MonitorsPublished on Aug 08, 2018
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. XI Issue 32


Sri Lanka: ‘Transactional approach’ to India relations persists, still

N Sathiya Moorthy The off-again-on-again buoyancy in the bilateral relations with the Indian neighbour notwithstanding, Sri Lanka’s approach in this regard has ab initio been stymied by successive governments’  ‘transactional attitude’, which makes for mistrust rather than and confidence-building. While Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans can go back in contemporary history to argue how India had ‘interfered’ in the nation’s internal affairs by promoting ‘Tamil militancy at every turn until it became a ‘security baggage’ for Indians too, they are unwilling to consider similar instances of ‘Indian complaints of the kind. India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was in Colombo recently on his maiden visit after taking charge only months earlier. According to media reports, the two sides discussed all pending bilateral issues and concerns, and reiterated their commitment to take the agreed commitments forward. Alongside, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also launched a nation-wide emergency ambulance service for Sri Lanka, through video-conferencing from New Delhi, taking forward New Delhi’s pilot initiative of the kind from recent years. Though well-intentioned and all, there has always been problems of slow decision-making, for which India often gets blame. Sri Lanka too cannot escape the blame of the kind but would not admit it. For instance, the ‘free ambulance scheme’ was up on the anvil from around the concluding months of ‘Eelam War IV’ alongside such other civilian rehabilitation measures like free tractors and other farming implements, ‘Jaipur foot’ centres and the like, all in the war-ravaged areas, to begin with. Mainly targeting the Tamil civilian victims of war, the scheme did not possibly exclude Sri Lankan soldiers who too required ‘Jaipur foot’. While this scheme may have run successfully at least for a time, complaints that the host-Government was diverting most tractors to the ‘Sinhala South’ for distributing among their constituents meant that New Delhi needed going slow on the scheme, as also on the prospective ‘free ambulance scheme’ than originally thought of.

Microcosm of the nation

Less said about the war-time Indian proposal for setting up a coal-fired power-plant in multi-ethnic Eastern Province, the better it is. The Province has had an equal population of Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims with a share of Upcountry Tamils of recent Indian origin, thus making it a microcosm of the nation as a whole. However, the then Rajapaksa regime would play hide-and-seek on the Sampur power project, citing legal and other impediments. Sri Lanka ended up scuttling the project by choosing a ‘population centre’ for the site, requiring further displacement of the Sri Lankan Tamil (SLT) than what the war already entailed.  For the record, the Government of the day kept coming up with one legal issue after another, one advice from the Attorney-General’s office after another. It is another matter that the Sri Lankan Tamil community was unfriendly, too. Their purported grievance flowed from the Rajapaksa regime’s choice of the project-site. However, it was not unknown their opposition flowed even more from the Tamil Diaspora perception that India was helping the Sri Lankan Government in ‘defeating’ the LTTE, which the latter ultimately achieved. The moderate Tamil polity of the time was as captive in the hands of the LTTE and its Diaspora backers. Worse still, the war-victorious Rajapaksa regime, too, felt captive still in the hands of self-styled ‘Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ constituencies, from the political left, right and centre. In between, India has also expanded the emergency relief of post-war temporary housing measures for Sri Lanka’s decades-long war-weary IDPs, beginning with those in the Eastern Province in 2007, through the construction of permanent structures. The scheme originally meant for the war victims, has since been expanded to cover Upcountry Tamils or recent Indian origin, or Indian-origin Tamils (IOTs) first and the Sinhala villages, too, in stages. Here again, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans have come up with one reservation after the other, both under the old regime and the present one. At the commencement of the temporary housing scheme itself, there arose instant criticism from the Tamil civilian victims of the war, that the easily transportable temporary housing material comprising zinc sheets and iron support-pillars and the like made for a furnace, and they needed only locally available palm-thatch. The fact was the famous northern palms in Sri Lanka had been long since cut down by the LTTE and the armed forces for tactical and logistic reasons in the first decade of the war.

‘Signing on dotted line’?

Nothing explains Sri Lanka’s ‘transactional approach’ to India relations better than the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government seeking out and obtaining non-transactional Indian military help to neutralise the ‘JVP first insurgency’ of 1971, then going on to provide  refuelling facilities for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at the height of the ‘Bangladesh War’ only months later. In a way, successor J R Jayewardene leadership too ended up talking India into taking on the ‘security responsibility’ of the LTTE-controlled North and the East for the Sri Lankan armed forces to ‘neutralise’ the ‘JVP second insurgency (1987-89). Sri Lankans, especially ‘Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists’ and sections of the country’s strategic community, have not ‘forgiven’ India and the Rajiv Gandhi leadership for allegedly ‘forcing’ JRJ into ‘signing on the dotted line’ of Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, 1987. Tthe fact remained that Sri Lanka got more out of the deal in real terms than they are willing to acknowledge to this late day. It is also inconceivable to argue that the ‘JVP second insurgency’ owed to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.  Instead, anyone with an iota of understanding of ‘left militant movements’ the world over at the time, including the one in Sri Lanka, would readily concede that the Accord might have provided an ‘immediate excuse’ to the JVP to revive the ‘militant adversity with the Sri Lankan State’ that they had lost way back in 1971. If it was not the Accord, the JVP would have discovered another reason and justification to revive the ‘Second Insurgency’ (1987-89). As subsequent events proved, they were ‘militarily’ preparing themselves for such an assault on the Sri Lankan State for long, almost since the neutralisation of the failed attempt of 1971. Against this, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was tied up within a short period though preceded by unending negotiations for months. Having given up militancy as a tool to achieve social justice et al, the modern-day JVP still continues with founder Rohana Wijeweera’s ‘Five Classes’, which includes ‘Indian hegemony’ as one. Though the LTTE is down and out, their Diasproa supporters hate India as much as they hate the Sri Lankan State. Interestingly, throughout their contemporary career in militancy and terrorism, the JVP and the LTTE never ever trained their guns at each other, but only against the Sri Lankan State  and its backers, both from within the country and outside – apart from  ‘enemies of the faith’ from within the respective outfit. The real Sri Lankan intentions in the ‘use-and-throw’ of critical Indian assistance became clear under President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who succeeded JRJ. Having neutralised the JVP through a ‘bloody massacre’ that claimed the lives of up to 100,000 rural/semi-urban Sinhala youth of both genders in the reproductive age-group, the Premadasa leadership conspired with the LTTE, to ask the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) to pack up and go. With victory for the Government in the decisive ‘Eelam War IV’, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, would swear that ‘India’s help alone made it possible’, but the administration would do everything to make India uncomfortable first, suspicious later on. The reference is to Sri Lanka’s China relations, fostered by the Rajapaksa regime and promoted as much and even more by the present-regime, which claims to be India-friendly. A closer look at the Sri Lankan approaches of the ‘transactional’ nature would show that even as the leadership of the time would project ‘national interests’ as a genuine concern, it owed mainly at personality-projection within the country and/or outside than may have been the case from the Indian side, if at all. Thus, JRJ’s perceived openness to irritate and hurt India by identifying with the US during the ‘Cold War’ era owed more to his own perceptions about the prevailing Indira Gandhi leadership in India than anything else.

Time, energy and inclination

Through all this and more, India had shown its genuineness in strengthening bilateral relations even after the Sri Lankan ‘betrayal’ over ‘Bangladesh War’ by handing out a near one-sided solution on the issue of ‘International Maritime Boundary Line’ (IMBL) only three years later, in 1974. India agreed to the crooked drawing of the IMBL to ensure that Katchateevu islet, geographically closer to the Indian shores and with legitimate Indian claims even otherwise, fell on the Sri Lankan side of the 1964 agreement. This again owed exclusively to the genuineness of the Indian approach to bilateral relations, after dismissing the ‘PAF issue’ as a stand-alone, one-time affair. It is interesting to note that India, under Indira Gandhi, was dealing with the very same Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, on both occasions. Possibly, it was also not as if India was not aware of the inevitable ‘fishers’ dispute’ that followed and has continued to date, but it was ready to do as much and also take the attendant risk, in the name of ‘genuine good-neighbourliness’.

‘Black July’ pogrom

If in between, the Indian training and arming of the Tamil militant groups occurred, it owed to the ‘Black July’ anti-Tamil pogrom, encouraged by the JRJ regime, which led to the forced migration of Tamil refugees to India, risking their lives in mid-seas and leaky boats. At the height of the crisis, their numbers stood at 250,000. Today, full 35 years after it all began and a decade after the conclusion of the war in Sri Lanka, India, especially southern Tamil Nadu, is home to over 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees, who have made India their home, with children and grandchildren born and brought up in the country. India’s experience from the past had made the Government wary of admitting Sri Lankan refugees but instead help them to stay back their battles in their own lands. The immediate lesson came from the ‘Bangladesh refugee crisis’, when 10 million civilian war-victims crossed over, creating a demographic and socio-political unease that the host-nation could ill-afford then and later. India has had similar experiences already with the ‘Burma refugees’ and even ‘Tibetan refugees’ who had accompanied the Dalai Lama when he sought and obtained asylum from India. India’s Sri Lankan experience was none better – or, even worse, so to say. Sri Lanka obtained Independence from the common British coloniser on 4 February 1948 only months India itself had obtained its freedom on 15 August 1947, but accompanied by violent Partition and forced migration of millions. At the time, New Delhi did not have the time, energy and inclination to take a closer look when Colombo made disenfranchising of ‘Indian Origin Tamils’ (IOT) and rendering them ‘State-less’ the first and fast-tracked major plank on the national agenda, where there seemed to be a ‘national consensus’, unprecedented, then and since. Through all these three-plus decades, India has never ever talked about sending them back home, despite specific suggestions to the effect from some among the refugees. Instead, India has been steadfast in maintaining that it would send them back at its own expense, if and only if the Sri Lankan Government could guarantee their safety and security, including livelihood security.

 China factor

Nothing explains the transactional nature of the Sri Lankan approach to India relations than the post-war Rajapaksa regime fast-tracking China-funded projects in the country at the expense of India relations, which his Government knew would suffer. It is not only about the Rajapaksa Government clearing the Hambantota Port development project, the Colombo Port extension, and the Colombo Port City, apart from a series of highway projects -- all of which bore the ‘China emblem’, on the ground, and literally so. Worse is the case of the present-day Sri Lankan rulers, namely President Maithiripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Having given the impression that they had had Indian blessings while electorally challenging and consolidating themselves against the outgoing Rajapaksa regime, they have only helped India’s Chinese adversary to consolidate its hold over and presence in Sri Lanka. Thus, citing an impending debt-trap on the Hambantota front, which they refused to discuss in public or even in Parliament, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government has since promptly converted Chinese investments/loans for the project into ‘equity’, thus handing over strategic Sri Lankan real-estate facing the Indian Ocean, too, to the post-Cold War Chinese ‘occupiers’ of the East India Company kind.  If ahead of Elections-2015, they volunteered to cancel the Colombo Port City project, citing their own perceptions of security threat to the ‘friendly Indian neighbour’, after coming to power, they claimed to have modified the Rajapaksa deal, but without much change. It now looks as if the present-day rulers used the Indian name only to strike a ‘better deal’ (but for who?) on these suspect projects, just as Rajapaksa had cancelled the Hambantota MoU with China, if only to re-enthuse India, before going back to Beijing and for good. It is another matter that criticism for the incumbent Government’s more-than-friendly gestures to China came from former President Mahinda Rajpaaksa. He even challenged the present-day rulers that he had declined a deal for ‘equity-transfer’ in China’s favour, but once again the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe leadership(s) has/have refused to discuss or debate the issue in public.

Willingness to wait...

This apart, when the push came to shove, Sri Lanka plain and simple tired out India on the construction of Sampur power-plant, with the result the latter wound up the offer and initiative. This was so notwithstanding the precedent of the Chinese-funded Norchcholai coal-fired power project, whose teething-troubles have continued into years, to the present-day. Similar has also been the fate of the upgrading of India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) into CEPA under the Rajapaksa regime and remodelled as ETCA under the present government. The Indian genuineness and ‘willingness-to-wait’ from the Rajapaksa days on, successive Sri Lankan Governments seem hoping to talk out and tire out India out of it all, as they have mastered the art over the decades, on this and other issues. Today, with Sri Lanka on election-mode, way ahead of the presidential polls that are not due before end-2019 but for which the polity has been getting ready from earlier this year, there is no hope or scope for ECTA to move forward, any time soon. This, even as the present-day rulers swear by the pact and its usefulness to Sri Lanka. It is this well-articulated approach followed/accompanied by well-tried-out tactics that is at the centre of finding a political solution to the ethnic issue, where the Tamil-centric TNA too seems to enjoy the status quo as much as their Sinhala counterparts, friends and political adversaries. The TNA would not accept a fresh look and a national discourse on the subject when the post-war Rajapaksa regime offered it, but readily conceded a new-look Constitution, proposed by the present-day rulers, pre-poll. As was only to be anticipated, the new Constitution has not made substantive progress, and no one would have any serious complaint, now that the ‘elections are round the corner, and the inherent Sinhala political compulsions’ cannot be wished away. Better or worse still, the same argument will now extended to cover the Indian offer, or the offer for India to take over the management of the Rajapaksa regime’s wasted Mattala Airport, the only one of its size in the world where no commercial aircraft lands, and the development and growth of eastern Trincomallee port and town, and also the reconstruction of the northern Kankesanthurai port, a proposal that has been pending since before the conclusion of the war, close to a decade back. The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai

Bhutan: Tough decisions, ‘many firsts’ for outgoing Govt

Mihir Bhonsale The second democratic Government of Bhutan completed its tenure on 1 August. With this, the Himalayan kingdom completed one full decade of electoral democracy. Ably led by Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, the second democratic Government will be remembered for taking tough decisions without relenting to pressure. The Togbay Government has made way for an interim administration to take charge until a successor is elected in October. The smooth transition of state power has become a characteristic feature of Bhutanese democracy that held general elections for the first time in 2008. The outgoing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration’s term in power was marked by ‘many firsts’ in the history of the tiny Buddhist kingdom, especially in respect of international relations. The term of the Government also began with controversies and blockages.

Neighbourhood balance

It is necessary for Bhutan, a land-locked nation between China and India, to balance her relations. Tobgay’s and his government’s nerves were tested by the 2017 Doklam stand-off between the second largest and third largest militaries at the tri-junction of China, Bhutan and India. The six month stand-off was resolved diplomatically in October. Bhutan preferred silence and backdoor diplomacy to engage New Delhi and Beijing. Bhutanese statesman showed exemplary discipline and painstaking efforts in engaging her two neighbours to avoid a military conflict at the tri-junction. In 2016 Bhutan was applauded for setting the ‘most ambitious pledge’ during the climate talks in Paris or Conference of Parties (COP) 21. In the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) submitted by the country, Bhutan revealed it emits 2.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent against the sequestration by forests, which is about 6.3 million tonnes of CO2. Bhutan also pledged to maintain 60 percent of its forest cover. During its term, the Government was able to diversify her foreign relations. The important one was intensifying economic engagement with Bangladesh. The signing of the $ 1-billion trilateral hydro-power cooperation agreement with Bangladesh and India in 2016 was the noticeable one on this score.The go -ahead of India on the trilateral agreement signalled a sweet spot that Bhutan-India relations had hit. Earlier in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made Bhutan the destination of his first overseas visit after assuming his post. In the Indian’s visit to Thimphu, he complimented Bhutan’s political relations with India as “Bharat to Bhutan”- wherein India stands for Bhutan and Bhutan for India.

Parliament’s challenge

Prime Minister Tobgay and his Cabinet colleagues faced parliamentary hurdle over important drafts of legislations. The BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement signed by the government in 2015 could not be ratified owing to the voting down of the bill in 2016. The agreement was aimed at achieving seamless movement of passenger and transport vehicles among the BBIN countries. After the lower house of the parliament – National Assembly (NA) acceded to the BBIN-MVA in 2016, a National Council (NC) session in November of the same year rejected Bhutan’s accession to the agreement citing costs to the country’s environment and culture as pitfalls to the agreement. The Tshering Tobgay government pushed hard for ratification arguing that BBIN is not restricted to road connectivity alone, but opens opportunities for cooperation in areas of energy, trade, information and communication technology and tourism. However, the Government’s optimism faded in the following months as concerns about the impact of the MVA on the environment, economy and security of the country began to ring alarm bells in Bhutanese official circles, especially among the opposition party leaders. Consequently, the Parliament decided to revoke the agreement after it was endorsed.

Shedding LDC status

One of the formidable tasks for the new government is to ensure a smooth transition from United Nation’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list. A triennial review of LDC by the United Nations (UN) in March this year recommended Bhutan’s graduation from the LDC’s by 2021. Bhutan has asked its graduation to take place in 2023 instead. The most important task for the new government is to ensure a smooth transition from LDC. Implementation of the Nu 300 billion- 12th Five Year Plan is crucial since the plan aims at economic growth through the Gross National Happiness principles of safeguarding environment and culture and ensuring a good governance system. Bhutan really needs to work hard on the only criteria for LDC graduation that it failed- the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI). Though Bhutan’s EVI improved from 43.04 in 2000 to 40.2 in 2018, higher the EVI, higher is the economic vulnerability of a country and the threshold for graduation in case the EVI is 32 or below. The third government would have to assume this responsibility. Symptomatic of Bhutan’s economic vulnerability calculus is the nation’s narrow economic base and high dependency on external trade. Nearly half of her exports are concentrated on hydro-power exports to India, thus exposing the country to trade shocks. The GDP structure of the country has a larger share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and implies higher exposure to shocks, both in terms of trade and to natural disasters. This has left behind an important task of developing tertiary sectors and decreasing dependency over primary sector for the new Government to accomplish. The Himalayan kingdom has completed a decade into her tryst with democracy. There’s no looking back for this country that prides of the indivisibility of the TsaWa Sum or king, country and people. It must be remembered that it was the visionary monarchs who initiated Bhutan into democracy and have steered the country on the path of progress. The writer is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata

Country Reports


Talks on national issues

As talks are on for the removal of the police chief of Kandahar province, General Abdul Raziq by the Afghan government, the former engaged in a discussion with the Chief Executive of Jamiat Islami, Ata Mohammad Noor. Both highly critical of the Afghan government focussed this meeting on the current situation in the country, the upcoming elections and future programmes. Haji Hazraat Ali, the representative of the Nangarhar province in the Lower House, also attended the meeting.

Better coordination on Kabul

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani recently met with the Mayor of Kabul and the municipal district chiefs of the city to discuss the key issues the residents of Kabul are facing. It was emphasised that the city Municipality should have a clear picture of the capacity and limitations of the capital so as to better deal with provision of various services especially water supply. The President also urged several municipal and police departments to improve mutual coordination.


Students protest for road safety

Bangladesh capital Dhaka came almost to a standstill as the students took to the street demanding road safety. The students were agitation begun after a speeding bus killed two students.  Hundreds and thousands of students took control of the capital streets demanding justice and road safety. The situation turned volatile after a minister termed the agitating students as hypocrites resulting outpouring of public anger. To break the impasse government have termed demand of the students as valid and agreed to implement them. Traffic is an important problem in Dhaka city. Commuters spend hours it the road because of traffic and jams are common in the city.

Three-city polls

The city corporations of Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal underwent elections this week. Considering the national elections to be held in December this year, these city polls were a decisive test for the Election Commission (EC) in conducting credible elections. Ruling Awami League won in Barisal and Rajshahi while i rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won in Sylhet. The election commission declared that the polls were free and fair with less violence. The BNP, however, claimed that the resulted were manipulated.


Curtains for National Assembly

The second National Assembly dissolved on August 1 marking a completion of a decade of democracy. The members of the cabinet will hold office until the formation of an interim government. However, except for the prime minister and the works and human settlement minister, all the ministers will attend office in their white kabneys.

CG calls on Assam Governor  

Consul-General of Bhutan, Phub Tshering called on Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi at Raj Bhavan on August 1 and discussed issues of bilateral interest like trade and commerce and tourism in particular. Their discussion centred on deepening the bilateral relation taking advantage of Act East Policy.

Honorary Consul

The office of the Honorary Consul of Switzerland was opened in Thimphu on 1 August, coinciding with the 727th National Day celebrations of that country. Former Minister, Kinzang Dorji, who has been serving as the president of the Bhutan-Switzerland Society, was appointed as the first Honorary Consul.


‘No discrimination’

Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the 3 August said in Parliament that there will be no discrimination in the drawing of Assam’s citizen’s list that is likely to exclude 40 lakh people from the state. "The process is fair and transparent. We are doing everything according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court. Every step is being followed,” he said.

Opposition wants balloting

As many as 17 parties will approach the Election Commission demanding that 2019 general election be held on ballot paper instead of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Trinamool Congress leader, Derek O'Brien stated that "This is a matter on which all Opposition parties agreed. We are planning to meet next week. We plan to go to Election Commission and demand that the EC conduct the coming Lok Sabha elections using ballot papers."

Nirav Modi’s extradition sought

The extradition request of the jeweller Nirav Modi, wanted for a Rs. 13,500-crore bank fraud along with his uncle Mehul Choksi has been sent to the United Kingdom, the government informed the Parliament. The request has been sent by a Special Diplomatic Bag to the High Commission of India in London, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, said in the Rajya Sabha on 2 August.


Govt sees ‘destabilisation plot’

With only weeks to go for the 23 September presidential polls, Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar has said that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Maldives Police Service (MPS) have uncovered a plot to destabilise the nation, by inciting riots and violence. He did not give details in his Facebook posting, even as the police warned the Joint Opposition camp not to put up posters of self-exiled leaders like former MDP President Mohammed Nasheed and Jumhooree Party founder Gasim Ibrahim, while campaigning for their candidate Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih. In a related yet separate development, Opposition-centric TV channels stopped live-telecast of a JO rally under threat of cancellation of broadcasting licence while the campaign speeches of these leaders were being telecast.


New Speaker

U Mahn Win Khaing Than handed over his role as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (joint parliament) speaker to Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) Speaker U T Khun Myat on 1 August, which marked 30 months of parliament’s second term. The transfer was mandated by the constitution. U T Khun Myat served as chairman of the bill committee in the lower house and was deputy speaker before being named speaker to replace U Win Myint, who resigned when he became president. President U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other ministers attended the ceremony.

Seeds for flood-victims

U Myo Tint Tun, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, said that during the past two months, hundreds of thousands of acres of paddy fields have been destroyed by floods. As rice is a staple food and one of Myanmar’s exports, the ministry is focusing on ensuring that the expected output for the year will not be affected. Thus the government has prepared 70,000 baskets of seed to help rice farmers whose crops have been destroyed by the widespread floods.

Trade with Korea down

Trade between Myanmar and the Republic of Korea (ROK), within the first two months of this financial year, reached US$109 million, which showed a slight decrease in value by over $11 million against last year. Myanmar’s imports outperformed exports in bilateral trade this year. The country exported local commodities worth $43.8 million and imported Korean products worth $65.5 million in April and May this year. At the same period last year, the Myanmar-South Korea trade was valued at $120.5 million, including $37.3 million in exports and $83.2 million in imports.


House panels cleared

The Federal Parliament has finally come up with the formation of 14 committees, after around six months of embarking upon the parliamentary process. The major cause behind the delay was opposition from the Nepali Congress (NC) with regard to its demand to assure committee head position to them. As of now the improved situation has identified several important sectors in the form of committees ranging from International Relations to finance and health along with several others in the Upper and Lower Houses.

ADB treads slow

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made enormous investments in Nepal for its development. However, the pace of its development has been rather slow since 2018 itself. As of now, only 70 per cent of the target has been achieved for awarding the projects that are being co-financed by a Manila based multilateral lending institution. The review period has witnessed only USD 104 million worth of contracts out of USD 149 million. There are civil aviation and water supply projects associated among the several others.


US to reduce aid

The United States Defence Authorisation act which will be implemented by 2019 states that future security-related aid to Pakistan will not be linked to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts. The amendment to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2019 proposes massive cut to security related aid to Pakistan reducing it to $350,000,000.

Planning TAPI

The incoming government has decided to move forward with project TAPI. The $10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project is expected to be a major move by Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf to cope with the daunting challenge of energy shortages. The work for the pipeline is scheduled to commence in May and as Russia is also planning to build a pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, the authorities are looking for alternative designs to reduce time for project implementation.

Schools burnt

Total twelve schools were burnt down overnight in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. According to initial reports, of the twelve schools burnt, six were girls educational institutes. Some of the other schools attacked, were in the process of completion, said the Commissioner Diamer Division Abdul Waheed Shah. He added that the authorities were examining damage to the buildings.

Sri Lanka

MR warns ‘foreign powers’

Former President and Opposition SLPP-JO boss Mahinda Rajapaksa has cautioned foreign powers not to get involved with taking possession of Government assets in the country. With successive electoral victories leading up the presidential polls that are a year away still, Rajapaksa’s statement seems to be aimed at the Indian neighbour, with which the incumbent Sri Lankan Government has been negotiating joint operation arrangements of the China-funded Mattala Airport, which has proved to be more than a white elephant in economic terms. It is unclear if Rajapaksa’s current caution would apply to China, which now possesses the Hambantota Port area after developing the same under his regime, and settling for a debt-equity swap under the current regime.

‘No’ to pay-hike for MPs

President Maithiripala Sirisena has shot down reports about parliamentarians giving themselves and those among them who are ministers at various levels a huge pay-rise, on the lines of those sanctioned for senior members of the nation’s Judiciary. Earlier this year, Parliament had drawn that parity through law, and with Judges getting the hike recently, party leaders had discussed the issue at an agenda meeting called by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. While some MPs have defended the proposal and also referred to the parity-parallel, Sirisena said that he would not clear it if and when it was put up for his approval.



Opinion Pieces

Mohammad Zahir Akbari, “US and Taliban Initial Talks Starts in Qatar”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan,  31 July 2018 Rod Nordland and Fahim Abed, “Afghan Army Takes Over After ISIS Attacks a Refugee Office”, The New York Times, 31 July 2018


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Violence against Women Continues”, 2 August 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Reintegration Prior to Reconciliation”, 1 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Saleemul Huq, “Tackling climate change in the Barind Tract”, The Daily Star, 1 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Mihir Bhonsale, “Outgoing Second Government in Bhutan: A Review”,, 31 July 2018


Kuensel, “As we prepare for elections”, 2 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Sumeet Bhasin, “Why The Print is wrong about the BJP being an upper-caste party”, The Print, 3 August 2018 Subimal Bhat, “For Assam To Rise”, Indian Express, 3 August 2018 Ruchira Gupta,”The trafficking bill can be misused against victims and activists”, Hindustan Times, 2 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “’De-stabilising democracy vs ‘developmental autocracy’”,, 1 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Dr. Kyaw Lat, “General Aung San and the Nation’s Development”, The Irrawaddy, 3 August 2018 Aye Kyithar Swe and Matthieu Salomon, “New data demystify Myanmar’s jade sector”, The Myanmar Times, 2 August 2018 Bo Kyi, “30 Years On From '88 Uprising, a Need For Reparations”, The Irrawaddy, 1 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Mahabir Paudyal, “Warning on the wall”, Republica, 2 August 2018 Upendra Bahadur B K, “A lot to do”, The Kathmandu Post, 3 August 2018 Raj Kumar K C, “Reviving BIMSTEC”, Republica, 1 August 2018


The Kathmandu Post, “Linger no longer”, 3 August 2018 Republica, “Beginning of new cricket era”, 2 August 2018 Republica, “Nijgadh airport must be built”, 1 August 2018


Opinion Pieces

Rasul Baksh Rais, “Vote for Change”, 1 August 2018 Imran Jan, “Western media’s bellyache with Imran Khan’s rise”, The Express Tribune, 2 August 2018 Khurram Hussein, “IMF and CPEC debts”, Dawn, 2 August 2018


The Express Tribune, “Expensive water”, 31 July 2018

Sri Lanka

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Should Tamils hear out the Rajapaksas?”, Colombo Gazette, 5 August 2018 Kusal Perera, “Yahapalana democracy: Not even procedural”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 August 2018 M S M Ayub, “Indo-Sri Lanka Accord: Dead letter”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 August 2018 Malinda Seneviratne, “Spectre of ‘The Outsider’ in presidential election”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 August 2018 Ranga Jayasuriya, “This Govt is bad advertisement for democracy”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 August 2018 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Constitutional change and Gotabhaya’s solution”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 August 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Larger-than-life largesse”, Ceylon Today, 1 August 2018 Michael Roberts, “Understanding Velupillai Pirabhakaran’s mindset”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 August 2018 Dr Harinda Vidanage, “Coming submarine wars: Implications for Sri Lanka”, Daily Mirror Online, 31 July 2018 Jehan Perera, “Govt needs to build on its Northern achievements”, The Island, 31 July 2018


Afghanistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ketan Mehta Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak Pakistan: Mayuri Banerjee
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