welcome to Foreign Police‘s South Asia Brief.

This week’s highlights: A Quadrilateral Security Dialogue initiative expands its scope to the Indian Ocean region, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan marches on Islamabad, and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka promises austerity.

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The Quad extends its field of action to the Indian Ocean

Leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad countries – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – met for the fourth time in Tokyo this week. Their joint statement pledged continued cooperation, from the COVID-19 vaccination program to cybersecurity collaborations. The group has enjoyed significant momentum in recent years, in part because each member has seen their relationship with China fall to the lowest level in decades.

The joint statement mentions a new initiative that bodes well for India: a program to monitor maritime challenges, from natural disasters to illegal fishing, which includes centers for sharing information and resources in the ocean region. Indian, as well as in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. he is. This shows that the Quad has widened its geographical reach to areas of strategic interest to India, which is increasingly concerned about China’s growing presence in the region. It also suggests that the Quad wants to do more in the areas that matter most to the four members.

The Quad was launched in 2004 to provide humanitarian aid to Asian countries after an earthquake and tsunami that year hit the Indian Ocean region hard. However, much of the group’s recent strategic focus has focused on East and Southeast Asia, including affirm his support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, express concerns on maritime challenges in the East and South China Seas, and promise help to the Pacific Islands. The Quad’s flagship projects, such as its vaccine partnership, specifically target Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. But the new maritime initiative defines the Indo-Pacific as a geographic whole, placing equal emphasis on each part.

Quad countries understandably worry about China’s growing trade ties with Southeast Asian states and its weaponization of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The maritime surveillance initiative also reflects concerns over Beijing’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean region. China accelerated infrastructure investments in Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Its fishing vessels are popping up all over the Indian Ocean, and India said last year it had discovered a Chinese research vessel near the Andaman Islands, where New Delhi has territorial possessions.

China is also expanding its military presence. He established a military base in Djibouti, East Africa. According to Indian Navy, at any given time, six to eight Chinese warships are operating in the northern Indian Ocean. “Within a decade, China could position itself as the dominant naval power in the critical space stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb,” said Sameer Lalwani, a security expert in South Asia. wrote recently.

So far, some members of the Quad have not given the Indian Ocean region the strategic importance it deserves. For example, Australian strategy documents to define The immediate region of Australia extending only to the northeastern parts of the Indian Ocean. United States doesn’t a formal strategy for the Indian Ocean. But there are signs of change on that front: U.S. officials recently Underline the Indian Ocean region in discussions of the Indo-Pacific as a whole.

The Quad’s new maritime initiative raises the possibility that two of the group’s core objectives – promoting stability and providing public goods – extend more fully to the Indian Ocean region and the states that straddle it.

More political drama in Pakistan. Pakistan’s political temperature is still rising, amid growing economic challenges. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, ousted in a no-confidence vote last month, previously announced he would lead a march to Islamabad on May 25 and remain there until the current government agrees to early elections. This weekend, the police raided houses of several opposition leaders and arrested another on unclear charges. On Tuesday, the government said Khan’s march could not move forward.

Khan and his supporters in Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party still traveled to Islamabad on Wednesday. Some PTI supporters were gassed by the police and nearly 2,000 people have been arrested. There were also a few reports violence perpetrated by PTI supporters. But on Thursday, Khan abruptly changed course: he announcement that he would leave Islamabad but return in six days if the government did not agree to early polls.

The about-face could be to avoid more violence, but it also suggests some negotiations are underway with the government that could lead to a snap election. The government may already be signaling the decision: according to media reports and several leaders of the ruling party, discussions on possible election dates have taken place in recent days. And on Thursday, the National Assembly passed a new law this would limit the voting options of Pakistanis abroad, many of whom are PTI supporters.

Afghan journalists demonstrate. The Taliban recently announced that all female news anchors must wear on-air face coverings, following further draconian restrictions on women’s freedoms. Some male journalists now have chosen to express solidarity with them wearing face masks during their television appearances as well, saying they will do so until the Taliban rescinds their decree. Other Afghan personalities, including former President Hamid Karzai, called on presenters to defy the order.

Afghan women and journalists have been suffering since the Taliban took power last August. Afghan journalists have been beaten and threatened by the Taliban, and many of them have fled the country. The crackdowns contrast with the Taliban’s treatment of foreign journalists, who have operated more freely, likely to project a softer side of the regime to the world. Last week, for example, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister promises budget cuts. Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has promised deep cuts in an interim budget due for release in six weeks, according to Reuters. He said the cuts will include cuts to infrastructure projects to free up more funds for a new relief package. Sri Lanka has come full circle: The roots of its current economic crisis can be traced back to the prioritization of infrastructure projects – and the taking out of huge loans to finance them – at the end of its civil war in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government also announced this week that it had hired international advisers to help restructure the country’s huge debt. Both measures – austerity and debt restructuring – are necessary for Sri Lanka to receive the bailout it is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund.

Tuesday, the Taliban reached an agreement with GAAC Solutions, an airline based in the United Arab Emirates, to manage ground operations at airports in the Afghan cities of Herat, Kandahar and Kabul. The move is somewhat surprising given the Taliban’s previous negotiations with Qatar and Turkey over an airport deal. But GAAC has been handling ground operations at Kabul airport since the Taliban takeover last year.

One reason the Taliban may have extended the arrangement with GAAC is that the company agreed not to have security personnel operating at Afghan airports. The Taliban have long insisted that there can be no foreign security forces in Afghanistan.

The new deal is an ideal scenario for the Taliban, which can now boost the airport’s operating capacity and increase the chances of more international fighting, which has been infrequent since the Taliban takeover. The deal is also a public relations boon for the Taliban: it shows that the international community is ready to do business with the regime, despite its regressive social policies.

The regime is likely to continue to seek help from foreign companies, which is not a new strategy. When they were in power in the 1990s, for several years, the Taliban negotiated with the American energy company Unocal on a possible pipeline project. (Unocal got out due to growing US concern over Taliban ties to al-Qaeda.)

In the daily stararchitect Adnan Zillur Morshed argue that solving Dhaka’s notorious traffic problems requires more than technical fixes like better traffic lights. Traffic jams in the Bangladeshi capital are “the result of a complex combination of socio-cultural factors, a lack of rational land use and misguided urban governance”, he writes.

Environmentalist Neha Panchamia writing in the To print on the importance of releasing endangered species into the wild in India, despite the challenges of finding the right place to do so. “There is an urgent need to proactively rehabilitate and release individual animals – they would be better off getting a second chance at survival than spending their lives in captivity and burdening a system that is already relentlessly collapsing,” writes -she.

pakistan today journalist Nazim Ouddin warns that supporting former Prime Minister Imran Khan is not a good decision for Pakistani youth. “It’s time for young people to follow rationality, evidence and reality before pledging allegiance to someone who can manipulate them,” he argues.