South Asia Summary: August 31-September 3, 2021

In Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a ‘beefing up’ of relations with China while India says it is too early to recognize the regime. The Taliban are struggling with running an economy while the money runs out. The Taliban announced progress in their campaign against Northern Alliance forces in the ethnically Tajik Panjshir Valley. Neighboring Tajikistan says it is unable to fulfill an earlier assurance that it could take in tens of thousands of Afghan refugees; meanwhile Tajik President Emomali Rahmon signed a decree posthumously awarding the country’s highest honor to two notable Afghans, Ahmad Shah Masud of the Northern Alliance and President Rabbani, both of whom were assassinated by the Taliban and its allies.

Bangladeshi attention continues to be focused on how the rise of the Taliban will alter South Asian geopolitics.

In India, Afghanistan remains the most dominant topic, especially how the Taliban victory may or may not boost Pakistani, Islamist, and/or Chinese power in the region. On a more domestic note, commentators are mulling the infighting in Congress-dominated states and a struggle between regional parties and Congress for leadership of the opposition against PM Modi. And, the question of whether or not there will be a caste census remains open.

In the Maldives, opposition supporters of former President Yameen are demanding an investigation into leaked audio recordings of some of the judges who convicted Yameen of corruption. The audio files, which have yet to be authenticated, suggest the judges may have made their decision under political pressure. The judges deny the authenticity of the recordings.

In Nepal, a statement released by the Ministry of Home Affairs has implicated India’s border security service in the disappearance of a Nepali man attempting to cross the border into India. A government advised pressing the Indian authorities on the matter. The Deuba government continues to be criticized for having failed to form a cabinet.

In Pakistan, there is at least as much, if not more, attention being paid to the American failure in Afghanistan than to the rise of the Taliban. More specifically the theme appears to be that Pakistan has played and continues to play a responsible role in Afghanistan, that the Taliban was broadly justified in removing an American puppet regime, that Pakistan will try to moderate Islamist excesses that could emanate from Afghanistan, and that it will be difficult because of the degree to which the US damaged the country.

In Sri Lanka, with a state of emergency under way due to a forex crisis instigating a food shortage, rumors are beginning to spread that it is minority Tamil and Muslim merchants who might be actually to blame, and there is a fear of the government taking advantage of its new powers.

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