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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 309

Pakistan Frees Taliban Prisoners;
Obama in Historic Trip to Burma;
Nepal's Maoist-led Government Calls for Springtime Election

Edited by Jeff Smith & Amanda Sawit
November 28, 2012

In mid-November Islamabad released 16 unnamed Taliban prisoners, possibly including a hardline former Taliban justice minister, into Afghan custody. “Things are starting to move. This is definitely an attempt by Pakistan to change tack and show both sides that they are serious about a settlement and an endgame,” Pakistani analyst Najam Sethi told the New York Times. The release came on the heels of a trip to Pakistan by a three-member Afghan delegation from the High Peace Council. Prisoner transfers have been a “core demand” of the Afghan government, which executed six of the Taliban prisoners just days after the Pakistani government released them. (The New York Times, November 14 and The New York Times, November 21 2012)

President Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar in November, during a Southeast Asian trip that also included stops in Thailand and Cambodia. While there, Obama commended the country’s progress toward democracy and emphasized the need to address persistent concerns about human rights abuses. The Burmese government neatly timed the release of about 450 prisoners shortly before Obama’s visit, though humans rights groups say the group included no political prisoners. Aside from facing continuing accusations of persecution of the country’s minority ethnic Rohingya population, Burma is struggling with an insurgency from ethnic Kachin rebels. Days before the Obama visit, members of the Kachin Independence Army launched a deadly attack on a prison convoy, killing two and injuring 14. (The Associated Press, November 16 2012; The Wall Street Journal, November 19 2012)

NEPAL’S MAOIST-LED GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR SPRINGTIME ELECTIONS The Maoist-led government of Nepal has called for polls to elect a new parliament to take place sometime in April or May of 2013. The announcement revives hope for an end to the political gridlock that has paralyzed the country’s political system for years, largely over disagreements from competing political factions on how to draft a new constitution following years of a bloody civil war. Elections had originally been set for the end of November, but due to legal problems and dissent between political parties on election logistics, the polls have been delayed until the spring. (AFP, November 21 2012)

China and India will hold talks on their disputed border December 3-4, when Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will meet outgoing Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo in Beijing. Menon explained that the two sides are in the “second stage” of the dispute settlement process, and are now “agreeing on a framework to settle the boundary.” The two countries have held 15 rounds of Special Representatives (SR) talks since 2003, although the December meeting in Beijing is not being billed as a formal round of SR talks. Those will have to wait until China replaces Dai Bingguo with a new State Councillor in the aftermath of the 18th Party Congress. Ahead of the talks, Menon tried to downplay a row over Beijing issuing a new map of China in its passports that includes Indian territory claimed by China. Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had days earlier taken a tougher line, deeming the new Chinese maps “unacceptable.” (Deccan Herald ,November 26, 2012)

Related Categories: Southeast Asia; South Asia; South Asia Program

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