MonitorsPublished on Nov 28, 2014
The first few weeks of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's tenure has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity. The steps taken by him in the foreign policy domain give a clear indication of the new government's priorities.
A possible new phase in ties with the US?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The first few weeks of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s tenure has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity. The steps taken by him in the foreign policy domain give a clear indication of the new government’s priorities. Nowhere is this more evident than in the approach taken by him towards the US.

At the time of assuming office, President Ghani’s task was complicated by the legacy left behind by his predecessor, Hamid Karzai. Mr Karzai’s last few years in office had coincided with deterioration in Afghanistan’s relations with the US. Mr Karzai had taken to denouncing the American intervention at any opportunity and blaming them for the country’s present predicament. This is something that he has continued to indulge in, even after leaving office. Mr Karzai’s behaviour and aggressive rhetoric possibly created further difficulties for the US to continue its engagement with Afghanistan, which was becoming increasingly unpopular back home.

Task cut out

President Ghani naturally found his task cut out as far as managing relations with the US was concerned. It was critical for him to attempt to mend the relations as much as possible at the beginning itself. While it is still very early to judge how well he has fared in this task, and a number of obstacles remains, the start has been encouraging.

The biggest positive development in this area was the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US within days of President Ghani assuming office. The BSA allows the US to maintain a residual force within Afghanistan beyond 2014. Although the draft of the agreement was approved by a Loya Jirga, especially convened for this purpose, over a year ago, Mr Karzai had refused to sign it, passing the task on to his successor.

The delay in signing the BSA had raised concerns about the future of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. The US, and even NATO, claimed that without the signing of the pact it would not be possible to maintain any foreign troops in the country. Both President Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, during their electoral campaign, had stressed the importance of the prolonged presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan post-2014, and gave assurances that the signing of the BSA would be a priority.

While the pact paves the way for foreign troops to remain behind in Afghanistan, it remains to be seen how effective they will be. Given that they were unable to make a lasting dent on the insurgency at the height of the US surge between 2009 and 2011, it would be a huge ask to expect the drastically reduced residual force to accomplish this task. The US is expected to maintain just 9800 troops and the other allied NATO nations will provide the remaining 2000 or so troops. This becomes especially difficult given that the bulk of the residual force would be expected to serve in an advisory and supporting role.

Move in the right direction

However, despite such limitations, this is definitely a move in the right direction. The signing of the pact is likely to stem the anxiety surrounding the military drawdown to an extent. The fact that the US has signed off on continuing to play a role in Afghanistan post-2014 may encourage the rest of the international community to continue their engagement with and assistance to Afghanistan. Other than the US, the fact that countries like Germany, Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom will also provide troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 can be seen in this light.

More importantly, the swift nature of the decision taken by President Ghani could serve as a good precedent for what could be a new phase in Afghanistan-US relations. Already there are signs that the US may play a larger role in Afghanistan than as envisaged earlier.

For instance, US President Barack Obama has already agreed to expand the scope of the 1800-strong special operation forces by allowing them to target the Taliban insurgents as well. This enlargement of responsibility also includes the provision of providing air support to the Afghan National Security Forces. Similarly, the Afghan Government has given their sanction to the re-introduction of night raids, some of which could see the participation of the foreign forces in them. Night raids had been banned by the Karzai government despite the fact that the US forces saw them as an effective counter-insurgency mechanism. Finally, the fact that the US is contemplating increasing the number of troops itself - even if it is only by a few hundred - can be seen positively.

It is easy to dismiss all these developments as merely symbolic that will have very little impact on the ground situation. However, given the drastic changes taking place in Afghanistan presently and the disastrous consequences associated with them, even these symbolic developments can provide a platform to build upon.

(Aryaman Bhatnagar is an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Improved connectivity with India, important for economic growth

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

The non-signing of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic among member-States, and the SAARC Regional Railways Agreement during the recently concluded SARRC summit has reinforced the need for dealing the issue of connectivity between India and Bangladesh at the bilateral level. The trade and economic relationship between India and Bangladesh is hampered due to poor connectivity. Improved connectivity will not only improve trade and economic relationship between the two countries but will also prepare ground for region integration.

Although the air connectivity between India and Bangladesh was established between the two countries in 1977 following signing of the air service agreement, the surface transport is still fragmented between the two countries. Before partition in 1947, India and Bangladesh were part of British ruled India and the partition disturbed the traditional links and they were never re-sorted out. The break of connectivity has immensely hampered the economic framework not only of Bangladesh but also of the border region of India, particularly India’s northeast region whose only link to the rest of country is now through a narrow corridor known as Chicken’s Neck.

Difficult communication is not only hampering the movent of goods from one country to another but it also increases cost of the trade. Normally, freight from Delhi to Dhaka should take 3 to 4 days, but under the present condition, it takes more than 10 to 15 days. Transportation by sea is also very appalling. Under the present regime, a cargo by sea takes around a month since ships cannot directly go from Mumbai to Chittagong or from other harbours of India to Bangladesh.

Unique location

Considering Bangladesh’s unique geographical location, standing between India’s landlocked North-East, Bhutan and Nepal, it can benefit immensely particularly by giving sea access to this region. Bangladesh has two sea ports -- Chittagong and Mongla -- and is planning to construct a deep sea port at Sonadia. Bangladesh can benefit significantly if it gives sea access to these countries. It will not only increase sea trade which will open other economic activities which will help economic development of the country. Such an arrangement is a win-win for both the countries as North East will get port access. This arrangement will also address the issue of trade deficit which Bangladesh often complains about. This arrangement will also help Bangladesh to utilise the Chittagong and Mongla ports to their optimal capacity.

Meanwhile, transit has been a sensitive issue for Bangladesh. India for long has been asking for transit rights for shipment of goods from mainland India to North-eastern states via Bangladesh. But Bangladesh is sceptical about giving India this privilege. Initially, security was highlighted to be the reason for its reservation. Of late, there has been a change in the country’s view, but the reason for the delay in giving the transit rights has been inadequate infrastructure. The argument is that the existing infrastructure is not appropriate to take the burden of the additional load that will come into the country when allowed transit.

Bilateral approach

To deal with the issue of transit, a sub-regional approach can be adopted. It will greatly help counter the politics which often is played inside Bangladesh. There is also a need for improving infrastructure in this regard. India can provide some funding also through innovative arrangements like establishing joint venture transport companies.

A positive beginning for enhancing connectivity between the two countries was made in 2010 following the signing of the joint communiqué during Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India. In the joint communiqué, the two countries mentioned about the list of measures like establishment of railway line between Akhaura and Agartala, declaring Ashuganj a port of call etc. Keeping this momentum, the work on Agartala-Akhaura rail link is likely to begin by early 2015. Present signs are encouraging. To sustain the present momentum, there should be significant push from the governments of the two countries.

(Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet negotiations on

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have reportedly reached an agreement over the allocation of 17 ministries out of 26. It has been decided that the authority to choose the ministers for nine ministries, including finance and interior, lies with President Ghani, and eight, including defence and foreign affairs, lies with CEO Abdullah.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ghani, Abdullah Agree on Half of Cabinet Ahead of London Summit", Tolo News, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BSA, SOFA cleared

The Lower House of the Afghan Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, approved, with a majority vote, both the BSA with the US and the SOFA with NATO. Similarly, the two pacts were also unanimously approved by the Senate as well. NATO welcomed the ratification of the pact and issued a statement stressing that the new mission called the Resolute Support that starts from 1 January will build on the achievements of ISAF.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Wolesi Jirga Approves BSA and SOFA Agreements", Tolo News, 23 November 2014; "Senate Approves BSA and SOFA", Tolo News, 27 November 2014; "NATO SG welcome ratification of security agreements by Afghan Senate", Khaama Press, 28 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suicide-attack targets UK vehicle

A British Embassy vehicle was targeted by a suicide bomber in Kabul resulting in the death of five people and injuring about 35 people. The British Embassy confirmed that two of its staff members were killed during this attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for this attack.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "British embassy confirms 2 staff killed in Kabul suicide attack", Khaama Press, 27 November 2014; "Kabul Suicide Attack Kills Five", Tolo News, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Canada pledges $ 500 aid

The Government of Canada recently announced its decision to commit more than US$ 500 million towards development aid to Afghanistan. This amount will be disbursed to Afghanistan by 2017.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Canada pledges $500m in development aid to Afghanistan by 2017", Khaama Press, 26 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi-Hasina talks

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi this week on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu. During their brief meeting Mr Modi reassured Sheikh Hasina of signing the Teesta water-sharing deal and implementing the Land Boundary Agreement. Mr Modi also informed that his government was working sincerely on the issues.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : Modi assures Hasina of land boundary, Teesta deals in bilateral talks", The Daily Star, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Former minister arrest for remarks on Haj

Former minister Abdul Latif Siddique was arrested after he surrendered to the police this week. Mr Siddique was sacked as minister due to his remarks on hajj and Tabligh Jamaat about two months ago which was seen of hurting religious sentiment. He was arrested as after a case was filed by pro-Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawyer Abed Raza.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Latif Siddique lands in jail", The Daily Star, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lifer for war crimes

Former Awami League leader Mobarak Hossain was proved guilty of war crimes during 1971 war by International War Crime Tribunal. Tribunal in its verdict has sentenced Mobarak for life for the crimes he committed during 1971. This is an important development as most of the people convicted till date belonged mostly from the Jamaat-e-islami , known for supporting Pakistan. Awami League is the ruling party of Bangladesh which has initiated the war crime trial.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Ex-AL leader of Brahmanbaria convicted of war crimes", The Daily Star, 25 November 2014.


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for economic integration

Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay addressing the SAARC summit appealed for economic integration in the region and urged member states to work to remove barriers in trade.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Turning rhetoric into results", Kuensel Online, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan to gain from SAARC energy cooperation

Bhutan which is a powerhouse when it comes to generation of hydro-electricity held the energy cooperation agreement of SAARC as good for the region and the country.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Energy cooperation agreement, saving grace of the summit", Kuensel Online, 28 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. dangles court option before opposition

Bhutan’s finance minister, Namgay Dorji challenged the opposition to take the government to court, had it done anything unconstitutional at the National Assembly on 27 November. The opposition members called for a solo amendment to the Entitlement and Service Conditions Act.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Govt. dangles court option before opposition", Kuensel Online, 28 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Assembly polls on in J&K

The first phase of voting for State Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir was completed without violence. 15 of the 87-seat assembly cast their votes in high numbers; compared to 61 percent turnout in 2008, 71 percent voters braved separatist calls for boycott and an early winter. Analysts differ over the reasons for mass participation. While some attribute this to anti-incumbency sentiments against the ruling National Conference and Congress, others argue that Muslims in the valley voted en masse to prevent the BJPs’ ascendency in the state.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Impressive turnout in J&K and Jharkhand", The Hindu, 25 November 2014; "Brisk Voter Turnout in Jammu and Kashmir; Jharkhand Votes Under High Security", NDTV, 25 November 2014; "Indian Jammu and Kashmir election sees high turnout", BBC, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi shakes hands with Sharif

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Kathmandu. On the first day, the group failed to sign three agreements related to creation of a regional power grid, and rail and road connectivity despite prior preparation as Pakistan objected, citing lack of ’internal preparations’. Later, however, foreign ministers of the member-states succeeded in signing the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity). The Summit concluded with Modi shaking hands with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, whom he has refused to meet since India called off talks earlier this year.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "SAARC leaders reach last-minute energy deal", The Hindu, 27 November 2014; "Is the India-Pakistan Rivalry Spoiling Saarc?", The Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Obama for R-Day

US President Barack Obama accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to be the guest of honour at the 66th Republic Day celebration in 2015. Obama will be the first US President to be the Chief of Guest of the parade. Having visited India earlier in 2010, he will also become the first US President to visit India twice during his presidency.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Obama Accepts PM Modi’s Invite to be Chief Guest at Republic Day", NDTV, 21 November 2014; "US’ immigration reform brings cheer to Indian startups, opens gates for entrepreneurs & techies", The Economic Times, 22 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NSA, for border talks with China

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was appointed as special envoy to hold negotiations with China over border disputes. Both states have appointed special representatives to conduct high level talks since 2003 over 1,30,000 square kilometres of disputed territory. Doval’s predecessors include Brajesh Misra, JN Dixit, M K Narayanan and Shiv Shankar Menon. Earlier, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is believed to have offered the post, but he declined over differences in official rank between the Indian and Chinese interlocutor.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ajit Doval becomes China negotiator with stars in alignment", Business Standard, 2 November 2014; "NSA Ajit Doval to head China border talks", The Times of India, 25 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New artillery cleared

The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by recently appointed Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, cleared a proposal and purchase 814 mounted-gun systems to strengthen the army’s artillery. The weapons are estimated to cost Rs 15,750 crore and will be bought under the ’buy and make’ scheme. The first 100 guns will be purchased off-the-shelf and the remaining will be manufactured in India. The army’s artillery strength has depleted following the decision to stall procurement in the aftermath of the Bofors scandal in which several foreign gun manufacturers were blacklisted for supplying kickbacks to government officials.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Manohar Parrikar greenlights purchase of 814 artillery guns worth Rs 15,750 crore", The Indian Express, 23 November 2014; "Govt clears proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns for Rs 15,570 crore", The Times of India, 22 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Greater trade with US

India and the US have agreed to step up bilateral engagement, building on the progress made after the two countries recently reached a landmark deal to break the deadlock at the WTO. Officials from the two countries will hold as many as 20 face-to-face or video conferences before the next meeting of the India-US trade policy forum (TPF) next year

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "India, US agree to step up bilateral ties, establish technical dialogue to promote cooperation", Economic Times, 26 November 2014; "Traditional medicines, visa fees top India-US trade talks", Hindustan Times, 25 November 2014; "U.S. raises protection to firms in India, IPR issues", The Hindu, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disinvestment in PSUs

With only four months left for the financial year to end, the government is rushing to complete at least part of its disinvestment plan for 2014-15. The government has asked investment bankers managing stake sales in Coal India and ONGC to provide the names of potential buyers.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Govt to divest CIL, ONGC, SAIL by end of Jan 2015", Business Standard, 27 November 2014; "Coal India, ONGC stake sale: Government seeks bidders’ list", Economic Times, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Guidelines for small banks

Telcos, supermarkets, and even companies that run electronic wallets (or other prepaid instruments) can open so--called payments banks in the country, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) releasing rules for such entities. The move is aimed at providing basic savings, deposit, payment, and remittance services to people who currently do not have a bank account.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RBI issues final norms for payment, small banks", Livemint, 28 November 2014; "RBI issues final norms for small, payment banks" ,The Hindu Business Line, 28 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Walk the Talk’, Yameen tells SAARC

In the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu at the 18th SAARC Summit, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen asked member-nations to "walk the talk" and make their voice heard.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen calls on SAARC to make its voice heard", Minivan News, 26 November 2014; "SAARC must strengthen ties with other regions", Haveeru Online, 26 November 2014; "President meets PM Modi and PM Nawaz Shareef", SunOnline, 27 November 2014; "’China will not compromise Maldives’ sovereignty’". Haveeru Online, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis panel for statute-change

Clearing Budget-2015 unanimously for presentation to the full House, the Finance Committee of the People’s Majlis, or Parliament, has recommended constitutional changes aimed at reducing the number of ’Independent institutions; under the statute.

This is in tune with the public pronouncement of Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, who has said that ’independent institutions’ and ’local councils’ aimed at de-centralisation, were a drain on the exchequer.

Simultaneously, however, the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) clarified that it was not for reducing the number of Supreme Court Judges, as mooted by a party member in Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Committee passes budget, recommends constitutional amendment to reduce independent commissions", Minivan News, 27 November 2014; "MDP rejects MP Shareef’s proposal to reduce Supreme Court bench", Minivan News, 25 November, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Missing journo’s FB ’active’

Over 100 days after he went missing, the Facebook account of journalist, Ahmed Rilwan was said to have remained active for about 10 minutes, it’s claimed. Rilwan’s employers and family have charged the police with inaction, even as the Opposition MDP has blamed it on ISIS activity in the country.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Rilwan’s Facebook account seen active", Haveeru Online, 27 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Framework approved

Myanmarese political parties, 56 of them have approved a framework for post cease-fire political dialogue. The Peace and Political Framework Drafting Committee submitted a draft document to representatives of 56 parties which they approved.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "56 Parties Approve Framework for Political Dialogue", Democratic Voice of Burma, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Koh Tao suspects denied bail

A court on the Thai island of Koh Samui has denied bail to two Burmese migrants suspected of murdering two British tourists on the nearby island of Koh Tao on 15 September. The judge’s decision on 26 November came despite the efforts of a high-level delegation representing the Burmese government offered bail on behalf of the suspects in the case.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Koh Tao murders: bail denied for Burmese suspects", Democratic Voice of Burma, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan, Thailand ’hesitating’ on Dawei

Myanmar’s minister for national planning and economic development, Kan Zaw said in the lower house of parliament, that Japan and Thailand- assumed to be the prime investors in the Dawei deep sea-port project in Tenasserim are hesitating.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Japan, Thailand ’hesitating’ on Dawei", Democratic voice of Burma, 27 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ink deals with India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on his second visit to the Himalayan country in 100 days as both sides inked nine agreements, further cementing their close ties. Among the dozen agreements inked was one for project development agreement (PDA) for the Arun-III hydropower project.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "India, Nepal ink 9 deals; Modi inaugurates bus service, gifts helicopter", The Times of India, 25 November 2014; "Run-up to Saarc Summit: India, Nepal ink 10 pacts", Business Standard, 25 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kathmandu-Delhi by bus

India and Nepal launched the first ever bus service between the two countries on Tuesday afternoon. To begin with daily buses will ply between Delhi and Kathmandu. Later, there will be similar buses which will ply on two other routes - Delhi-Pokhara and Varanasi- Kathmandu.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : : "First India-Nepal bus service launched", The Times of India, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">18th SAARC Summit ends

The 18th SAARC Summit concluded on Thursday, adopting a 36-point Kathmandu Declaration that pledges to deepen cooperation among member states in the core areas of trade, investment, finance, energy, infrastructure and connectivity.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "18th SAARC Summit ends with wide-ranging declaration", Republica, 28 November 2014; "Signing of two proposed regional agreements postponed", Republica, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SAARC Countries Agree on Energy Deal

The SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Co-operation (electricity) has been reached among the SAARC member states aimed at addressing the increasing demand for power in the region.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "SAARC countries ink energy deal", Republica, 27 November 2014; "18th SAARC concludes with SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy", eKantipur, 27 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jundullah attacks polio workers

Militant organisation, Jundullah, has claimed responsibility for the attack on anti-polio campaigners that took place in Quetta. Four vaccinators were killed and three wounded in the attack.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Jundullah claims responsibility for attack on polio workers in Quetta", The Express Tribune, 28 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with India may revive

After the brief "ice-breaking" interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sharif in the concluding session of the SAARC summit, there is a possibility that Pakistan and India may resume the stalled peace process.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan, India may resume talks", The Express Tribune, 28 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IS presence denied

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has denied the presence of Islamic State in Pakistan and has termed all the claims about the same as nothing but mere exaggeration.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Asif terms claims on IS presence exaggeration", The News International, 28 November 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No complacence on terror: MR

Speaking at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that his nation could not remain complacent about possible resurgence of terrorism, which he claimed remained a major threat, both regionally and internationally.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Terrorism remains a threat - MR", The Island, 26 November, 2014; "GR stresses need for military cooperation among countries to tackle terrorism", The Island, 28 November 2014; "Galle Dialogue 2014", The Island, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two-thirds vote for Budget

Ending speculation about imminent cross-over of an unspecified number of MPs from the Government side to the Opposition, Parliament passed Budget-2015 by a two-thirds majority at the third and final reading and voting. A few ’rebel members’ of the ruling SLFP, who had joined Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who is the common Opposition candidate in the 8 January presidential polls, stayed away from the Budget vote.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "No crossovers; budget passed with 2/3 majority", The Island, 25 November 2014; "I won’t join the Govt: Tissa", Daily Mirror Online, 26 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maithri for Ranil as PM

Visiting the Opposition UNP headquarters, Srikotha, for the first time after declaring himself as the common Opposition candidate in the 8 January presidential polls, former Minister Maitripala Sirisena has said that he would usher in a ’national government’, abolish Executive Presidency within 100 days and make UNP’s Ranil Wickremesinghe, prime minister.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "100-day national Govt. to bring reforms: Maitripala", Daily Mirror Online, 26 November 2014; "Sirisena offers to form national govt", The Island, 27 November 2014; "UNP Made A Historic Sacrifice: Maithri", Colombo Telegraph, 26 November 2014 "Ranil will be PM sans Executive Powers: Mangala", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014; "Presidency won’t be abolished", The Island, 28 November 2014; "SB pooh-poohs Sirisena’s claim that he is still SLFP Gen. Secy", The Island, November 27, 2014; "Tamils would vote for any candidate who would be sensitive about them - TNA", Ceylon Today, 28 November 2014; "Common Opposition Wants CBK To Reduce Her Role In Maithri Movement", Colombo Telegraph, 27 November 2014; "I have files on those who left but will not use them - MR", Daily Mirror Online, 23 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BBS poll-backing for MR

Declaring that both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the common Opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena were ’good citizens’, the ’Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian’ Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)has declared its support for the former in the 8 January polls for the nation’s highest office, to save the country from "various conspiracies". However, the Jathiha Hela Uramaya (JHU), the mainstreamed Buddhist party that left the Government last week, is yet undecided on whom to support in the presidential polls.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "BBS to support Mahinda", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014; "JHU still undecided", The Island, 28 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New army chief for Jaffna

On the very eve of the annual "Heroes’ Day" observances of the erstwhile LTTE in the Tamil-majority Northern Province, the Government named Maj-Gen Jagath Alwis as the commander of the Jaffna-based sections of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). He replaces Maj-Gen Udaya Perera, whom officials said, had been transferred to the HQ on completion of a three-year stint.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maj. Gen, Jagath Alwis new Jaffna Commander", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014; "University of Jaffna closed until 1st of December", Ceylon Today, 27 November 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russian naval ship on call

A Russian Navy destroyer ship arrived at Colombo Port for a four-day visit on 24 November. It comes after the recent controversy surrounding the berthing of two Chinese submarines in the nation’s ports, twice in as many weeks.

On the non-military front, Russia also signalled clearance for the import of Sri Lankan fish after a European Union (EU) ban threatened to affect the expanding fishing industry in the country.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Russian naval ship on good will visit in SL", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014; "Russia shows green light on fish import from SL", Daily Mirror Online, 26 November 2014

Primary Documentation


Police Officers to start participating in UN Peacekeeping Missions, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 21 November 2014


Prime Minister’s speech at the 18th SAARC Summit, Ministry of External Affairs, 26 November 2014

India and United States Joint Statement on the Trade Policy Forum, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, 25 November 2014

External Affairs Minister’s Opening Statement at SAARC Council of Ministers Meeting, Ministry of External Affairs, 25 November 2014

Subramanian Swamy (Chairman, BJP’s Strategic Affairs Committee), Text of speech at the Lalith Atulathmudali Memorial Lecture, Colombo, The Hindu, 25 November 2014

Interview of Mehbooba Mufti (President of the Jammu and Kashmir based People’s Democratic Party), "Hope Delhi will take Vajpayee line on Kashmir", The Hindu, 23 November 2014

Foreign Secretary’s Opening Remarks at Ninth meeting of the India-US High Technology Cooperation Group in New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 23 November 2014


Agreement struck to discuss everything except succeeding and matters undermining sovereignty, Myanmar President’s Office, 27 November 2014


KATHMANDU DECLARATION, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 27 November 2014

Press Release on the conclusion of SAARC Summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 27 November 2014

Press Release on SAARC Summit Inaugural Session, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 26 November 2014

Press Release on engagements with the Prime Minister of India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 25 November 2014


Release of 40 Indian Prisoners by Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 28 November 2014

Eigth Round of Bilateral Consultations between Pakistan and Switzerland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 28 November 2014

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 27th November 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 27 November 2014

Prime Minister Holds Bilateral Meetings, Presents Vote of Thanks at SAARC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 27 November 2014

Prime Minister Addresses the SAARC Summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 November 2014

Political Consultations between Pakistan and Sweden, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 November 2014

Pakistan Condemns US Drone Strike in North Waziristan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 November 2014

Adviser Attends SAARC Council of Ministers Meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 November 2014

Foreign Secretary attends SAARC Standing Committee Meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 November 2014

Prime Minister Called President Ashraf Ghani to Convey Sympathy and Condolences over the Tragic Suicide Attack in Paktika, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 November 2014

Pakistan strongly condemns terrorist attack in Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 23 November 2014

Curtain Raiser - Prime Minister’s visit to Nepal for 18th SAARC Summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 23 November 2014



Opinion Pieces

"So Long, Good Luck", The Economist, 29 November 2014

Ali K Chishti, "The Raheel Doctrine", The Friday Times, 28 November 2014

Avinash Paliwal, "Will Afghanistan fail as a state after 2014?", Telegraph, 27 November 2014

Anand Gopal, "Thirteen Years Later, What Went Wrong in Afghanistan", Newsweek, 27 November 2014

Thomas Ruttig and Wazhma Samandary, "Wolesi Jirga Resolutely in Favour of NATO Support: BSA and SOFA take next hurdle", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 24 November 2014


Opinion Pieces

Shah Husain Imam, "Mamata, Hasina, Modi and ...", The Daily Star, 28 November 2014 .

Jack Detsch , "BANGLADESH Asia’s new energy superpower?", The Daily Star, 25 November 2014.

Taj Hashmi , "What should Bangladesh do with Jamaat?", The Daily Star, 24 November 2014.


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "The law of the land (lord)", Kuensel Online, 27 November 2014

Kuensel, "A regional association, sort of" Kuensel Online, 26 November 2014


Opinion Pieces

H S Panag, "Opening in the Valley", The Indian Express, 28 November 2014

R Sudarshan, "Bad enactment, no enforcement", The Hindu, 28 November 2014

Ashok Mehta, "Envisioning a new Afghanistan", The Hindu, 27 November 2014

The Machil break, "The Machil break", Indian Express, 26 November 2014


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: Reading China’s ’Indian signals’ wrong?", 26 November 2014


Opinion Pieces

Hans Hulst, "Rent Scandals? The Colonial option", Mizzima, 25 November 2014

Aung Naing Oo, "The peace process and the 2008 constitution", "The peace process and the 2008 constitution",


Opinion Pieces

Purushottam Ojha, "Time to trade", Republica, 27 November 2014

Prakash Chandra Lohani, "Onus on India", Republica, 27 November 2014

Sukhdev Shah, "Missing economic links" Republica, 27 November 2014

Bishal Thapa, "Energy integration", Republica, 27 November 2014


Opinion Pieces

Shashi Tharoor, "Modi’s Message to Pakistan at SAARC", NDTV, 27 November 2014

Ayesha Siddiqa, "Pakistan-Iran relations", The Express Tribune, 26 November 2014

Suhasini Haidar, "Former Afghan president Karzai: Pakistan demanded we reduce India’s presence", The Hindu, 22 November 2014

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajasingham Jayadevan, "Mahinda in Dire Straits", Colombo Telegraph, 28 November 2014

Neville Ladduwahetty, "A reality check on the common candidate’s pledges", The Island, 28 November 2014

Kelum Bandara, "Presidential Election Campaign Strategy looks more crucial than ever", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014

Tamara Kunanayakam, "On ’Common Candidate’: Nobody knows where cart or horse is heading!", Daily Mirror Online, 27 November 2014

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, "Who Will Rule? A Question From An Undecided Voter", Colombo Telegraph, 26 November 2014

K Godage, "The presidential elections and what it means to us", The Island, 25 November 2014

Jehan Perera, "Good governance includes devolution of powers", The Island, 25 November 2014

Ranga Jayasuriya, "Democracy in Sri Lanka has a hope", Daily Mirror Online, 24 November 2014

Rajan Philips, "A historic defection and a political thunderbolt", The Island, 23 November 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "President, After the Poll", The Sunday Leader, 23 November 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Sri Lanka: Deep-sea fishing the only way-out for TN fishers row?",,

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh : Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Myanmar & Bhutan : Mihir Bhonsale;
India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti, Manmath Goel ;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar

21 November 2014
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