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



Pakistani and Iranian border forces exchanged mortar fire this week. The incident occurred a day after officials from each side met to discuss tensions along the border, resulting in an agreement to evolve a joint mechanism to strengthen security along the Pakistan / Iran border. Pakistan has been accused by predominantly Shia Muslim Iran of failing to stop cross-border attacks on its forces by extremist Sunni Muslim militants. Sistan Baluchistan, which also borders Afghanistan, has been the scene of frequent clashes in recent years between Iranian security forces and drug-smugglers and Sunni rebel groups. Earlier this year the abduction of four Iranian soldiers also heightened regional and sectarian tensions. The guards were taken into Pakistan by Sunni militants but eventually released.

Relevant News Stories:

  • Why President Rouhani is Supporting Thousands of Iranian Protesters – (Washington Post)
  • China Says it Wants Close Military Ties with Iran – (Reuters)
  • This is the Roadmap for Closing a Nuclear Deal with Iran – (Quartz)



The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) is leading to the fragmentation of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). Reports from the areas in which the Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence cite infighting and splits within the militant organization. ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has managed to undermine the Pakistani Taliban by claiming the position of global Islamic leader. This week the TTP removed its spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid, after he publically pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi and ISIS. Disagreements over strategy have broken the group into four groups. The main issue that led to the break up was whether or not the group should engage in peace talks offered by Islamabad. 

Many are optimistic that fragmentation of TTP will increase peace and stability in Pakistan. However analysts believe that the movement, and its various splinter groups, still carry enough momentum to cause serious damage. The Pakistani military has been successful in reducing the efficacy of the Taliban in the northern parts of the country. Now Pakistanis can only hope that the military destroys whatever momentum the Taliban and its splinter groups have remaining. Pro-Taliban forces are constantly vying for complete control over large swaths of land, and will work to eliminate entities that prevent them from doing so.

Relevant News Stories:

  • Suspect in the Daniel Pearl Murder Case Freed – (The Express Tribune)
  • Iranian Border Personnel Fire Mortar Shells Inside Pakistan – (Dawn)
  • Coalition in Sindh:  We Had No Need to Join Hands with MQM, Says Bilawal – (The Express Tribune)



There are now two districts in Kunduz Province, in northern Afghanistan, that are almost entirely under Taliban rule. This is an area that has been largely peaceful throughout the thirteen-year US war. As the NATO drawdown nears, Western officials continue to broadcast that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have managed to contain Taliban’s offensives on their own. However, Taliban gains in Kunduz in recent weeks present a different, alarming, picture. Taliban forces are currently administering a parallel court system, operating schools, and even sanctioning the work of international aid operations in Kunduz. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, the Nawaz District is on the verge of collapse. New statistics from Kabul show a huge rise in combat deaths for the ANSF, with the number of casualties in Kunduz indicating dim prospects of the ability for security forces to hold territory without Western troops directly entering the fight.

Relevant News Stories:



Bangladesh has been elected as a member in the UN Human Rights forum for the 2015 to 2017 term. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood trusts that this will be a global endorsement for the current Awami League government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This endorsement is necessary for the nation given the severe criticism the Awami League government has received from human rights groups. When it came to voting, India managed to secure the highest number of votes, followed by Indonesia and Bangladesh. Bangladesh came in third with 149 votes. Other candidates under consideration for the ‘Asia Pacific’ region post were Thailand and Qatar. The Human Rights council was formed in 2006 to oversee global human rights standards and mechanisms on promotion and protection of human rights.

The World Bank released its Bangladesh development update this week, reporting that the country’s progress on human development and poverty reduction is on track. Poverty is set to drop to 24 percent this year from 32 percent in 2010. However, the recent political turmoil has resulted in the weakening of capital markets and a slowdown in private sector investment and growth. High inflation continues to trouble domestic consumers, primarily driven by higher food prices as a result of supply chain disruptions during political unrest in 2013. Economic forecasts indicate continuing growth if private sector investment picks up and the government increases its assistance to improve the credit markets. The World Bank projects the country’s growth rate to be 6.2 percent this financial year, up by 0.1 percent from last year. It will be important for Sheikh Hasina’s government to improve the condition of the credit market. However, doing so will be difficult unless several insolvent public banks are catered to first. The government must act quickly to fix the economy or risk losing private sector growth which is essential in increasing the country’s growth rate.

Relevant News Stories:

  • Bangladesh Should Diversify Export Basket: Japanese Envoy – (The Daily Star)
  • Sierra Leone Urges Bangladesh to Open Mission at Its Capital – (BDNews24)



Israel has agreed to sell $144 million worth of missiles to India. Starting in 2015 India will begin receiving the first of 262 “Barak 1” missiles from Israel, to be delivered over the course of five years. The missiles will be installed on India’s fleet of 14 battleships, which have been operating with dwindling missile reserves for the past few years. Past efforts to purchase weapons from Israel failed due to allegations of corruption surrounding politicians involved in the dealings. However, the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is considered to be pro-Israel, and the missile deal announcement can be seen as an indication of improving relations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Modi last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where Netanyahu invited Modi for a state visit to Israel.

Relevant News Stories:

  • Modi’s Idea of India – (NYT)
  • India Logs On to Check if Public Servants Are at Work – (Sydney Morning Heral)
  • Suicide Bombers May Board Two AI Flights; Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kochi Airports on High Alert – (Times of India)