Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s South Asia Brief. This week’s highlights include Pakistan dealing with militant threats along its borders with Iran and Afghanistan, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan receiving two prison sentences, and India preparing to unveil a politically important budget. Sign up to receive South Asia Brief in your inbox every Wednesday. Earlier this month, Iran and Pakistan exchanged cross-border strikes, targeting separatist militants. Relations were plunged into crisis before officials agreed to de-escalate. However, developments in the past few days have amplified the security challenges that Pakistan faces on its border with Iran. On Monday, militants launched a coordinated attack in Mach, a town in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The ethnic separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility, and Pakistani security officials say the assault was quickly repelled, though some Baloch media dispute that claim. Meanwhile, Pakistan is also grappling with rising tensions on its northwestern border with Afghanistan, as attacks by the Afghanistan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have surged. Pakistan recently announced a policy that expelled hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees. Additionally, tensions between India and Pakistan have intensified, with detailed Pakistani allegations that India has carried out targeted assassinations in Pakistan. Pakistan has long alleged that New Delhi is the BLA’s main external backer. Pakistan’s security concerns along its borders reflect a trend across South Asia. Both India and Bhutan dispute their borders with China, while Myanmar’s civil war is spilling over its border with Bangladesh. India recently announced plans to fence its border with Myanmar due to security issues. These tensions pose stability risks and make regional cooperation and connectivity more difficult. They also distract policy attention from critical domestic challenges. The impacts of border tensions are hitting Pakistan especially hard, given its struggling economy. Pakistan holds elections next week, and the main campaign themes revolve around the country’s economic crisis and bitter political rivalries. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to years behind bars for violating a state secrets law and on corruption charges. Khan is already in prison for a corruption conviction that he alleges is politically motivated, and these latest convictions compound his legal woes. In a separate development, the Indian Navy rescued Pakistani sailors from a ship hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, demonstrating India’s increasing naval posture in the Indian Ocean region. Finally, the Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will unveil the government’s interim budget on Thursday, just a few months before the country’s national elections. The Maldives are also experiencing political turmoil, as the Maldivian Democratic Party threatened to submit a motion to impeach President Mohamed Muizzu after tensions rose in Parliament and over his pro-China stance. The Maldives holds parliamentary elections on March 17.

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