MonitorsPublished on Feb 13, 2015
The shockingly stunning victory of the two-year-old Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the assembly election in the national capital this week is expected to impact the national politics in a significant manner as it is bound to trigger the process of political realignment across the country.
Delhi polls resurrect political realignment?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The shockingly stunning victory of the two-year-old Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the assembly election in the national capital this week is expected to impact the national politics in a significant manner as it is bound to trigger the process of political realignment across the country.

Of the 13.3 million electorate of Delhi, 67.08 per cent cast their votes on February 7 after a bitter, glamorous, high decibel and expensive campaigning by political parties.

Though there were three main parties in the electoral fray, about 70 parties had fielded their candidates. When votes were counted on February 10, the AAP registered a record win, securing 67 seats in the 70-member legislative assembly. The other three seats went to the BJP. In fact, the BJP had won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital only a couple of months ago in the 2014 parliamentary polls.

The Congress party, which till the last assembly elections in 2013 had ruled Delhi for 15 years, failed to win a single seat as its vote share shrunk to 9.7 per cent from about 25 per cent that it had received in the last contest. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress vote share had stood around 15 per cent.

The BJP had a vote share of 46 per cent in the general election and 33 per cent in 2013 assembly elections. Though it lost only one per cent vote share from the last assembly contest, it could win only three seats now.

The AAP, which had secured 29 per cent vote share in 2013 and had increased it to 33 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections, increased its share of popular votes to 54 per cent now. This increase resulted in its seats going up from 28 in the last elections to 67 - a jump of 39seats.

Greater significance

Though technically a loss or a win here should not have counted much, Delhi being the capital of the country and by virtue of the presence of diplomatic missions and international media, the electoral contest assumed critical significance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had emerged the main face of his party after ensuring absolute majority in the general elections in May 2014 and had come to acquire a hallow of invincibility, decided to campaign for the party. He addressed four rallies towards the end of the three-week campaigning. He sought votes as the endorsement of good works of his government. The party also issued full front page ads in newspapers with the PM figuring on top. The Prime Minister was the dominant theme and figured prominently in TV ads and Radio jingles.

Earlier, the BJP had won assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and J&K, with Modi being the central figure and the leading theme. And the credit of these victories were given to the PM.

So, when the BJP lost the Delhi elections very badly, the Prime Minister’s prestige was surely affected, though the party, when it became clear it is going to lose, loudly claimed that results of the Delhi election were not going to be a referendum on the performance of the nine months of the BJP-led NDA government.

It’s to Bihar, now

The Delhi results, having exploded the myth of the electoral invincibility of the BJP along with dwindling appeal of the Prime Minister, are going to impact the national politics in coming months. After its victory,the AAP is expected to explore ways to expand its political base across other states, including Bihar, where assembly elections will be due in October-November.

Bihar elections are very critical for the BJP as well as the opposition. A victory for the BJP there would go a long way in re-establishing the image of the Prime Minister, which got a stunning beating in the national capital. But, a defeat there may prove to be the beginning of his political undoing. Therefore the party under the control of Modi’s close confidante and follower Amit Shah would not leave anything to chance and would try every trick up its arm to secure a victory. The BJP was part of the ruling coalition with the JD (U) till June 2013 and its leader Sushil Kumar Modi was the deputy Chief Minister while the government was led by JD-U leader Nitish Kumar. Kumar severed links with the BJP after it had decided to project the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. The JD (U) and the BJP had been alliance partners for over 16 years in the NDA.

In the previous Lok Sabha elections, the JD (U) could win only two seats while the BJP had won 22 seats and its NDA partners nine seats. Nitish Kumar, owning responsibility for the dismal performance of his party, stepped down from the chief ministerial chair and named a party colleague and a minister in his cabinet Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is a Dalit leader, to replace him as the next chief minister of a caste-ridden state where caste calculation play decisive role in the outcome of the election results.

Nitish Kumar had hoped that Manjhi would remain loyal to him but within few months of his elevation to the chair of the chief executive of the state, he began to turn his back towards his mentor.

The BJP, which was hoping to win the assembly elections, stoked Manjhi’s ambitions hoping that there would be a split in the JD (U) ranks which would benefit it in the assembly elections as Manjhi’s caste votes would add to its vote base and the party would be able to defeat the emerging alliance of the JD (U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of former state chief minister Lalu Prasad, the Congress and the Left parties.

The Prime Minister had a meeting with Manjhi in Delhi on Sunday, February 8 and reportedly promised all support but results of the Delhi election on February 10 upset the calculations as the BJP was no more a winning horse.

The Bihar Chief Minister has been asked to prove the majority of his government on the floor of the house on February 20 by Governor Keshari Nath Triptahi. Irrespective of the final result of the majority test of the Manjhi government, politics in Bihar is undergoing a change and coming months would witness many ups and downs. Assembly election outcome in Bihar would indicate the direction of national politics as the contest would primarily be between the BJP and rest of the so understood "secular" parties.

Similar alignments and realignment of political forces is expected in other states, boosted by the AAP’s victory in Delhi.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives: China denies military base, sends out new signals to India?

N Sathiya Moorthy

In possibly the first instance of the kind, China has officially denied speculation that it was setting up military bases in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood to target India. That the Chinese denial, issued by the nation’s Embassy in Male, related to Maldives, and came on the eve of US President Barack Obama’s participation in India’s Republic Day celebrations as the chief guest, should not go unnoticed.

"It’s completely false," a Chinese Embassy statement said, after Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader and former President Mohammed Nasheed had publicly alleged that the Government of President Abdulla Yameen had facilitated the setting up of a Chinese military base in Laamu Atoll. "It is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defence policy that is defensive in nature," the statement said. "China does not maintain any military in any foreign country."

Referring to the once much-talked-about ’Panchsheel’ principles involving India and recalled from time-to-time, the statement said, "China always upholds the five principles of peaceful coexistence in its foreign relations, and believes in peace, development, and win-win cooperation." The term has got later-day mention in bilateral discussions and statements, but with not much to show by way of tangles on the ground. The statement thus said, "This is also the foundation for China-Maldives relations, which are not only mutually beneficial but also transparent to the outside world."

Not a new charge

Only days before President Obama’s visit, Nasheed told the Maldivian media that the Yameen administration was to hand over Laamu Atoll to China for a military base on a 99-year lease, in exchange for $ 2 billion. Allotting stand-alone islands and atolls to foreign investors for tourism promotion in exchange for a combination of cash-down payment and long-term lease is not new to a succession of cash-strapped Maldivian authorities, but allotting an island to a third-nation, that too China and for military purposes, would have agitated the larger Indian neighbour.

The lid has since been put on the controversy after the Chinese statement. The MDP itself seemed to climb down on their earlier statement without saying it in so many words - or, so it would seem. The very day the Chinese denial appeared, President Nasheed too tweeted: "It is encouraging to see the Chinese Government reconsidering their strategic plans in the Indian Ocean".

SEZ proposal

The first time rumours about a Chinese submarine base in Maldives surfaced during the last years of erstwhile President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year rule, and at the height of the pro-democracy protests in the country. Though the strategic community in India was naturally agitated for long, subsequent efforts showed that the speculation/rumour was unsubstantiated.

Indian naval veterans also clarified that the Maldivian coral reefs were not the best of berthing places for submarines. They were also unsure if the viscosity of the Indian Ocean waters in those parts would be conducive to send out and receive sonar signals, which is essential during submarine operations and movements.

It is however unclear as yet if the Chinese would be involved in any non-military project in Laamu Atoll, locally known as Haddhunmathi and the largest atoll in the country. In the post-democratisation years, speculation of the kind was doing the rounds for a while that Chinese Government corporations would be involved in developing resorts and link roads in Laamu Atoll. Some other atoll too got mentioned in context.

Now, China is funding and building the Laamu Atoll Link Road. According to local media reports, inaugurating the work on the project in December 2014, President Yameen said that the Government had identified the area as a potential special economic zone (SEZ). The SEZs are a new pet theme of his leadership, to promote foreign investments, economic development and employment-creation, particularly for the locals, across the country.

A year earlier, the Government had announced that Saudi investment was being obtained for developing Laamu Atoll. That however was before the SEZ scheme was visualised and took off. Post-SEZ law, it is still not unlikely that a Chinese company may be among the bidders for the SEZ on Laamu Atoll - and may have it allotted too. It is unclear what kind of industry, if any, the SEZ project for the atoll could visualise, or if a tourist resort (possibly serving the high number of Chinese tourists near-exclusively) is also being thought of.

China has since followed up on the Maldives-related denial with a statement by visiting Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao in Colombo that they do not intend playing Sri Lanka against India. However, Liu’s reiteration of the known Chinese position on the berthing two of their submarines in Sri Lankan ports last year was focussed only on anti-piracy operations and not testing the waters against India, was as unconvincing as ever.

US presence denied

The Chinese denial came exactly a year after the US had denied any intention for military presence in Maldives. "The US has not and is not considering a permanent military presence in Maldives. We continue to share a close bilateral defence relationship on areas of mutual interest," Pentagon spokesperson Lt-Col Jeffery Pool as telling the Press Trust of India (PTI), the premier Indian news agency, in January 2014, almost to the date a year ahead of the Chinese denial now.

The US comments followed after President Yameen’s statement in Sri Lanka that he had decided not to go ahead with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US during his Colombo visit at the time. "There have been discussions before? we are not going to pursue it," Yameen was quoted as telling media in Colombo. He was obviously referring the predecessor Government of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The 10-year SOFA pact was aimed at building upon the earlier Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement (ACSA) in 2010, to give American military personnel greater access to Maldivian island-resorts and resort-islands, and also greater freedom to carry weapons and from local laws. "We have told them that we can’t do it because both India and Sri Lanka are also not happy with it," Mohammed Hussain Shareef, Minister at the President’s Office was then quoted as saying at the time.

Incidentally, both India and Sri Lanka have signed ACSA with the US. The latter did so even as ’Eelam War IV’ was picking up momentum in early 2007. Then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa signed the agreement in the US Embassy in Colombo in what looked like a fast-tracked move, even as his brother and Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa was returning home after concluding a ’mutually satisfying’ visit to China.

Incidentally, the Maldivian social media that had started off the US military base claims at the time had mentioned Laamu Atoll as the possible site for a US military recuperation facility. It died its natural death after the unfilled draft of the SOFA agreement (possibly reproduced from open sources) began doing the rounds in the social and mainline media all over again.

Today, the Atoll is back in the news, not only for the purported China connection. Only months earlier, sacked Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim (retd), had spoken about plans to develop an airport in Laamu Atoll as a military facility. He however did not say which other nation would facilitate the conversion. Nor were questions raised at the time.

’String of Pearls’ and MSR

Going beyond it all, the Chinese denial viz Maldives should go some way in addressing Indian strategic community’s concerns over the possible revival of the ’String of Pearls’ through President Xi Jinping’s ’Twenty-first century Maritime Silk Route’ (MSR). China has since expressed concerns about India’s US ties, and cautioned India about the perceived pitfalls in it, in the light of President Obama’s R-Day visit and the agreements signed on the occasion.

It’s another matter that not very long earlier, the Chinese military had marked President Xi’s India visit last year with what seemed to be a ’well-timed’ (?) revival of border incidents. The latter could not have been a substitute to revisiting the slow-paced border talks, what with new political leaderships taking over in the two countries over the previous year and more.

The Chinese official media claimed at the time that they were discussing MSR with India, too, after Maldives and Sri Lanka had agreed to sign in. The Indian High Commission in Male denied it after the Chinese claim became the centre of a local political discourse and parliamentary proceedings, where Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, claimed as much - and ’clarified’ later that the Chinese media was her source.

New irritants

However, avoidable new irritants are getting introduced in the form of unsubstantiated comments and observations, this time on the social media. More recently, the Indian High Commission in Maldives was caused to issue a statement, rejecting as ’baseless’ and ’blatantly false’ local media claims regarding defence cooperation, but focussing on wild allegations of unauthorised use of ’Kurangi’, the one of the two helicopters, which alone is now in the service of the MNDF, and operated by IAF pilots.

Neither had Indian pilots undertaken unauthorised flights, nor had India declined to train Maldivian pilots, the statement explained. The denial-cum-clarification became necessary after "Maldivian news outlets had attempted to link alleged requests for more Indian pilots - for the second helicopter, currently still in India - to accusations of an attempted coup by former Defence Minister Nazim," Minivan News said. Following a midnight raid on his wife’s residence a fortnight ago, Nazim was sacked and later arrested on the charges of plotting a coup and to kill senior government officials, and also for possessing illegal weapons.

Based in the Second World War vintage Gan airport in the southern Seenu Atoll, Kurangi is for use in search-and-rescue and also anti-piracy operations. "The Indian crew members, who provide technical support, are under the operational control of MNDF and can fly Kurangi only on authorisation by MNDF," the High Commission statement clarified. Incidentally, the media allegations did not provide any proof that the IAF crew had done anything without the knowledge or authorisation of their MNDF handlers.

Rejecting the claims that India had refused to train Maldivian officials, the statement said, "It has been India’s constant endeavour to ensure that Maldives is self-sufficient in operating these assets gifted by India and towards this end several training programmes are offered for Maldivian defence personnel in India."

Accordingly, one flight engineer and one technician from the MNDF had completed ALH training in November 2014, while two more slots had been offered for 2015. "In the preceding year, around 150 MNDF officers were trained in various defence institutions and colleges in India. Capacity building has been a key area of co-operation in India-Maldives bilateral relationship," the statement added.

In the months prior to his dismissal and subsequent arrest, Nazim had announced his intention to convert Kadhdhoo Airport, incidentally in Laamu Atoll, to a military facility. The High Commission clarified that the second helicopter -- incidentally handed over to Nazim when he was Defence Minister, at a function in Kochi, India, in December 2013 -- has been painted in Maldivian colours and is awaiting the establishment of necessary infrastructure.

Mutual concerns, Modi visit

On a private visit to India, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon had a brief meeting with her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in Delhi, over the weekend. Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin at India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) tweeted, "Ocean diplomacy. Maritime neighbours India-Maldives to strengthen ties as they commemorate 50 years of relations."

Maldives’ SunOnline web-journal, quoting the nation’s Foreign Ministry said that at the meeting, "Dunya highlighted the close historical ties between the two countries based on shared values and mutual respect, and also expressed appreciation for the continued assistance and cooperation from India for the socio-economic development of the Maldives. Both ministers also discussed ways of further strengthening the close relations between the two countries".

It was the second such brief interaction between the two since the BJP came to power in India last May. Late last year, the two had a brief exchange not far away from the Male airport, when Swaraj made a stop-over on her way back from an official visit to Mauritius, one of India’s four southern Indian Ocean neighbours of immediate consequence. The minister’s visit incidentally was followed by a more substantive and pre-scheduled visit by India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval - along with a visit to Sri Lanka under then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Indications are that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is most likely to visit Maldives in mid-March, along with similar visits to Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles, when they are linked by the maritime security arrangement, in the form of the ’Dhosti’ series of naval/coast guard exercises, originally initiated between India and Maldives. In doing so, Modi will follow up on the 2011 bilateral Maldives’ visit by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mutual concerns between the two nations are however clearer. India’s concerns revolve mainly around security issues, including China and ISIS-related issues, which has more directly affected Maldives even more. For its part, the Yameen leadership in Maldives is caught in the web of domestic politics, where the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) have launched a joint protest in the name of ’defending democracy’.

MDP’s former President Mohammed Nasheed, against whom a pending trial for the allegedly illegal arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, dating back to his days in office, has been revived, has since publicly appealed to India to ’protect’ him if sent to jail. The last time, he was summoned to jail ahead of the 2013 presidential poll, Nasheed had taken unilateral refuge in the Indian High Commission (IHC), requiring high-level intervention by New Delhi, before he left the premises.

With the joint Opposition now launching nigh protests in Male almost on a daily basis, akin to the pro-democracy protests under former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year-rule, it remains to be seen, what shape would they take between now and Prime Minister Modi’s visit - or, what stage the court case against Nasheed would have taken, where conviction would also mean his disqualification from contesting future elections, possibly including the scheduled 2018 polls for the presidency.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US plans to revise withdrawal strategy

The White House is reportedly reconsidering its exit strategy from Afghanistan given the mounting security challenges and the rise of the Islamic State in the country. While the revised plan may not change the complete withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2017, the US may keep more than 5500 troops beyond 2015, keep the regional training bases open for longer and reorganise plans to close their bases. The US is hoping to finalise the plans before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visits Washington in March 2015.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "White House weighs adjusting Afghan exit plan to slow withdrawal of troops", The Washington Post, 10 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arms request from India suspended

President Ghani has suspended his predecessor Hamid Karzai’s request for military equipment from India. Government sources claim that the new government is likely to procure the arms from an alternative source. However, despite this development, it is unlikely that President Ghani will differ from Mr Karzai’s strategy of expanding ties with India.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Ghani Suspends Karzai’s Request for Indian Arms", Tolo News, 10 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China to help improve infrastructure

In a sign that China is ready to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, it has agreed to build a 1500 MW hydroelectric power plant in Kunar province and also build road and rail links that would enhance connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Expanding its role in Afghanistan, China to help build dam, roads", , Reuters, 10 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No end to violence

Sporadic incidents of violence erupted in different districts across the country, including the capital, during the ongoing countrywide transport blockade and hartal (shut down) enforced by BNP-led 20-Party Alliance. At least 26 people were injured in crude bomb attacks in different places across the country. Meanwhile, the United Nations has reiterated its concern over the ongoing violence in Bangladesh, saying that its Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is personally committed to the stability of Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "No end to violence", The Independent, 13 February 2015; "Taranco assigned again", The Daily Star, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">South Arabia to recruit 10,000 workers monthly

Saudi Arabia is going to recruit around 10,000 workers from Bangladesh every month. The decision came at a meeting between Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain and a 19-member delegation led by Saudi Deputy Minister for International Affairs Ahmed Al-Fahaid who visited Bangladesh in the week.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "KSA to recruit 10,000 workers every month for free", Dhaka Tribune, 9 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Move to new sub-regional connectivity

Four Saarc countries are close to signing a deal that would allow movement of vehicles through their borders. Bangladesh, India, Bhutan and Nepal, have drawn up a draft plan for seamless transit of passenger, cargo and personal vehicles between the countries. The agreement will allow vehicles to ply designated routes in the four countries and reduce cost and time of unloading and loading of people and goods at the borders, making cross-border trade more efficient, officials said. Transport secretaries along with senior officials of the four countries met in Kolkata earlier in the month to finalise the draft.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "4 South Asian nations close to a deal allowing cross-border movement of motor vehicles", The Daily Star, 13 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Record earnings from tourism

The 29 percent increase in dollar paying tourist arrivals last year earned a revenue of US $ 73.2 million, the highest till date. Tourism council officials attributed the increase in revenue mainly to the increase in arrivals, while tour operations attributed the increase to the dollar exchange rate.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Record USD 73.2M earned from Int’l tourist arrivals", Kuensel Online, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mental stress, the main cause for suicide: Govt report

The first nationwide study on suicide undertaken in 2014 reveals that the highest incidences of suicide are among those who have mental stress, are married, live in rural areas, are poor and are younger in age.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Majority of Suicide Victims Are Rural, Married, Depressed, Young and Poor: Govt. Report", The Bhutanese, 8 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">INR reserve at 20B

The country’s rupee reserve has increased by Rs 4.5 billion between October and November last year, taking the total INR reserve to Rs 20.27 billion. This was the highest INR reserve within the country since 2009, according to the central bank.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "INR reserve at 20B", Kuensel Online, 12 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Government explicates recent negotiations with US over nuclear energy

The Ministry of External Affairs issued a document to explain the agreement over nuclear liability issues reached with the US during President Barack Obama’s recent visit. Published in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), the document clarifies that India’s liability law will not be altered. It adds that in the event of accidents, the operator and not individual victims will enjoy the right sue foreign suppliers.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India’s nuclear liability law will not be amended: Government", The Indian Express, 8 February 2015; "India clears air on nuclear liability, expects nuclear commerce to start soon", The Times of India, 8 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">AAP registers historic win in Delhi elections

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) registered a historic victory in Delhi Assembly elections on 10 February, winning all but three seats, a margin with only a few precedents in Indian politics. Survey results suggest that the AAP’s support base has extended beyond low-income groups to include the middle-class. The Congress failed to win even a single seat, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured three, even though its Chief Ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi lost. Arvind Kejriwal is scheduled to take oath on 14 February. He has held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "AAP’s Delhi win a landmark in poll history", The Hindu, 11 February 2015; "Delhi election results live: Arvind Kejriwal’s sweep of Delhi is complete and it is a bit too clean for BJP’s liking", The Indian Express, 10 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JD-U chief Nitish Kumar accuses Prime Minister of interfering in Bihar

Janata Dal (U) chief Nitish Kumar blamed Prime Minister Modi for the current impasse in Bihar after Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi accepted incumbent Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s request to prove majority in the Assembly on February 20. According to Kumar, the scheduled date is extended to facilitate ’horse-trading’, or buying the loyalty of legislators in exchange of graft or important government positions in future. Kumar further accused Modi of planning to impose President’s rule in Bihar despite his claim for clear majority.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’When Manjhi met PM’: Nitish reads a ’script’ to block him", The Indian Express, 13 February 2015; "Governor following ’script’ from Delhi: Nitish Kumar", The Times of India, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rival parties agree to form government in Jammu and Kashmir

Rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finally agreed to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir on 12 February, after seven weeks of parlays and internal consensus building. The two parties had secured the most number of seats, with the PDP winning in much of Kashmir and the BJP gaining ground in Hindu-inhabited parts of Jammu. According the deal, the PDP will take the Chief Minister’s office, while the BJP will get the Deputy Chief Minister’s berth. The PDP leader, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and likely Chief Minister, will meet with Prime Minister Modi and finalise the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). The two parties hold serious differences over provincial autonomy, the status of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and relations with Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "rates", Reuters, 3 February 2015; "BJP-PDP deal: Jammu and Kashmir government before February 23", India Today, 12 February 2015; "For Kashmir, BJP and PDP Ready With Termsheet of Alliance", NDTV, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade along the Line of Control in Kashmir suspended

Trade between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC) was suspended for five days after Indian officials arrested a Pakistani driver following discovery of 12 kilograms of opium from his truck. Subsequently, India prevented 22 trucks from returning along the LoC, and Pakistan following suit and detained 50 Indian trucks in their jurisdiction at the time of the incident. Trade, however, resumed on 11 February after a series of meetings between border officials. Commerce across the LoC was a significant confidence building measure agreed during the Composite Dialogue process between India and Pakistan and contributed to easing tensions between the rivals, notwithstanding the low volume of trade.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Stakeholders welcome intra-Kashmir trade resumption", Greater Kashmir, 12 February 2015; "LoC trade resumes, to stay suspended today", Rising Kashmir, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New GDP growth number puzzles economists

A statistical twist to the way gross domestic product (GDP) is measured showed on Monday that India clocked faster growth than China in the third quarter. According to Central Statistics Office (CSO), India clocked 7.5-per cent growth in the October-December period compared to China’s 7.3 per cent.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Numbers twist to GDP boom, India clocks 7.5 per cent in third quarter", Business Today, 10 February 2015; "Trick or treat? India’s strong GDP figures mask economic reality", Reuters, 10 February 2015; "India’s Economy: On the dragon’s tail", The Economist, 14 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consumer inflation shifted to a new base year for calculating prices in January: report

Indian inflation probably rose in January as the country shifted to a new base year for calculating prices, adding more weight for services like education and health, changes that may deter the central bank from cutting interest rates soon.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Instant View: India consumer inflation accelerates to 5.11 pct", Reuters, 12 February 2015; "India Inflation Rises on Increased Food Prices", The Wall Street Journal, 12 February 2015; "Consumer inflation probably shifted to a new base year for calculating prices in January: report", The Deccan Chronicle, 12 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India rejects ’defence deal’

Denying social media claims, the Indian High Commission, in a statement, described as ’baseless’ reports about IAF pilots operating the India-donated helicopter without Maldivian authorisation, possibly at the instance of sacked and jailed Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim (retd).

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "India rejects "baseless" media claims regarding defence cooperation", Minivan News, 12 February 2015; "Maldives proposes buying patrol boats from Bangladesh", SunOnline, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nazim arrested on ’coup’ charge

The Maldivian police have arrested former Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim (retd), on charge of plotting a coup, to harm senior officials.

The criminal court has since ordered his remand and the Amnesty International has sought a probe into all charges, including possession of illegal weapons, against him.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Police accuse Nazim of plotting coup, planning to harm senior government officials", Minivan News, 11 February, 2015; "Police: Intelligence knew that Nazim tried to change government", SunOnline, 10 February 2015; "Former Defense Minister Nazim’s remand appealed at High Court", Minivan News, 11 February 2015; "Former Defense Minister brought to Police for statement", Minivan News, 8 February 2015; "Gasim calls to release Nazim from custody", Miadhu, 12 February 2015; "’Nazim will not kill for power’ says AP leader", Haveeru Online, 10 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed asks India for protection

Former MDP President Mohammed Nasheed has said that he would be jailed soon, and has asked the party to retain him as its head and the Indian neighbour to come and rescue him, if it came to that.

Even as the ’Judge Abdulla arrest’ case has been revived against Nasheed, which could lead to his possible disqualification from contesting elections, if convicted, the MDP declared that it was working to have Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim elected Parliament Speaker, in what is seen as a possibility of having him installed interim President, if the combine is able to try and ’impeach’ President Abdulla Yameeen and Vice-President Mohammed Jameel Ahmed, by encouraging large-scale defection from the ruling combine.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nasheed predicts he will soon be jailed", Minivan News, 15 February 2010; "Nasheed asks for India’s protection if jailed", India Today, 11 February 2015; "MDP-JP working to appoint Qasim Ibrahim to Parliament Speaker", Haveeru Online, 11 February 2015; "According to CONI report the current govt is void- Gasim", Miadhu, 13 February 2015; "JP defection is no loss to government, says Gayoom", Minivan News, 9 February 2015; "Civil Court concludes first hearing of Hulhumale Court challenge", Minivan News, 11 February 2015; "Nasheed goes to Civil Court with lawsuit", Haveeru Online, 9 February 2015; "High Court cannot deliberate on Hulhumalé court bench", Minivan News, 9 February 2015; "High Court says ’no’ to Nasheed lawsuit", Haveeru Online, 9 February 2015; "Troubled island: Maldives descends into political turmoil again", India Today, 11 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Heavy clashes in Kokant

Clashes between the government troops and the combined forces of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Taung National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army continued in Laukkai in the northern Shan State on 11 February.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Heavy Clashes Continue In Kokant", Eleven Myanmar, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four groups sign peace accord

Only 4 of the 13 armed ethnic groups signed a Deed of Commitment for Peace and National Reconciliation at a government held meeting of political parties and armed groups to mark the 68th anniversary of Union day on 12 February.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Only four ethnic armed groups sign peace commitment", Mizzima, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">13 February 2015

Indian Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman visited the North-eastern state of Manipur and inspected several trade and plantation projects in the region, she also visited Moreh, the town on the India-Myanmar border and discussed measures to strengthen India’s border trade with Myanmar.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : India-Myanmar border trade zone projects pick-up", Mizzima, 11 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal requests India to halt border road project

Nepal has urged India to stop the construction of road parallel to the Nepal-India border, saying it could trigger floods on the Nepali side during rainy season.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Nepal urges India to halt its border road project, eKantipur, 12 February 2015, Nepal, India agree to strengthen border security, Business Standard, 11 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal to sign pact with U.S.

Nepal and the United States are expected to sign an agreement within a year, enabling Nepal to get funding for commonly identified infrastructure projects under the Compact Programme of the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Nepal, US expected to sign pact within a year, eKantipur, 13 February 2015; US compact fund to be invested to unlock growth constraints, Republica, 12 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UCPN (M) threatens to leave CA

Treasurer of UCPN (Maoist) and lawmaker Haribol Gajurel on Saturday warned that the 30-party opposition alliance will stage a ´decisive´ agitation after February 28 deserting the Constituent Assembly (CA).

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Gajurel warns of ’decisive’ agitation from Feb 28, , Republica, 14 February Constitution will be promulgated despite Maoist’s reluctance: Deuba, , Ekantipur, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitutional Council unsuccessful in delivering candidates

The Constitutional Council meeting on Friday failed to recommend names for the vacant posts of commissioners at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the Public Service Commission.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Constitutional Council fails to recommend candidates, eKantipur, 14 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">20 killed in attack on Imambargah in Peshawar

At least 20 people were killed and 60 injured in a gun and bomb attack at an Imambargah in Peshawar’s Hayatabad area when suicide attackers and gunmen, dressed in police uniforms, attacked worshippers. Banned militant organisation Jundullah, a splinter group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "20 killed as Taliban storm Peshawar imambargah", Dawn, 13 February 2015; "19 killed, over 45 injured in explosions, firing inside Shia mosque in Peshawar", The Express Tribune, 13 February 2015; "20 killed, 60 injured in series of blasts targeting Peshawar imambargah", The Nation, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan undermined Karzai government: Musharraf

Former President Pervez Musharraf has admitted that Pakistan tried to undermine former President Hamid Karzai’s Afghan government when he was in power because Karzai "helped India stab Pakistan in the back". He also called for an end to the backing of militant "proxies" in Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan undermined Karzai’s govt as he helped ’India stab Pakistan in the back’: Musharraf", The Express Tribune, 13 February 2015; "ISI-Raw fighting since Independence must stop now: Musharraf", The Nation, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM Modi: Indian Foreign Secretary to visit Pakistan

Prime Minister Modi, during a call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss regional issues, informed the latter that the new Indian foreign secretary will soon visit all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and would also like to visit Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Indian foreign secretary to visit Pakistan, Modi tells PM Nawaz", The Express Tribune, 13 February 2015; "Indian foreign secretary will visit Pakistan", The Nation, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US State Department: Pakistan had no information of Osama

Spokesperson of the United States (US) State Department Jen Psaki has said that the statements of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Asad Durrani alleging that ISI was sheltering Osama bin Laden to use him to strike a deal on Afghanistan is not correct.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan government had no information of Osama: Psaki", The Nation, 13 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif agree to meet

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke over the telephone about counterterrorism and other issues and have agreed to meet according to the White House National Security Council on Twitter.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Barack Obama and Nawaz Sharif agree to meet", The Nation, 13 February 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NPC for global probe into ’genocide’

In a none-too-unexpected move, the Tamil-exclusive Northern Provincial Council has passed a near-unanimous resolution, with Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran, describing ethnic incidents since Independence as ’genocide’ and calling for the continuance of the UNHRC-led international probe into ’war crimes’ and ’accountability issues’.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "’It’s genocide, UN should refer it to ICC’ resolves NPC", Colombo Mirror, 10 February 2015; " Wigneswaran calls for international investigation on genocide", Tamilnet, 10 February 2015; "Genocide resolution is challenge to ’moral integrity’ of Sinhalese and world - CM Wigneswaran", Tamil Guardian, 10 February 2015; "Wigneswaran exposes US delay tactics at Geneva", TamilNet, 12 February 2015"; "TNA divided over Wigneswaran’s call for genocide probe", "TNA MP calls for internationally mediated political solution for Tamils", Tamil Guardian, 12 February 2015; "TNA divided over Wigneswaran’s call for genocide probe", The Island, 12 February 2015; "Defence Secy tells prelates: No plans to reduce NE security", The Island, 8 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN, US urged to delay UNHRC report

Visiting Geneva, Washington and the UN Headquarters for meetings with the respective officialdom, Foreign Minister Managala Samaraweera has called upon the UNHRC to delay the UNHRC report into ’accountability issues’ pertaining to the conclusive ’Eelam War IV’, indicating that Sri Lanka would process the report and follow it up with a domestic probe for initiating action.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Mangala to invite Ban Ki-moon to SL", Daily Mirror Online, 12 February 2015; "Ramaphosa to visit SL in March", Daily Mirror Online, 10 February 2015; "UK parliament delegates visit Mullaittivu", Daily Mirror Online, 11 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Polls, earlier than expected?

After promising to order fresh parliamentary polls after meeting the new government’s 100-day programme on 23 April, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has threatened to advance it even further, if the ’Opposition’-controlled Parliament passed a no-confidence motion against Public Order Minister, John Amaratunga.

The crisis seems to have ebbed out at least to an extent since, and the Opposition SLFP has re-organised its organisational leadership and also clarified that the party was not backing the non-SLFP partners of the UPFA call for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be projected as their prime ministerial candidate.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Parliament dissolution this week?", Daily Mirror, 9 February 2015; "Only President can dissolve Parliament - John Seneviratne", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "Opposition gone silent on no confidence move against Minister - Kiriella", The Island, 12 February 2015; "Next parliamentary election under a mixed electoral system", The Island, 10 February 2015; "MR in the ring against RW?", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "Uproar over call to name MR UPFA’s PM candidate", The Island, 8 February, 2015; "MR says yet to decide on PM meeting", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "MR rejects allegations", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "Leadership Council proposed for SLFP", The Island, 8 February 2015; "Alleged coup attempt: CID consults AG, Sri Lanka’s ambassdor to France rejects allegation", The Island, 8 February 2015; "Voted Reluctantly: Namal", Daily Mirror Online, 8 February 2015; "Nine Opposition MPs, three govt. members skip debate on post-election violence", The Island, February 10, 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sirisena for Delhi, Beijing

In his first overseas visit after assuming office, President Maithripala Sirisena will be meeting with the Indian leadership in New Delhi on Monday, 16 February, at the end of which, counterpart Pranab Mukherjee would be hosting banquet in his honour.

While on a four-day visit from 15-18 February, President Sirisena will discuss bilateral issues and shared concerns and interests in a variety of areas, and also visit the Buddhist pilgrim centre of Bodhgaya and the Hindu hill-temple at Tirupati. He is later expected to visit China in March

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Indian trawlers back in SL waters", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "Indian boats to be released before President’s Indian visit", Daily Mirror Online, 10 February 2015; "’India must be on guard against Tamil separatists’", Daily Mirror Online, 9 February 2015; "China eager to preserve economic ties with Lanka-Jiarui", Daily Mirror Online, 12 February 2015; "Port City Project: Opposition demands govt. make its position clear", The Island, February 10, 2015

Primary Documentation


Address by External Affairs Minister at inauguration of International Conference on "Indian Diaspora & Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future", Ministry of External Affairs, 11 February 2015

Gargi Parsai interviews Yogendra Yadav (Aam Aadmi Party) ’We want to be a principled force in national politics’, The Hindu, 11 February 2015

Shashi Tharoor (Congress MP, Thiruvananthapuram ),"Why I have Spoken Now on Afzal Guru’s Hanging", NDTV, 10 February 2015

P Chidambaram (former Finance and Home Minister) "Across the Aisle: Truth, damned truth and statistics", The Indian Express, 8 February 2015

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010 and related issues, Ministry of External Affairs, 8 February 2015


Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 13 February 2015

Adviser’s Remarks at Joint Press Briefing with Chinese Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 12 February 2015

Pakistan-Afghanistan Cooperation against Terrorism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 12 February 2015

Response to Question on Saudi Mission’s Statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 10 February 2015

Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Pakistan 12-13 February 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 10 February 2015

Foreign Secretary Attends First Round of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, Meets with his Counterpart and Calls on Afghan Ministers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 9 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Borhan Osman, "The Shadows of ’Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 12 February 2015

Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Schmitt, "US is Escalating a Secretive War in Afghanistan", The New York Times, 12 February 2015

NajibullahGulabzoi, "The Narco-State of Afghanistan", The Diplomat, 12 February 2015

Aziz Amin Ahmadzai and Mona Naseer, "Bridging the Pashtun Divide", The Diplomat, 10 February 2015



"Mapping Bangladesh’s political Crisis", International Crisis Group, 9 February 2015

Opinion Pieces

Pushan Das, A Three-Dimensional’ Bangladesh Navy in the Bay of Bengal", The Diplomat, 12 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Need for a sustainable pension plan", Kuensel Online, 13 February 2015 The Bhutanese, "Suicide Watch", The Bhutanese, 8 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Sudha Pai, "Grand Ossified Party", The Indian Express, 11 February 2015

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "A victory of possibilities", The Indian Express, 11 February 2015

Sanjay Kumar, "Interpreting the AAP win", The Hindu, 11 February 2015

Srinath Raghavan, "India’s tango with the great powers", The Hindu, 7 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Mizzima, Mizzima, The Wall Street Journal, Mizzima, 12 February 2015

Thet Mon Hltun, "Non-Corporate Tax Dodgers Rampant", Eleven Myanmar, 11 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

BhagirathBasnet, ’Can do more’, Republica, 14 February 2015

MukeshKhanal, ’Development failure’, Republica, 11 February 2015

Pete Pattisson, ’Aid money for development projects in Nepal linked to child labour’, The Guardian, 12 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, "View from Pakistan: Towards a genuine raison d’être", Deccan Chronicle, 14 February 2015

Raza Rumi, "Pakistan’s future - fraught with perilous possibilities", The Express Tribune, 13 February 2015

C Raja Mohan, "Modi’s cricket diplomacy: Renewing political contact with Pakistan", The Indian Express, 13 February 2015


Suhasini Haidar, "Post-Peshawar is a different ballgame in Pak: Durrani", The Hindu, 6 February 2015

Sri Lanka

Jayadeva Uyangoda, "Rebuilding Institutions in the Transition from Soft Authoritarianism", The Island, 9 February 2015

Jehan Perera, "Ethnic nationalism remains a potent force until supplanted", The Island, 9 February 2015

Sumanasiri Linayage, "Right to Return: An unresolved issue in Jaffna", The Island, 9 February 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "National Government for a new Parliament", The Sunday Leader, 8 February 2015

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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