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



In one of the deadliest spells of weather ever seen in the region, scores of Nepalese and foreign trekkers were killed this week when a freak storm hit the popular Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. The Annapurna circuit, a roughly 200 mile mountaineering destination, attracts tourists from around the world. A rescue operation is now underway after blizzards and several avalanches hit the mountains dominating central Nepal – Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu. Seventy climbers are still unaccounted for, while 220 others have already been saved by the military’s rescue effort.

Relevant News Stories:

Nepal Parties Fail to Prepare First Draft of New Constitution – (Business Standard)



Six Pakistani Taliban (TTP) leaders pledged personal allegiance to the Islamic State and Abu Bakar al Baghdadi in an online video this week, but emphasized that they were not speaking for the TTP as a whole.

Al Qaeda chief (and ISIL rival) Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the merger of several militant groups last month to create Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Up until the announcement of this merger these fractured Al Qaeda-aligned groups have operated in conjunction with TTP, with their organizational and leadership structures at times indistinguishable. This is noteworthy because ISIL and Al Qaeda are competing for leadership in the global jihadist movement, establishing ideological influence in South Asia, and the ability to frame the narrative of anti-Western sentiment in the region. It remains to be seen how the pledge of allegiance to ISIL from these six TTP commanders will impact the TTP-AQIS relationship going forward.

Relevant News Stories:

Intelligence Sharing Sought with Iran – (Dawn)

Pakistani, India Military Talk on Hotline Amid Kashmir Tensions – (Chanel News Asia)

Pakistan is Sliding Toward Extremism – (CNN)

Malala and the Malaise in Pakistan – (WSJ)

Oct 18 rally: Mobile Phone Service to be Suspended in Karachi Tomorrow – (Dawn)

Pakistan Ulema Council Condemns IS Militants – (Dawn)



This week Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a phone call to Kabul to congratulate Ashraf Ghani on his assumption of the Afghan presidency, and emphasized India’s continued support for the fledgling Afghan democracy. Modi also extended an invitation for President Ghani to visit India at his earliest opportunity, which Ghani accepted. Neighboring Pakistan is expected to be concerned about increasing ties between India and Afghanistan, especially given the current border conflict ensuing in the Line of Control in Jammu-Kashmir.

MeanwhileAfghan security officials arrested two Haqqani Network figures, including the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, (the network’s founder). Afghan officials indicated Anes Haqqani, who is second in command of the terrorist organization, ran the Haqqani Network’s fundraising in the Persian Gulf and oversaw its social media campaign. The other captured figure was Hafiz Rashid, the network’s military chief in eastern Afghanistan. This can be seen as a result of increased efforts by Pakistani and Afghan intelligence agencies to share information on terrorist networks operating across their shared border.

Relevant News Stories:

My Terrifying Night with Afghanistan’s Only Female Warlord – (New Republic)

The Underground Girls of Kabul – (Foreign Policy)

Jolting Some, Afghan Leader Brings Wife Into the Picture – (NYT)

Two Kabul Bank Suspects Leave Country – (TOLO News)

Afghanistan’s Political Transition – (International Crisis Group)



The Indian government said on Monday that it may impose “some kind of safeguard duties” on goods imported from China to reduce the trade gap between the two countries. India’s trade deficit with China stands at about $36 billion, and the new government in New Delhi is eager to give the Indian economy a boost. India wants Chinese firms to manufacture goods in India to provide Indians with jobs and decrease New Delhi’s trade deficit.

Indian relations with China have complicated recently with renewed tensions along their disputed border. The Indian government has announced ambitious plans to construct a 1,118 mile-long highway along the Indo-China border in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, in what can be seen as an attempt to consolidate Indian control along the disputed border. India’s security concerns are reflective of the extensive road, rail, and air network developed by China in Tibet, which could play a vital role in rapidly advancing Chinese troops and equipment to the border in the rugged Himalayan region.   

Relevant News Stories:

IndiGo to Buy 250 Plans for $25.5 Billion in Largest-Ever Order for Airbus – (NDTV)

ISIL Flag in Kashmir Valley Worries Army – (The Times of India)

Modi Launches Labor Reforms to Make Doing Business in India Simpler – (LiveMint)



There was much fanfare about the 1st Europe-Iran Forum in London as the former British foreign secretary Jack Straw met with Iran’s top business families. This was an avenue of dialogue between businesses in the West and Iran. With the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who many see as being relatively moderate, and the temporary easing of sanctions, the West is seeking ways to invest in the country of 80 million people. While investors in the West are keen to become involved in Iran, there are still complications such as slow internet in the country and difficulty in making payments due to financial restrictions imposed by many international banks. Despite the positive momentum, it seems that some local Iranian businesses are skeptical about any sort of progress in trade relations between the West and Iran citing the ‘risks involved’ with doing business with the West. People on both sides are hopeful as both will benefit from trade between the West and Iran.

Relevant News Stories:

Border Violation:  Iranian Cross-Border Firing Kills FC Official, Injurs Three Others – (The Express Tribune)

India to Pay Iran $500 Million Next Week as Second Part of Oil Deal:  Report – (NDTV)

Iran’s ‘Shadow Commander’ Steps Into the Light – (The Atlantic)



 Bangladesh has announced that it will sign a primary deal on the 24th of October in Beijing to join the proposed China-led Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Bank is designed to offer Asian countries an alternative to fund sourcing for their infrastructure development. Now Asian countries can seek assistance from this bank as opposed to the traditional institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The approved capital for the new bank is around $100 billion, and the agreement-signing countries will be the founding members and will benefit from some extra facilities when the bank starts up. All SAARC countries except Bhutan and the Maldives are expected to be agreement-signing countries. The traditional funding institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank will find difficulties working with emerging Asian economies now that there is a third, and some would say more attractive, player. Emerging Asian economies could be more inclined to work with a condition-less arrangement that the Chinese could provide.

In other local news, Bangladeshi authorities have re-iterated that the country will not involve itself in the ongoing US-led effort to destroy ISIL. However, the government said that it would join the UN if it launches a humanitarian mission in the war zones. The reason for Bangladesh’s refusal to be a part of the fight against IS the country’s belief in Iraq and Syria’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Bangladesh believes that intervening in the countries will go against these tenets. The country knows that taking a stance against US involvement could result in distrust and may also suggest to the West that Bangladesh is not serious about counter-terrorism.Authorities have therefore made Bangladesh’s position against terrorism very clear.

Relevant News Stories:

Two Groups Complete Inspections of 1,700 Bangladesh Garment Factories – (NYT)

Hasina Renews Bangladesh’s Pledge to Low-Carbon, Climate-Resilient Development  – (BDNews24)