Some South Asia links and reading ahead of the weekend:
In a somewhat disappointing piece of news for NATO coalition forces ahead of their withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, Afghan poppy production was reported to see new highs in this year’s harvest. Weaning the country’s farmers off their reliance on opium farming – which fuels the harmful and illegal global heroin and narcotics trade – was a major strategic goal for coalition forces in Afghanistan over the last decade. However, this hasn’t changed – Afghan farmers continue to rely on opium farming for their livelihoods in many cases. The New York Times cites an anonymous Western diplomat’s reaction to the news: "We have failed, we have lost — that’s all there is to it."
Over at The New Yorker, Mohammed Hanif examines the causes of Pakistan’s often perverse fondness for its militants – its “tormenters” as he calls them. The piece examines the intersection of Islam, culture, and security in Pakistan. Hanif offers the following diagnosis of the Pakistani state’s problem in confronting the Taliban: "Pakistani soldiers are trained to shout 'allahu akbar' when attacking their enemies. But the enemy they face shouts 'allahu akbar' much louder. The Taliban are not mentally disturbed, as our Prime Minister suggests—they believe in something. The state doesn’t."
India’s most famous and prolific cricketer, and perhaps one of the most popular athletes in the world, Sachin Tendulkar, retired from international cricket after being dismissed for 74 runs in his 200th and final Test match. See The Diplomat’s coverage of his legacy in India.
In a victory for Bangladesh’s often-downtrodden garment workers, the state decided to raise the minimum wage by 77 percent to 5,300 tala (US$68). Labor conditions came has been under the international spotlight since a devastating building collapse at a garment factory earlier this year.
Political change could be in the books for Bhutan its main opposition as party, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa Party (DPT) won a by-election for a parliamentary seat vacated by the former Prime Minister.
In other political news, the Maldives begins to gear up for a presidential runoff vote between its first freely elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, who was elected president in 2008, and Yaamin Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom, brother to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – the island country’s former autocrat who ruled for 30 years.
Down under in Sri Lanka, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting began, amid international controversy over Sri Lanka’s human rights record. I argued in The Diplomat yesterday that India’s decision to not send Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was short-sighted.