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

Pakistan seems to have convinced the world community regarding the safety of its nuclear program. This week at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, US Secretary of the State John Kerry was reported saying that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were in safe hands. However, some concerns were expressed regarding the country’s fast expanding nuclear program which was termed to be beyond the proportion of its needs. Banking on the favorable perception about the security of its nuclear assets, Pakistan has pushed the world community to extend cooperation for meeting its energy needs through civil nuclear technology. In the last nine months, Pakistan’s economy has witnessed a turn-around and started to signal an aggressively expanding trend. The expanding economy has put pressure on scarce energy resources, including electricity and gas. If energy needs remain unmet, the growing trend in economy will be difficult to be maintained. In a different development, the International Monetary Fund has expressed satisfaction on the economic measures in the country, and has released the third tranche of its multi-billion dollar loan program to Pakistan.

Relevant News Stories
U.S. Termed Pakistan nuclear security as exemplary: Nawaz (Geo TV Network)
PM dumps MFN, trade with India on FO’s advice (The News International)
IMF releases $555.6 million third tranche to Pakistan (Daily Dawn)

As Afghanistan moves towards its first ever democratic presidential transition, security threats loom large to make this transition less smooth. Despite the fact that about half of the presidential candidates are supporters of negotiations with the Taliban; the insurgents have waged attacks to disrupt the election process. This week too, a regional independent election office was attacked by the Taliban leaving ten people injured. Following threats from Taliban, the Independent Election Office has aired concerns of the inability to conduct elections in the areas where security remains to be a challenge. Despite these threats, as Afghan media continue to play its role for increasing awareness among its people, and determination among common Afghans to use their democratic right of voting is increasing. Perhaps that is the reason that the Taliban has started targeting media outlets too—bombing a radio station in the eastern part of the country. The station was targeted for frequently airing shows on political, social, and cultural issues in Afghanistan. 

Relevant News Stories

MPs Criticize Karzai’s Stance on Crimea and Russia (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)
IEC Calls Lack of Security A Major Threat to Elections (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)
World Bank Invests $526.5 m in Energy Trade between Central Asia and South Asia (KHAAMA Press)

With elections around the corner, political parties in India are ramping up voting campaigns all across the country. As the political heat increases, so does the diatribe from politicians about their opponents. Though surveys predict Narendra Modi to be the strongest candidate, the likelihood for a coalition setup cannot be ruled out completely. The Congress Party, which was predicted to lose with a great margin, seems to be bouncing back. Arvind Kejriwal, a third political option, is also making waves in political circles of India. As attractive political agendas varying from national development to economic growth to increased transparency are being put forward to lure the general public, demands for a carefully crafted plan for individual constituencies are also on rise. This time around, elections in India seems to be more focused on local governance and development issues rather than vague national policies that have minimal effect on common people’s lives.

Relevant News Stories
Congress (R) vs BJP (M) (Indian Express)
Netas (politicians) must explain what they plan to bring to their constituency (Hindustan Times)
Will continue as BJP chief if party comes to power: Rajnath Singh (Indian Express)

Political rifts in Bangladesh seem to be getting deeper as the two mainstream parties continue to indulge in trivial issues. This week, the debate about General Zia-ur-Rehman being the first president of the country dominated the political conversation. This happened when the election commission office was being accused by the civil society for having lost control over local elections amidst poor security and law and order situation in many parts of the country. Bangladesh, these days, has been through major transition where the political forces seem to have fallen out of sync with the national political interests.

Relevant News Stories
Khaleda: Zia was first president of Bangladesh (Dhaka Tribune)
Shujan: EC lost control on polls (Dhaka Tribune)
Worry over last-phase UZ polls (Daily Sun)

As dialogue opesn up with the United States, Iran is moving to re-establish and strengthen its ties with other important countries. This week, the Iranian embassy in Beijing shared that President Hassan Rouhani will visit China in next two months. The visit is primarily aimed at strengthening economic ties. In a different development, Iran and Oman have planned joint navy exercise in second week of April. The joint navy exercises are being conducted at a time when rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia has become deeper and wider than ever before.

Important News links:
Obama, Saudi King Discussing Syria, Iran (Iran Herald)
Zarif, Ashton hold constructive meeting (Iran Daily)
Israel Report: Iran Directed this month’s rocket attacks on Israel (Iran Herald)