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


Chinese President Xi Jinping began his three day trip to India in Ahmedabad, Narendra Modi’s home city. The fact that Xi Jinping decided to begin his India trip in Ahmedabad and not Delhi (protocol dictates that a visiting dignitary must first arrive in the capital city) points to the fact that China’s President has a more positive outlook on India under Modi. However, this is ironic given the ongoing border disputes between the two countries in the Ladakh region. His trip was aimed to find solutions to the border disputes as well as increase Chinese trade and investments in India. During the President’s visit, the two leaders signed three Gujarat-specific pacts. The first pact makes Guaghzhou and Ahmedabad sister cities. The second pact ensures that industrial parks would be established in Gujarat, which would serve as catalysts for increased bilateral trade and increased production of electronics and electrical goods. The third pact is designed to develop cultural and social ties between Gujarat and the Guangdong province in China. The closeness of the two leaders is significant, as it points to the further strengthening of the BRICS bloc. While Modi is a person best characterized as being purely pragmatic and working towards India’s development, leaders of the West could view his close attachment to China as somewhat of a polarizing act.

Relevant News Stories:
Alliance With Shiv Sena Not At Cost Of Self-Respect, Says BJP President Amit Shah (Deccan Chronicle)
Modi Walks a Fine Line Between Japan, China – (Tehelka)

President Rouhani was hosted by NBC in New York for an in-depth interview on Iran’s stand on ISIS. Rouhani voiced his disdain for the extremist group and said that they must be stopped. He claimed that ISIS “want[s] to kill humanity”. Alongside his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Rouhani also mentioned that the United States’ strategy of using only airstrikes is necessary but not sufficient. The president urged for the mobilization of US ground troops to fight ISIS. Additionally, Rouhani criticized ISIS for the execution of the US journalists and the British aid worker, as these acts are against the beliefs of Islam.

Relevant News Stories:
Rouhani: US Presence In The Region Exacerbates Terrorism Crisis – (Mehr News)
Iran Questions Seriousness of US-Led Coalition In Fight Against ISIL – (FARS News Agency)
Iraqi Cleric Urges Vigilance Against Western Interference – (NYT)
Don’t Forget About Iran – (Washington Post)

Rival presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani met with US Ambassador James Cunningham in Kabul following the third impasse in negotiations over forming a unity government, specifically over the release of final election audit results. Abdullah has threatened a complete withdrawal from unity talks if the results of the election audit are released before the a deal is reached on the future of an Abdullah-Ghani unity government. A resolution to this political crisis rests on the ability of Abdullah to convince his supporters that participation in a joint government, led by Ashraf Ghani and himself, will be stabilizing, constructive, and will translate into an agenda which reflects the legitimate aspirations of the people of Afghanistan. An agreement between the candidates is expected on Saturday.

Relevant News Stories:
How We Missed Mullah Omar – (Politico)

Members of parliament passed the 16th amendment to the country’s constitution, which will allow Parliament to investigate and remove Supreme Court judges on the grounds of misconduct and incapability. Lawmakers in the country have previously enjoyed this power, albeit only during the first four years right after the country’s independence. This is the first time such a law has resurfaced and passed. However, the bill was passed in a parliament dominated by the ruling Awami League party. The main opposition, the BNP, did not partake in the last general election and currently is not in Parliament. Therefore, there were no votes against the bill. Suranjit Sengupta, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law, ensured that the current government was not attempting to exercise excessive power and reduce checks and balances in the system by stating that, “we are only restoring an article of the 1972 Constitution. Parliament won’t impeach or remove judges. It will only approve results of investigations finding them guilty.”

Relevant News Stories:
Azhar Verdict Delivery Any Day – (Dhaka Tribune)

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pointed to the recent political protests as the main reason for the postponement of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit. The Chinese President had planned to come to Pakistan to sign some key agreements, the most important one dealing with electricity production. However, his trip was cancelled following the increasing number of anti-government protests in the country. Nawaz Sharif asked protesting parties and individuals to refrain from creating obstacles, which are preventing development in the country. China had previously announced that it would invest around $32 billion during the next seven years in projects related to infrastructure building and power production in Pakistan.

Relevant News Stories:
Pakistan’s Dueling Military Cultures – (Foreign Policy):
Suicide Bombers Can Attack PPP, PML-N Leaders: Ministry – (Samaa TV)
Thousands Rescued As Floods Hit Sindh (Dawn)

Sri Lanka
Chinese President Xi Jinping stopped by Colombo en route to India. He met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to secure multiple agreements, mostly dealing with infrastructure development. President Xi inaugurated the final phase of a coal-fired power plant funded by his nation. He also signed an agreement with President Rajapaksa to build a $1.3 billion artificial island off Colombo to house the new Colombo City Port. China already has multiple investments in Sri Lanka, such as the Colombo South Container Terminal. The Chinese government holds a controlling stake in this facility through the state-run China Merchant Holdings. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Sri Lanka immediately after the Maldives suggests that one of the prominent foreign policy issues in his agenda deals with securing Chinese shipping accessibility through the Indian Ocean into Africa.

Indian infrastructure conglomerate GMR signed a $1.4 billion agreement with the Nepali government to build the country’s biggest hydroelectric plant. This is set to be Nepal’s largest private foreign investment. Although China has shown great interest for many years in building the country’s power industry, this deal puts India ahead of China in terms of involvement in Nepal. Power shortages are a significant problem in the country, with residents enduring 12 hours a day without power. Hopefully the 900 MW will help reduce in the power shortages in the country. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal last month and promised $1 billion in concessional development loans that could be utilized towards infrastructure development, especially in the construction of power plants. The agreement also states that the majority of the power that will be produced at the plant will be exported to India. Interestingly, China’s Three Gorges International Corporation is also speaking to Nepal about building a $1.6 billion dam that would generate 750 MW in the same area as this plant. It is becoming apparent that Beijing is competing with New Delhi for influence in the Himalayan nation.