This attack renewed concern regarding the safety of airports and important buildings in the country, since gunmen stormed the Karachi airport last week, killing 29 people.

Relevant News Stories
Pakistan’s Taliban Offensive Will Fall Short: (Foreign Policy)
Pakistan Jet Attack:  (BBC)
Waziristan Operation: (Express Tribune)​

As Dr. Abdullah Abdullah blames his political rival Ashraf Ghani for rigging and ballot stuffing during the run-off elections and casts doubts over integrity and impartiality of the Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), the political impasse in the country lingers on. The deadlock, which caused the IEC head to resign this week, drew hundreds of Abdullah’s supporters to streets. Protesting and chanting slogans against Ghani and President Hamid Karzai, Abdullah’s supporters demanded for strict actions against the chief of the election commission and those involved in the rigging. The protests and Abdullah’s boycott with the election results have created uncertainties with regard to political and economic stability in the Afghanistan. This standstill is also expected to exacerbate security problems in the country in the days to come.

Relevant News Stories
Abdullah Abdullah gives President Poll fraud ‘proof’ (Deccan Chronicle)
Kabul, Islamabad poised to foster bilateral security too (Afghanistan Times)
Afghanistan granted 4-month extension to finalize anti-money laundering law (Wadsam)

While being far from synchronized, both Tehran and Washington seem to be taking a similar approach in aiding the overwhelmed government of Iraqi Prime Minisiter Nouri al-Maliki. While Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq, the United States has confirmed that their armed drones are also flying over Baghdad and other areas of the country. In addition to sending military equipment to the fellow Shiite-led government in Iraq amidst a blitz offensive by Sunni militants, about a dozen officers from Iran’s Quds Force including its top official General Qassim Suleimani have been deployed in an effort to establish a Joint Operations Center. Reports from Iran’s western border with Iraq claim an attack carried out by an unspecified terrorist group killed three Iranian border guards as Iran boosts its border security in an effort to contain spillover from the ongoing conflict.

Relevant News Stories
Iran Secretly Sending Drones and Supplies into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say (New York Times)
Iran resistance leader predicts regime change (Fox News)
Qassem Suleimani: A Shadow Commander (The New Yorker)

The European dominated Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has forced temporary closing of a number of garment factories after it inspected and found dangerous working conditions prevailing for the workers. The shutdown have caused and grown tensions between Bangladeshi apparel industry and the Accord over the shutter. In another development, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Bangladesh this week and held meetings with the opposition leader Khalida Zia and Haseina Sheikh. During these meetings, while Zia complained of receding democratic values and Bangladesh, Sawaraj maintained that Bangladesh should solve its internal issues and disputes as per the will of Bangladeshi people.

Relevant News Stories
Delhi ready to work with govt. until end of tenure (The Independent)
‘Bangladesh needs to resolve internal issues’ (Dhaka Tribune)
Dhaka, Delhi discuss bilateral issues (UNB Connect)