MonitorsPublished on Mar 07, 2015
The visit of Mr. S Jaishankar, India's Foreign Secretary, to Kabul this week came at the fag end of his trip to all the other South Asian neighbouring countries. During this brief visit, he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and reaffirmed India's commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: A 'regional strategy' for India
< class="heading1">Analysis

The visit of Mr. S Jaishankar, India’s Foreign Secretary, to Kabul this week came at the fag end of his trip to all the other South Asian neighbouring countries. During this brief visit, he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and reaffirmed India’s commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan.

Mr Jaishankar’s "SAARC Yatra" was another reminder of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on developing closer ties with the countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood. Ever since he assumed office in May 2014, Mr Modi has stressed on the necessity of improving India’s relations with the SAARC countries.

This was reiterated by him during the 14th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu in November last year. His invitation to all the SAARC leaders for his inauguration ceremony, and subsequent visits to Nepal and Bhutan were all steps in that direction. He is also going to visit Sri Lanka later this month and is expected to undertake a trip to Bangladesh in the coming weeks.

Low-key policy

In light of such an active neighbourhood policy towards most of India’s neighbours, New Delhi’s approach to Afghanistan has been relatively low key. A couple of factors may be responsible for this.

First, it is India’s hesitancy on account of uncertainties regarding Afghanistan’s future. Such caution was evident in India’s approach to Afghanistan even before Mr Modi assumed office. There was reportedly a down scaling of the allocation of monetary and human resources to Afghanistan.

While India is still attempting to wrap up work on the Salma Dam in Herat and the parliament building in Kabul, it has not undertaken any large scale project in the country for the past three to four years. Work on India’s flagship project - the iron ore deposits in Bamiyan province in Central Afghanistan - is yet to begin. Concerns about the cohesiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were also partly responsible for India’s reluctance to accept Hamid Karzai’s request for arms.

India is not alone in preferring to follow such a ’wait and watch’ policy. This uncertainty has come to mark the Afghan policies of much of the international community.

At the same time, Afghanistan itself has not as yet given the same level of priority to engaging with India that the previous Karzai administration had. Given the existing political realities, it is no surprise that Kabul has prioritised improving ties with Pakistan. Pakistan’s support is necessary for making progress in the peace talks with the Taliban, something that has gained urgency following the military drawdown from the region.

Already there have been a number of high level bilateral exchanges between the two and commitments for closer economic and security ties. The ANSF has already undertaken military operations against alleged Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan bases in eastern Afghanistan, and has also sent a cadre of ANSF officers for training to Pakistan. While such developments should be closely monitored by New Delhi, it should not cause any unnecessary alarm among Indian policymakers and should be seen as a natural course of action on Kabul’s part.

Afghanistan’s overtures to Pakistan do not necessarily imply a reduced role for India in Afghanistan in the future. India’s development assistance to the country since 2001 has been among the most effective aid efforts and has helped India garner much goodwill. This has been acknowledged by President Ghani as well who referred to India as a historical friend of Afghanistan during his meeting with Mr Jaishankar.

India, being the first country to have signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, is committed to provide assistance to the country in the future. Given its security - and to a lesser extent - economic interests in the region, India would want to continue having a presence in Afghanistan.

However, as evident from its more cautious approach in recent years, the military drawdown from the region is going to make it difficult for New Delhi to maintain the same level of engagement with Afghanistan that it has enjoyed in the past decade. Moreover, while India’s relations with Afghanistan are not burdened by the baggage of a disputed border, as is the case with Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, the lack of geographical contiguity also limits India’s capacity in Afghanistan. The situation is made more difficult by Pakistan’s refusal to grant India access to Afghanistan through its territory.

Way forward

Mr Modi, during the SAARC Summit, had spoken about the importance and urgency of collective actions in South Asia. Given the difficulties for India to pursue its interests in Afghanistan alone, it may be prudent for India to explore such collective action in the case of Afghanistan as well. Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries - Iran, China and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) - have huge stakes in the prolonged stability of Afghanistan and have been engaged with it at various levels.

India has already taken steps in this direction, particularly with Iran. It has been involved in trilateral negotiations with Iran and Afghanistan for a transit trade and agreements and is exploring other possible avenues for collaboration as well. It is also committed to develop infrastructure in the region. For instance, in October 2014, the Indian Cabinet cleared an investment plan of US$ 85 million towards the development of the Chabahar Port.

This port provides a viable access to Afghanistan and Central Asia in the absence of transit via Pakistan. India is also planning on constructing road and rail links between Chabahar and other Iranian and Afghan cities. The 220 kilometre long Zaranj-Delaram highway in western Afghanistan, which is connected with the main Kandahar-Herat highway has also been constructed by India.

Despite India’s commitment, there is a sense of disappointment within Iran regarding India’s commitment to such projects. In light of this, New Delhi should seek to prioritise and expedite the completion of such projects.

Similarly, India has been engaging with the CARs on Afghanistan as well. The need to develop a trans-Afghan corridor has been discussed in high-level interactions with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. India should also be looking to expand upon some of the existing agreements with the CARs. For instance, it has joint working groups on Counter-Terrorism with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and a joint working group on curbing drug trafficking with Tajikistan. India should enter into such working groups with all CARs and explore the possibility of working groups with the CARs focussing exclusively on Afghanistan.

India should also step up its capacity building programme for the security forces of these countries. Such capacity building can focus on training of more troops from these countries and enhancing the intelligence gathering and analysis capacity of these countries. While this may not necessarily have an impact on the security situation within Afghanistan, it will help in increasing the capability of the CARs to withstand any spill over from Afghanistan.

Finally, India should seek to increase its engagement with China. Since the change of leadership in Kabul, China has shown much interest in increasing its engagement with Afghanistan. It has committed about US$327 million towards the country’s reconstruction and has also explored the possibility of increasing connectivity between China’s Xinjiang province and Afghanistan. This is in addition to its commitment to develop the Mes Aynak cooper ore mines in Logar province.

China-Pak ties

Given the close ties between China and Pakistan, it is hoped that an enhanced Chinese role in the region may compel Pakistan to be a more constructive player as well. President Ghani’s efforts to enhance engagement with China are also largely motivated by this rationale.

India has already taken some tentative steps towards engaging with China on Afghanistan. The first bilateral dialogue on Afghanistan between the two countries was held in April 2013 and Afghanistan was again on the agenda during President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in October 2014.

The Pakistan factor is likely to impose limitations on China-India relations particularly in the area of security cooperation. However, the convergence of interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan suggests that there is much potential for cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the area of enhancing regional integration and connectivity and India should seek to step up on this front.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow with Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Reinforcing Indian goodwill

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Continuing India’s persistent effort of strengthening the relationship with Bangladesh, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar visited Bangladesh on March 2. Mr Jaishankar’s visit was the second high-level visit from India in the last two weeks. West Bengal Mamata Banerjee had visited Bangladesh from 19-21February to participate in the celebrations of international language day. Although the visit was devoid of any outcome, it was successful in reinforcing goodwill between the two countries. The visit reiterated the importance India gives to Bangladesh in its neighbourhood.

Mr. Jaishankar visited Bangladesh as part of his much talked SAARC Yatra, the tour of four neighbouring countries, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He undertook the visit just a month after he assumed office as India’s Foreign Secretary. This once again highlights Modi’s foreign policy priorities -- greater engagement with neighbours which started with inviting all the heads of neighbouring countries for his oath taking ceremony. Initially, Bangladesh was sceptical of the India’s initiative, largely because of the failure to resolve issues like signing of the water sharing agreement of Teesta River and delay in land boundary agreement. This visit was a major confidence building measure as it was able to reiterate India’s sincerity. Dhaka sees the visit as a major change in Delhi’s approach towards resolving bilateral issues.

During his roughly 24-hour visit, Mr Jaishankar had meetings with many top leaders and officials of Bangladesh, including his counterpart Mr Shahidul Haque, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In these meetings, wide range of bilateral issues were discussed, including water sharing agreements on Teesta, ratification of land boundary agreement, trade barriers etc.

These meeting, though did not result in any major declaration, provided an opportunity for the two countries to express each other’s concerns helping to overcome the misperceptions that often rule the relationship. Again, these meetings were helpful in creating a positive feeling among the two countries which reflected in the statement of Bangladesh Foreign Secretary. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary said the key massage is to have a deeper friendship and cooperation. India’s promise to look into the issue of tariff barriers also received appreciation in Bangladesh.

Welcome step

Discussions on enhancing regional and sub-regional cooperation during Mr. Jaishankar’s visit was a welcoming step. Issues regarding sub-regional cooperation on water, power and connectivity were discussed among the two countries. Modi has been keen on enhancing sub-region cooperation and neighbouring countries play important role.

Sub-regional cooperation on water recourses, power and connectivity will not only help India but also benefit neighbouring countries. Besides, it will fulfil its objective of India’s neighbourhood policy which advocates shared prosperity and growth. The two sides also held talks on enhancing regional organisations like SAARC (South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).

During the visit, Mr Jaishankar also handed over a letter from Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, inviting her to visit India. Considering the political turmoil in Bangladesh, timing of Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India is unknown. But it has raised speculations about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, though Jaishankar refrained from referring to the timing of this visit.

(The writer is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian Foreign Secretary in Kabul

India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar visited Kabul this week as part of his "SAARC Yatra". During this visit, Mr Jaishankar called upon Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and reiterated India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan in the future. He also extended an invitation to President Ghani to visit India. President Ghani, in the meanwhile, praised India’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and called upon New Delhi to increase its investments in different sectors of the country. Mr Jaishankar also called upon Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "India will continue to assist Afghanistan: Foreign Secretary of India", Khaama Press, 5 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak envoy summoned

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sayed Abrar Hussain was summoned by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain the arrest of four Afghan diplomats in Peshawar last week. The diplomats were arrested by the Peshawar City Police as part of a crackdown against Afghan nationals living illegally in the country. The diplomats were ultimately released from prison after spending hours in captivity.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghanistan Protests Diplomats Harassment in Pakistan", Tolo News, 1 March 2015; "Pakistani ambassador summoned over arrest of Afghan diplomats in Pakistan", Khaama Press, 2 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">80 percent de-mining

A number of demining organisations have claimed that 80 percent of Afghanistan has been demined. Since 1989, 2.1 million mines have been discovered in the country and removed. Only 520 square kilometre of territory still remains to be cleared of mines, which should be done by 2023.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "80 Percent of Afghanistan Demined", , Tolo News, 5 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Risk from river floods

Bangladesh along with India and China are most at risk from river floods, with an increasing number of people threatened because of climate change and economic growth in low-lying regions, a study said this week. The U.S.-based World Resources Institute think-tank and four Dutch research groups estimated that some 21 million people worldwide were affected by river flooding in a typical year.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, Bangladesh and China most at risk from river floods: study", Business Insider, 5 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Violence returns

At least 21 people were injured in overnight arson attacks on buses and trucks hours after a court here upheld the arrest warrant issued against opposition leader Khaleda Zia and called her a "fugitive", renewing tension in the volatile Bangladesh. As many as 11 people suffered serious burn injuries as suspected opposition activists hurled petrol bombs on a bus at midnight in northeastern Kishorganj area, officials said.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "21 injured in arson attacks as violence returns to Bangladesh", Indian Express, March 5, 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disagree, but respect decision: PM

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the government may not agree to the Royal Civil Services Commission decision regarding the 3 cabinet secretaries, but in the spirit of allowing the commission to fulfill its constitutional mandate, said the government has welcomed the decision.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "We may not agree but we respect RCSC’s decision: PM", Kuensel Online, 7 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian budget presents opportunities

Reduction in customs duty by India in her national budget 2015-16 is expected to make import of some goods from India cheaper. The impact is expected to be felt from June, though the financial year begins on 1 April.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Indian budget presents opportunities for Bhutan", Kuensel Online, 7 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’SAARC yatra’

Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar embarked on the first leg of his tour of South Asian countries, or ’SAARC yatra’ by visiting Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The initiative, aimed at improving India’s relations with its immediate neighbours, is no doubt prompted by China’s increased presence in the form of aid disbursement and infrastructure projects.

The hallmark of the tour was his visit to Islamabad, marking the first high-level diplomatic meeting between the two since August 2014 when India stalled relations to protest Pakistan’s contacts with Kashmiri separatist leaders. Jaishankar met with this counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The two sides made customary remarks about keeping their differences aside, but flagged some of the contentious issues that have marred their relations, such as the Kashmir dispute, cross-border terrorism, ceasefire violations, and India’s alleged support to rebels in Balochistan and the Pashtun tribal regions.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar breaks Pak ice to clear way for talks", The Indian Express, 4 March 2015; "SAARC Yatra: Talks with Pakistan foreign secretary constructive, positive, says Jaishankar", The Hindu, 3 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mufti sworn in J&K CM

Veteran leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 March after two months of intense negotiations between the PDP and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The swearing-in ceremony which took place in Jammu, the state’s winter capital, was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The PDP and BJP espouse competing nationalisms, and have been forced to compromise their pre-poll stand on the issue of the state’s autonomy and continued legal immunity granted to counterinsurgency troops, leading Congress leader Shashi Tharoor to term it an ’unnatural marriage’.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PDP-BJP alliance an ’unnatural marriage’, says Shashi Tharoor", Daily News and Analysis, 2 March 2015; "PDP-BJP alliance a historic opportunity, Modi says", The Times of India, 1 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">AAP expels senior leaders

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) doyens Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were removed from the party’s political affairs committee (PAC) after the national executive voted against them on March 5. That eight members voted in favour of the duo and 11 against them is seen as evidence of two distinct camps inside the fledging party.

While some claim the source of friction to be a clash of personalities, others argue that differences arose over the future of AAP’s expansion with Kejriwal insisting of retaining focus on Delhi. The meeting also turned down Kejriwal’s earlier resignation as the party’s national convenor.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Yogendra Yadav removed from AAP political affairs committee", The Hindu, 4 March 2015; "Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan Removed From Key AAP Panel

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget to boost investment

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday presented Union Budget 2015 aimed at high growth, saying the pace of cutting the fiscal deficit would slow as he seeks to boost investment and ensure that ordinary people benefit.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Budget 2015 explained in 8 questions", Livemint, 26 February 2015; "Highlights: Budget 2015-16" Economic Times, 28 February 2015; "Has the budget done enough to boost infrastructure?", Financial Express, 5 March 2015.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI rate cut surprises markets

The Sensex and Nifty registered fresh lifetime high levels in trades on Wednesday bolstered by a surprise repo rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India. The 50-share Nifty opened 120 points higher at 9,116 and the BSE benchmark Sensex surged 431 points to 30,015.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RBI cuts rates, banks to follow suit", Business Standard, 5 March 2015; "RBI surprises again with post-budget rate cut", Reuters, 4 March 2015; "Sensex hits 30,000 for the first time on RBI rate cut", NDTV, 4 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FM talks tough

Addressing the high-level segment of the UNHRC in Geneva, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon said that Maldives would not accept international interference in domestic affairs.

In an obvious reference to the criticism levelled by certain countries on the arrest and court episode involving former President Mohammed Nasheed, she asked what did they do so when the latter had ordered the illegal arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012 and present President Abdulla Yameen in 2010.

Conspicuously, Minister Dunya did not refer to the near-simultaneous arrest of Jumhooree Party leader, Gasim Ibrahim, an Opposition leader, then and now.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Dunya: We refuse to be dictated about our national affairs and domestic politics.", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "’Legal adherence essential for democracy’ says Foreign Minister", Haveeru Online, 3 March 2015; "Foreign Minister briefs UNHRC President on current political situation", SunOnline, 3 March 2015; "Foreign Minister meets with the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation", Miadhu, 5 March 2015; "Emissaries of the government go to Sri Lanka to update on politics", SunOnline, 3 March 2015; "Countries might impose sanctions on Maldives- Gasim", Miadhu, 2 March 2015; "Gasim Ibrahim meets Sri Lankan PM", Haveeru Online, 27 February 2015; "Asking Maldives to abide by commitments "not undue influence," says UK High Commissioner", Minivan News, 28 February 2015; "EU delegation "shocked" to discover fake statement", Minivan News, 1 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Nasheed ordered the arrest’

With the three-Judge Bench declining the defence plea for two of the Judges to recuse themselves as they were associated during the 2012 arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the ’terrorism’ trial against former President Mohammed Nasheed and others is progressing fast.

As is the practice with Maldivian courts, each of the accused is being tried separately, with the deposition of some capable of being cited as evidence against others.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : ""Nasheed ordered Judge Abdulla’s arrest, says Tholhath", Minivan News, 3 March 2015; "Ali Jaleel says he was not ordered by any superior to arrest anyone", Miadhu, 1 March 2015; "State presents evidence against Moosa Ali Jaleel", SunOnline, 28 February 2015; "Tholhath vowed not to release Judge Abdulla even if he were to be jailed for 30 years, says witness", Minivan News, 4 March 2015; "Chief of Defense Forces testifies in Nasheed, Tholhath terrorism trials", Minivan News, 6 March 2015; "Judges Didi and Yoosuf refuse to step down from Nasheed’s terrorism trial", Minivan News, 3 March 2015; "Nasheed contests credibility of police and military witnesses in terrorism trial", Minivan News, 5 March 2015; "’Nasheed stripped of right to fair trial’ says MDP", Haveeru Online, 2 March 2015; "Criminal Court sends Nasheed’s appeal to High Court", Haveeru Online, 3 March 2015; "Nasheed’s hearing scheduled for tomorrow night without the opportunities to review the documents", SunOnline, 3 March 2015; "Nasheed gives testimony on assault case", SunOnline, 6 March 2015; "Ibrahim Didi admitted to ICU", SunOnline, 2 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition meets Home Minister

In what could prove to be a potential last straw to try and end the engulfing political stalemate in the country, Opposition MDP and JP leaders met with Home Minister Umar Naseer to discuss their 13-point demands after President Abdulla Yameen declined to meet them, saying that the Executive did not have the power to intervene in matters that concerned either the Judiciary or Parliament.

In a possible related development, JP leader Gasim Ibrahim and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, a confidant of President Yameen, met at the residence of business tycoon, ’Champa’ Moosa, after which the ruling combine withdrew an amendment bill that fixed a 65-year age upper-limit for presidential contests.

In his customary annual address to Parliament in the opening session for the calendar year, President Yameen said that the Government would defend and uphold the Constitution. The Opposition members interrupted his speech, demanding the release of former President Mohammed Nasheed, but it was a low-key affair compared to 2012, when they did not allow then President Mohammed Waheed to enter the House on the originally-appointed day.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President affirms government’s commitment to upholding Constitution", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "President presents address amid protests", Haveeru Online, 2 March 2015; "Foreign investments worth MVR9.8 billion expected in five years, says President Yameen", Minivan News, 2 March 2015; "Obstructing Presidential Address a violation of the Constitution, says MDA Leader", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "President’s thumbs-down gesture meant as advice, says spokesperson", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "Gayoom congratulates President Yameen on presidential speech in parliament", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "President Yameen will not resign and go home, says PPM MP Nihan", Minivan News, 27 February 2015; "Yameen has no legitimacy to remain as President- Ameen", Miadhu, 1 March 2015; "10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation", Minivan News, 27 February 2015; "Police break up protest", SunOnline, 27 February 2015; "Adeeb: Government ready to face opposition, protect nation", SunOnline, 27 February 2015; "Mundhu: The opposition is envious of the government’s success", SunOnline, 27 February 2015; "’No intent of toppling government’ says JP", Haveeru Online, 27 February 2015; "Gasim makes several demands from government", SunOnline, 27 February 2015; "If our 13 demands are not met we will return to streets: JP-MDP", Miadhu, 27 February 2015; "PPM’s parliament member at opposition rally", SunOnline, 28 February 2015; "Gayoom: Government gave full freedom to opposition to protest", SunOnline, 1 March 2015; "MDP-JP is taking their demands to the President", SunOnline, 1 March 2015; "MDP-JP seeks "national reconciliation" at meeting with Home Minister Umar Naseer", Minivan News, 5 March 2015; "PPM welcomes the MDP-JP talks with the government", SunOnline, 1 March 2015; "Government: The opposition demands have no basis", SunOnline, 28 February 2015; "We have seen and heard you, says Home Minister", SunOnline, 27 February 2015; "’Some of protester demands can be met’ says Umar Naseer", Haveeru Online, 27 February 2015; "’Lack of relations between institutions, a restriction to governance’", Haveeru Online, 3 March 2015; "Adheeb, Qasim and Uhchu in meeting", SunOnline, 2 March 2015; "Nasheed’s aunt meets with Champa Moosa", SunOnline, 3 March 2015; "MDA MP withdraws constitutional amendment on 65-year age limit to contest for presidency", Minivan News, 3 March 2015; "Gasim will never give preference to personal interests over national interests- Ameen", Minivan News, 4 March 2015; "Gasim calls not to give room for civic disorder", Miadhu, 3 March 2015; "Imran: With the growing fear, it’s time to stand up for peace", SunOnline, 4 March 2015; "AP will participate in protests when there is no other way- Sheikh Imran", Miadhu, 2 March 2015; "Islam is against oppression of all forms- Islamic Minister", Miadhu, 5 March 2015; "Imran made no mention of unlawful, irreligious deed to President: Muaz", Haveeru Online, 5 March 2015; "Parliament accepts bill on discontinuing state benefits to convicted ex-presidents", Minivan News, 4 March 2015; "President’s Pakistan visit delayed again", SunOnline, 1 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President, opposition meet

President Thein Sein met Leader of Opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi on 3 March. In the meeting elections and constitutional reforms were discussed.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "President, Opposition Leader Meet in Nay Pyi Taw", Eleven Myanmar, 3 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">West backs polls

Embassies from Australia, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America on March 3 released a joint statement to support Myanmar’s upcoming general election this year.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Western nations to support elections", Eleven Myanmar, 4 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stay-extension in Thailand

The Thai cabinet has endorsed guidelines for regulation of migrant workers in the country. The cabinet has agreed to the allow those workers to complete the nationality verification process by this month to work for another two years after their work permit expires in March next year.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Extension of stay for Myanmar migrants in Thailand", Mizzima, 5 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhattarai seeks India’s help

Former Nepal prime minister and key Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai Monday sought India’s help in resolving his country’s current political stalemate over drafting of the new constitution, but made it clear that any "direct intervention" was not welcome.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "India should help us resolve constitution stalemate: Ex-Nepal PM", The Indian Express, 3 March 2015; "Bhattarai "updates" Pranab, Sushma on Nepal crisis", The Hindu, 4 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Currency smuggling on the rise

International gangs involved in pumping counterfeit Indian currency (CFIC) in India through Bangladesh and Nepal borders have increased their activities in the past five months and security agencies say terror angle could not be ruled out.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Counterfeit currency smuggling rises on porous Nepal border", The Times of India, 3 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police fire teargas at protesters

Protesters and police clashed in Kathmandu on Saturday at a demonstration by some 30,000 people led by the Maoist opposition to demand that political parties reach a consensus on a new constitution, in the biggest street march in Nepal in years.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal police fire teargas as thousands protest over constitution", Reuters, 28 February 2015; "Thousands march against new Nepal constitution vote", Aljazeera, 28 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC rejects amnesty

Nepal’s Supreme Court has rejected the possibility of amnesty for perpetrators of serious human rights abuses during a decade-long civil war, in a victory for human rights activists and victims’ groups.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal Supreme Court rejects amnesty for war crimes", Reuters, 27 February 2015; "Nepal Supreme Court rejects amnesty for war crimes", The Hindu, 27 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ice-breaker visit

The Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam has rejected the idea that the Indian foreign secretary’s recent visit to Pakistan was a failure and described it as an icebreaker between the neighbouring countries. The US said that it was encouraged by the visit and that India and Pakistan decided to resume dialogue.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Indian secy’s visit icebreaker: FO", The Nation, 6 March 2015; "US welcomes thaw in Pakistan, India ties: State department", The Nation, 7 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Schools being named after Peshawar victims

Pakistan is renaming several government-run schools after the students who were killed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants in a massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Schools to be named after Peshawar massacre victims", The Nation, 7 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terror bid foiled

Security forces arrested three militants and recovered a large cache of arms and ammunition during two different targeted operations in Quetta and Chaman.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Quetta raid: Pakistan Day terror plot nipped in bud", The Express Tribune, 7 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Operations to continue

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited the Corps Headquarters in Peshawar and was briefed on the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber-1 operations according to Director General Inter Services Public Relations Major General Asim Bajwa on his twitter account. The COAS said that the operations would continue till militancy was eliminated.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Operations to continue until militancy is eliminated: Gen Raheel", Dawn, 7 March 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM speaks out

In an interview telecast on India’s Thanthi TV Tamil channel, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that a solution to the fishers’ problem between the two countries would be possible only if the Indian fishers stayed within their borders.

The interview, telecast a week ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, Wickremesinghe reiterated the Sri Lankan position on balancing between India and China, on the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment on power-devolution linked to the ethnic issue, and ’accountability concerns’ flowing from ’war crimes’ allegations and the UNHRC probe.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "SL doesn’t agree with UN report figure on civil war deaths: PM", Business Standard, 7 March 2015; "Ranil drew wrong marine, fishermen parallel: India", Indian Express, 8 March 2015; "Prime Minister denies existence of secret detention camps", The Island, 3 March 2015; "Suspension of USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City project: Chinese government reacts ’New Lankan govt. should honour country’s obligations’", The Island, 5 March 2015; "China hopes SL will resolve Port City project", Daily Mirror Online, 5 March 2015; "Hakeem recalls ever ready Pakistan support for Lanka", The Island, 5 March 2015; "President pledges to address grievances of people in North", Tamil Guardian, 4 March 2015; "North chief minister tells Sri Lankan president that North-East needs are serious and different", Tamil Guardian, 3 March 2015; "Genocide of Tamils’: Call for wider UN inquiry reiterated TNA moves to curb dissent", The Island, 3 March 2015; "ITAK calls on Sri Lanka’s new president to work towards political solution for Tamils", Tamil Guardian, 4 March 2015; "Truth before solution - Sampanthan", Tamil Guardian, 27 February 2015; "Northern CM Wiggie Publishes Distorted Accounts: Thavarajah", Colombo Telegraph, 28 February, 2015; "Refer Sri Lanka To International Criminal Court: TGTE Tells UNHRC", Colombo Telegraph, 3 March 2015; "Zeid warns Lanka on rights probe", Colombo Gazette, 6 March 2015; "Only people of Sri Lanka can determine their destiny - South Africa", Tamil Guardian, 5 March 2015; "UN Is Encouraged By This Government’s Commitment To Promote Reconciliation & Accountability: Feltman", Colombo Telegraph, 4 March 2015; "UN calls for swift domestic probe into war crimes allegations Urges Sri Lanka to meet September timeframe", The Island, 3 March 2015; "Ready to play a constructive role-GTF tells President", The Island, 5 March 2015; "Supporting LTTE a criminal offence in UK - HC spokesperson", The Island, 5 March 2015; "Namal hopes the President will resolve the fishing crisis", Daily Mirror Online, 3 March 2015; "Kachchativu feast goes off without any hitch despite rising tensions", The Island, 1 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Revenge-politics on: Former President

Days before those UPFA constituents wanting him to be named the combine’s prime ministerial candidate held their second rally in as many weeks, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa charged the successor Government with indulging in politics of revenge against him and his supporters.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "None Can Accuse Me Of Engaging In Revengeful Politics: MR" , Colombo Telegraph, 27 February 2015; "Mahinda denies building presidential residences at KKS, Arugam Bay ’They are international convention centres’ Maithripala-Ranil administration is on a vilification campaign", The Island, 5 March 2015; "Namal says end political revenge", Colombo Gazette, 5 March 2015; "CCD grills Yoshitha over unserviceable light aircraft for one hour", The Island, 4 March 2015; "PM orders full investigation into payments made by previous regime to US Congressmen", The Island, 4 March 2015; "Special Committee to probe Presidential Election Law violations", The Island, 28 February 2015; "Vasu- Ranil battle over MR", Ceylon Today, 3 March 2015; "’Try those you accused of killing Lasantha,’ Dinesh tells Ranil", The Island, 28 February 2015; "SLFP bans elected members from attending bring-back-MR rallies", The Island, 3 March 2015; "UPFA forum of members of PCs and local bodies to defy ban on attending Kandy rally today", The Island, 5 March 2015; "CM Ranatunga sounds defiant on bringing Rajapaksa as PM", The Island, 4 March 2015; "Prasanna unable to attend Kandy rally today, speaks his mind from Australia ’I will attend all other rallies after my return’", The Island, 5 March 2015; "Basil has given up politics - Sarana", The Island, 4 March 2015; "Retired Army Chief rubbishes Maithri-Mangala coup charges", Colombo Mirror, 4 March 2015; "Ex-army chief’s interview sparks fresh probe", Colombo Mirror, 6 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament polls may be delayed

Against his pre-poll campaign setting 23 April for dissolving Parliament and ordering fresh polls at the end of his Government’s 100-day reforms programme, President Maithripala Sirisena has indicated that the election announcement may have to be delayed till May, to ensure that the promised reforms are undertaken by then.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Dissolution of Parliament postponed", The Island, 4 March 2015; "Electoral reforms before polls: President", Daily Mirror Online, 5 March 2015; "Presidential Task Force on Reconciliation established", Ceylon Mirror, 4 March 2015; "SLFP, UNP haggle over constitutional and electoral reforms", The Island, 28 February 2015; "Govt.,SLFP agree to hold general elections after constitutional reforms President Sirisena discusses electoral reforms with EC, stakeholders", The Island, 5 March 2015; "SLFP decides to form National Government", Ceylon Today, 6 March 2015; "Dissolve or UNP to take to streets - Kabir", Ceylon Today, 6 March 2015; "Ven. Rathana in new campaign to achieve political objectives", The Island, 28 February 2015; "Implementing constitutional, electoral reforms: President must act decisively - Ven. Sobhitha", The Island, 1 March 2015; "Roti should be roasted when iron plate is hot - Sobhitha Thera", Daily Mirror Online, 1 March 2015; "Liberal party opposes abolition of executive presidency in haste", The Island, 1 March 2015; "SLFP appoints committee to pick electoral organisers for next election", The Island, 4 March 2015; "SLFP to challenge appointment of Harin as Uva CM again", The Island, 4 March 2015

Primary Documentation


Press Release of Credentials presented by Ambassador of Belgium to Bhutan, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 March 2015


External Affairs Minister’s speech at launch of WFUNA Foundation India in New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 March 2015

PM’s reply to the debate on ’Motion of Thanks’ to President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha (Preliminary Transcript), website of the Prime Minister’s Office, 3 March 2015

Ram Madhav (national general secretary of the BJP and negotiator during recent BJP-PDP parlays), "The twain shall meet", The Indian Express, 2 March 2015

Yashwant Sinha (former Finance Minister and External Affairs Minister, BJP), "Strong on the social sector side", The Hindu, 1 March 2015

P Chidambaram (former Finance and Home Minister, Congress),"Across The Aisle - Fourteenth FC: Generous to a fault?", The Indian Express, 1 March 2015


Deputy Foreign Minister attends high level segments of UN human rights council session, disarmament conference, Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 March 2015


Press Release from Embassy/Permanent Mission of Nepal Geneva, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 4 March 2015

Press Release from Embassy of Nepal, Tokyo on an Official Visit of Acting Foreign Secretary Mr. Shanker Das Bairagi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 3 March 2015


D-8 Secretary General calls on the Adviser to the Prime Minister on NS & FA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 6 March 2015

Foreign Secretary briefs P-5 and EU Envoys, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 5 March 2015

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 5 March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 5 March 2015

Prime Minister’s Official Visit to Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 4 March 2015

Curtain Raiser - Official Visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 4-6 March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 3 March 2015

Official Visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 4-6 March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 3 March 2015

Statement of the Foreign Secretary to Media after FS-Level meeting between Pakistan and India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 3 March 2015




"Mapping the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan", The Long War Journal, 5 March 2015

Sanjay Kumar, "Afghans Yearn for New Icons", The Diplomat, 5 March 2015

David Francis, "Watchdog: Afghan Army Far Weaker Than Initially Believed", Foreign Policy, 3 March 2015

Nathan Hodge, "Afghanistan struggles with police funding", The Wall Street Journal, 28 February 2015

Opinion Pieces

Jan Agha Iqbal, "IS threatens Afghanistan peace hopes", The Asia Times Online, 5 March 2015

Ali Reza Sarwar, "Afghanistan’s Mujahideen and a Fragile Peace", The Diplomat , 4 March 2015

Emile Simpson, "Why We Failed to Win a Decisive Victory in Afghanistan", Foreign Policy, 2 March 2015

Hekmatullah Azamy, "It’s Complicated: The Relationship Between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban", Foreign Policy, 2 March 2015

Kate Clark, "What should Afghanistan do with America’s foreign detainees?",Afghanistan Analysts Network, 2 March 2015

Davood Moradian,"Afghan democracy and western hypocrisy", Al Jazeera, February 28, 2015


Opinion Pieces

Haroon Habib, "Mamata’s Dhaka visit? Emotion and realities", The Daily Observer, 4 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "The e (for efficiency) desk", Kuensel Online, 7 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Muzamil Jaleel, "Why Mufti felt he needed to ’thank’ Pak and separatists", The Indian Express, 6 March 2015

Jean Drèze, "Nehruvian budget in the corporate age", The Hindu, 5 March 2015

Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, "Expose Pakistan’s insincerity", The Asian Age, 5 March 2015

Shiv Visvanathan, "AAP is not transparent", The Asian Age, 5 March 2015

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "Two Experiments", The Indian Express, 4 March 2015

Ramachandra Guha, "In Absentia: Where are India’s conservative intellectuals?", 1 March 2015

Milan Vaishnav and Neelanjan Sircar, "Unsafe after sunset", The Hindu, 27 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Feeble light at the end of the tunnel",, 7 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Sithu Aung Myint, "What are you doing parliament?", Myanmar Times, 4 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kirsten Geelan, Kjell Tormod Pettersen, Asko Luukkainen, "Long Road", Republica, 7 March 2015

Bimal Gautam, "CIAA’s Role", Republica, 7 March 2015

Prateeba Tuladhar, "Sit Down Please", eKantipur, 6 March 2015

Ram C. Acharya, "The Trinity Trap", eKantipur, 6 March 2015

Gopal Thapa, "Lull before a Storm", eKantipur, 6 March 2015

George W. Holden and Umesh Raj Regmi, "Spare the rod", Republica, 4 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

C Raja Mohan, "Nawaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia: Pakistan’s Leverage in the Gulf", The Indian Express, 5 March 2015

Praveen Swami, "Prime Minister’s Pakistan project", The Indian Express, 3 March 2015

Suhasini Haidar, "A ’Pak yatra’ as ’SAARC yatra’?", The Hindu, 3 March 2015

Sanaulla, "Another ray of hope", The News International, 3 March 2015

K. Iqbal, "Evolving opportunities for Pakistan-India relations", The Nation, 2 March 2015

Aakar Patel, "Why Pak does not interest India", The Asian Age, 1 March 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Ameen Izzadeen, "Alleged war crimes: Restorative justice with truth and reconciliation", Daily Mirror Online, 6 March 2015

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya, "To build bridge between two fractured societies", Daily Mirror Online, 6 March 2015

Kelum Bandara, "Chief Minister Wigneswaran makes reference to Two Nations", Daily Mirror Online, 5 March

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, "Accountability and the central role of the public", The Island, 4 March 2015

Hemantha Wanakulasuriya, "The Nugegoda meeting", The Island, 4 March 2015

Gomin Dayasiri, "Run Mahinda run", Daily Mirror Online , 3 March 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Sri Lanka: Karaikkal fishers take the lead?",, 3 March 2015

Siri Hettige, "Liberalism, nationalism and barbarism", Daily Mirror Online, 2 March 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Can South Africa succeed where India and Norway had failed?", The Sunday Leader, 1 March 2015

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh : Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar : Mihir Bhonsale;
India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti and Manmath Goel;
Maldives & Sri Lanka : N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal : Pratnashree;
Pakistan : Taruni Kumar

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