MonitorsPublished on Jan 16, 2015
Reported jihadi threats forcing the down-grading of a New Year Eve entertainment programme and those regarding seven more Maldivians joining the civil war in Syria have revived the on-again-off-again national discourse on religious radicalism in Maldives.
'Brand Maldives' caught in radicalisation?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Reported jihadi threats forcing the down-grading of a New Year Eve entertainment programme and those regarding seven more Maldivians joining the civil war in Syria have revived the on-again-off-again national discourse on religious radicalism in Maldives. Indicating the Government’s resolve to curb those tendencies nearer home, President Abdulla Yameen strongly condemned the jihadi terror-attacks in distant France and at the same time said that the nation cannot accept ’insults to Islam’ of the Charlie Hebdomagazine’s kind.

Jamaican star Seal Paul was to have inaugurated the ’Tourist Arrival Countdown’ with his show, but cried off almost at the last-minute following social media threats, reportedly by local jihadi groups. Caught unawares, the Tourism Ministry, organising the Countdown, quickly resorted to damage-control by having the Salim & Suleiman Indian duo perform instead - and at the same time followed it up with a bigger show involving American singer Akon and Bollywood-fame Priyanka Chopra.

Independent of the Tourism Count-down and the subsequent threat, local media reported that seven more Maldivians, belonging to a local gang, had joined the ’Islamic State’ (IS) civil war in Syria. The group was led by an ex-soldier, who was also the main suspect in the 2012 murder of moderate Islamic scholar and PPM parliamentarian, Dr Afrasheem Ali, and a few other known criminals. His wife and child escaped being taken to Syria after her family intervened.

The group included two employees of the Immigration Department, and some of them were radicalised while in prison, the local media reported. With their ’gang’ background it is not known if there were mercenaries among them. There is however no evidence that they had weapons-training of any kind. Such a surmise, if it came to that, would have raised further questions on arms-procurement, training venue, recruitment patterns, etc, causing the Government to enhance its anti-terror vigil and consequent migration more than at present.

Evidentiary standards

After a group comprising a man, his wife, child, mother and sister have gone to Syria, Home Minister Umar Naseer told Parliament that not more than seven Maldivians were fighting the civil war in that country. He felt relieved that fewer Maldivians were involved in such overseas incidents, compared to Europeans.

In between, a website of Maldivian jihadis in Syria counted reported that four from the country had lost their lives in the civil war. After the recent Paris killings, London’s Daily Mail claimed that a Maldivian jihadi had tweeted a day earlier about the impending terror-attack in the French capital. In the light of the current escapade, the nation’s police chief, Commissioner Hussein Waheed, admitted that nearly 50 Maldivians were in Syria, fighting the war there.

The Government, particularly the Islamic Ministry, using religious scholars, has repeatedly sought to educate Maldivians that fighting somebody else’s civil war was not Islamic ’jihad’. The Ministry, working closely with the police and the Immigration Department, has also been trying to dissuade Maldivians from going to Syria. As courts would not issue detention order on police request or order passport-withdrawal, citing lack of evidence, Minister Naseer said that ways have to be found to lower ’evidentiary standards’ in terrorism-related cases. Translated, it could mean a new and strong anti-terror law, particularly in regard to police investigation, prosecution and trial of suspects and accused.

According to officials, there was no way to find out if someone was flying out of the country for legitimate reasons, or was headed for proceeding to Syria. In one such case, Immigration officials in neighbouring Sri Lanka detained a group of Maldivians at the Colombo airport after their versions did not tally. Minister Naseer said that they were thus working with other governments, to try and bring back prospective fighters from other countries, but they have not been able to succeed only in the case of those who had already reached Syria.

Delineating the distinction

A new element has since been added - or, revived - after the religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP), or ’Justice’ Party, described the Tourism Count-down show as a ’conspiracy against Islam’. Inviting a man like Akon to perform in a country with a hundred percent Muslim population was unacceptable, party chief, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, said.

The Adhaalath Party has had sympathy, if not outright support from Islamic Affairs Minister, Mohammed Shaeem Ali Saeed, who has been coming down heavily on Maldivians going to Syria for joining the civil war there. Clearly, the likes of Minister Shaheem and AP’s Sheikh Imran are seeking to delineate Islamic traditions from ’jihadi terrorism’.

Founded as a tradition-bound moderate force to protest President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year-long regime’s alleged lack of enthusiasm to maintain the Islamic character of the country, the AP later joined the successor Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Government of President Mohammed Nasheed. However, it quit the ruling coalition - the party failed to win a single parliamentary seat at the time - citing the ’anti-Islamic’ ways of the Government.

The Adhaalath Party came into greater limelight not very long after by lending visible leadership to the anti-Nasheed ’December 23’ movement, and also in the ’quit GMR’ protest against the Indian infrastructure conglomerate. The party reiterated its resolve not to do anything that would affect the tourism industry, the nation’s economic mainstay. Quickly replaced at the helm by bigger political players like Gayoom-led Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), of which President Yameen is now a leading-light, the AP now also seems to be facing survival-threat from more radicalised groups and individuals.

"The intention is not to defy Islam," Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said in response to AP’s protest against the Akon programme. Such events are "simply a means to promote Maldives as a brand". He pointed out that Maldives "does not belong" to the ’Islamic State’ and indicated that such events had become necessary to tell the world that the nation was not promoting or participating religious terrorism - which in turn kept foreign tourists, off.

"While the entire world has started to see Malé City as a lair that harbours members of the ’Islamic State’ or extremist militants, foreign artists performing here will show the world what the situation here is truly like". After the Akon-Priyanka show, the Minister said that both artistes had expressed an interest in ’investing in Maldives’, again indicating that such initiatives could go a long way in infusing greater confidence in foreign tourists.

Minister Adeeb also said that they should be looking at what he called ’development happiness’. As he said in this regard, "Where else are such famous artists seen performing for free? We should not just focus on GDP but on ’growth development happiness’ as well." To him, "I’m not looking to challenge anyone...I’m looking to promote this country and by God’s will, that’s happening", possibly indicating strains within the Establishment.

Fall in Chinese arrivals

Minister Adeeb may have a point. In the recent years, Chinese tourist arrivals had come to replace western arrivals in terms of numbers - and in a very big way - though not necessarily in terms of spending. It helped to tied over the industry crisis in Maldives, caused by the 2008 global meltdown, which saw many westerners cutting down on their travel plans. However, recent studies have shown that Maldives might have lost its charm for Chinese, with lower figures recorded in 2014, and predicted even more for 2015.

Quoting ’Travelzoo Asia Pacific’ survey, Haveeru Online said that Maldives would be the seventh most preferred destination for Chinese tourists in 2015. This is 21.30 percent of the 4,300 tourists that took the survey. Maldives was the sixth most preferred destination in 2014, 23.70 percent of the tourists that took the survey in the previous year, the report said.

According to the study, Japan now came out on top for Chinese tourists, with the US in second place. The Japanese yen had fallen approximately 10 percent against the Chinese yuan in 2014, and this made the travel costs cheaper. "As the yen keeps weakening, Chinese are not only going to Japan to shop but also buy properties in some cases," according to the Travelzoo study.

National consensus

It’s time that Maldives as a nation replaced ’denial complacence’ with national consensus in facing off radicalisation and terror-threats, even if of the overseas kind, squarely. Before the current series of Maldivians fighting the civil war in Syria, the US-NATO forces had arrested nine along the Af-Pak border a few years ago. Maldivians were mentioned in last year’s investigations into a Sri Lanka-based Pakistani ISI-run terror-plot targeting US and Israeli chanceries in south Indian capitals.

Soon after the Paris attacks, President Yameen said that the episode demonstrated "yet again, the profound need to counter radicalism and to promote tolerance and moderation, which are the true values of Islam". The President called upon Muslim leaders around the world to unite in protecting Islam and promoting its true values of peace and tolerance.

In a tweet after the Paris terror, Opposition MDP’s former President Mohamed Nasheed strongly condemned the attack and extended his condolence to the families and friends of the victims. In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a Press statement condemning "the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

In a statement only days later, President Yameen added that Maldives could not Charlie Hebdokind of ’insult to Islam’ and said, "Freedom of expression is not a license to creating hatred, and promoting anti-Islamic sentiments. Instead, such criminal activities should be stopped and a culture of respect and tolerance should be developed, as a means of countering ’Islamophobia’ and radicalism at the same time.

Condemnation of ’Islamic radicalisation’ by political parties is however not without underlying overtones. Some parties like the AP, and the third largest Jumhooree Party (JP) are not known to have express any views - leave alone strong views - either against Maldivians laying down their lives in someone else’s war, or increasing radicalisation of the local youth.

This trend needs to be halted and reversed, if they all are serious about saving Maldivian youth from taking the path. The initiative still lies with the Government of the day. Other parties and leaders too cannot escape their share of responsibility - including a halt to their irresponsible behaviour at times!

(The writer is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar: Human Rights gatekeeper?

Mihir Bhonsale

Human rights situation in Myanmar has been reduced to a position, whether deteriorating or improving depends on the position one is seeing from, U.S. has criticized systemic violence and cautioned against the backsliding of democratic reforms undertaken by the Junta-led Thein Sen’s government.

The government of Myanmar in a recent development has called for scrapping the position of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights. The call coincided with the UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to the country. This position taken by the government has muddled the human rights discourse.

There is no denying that human rights violations continue unabated in Myanmar. Thein Sein government is a government of contradictions when it comes to human rights. The might Thein Sein government since assuming power has release of political prisoners, signed cease-fire agreements and has released child soldiers.

But, these top-bottom reforms have failed to improve human rights situation in Myanmar and problems of ethnic strife and prosecution of minorities are far from being resolved. With U.S. pushing the Burmese government for stopping human rights abuses, who would be the gatekeeper of human rights in Myanmar is a question, has become the bone of contention.

American position

U.S’s position on Myanmar has been most consistent when it comes to human rights situation in Myanmar. President, Barack Obama has clearly spelled out the concerns the Congress has regarding the situation in Myanmar, especially the treatment of minorities and ethnic groups. The country has already extended the sanctions on the country for a year.

The E.U. has both endorsed U.S.’s position on Myanmar, while some of its member nations have prioritised trade and investment opportunities continued over human rights. U.S.’s snub to the Junta regime has posted an Asia-Pacific Challenge for Obama, as of now the U.S. has been steadfast on its human rights position on Myanmar.

The U.S. has however had a loss of face in Afghanistan and Iraq and with violence becoming the order of the day in these countries, with an added threat of ISIS, military interventions seem a distant possibility. The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Myanmar is the chair engaged with the South China Sea problem, the ASEAN’s limitations are imminent of performing the role of gatekeepers.

The United Nations Security Council Amendment of Responsibility to Protect has already given some teeth to intervene in countries where human rights are endangered. However, whether the Obama administration is keen on neutralising the Junta is a question.

Sovereignty alibi

Deep-rooted in Myanmar’s denial is the Myanmar government’s alibi of sovereignty has been used as an alibi for long, at the cost of deteriorating minorities and ethnic groups condition. With Myanmar opening itself to the globalized world with its brand of economic reforms, a new discontented citizenry is emerging in Myanmar.

The Thein Sein government’s faces the legitimacy test. Not just are ethnic groups suspicious of the Thein Sein government, but increasingly the contradictions within the government on reforms are coming out in the open. The USDP which is a significant ruling party has mooted six way talks on the nature of reforms taking place in the country, even though the President appeared uncomfortable on the same.

The deteriorating majority-minority relations have eluded reforms so far carried out by the Thein Sein government an instance being the violence against the Rohingyas. The military’s role has been most controversial when it comes to rights situation, even threatening the truce with armed ethnic groups.

Gatekeepers within

Unless there are human rights gatekeepers within Myanmar, the abuse of human rights would continue unabated. The media in Myanmar has already begun the battle. There is a fairly large movement today of farmers, workers and NGOs against land grab and environmental issues.

The opposition in Parliament have a significant role to play, provided they prioritise them. Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on the prosecution of the Rohingyas has put doubts over NLD’s gatekeeper role. But as an opposition party they continue to be detrimental to human rights situation in Myanmar.

Civil society of the country who have exposure and networks with international governmental and non-governmental agencies could be the gatekeepers for human rights in Myanmar. An informed citizenry which aims at socio-economic development could help develop and sustain the gate-keeping function.

As more and more educated people in Myanmar find employment in tertiary sectors and get more time at their disposal, the civil society expands in Myanmar and becomes a significant force concerned about human rights.

Having said this, it is important to identify and remedy structural deficiencies and establish rule of law human rights.

(Mihir Bhonsale is a Research Assistant at the Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata Chapter).

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Afghanistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet nominees announced

After a delay of nearly 106 days, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah finally announced their nominees for cabinet ministers. A total of 25 names have been put forward for approval by the Afghan parliament - 13 names were chosen by Dr Ghani and 12 by Dr Abdullah.

The incumbent ministers are expected to remain in office till the new names are approved by the parliament. The Afghan government also suggested nominees for the heads of the National Directorate of Security and the Central Bank of Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Finally NUG Announces Cabinet Nominees", Tolo News, 12 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IS recruiting in Afghanistan

A former Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf from the Helmand province has declared his allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). The new group is said to have replaced the white flags of the Taliban with the black flags of IS.

The Afghan government officials have also confirmed that they have received reports of the IS attempting to recruit volunteers in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission also confirmed reports about the same.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Islamic State ’recruiting Afghan fighters’", BBC News, 12 January 2015; "US General: ISIS (Daesh) recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan Khaama Press, 16 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak ISI chief visits

The Director-General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) made an emergency trip to Kabul to meet President Ghani. The trip was meant to explore possibilities of joint cooperation in the eradication of terrorism and the prospects for handing over the TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "DG ISI dashes to Kabul", The News International, 12 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strategic pact with UAE

During President Ghani’s visit to UAE, a strategic partnership charter was signed between the two countries through which both are committed to boost bilateral ties.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghanistan signs strategic partnership charter with UAE", Khaama Press, 15 January 2015

Bangladesh

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political unrest continues

There has been no respite from the incidences of political violence and atmosphere of chaos and anarchy this week also. Political violence had started following the clashes between cadres of ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) surrounding celebration of first anniversary of the government last week.

Daily lives of the common people are getting affected due to political violence. The opposition BNP is demanding resignation of AL government and urging for fresh election. To control the situation government adopted strong action against the opposition. Many of the top opposition leaders are arrested. Sedition charge has been brought against Khaleda Zia. Considering the situation concerns are being raised about the future political situation of the country.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Blockade disrupts life", The Independent, 12 January 2015; "PM?vows stern action", The Independent, 13 January 2015; "Blockade hits hard RMG sector", The Independent, 13 January 2015; "Diplomats meet BNP leaders", The Independent, 16 January 2015; "Bangladesh clamps down on opposition amid violent clashes", The Economic Times,9 January 2015; " Political Turmoil Sparks Fresh Violence in Bangladesh", Time, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN-Women vice-president

Bangladesh has been elected a Vice-President for the UN-Women Executive Board. The Board governs the operational activities of the UN-Women and provides policy guidance. It engages with Boards and Governing Bodies of other UN entities and creates opportunities for sharing experiences and coordinating operational responses on gender equality and the empowerment of women across the UN.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bangladesh elected UN-women vice-president", The Daily Star, 10 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deal with Russian firm

Bangladesh has moved a step forward in the way of having its own satellite as it has signed a deal with Russia’s INTERSPUTNIK to collect the orbital slot towards launching Bangladesh’s first satellite "Bangabandhu-1". The country plans to launch its first satellite by December 2017.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Deal with Russian firm inked", The Independent, 16 January 2015

Bhutan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security intertwined with India

Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee said that the security concerns of Bhutan and India are intertwined while speaking after welcoming Bhutan Prime Minsiter, Tshering Tobgay at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 14 January. Tobgay is presently on 9-day tour to India.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Security Concerns of India, Bhutan intertwined: President Pranab Mukherjee", Zee News, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Amul approached for cows

Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay has sought Amul’s help in sourcing 2,000 cows. The Prime Minister visited Gujarat’s Anand where Amul’s dairy is located. Tobgay also met Indian Finance Minister, Arun Jaitely on his tour to India, both agreed on strengthening hydropower cooperation between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : Bhutan seeks Amul’s help to source 2,000 cows from India" The Times of India, 13 January 2015; "Energy cooperation to be strengthened", Kuensel Online, 16 January 2015; "PM meets several key government leaders of India", Bhutan Broadcasting Service, 14 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Queen in Thailand

The Queen Mother of Bhutan Tshering Pem Wangchuck was in Bangkok for a 2 day visit to explore possibilities of collaboration and rehabilitation services between Thailand and Bhutan. Wangchuck is the President of Bhutan Youth Development Fund.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "YDF president, Her Majesty Queen Mother Tshering Pem Wangchuck in Bangkok" Kuensel Online, 14 January 2015

India

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">DRDO chief sacked

The government terminated Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief Avinash Chandar’s contract 16 months before it was to expire. The decision was made by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on grounds that younger scientists should be promoted and the need to avoid contract based appointments. DRDO came under criticism by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recurring cost and time overruns. At the same time, the new government has forced several Congress appointments out of office since coming to power.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "No Ulterior Motive in DRDO Chief’s Removal, Say Sources in Prime Minister’s Office", NDTV, 14 January 2015; "Narendra Modi govt sacks DRDO chief 15 months ahead of his contract", The Indian Express, 14 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Congress leadership meets to discuss strategy

The Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making group of the National Congress party met on 13 January to discuss its future following its election rout last year. The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They criticised the use of ordinance by the BJP government to circumvent debate in Parliament. Rahul Gandhi reflected upon the party’s slide and attributed it to the higher leadership’s insulation from the party’s cadre.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Modi government not serving nation by surpassing parliamentary debates: Congress", The Economic Times, 13 January 2015; "Rahul Gandhi pushes for structural changes from the bottom rung", The Indian Express,14 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Delhi polls on

Ending months of speculation, the Election Commission announced dates for Delhi legislative assembly elections. The capital will go to polls on February 7, and counting will be conducted on February 10, outgoing Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath announced.

The announcement comes after months of campaigning by the Aam Aadmi Party whose leader Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation in February last year led to the assembly been kept in suspension since then.

Following the announcement, former colleague of Kejriwal and retired police officer Kiran Bedi formally joined the BJP. Shazia Ilmi, who broke ranks with the AAP following its poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections, is also expected to buttress the BJP following AAP’s remarkable recovery as suggested by recent public opinion polls.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Kiran Bedi to be BJP’s ’face’ in Delhi polls", The Hindu, 15 January 2015; "Former AAP leader Shazia Ilmi meets Amit Shah", The Hindu, 16 January 2015; "Delhi Assembly Elections on February 7", NDTV, 16 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Insurgent attack in Manipur

Two Assam Rifles soldiers were injured after their post come under rebel attack in the north-eastern state of Manipur on January 16. The incident took place close to the border with Myanmar.

The assailants took advantage of the thick foliage and escaped. Assam Rifles is a paramilitary force tasked with counterinsurgency operations in the north-east where hundreds of insurgent groups remain armed, many of them entering into peace deals with the government.

While insurgents hold less sway in Manipur when compared to neighbouring Nagaland, nevertheless, their continued presence causes occasional skirmishes with security forces.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "2 jawans injured in militant attack in Manipur", Business Standard, 16 January 2015; "Two jawans injured in militant attack in Manipur", The Hindu, 16 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Spurious alcohol kills 29

29 people died after consuming locally manufactured toxic alcohol in Malihabad, about 25 kilometres from capital Lucknow. The victims became ill after drinking spurious liquor on Sunday night (January 10) during a gathering to watch a cricket match.

More than 100 have been hospitalised and doctors fear that the death toll may rise. Death from consumption of spurious liquor is rife in India, where many people living below poverty levels cannot afford licencesed liquor.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bootleg liquor kills 28 in UP; death toll may rise", Hindustan Times, 13 January 2015; "India toxic alcohol kills 29 in Uttar Pradesh", BBC, 13 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI cuts repo rate

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) effected a surprise interest rate cut outside the cycle of monetary-policy decisions early on Thursday and promised that there was more to follow as it signalled a "shift" to an accommodative monetary policy stance citing lower inflation, sending stocks and bond prices higher.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RBI signals shift in policy stance with surprise interest rate cut", Livemint, 15 January 2015; "RBI Surprises with Early Rate Cut, Sensex Surges", NDTV, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Big FDI promise in Gujarat Summit

Large conglomerates from India and abroad today announced huge investment and job creation plans at the three-day Vibrant Gujarat Summit, which was held in presence of Prime Minister NarendraModi and leaders from across the world.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Vibrant Gujarat Summit kicks off; Indian, foreign companies announce huge investments", Economic Times, 11 January 2015; "Vibrant Gujarat: Modi to make India business-friendly", Hindustan Times, 11 January 2015; "Vibrant Gujarat Summit: Over 21,000 MoUs Signed, 17,000 for Small and Medium Enterprise", NDTV, 14 January 2015

Maldives

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Clearance for high-rise

President Abdulla Yameen has announced the government’s decision to sanction the construction of 25-storey buildings in the capital of Male and nearby islands.

At present, buildings only up to 15-storey height could be built in Male city.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Govt decides to give permit to build as high as 25 storeys in Male’ and islands near Male’", Miadhu, 16 January 2015; "President inaugurates second phase of Hulhumale’ land reclamation", Miadhu, 16 January 2015; "Hulhumalé reclamation cost USD 22 million lower", Haveeru Online, 14 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Charlie Hebdoinsult to Islam’

President Abdulla Yameen has condemned the French cartoon magazine, ’Charlie Hebdo’, for ’insulting Islam’ by caricaturing Prophet Mohammed.

It was an attempt to incite religious hatred, the President said in a statement, said that "freedom of expression is not a licence... to promoting ... Islamophobia", adding, "such criminal activities should be stopped and actions should be taken in a speedy manner".

In an earlier statement, President Yameen said that the Charlie Hebdoterror-attack showed the profound need for countering terrorism.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen condemns Charlie Hebdofor insulting Islam", SunOnline, 15 January 2015; "Maldivians will not accept the insults made against Islam- President", Miadhu, 16 January 2015; "Charlie Hebdomassacre demonstrates "profound need to counter radicalism," says President Yameen", Minivan News, 11 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister denies no-trust vote in LGA

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has challenged claims by a ’five-member’ majority in the nine-man Local Government Authority (LGA), claiming that he had been voted out as its president.

The voting was against procedures, he said, after the LGA board meeting was cut short while voting on the no-trust move.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nazim: Reports of my dismissal as LGA President are false", SunOnline, 15 January 2015; "Nazim ’dismissed’ as LGA President following no-confidence vote", SunOnline, 15 January 2015; "LGA meeting cut short amid discord over no-confidence motion against Nazim", SunOnline, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defend Constitution: Nasheed

In a statement citing violations ahead of leaving for Sri Lanka, where he met the nation’s newly-elected leadership, Opposition MDP leader and former President Mohammed Nasheed called upon Maldivians to rise up again to defend the Constitution, which he said was being undermined by the present government of President Abdulla Yameen.

Nearer home, the party’s appeals committee upheld the leadership’s decision to sack Parliament Deputy Speaker ’Reeko’ Moosa Manik from primary membership, and PR consultant Paul Roberts denied reports of the Nasheed presidency’s high government-spending on his firm.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "We must once again rise up to defend the Constitition, says Nasheed",Minivan News, 13 January 2015; "Details of President’s trips to Singapore a public right, says Nasheed", Minivan News, 12 January 2015; "Nasheed pays an official visit to newly elected Sri Lankan President and PM", Minivan News, 13 January 2015; "MDP appeals committee backs decision to expel MP Moosa", Minivan News, 14 January 2015; "Nasheed’s PR consultant responds to accusations", Haveeru Online, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IHC to the rescue of Indian woman

The Indian High Commission is working to free Rubeena Buruhanuddin, an Indian woman married to a Maldivian, accused of murdering her child, and has been languishing in a Maldivian prison since 2010, in the absence of a lawyer.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "IHC working on freeing Indian murder accused", Haveeru Online, 14 January 2015; "IHC organizing Bollywood themed shows for 50th anniversary", Haveeru Online, 11 January 2015; "Akon and Priyanka Chopra to invest in Maldives", Haveeru Online, 12 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to open embassy

An Embassy in Maldives would be one of the six that Japan has planned, a newspaper in that country has reported.

A Maldivian Embassy was opened in Japan in 2007.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Japan to set up embassy in Maldives", Haveeru Online, 12 January 2015; "Thailand donates USD 50,000 to water fund", SunOnline, 15 January 2015

Myanmar

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tussle with KIA intensifies

The ensuing tussle between the military forces and Kachin Independence Army has intensified since 15 January leaving over 1,000 people to flee their homes in Myanmar Hpakant Township. Local residents said that over 1,000 army-personnel have been dispatched to the conflict zone to provide support for the operation.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Civillians Flee Fresh Fighting Between KIA, Govt Troops", The Irrawaddy, 15 January 2015; "Fighting between Government Troops and KIA Intensify in Hpakant", Eleven Myanmar, 16 January 2015; "Bombs and firefights in Kachin’s Hpakant township", Mizzima, 16 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forum seeks urgent reforms

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) a forum of 34 countries that aims at addressing globalization issues has said that there are ample opportunities in Myanmar but urgent reforms are required for tapping them.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "OECD highlights opportunities in Burma, urges urgent reforms", Democratic Voice of Burma, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. asks UN to take back rights envoy position

The union government has reiterated that there is no need for the United Nations (UN) to have a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar. The comments have come at a time when the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights is making her visit to Myanmar.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Govt. repeats call to UN to dump rights envoy position", Mizzima, 15 January 2015

Nepal

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fast-tracking the Constitution

As many as 413 lawmakers from various political parties including ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have submitted signatures to CA Chairman Subas Nembang on Friday as part of the Constitution Building Pressure Campaign.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "413 Lawmakers submit signatures to Subas Nembang", Republica, 16 January 2015; "UML bats for new constitution through fast track", Republica, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UCPN(M) trying to block CA

The UCPN (Maoist) is preparing to intensify protests within the Constituent Assembly and on the streets as the January 22 constitution promulgation deadline approaches. The opposition party also urged the ruling coalition to suspend its plan of settling contentious issues through a vote in the CA.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : UCPN (M) to make ’all-out effort’ to block CA process", eKantipur, 16 January 2015; "UCPN (Maoist) caught between rock and hard place", Republica, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Simplifying procedure

Nepal and India have agreed to simplify the procedure for using the $1 billion line of credit extended to Nepal during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last year. A follow-up meeting held between the two sides in New Delhi has decided to eliminate many procedural steps so that the loan can be utilized without delay.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal, India agree to simplify procedure", eKantipur, 15 January 2015; "Nepal and India to cut red tape", eKantipur, 13 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Honorary Consulate in Penang

Nepal has opened honorary consulate in Penang, Malaysia to provide essential services to Nepali migrant workers living in the region. Ambassador of Nepal to Malyasia Dr Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Malaysia Dato´ Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar jointly inauguated the consulate amidst a special function held on Thursday

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal opens honorary consulate in Penang", Republica, 15 January 2015; "Govt has not permitted operation of biometric system: Secretary", The Himalayan Times, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">VP promises Hindi at UN

Nepal’s Vice-President Parmananda Jha, who had got into trouble for taking oath of office in Hindi, today suggested that the language be added to the list of six official languages in the United Nations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Hindi should be an official language in UN, says Nepal vice-president Parmananda Jha", The Economic Times, 12 January 2015; "Hindi has become a global language? says Veep Jha", The Himalayan Times, 12 January 2015

Pakistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ban on Haqqani Network, Jamaat-ud-Dawa

Pakistan is planning to outlaw the Haqqani network as well as 10 other militant groups that are linked to violent extremism. The list includes Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The United States of America has said that it welcomes reports of Pakistan’s decision.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US praises ban on Haqqanis", Dawn.com, 17 January 2015; "US welcomes reports of Pakistan’s plan to ban Haqqanis", The Express Tribune, 16 January 2015; "Pakistan decides to ban Haqqani network", The News International, 17 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stronger defence ties with Russia

According to Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam, Pakistan intends to develop ties in various spheres with Russia including defence and energy products and considers the ongoing dialogue with the country as productive.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan seeks to strengthen defence ties with Russia: FO spokesperson", The Express Tribune, 16 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Action Plan can end terrorism: COAS

The Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif said that the National Action Plan is sufficient for the long term resolution of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. He also added that resolving the Kashmir issue is the key to achieving long term peace and stability in the region.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "NAP: Strategy being implemented to address terrorism in Pakistan, says Army chief", The Express Tribune, 16 January 2015; "Pakistan desires peace with India: COAS", The Nation, 17 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coordinated action possible

Pakistani and Afghan security forces are expected to launch a coordinated operation against terrorists in their respective border regions.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Pak-Afghan border regions: In sync operations on the cards", The Express Tribune, 17 January 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Smaller ministry for Sirisena

President Maithripala Sirisena has settled for a smaller ministry than predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, as promised, and said it was only an ’interim Cabinet’, pending parliamentary polls after his government had implemented its 100-day programme of election manifesto, involving the abolishing/modification of the existing Executive Presidency scheme.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "New Cabinet ministers sworn in", Daily Mirror Online, 12 January 2015; "President calls for all-party govt.", The Island, 11 January 2015; ""I’ll be a one-term president," says Sirisena", The Island, 10 January 2015; "General Election after 100-day programme-President", Daily Mirror Online, 12 January 2015; "JVP makes about-turn", The Island, 12 January 2015; "JVP calls for end to post-polls violence", The Island, 12 January 2015; "P B Abeykoon new Secretary to the President", The Island, 10 January 2015; "Dhanapala Foreign Relations Advisor to President", The Island, 14 January 2015; "B. M. U. D. Basnayake appointed new Defence Secretary", The Island, 14 January 2015; "Austin Fernando appointed as Presidential advisor", Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2015"

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR hands over party to MS

A week after his electoral defeat, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has handed over the leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), to his successor, Maithripala Sirisena.

The SLFP central committee, which had earlier reaffirmed its faith in Rajapaksa, met again at his instance, to elect Sirisena their new leader. The meeting also named former Presidents Rajapaksa and Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga as the Patrons of the party.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Former President hands over reins of SLFP to incumbent", The Nation, 16 January 2015; "Maithripala appointed SLFP chairman", Daily Mirror Online, 16 January 2015; "Maithripala succeeds Mahinda as SLFP leader", The Island, 15 January 2015; "MR says ready to handover SLFP Chairmanship to Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015; "Basil resigns as SLFP national organiser", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015; "SLFP split again; 11 more pledge support to MS", The Island, 11 January 2015; "UPFA promises "unconditional" support for 100-day program", The Island, 11 January 2015; "Mahinda UPFA PM Candidate - Udaya", Daily Mirror Online, 11 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC points to clean polls sans 17-A

Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshpriya has said that his team had successfully held a clean presidential poll even in the absence of ’independent commissions’ under the now-defunct 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

Deshpriya also said that there was thus a need to review 17-A and the superseding of 18-A, in this regard.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Polls Chief: ’Scarecrow held a clean election’", The Island, 15 January 2015; "MR rejects reports of influencing poll results", Daily Mirror Online, 13 January 2015; "SLFP CC denies coup allegation", The Island, 11 January 2015; "UNP - UPFA trying to destabilise", Daily Mirror Online, 11 January 2015; "Mangala complains to CID on alleged attempt to thwart democracy", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015; "Ranjan slams Maitripala, Ranil", Colombo Gazette, 11 January 2015; "Handover of govt. fatal mistake - Vasu", The Island, 15 January 2015; "Basil, Dudley leave country", Daily Mirror Online, 11 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Civilian Governor for North

The newly-elected government of President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed former Foreign Secretary H M G S Palihakkara as the first civilian Governor of post-war, Tamil-majority Northern Province. He replaces Maj-Gen G A Chandrasiri (retired), appointed at the conclusion of the war against the LTTE in May 2009.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Government appoints civilian as NP Governor, addressing TNA demand", The Nation, 16 January 2015; "TNA, Maithri discuss key issues", Colombo Gazette, 12 January 2015; "Army rubbishes rumors of unrest or LTTE resurgence in north", The Nation, 11 January 2015; "GTF eager for talks between new SL government and Tamil Diaspora groups", The Island, January 10, 2015; "UN chief talks post-war agenda with Sirisena", Daily Mirror Online, 12 January 2015; "KP insists he has not fled Lanka", Colombo Gazette, 11 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Crossover govts in Uva, CPC

In the light of President Mahinda Rajapaksa losing the 8 January election, Uva and Central Provinces have already faced political coup of sorts at the local level, with new governments taking shape, owing to crossover of Provincial Council members from the ruling combine.

More or the nine Provinces may also be facing a similar situation though replaced Chief Ministers, mainly of President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have pointed to their pledging support to his leadership - and should be spared.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Harin new Chief Minister of Uva", The Island, 14 January 2015; "Now, political coup in CPC", The Island, 15 January 2015; "North Western PC for Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 14 January 2015; "WPC disputes Uva CM appointment", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Win-win’ ties with China

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has told Chinese Ambassador Wu Jianghao that his government wanted to "further strengthen bilateral pragmatic cooperation for mutual benefits and win-win results", a statement by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo has said.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Sri Lanka PM assures continued cooperation with China", The Nation, 16 January 2015

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Harin new Chief Minister of Uva", The Island, 14 January 2015; "Now, political coup in CPC", The Island, 15 January 2015; "North Western PC for Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 14 January 2015; "WPC disputes Uva CM appointment", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Live as family: Pope

Arriving in the country only days after the peaceful conclusion of the presidential polls, preceded by a long and acrimonious campaign, Pope Francis called upon all Sri Lankans to learn to live as one family.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Lankans must accept to learn to live as one family: Pope", Daily Mirror Online, 13 January 2015; "’Exhausted’ pope cancels meeting with SL bishops", Daily Mirror Online, 13 January 2015; "Pope Francis meets MR and Gota", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015

Primary Documentation

Afghanistan

Interview

Nathan Hodge et al, "Afghan Ex-Chief Karzai Talks of Love-Hate Relations With U.S." The Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2015

Bhutan

Press Release of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s Official Visit to India, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 January 2015

India

Poonam Mahajan (Lok Sabha, BJP), "The city is the solution, not the problem", The Indian Express, 13 January 2015

Feroze Varun Gandhi (Lok Sabha, BJP), "An uncertain Hobbesian life", The Hindu, 13 January 2015

Gul Panag (Aam Aadmi Party), "Party planning", The Indian Express, 13 January 2015

P Chidambaram,"Across the Aisle: The State of the Union 2015", The Indian Express, 11 January 2015

External Affairs Minister’s address at World Hindi Day in New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 11 January 2015

PM’s remarks at the CEO Conclave at Gandhinagar, website of the Prime Minister, 11 January 2015

Text of PM’s speech at Vibrant Gujarat Summit, in Gandhinagar, website of the Prime Minister, 11 January 2015

Highlights of PM’s speech at Vibrant Gujarat Summit at Gandhinagar, website of the Prime Minister, 11 January 2015

Nepal

Press Release from Nepal Embassy, Bangkok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 14 January 2015

Press Release on LoC Review Meeting, 13-14 January 2015 from Embassy of Nepal, New Delhi, India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 14 January 2015

Pakistan

Prime Minister’s Visit to Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 15 January 2015

Pakistan condemns US drone strike in North Waziristan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 15 January 2015

Ninth Meeting of Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group in Strategic Stability held in Moscow on 14 January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 14 January 2015

Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue - Joint Statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 13 January 2015

Remarks of Foreign Affairs Adviser at Joint Press Conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry - 13 January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 13 January 2015

US Pakistan Working Group on Law Enforcement and Counter Terrorism Meeting in Islamabad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 12 January 2015

Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 12 January 2015

Bibliography

Afghanistan

Reports

Dan Lamothe, "Meet the shadowy figure recruiting for the Islamic State in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, 13 January 2015

MargheritaStancati and EhsanullahAmiri "Afghanistan Announces Members of Cabinet", The Wall Street Journal, 12 January 2015

"New Faces Versus Old Structures: Afghanistan’s national unity cabinet", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 12 January 2015

Opinion Pieces

QayoomSuroush, "Going in Circles: The never-ending story of Afghanistan’s unfinished Ring Road", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 16 January 2015

Edward Wong, "Exploring a New Role: Peacemaker in Afghanistan", The New York Times, 14 January 2015

Danielle Moylan, "And the War Goes On", Foreign Policy, 14 January 2015

MassoumehTorfeh, "The new old cabinet in Afghanistan", Aljazeera, 13 January 2015

Ahmed Rashid, "Ashraf Ghani needs Pakistan help with Taliban talks", BBC News, 13 January 2015

Ahmed Rashid, "China’s Power play in Afghanistan", The Financial Times, 13 January 2015

Marvin Weinbaum and MeenaYousufzy, "Buying Time for Afghanistan", Foreign Policy, 13 January 2015

Bangladesh

Opinion Pieces

Mark Farmaner "Bangladesh should change strategy on the Rohingyas", The Independent, 16 January 2015

Nazmul Sadat Khan, "Bangladesh - Prioritizing Problems", The Huffington Post, 16 January 2015

Bhutan

Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Murder most foul", Kuensel Online, 16 January 2015

The Bhutanese, "The Entitlement Culture", The Bhutanese, 12 January 2015

India

Opinion Pieces

Akshat Khandelwal, "What economist Arvind Panagariya really believes", Scroll, 15 January 2015

Takehiko Nakao (President, Asian Development Bank), "Eight key actions for development", Livemint, 13 January 2015

Mihir Shah, "Cash transfers, the lazy short cut", The Hindu, 14 January 2015

Amartya Sen, "Learning from one another", The Hindu, 14 January 2015

Devdutt Pattanaik, "In maya, the killer and the killed", The Hindu, 14 January 2015

Mehboob Jeelani, "Arvind Kejriwal: the Agitator turned Electioneer", Caravan, 14 January 2015

Maldives

Opinion pieces

Mizna Ahmed, "Comment: Where is the love? Chinese tourists in the Maldives", Minivan News, 12 January 2015

Myanmar

Opinion pieces

Eleven Myanmar, "Independent Media and Good Governance", Eleven Myanmar, 14 January 2015

Nicholas Farrelly,
"Generational Change in the hluttaw", Mizzima, 12 January 2015



Opinion Pieces

Ivan Gyozo Somlai,
"Blurred reflections", Nepali Times, 16 January 2015

Kanak Mani Dixit, "Je suis Gangamaya", eKantipur, 16 January 2015

PratyushNath Upreti, "A temporary solution", eKantipur, 16 January 2015

Biswas Baral, "Red dwarf", Republica, 15 January 2015

Prashant Jha, "Nepal’s struggle for a constitution - A primer", The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2015

Yubaraj Ghimire, "Next door Nepal: An undemocratic hurry", The Indian Express, 12 January 2015

Pakistan

Opinion pieces

M Ziauddin, "A significant shift in foreign policy", The Express Tribune, 14 January 2015

Dr Qaisar Rashid, "Threats to Pakistan’s nuclear future", Daily Times, 14 January 2015

Huma Yusuf, "The Resurgence of Pakistan’s Military", The New York Times, 11 January 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Kelum Bandara, "Fresh political challenge for MR after defeat", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015

Hemal Peiris, "Post-election scenario and Pope’s visit", Daily Mirror Online, 15 January 2015

Somapala Gunadheera, "Rock not the national boat in troubled waters!", The Island, 14 January 2015

Jehan Perera, "Sharing credit for peaceful transition", The Island, 12 January 2015

Sumanasiri Linayage, "Reading election results 2015", The Island, 12 January 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Unknown Angel is President!", The Sunday Leader, 11 January 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Smooth power-transfer proves doomsdayers wrong", South Asia Monitor, 11 January 2015

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



Nepal
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